Thirty-six hours ago, he stood on the tarmac with his entire life stuffed into a ruck slung on his back. His face was shiny as the prospect of his first deployment loomed before him. He watched the Osprey class dropship land and let a grin slip at the prospect of ‘finally getting into the thick of it.’ He shouldered his weapon and marched to the lowering gangway at the rear of the Osprey.
“Private Malone, reporting for duty.” He snapped a quick salute to the crewman manning the ramp who just waved him in and shook his head.
“Booters,” the crewman mumbled to himself.
Thirty-two hours ago, he landed on the Leviathan, a troopship in orbit over the recruit training world of Andari. He was shuffled through in-doc, orders handed in, and assigned to a cryo-tube and berthing deck.
“Private Malone.” He smiled to his new commanding officer, who never looked up as he signed the last line on the form.
“Good to have you son. Sergent Barry is your platoon sergent and will be taking over from here.” With the briefest of eye contact, the CO shook his hand and then Malone was ushered away.
Thirty hours ago he sat on the mess deck, a tray of food in front of him. He poked at the slop with his fork while he listened deep in conversations around him. “Private Malone.” He offered his hand to the group of soldiers who sat down near him. One of them turned toward him and tilted his head up.
“S’up, booter?” He smiled mockingly as he sat, and then turned back to his group.
Twenty-six hours ago, he was running to his cryo-tube as the klaxon on the ship whined. They were making an emergency jump to Tallos IV. “Move, move, move!” He could hear Sgt. Barry’s voice boom from the end of the passageway as boots echoed down the metal hall.
Malone stopped for a second in front of his tube, his heart in his throat. That’s when he saw that someone had marked ‘Booter’ over his name. “Time to get in, son.” Barry’s voice was close.
Malone froze, his face went pale, and he felt his stomach turn. “I…I…” His voice stuck in his throat and his mouth went dry. He felt a hand grip his shoulder and turn him around.
“You need to get in.” Barry’s voice was strong and commanding as he pushed the petrified soldier into the cryo-tube. “It’s going to be fine,” he said as he reached in and pushed the activation nodule.
“Sir… I’m scared.” Malone said.
“We all are, Malone. We all are.” Malone smiled at the sound of his own name as the door sealed and the sleep started.
Sgt. Barry walked down the passageway to his own cryo-tube, doing one final check on his platoon. Everyone was in bed. Satisfied, he stepped into his chamber and hit the nodule. “Ploxxing booters.”