Excerpt from Working The Trenches

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Even before I got to the squad Leader, the first thing I noticed about my fellow trainees was their emaciated, hollow look, like they were on the ragged edge of repshanti. Was this what I had to look forward to? Available evidence said it was. And yes, it was outdoors in the rain and the mud just like you might have surmised, and the temperature was barely above freezing. "Sir, Trainee Grace Juarez reporting as ordered!" The Imperial procedure and salute were essentially identical to Earth, palm out like the British, for similar reasons. Convergent evolution of ideas.

He was wearing the same uniform as Instructor Jereya, with one difference. His insignia of rank had red above the horizontal white bar in his insignia, green below. "Leader Dakar, trainee," he returned my salute, "Grab a set of weights and get started!" In a locker were sets of five weights, two for wrists, two for ankles, one for your torso that strapped on via a belt and shoulder straps. I quickly put on the wrist weights - five prime of mass each, or a shade under four kilos - followed by the ankle weights, which were twice as heavy, and the back weight, which was a full thirty prime, over twenty kilos. Altogether, it was just under forty-seven Earth kilos of weight, or about one hundred three pounds. Over the last couple years, I'd increased my height to five foot six (168 centimeters, or two ififths, thirtyfour isixths by Imperial measure) and my weight to 185 pounds (eighty-four kilos, or one square, forty-seven prime by Imperial measure) although thanks to high density tissue it looked more like 150 pounds. Over a hundred extra pounds was quite an addition. I could do it - I'd been augmenting my muscles since I went operant - but it wasn't trivial.

"Tighten those shoulder straps, trainee!" Dakar told me, "Course rule: no matris assists! Follow Nushto!" indicating a man slightly taller than myself but who had probably the gauntest appearance I had ever seen, wearing some sort of tabs that made him stand out from the other trainees. I took note of the prohibition, complied with both instructions, and fell in behind the emaciated man. Matris was the ability it might be easiest to think of as telekinesis, although it could produce many other effects as well.

I'm Nushto, trainee team leader, one of them told me, First thing you need to know, he sent to me, is that this phase of training is all about keeping us at the ragged edge of our strength, endurance, and agility. This particular course is testing if we've augmented our muscles well enough. Follow me and do the same things I do. If you slip, you are allowed to save yourself but then you have to go back to the start.

The course was an ithird in length, or about two and a third kilometers, if you followed the track on the ground. It wasn't a horizontal course. It started out as a jungle gym, climbing and swinging, then a couple of standing jumps of about four meters - in the rain and carrying a forty-seven Earth kilograms in extra weight, mind you - at an altitude of over twenty meters. Four obstacle walls, each about thirty-five meters high, and you had to climb both up and down with Leaders telling you to "Go faster, you waste of an opportunity! People behind you might make soldiers if you don't hold them up!" Then a water tunnel where you swam/climbed uphill against a current, then a pair of things that looked like fifty meter paddlewheels you had to clamber up first like a monkey, switch to jumping on the outer edges of the planks - their edges were about five centimeters wide - to get over the top, and then clamber down the planks on the far side. Did I mention the planks were moving against your direction of travel and there was slick gooey mud at the bottom which stuck to everything? Then a comparatively short low crawl through thick mud that was the easiest part of the course, although I wished it could have been before the water tunnel, then back to more jungle gyms, more walls, several rope obstacles and a few pole obstacles, and finally something that reminded me conceptually of a three dimensional version of the training apparatus in Kung Fu Panda. It wouldn't kill you, but if you timed it wrong or zagged when you should have zigged, you took one hell of a blow and your lap didn't count. Your datalink was constantly updated with your time and where you should be if you wanted to pass the phase, judging from the time you'd last passed the starting beacon.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 18, 2023 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from 'Empire And Earth' was the previous entry in this blog.

First Draft Excerpt from Measure of Adulthood is the next entry in this blog.

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