Region: Coast of the Gulf Of California, New Olympia.
Faction: Special Situations Response Detachment Alpha.
Date: March 11th, 2059
Co-Authored with: HomestuckIsShit
Day 7: Hell Week.
Every day was hell week. The trainees were becoming used to a form of living that they had never known existed. It had been twenty days of insanity that only intensified by the hour and to survive each applicant had to become accustomed to insanity. The PT sessions had grown more intense after Day 2, and 160 more of the trainees had dropped out due to the sheer ferocity of the Cadre and their regimen. It became clear that if trainees did not learn to tune out physical discomfort they would not make the cut.
So far they had made them run 4 miles each day with a 120 pound pack, do pushups in the mud, and do any form of work in the most brutal conditions the Cadre could think of, including having live ammunition fired near them, climbing ten story walls in full combat gear and wearing seventy-five pound packs whilst having blanks fired below them and from above them. If they weren’t covered in dirt by the end of the PT then the Cadre made sure to dump dirt on them from head to toe. No trainee was allowed to be clean. Even if they were allowed to clean off, the Cadre had shut off the hot water in the showers. Everything was made torturous down to the psyche evaluations they did each day.
This didn’t even cover the drills. Each day at least one live fire drill happened. They had learned to shoot while riding helicopters, while driving, and a myriad of other situations. Now they spent much of the day practicing in the Kill House or on the PT courses, nicknamed “Meat Grinder Valley” by the trainees.
The Kill House held a sacred place in the hearts of the Cadre. It was a large hangar, and inside they constructed rooms for each trainee to go in as teams and clear. There were paper targets and other trainees being used as hostages while the other trainees used live ammunition to shoot the paper hostage takers in the room. No matter how quickly and efficiently each trainee cleared the course, the Cadre would still shout at them for not being good enough. Even though they were able to clear rooms while dazzler grenades were going off they were never good enough. No matter how many targets they could shoot in a half second, they were still not good enough. No matter what they were able to adapt to during a firefight, down to the Cadre throwing dazzler grenades and smoke grenades down on them from the scaffolds above the course, they were not good enough.
Each day, from navigation exercises to scavenging exercises, was designed to retrain, break down, and destroy trainees.
Normally hell week should’ve passed at this point. At least they got to leave the base.
Raymond hadn’t quit yet, but he could feel himself being pushed to his limits; his muscles were tired all the time, and he was sore all over. He had considered quitting before; the Cadre’s mind games were specifically designed to make sure he thought about it. He knew that he was too far in to quit now. It was a fight against himself.
The Trainees were awoken at 0300 hours by the Cadre, who stormed into the barracks shouting and tossing things out of people’s trunks and throwing the mattresses off the bed frames. Today they were all wearing black balaclavas, identical clothes, sunglasses, gloves, and shemaghs. Raymond and the other trainees couldn’t figure out who they were, but they followed their orders nonetheless. They were told to report to the notice board as usual after the Cadre tore the room apart, leaving clothes and trunks strewn violently around the room as though a tornado had rolled through the barracks.
“Someone from C squadron said we were gonna have a hell week.” One of the trainees -Raymond thought his name was Jeffrey Chan- said as they put the room back together. Raymond sure hoped that was a rumor; if this was just the standard tryouts, then the hell week would be impossible.
“That’s bullshit, man. Well, good luck to you guys if it happens.” Raymond said to Jeffrey.
Another one of the trainees - his name was Admiral Landon G. Lack - was helping his bunkmate, Benjamin Olein, lift the bunk bed from the ground. Benjamin was unfortunate to get up from bed late when the Cadre barged into their barracks. A member of the Cadre had kicked the bunk over while Benjamin was still getting up.
“If anything, this is Hell week..” Landon grunted as he set another bunk bed in its place.
“Well, if it is..” Jeffrey sighed. “We bloody well hope that no one will die during it.”
“Nah, they wouldn’t do that.” Raymond shook his head, “If anything, someone’ll get a heart attack, or maybe dehydration.”
“Yeah, well, we got Mr. Marathon-Man here.” Benjamin referred to Isaac, followed by the chuckles of the rest of the trainees in the barracks.
Isaac silently continued to clean his own mess. He’d gotten the worst of it when the Cadre went on the chaos spree. They had torn up his pillow and ripped his blankets, stomped on all of his recently cleaned clothing with muddied boots, and took apart his gun. He couldn’t find some of the parts to his gun, for the Cadre members had thrown them across the room.
“Hey, let’s let it off with that joke, guys.” Landon spoke, “Isaac’s getting hounded by the Cadre. We best be helping him instead of shitting around him.”
Raymond nodded in agreement. Isaac had completely changed his attitude since the day Raymond met him. Once the witty, humorous one of the group, he was now the most silent and sullen.
Raymond blinked, and turned to whoever had interrupted his thoughts.
“Who’s this hottie?”
Everyone, including Isaac, dropped whatever they were doing and hastened to Danny Webster, who was Isaac’s bunkmate. Danny was gazing at a picture of a smiling brunette-haired girl. As everyone crowded around him, Benjamin smirked and said:
“Meet the future Mrs. Olein, boys.”
“Bullshit, man. You? With this?” Danny snorted.
Benjamin punched Danny on the shoulder. “Yeah, I ain’t kidding. After I get back, we’re getting married.”
Landon smacked his hand on Benjamin’s back. “Damn, congratulations, Olein. Landed yourself a dream, that’s what.”
“Might want to keep that hidden somewhere, Benjie.” Raymond stated, “You don’t want the Cadre ripping it up, or worse, yelling at it.”
A light chuckle filled the room as the group dispersed, going back to cleaning up their things.
“Hey, how about after training today we hit the bar? I need some alcohol in me after that goddamn log lifting.” Landon said as he began picking up his clothes.
“Yeah, besides, we should celebrate this asshole’s engagement.” Danny punched Benjamin in the arm as payback.
“Definitely.” Jeffrey sighed as he made his bed, “I think if we’ve survived this long, a lot of us will still be here after Hell Week.”
That day they did extreme PT, a swim course in full gear, an obstacle course, a parachute course, and a boat course. Raymond heard his name shouted by the Cadre a lot today, and that was never a good thing; that meant tonight he would be sent in for psyche examinations. And then at 1900 the Cadre stood in front of the formation of Trainees. Nobody in the formation knew who was standing in front of them, for all they knew it could be some people outside the Cadre.
“Gentlemen, today is where the real shit begins” The masked person at the center of the Cadre said.
“Welcome to Hell Week, good luck.” he continued.
Another member of the Cadre walked forwards and paced in front of the recruits silently and suddenly stopped once they were at the center of the formation. They then proceeded to stare directly into the eyes of each applicant for a full minute. Raymond froze and tried not to think about the masked person that seemed to be reading every single thought he’d ever had through his tired and bloodshot eyes.
“We will end today with a 30 mile hike! Put your backpacks on and follow me to the beach!” the Cadre member said.
“Once we are finished you will report back to your barracks and bring your footlockers outside and set up camp in the courtyard. You will be provided with three blankets.”
And so they performed the hike along the coast of the beach, and occasionally the instructors would order every trainee to run into the water, swim for a few yards, and then swim back, do a few pushups in the sand, and then cover themselves head to toe in sand.
One of the Cadre must have noticed Raymond wasn’t fully sandy because as soon as they looked in his direction, they ordered him to get on his face in the sand, and then told every single trainee to walk over.
“Do all of you see this man? He is not sandy! He should be sandy! You will all make him sandy! Get him sandy and get him sweaty right now! Start drilling him! He is your responsibility!”
In half a second the entire applicant group was bearing down on, throwing sand on him and some trying to get it in his eyes, screaming at him and some even kicked him. All of this wasn’t much of a big deal to Raymond. What really got to him was his group. The members of his group were part of it. Benjamin had grabbed Raymond by the hair and thrown him back into the sand; Danny was yelling so close to Raymond that spit on his face was starting to feel normal; Jeffrey mentioned that his face wasn’t covered with much sand, and proceeded to shove sand on Raymond’s face until his mouth was filled with sand; and Landon was purposely pushing Raymond down with his foot. Whilst Raymond was facing all of these punishments while trying to do push-ups, Isaac pushed past the crowd. Seeing Isaac attempting to save him was a relief to Raymond, but it was nothing of the sort. Instead, Isaac grabbed Raymond, dragged him away from the trainees, and threw him back into the water. All the sand that Raymond “worked hard” to get on him had dispersed into the water.
“Now, he has no sand on him!” Isaac screamed. The Cadre’s words were coming out of Isaac’s mouth.
Some of the trainees booed and jeered at Isaac. It took an extreme amount of work to have sand covering Raymond head to toe; and now they had to do it all over again.
Later that night, Raymond’s group slept next to each other under the cover of their boat. The Cadre had ordered the trainees to use what they had to provide a necessary resting area without the use of tents.
Raymond was sleeping on the farthest right of the group, and was facing the water, away from his comrades. The first thing was the smell of sweat, then as he was about to fall into slumber he received a tap on the back. At first, Raymond dismissed it. But then a voice followed:
“Hey, Ray. You awake?”
Raymond sighed and turned around, coming face to face with Landon. It was dark, but the moon’s reflection on the water provided some lighting under the boat.
“Yeah? What is it, Landon?”
“I just wanted to apologize on behalf of the group.” Landon stated, “That was some fucked up shit we did today. I hope you realize that no one in our group enjoyed that shit. We did what we were ordered.”
Raymond said nothing. He only listened.
“Anyways, I was thinking about how to make it up to you. I was saving up some rations of mine, but I think you need it more than ever after today. So you can have them.”
Raymond was a bit surprised. He always knew Landon G. Lack was a respectable man. He never knew him personally in the navy, but he had heard of his courageous expeditions into the irradiated waters. It always went without saying that what Landon says goes.
“That was some pretty fucked up shit the Cadre pulled.” Raymond finally replied.
“Yeah,” Landon scoffed, glad that his friend finally replied, “But anyway, you can have my rations.”
“Nah, man.” Raymond shook his head, “I have a feeling that we’re all going to need our own rations. I have a bad feeling about tomorrow.”
“You kidding, Ray?” Landon adjusted his position, “Everyday is a bad feeling.”
“Come on Isaac pick up your slack!” Raymond shouted resentfully as he and his other fellow sopping wet trainees hefted an inflatable rubber boat over their heads and lifted it towards the waters of the gulf. The boat was filled with ammo cans, which the Cadre had made a point of declaring that they made the boat weigh one hundred pounds and that none of them were strong enough to lift them because they were not good enough.
Isaac was just finished getting slaughtered by the Cadre, who had caught him slacking off during the log lift and having his other teammates do the lifting for him. Benjamin and Raymond lifted the boat together along with the rest of his crew. As they did so, a masked Cadre member shouted in their faces.
“You are all pathetic, why aren’t you able to lift this faster!?” they shouted as they punched Benjamin in the side.
Benjamin buckled, but did not let go of the boat. An ammo can spilled off as the boat tipped.
“Pick it up now! Pick it up now! Pick it up now! Why aren’t you picking that ammo can up right now!?” the Cadre member shouted a mere millimeter from Benjamin’s face.
Benjamin scrambled, and other trainees tried to pick up for their lost lifter. Then, Benjamin dutifully hefted the ammo can back inside the boat and went back to lifting.
“First crew into the water within 2 minutes gets to rest for 2 minutes whilst standing with eyes closed beside a warm fire! The losers will do this again and then continue to PT!”
“Come on guys, let’s get that fucking rest!” Landon said. Nobody disagreed; Raymond and his crew were PT’d hardest for missing a formation a few days back, causing them to lose their rest with the exception of one hour of sleep a day during the entirety of Hell Week.
Every single crew was rushing as hard as possible to the coastline and Landon was shouting at the crew to push themselves further, motivating them for that precious resting time. As the highest ranking enlisted man Landon was pushed to pull the other trainees forward and encourage them and right now he was encouraging them so that they could rest for once. Rest was now a valuable commodity during Hell Week. Every team competed with each other in order to get rest time, and each member of the selections course would be willing to kill the other team if it meant rest time.
Raymond was in the middle of the boat, so he bore less weight but tried to give it all he had. Raymond’s team had finished as the fastest group; and so, as they made their way to the fire, the other teams looked at them with envious glares as they continued onto the track. A single member of the Cadre stood near them, instructing them to visualize a warm bed as they all stood in formation by the fire with their eyes closed and ramrod straight.
After their two minutes, the crew, known as Landon’s Lack now due to their persistence in the course, was directed to a new course that the others were still running. They could see flares and red smoke being popped off right beside the heads of the trainees. All the while the Cadre was running around firing live ammunition over the trainees. Even in Raymond’s division they never did this with live ammo.
Landon’s Lack was instructed to run the course with the other trainees, and to be careful because live ammunition was being used. Thankfully medical staff were on standby.
Isaac and Raymond were crawling underneath barbed wire, their throats dry from inhaling too much smoke from the smoke grenades and their eyes sore from the Dazzlers. Nevertheless the two were at the front of the group. One of the Cadre fired a flare beside them, and Raymond saw it fly right over his head and then he heard a loud scream.
The flare had landed on Isaac’s arm, burning it and leaving blistering and scorching. He lay there under the barbed wire, groaning and Raymond could see pained tears welling up in his bloodshot eyes. Without a thought, Raymond quickly crawled next to Isaac, and offered his hand to Isaac as he rolled over onto his back. The barbed wire was just high enough for him to lift Isaac onto him and shimmy on his back out of the barbed wire. Meanwhile more bullets were being fired over them and Isaac was still groaning in pain from the burns. After they made it through the barbed wire and lay in relative safety on the muddy ground, Isaac looked at Raymond.
“I can’t do it!” Isaac shouted
“You’ve already made it this far it’s useless to quit now!” Raymond shouted over the gunshot sounds as he rolled back over onto his stomach to crawl through the concrete pipe in front of them.
“I- I can’t...too much.” Isaac panted, lying his head back as he shut his eyes.
“I voluntarily withdrawal!” Isaac shouted over his panting.
One of the Cadre signaled for the others to stop firing and rushed in to Isaac.
“You wanna quit now you big baby?”
“I’m injured! I have burns!”
“Bullshit, you don’t look injured to me. Get back on the course!”
“I can’t…” Isaac panted through his dry, smoked out throat as he held his burned arm.
Without another word the Cadre member put Isaac in a fireman’s carry and carried him off. Raymond would never see him again. Landon’s Lack had lost another member and it wasn’t even the last half of selections. As he watched Isaac pass out on the Cadre member’s shoulders, Raymond wondered to himself: how many people would be left at the end, and when was the end?
The rest of hell week was a blur to Raymond, every day was the most intense PT he had ever done with little to no respite afterwards. Whatever rest and sleep in the tiny shelters that were set up on the beach they got they had they earned with blood and sweat as the currency they used to pay for it. Only 100 people were left now.