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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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