Sorry for the delay on this one. I'm pushing hard to finish National Burden and get it to my editor.
Here's what you guys said should be in the room Cal and Gallagher burst into:
Here were some of your ideas:
The Fleet: Part 8
(CAUTION: SUPER DUPER LIGHTLY EDITED)
I could hear a light thumping as we neared the room. Shadows parted the red glow emanating from the crack under the door, moving back and forth. Amazingly Gallagher was still behind me, I could hear his tight breathing, anticipating.
Strangely, I didn't feel nervous. My body was loose, mind clear. Sure the adrenaline was coursing, but I might need it.
Once again I stepped up to the door, motioning for Gallagher to bend down and stay out of sight. He did so silently, waiting for my next command. Good.
I rapped on the door loud enough that I knew they would hear. Right away the red light was doused and I heard hisses from within. A moment later, the same guy as before cracked the door open, squinting as he looked out.
"I thought I..." I didn't give him a chance to finish. My left foot led the way, smashing the edge of the swinging weapon into the guy's face, knocking him back, his eyes rolling. I rolled with him, moving in fast, Gallagher at my heels.
The light from the moon followed me in, filtering the room in an eery gray blanket. My head swiveled left and right, my throat tightening at the smell of sweat and testosterone, like a basement gym full of meat heads.
The temporarily shocked looks of three more aggressors (the guy on the floor was out of commission for the moment) locked on to me. Behind them I saw where their focus had been, two Marines bound to stacked metal bunks, mouths taped, eyes wide, pleading for help.
"What the fuck?" I heard Gallagher say.
"Who the fuck invited you to the party, boot?" asked one of the Marines, a skinny little dude with hair probably too long for Marine Corps regulations. He held a web belt in his hand and started slapping it in his palm, taking two steps closer. "Get the fuck out before we..."
Again, I didn't give the guy time to finish. I bull-rushed him, but instead of tackling him, I kicked out with both feet, my aim perfect into his chest. In slow motion I saw his fly back, hitting one of his buddies head to head, taking him down in a heap of pain.
Before I could get back to my feet, a shadow moved around me, suddenly enveloping the last guy who stood stock still, mouth open. It was Gallagher. He took his target down with a knee to the gut, crumpling him to the floor.
Back on my feet, I rushed to free the captives, they were mumbling, straining. As Gallagher joined me, both of us keeping a wary eye on the fallen enemies now groaning and rolling around on the ground, I noticed the blood covering the faces and fronts of the two Marines, snot running from their overworked noses.
I eased the duct tape off of the first one's mouth. He took a deep breath in and nodded to me. "Thanks...I...they took us by surprise."
The Marine was about my size, didn't look like a newbie. His eyes steadied quickly as he surveyed the room, his partner now free as well. I flipped on the light switch, bathing the room in a bright white glare. There was blood all over the floor where the two Marines had been tied with 550 chord and standard issue white bed sheets.
They looked worse in the light, one's nose touched his right cheek, the other, the Marine I'd helped, with one eye swollen shut, a nasty deep cut above his eyebrow. Despite their wounds, they hurried to secure the men who'd attacked them, expertly hog tying the four, with our help, of course.
"Who are these guys?" I asked.
"Four assholes they just let out of the brig."
"What were they in for?"
"There were stealing from my Marines. Did if for months before we caught them. Fucking worthless pieces of shit. Who are you?"
"Lance Corporal Stokes."
"And that guy?" he pointing back to where Gallagher was handing the other roommate a wet towel to wipe off his bloodied face.
The Marine nodded, still ignoring his own wounds, keeping to task.
"Go down to the duty shack. Tell them to bring some flex cuffs."
"Who should I tell them..."
"Tell them Sergeant Meade sent you. Now get moving, Marine."
I hustled out the door, wondering if this is what it was like for every new Marine reporting in to his first unit. I laughed at the thought, wishing I could call my dad and tell him, knowing he would've approved of my actions.
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Here's how you voted on what should happen the night after Cal starts his close combat training:
The Fleet: Part 7
(CAUTION: LIGHTLY EDITED)
I tried not to move my aching body as I lay on my new bed, the metal frame creaking with every labored movement I made. The other Marines hadn't taken it easy on me. Not that they were malicious, but the training was, well, demanding. Kicking, throwing, punching. I had a bunch of welts up and down my body, every one doing their best to keep me awake.
Glancing at the neon green electric clock in the corner, the readout glaring at me, 12:43. Fuck.
I needed sleep, but every time I dozed, my body relaxed and some stabbing pain jolted me awake, triggering a chain reaction. Motrin hadn't helped.
Gallagher snored like a freight train on the opposite side of the room. We hadn't said a word to each other since our little altercation, but at least he hadn't tried to ambush me again.
Between the pain, the green blaze in the corner, and the roaring bear across from me, I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep.
Wincing, I slipped out of bed, my feet touching the cold ground searching for my shower shoes, flip flops to all non-military types. Finding them, I stuck my feet in, threw on an olive green t-shirt to go with my short PT shorts, and headed for the door.
The hot air hit me as I stepped out onto the catwalk, sweat instantly beading up on my back. I rested my arms on the railing, catching my breath, looking out at the silent night. No one moving around, one or two barracks rooms with light peaking out of the curtains. The night owls.
After a couple stretches, none of which helped my aching muscles, I turned to head to the stairs. I paused, thinking that I'd heard something. Nothing. I kept walking. Then I heard it again. A muffled cry. Someone watching a movie? Walking again, the stairwell maybe twenty feet away.
There it was again, louder now. I looked around and saw a faint red glow streaming out from underneath the barrack's door second from the end. Careful to not let my shoes flop against my heel, I crept closer, listening intently. It sounded like someone was in pain.
I didn't know what to do. I was the new guy.
But something pulled me, the right thing to do always the hardest, my dad had said since I was a kid.
Stepping up to the door, I knocked tentatively. I heard a Shhhh from inside, then nothing. I waited, then knocked again, this time more forcefully.
A moment later the door opened slowly, someone's body shielding my view of the room. "What the fuck do you want?" asked the guy who answered, my size, face pockmarked, eyes red even in the dim light. I didn't recognized him, but I was new. I tried to see around him, but he moved closer. "I said, what the fuck do you want?"
"I just wanted to make sure everything was okay. Heard something," I said, knowing how lame it sounded coming out of my mouth.
The guy laughed, snickers also coming from whoever else was in the room. "Get the fuck out of here, boot."
I nodded as he closed the door, me turning back to the stairwell thinking that maybe I should just mind my own business. Right before the hatch closed all the way, I heard a muffled Help.
That one I didn't imagine. Options screamed in my head. I could get the duty NCO or even the Duty Officer, but that could make me look like a rat, something that could follow me for as long as I was with the battalion.
I made my mind up, heading back to my room instead. Gallagher was still snoring when I entered.
"Gallagher," I whispered. Nothing.
I shook him a bit and he came to with a jolt, his eyes wide at me looking down at him. He hopped up scooting until his back touched the wall. "What the fuck?" I could tell he thought I was going to do something to him.
I put my hands up. "Look, I'm not gonna hurt you. I need your help."
He looked at me like he thought I was lying, trying to trick him somehow. "No way."
"Come on. I think they've got someone, well, I don't know what they're doing to him."
Again his hesitation. "Go get the duty." He didn't trust me and I didn't blame him.
"I need your help. Either you come with me or I'm going in alone."
That seemed to wake him up. Whatever piece of real Marine was in the guy came to the surface. "Let me get my shoes."
A minute later he crept after me, the red glow once again my beacon as I moved closer.
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The Fleet: Part 6
(CAUTION: LIGHTLY EDITED)
I grinned, feeling the raw power in my body willing me to strike. Part of me listened.
Releasing the grasp with my legs I did a quick hop, rising above his torso, one hand still on his neck, pushing down for leverage. I came crashing down with both knees into his waiting stomach.
WHOOSH. I could almost see the air come out of his mouth, as he recoiled, deflating. All the air knocked out of his body for the moment, I bent closer to my captive audience, his eyes searching mine, scared of what I'd do next.
"You ever lay your fucking hand on me..."
He was nodding like an idiot before I could finish the threat. I didn't move for another thirty seconds, instead just spearing my glare into his slightly glazed eyes. He was started to breath in short gasps like a land-locked fish.
Finally, once I was sure we were on the same page, I let go and stood. Gallagher bear crawled to the bathroom where he was soon heaving over the toilet. I was too consumed with the sound of vomiting and the adrenaline still sending waves of pounding blood between my ears to hear the door close.
"Everything okay in here?"
I popped to the position of attention on instinct. "Yes, Gunny."
Gunny Salvador walked around me and stepped to the head, looking in to check on Gallagher. "You okay, Marine?"
"Yes...Gunny," came Gallagher's reply, followed by a fresh round of noisy puking.
Salvador turned. "At ease."
I relaxed, not knowing by the look on his face what was going to happen next.
"Come with me, Stokes. I have a job for you."
He didn't wait for me to respond, marching out the door at what I would come to recognize as "Gunny Speed." Once again, I hurried to follow.
We walked down stairwell and headed away from the battalion quad. The only thing I could see the way we were going was water, a large expanse probably the size of a lake. I knew it flowed out to the Atlantic, but that was it.
After crossing a two-lane road, I heard shouts, nothing alarming, more like recruits responding to a drill instructor in typical Marine Corps fashion, barks and all.
Up ahead was a line of trees I hadn't noticed earlier and as we neared I saw the scattered forms of Marines. I knew instantly what they were doing, close combat training. I wondered if Gunny Salvador was going to offer me up as a punching bag.
We got twenty feet from the group of fifteen or so Marines when Salvador stopped and looked at me. "Looks like you can handle yourself pretty well. Lucky for you, I've just added to your official duties. When you're not training to be the CO's radio operator, you'll be taking classes to be a close combat instructor."
That was a surprise I hadn't seen coming.
"Thank you, Gunny."
He laughed for the first time since I met him and looked at me like I was a three-year-old idiot. "Don't thank me yet, Stokes. You'll be cursing my name when they're carrying you to sick call in the morning."
I didn't know what to say, and stood by silently as Gunny Salvador led the way into the group, the other Marines stopping what they were doing when we approached. A short stocky Marine with a black t-shirt over cammie bottoms came over.
"How they hangin', Gunny?"
"I've got another one. CO's orders. Don't let his chevrons fool you. He's a boot ass straight off the bus from SOI."
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