August 14th, 2018. Camp Savanah, Texas, USA.

I still couldn't really process what happened despite the fact that it happened two days ago. All I feel is shock, grief, anger and a whole bunch of other negative feelings that reminds me what made me join the marines.

Major Fullerman's words from the morning before yesterday's kept replaying themselves in snippets in my head over and over again. "Yesterday evening at 1700 hours, the terrorist struck again", "This time at Chicago's subway system", "112 confirmed casualties, over 200 wounded"

Finn Rodgers—my squadmate, lost not one, but two family members and another is seriously wounded. His mother and younger sister were caught in the explosion and died instantly, his younger brother however survived but is in coma and depending on an IV drip.

People gasped at the news. It was horrifying, terrible and ultimately, shocking. The atmosphere was so tense that it could snap at the drop of a pin.

Fullerman said grimly that Finn Rodgers had lost loved ones. Rodgers immediately staggered, shock and disbelief registered across his face. When the full brunt of reality hit him, he collapsed back onto the ground.

His tears will come later, I thought. As the same thing happened to me.

A moment of silence passed in respect for the dead. Fullerman then started another speech about the dead but no one listened. After what seemed like an hour of standing under the sweltering heat of the sun, we were finally dismissed, murmuring to ourselves.
-end of flashback-

In the night, muffled sobbing could be heard. No doubt it was Rodgers still grieving his loss. It also reminded me of Mike's death and brought out painful memories from the corner of my brain.

Our drill instructors didn't relent on our training though. If anything, they pushed us even harder. But then I suppose, it keeps our minds off the recent events. Everyone was unusually quiet even during lunch and dinner where normally laughter, insulting and teasing would be present.

But Rodgers' personality changed the most. Gone was his snarky self who would always try to slack off during training when the DIs weren't looking. In replacement, was a much quieter demeanor and a fierce drive to do everything our drill instructors demanded out of us.

He took everything more than serious, such as our current third cage fight. Secretly, I'm glad I didn't have to face him.

Rodgers' last opponent collapsed on the ground with a bleeding nose and he's out cold from a deadly right hook to the jaw.

"Luckily we didn't face him," remarked Webb from my side.

"Luckily for you," I snorted cockily.

"Oh, I'm so sorry sir. I forgot that you won every cage fight you've been in," Webb said with a high falsetto voice.

"I haven't been up against Matkavoc, he'd kick my ass for sure," I said. While it was true that I've won three out of three cage fights, I'm no where near to Matkavoc's level.

"He's a MMA fighter, he'd kick all our asses,"

"Where's Finn? He should be around to bathe in his glory like he did last time," I glanced around.

Webb frowned "I think he went to the showers or something,"

"We should check if he's alright, I mean he just lost two of his family,"

"Nah, he won't drown himself. He'll probably be cooling off," he reassured me while craning his neck to get a better angle of the next fight.

I sighed and walked towards the showers.

I found Rodgers practically drowning his face in water and tapped him on the shoulder lightly. "You alright man?" When he gave me a blank expression, I said, "I mean, you just lost some of your family,"

He shrugged, "It get's easier when you don't think about it. But sometimes it just comes back and haunt you,"

"I lost my father in an attack last year. The shuttle bus incident in New York," he winced.

"I'm sorry. Must be hard losing your only family"

"Don't worry. I got over it, takes time though,"

"The fight helped though. Got a chance to blow off some steam," I agreed with him.

"We should get back, before Thorpe or Noel finds us here," I said, a little worried because last time someone ran off without permission even after training, well let's just say he didn't exactly get a slap on the wrist.

"I hear you man," Rodgers said while getting to his feet.

Just in time when we made it back, the last fight ended. Resulting in one guy tapping out after being pinned on the floor and repeatedly punched in the head.

A guy from Alpha Company approached Rodgers, at least I think he's from Alpha. "You're Finn Rodgers right?" he asked.

"Yeah. Why?" a sudden realization hit him, "My brother is okay right? Is there anything wrong?" He asked worriedly.

"I'm not sure. But Major Fullerman wants to talk with you," he replied nervously.

"Lead the way,"

"See you later man," I told him. He only nodded in response, he was probably thinking up of a million scenarios including his comatose brother.

In about half an hour later, we were busy doing some sort of complex workout which our DIs claimed would use every muscle in the body.

In one of the so-called 'goody workouts', we would have to crouch, get into a push-up stance and do it once, then jump up, do a leg squat, lie down on our backs to do a sit-up. We also did several other combinations and each proved itself more tiring than the one before it.

Those who were wounded seriously enough to warrant a visit to the infirmary joined us in the last exercise which involved holding a brick with our arms straight at a ninety degree angle while doing sit-ups.

When we were done, pools of sweat were staining the ground. Every muscle in our body hurt like fuck and we were fighting to stay conscious, even the prospect of a shower and a hot dinner didn't stir enough motivation for us to move. Only the threat of getting a boot up our ass got us successfully getting up to the showers.

The cold shower we took rejuvenated our senses and sort of helped our sore muscles. I looked over to around me, since the shower had no walls or cubicles, we generally avoided looking below the waist of someone. A few of the guys were just leaning agaisnt the wall and letting the water run down their back without bothering about soap. Only a few retained enough stamina to create small talk while.

Me? I just focused on enjoying the sensation of water flowing down my back, freezing cold or not.

I didn't want to get out of the shower although the water temperature was steadily dropping, it was kinda relaxing. Well, until the camp staff shut it off. By then, I staggered out of the showers and changed into a clean pair of fatigues and headed to the mess hall.

Ever since we started to be able to rearrange our stuff from the pile on the floor courtsey of some training exercise to our respective lockers, we had an extra five to ten minutes for our lunch break.

Spaghetti bolognese with meatballs, some grilled chicken breast, mash potatoes and a lettuce salad was for dinner. Although it has been somewhat of a staple meal for us, it never got old mainly because we were constantly hungry.

The chefs in the camp knew what they were doing. The food wasn't five-stars, but still pretty damn good. At least it was some compensation for our strict regime.

Someone slid into the bench opposite me. "Hey, where were you?"asked Tanner. I looked up to see who it was.

"Seeing Fullerman," Rodgers replied sullenly, "I've got two days off. Gotta attend my family's funeral and all. Packing after lunch,"

We ate awkwardly, not trusting our mouths to say the right words. I broke the ice, "It took you over and hour to see Fullerman for just that?"

"Saw a psychiatrist as well, in case I ever wanted to jump off a building," he grunted even more sullenly.

"Well on the bright side, you missed out on having to do sit-ups while holding bricks," said Webb cheerfully.

Rodgers whirled around to face him, "Don't you think I would rather just do that? If I was, my mother and sister would be still alive and my little bro wouldn't be in a vegetative state!" His voice was so loud that the entire mess hall went silent.

Webb was stunned and gaped, totally at a loss for words. Everyone from other tables turned to see what the commotion was about. I shot them death glares to mind their own business.

A few of them turned back when they saw me, either in understanding or in sheer awkwardness. They turned around again when Rodgers continued in the same low threatening voice. "You have no idea what it feels like. You think I'm lucky to miss that little bit of training in return of the lives of two and a half family members? Hell, I don't even know if my bro's gonna be alright,"

"I wasn't— I didn't mean that," Webb stammered back. Admittedly, I would have done the same when confronted with such anger.

A large hand rested on Rodgers' shoulder firmly. "Recruit, come with me," Noel said. He must have snuck up on us during the commotion.

The spell on Rodgers broke and he paled, "Christ. I'm so sorry, I just lost it," he quickly apologized as Noel lead him towards the door. Webb nodded in return, accepting it.

It was a relief that the little 'outburst' was over. Never nice to be near someone who was shouting and radiating anger, misdirected or not.

"Well on the bright side, he'll have some time to cool off and visit his brother," Tanner said, trying to lighten the mood.

I let my pessimistic side take over, "Not such a bright side when you're in a situation where you get to do it,"

Later that day, drama occurred between a Robert 'smartass' Littman and Thorpe.

Apparently, Thorpe had punished Littman for bitching about how pointless his training was and Littman refused to comply even when Hamilton gave the order which was technically illegal since Hamilton was only our leader in field exercises but nobody bothered to point that out.

So now, a dramatic Littman was waving his arms like a monkey and blabbering almost incoherently about human rights. It was quite funny to the rest of us until Thorpe had enough and sucker punched Littman who collapsed on the ground, possibly out cold.

As someone from first squad went forward to carry Littman to the infirmary, Littman pounced on Thorpe and proceeded to rain punches and kicks in retaliation. But it was pretty obvious that the fight was pretty much one sided, in Thorpe's favor.

Thorpe reached and pulled Littman's legs from under him. He returned the favor by unleashing his full wrath on Littman—punching, kicking, swearing, headbutting almost everything you can think of.

In about thirty seconds, Littman was reduced to a quivering mound of pulverized flesh. Amazingly when he was picked up and being sent to the infirmary, he managed to yell "You'll hear from my attorney!"

Needless to say, he got kicked in the balls by a not too happy drill instructor.

"Anyone else?" asked Thorpe. It would be befitting add smoke clouds pouring out of his ears. We shuffled back to place nervously hoping—no, not hoping, we were praying that we wouldn't get extra punishment or something due to Littman's antics.

"Thought so as well," Thorpe growled.

The next day Littman got kicked out of boot camp rather unceremoniously making my squad less two members. One temporarily at any rate.

"I wonder who's next," I sighed as I walked to a shady spot under some trees. After all, it was a Sunday and almost half of the day was training-free.

"Hope's Dickens," grunted Tanner as she settled down beside me.

I wasn't surprised, "That uppity idiot? The flat faced guy who thinks he's the boss of every one? The—"

"Yeah that's the one, though a simple son of a bitch would be perfect," said Tanner, breaking me off from my rant. I was surprised, Tanner hardly ever swore.

"So you hate him enough to call him names?"

"Other than the fact that he's an uppity idiot and a flat faced guy who thinks he's the boss of every one?" She echoed me.

"No seriously, why do you hate him so much?" I asked, curiously getting the better of me.

She grimaced, "He keeps hitting on me,"

"I'm not surprised," I managed to say with a straight face.

She glared at me, "He doesn't go like 'Hey, wanna go to the movies with me?' He goes like 'Hey, wanna go and get laid with me?' Do you know how annoying it is?"

I coughed to cover up my chuckling. She gave me a death glare, "You think this is funny don't you?"

I went on the defensive, "I'm no good with girl talk. If you want some of my advice, go kick him in the balls next time tries to hit on you,"

"I'll get into trouble for that,"

"Fraternizing in boot camp is illegal, he'll be in more trouble than you,"

"Are you not fraternizing with me then?"

"He fraternizes to get laid, my fraternizing is to build a solid relationship with a member of the same squad,"

She raised an eyebrow, "Is that all?"

"Uh yea. I'm done with my speech," I replied awkwardly.

"So we're friends,"

"With benefits," I dodged a punch as I said that with a grin.

"Nothing more," she insisted.

"Are you sure?" I joked further while grabbing hold of her punching fist.

"One more word and I'm going to kick you in the balls,"

"You'll get into trouble for that," I replied warily.

"And you'll get into more trouble for fraternizing with me," she echoed my previous statement.

"Oh har har, steal my lines twice eh?"

"Got a problem with that?"

I was about to dish out a witty retort which would inevitably include swear words when I noticed that the huge digital clock hanging above the camp office.

Tanner noticed the time as well, "Oh shit," she said. And I couldn't agree any further. My break time was up, and three minutes have passed from the time I'm supposed to report in.

"Don't wait for me," Tanner said.

"Never crossed my mind" I replied as I sprinted for all I was worth to the field where our training would be held next.