Weakness Unearthed

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Emma looked back at Sanctuary as the ship left orbit, she was glad it was behind her now. No more being substandard, no more being last in everything, no more being weak.  It did not matter what was ahead on Earth she would just be one of the millions on the planet. She knew she would have to pull her own weight, doing some sort of job, but it would not be a matter of life and death.


She had always tried to pull her own weight, even back in Utah she was just a little behind everyone else.  Even her younger sisters seemed stronger than her.  Even her ‘baby’ sister, Sarah, at fifteen was taller than Emma, able to reach things on the top shelf without the cursed step stool that Emma relied upon.

Out in her father’s butcher shop all her siblings were able to help their father with little effort, but she always took longer, needed an extra boost or just a little help.

It got worse after the Awakening here on Sanctuary.  The Outfitters must have had some sort of perverse humor making her a Marine.  She had looked up stats on the six thousand and thirty Marines in the Fleet, and she was the shortest.  Standing at only five foot tall the next person closest to her was a five-foot one-inch officer, who was made a Captain.  Emma guessed he must have been some sort of military genius to be given such a position. Her Captain, Zhu Dake, was only five foot five inches but the man could fight, she had seen him take out two people at once because he was lighting fast.

She was often paired up against him when the company had single elimination fighting tournaments as everyone else towered over her, but he easily took her out and moved on to fight bigger and better opponents than her.  He was always gracious about it, and she had even landed a few blows on him, but he shook them off like they were nothing.  She kinda thought he was putting on a show for her.

She had met with him two days ago when she had requested to go back to Earth with the next transport. He had tried to talk her out of it, but her mind was made up, after coming in last once again on the three-day obstacle course she had enough.   It seemed everyone in the platoon had tried to talk her out of leaving. Even Juan, who always made fun of her he had told her not to go.

Emma shook her head, she was simply deadweight on her fire team, a burden to her squad, a weak link in her platoon and a liability in the company.  Captain Zhu Dake had tried to show her she was not holding the company back with statistics and charts. He said her performance was always well within the standard, she carried her own gear, and everything assigned to her, but she knew he was just trying to make her feel good.  All she ever saw was the backs of her fellow Marines as they outran her and out fought her.

Not that Captain Zhu Dake had any say, anyone could leave the Fleet whenever they wanted.  But Commander Geritt, the Top Marine in the Fleet, had addressed all of his Marines and asked that if any Marine wanted to leave, he would at least do him a personal favor and talk to his chain of command about why he or she was leaving.

Everyone knew that only one Marine had left the Regiments before this, and his name was mud as far as everyone who stayed was concerned, he was one of the Renegades.  Some other Marines had left, in fact she would be third, all the others were women as well, but they were all pregnant. But they all had met with their commanders before going back to Earth. Those departures had been understandable.

Emma was sure that was the not the case with her, no one seemed to understand why she wanted to leave. Captain Zhu had asked her if she would at least teach the skills the Outfitters had placed in her brain, weapons, tactics and even hand to hand to the modern Earthers.

She was unsure how good she was going to be as a teacher, but she had promised Captain Zhu she would, so she would.  Her family, especially her father, was proud of never making a promise he did not keep.

She settled into her bunk on the transport ship, she had a room to herself and unheard-of luxury in the Marines, heck even before the Outfitters she had shared a bed with her two sisters.  There were no real requirements for her on this ship going back to Earth, except a lot of reading. She read up on the training she was going to be required to do, and there was also the social changes on Earth.

Most of the changes on Earth sounded just silly and she was not sure how she was going to get by. The biggest one, no one on Earth ate meat. Not that she had real meat since awakening on Sanctuary everything was the fake replicated stuff but at least it looked and tasted like real meat even though it was just reconstructed molecules into something that was meat like.

The voyage was a going to be a long one and she soon fell into a schedule, a couple of hours at the gym, then reading up on Earth, followed by a couple more hours in the gym, then falling asleep in her room reading.

It was the third week of the trip, and she was just leaving the gym. If she was going to be teaching Marines back on Earth, she should at least give the appearance of what a real Marine looked like, even though she never lived up to the standards set forth by the real Marines.

She was coming out of the on-board gym when she heard a woman shrieking turning the corner, she realized it was one of the pregnant women on board. She was kneeling down on the floor hanging onto the wall. Emma ran to her. “Are you okay?”

“My baby is coming.”  The woman roared.

Emma looked around, no one was in sight, and she did not have her comm link on her. “Okay I will get you to sick bay.”

The woman looked at her and nodded fervently, Emma helped her up the woman screamed again. “I don’t think I can make it.”

Emma looked again around for help and saw no one. “Okay I will get you there.” Emma then got behind the woman and picked her up cradling her in her arms and started walking, getting her to the closest turbo lift she commanded it to take them to the Medical Bay.  All along the woman was basically screeching in her ear.  She shouted as she entered the medical bay.  “A little help here.”  A Medical Technician looked up from a table where he had his head down napping and Emma carried the woman to a nearby bed putting her on top of it. 


Twenty minutes later Emma was walking away from the Medical Bay, the girl, named Olga, had given birth to a baby boy.  The kid had inherited his mother’s strong lungs as he came out crying.  Emma had smiled as she watched the mother cradling the newborn and took that as her cue to leave.

“Marine.” 

Emma turned to see who was calling for her.  She knew it was for her, as she was the only Marine on the ship. Turning she saw it was the Captain of the ship.  In reality he was only a Jr. Lieutenant, but he commanded the ship, so he was a Captain.  “Yes sir.”  She said turning and coming to the position of Parade Rest.

“At ease Marine, I am sorry I forgot your name.”  The Lieutenant said as he walked up to her.

“Emma Anderson sir.” 

“You can leave the sir off, I just wanted to thank you for helping Olga and her baby.” 

“It was really nothing sir, anyone else would have done the same.” Emma stated plainly.

“Well still, thank you. They say you brought her in, can I ask you where you found a grav lift to bring her in.”

Emma shook her head confused. “I did not use a gravity lift sir, I carried her.”

“You carried Olga, the blonde Swedish lady?”

Emma simply nodded.

“You carried the six-foot-tall blonde pregnant lady, the one nicknamed Lady Thor?”

Emma shrugged. “It really was not that big a deal sir, a bit lighter than a some of my fellow Marines back on Sanctuary, it was only a couple hundred meters, the hardest part was holding her while she was yelling in my ear on the turbo lift, it kind of echoed in there.”

“I see.” The ensign said. “Well good job.” 

“Am I dismissed sir; I was going to get a shower before having some dinner.”

“Yes, you are dismissed Marine Emma Anderson.”

Emma saluted with a fist to her chest, did an about face and left the area.

Emma breathed in the air, it was so clear here, almost like home, which was less than a thousand or so miles away, if she got some time off, she might sign out a shuttle and fly home.  From the shadows she looked out over the field where the recruits were lining up.  She adjusted her comm link making sure it would stay in place as she was demonstrating the exercises.

She had memorized the exercises she was going to go thru this first morning, and she had already laid out the course they were going to run.  Luckily, she had helpers who were lining everyone up and she did not have to deal with the minutia of making sure lines were straight or people had enough space.  She ran up the steps up the raised platform and centered herself so everyone around could see her.

Half an hour later she let out a deep sigh and decided to end the calisthenics only halfway through the exercises she had planned. There was not a single person who was able to keep up with her, not even her ‘helpers’ who had volunteered to keep the fifty students organized.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep, they had gotten in late last night and then mustered on the field just as the sun was coming up over the Rockies. Maybe it was the altitude or the unfamiliarity of what she was asking.

She was tasked with helping to build a fighting force similar to the Marines, basic ground troops, and these fifty people had volunteered to be the founding members of it. She had not talked to any of them last night as she was only their trainer, teacher. Not their commander, he would be here in a week. She did not understand that logic, but she was just the trainer.

She signaled everyone that they would begin the morning run and she dismounted the steps and lead the fifty cadets on her pre planned route.

It was a week later, and the commander had arrived at the camp.

“Your report says they are not meeting the standards.”

“That is correct sir.”

There was silence from the man as he shuffled through the reports on the desk in front of him, he looked at one chart for a long time. “It says here they are meeting the standards on the cardiovascular part of the training.”

Emma nodded. “Just barely sir, and if I add a pack or even a rifle to carry, they do not pass.”

The Captain simply nodded.  “I need to think about this, I will be in the area the rest of the day, watching your teaching, what is the schedule?”

“Heading to lunch now, and then weapons training, followed by our first hand-to-hand class.”

“Very good.” The captain said putting the comm panel down.

Emma walked with the skinny captain to the chow hall, Emma noted that the new replicators where hardly used and, but she grabbed a hamburger and kettle chips. She noted the salad bar seemed to be the preferred grazing material for most of the ‘troops’ and the support staff. No one ever wanted to eat meat, even replicated meat, which she found barely palatable.

The Captain watched her eat the hamburger and she could tell he did not approve but these Modern Earthers were so deferential, they would never come right out and say anything to her.  She pointedly ignored the judgmental looks and read a letter from Olga on her comm panel.

Olga had decided they were going to be friends on the trip back to Earth and had talked to her every time she saw her.  Which was not often due to Emma’s solitary habits.  Now that they were back on Earth Olga had begun sending her an electronic letters every couple of days. Emma wrote back, occasionally, always short letters, but every couple of days a new letter from Olga showed up regardless of her response or lack thereof.

She was instructing the volunteers on the blaster carbine, a shorter version of the standard blaster rifle, a little less powerful but with its own advantages.  She watch her people handle the weapons like they were loaded, even though she had expressly forbidden the power cartridges to be anywhere near the weapons.  Forbid was not strong enough, she had personally collected every weapon power cartridge in the camp and locked it in a trunk underneath her bed and she was the only one that had a key.  The very first time these trainees had handled a weapon they had pointed it at her no less than twenty times, and that was just the ones she had seen.  Of those twenty times, she heard the distinctive trigger click at least ten times.

It was a problem and but there was no way she was going to give these trainees a way to kill her or even just stun her with these weapons.

The two-hour training went well with only three weapons being carelessly pointed at her. Twice by the Captain who had joined in on the training. The amount of times the trainees pointed them at each other was too numerous to count.  But her preaching about keeping fingers off the triggers seemed to be working as she had only heard two trigger clicks from the thankfully empty carbines. 

Two hours later she was ready to give up. 

The hand-to-hand combat training session was a total and absolute failure. She had tried to get them to punch some free-standing bags initially, seven of them had cried on the first hit.  No one had hit them; it was from them hitting the bag.

She had to show them all how to make a fist, keeping their thumbs outside of their fingers.  After the bag work, she was scared to try kicking so she moved on teaching them how to fall, a simple judo roll, rolling and slapping the mats.  She thought the mats were too soft, but after the first couple of falls three of her trainees had requested to use the auto-docs for injuries.  She then moved onto a simple wrestling move, the double leg takedown. She had wrestled even before the Outfitters; it was something they just did in her family. The Outfitters just gave her a better understanding of her natural moves.

The Modern Earthers were abysmal.  They were hesitant in everything, falling, pushing, shoving, grabbing, or pulling.  They were afraid they were either going to get hurt or hurt someone else.  She walked away after one of the largest men in the group cried when she demonstrated the double leg take down on him.

The Captain had watched the whole class not participating and when she walked away, leaving the large man crying, he had asked her to stop but she kept on walking. 

The man was not her commander.  She was not technically in the military any longer.  Her title was Training Consultant, and she had a feeling after this demonstration of her inadequacy she was going to lose that job, but she was not sure what to do, as her father had said many times “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

The man was a butcher, so he knew pig’s ears.

The next day was the beginning of a three-day weekend, some sort of holiday here on Earth, Peace Day. She originally was going to continue training, but she sent out a notification that the training would begin again on Monday. That night she took a shuttle and went home.

At least that is what she wanted to do, but somewhere she had read you can never go home again. What had been the location of her home was now covered in small gardens managed by automated machines, that grew all matter of vegetables and fruits. 

She landed the shuttle as close as she could figure where the house had once stood, lining up the mountain peaks close enough that she was within a couple hundred meters of where her home had been. Not even a foundation remained.  It had been two hundred and seventy-four years, so it was to be expected.  She did not know what she had been expecting.

She spent the night sleeping on the roof of the shuttle, unsure what to do with herself.  She watched the stars as they came out.  So familiar but so different now that she had seen some of them up close.  She was surprised that she knew so many constellations now, undoubtedly Outfitter knowledge coming up from somewhere deep in her brain.

In the morning she climbed back in the shuttle and was having breakfast from the replicator when a chime sounded on her comm panel.  Another letter from Olga. She opened it out of habit. Just news about her and the baby whom she had named Rupert after his father who was a Marine.  A Marine that she did not know but was still out with the Fleet.  The last line was the same, come and visit when she got a chance. 

Emma looked at the last line, come and visit. Why not, she had a chance now. 

“Well tell me what you have been doing.”  Olga said as they watched the neighborhood children playing.  Junior was down for a nap, and they were sitting on the porch drinking tea.

Something came over her and she proceeded to talk for the next hour, telling about her job as a trainer, the lack of progress, and her fear of losing her job.  She cried for the last part. Olga handed her a tissue and let her get herself together while she went and got more tea and checked on the baby.  When Olga returned Emma had composed herself and apologized for her outburst.

Olga shook her head. “You were there when I needed you, I can do nothing less.”

Emma smiled halfheartedly.

“You are my family, my sister, and you are as of this moment Rupert’s god mother.” Olga said smiling.

Emma was shocked and a tear slide down her face and nodded her head yes. They hugged again. “Can I come live here when I lose my job?”

Olga smiled and shook her head. “No.”

Emma was shocked and confused “No?”.

“You are welcome here of course, but you are not going to lose your job. You are going to go back and turn those wimps into Marines or some sort of equivalent.”

“I don’t think it can be done.”  Emma said getting defensive.

Olga shook her head. “Do you know what my job was before I left the Fleet.”

Emma shook her head; it had never come up.

“I was in Fleet Intelligence, a technical analyst on Commander Gerritt’s staff and if there is one thing I learned, my Rupert and all your Marine buddies out there,” she said motioning skyward. “are going to need as much help as you can give them eventually against the Alarians.”

“But I don’t know if I can.”

Olga reached over and gently slapped her on the face then got right next to her face. “Are you going to let your god son grow up without a father because you could not get your job done?”

Emma swallowed hard.  “No.”

Olga hugged her now.  “Of course, you’re not, I believe in you.”

It was just then that her god son started crying.

Flying the shuttle back to the camp in Montana she received a signal to land for an encrypted message. Landing on a nearby mountain she engaged the comm gear.

“Marine Anderson.” The voice of Commander Gerritt came through her headset.

“Sir.” Emma said.

“This is going to be short as I stopped my ship to make this call and I do not want to fall too far out of formation.”

“Yes sir.”

“Olga tells me you are having some difficulties training the Modern Earthers.”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, it is your job to build them up, if you have to tear them down and start from scratch so be it, but I need fighters, I need you to do this job.” There was a pause. “You gave up on yourself, me and your fellow Marines out here because you were afraid you did not measure up, is that correct?”

Emma answered hesitantly after a long pause. “Yes sir.”

Commander Gerritt responded. “Horse shit.” He said gruffly. “I saw your stats, you were doing fine, but maybe it is for the best, maybe you needed more time to overcome your doubts and fears Marine.” He said the next part a bit softly. “I am overcoming my fears and doubts every day, time for you to do the same.” He turned back on his gruff tone.  “I need you Marine. I need you to do this job, I am sending you some documents with some ideas of how to start, but the plan to build some fighters has got to be yours.”

“Yes sir.”

“Send me fighters Marine, we are counting on you.”

“Yes sir.”

“Tell me you are going to build me warriors.”

“I am going to build you warriors sir.” Emma said.

Gerritt growled. “Say it like you mean it Marine.”

Emma had heard him use this phrase before and knew what he wanted. “I am going to build you warriors sir.” Emma said loudly.  Emma had learned if you say something loudly it sounded and made you feel like you really meant it. 

“I am going to hold you to that Emma.”  Gerritt said and in that moment, she heard her father’s voice.

“Yes sir.”

“You are,” stressing the word are, “a good Marine Anderson, maybe this is why you are on Earth.” He paused and Emma could almost feel the smile across the distance. “Gerritt out.”

The communication channel closed, and she saw she had also received a large amount of documents and a few videos as well during the transmission.  She put her head down on the console of the ship and took a deep breath.

On Monday morning, just as sun crested the mountains to the east she lit the firecrackers, letting them drop into the empty trash can.  The ones at the other end of barracks started to go off as well thanks to the long fuse, she smiled, her timing had been nearly perfect.  She unholstered her blaster and went in shooting the stunning bolts into the ceiling. 

Twenty minutes later she watched as the trainees shivered in the early morning.  She was dressed exactly as they were, running pants, hooded sweatshirt, and black knit cap.  She handed her equipment belt with the sidearm off to a labor droid and motioned for the running to begin.


They were only a mile out when she heard some muttering and looked back to see someone throwing up alongside the road.  She motioned for those nearest to her to keep running and ran back to talk to the one who fell out.  Yelling at the lone female.  “Either get moving or get on the truck.”

The girl looked behind her to see the hover trucks that had been following them down the dirt road from the camp. She nodded and walked towards the truck. 

The girl did not know that she was not just going back to camp, she was leaving the program.  A prerecorded message was waiting for her back a camp telling her to pack up her personal gear and get on a shuttle.

Emma sprinted back to the head of the formation and kicked up the pace as the leaders had slowed down letting the formation have a sort of a break. 

Over the next two hours the hover trucks had taken thirty-five people back to camp.  It looked like she was about to lose number thirty-six any moment. She held up her hand slowing the formation to a walk giving the last person a reprieve.  There was no water in nice clean cups waiting here as there had been whenever they ended a run, but there was water available.

There was a stream about a hundred yards away from the dirt road they had been on.  Leaving the road and she walked towards the stream.  She noted that the fifteen people followed her hesitatingly. She got down on her knees and took a long cold drink directly from the stream, then she took off her knit cap and dunked her head in the water.

After drinking her fill, she looked around, they were all down by the stream but while they all looked thirsty not a one of them had gotten a drink yet.

She walked out into the stream and then started walking up stream. It was cold, but she knew she had to set an example, at least that was said time and time again in all the stuff Commander Gerritt had sent her. They were either going to follow her or she was just going to have wet feet. 

Emma looked up the mountain range and smiled.  After the half mile walk in the creek her group following her slowly, she had gotten back on the old dirt road, and she signaled for the robots to unload the packs.  Luckily with automation the bags were packed exactly to her specifications and individualized to each trainee.  Without a word she took off her wet shoes, socks, and pants down to her athletic shorts. Leaving on the hoody she put on fresh socks and then her boots.  She watched the trainees follow her lead except for three, one woman and two men.

She was adjusting her ruck when the three came up to her, the woman, spoke up.  “Ah Emma we want to go back to the camp.”

Emma simply nodded.

“We are sorry, but we are beat.”

“So go.” Emma said pulling a hat, called a ball cap, out of her ruck and placed it on her head.

“We are sorry, but we need to rest.”

“No one is stopping you.”  She said motioning towards the closest truck. The three turned to go and she said it loud enough for everyone to hear.  “But you get on that truck you are not coming back; at camp you are going to pack up your gear and leave the program.”

“What?”  One of the men asked angrily.

“Anyone getting on a truck is out of the program, everyone that has left is already on a shuttle and out of the program.” She shouted so everyone could hear her. The remaining people looked around at each other.   “Enough talk, if you are coming, ruck up, weapons belts on, we are moving out, if not the trucks will take you back.” Suiting actions to her words she strapped on her gun belt with a fully charged blaster on her hip and started walking.

It felt good to be carrying a weapon again.  On Sanctuary everyone was armed all the time, and she was going to institute that here.

After landing the shuttle back at the camp she dived into the documents that Commander Gerritt had sent. It was basically a crash course in building a fighting force from nothing.  All the documents stressed starting with a small group, tried, tested, ones that she could trust implicitly.  Gerritt had stressed this point many times in the documents; better five lions than five hundred sheep.

Luckily, she had always been able to read quickly, even before the Outfitters she had high marks for reading and writing in her one room schoolhouse and Sunday School.

She needed to winnow down these fifty and see who would not quit, to see who had a fighting spirt, but at the same time show them that she would lead them, not just tell them to go. She called Olga and talked about her plan, Olga had giving some suggestions and encouragement but, in the end, it was Emma’s plan.

After gearing up from the trucks she had begun a leisurely pace, at least she thought it was, they had walked only three kilometers when someone stopped and gotten on a hover truck.  It was closing in on noon according to the sun when she stopped and took off her rucksack.  She started chewing on the prepackaged food, she had made the standard ration for everyone. She was halfway through her own meal when one man approached her, she had seen the group talking and he was the obviously the spokesperson.

“Emma?”

She was leaning against her ruck and raised her hat brim to look up at him. “Yes.”

“Is there anything to eat?”

“Yes, everyone’s ruck was packed exactly the same, you have the exact same rations I do.”  She said taking another bite of her turkey and cheese wrap.

“We don’t eat meat.”

“Fine, then don’t eat.”  Emma said taking a sip of water from backpack water bladder. There was a lot of sidelong looks at her and she saw a few people taking tentative bites out of the burrito like meal.  After she had finished eating and laid back on her ruck for a short nap with her ball cap pulled low over her eyes simply enjoying the warm sun and clean mountain air, she got up stretched, rucked up and started walking.

The entire group watched her and followed suit. Emma walked on for three more hours at a slow leisurely pace continuing away from the camp.

She had scouted the next stop carefully the day before, a large open meadow with the same mountain stream nearby. The trainees looked wiped out as they let their packs drop and the formed a semi-circle around her.  “Eat if you want to, water to fill your bladders is over there, weapons training in fifteen.”

Fifteen minutes later she was standing in the semi-circle of the remaining fourteen people. She had dug out her comm link and panel out of her bag, the only thing she carried that the trainees did not.  Checking on the status of the ones who went back to camp she saw thirty of them had left camp.  Of the nine remaining they had sent her an electronic letter protesting their removal from the program.  She would deal with that issue later.

She then sent a command to the labor droids to start making the preparations for dinner.  Al fresco as it were, in fact the next several days everything would be outside, sleeping, eating and hygienic matters. This last part was more of a test for her, these Modern Earthers had no problem with exposing themselves to each other, but she still had some of her Mormon modesty.  It had taken a big hit back on Sanctuary, but she was still a bit shy about some things.

Weapons training went better than she hoped, there was only one negligent discharge and it had not hit anyone.  Luckily all the weapons had been reprogrammed to only fire on light stun, but it had been a wake-up call about trigger discipline when they unholstered them up and found them loaded and ready to fire. Their first time with loaded weapons.

The dinner that night went as good as she expected.  She had the robots bring out grills and then she had personally cooked raw replicated beef steaks, the smell was amazing to her, not so much her vegetable eating trainees.  She had seen some eating the beef, they all ate the baked potatoes and corn.  She had not gotten any of these as she ate last after serving the steaks.

She had put a little shame on them for this, announcing loudly that she did not have a baked potato or corn, even though there had been an exact number for the remaining people. “Not much of a unit if you are only looking out for yourselves when it comes to a simple thing like food.”

That night she had them set up a guard rotation, with herself on the roster as the last one in the morning. Then she simply laid out her air mattress, pulled out her sleeping bag and laid down to watch the stars coming out, falling asleep to whispers around her.

She woke to the sun the next morning.  She knew immediately what had happened, someone had fallen asleep on guard duty and not woken the next one on the roster and so forth until no one had woken her up. She pondered what to do for a few minutes, trying to figure out how to handle this breech.  In the Fleet Marines there would be punishment of some kind, but that only worked if you knew who dropped the ball as it were, maybe this needed to be a bigger example.

She pulled her blaster, double checked the setting, and popped up and started shooting.

Over the next two days, no one else fell asleep on guard duty.  Being woken up by your trainer shooting you in the legs with a blaster on stun setting is not a good way to prepare for a twelve-mile road march.

Just to show she was fair, she shot herself in the legs with the stun setting after shooting each of them. The look of horror on the trainee’s face as she fell to the ground was priceless.

It was the middle of the third day when things came to a head with the remaining nine people, three women and six men to be exact.  She had just finished her lunch when one man approached before she started another hand-to-hand lesson. 

After the first disastrous day she went to slow motion empty air kicks and punches, katas and three step sparring, getting their form right, eventually she would bring in the bags and pads but not right away.

“Emma, can I talk to you?”

“Is this about hand-to-hand combat because that is what we are about to do.” Emma said while tying her shoe.

“No this is about our living conditions, the food, the lack of hygiene, the beds.”

Emma had been waiting for this, looking around she saw everyone was watching her.  She motioned them to come in closer. Then took off her sweatshirt so she was just down to her sports bra, she felt almost naked but wanted to be ready for what was next.  Taking a deep breath, she began.

“You wanted to be here, you got through the selection process to get here, you wanted to be Marines.”  She saw a few nods.  “Let me tell you, you will never be Marines like the ones out in space right now.” She paused slightly. “Every single one of them out there is tougher than me, faster, stronger, and willing to be there.” She let that sink in. “They are all willing to do whatever it takes to win in a fight, they don’t quit, and they would think what you have been through these last couple of days as an easy stroll.”  She looked in the faces of the nine left.  “You wanted to be fighters, fine then fight to stay here, fight to protect Earth, fight to protect your home, your friends, fight to save the people you love.”

Emma let there be silence for a few moments.

“All the weak-willed members are gone, you remain out of the fifty that started, you have something in you that won’t quit.” Emma looked around. “I was not sure it still existed with you Modern Earthers. The ‘nothing will stop me’ attitude. “Do any of you know the name of this trail we are on?”

There were shrugs and confused looks.

“This is part of the Oregon Trail.”

A few looks of recognition crossed some faces.

“One of the trails people took while crossing America in the pioneer days, walking or riding over two thousand miles from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean.” She looked at the nine left. “There were no auto-docs, no food trucks, heck our boots are light years better than anything we could even dream of then.” She let that sink in, then decided to clarify. “I was twelve when the last great wagon trains ended. That was in 1869, again I was twelve.”

This got a gasp from the trainees, she heard speculation about her background, but she had never shared with anyone on Earth where or when she was from.

“So, if you don’t want to eat what I tell you, if you don’t want to train the way I tell you, if you want to quit, go ahead.” She looked around glaring. “I see something in you though.”  Looking each in the face again. “Something that can be built upon.  If you stay, I will teach you, I will help shape you, I will turn you into fighters, but the choice has to be made. Every step you have taken has been a choice. Every bite of meat you have consumed has been a choice to do what it takes.” Emma paused.  “Don’t quit now.”

She turned her back and put some distance between her and the group, then turned back to face them.

“Anyone stays has to fight me right here right now. I might hurt you, you might hurt me, but it shows me that you are all in.”

Emma watched them closely, they were looking at each other unsure of what to do, then one of the girls stepped forward putting up her hands in the basic fighting position.

She looked around at the group before putting up her hands in the same position. “It begins here.”

One year later Captain Emma Anderson looked out on the training field.  It was the first day of the new group. Her nine sergeants were out straightening the lines, getting the people in the proper position for the morning exercises.  From the shadows she looked out over the field where the new recruits were lining up.  She adjusted her comm link making sure it would stay in place as she was demonstrating the exercises to the two hundred people new volunteers, she anticipated by the end of the week the group might be down to a hundred.

Better five lions than a hundred sheep.

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