OCS

Prologue

July 1998
Pensacola, FL

The sounds of shouting swirled in the void around him and he flinched instinctively. The chaos made him apprehensive. Landing in the middle of an emergency was always hard to adjust to and it took a while for his environment to "settle" around him. As bright sunlight shone on his face, the noises tightened and the resulting words left him more confused than ever.

"...three, four, five, six, seven, four-three. One, two, three, four..."

There were roughly ten or twenty voices, all seemingly male at first, but, upon closer attention, he thought he heard a woman or two in the mix. Some people were yelling whereas others were breathless and subdued.

Vision finally snapped together and Sam found himself with his arms raised above his head, standing in the grass on what was apparently a stifling summer's day in what felt like the equator. He lowered his arms and glanced to either side to see people dressed in some kind of uniform, doing jumping jacks and then throwing themselves to the ground to do pushups, then popping back up again to repeat the process.

Why do I have a bad feeling about this...?

A shadow fell across him and he glanced up to look the man who faced him off in the eye. Which was his first mistake. He caught a glimpse of camouflage clothing, and the man lowered his face to a spot inches away from Sam's own and started yelling. "What, you don't want to play with the rest of your shipmates? Well! Well!" Before Sam could respond (which could only have been another mistake), the man turned away and yelled, "Pushups!"

A chorus of "Pushups, aye, sir!" rose up around him and everyone fell to the ground and started pumping.

"Well?" his tormentor demanded when he was slower than the rest getting down. Even when not screaming, the man's voice was hard and intimidating and had a rough edge to it, like rocks in a blender. "They're going to keep going until you can do fifty of them without stopping. Lazy, lethargic thing," he added scornfully as Sam started his appointed task.

"Oh, boy..." he whispered to the grass.