Authors: Claire Thompson
This book is a work of fiction.
In real life, make sure you practice safe sex.
This book is made available in electronic form by permission of VirginBooks by RoverBooks.
First published in 2000 by
Thames Wharf Studios
London W6 9HA
Copyright © Claire Thompson 2000
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The author and publisher specifically disclaim any responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk, personal or otherwise, which is incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any of the contents of this book.
here was mud everywhere. Mud in my nostrils, mud in my hair, mud in my panties. Before I could wipe away the ooze dripping into my eyes, Brady was on me again. We wrestled, gripping and holding each other, trying to find a weakness as we fell, in slow motion, back into the pit. We twisted as we fell, and he landed with a thwack on top of me, knocking the wind from my body. We were in what they call the demolition pit. It’s an oblong pit, about one hundred feet long and maybe fifteen feet deep, filled regularly with water to create a slimy mud-bath in the bottom. Strung across it were two heavy, three-inch-thick ropes anchored by poles on both sides.
‘All right, toads! You’ve had your fun. Get out and make room for the next two victims,’ Sergeant Sinclair, our drill instructor, barked through his bullhorn. His voice blasted through the pit and I resisted the impulse to cover my ears. We scrambled up, gripping the ropes, and hauled our mud-soaked bodies out of the muck. As I manoeuvred to the side rope, Brady had already managed to climb out of the pit. He extended a hand to me which, naturally, I ignored. I’m no pussy.
Well, technically, I suppose I am. I’m a girl, you see. A woman, I guess I should say. I was eighteen then, and a freshman at Stewart Military Academy. I had signed on for this. I had worked my ass off in ROTC in high school to get to the Academy. This was my second week here. We’d had an easy first week, getting to know our way around the campus, finding our classes and getting settled in our barracks. They have barracks here, at least for the underclassmen. Makes it more authentic, I guess.
But this week was Hell Week and the name was apt. It wasn’t boot camp. We’d already had six weeks of that in the summer prior to school starting. Compared to this, boot camp was summer vacation at the lake. This was one week of pure, unadulterated hell. To top it off, I was one of thirty entering female freshmen who were contributing to ‘ruining’ the Academy. Stewart had been co-ed for just five years and, though the standards are higher than ever, try telling that to the male contingency. To them, we weren’t just toads, as they fondly referred to the incoming cadets. We were ‘bitch toads’, an unofficial but much-used title, though no one would have admitted it to the outside world. And we were going to pay for our impudence in infiltrating the system.
As two more cadets hurled themselves into the pit, I ran to the barracks to shower and change. My body was aching from the day’s arduous events. We had gotten up at 5.00 that morning to the deceptively sweet voice of Sergeant Roster, our ‘den mother’, as she liked to call herself.
‘Wake up, Remy, darling,’ she’d said, leaning her head close to mine. ‘Five minutes to shower and dress, dear.’
I’ve never been very good at getting conscious in the morning and today was no exception. She sounded like my mother, who used to wheedle and cajole me into rising for school each day. I think I was actually confused for a moment and thought I was back home, because I said, ‘In five minutes, mom.’
‘Mom?’ Roster’s laugh rang out. I came fully awake at that laugh. Suddenly, she pulled out some kind of plastic gun with a large reservoir on top. She yanked back my covers and sprayed me with ice-cold water. I screamed, scrambling to my feet, trying to avoid volleys of spray that were soaking me to the skin.
‘Next time,’ she hissed, her face right up in mine, ‘I won’t be so easy on you, toad. When I say wake up, I mean it. Got that?’
‘Ma’am, yes ma’am!’ I managed to croak, shivering. For a moment, I hugged myself, covering my wet form with my arms. A glare from Sergeant Roster, and I quickly dropped my arms to my side and thrust out my chest, standing at attention. I could feel her eyes raking my body. I didn’t dare make eye contact: that would have had me on the ground, doing fifty. I stared straight ahead, trying to keep my teeth from chattering. My nipples were stiff from the cold. The sergeant stood so close to me that I could smell the sour coffee on her breath. Her starched uniform brushed my soaked night-shirt: I could feel the rough fabric against my breasts. I wanted to pull back, to cover myself.
As the sergeant leaned forward, I suddenly felt a sharp pain; she had reached up, her body covering her action from the others, and savagely twisted my right nipple. Shocked, I let out a small scream.
‘That’s for failing to stand at attention, slime-bucket. Next time show some respect,’ she hissed in my ear. No one else had seen what happened, or, if they had, they certainly weren’t going to draw attention to themselves.
I was too stunned to respond, but just stood there, my nipple on fire, my face red with humiliation. Roster grinned and then stood back to address the group. ‘Five minutes, children. And then five more to clean up this mess. I’ll be back in ten.’ She swept out of the room, while everyone rushed to the showers. I followed after some seconds, still in a mild state of shock from her actions.
Sergeant Roster came back in precisely ten minutes. I was dressed in the Hell Week uniform. White undershirt, dark-green fatigues and an orange baseball cap with the initials PMI emblazoned on it in black. My hair was tucked up with bobby pins and, of course, I wore no make-up. As Roster passed my bunk, she suddenly jerked back the covers, pulling out my perfect military corners as she did.
‘Remake it, slob. Those sheets are all wrinkled up. Then hit the floor and give me twenty.’
Quickly, I remade the bed, though I didn’t see any wrinkles. I’d gotten on her bad side this morning, and I was determined to get back on the good side, if I could. Done with the bed, I dropped and executed the push-ups quickly. Twenty was nothing for me: I could do forty without working up too much of a sweat. Then I jumped up and stood at attention. She ignored me, which I guess was a good thing.
‘Breakfast, and then report to your assigned stations. As you know, today begins your week of hell.’ Sergeant Roster laughed a low, almost musical laugh that seemed incongruous with her words. ‘You all worked hard to get here. Well, look to the left of you. Look to the right. By the end of this week, some of you won’t be here. This is a tough course, and they aren’t planning on making it any easier for you, just because you’re female. I know your records, and you are a good group. Make me proud today, girls. Don’t let me down.’
I wouldn’t, not if I could help it. Though I wasn’t doing this for her. My father was army, my mother was army, and I was an army brat. I was their only child, and it just seemed natural to me to choose this path. I had always wanted to be an officer and Stewart was an excellent school. If I could make it through this week, the rest would be easy sailing. Or so I thought.
After breakfast, we stood in the large asphalt-covered courtyard they call, simply, the Yard. Silently standing at attention, there were 135 of us, scrubbed, uniformed, nervous but eager. The rest of the class, which totalled 540, was scattered about the campus at different locations for obstacle training, distance swimming, and other tortures.
While we were waiting for the drill instructor to show, I noticed a tall, lanky upperclassman standing in the shadow of the building next to the Yard. He was dressed in an upperclassman’s service dress uniform. The starched pants and blazer outlined his long, lean form. His face was in shadow, but something about him struck me as sure, somehow; as confident without being cocky. Mr Cool, I thought to myself, wondering who he was. For a moment he leaned out of the shadow and I saw his face. He seemed to be looking right at me. I cocked my head a bit, trying to see him better, but he leaned back into the obscuring shadows.
Before I could even wonder about it, though, the drill instructor, Sergeant Sinclair, strode out of the building and stood in front of us, hands behind his back. Sinclair explained the day’s schedule and then blew his whistle for the first whistle drill of the day. If an instructor blew his whistle once, the students had to dive to the ground, cover the back of their heads with their hands, and cross their legs to simulate the position they would take with an incoming artillery round. Two blows of the whistle, the students would begin crawling toward the sound. Three blows of the whistle, they would stand.
We dove to the ground and waited. Two blows and we were off, crawling along the asphalt toward the sergeant. Three blows and up we jumped. I thought we had done pretty well, it being our first time since the summer.
‘That sucked!’ the instructor screamed. ‘Do it again, toads. Do it right this time!’ He blew and down we went. For what seemed like hours, but was probably more like thirty minutes, he blew and we jumped, fell, crawled and jumped up again. Up. Down. Crawl. Up. Down. Crawl. My knees were scraped and my joints were aching, but on we went. Finally, he seemed satisfied, and we ran to the obstacle course. Hell Week had begun.
For the rest of the day, with brief breaks to eat and five-minute ‘rest breaks’, we clawed walls, balanced on beams and ran, ducked and dragged ourselves through mazes of wire and mud, poles and concrete until we were dripping in sweat and panting with exertion. At each new obstacle another drill instructor, fresh and rested, stood ready to torment and humiliate us for our pathetic attempts to run the drills. Panting, and soaked with sweat and caked-on dirt, we ran, slithered and jumped through the various hoops invented to test our endurance and our character.
The sun was already low on the horizon when it came time for the pit. At first the cool mud was a relief from the heat and dust of the day. But when Brady tackled me, and my muscles turned to jelly with the effort of wrestling in the thick slime, I considered giving up for a moment and letting him win without a fight. Then I heard a hiss from above. One of the other cadet’s remarks reached my ears just as I was about to sink down in defeat.