"ONE OF THE OLDEST IF NOT ALREADY THE OLDEST ORGANIZATION FOR BATTLESTAR GALACTICA"
KEEPING THE FAITH ALIVE
Pustiu Training Camp
The ten weeks at Pustiu Training Camp were painful for all the recruits one way or another. Conflict along racial lines was rife – the Sagittarons had long been ostracised by the others, however the addition of the Scorpions had displaced everyone. The Drill Sergeant and most of his staff were ex-Scorpian Military, and they favoured the Scorpian recruits because many of them had been cadets back on Scorpia. The Celtan recruits were completely unfamiliar with military protocol, and often suffered for their ignorance.
The Camp was run by a surly, old Scorpian brute known as Drill Sergeant Malice. Wasting no time that first morning he had bellowed at the recruits assembled before him in the cold dawn light,
‘IF YOU LADIES SURVIVE RECRUIT TRAINING HERE AT PUSTIU, YOU WILL GO ON TO BE STO. YOU WILL BECOME AN AGENT OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION. YOU WILL BE GOD’S ANGELS OF DEATH WAGING WAR AGAINST THE WICKED. BUT UNTIL THAT DAY COMES YOU ARE FILTH, YOU ARE MAGGOTS. YOU AREN’T EVEN GOOD ENOUGH TO CLEAN THE FRACKING EXCREMENT FROM THE OFFICER’S LATRINE. BUT I WILL TAKE YOU, AND REFORGE YOU INTO A WEAPON FIT FOR THE LORD’S HAND. I AM A HARD MAN, YOU WILL NOT LIKE ME, BUT YOU MIGHT JUST LEARN SOMETHING THAT WILL SAVE YOU LIFE.’
His favourite phrase, always shouted at full volume, was ‘NOW DROP AND GIVE ME 50.’ No matter how fast they ran, how high they jumped, or how well they marched, he reminded them that his Grandma could do better.
Rónán accepted his fate and threw himself into the physical side of the training during the first few days – the endless push-ups, sit-ups, the parades, obstacles courses and running in the desert. However during parade one afternoon Rónán accidently drew unwanted attention from the Drill Sergeant; the heat, exhaustion and dehydration had distracted him, and his mind had wandered off watching a buzzard wheel in the thermals high above the desert. The sound of Malice bellowing in his face bought him to with a start, ‘ARE YOU EYEBALLING ME, BOY?’ he shouted. Malice’s face was so close all he could see was the man’s blood shot eyes, blazing at him.
Rónán was still stunned – staring; mesmerised by the sheer ferocity of the tirade, the words tumble unbidden from his mouth, ‘The buzzard is circling…’
Exploding with fury, Malice shouted with enough force to knock Rónán backwards, ‘STOP YOUR BABLING AND ANSWER ME. I SAID ARE YOU EYEBALLING ME, BOY?’
His tongue suddenly free, Rónán says, ‘I-i-i-i…I’m sorry, sir, I…’
‘WHAT DID YOU CALL ME? DROP AND GIVE ME 50 WHILE I REMIND YOU HOW TO ADDRESS ME. ITS DRILL SERGEANT TO YOU, YOU MISERABLE MOTHER FRACKER!’ he ranted, face almost purple now with rage, eyes bulging, and spittle flying freely. Drill Sergeant Malice proceeded to scream at the entire squad for over an hour in the baking, afternoon sun about training camp protocol. When the harangue was finally over, Malice turned to Rónán, ‘NOW DROP, AND STAY DROPPED UNTIL I TELL YOU TO STOP BUZZARD BOY!’
‘YES, DRILL SERGEANT,’ Rónán said and dropped to the ground doing push-ups.
Turning to the rest of the platoon Malice screamed, ‘DISMISSED!’ sending the platoon scurrying to their barracks. When Malice finally came out and ordered Rónán to stop it was long after night had fallen across the parched Pustiu Desert.
Another recruit also ran afoul of Malice early on at Pustiu, and the two became friends through their mutual suffering. William was 19 years old making him the oldest, he had been recruited from Aerilon. He had run away from home at a young age and had made a name for himself as a cat burglar on the streets of Gaoth. His initial popularity had waned because he always stood up for the underdogs and won a number of fights with a group of Scorpian recruits over this. After that he was always in trouble for fighting and it seemed that every tough guy in the camp wanted to have a go. William enjoyed nothing more than a good brawl, so he let them try, and beat every single one of them. William’s mouth had gotten him into a lot of trouble with Malice; however he always managed to make it look like he enjoyed the push-ups and other punishments the Drill Sergeant meted out to him. When Malice assigned William and Rónán as Battle Buddies, he cemented the relationship between the pair. From that point onwards each pair did everything together, so Rónán joined William on lots of extra duties and punishments. Malice informed Rónán one day that William would be the bane of his existence, and the name stuck; William became known as Bane. Bane and Rónán also started sharing a joint each morning on the roof of the barracks, watching the sun creep over the horizon. Bane began to notice Rónán’s ability to predict what the day would bring and would joke about it when they returned to the roof top after lights out each night to smoke another joint and talk about the day.
As the weeks passed Malice added a few new tasks to the monotonous routine. Rifle training consisted of a whole week of learning how to hold, point, take apart, clean, and put back together their rifle – the SMI 80. It wasn’t until the following week that they loaded their rifles and finally got to shoot them. The last exercise was the gas chamber – the whole platoon in a bunker with an open canister of tear gas. Malice made each recruit remove their mask twice, the first time they just had to lift the mask and state their name, rank, and colony. The second time Malice made sure they opened their eyes and took at least a small breath before they were let out of the chamber. The recruits all knew that the following day they would be tested and either die or enter the ranks of the STO.
The following morning the recruits were ordered to pack their kit and prepare to move out, they were told a bus would collect them and take them to the Sanctuary for the Test. Little was known of what the Test would actually consist of, however the penalty for failure was widely talked about by the recruits in the last few weeks of training. The drive out of the desert and up the mountain was tense and quiet as everyone contemplated the lethal test that awaited them. Once they reached the Sanctuary, their bus passed through security and was taken to a very modern building. The bus drove straight into the underground car park as the great metal doors sealed out the sunlight. The recruits filed out of the bus and collected their bags. They were soon greeted by an agent who lead them through a heavy blast door, down a corridor to a barracks, were he ordered them to leave their bags. As they stowed their gear, the agent explained that he would escort them to the Testing Room. As the agent lead the recruits through the large facility Rónán noticed that there were no other people in this area, just computer consoles, store rooms and a few dark laboratories. The place was dimly lit by widely spaced florescent tubes, and was eerily silent except for the hum of the air-conditioning and the echo of their booted feet. No one spoke. When they reached another heavy blast door with a security lock, the agent produced a security card which he swiped, and the huge metal door open smoothly and silently. ‘This is as far as I go – the Preceptor is waiting for you in the lab just through there,’ the agent said and gestured with his machine gun meaningfully.
The recruits hurried through the open door, into a brightly lit medical unit, with a Cylon Doctor waiting for them inside. Its body was a dazzling white under the lights, marked with the caduceus symbol on each shoulder. The Cylon Doctor addressed the nervous recruits, ‘I am the Preceptor. I will be conducting the Tests today. You will each enter a cubicle, remove your clothing and put on the surgical gown provided. Then you will lie on the examination table and wait for me to administer your Test.’
Rónán was kneeling before the treatment table, touching his forehead in the ritual posture, praying. He froze as the Cylon Doctor parted the curtains and walked into his cubical, the red glow of its eye flashing backwards and forwards as it stared into his eyes, sending a chill down his spine. He could feel the cold intelligence of the thing as it inspected him, he cringed in fear but was very surprised at what the machine did next.
Touching its own forehead, it quietly said, ‘Please, finish your prayer recruit. I will return to you in a moment.’ The cylon turned and passed back through the curtain. Rónán finished his prayer and climbed onto the table to wait. Moments later the Preceptor returned, ‘Forgive my interruption, but we have a schedule to maintain.’
‘That’s OK Preceptor, I understand, I was just trying to calm myself down. You made the gesture of the faith before, do the Cylon really believe in God?’
‘I can not speak for all of the Cylon, but I certainly do believe young man. Now, we must commence your Test, I will pray for your success,’ the Preceptor handed Rónán a small plastic medicine cup containing a small, white tablet. ‘This is a chemical substance known as Lysergic acid diethylamide. It will alter your mental state and is known to induce hallucinations and delusional states. For this reason you will be restrained for your own protection,’ the Preceptor stated as it began to apply the restraints to his feet and hands. ‘These electrodes will monitor you heart, blood pressure, temperature, brain waves, and respiratory rate, please lie very still while I attach the electrodes.’ By the time the Preceptor was satisfied with the readings displayed on the telemetry monitor, Rónán was starting to feel the effects of the powerful hallucinogen. Panic rising, his pounding heart pumped the drug through his body, he did not noticed the Preceptor place the Holoband on his head. The last thing he remembered was the dazzling white face of the Angel holding his hand gently and whispering to him, ‘Fear not Rónán, God is with you.’
He regains consciousness slowly through a haze of agony, he is bound hand and foot, and blinded in one eye by what he thinks is his own blood. His head is swimming – he remembers the Redshirt hitting him with the butt of his rifle, and then waking up here. A foot turns him over roughly, ‘Good he is waking up, time we had a little chat with our friend,’ he is hit by a bucketful of cold water and hauled into sitting position. A bright light is shone into his good eye, ‘Righto you. We caught your lot trying to blow up the gaol and release the Celtan rebels. The rest of them admitted their part in it and were executed,’ he hears the gun being cocked and feels the cold metal of the muzzle being pressed against his head. ‘How about you?’
‘Aye, it’s true. For the One True God knows all and directs us all,’ Rónán says waiting for the bullet that will kill him.
Instead someone kicks him in the stomach, making him double up in pain. He vomits and is racked with more pain. ‘We’re not quite ready to kill you yet, you filthy monad piece of shite. You know where the Celtan rebels leaders are holding out and you’re going to tell us.’
Rónán tries to speak clearly through the pain, ‘For the One True God knows all and directs us all,’ he gasps.
‘I thought as much, we know who you are boy. We came prepared; tell us where the Celtan rebels leaders are holding out or we will execute your entire family. Your mother, your brother Seán, and sisters Siobhan and Eilis are being captured as we speak.’
A radio is bought into the room and Rónán soon hears his mother’s voice, ‘Rónán, it’s me, whatever happens, tell them NOTHING!’ there is a cry and the sound of men laughing, then the crackle of radio static.
‘You will tell us what we want to know, or they will all die. NOW!’
Rónán takes a deep breath, silently praying for his family he says in a loud clear voice,’ For the One True God knows all and directs us all.’
‘Do it lads’.
The crackle of the radio is interrupted again, ‘GO, GO, GO.’
The screams of his family soon mingle with the sound of machine gun fire, and then static. He closes his eyes and continues to chant the words, waiting for the inevitable bullet that would kill him. Rónán was surprised at how calm he actually felt now that he knew this was the end…
The Preceptor watched the feed from Rónán’s test, pleased with how he handled the simulation, he marks the file ‘TEST PASSED’, before moving onto the next recruit.