…a war brewed that threatened humanity.
Would three fresh recruits make a difference?
Harrison picked the military life for one reason; he wanted to see the galaxy. The lure of the Republic Army and traveling through space to find a future for humanity seemed like the best adventure he could imagine.
Everything changed when the war began.
Would he be ready?
Oliver was born into the dying high society of London—a society he desperately wanted to escape. His battle buddy Aiden was a thief looking for a second chance. Harrison, Oliver and Aiden couldn’t have been any more different…yet in the fires of bootcamp, they would all be forged into one cohesive force.
Now, with their feet barely on the ground of New Eden…
…the first patrol was going to alter their lives forever.
As the battle began, the truth of what these three civilians, turned soldiers, signed up for came to light. It was going to be brutal. They would be tested: physically, emotionally, and mentally. The desperate fight for survival would threaten to consume their very being.
The Galactic War just got real.
They had a major role to play.
You’ll love the first book of this late 21st century epic space military thriller because it looks at the story of the Rise of the Republic from a whole different perspective.
Get it now.
Release date: May 3, 2022
Publisher: Front Line Publishing, Inc.
Print pages: 313
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Apollo Company, 1-331st Infantry Regiment 28 Kilometers from Combat Outpost Legion New Eden, Rhea System
Observing the brownish water of the Lalibok River reminded Staff Sergeant Antinos of home—of Rosedale and the Mississippi River. The trees—were nothing like home. They could reach as high as two or three hundred meters in some places. They reminded him of banyan trees with the way their canopies expanded outwards—parts of the branches extended down into the soil below, almost like a house built on stilts. Even the species of birds, flying animals, and insects were so different, it was distracting. It was a harsh reminder…this wasn’t home, and this wasn’t the Mississippi. He was twelve light-years from Earth on a hostile planet he and his men were in the process of capturing. Somewhere across that river was an army…an army of horrifying beasts—an alien species so foreign in nature he still struggled to understand it.
Feeling a slight nudge to his right, Staff Sergeant Antinos turned slowly to look at Private First Class Domingo. “What is it?” he asked, barely above a whisper.
“Staff Sergeant, I’m gonna share my helmet’s HUD view—I think I saw something,” Domingo said sheepishly, pointing across the river while the two helmets’ heads-up displays or HUDs connected.
Receiving the image, Antinos looked it over. The helmet HUDs were a game-changing tool being rapidly integrated into the infantry. The helmets provided grunts with an integrated night vision capability. They also incorporated a thermal view along with a FLIR or forward-looking infrared, giving them both thermal and IR ability. There was also a limited spectral scanner, especially useful for zero-g and situations like this planet. It wasn’t to the same standards as the ones the Special Forces had, but it was better than nothing. Looking at the image, he tried to increase the magnification. It was clear whatever Domingo had seen was at the edge of the optical range of his helmet’s visor. The dense underbrush made it hard to see too deep into the forest. They’d have to wait for it to get closer.
Looking in the direction Domingo had pointed, he waited to see if he saw it too. A minute or so went by, then he spotted something. The kid was right—there was something there. If he’d learned one thing during his eight years in reconnaissance, it was that there are no straight lines found in nature. He was about to say something to the kid when the line moved.
“Stay still,” Sergeant Antinos whispered to Domingo and the other nearby private, Aldi. “No sudden movements. We aren’t alone.” The soldiers gripped their rifles a little tighter, continuing to watch across the river.
When Antinos looked for the object again, he’d lost it. He widened his search. Finally, he spotted movement again. This time he saw a figure. It was one of them—the sinister aliens hunting them, savagely attacking them whenever they had the chance.
Antinos reached for the talk button on the side of his helmet and called it in.
“Apollo Six, Romeo Four. How copy?”
Five long seconds passed; Antinos kept his eye on the figure the entire time. The giant four-armed blue beast seemed to be just standing there, hiding partially in the shadows.
“Romeo Four, Apollo Six. Send it.”
“Apollo Six, I’m synching our helmet cams to you now. I’ve got positive ID on at least one enemy soldier. Adjust from my position, three hundred meters to my front, right twenty meters.”
Each of the Romeo or recon units had a blue force geo tracker embedded on them. It allowed the tactical operations center back on Combat Outpost Legion to know exactly where they were in relationship to the COP and made calling for help or fire support quick and easy. They could adjust fire based on a soldier’s location and what they were seeing. Once the TOC had synched their monitors to a scout’s helmet cam, they could instantly see what the scout saw.
“Romeo Four, good copy. We’re seeing what you’re seeing. Are you aware of additional enemy activity?”
As the operator in the TOC spoke, the figure Antinos had been watching stepped forward, out of the shadows. A sliver of light cut through a gap in the tree canopy, dancing slightly with the wind. The light fully illuminated it, and a shiver of fear washed over him. The alien stood nearly three meters in height—ten feet. A thick braid of black hair, bound tightly with thin gold bands, flowed from the top of its head, down its shoulders and back.
The beast turned its head slightly, looking in his direction. Transfixed by what he saw, Antinos could swear the beast wasn’t just looking his way, it was looking directly at him. The magnification on his visor allowed him to see its face clearly, noting the two standard eyes and a third eye positioned above the bridge of its nose, just below the center of its forehead. That third eye—it seemed to sense his presence. It narrowed slightly, then its other two eyes looked at him.
He can’t see me from this far away…can he?
“Romeo Four, we see it. Recommend evac back to the COP. How copy?”
Antinos meant to speak but failed to. To either side of the alien, swarms of soldiers like it appeared. The beast he’d been looking at raised one of its four arms, pointing a short sword directly at him. Then it let out a guttural, primordial roar as it rushed toward the river—toward them. Running, it raised its two lower arms, firing a laser blaster from each of them.
Antinos depressed the talk button again as Domingo and Aldi opened fire on the charging horde. “Apollo Six, I hope you’re seeing this! I count dozens—no, hundreds of these alien bastards. They’re charging right for us. Rain a fire mission right on top of our current position. We’ll do our best to run like hell for the COP. I’d advise you alert Muleskin and his unit as well. I think this is it.”
He turned to his guys. “Arty’s on the way. Let’s get the hell out of here!”
Flashes of light zipped around them. Pieces of brush and branches clawed at them as they ran, attempting to hold them back. A couple of explosions erupted nearby. Domingo yelled out in pain as he went down.
“My leg, my leg!” he shouted in agony, writhing on the ground.
Antinos fired his rifle as he turned. He saw three quick shots hit one of the beasts, knocking it to the ground. He grabbed for a grenade, tossing it toward a group closing the distance on him faster than he’d thought possible.
“Start shooting, Domingo!” Antinos roared, hitting two more of the bastards.
A handful of blue beasts raced toward him, their blasters firing, their swords raised.
I’m not going to make it, Antinos accepted. Then he heard the familiar sound of incoming artillery. He smiled; he wasn’t going to die alone. I might be dead, but I’m taking you all with me.
Chapter 1 Kodiak
Three Years Prior 2090
Harrison Kodiak knew how the conversation with his parents would go. They obviously wouldn’t be thrilled with the choice he had made, but they were always reasonable and would hear him out. His girlfriend, Tara, on the other hand, was a completely different story. She had dreams of them going to college together. He would play professional football, she would be the trophy wife, and together they would ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. To him, it sounded like a terribly predictable and dull life.
Growing up in a small town outside of Austin, Texas, with parents who weren’t farmers or breeders, he’d had a modest but easy life. Kodiak couldn’t remember a moment when he hadn’t had a football in his hands. It was a byproduct of his father trying to relive his high school glory days vicariously through his son, but he didn’t mind. Football was fun for him. It allowed him to take out all his anger and frustrations from the day and leave it on a hundred-yard field. It wasn’t until high school that Kodiak had been told he was good enough to play beyond that level.
He remembered the day when his coach had brought him pamphlets from all the different colleges that were interested in him. At first, he had been overwhelmed. After experiencing all the attention that came with being a star athlete, though, he had begun to enjoy it. He had the girl, he had the popularity, and he had a great opportunity to continue down the path he had been set on.
Then came some doubts, and with them, questions. The more he thought about this future, the more he questioned whether it was the path he’d chosen or one that was being chosen for him. That all changed one day when a Republic Army recruiter caught his eye.
Towards the end of the school year, the annual job and recruiting fair was announced. Knowing his life had essentially been planned out for him from the day he’d arrived at Marshall Whitman High, Kodiak hadn’t seen the value in going. Deciding to ditch the event, Kodiak and a few friends had snuck off to the nearby woods behind the parking lot to joke around and kill time until the school day was technically over. When he looked over at the doors to the gymnasium, where the event was being held, someone caught his eye. Kodiak had seen him in the hallways before he’d graduated the year prior but couldn’t initially remember his name.
“Isn’t that Dig—ah, hell, what was his name again?” one of his friends asked.
“Oh, man, we used to call him Dingleberry. Damn, what was his name?” another asked, getting a roar of laughter from the others.
While his friends laughed, he didn’t. Kodiak wasn’t into making fun of people. It was something both his father and mother had taught him growing up. But something was different about the person walking into the gymnasium. The kid who used to openly pick his nose and eat it during class his senior year wasn’t the same one walking across the blacktop. He was dressed in a sharp olive-colored dress uniform that made him look physically cut in all the right places. The kid who wouldn’t even be picked during intermural sports looked a hundred pounds lighter, and strong. The transformation seemed lost on his friends as they focused on what his name used to be.
“Kyle Dingleman,” Kodiak said, suddenly remembering.
“That’s right, Kyle Dingleberry,” was the retort as another wave of laughter filled the air.
They were laughing at old stories about the kid and hadn’t picked up on Kodiak as he headed towards him.
“Hey, Kyle!” Kodiak called out as he was about to enter the gym. “Oh, hey, Harrison, nice to see you,” the once-awkward kid said, radiating confidence.
Kodiak smiled at the warm welcome and shook Kyle’s outstretched hand. “Man, you look great. So, you really joined up last year?”
“I did. I finished senior year early and decided to enlist right away. You know, my dad’s a career man in the Army, so it was only fitting I followed.”
“Wow. I had no idea you finished school early, or that that was even an option, really,” Kodiak thought out loud. “So, what? Have you left yet? Where are you going?”
Kyle laughed. “I’m just back for the next ten days. I graduated basic training and we get leave to come home. Next, I’m going to the moon.” He looked up at the midday sky.
“You’re going to the moon?” Kodiak almost shouted.
Space travel was pretty routine by 2090. There were bases on the moon and on Mars, and colonies stretched throughout the asteroid belt, where minerals and fuels were mined for use back on Earth. Tourism also existed, if you could afford it, but Harrison Kodiak could never dream of affording a trip into space or to one of the luxury resorts on the moon. That didn’t stop him from daydreaming, though.
“Yeah, they do their orbital training portions in space and on the moon. It’s wild—the recruiter told me it was going to be part of the training, but it doesn’t really hit you until you get handed that boarding pass. One ticket for the moon, please.”
Footsteps approached from behind Kyle as another uniform appeared by his side. Kodiak looked up towards the recruiter. His uniform, although the same color and fit as Kyle’s, had rows of colorful ribbons above its breast pocket. A blue cord wrapped under his right arm, and on both on his upper sleeves were three stripes with a crescent swoop at the bottom. His face was harder than Kyle’s, more stoic, and his eyes looked almost never-ending. Kyle still looked like he had something in him that hadn’t been taken yet.
“Good to meet you. I’m Staff Sergeant Lopez.”
Kodiak reached out to shake his hand. “Harrison Kodiak.”
The recruiter had a softer voice than his face would suggest. It was inviting, like a friend about to ask you to grab some drinks and go to a party. Kodiak knew it was all an act to get you to let your guard down and relax while having a conversation that could alter the course of your life. He’d had those same conversations with scouts from different colleges that tried to recruit him. They would roll out the red carpet, tell you how much they needed you, promised the cars, girls, and fame that came with being a five-star blue-chip player. It wasn’t offensive; he knew the game and the role they played in it.
“Ever give any thought to serving the Republic?” Lopez asked.
And here comes the sales pitch, Kodiak thought.
“Not really. I have nothing against it, I just really never felt the need to join,” he replied.
“Well, the military isn’t for everyone. You must make your own choices in life and there’s no harm in that whatsoever. Do you mind if I ask what you plan on doing after school?” Lopez quizzed.
“I have a couple of scholarship offers for football. I think I’m going to pursue one of those.” Kodiak stood a little straighter when he said that. “That’s a good route if you got the talent. Just remember, if you get that opportunity to go to college for sports, don’t squander it. Professional sports are even harder to get into—the room for error is as close to zero as it can be. So, focus on a trade or a degree that can help you in the workforce afterwards.”
Kodiak now felt as if he was going crazy. He’d fully expected to get the sales pitch on joining the Republic military shoved down his throat, but if anything, Lopez was giving him some pretty solid life advice. Kodiak wasn’t naïve. He knew his chances of making it into professional football were slim to none. It was the scariest thing about taking one of the scholarships. He had no clue what he would do outside of football.
“Well, that’s anywhere you go nowadays, right? It’s basically a lottery to get into any substantial work with all the AIs and automation. You need to specialize and get the degree if you’re going to have a shot at a six-figure career one day. I feel like football’s my only choice at this point.”
Lopez chuckled. “Well, Harrison, it’s not your only choice.”
He flicked up on his data pad and Kodiak felt his pocket vibrate.
He removed his own data pad and saw Lopez’s number waiting to be accepted into his contact list. He hit the accept button and looked back to the recruiter. “Uh, thanks.”
“You have other options, good options, and if you want to hear them, just give me a call or come by the recruiting depot.”
Kodiak had looked at the newly received contact thoughtfully and then back to Lopez and nodded. “Yes, sir, I will.”
A week had gone by since that conversation and Kodiak still hadn’t taken him up on his offer to talk about options with the Army. He’d actually thought about the invitation a lot, but when it came to going through with a meeting, he’d felt nervous, almost anxious, so he’d made excuses and kept putting it off. As time ticked away, the deadline to choose a college was rapidly approaching. One way or another, he was going to have to commit. Then his path would be set. But was it really his path? Was this really what he wanted, or was his father still trying to live vicariously through him?
I need to talk to that Staff Sergeant Lopez or I’m always going to second-guess this decision, he finally realized.
One day during spring break, Kodiak told his parents he was going over to a friend’s house and would be gone most of the day. With a day to himself, Kodiak headed to the hyperloop-train station to take the next bullet out to Austin. The hyperloop-train was amazing. He had taken it several times to the bigger cities around the country. A train from Austin, Texas, would make it to Chicago, Illinois, in under two hours, and the train he was taking would send him to Austin in just thirty seconds. That was why he had never taken the hyperloop-train to Austin before now. It was unnecessary and honestly a waste of money, but he didn’t want his parents wondering where he was, and if they needed him home quickly, the best way would be with the train.
As he stood on the platform waiting for his bullet to arrive, he looked at all the different destinations the trains would be sending passengers today. Los Angeles, Orlando, New York City, Montreal, Mexico City, Cape Canaveral Launch Port. That last one made his mind wander. There was someone getting on a bullet train heading to a launchpad. Once there, that individual would be getting on a ship and launching into space to visit God knew where. To Harrison Kodiak, it seemed unbelievable. But to whoever was taking that train, it was a normal day.
The train came to a smooth stop and the doors opened. Kodiak held up his data pad to the scanner, receiving an approving tone as it confirmed his ticket. Others apparently shared his sentiment when it came to paying too much just to take a thirty-second trip to Austin, based on the number of empty seats. Sitting down, he connected the three-point restraints over his body so he wouldn’t become a loose piece of cargo slamming about the cabin.
He sat back, and the train launched forward. He felt the blood pushing back in his veins from the intense acceleration. The butterflies in his stomach churned and he involuntarily laughed a little. When you took a train like this to one of the major cities around North America, the speed would regulate as it got going, allowing your body to adjust. For short little jumps like this, though, you felt the effects of the speed for most of the trip.
As quickly as the train got up to speed, it started a rapid deceleration until it came to a smooth stop. The doors opened as the AI announced they’d reached Austin. Removing his restraints, Kodiak stood up, finding his feet as he walked towards the exit. When he reached the station’s underground, he found the grand stairs that headed up and into the outside world. The blazing-hot sun seemed to cook the air as the stairwell gave way to a cloudless sky. Kodiak turned around and looked at the dome of the Capitol Building. He always loved that sight.
The recruiting depot was located just outside of the gates that surrounded the state’s Capitol Building. The dome stretched above all the other buildings in the area, giving the skyline behind it an unobstructed view of the heavens. Behind Kodiak was the incredible Austin skyline. Skyscrapers with sparkling windows reaching into the heavens were a sight to behold. Some of the buildings stretched upwards of two hundred stories tall. But behind the Capitol’s dome, it was still blue skies. The downtown sprawl hadn’t moved in this direction.
Kodiak made his way to the depot. When he found it, he had to double-check the address to make sure it was correct. The city was surrounded by gorgeously designed buildings, but the depot had to be the ugliest building he’d ever seen. It was made of dark gray concrete, with almost no windows, and looked more like a bunker than an inviting building filled with your future. Shaking his head, Kodiak crossed the street and entered the building.
A cold blast of air smacked him in the face as lights and sensors swirled around him. The faint glowing red light on the ceiling turned green and another set of doors opened for him to continue inside. The lobby was huge and the complete opposite of the outside aesthetics. Black, gray, and gold-painted marble made up most of the walls, floor, and pillars that stretched above. Looking up, he saw rows of balconies that stretched forty stories high and surrounded a tinted glass dome that kept the sun’s rays from whiting out the entire building.
“Name?” a woman behind the desk asked.
Kodiak looked down and realized he had kept walking until he was standing in front of the desk. The lady sitting there had on a dress uniform like he’d seen Lopez wearing the previous week. She wore a black skirt, though, instead of pants.
“Um, I’m Harrison Kodiak,” he managed to stammer out. God, why am I so nervous? he thought pensively.
She tapped away on the keys and smiled. “Ah, yes, Staff Sergeant Lopez put you into the system under his name. He’s available right now if you’d like to speak with him.”
“He put my name down?” Kodiak was confused.
“Yes. When a recruiter believes he or she may have found an acceptable candidate for the Republic armed services, they create a file on you. This allows a background check to be completed prior to you coming to the depot so you can be cleared to come in and talk further. It’s the first part of getting your recruitment process started should you join.”
Wow, a background check just to talk about the military. I’ll bet it has something to do with all the space stuff, he thought.
“Wait, did you say recruitment process?” Kodiak asked, looking up at the offices.
“Oh, it’s nothing too formal. You aren’t joining yet. We have to perform a basic background check on you and make sure you aren’t a security risk before we tell you more about what the Armed Forces has to offer. We can’t have just anyone join. We only take the best. The fact that Staff Sergeant Lopez already opened a file on you says a lot. If you look over there, that’s where the elevators are. His office is located on the thirty-eighth floor, room 382. He’s expecting you.”
Kodiak nodded, stammering again, “Thank you, I, ah, I guess I’ll head on up.”
What am I doing here? I’m no book-smart egghead like Kyle. She said they only take the best. I’m barely a B student. I’m only getting into college because of football, he lamented as he pressed the elevator button.
Standing in the elevator, Kodiak thought about the path before him. His dad and coach had a future already planned out for him. One they felt was set in stone. College football. He’d have the fame on campus, the girl, the glory, all of it. Yet here he was going up an elevator to speak to a recruiter and potentially go down a path in his life that would negate all of that.
His thoughts were interrupted when the AI told him he’d arrived at his floor and the doors opened. What am I doing…?
Stepping into a wide corridor, Kodiak walked down the hall as it gradually turned to the right. The building was round on the outside, and inside, it was sort of like an egg. He looked at the numbers as they went down with each door he passed until finally, he stood in front of room 382. He knocked, waited a moment, and then stepped in.
Staff Sergeant Lopez sat behind his desk, gliding his fingers along his terminal. Whatever he was working on couldn’t be seen from the back of the hologram with its privacy filter on. He’d seen the same type of privacy filter in his school’s computer lab.
Staff Sergeant Lopez stopped typing. Looking up from his desk, he asked in a serious tone, “Harrison Kodiak, correct?”
“Eh, yeah,” was all he managed to get out.
Kodiak was a little surprised the guy remembered him. He probably talked to hundreds of people every week, so it was pretty cool that he’d actually remembered him.
Lopez no doubt saw the surprise on his face and laughed. “I’d like to say I remembered your name from meeting you last week at the school, but whenever someone enters the depot, it biometrically scans them and lets me know who it is. That’s not to say I don’t remember your face, but names are a bit much. We get a lot of people going through the first steps of the process, you understand. Here, take a seat.” He gestured to the chair that sat across from the table.
Smiling, Kodiak stepped forward and sat across from Lopez. On the wall behind him were old-school photographs that had been printed and put in a frame you could hang on the wall. He still saw those when he visited his grandparents in Lubbock. Nowadays, most families had the frames that cycled through several photos digitally saved to the cloud.
Lopez looked behind him and smiled. “Yeah, not a lot of people expect to see these anymore, but I’m a sentimental man.” He removed one of the pictures from the wall and placed it on the table. “There’s something more personal about a physical copy you can hold and feel in your hands. Take this picture, for instance. This is me and my buddy during orbital drop training.”
The picture showed a much younger Lopez with his arm around another soldier. In the background was an open field of grass and a huge ship that had landed in it. His face was marked with sweat and some type of dark paint smeared all around. He looked like someone from the military commercials Kodiak had seen, wearing some awesome-looking armor, and he even had a sheathed knife attached to the breast of it.
“What’s orbital drop training?” Kodiak asked with a sudden curiosity.
“ODT is a phase within your training cycle. So, if you enlisted, you would be sent to one of the military bases in the Republic, depending on what specialty you choose. At that base is where you’ll do your basic training, which we call phase one. Phase two, you’ll be sent to Luna to train in low gravity and zero gravity. Once you reach phase three, you’ll experience ODT. That’s when they sit you inside an Osprey and it drops through the atmosphere at terminal velocity before swooping in and dropping you in the landing zone.”
Kodiak stared wide-eyed at the description. “What’s the point of doing that?”
“Well, that’s a good question, Kodiak. You see, the Republic military has to be ready for any and all threats. One of the scenarios we regularly train for is landing an invasion force from orbit at a desired location, sometimes behind enemy lines. It sounds scarier than it is, trust me.” Lopez sat back in his chair. “Back in the day, before we became the Republic, they would invade countries by driving what were basically waterborne tanks through the water to land on a hostile beach. Provided they didn’t sink, of course. Another means of insertion was airplanes. Soldiers used to jump out of them with parachutes in mass formations, or they’d use helicopters to land soldiers behind enemy lines or to transport them long distances. Now we have the technology to maintain a force of soldiers in space that the President can readily deploy anywhere in the world in under an hour. The orbital assault soldiers are considered the Republic’s 911 force in case of trouble. Pretty cool, huh?” Kodiak didn’t know what to say. He was blown away by the concept of soldiers assaulting from orbit. Sure, he’d seen it in movies, but that was Hollywood. Now he was being told he could do that kind of thing. Never in a million years had he thought it’d be possible to go to space, but here this guy was telling him he had not only gone to space but trained in the void. He had to hand it to Lopez—the man was a great recruiter. Who turned down a chance to tour the solar system or get stationed on Luna or even Mars? Still, Kodiak thought it sounded too good to be true.
Canting his head slightly, Kodiak asked, “OK, what’s the catch? It’s got to be a long training process, so how long would I have to enlist to do something that cool?”
“That’s a good question—and, yes, the training is long, and very intense. If you’re unsure, you can enlist for the shorter three-year contract. But keep in mind, if you only stay in for three years, you won’t get the full benefits, like four years of free college. You’ll most likely be stationed somewhere on Earth since you wouldn’t have enough time on your contract to go through the orbital assault school. However, if you enlist for the standard eight-year contract, then if you choose not to make the military a career, you’ll get full benefits so you can attend college on the Republic’s dime. You’ll also be able to attend orbital assault school, a requirement to be assigned to any of the off-world bases. This is where the cool opportunities are to be stationed among the stars. Luna, Mars, even a ship patrolling the Belt.” Lopez motioned with his hand across a map of Republic installations outside of Earth. He was good.
“Um, you mentioned full benefits. What are the benefits beyond free college?”
“If you enlist on the eight-year contract, then when your term of service is up—again, should you decide not to make it a career—you leave the military with a multitude of really good benefits. How does a home in whatever state or province of the Republic you’d like sound? It also comes with a couple acres of land. If that doesn’t scratch the itch, how about the best benefit—in my opinion, anyway—which is a paid job within whatever field you studied while serving in the military? If you decide to go into the medical corps, whether as a doctor or a medic, you’ll leave training with a degree. The military will then take that degree and find you a job of equal or more pay once you get out.”
“Equal or more pay? That honestly sounds too good to be true, not gonna lie,” Kodiak almost laughed.
“I can understand that. The Republic values its military veterans and learned over time that if you want someone to serve your needs, you must serve theirs. It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time when veterans were not held in high regard by the majority. The quality of hospital care was at an all-time low, unemployment among veterans was skyrocketing, and sadly veteran suicide was at an all-time high. Now, to be frank, we are asking more of our service members. We want them to fight our future wars not only here on Earth but also out in the Belt or on Mars. Humanity has become a spacefaring people, and although we’re relative infants in our race to the stars, the wolves are already at the door.”
His last remark sent a cold shiver down Kodiak’s back. “What if I didn’t want to be a medic? What did you do?”
Lopez patted the blue cord that hung on his jacket behind him on the coatrack. “I was in the infantry. Boots on the ground. You see those ads before movies with the guys kicking in doors and taking the fight to the enemy? That’s what I did—that’s what all infantry does. To close with and destroy the enemy.”
“What type of work benefits can you expect after the military with a job like that?” Kodiak asked.
“There are thousands of government contracts on Earth, the moon, Mars, the Belt—they all need security. The Republic military can’t always be everywhere in the solar system, so to protect the Republic’s assets, they have security forces. If that doesn’t sound interesting, there are also options to join local, state, or federal law enforcement.”
Kodiak thought about it but felt that was a limited future compared to being a doctor or a nurse. He looked over to a holo-poster on the wall that showed a bunch of different numbers and letters next to names. One stood out to him: Military Intelligence.
“What’s military intelligence?”
“That’s the super-secret squirrel stuff. They do all types of things within the Republic military, from counterespionage to hacking. Future jobs outside of the military can range from private consulting or working for the Republic Intelligence Agency.”
Kodiak sat up straighter in his seat. “That sounds awesome.”
“It does indeed. You must understand, though, if you choose to enlist, you’ll go through a process of tests, both physical and mental. The scores you get will tell you what jobs you qualify for. You can want to be in military intelligence, but if you don’t get the score that coincides with that job, you won’t be able to get it.”
Lopez must have seen the drop in Kodiak’s shoulders. “I remember you telling me that you’ve been offered scholarships for football. That’s amazing. Let me ask—with an opportunity like that, why would you want to join the military?”
At least Lopez wasn’t trying to discourage him from his current path to enlist. “Recently I’ve started to get the feeling that I’m not doing this for myself. See, my father played football in high school, even played in college before he got hurt. Don’t get me wrong, my father is a good man, doesn’t beat me, doesn’t treat me like crap or anything, but he pushes me when it comes to the sport. The dream of going to college to play ball—I mean, is it really my dream or is it his dream? I’ve heard the stats. Only the one percent of the one percent make it to professional football.”
“Are you good?” Lopez asked.
“Yeah, of course. Am I professional-level good? I have no idea, and to be honest, I don’t want to go through four years of that just to find out I’m not. Then what? I enter the workforce and hope my lottery number gets called for a job?” Kodiak was starting to feel like he was talking to a therapist rather than a stone-cold killer.
“I can understand that struggle. Harrison, your parents can’t dictate what you want to do with your life. Mexico—that’s where I come from— is far more prosperous nowadays than it was seventy years ago, but there will always be the sections of the world that the poor belong to. It’s not their fault they were born into it, but it’s their fault if they stay in it when they have a way out. The military was my way out. I now live really good. I have a stable income; I have a house that was given to me by the Republic while I finish up my career as a recruiter. I don’t know what life has in store for you, Harrison, but I know that it’s your choice. Not anyone else’s.”
Kodiak smiled and stood, reaching out his hand. “Thanks for the talk, sir. I really appreciate it.”
Lopez reached across and shook his hand. “Anytime, Harrison. If you want to know more or even enlist, come on back and we’ll get you all set up.”
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