Danny had to restrain himself from wolfing down the plate of food in front of him. It didn't matter what kind of food was in front of him, all that mattered was getting it down and satisfying his starving stomach. Mike and Kyri were both lacking the restraint Danny had and eagerly downed two helpings by the time he finished one.
"Gosh he's so scrawny. How much you wanna bet that if he has Master Sergeant Jones, he's going to get his signature diet?" Tasha asked Captain Johnson.
Captain Johnson chuckled. "I bet he will. I was just about as small as he was and he put me on it the entire way through."
Daniel paused. What did they mean by that. He really hoped it wasn't going to be something as disgusting as eating half a dozen raw eggs with every meal.
"I'm not sure if I want to know what I'm in for." Daniel said.
"It's not as bad as you think it is. Basically its an extra meal in the evening topped off with two protein shakes. Man were those the worst shakes in my life." Captain Johnson shuddered at the memory.
"So, just how bad is training?" Danny asked.
"Basic training will last you about three months." Mike said "It will probably be the most grueling part you have to go through. It's the most intense mentally and physically."
Dodgers figured as such. He wasn't going to let it worry him too much. How much different could it have been then basic training in his own time? Danny figured that rhetorical question was going to put him through a nightmare, but wasn't that what basic training was in the first place.
"Sargent training is a bit more of an upgraded basic training, less physical, a lot more learning. Lieutenant is where everything is going to be coming together and I know nothing about Captain's training." Trent said.
Captain Johnson quickly hid a bemused look before going back to a serious face. "If you get through basic, you'll do fine. I'd say Captain's training has probably been the easiest two months of my life. Like they said, from basic, it gets easier from there. You won't have the practical experience to build off of, but if you stick to your books, it shouldn't be too hard to pass your tests. After your six months are up, you'll be training under me before you get a ship and crew of your own. We're not just going to throw you out there with no idea what you're doing."
Danny nodded. It was some weight off of him. Yes, he'd have training, but the idea of being thrown in feet first was terrifying. At least he wasn't going to be commanding a ship on his own in just six months, he'd have some practical experience to get his feet wet.
Danny swallowed hard as they landed. His heart raced in his chest as he got a good look at the academy. How in the world was he ever going to do this? Before he could be overcome with his worries any further, he could feel Kyri reach out to him through her psychic link. The wave of calm washed over him and he was able to gather himself as he approached the doors to the ship.
Captain Johnson handed him his bag and a packet of paperwork. "This has everything you'll need for basic, no more no less. Whatever you do, don't open anything or you'll have to toss it. Remember, stick to your books and your training, you'll do fine. We'll see you in six months rookie."
With a slight smile and light pat on the back, Danny set forward to what was surely to be a six long living nightmare.
Danny saw the ship leave from the corner of his eye and he could feel a pang of phantom sadness wash over him. As the feeling faded, Danny's attention turned towards the group of recruits waiting in a cluster. They came in all shapes, sizes, colors, and species. There were tall lanky green catlike people, short furry orange creatures with six eyes and curly antenna, nearly humanlike people with slight variations like blue skin or horns coming out of all kinds of places, even a few humans. Most importantly, they all shared one thing in common: the look of unease. And it was comforting that no matter the circumstances, it was something they could all share in.
The sun tried its best to beat through the cracks in the overcast sky above to no prevail. The wind would pick up making those not dressed for the weather shiver. The packs of papers would be gripped tightly by their owners. Danny could feel a few stray drops of rain splash down on his hair. Before anyone could put their paperwork away a large man adorned in a dark green military suit with a large tan hat stepped up to the group.
The man's stride was commanding, giving off an aurora of power and control. His eyes scanned over the recruits before he stood in front of the group. His chin looked as strong as the two tree trunk thick arms that crossed his chest the size of an oak barrel. The man's dark gray mustache twitched as he prepared his words.
"Alright you young whippersnappers. Welcome to the longest three months of your life. I am Master Sergeant Emily Dickinson Jones and I will be your drill master for the duration of your stay."
Danny heard the guy next to him snicker at the name. The drill sergeant's eyes narrowed as he pushed through the crowd. He stared deeply into the young man with a raging fire in his eyes that made Danny very glad that it wasn't being directed towards him.
"Do you find my name amusing because my mama happens to be a fan of romantic poetry?" The drill sergeant belted with enough force to shake everyone around him.
"No." the young man squeaked.
Master Sergeant Jones leaned in even closer, his voice growing even louder. "You will respond with Yes drill sergeant or no drill sergeant! Do you understand!?"
"Yes drill sergeant." the kid squeaked again.
The drill sergeant stared at him before backing away. "Do you all understand?"
The crowd collectively yelled. "Yes drill sergeant!"
"Good! Now for your comrade's transgression, you will all line up on the yellow line and drop and give me fifty push ups right this moment! Leave your belongings where they are!"
Everyone scrambled to the line as fast as they could, dropping to the ground. Danny's heart was racing. "Alright everyone! If a single one of you messes up, we start this whole thing over again rookies. All together now! One!"
Danny pushed himself off the ground.
"Alright, we're starting over! Everyone, we're counting together! And one!"
Everyone shouted together in unison just as they had earlier. This time however, it was far more quieter with all the grunts and strained effort from the push ups.
"I can't hear you rookies!"
Nearly an hour had passed by the time they had managed to get to all fifty push ups. By that time Danny's throat was raw and his arms were sore, stiff, and felt like jello all at once. He had never done so many push ups in his life; he had to have done at least a thousand. Not even an hour in and this was shaping up to be the nightmare that was promised to him.
Danny stood at attention in the early morning hours. His breath was visible and danced in front of him in the crisp cool air. It took every effort not to yawn. His body was protesting at being awake at four in the morning. The early morning wind blew up against the back of his neck making Danny miss his old haircut. He couldn't wait for basic training to be over so his hair could begin to grow out again. Thunder rumbled over head and with a drop in temperature the rain began pouring down, drenching everyone in the company. What Danny would give for this all to be waved away in a simple montage.
By the time evening sun had set, Danny was absolutely exhausted. The day had consisted of a six mile run through forested hilly terrain, an hour of exercises on the pull up bars, several runs through an obstacle course, as well as classroom time. With an exhausted mind, he had to force himself to learn the names of several nearby galaxies, the names of their inhabitants as well as several key facts about their planet such as government styles and economical statuses. Before Danny could even collapse into his bed and unload his mind and relax his body from the physical and mental training he saw Drill Sergeant Johnson standing at the door. With every last bit of energy, Danny forced himself not to show any sort of attitude. Several of his comrades had made that mistake earlier resulting in multiple rounds of extensive push ups.
"Dodgers, Reynolds, Tammeral, Zastra, its time to get your scrawny butts beefed up."
It was then that Danny heard it. That sound that Danny hoped that the drill sergeant didn't hear. Oh how he hoped that he did not hear Tammeral let out her sigh.
"C company!" Drill Sergeant Johnson yelled. "Tammeral has earned you another set of fifty push ups!"
Begrudgingly, Danny dropped to the floor and readied up for the world of pain. His muscles ached as they reached thirty five push ups. He could feel a mental comforting squeeze on the shoulder, but the pain pulsating through his body overcame it. At this point with his mind and body pushed to the absolute limit, he couldn't help but stop himself from shooting Tammeral a glare.
"Well you can thank Dodgers for another fifty push ups. Gee, I'm starting to think that you like doing push ups C company. Maybe we should do more. How about we do a hundred each morning before going to attention. Don't you all agree?"
"Yes drill sergeant!"
Despite how hungry he was, Danny could barely stomach the food after going through yet another three sets of push ups as well as a few sets of jumping jacks that Drill Sergeant Johnson thought they needed. He worried if he even took another bite that he would wind up getting sick.
"Come on Dodgers, you are ten pounds under the Federation's regulated weight minimum! I don't care if you're worried about you upsetting that little tummy of yours! Maybe next time you and your comrades will keep your attitudes to yourselves! Come on Zastra! Down that shake! I don't care if it doesn't taste good! It's not supposed to! Its supposed to make your fragile little rookie butts into something!"
Four weeks of grueling training had passed and Danny felt a wave of relief when they finally had the weekends opened up to them. Sure, it wasn't like he had any money to go out and leave the academy with some of the others, but the chance to relax before jumping back into much needed studying was nice. Danny was enjoying the warmth of the sun with a few others in his company catching up on much needed downtime when Drill Sergeant Johnson approached the group. Everyone went silent and ridged as they were expecting a barrage of push ups at any second.
"Dodgers, you got a call from some friends of yours."
"Reynolds and the gang need bailed out already? Man it's not even dinner time yet." Danny said.
Drill Sergeant chuckled, a rarity. While during training, he could be a real tough drill sergeant, it turns out he was somewhat of a nice guy in the downtime. The past couple of weeks had been filed with pleasantries over the late night meal that he and the other scrawny rookies shared. While it was a pain in the butt, it was nice to be able to have a somewhat pleasant relationship with the man, especially since he was going to be dealing with him over the next five months.
"No, it's some girl named Kyri." the drill sergeant said.
Danny was nudged in the side by one of his company friends. "I thought you said you hadn't been awake long enough to have a girlfriend."
Danny rolled his eyes. "I did. I'll see you guys later."
Making his way to the phone Danny saw the call and accepted it. A second later the screen flashed to life revealing Kyri on the other side of the screen along with Mike and Trent.
"Danny, how are you doing? I hope you've made some friends there." Kyri said with a large grin.
Danny could almost feel her anticipation through the screen. It was like his chest held a thousand small dancing butterflies and his stomach was doing flips and spins.
"Yeah, I have. I actually thought this call was going to be one of them trying to get me to bail them out. They said they were going out for drinks and well," Danny rubbed his ear, "let's just say he isn't the most responsible person I've ever met."
Kyri's joy was felt through the large smile on her face as well as nearly through the screen. "Well I'm glad to hear it."
"So, who's your drill sergeant?" Trent asked.
"I'll give you one guess." Danny replied.
The three of them chuckled to themselves.
"How many push ups are you guys up to now? He can get pretty tough." Trent asked.
Danny had to stop himself from rubbing his arms at the mention of push ups. "Five sets of push ups and four sets of jumping jacks."
"Oh, well that's not that bad." Mike said.
Trent nodded in agreement. "Yeah, my company had twelve and ten by week two. We were always messing up something."
"They say that Captain Star Johnson was the worst that he had ever had. Legend says that his company jacked it up to thirty and twenty by the end of the second day. That's why Captain Johnson and the remaining members of his company are so muscular even to this day." Mike said.
If it wasn't so crazy, Danny would have probably believed him. There was no way that the sergeant was that punishment happy so early on in his career.
"How's your special diet going?" Mike asked. "And don't even say you're not, because I know you were too scrawny not to be on the special diet."
Danny's stomach started to feel queasy. The thought of eating more food was nauseating. If he could go through the rest of his life without anyone mentioning food ever again, he'd be just fine with that.
"I'm up from two shakes to four at night with an extra two with every meal." Danny said.
"Oh wow. I don't think the captain had to have that many." Kyri said.
Danny rubbed the back of his neck. "Well I'm having a bit of a growth spurt."
"So you're saying you won't be the size of a fourteen year old, you'll just look like one instead." Mike teased.
Danny shrugged. "Yeah I guess you're right. So, what's been up with you guys?"
Trent shrugged. "Not a whole lot. We ran a couple of supply runs for a super max prison, had a few skirmish with some Martian patrol units, and just regular patrol. It's been a couple of boring weeks. We can't wait for you to get back here."
"Yeah it seems as though all the good missions come in after a rookie joins the crew. You're gonna love it." Mike said.
Danny smiled. "I can't wait."