Chapter 1 Chapter 2
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The next three months were hell.
I had hoped that Chief Bates had picked me out randomly and used me to make a point to the whole class of recruits that first day, but it soon became obvious that his hatred of me was sincere.
According to him, my uniform was never clean, my bed never made properly, my physical fitness levels inadequate, my intelligence was questionable, my reflexes were pathetic, and so on. He took almost every opportunity to make sure I got the crappiest tasks and the least downtime. There were many days I was forced to try and function on less than two hours sleep.
But I persevered. Before the events in Perimeter I might have balked at the unfair abuse and walked out but things had changed a lot for me. Losing everything and wondering if my brother was alive while in the station brig really set the bar for mental torture and this attempt to get in the navy was my only viable option left; I had no where else to go, and I knew my brother was doing well from correspondence with the hospital (by law, as his signatory into indentured servitude I was due status information until he was mentally competent again).
I also had my spirits boosted by side commendations from Chief Bates' assistant instructors, and words of encourage from other recruits. By stoically taking the brunt of his aggression I became something of a hero to the others and that in turn made it easier to simply do as instructed regardless of the pointlessness or injustice of the commands.
The more I refused to show weakness or frustration, though, the more it infuriated Bates. As time went on the tasks became harder, the demands more frequent, and the punishments for perceived failure more severe. Finally, two months and a bit in, he went too far.
We had only three and a half weeks of basic training left and the hard part of the training was past with most of the class still intact. There was fifty-seven of us left and we were already starting to plan our application to the various branches and departments of the navy once we were done. It was morning and we had just finished getting into uniform and making our bunks, standing at attention for when the Chief arrived.
As he always did he strolled down the centre of the two lines we made on each side of the room, giving a once over of our state of attire and bunk sheets as he did so. About two times a week he found some fault with me or my bed so I was unsurprised when he stopped in front of me.
"Recruit, your bunk is UNACCEPTABLE!" he yelled, spittle flecking my face. I did not flinch; the first time a couple months ago when he did this I foolishly moved to remake the bunk and got assigned latrine duty for a week for moving when I had not been told to do so. Doesn't really matter, I got latrine duty most of the time anyways but I didn't want to give him easy excuses to punish me.
"You will remake this bunk NOW!"
Freed from attention I quickly turned, tore the bed down, and remade it with the same perfection it was to begin with. We had done this many times before and I was getting to be a real pro.
"You are a failure, recruit Kodachi! DO IT AGAIN!"
I stifled a sigh and remade the bunk again, once more returning to attention at its foot.
"You call that bunk made? A drunk Gallentean can make a better bunk than that! Pathetic! AGAIN!"
One of the aides, shuffled his feet nervously, wanting to say something but afraid of incurring the old dog's wrath. As I tore off the sheets once more, he continued. "In fact, I think you need more practice to at least get this simple job right. You will remake every bunk in this barracks and then we'll see if you can get the hang of it."
I inwardly groaned. There was sixty bunks in the barracks and remaking the bed took about 2 minutes each. I was going to be here for hours and that was if I was lucky. But there was nothing to do for it and I set my mind on the task at hand, fearful that a stray fold or untucked corner would force me to start over.
He addressed the rest of the class, "You are dismissed to mess hall. Reconvene on the parade grounds at 0900 hours." The recruits started to mill towards the exits, but across my friend Jace remained at attention in front of his bunk, across from my own. Others noticed him not moving and slowly the crowd quieted and came still, curious as to what was going on.
"Is there something wrong recruit?" asked Chief Bates angrily.
"SIR, NO SIR!" Jace answered, still at attention.
"I dismissed you, recruit! Why are you still HERE?"
"SIR, I AM WAITING FOR RECRUIT KODACHI TO FINISH, SIR!"
I cursed under my breath. Damn Jace for making a principled stand that was going to get both of us more shit to deal with. Old man Bates was turning red in the face and was scowling in fury at this sudden insurrection. I figured Jace was done for.
Then Cryst stepped back to her bunk and returned standing to attention. Realization of what was happening spread through the crowd like electricity and before Chief Bates could react any further the entire class was back standing at attention, defiance shining through their impassive faces. (Don't get me wrong, not everyone of those 56 other recruits liked me that much to purposely attract the ire of the Chief, but enough of them did that peer pressure caused the others to stand with the group despite their misgivings. Group cohesion was pounded into us from the beginning by Bates and now it was coming back to bite him in the ass.)
As he stood there, face a bright red and fists clenched at his sides while he sputtered in fury, one of his senior aides said in a low voice, "Norm...". It took me a second to realize that it was Bates' first name and he was getting a warning from his old friend. They were facing a mutiny and that would be bad for everyone.
I finished the bunk and moved on to the second one. Except for my actions and the Chief's angry breathing you could hear a pin drop. Everyone waited. I expected the Chief to throw us all in a brig any minute, or leave them all standing there for hours while I worked. But I guess he realized he had gone too far because he breathing slowly calmed, his fists unclenched, and he came over to watch me.
As I finished the bunk he said, "Looks like you finally figured it out, recruit. You're done here, dismissed." Without waiting to see the surprise on my face, he turned on his heel and marched out of the room. I nervously looked at Jace, and his sweaty brow turned to look and smile at me. He shook a little from adrenaline. As the aides left the room we all relaxed and started towards the mess hall, the feeling of victory tangible in the air.
Chief Bates continued to give me a hard time for the remaining three weeks but it seemed like his heart wasn't in it after that day and he did it only out of habit. I survived basic training and never gave another thought to him until my application to the pod pilot program a year later when I found out my record had a glowing commendation from the old man. I guess somewhere along the line I earned his grudging respect despite my father's transgressions. Funny how that works out that way sometimes.