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Contains adult language. Reader discretion is advised.

It took a couple weeks, but gradually everyone was whipped back into shape, as if they'd never left base. It wouldn't be long now, and everyone would be onto weapon training.

"Man. I'm glad that crap is over....." Ray huffed as he and his other two comrades proceeded down the alleyway toward the indoor firing range.

"Well, Ray. It wouldn't be so bad if you weren't such an attention magnet."

"Shut it, Jace."

"Just saying, hehe." Jace said, snickering.

"Can't say I disagree with him, Ray."

"You know Glenn, you’re not ever going to get a girlfriend with that attitude."

Glenn rolled his eyes. "Anyway, SUPPOSEDLY we are getting our fourth and final member today. Or so I've heard...."

Ray laughed. "As if. Those petty officers are in no hurry to get us out in the field. Besides, who'd have the nerve to join with you two anyway?"

"Me actually." A voice said behind them. The trio turned to see a female standing in front of them. Like most, she preferred to wear her red-orange uniform jacket unzipped and open. She wore a black turtle neck undershirt as opposed to the standard v-neck most of the others on base wore. Her hair was dark brown and fiery in nature, descending slightly above her shoulders, and her bangs extended downward in a sharp fashion. Her sideburns were longer than the rest of her hair, falling in tendrils ending past her shoulders.

"And from what I've heard, why would anyone join with you, mister Ray?" She said with a sly grin.

Ray was tickled. "Well for starters, because no one can handle sticking around with me."

"I can see why."

Ray turned his gaze downward. He knew he'd walked into that one.

"I hope you boys don't mind, but I'll be with you."

Jace was first to speak. "Not at all. A new wingman is always welcome. I'm sure I recognize you from somewhere. Were you by any chance into kick-boxing?" He asked, scratching his chestnut-colored hair.

"I was.....why?"

"Thought so. You’re Ashe, right? Ashe Guardia?"

"Hmmm. I had no idea I was apparently famous."

"Three time champion? And not be well known? You were awesome!"

Ashe blushed slightly. "Thank you, but I'm not that awesome, I'm just a person like anyone else."

Glenn spoke next. "Don't take this personally, Ashe. But if I may ask, why did you quit? You were at the top."

"I grew out of it. No other reasons." She said, as her grin fell into a blank expression, with the side of her lip twitching ever so slightly.

Ray raised an eyebrow. "I heard you broke a girl's jaw with one solid uppercut. And that didn't get you pumped? I would've kept going for a fourth title!"

Ashe glared. Her pupils were almost slit-like. "I can tell we are going to have a hard time getting along. If you know so much about me, you may want to watch your mouth. Or you’ll be nursing a broken jaw." She growled.

Glenn and Jace couldn't keep a straight face. Glenn straightened up and changed the subject.

"Well, in other news. Glad to have you aboard Ashe. We could use a good fighter like yourself."

"I'm flattered, but I'll be serving as your navigator. I won't be doing any fighting."

"Even still, you'll be a big help."

Ashe blushed again, wearing away any evidence of her anger. "I'll catch up with you three later. I don't want to make you late for your training."

Weapon training was surprisingly less exciting as Ray had originally anticipated. Most of it involved more petty officers yelling at everyone. One person made the mistake of aiming his issued FR28a assault rifle at his chief on accident. Even though it wasn't loaded, he was in for a world of hurt.

"Hey! You have about 5 seconds to un-fuck yourself, guy!"

What shooting was done involved a dummy speedling target. It was marked with vital points on the head and right above where the legs joined the body. Some were dead shots while others clearly have never used a gun before. Both Glenn and Ray had signed on for additional melee training. Jace had pretty much convinced himself that weapons were useless without range, and stayed behind.

Melee training was much like firearm training, as it involved less training and more "motivational speaking" as the petty officers called it. Glenn proved to be an expert swordsman, and Ray not too shabby himself. Others however were instructed to put down the cutter, before they hurt themselves.

With training complete, Ray and Glenn met up with Jace and went to the *galley. They found Ashe waiting for them.

"You came much later than I expected. I don't know about you three, but I'm ready to eat."

Ray laughed. "Heh. You aren't the only one. Let’s go."

As they took their seats, they reminisced about their own recruit days and experiences. But that ended up turning into a "who had it the hardest" competition, so they dropped it.

Jace was first to change the subject.

"So, did any of you hear about that crazy stuff that went on about 5 years ago?"

Ray looked puzzled. "A lot of stuff went on 5 years ago, but what are you specifically talking about?"

"What I mean is, some crazy rumor going on about some abandoned research facility somewhere in the middle of Hell's Keep."

Glenn began to think. "I know exactly what you’re talking about."

"I can't think of anyone who hasn't heard about that. That rumor has been around for a while." Ashe said.

Ray still looked confused. "Not sure I have. Not like I pay much attention to latest news or rumors."

"Well in short," Jace told him. "A couple of guys wandered off toward Hell's Keep and were never seen again."

"But what could they have possibly wanted with Hell's Keep?" Ray asked. "That place is a barren wasteland."

"Beats me."

"All that's known is that they wandered into a random laboratory and were never found. Someone had contacted local authorities, and told them where the two had gone. They said all they found in Hell's Keep was an old building that was completely in rubble." Glenn explained.

Ray shrugged. "Whatever. Not like there is anything to find out there anyway. I'm going to go find something constructive to do. I'll see you guys later." And with that, Ray took his tray to the *scullery and left.

Ashe broke the brief silence. "Can't say I disagree. I've heard some rather interesting things about Hell's Keep, like something about some mythological weapon or something, but all facts say it’s just an empty plot of vast nothingness."

Glenn appeared to be in deep thought. "Maybe. But now that I think about it, why would a research lab be out there?"

"Maybe because no one goes out there. Quiet place to conduct research."

"Or illegal research......"

Jace picked at the remainder of his food. "I wouldn't worry about it. It's nothing but a pile of bricks and dust now. Think I myself will go find something to occupy my time."

Ashe nodded. "Right. Best not to ponder on it. It can't be important."

And the two left Glenn alone. He looked back down and took another bite.

  • Galley= Kitchen
  • Scullery= Place to wash dishes

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