Most of the people they rescued had been eating a poor diet and lacked nutrition, so when they fed them they became sick immediately. It took some time for them all to be bathed and in the interim the smell was indescribable; a combination of bodily fluids, sweat and festering wounds that blended together filling the bunker with stinch. Many of them were too old to  perform service of any kind and the rest were so weakened it would take months of physical training to prepare them to fight a war of any magnitude. They began weeding them out immediately. There were over a thousand of them. John would chisel out two hundred of the strongest, battle-ready soldiers on the planet. Of those he would make twenty his personal guard. They would perform missions designed to target and weaken enemy resolve. The battles would be fought and won by people like these.

“We’ll start by dividing everyone up into squads, or groups. Within that particular squad they’ll do everything together: eat, shower, piss, fight … they’ll learn about each other. Most of all they’ll learn to trust each other. This is what makes an army strong, not its ability to fight, although that’s important, but its ability to fight for one another, as a single unit. A common cause gives an army its strength. If a person has something to fight for, they’ll fight harder. This is what we’ll teach them.” John spoke to the squad leaders, Po, Ideo, Rensa and Dade. 

They broke the new recruits up into groups and set about introducing them each to the squad leaders. They would demonstrate to them how they would train in their own special way, and with their own unique style. John was militaristic, Po and Ideo concentrated more on martial arts, and Rensa and Dade were opportunistic and vicious. John began by explaining to everyone the rules of engagement, what their routine would be like and the level of physical fitness they would be required to maintain. The squad leaders brought them into a large open recreation room in groups of two hundred, had them line up, and spoke to them as a whole before they would be broken off to be instructed by their own individual leaders. Separately, the squad leaders spoke to the new recruits explaining the unique methods they would use to train their particular recruits. This beginning methodology was helpful to offer very different styles in a short amount of time, giving the trainees an overall experiential knowledge of the various techniques each leader possessed. They would then be placed into a training group that was most appropriate for their current knowledge, ability and skill set chosen by the squad leaders.

Po was the first to speak to the new recruits. His approach was one representative of the centered man, the Hindu mystic warrior whose style of fighting is about being present in the moment and mastering one’s Chi. More than just showing up to fight, it’s about visualizing oneself winning the fight. Many days Po could be found meditating in the rec room. Po’s training method came from an awareness of one’s body and a oneness with nature.

“First you must learn how to breathe.” Po said, beginning to take in a breath.

“How to breathe? I’ve been doing that since I was a child, you should be teaching us how to kill!” A recruit interrupted him, followed by an outburst of stifled laughter.

Po walked over and calmly asked, “What’s your name?” Before the guy could respond Po punched him in the throat and continued teaching while the man choked, “If you cannot breathe, you cannot fight. Let this be your first lesson. Now, let’s begin. Breathe in through the nose, deep inhale … and exhale through the mouth. Inhale. Exhale.”

After Po had completed his training technique, Ideo stepped in front of the group. Although her training style was similar to his, Ideo had learned to wield a blade at her father’s knee. Her training began with the feet, where stance and balance were essential to proper form in combat.

“You must learn how to stand.” She looked around the room and found one of the new recruits who looked like he needed some instruction, and would make a great lesson. “You, come up here and show me how you stand.” The young man moved through the group and came up to the front. “Now, stand for me.” He stood with his feet in different directions and his weight shifted to one leg with his hips tilted slightly. “Your stance is off balance, see?” Ideo shoved him at his hips and he took two steps back, nearly falling over. “You see? Now, stand with both feet pointing toward your opponent, shoulder width apart … don’t stand with your feet together, see?” She pushed him again, this time at the shoulder and he almost toppled over. “Feet shoulder width apart. This distributes your weight evenly and gives you a lower center of gravity. Keep your hips loose and knees bent. Nimble. That’s better.”

Dade’s training method was one of misdirection, “Make your enemy look at somethin’ else, then attack where he ain’t lookin’. The greatest weapon you have at your disposal is misdirection. Your enemy is goin’ to be watchin’ what you’re doin’, so you have to do the opposite of what he expects.” He grabbed a recruit by the arm and brought him to the front. “Now, you’re my enemy. Fight me!”

The two squared off and the recruit tried to punch Dade, who effortlessly blocked the attack and then rushed up to the young man as if he were going to punch him back. He leaned in with his shoulder and began to raise his arm slightly. In defense, the recruit raised his hands to block the punch, but Dade feinted and swept the recruits legs out from under him instead sending him tumbling to the floor. Dade extended his arm to help him back up, “What did he do wrong?”

“He got knocked down.” Someone from the back shouted.

“That’s right! But why?”

“He wasn’t paying attention.” Someone else offered.

“Exactly, he was watchin’ my shoulder, which would normally mean I was gonna punch ‘im, but he failed to see my hips, which showed I was gonna kick him. When misdirecting always get your opponent to look where you want him to look, not where you’re actually goin’. Let’s try another.”

Rensa was last among the squad leaders. Her training style was one of opportunity and relied on sheer dominance and submission of the enemy.

“Use everything you’ve got at your disposal. If you lose your weapon, use your hands, your feet, your teeth, whatever you’ve got.” She poked her student in the eyes, and he dropped back blinded, reaching for his face. “If you can’t see, you can’t fight.”  She grabbed his shoulders and kicked him in the stomach. He doubled over in pain dropping to the ground. “Once they’re down, don’t give up, continue kicking them until they stop moving.” She began kicking him relentlessly until John rushed up and pulled her off of him.

“I believe that concludes our training for the day. Get some rest, tomorrow you will be divided up into your individual squads and your formal training will begin.” John said satisfied, after a long day becoming acquainted with the over one thousand new recruits who would serve in their rebellion.

After the trainees left, Rensa turned to John, brushed a mop of twisted locks from her eyes and smiled, “That went well, don’t ya think?”

The next day they had placed them all into their individual squads. The squad leaders began by breaking them off into pairs and watched as they punched or kicked awkwardly at one another. Clunky and mechanical, they lacked proper form and technique. Po and the others helped with training in sparring and weapons. At first they were like props. Boards they had stood up and carved out the images of soldiers onto. They would have to be beaten into shape. They could show no restraint because the enemy would offer none. They would have little time to form them into perfect weapons, but it would be done. It had to be done. Walking through the pairs of them, they would correct flaws, offer guidance and point to methods on perfecting their technique. 

“Wait — Don’t reach! Move in line — Catch and push!” John could be heard saying to the recruits as he moved through the pairs of them, “There are four aspects of combat that must be adhered to: speed, accuracy, force and direction.”

The recruits would learn very quickly the methodology of close combat fighting — how to break bones, shatter ribs, fracture clavicles and go after soft targets that could weaken their opponents with minimal effort.

The mass of people would be unacceptable, but there would be a few who could make the grade. John’s extensive knowledge of weapons and combat tactics made him an invaluable resource. He taught them to fashion their own blades, keep them honed with a whetstone and kill without hesitation. Though they only had a few hundred weapons to share between them, all of which were merely tools, they would still need something powerful. Without rifles or grenades, or any sort of tactical weapons, they were going to be at a severe disadvantage; but John would do his best. They had to remain within the compound. It was far too dangerous and might alert the creatures to their whereabouts. In keeping with the security, they trained indoors. They ran the halls and practiced combat in the recreation room: a large gymnasium that they had outfitted with jump ropes, free weights and sandbags. The training wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do. There were inner rooms where the ones who were unable to fight lived and worked. These rooms, and floors, were off limits to the recruits, and those without permission.

“Usually military-style training involves firearms. However, since you won’t have any, you will be trained to subdue and overcome your enemy with weapons of opportunity and unarmed hand-to-hand combat.” John explained.

After two weeks they were still behaving like wild animals. In this time they had learned the five basic priorities of survival: water purification, shelter construction, fire building, emergency signaling, and food procurement. This foundation would help them survive in the harsh conditions of the wastelands: the areas that existed between the gardens where very little earthly vegetation could withstand the suffocating alien plant life. But, they would still need to learn much more in order to defend themselves against substantially larger opponents, like the creatures.

“The Sky Reaper physiology is completely different from the human body. Most of the techniques I could teach you will be useless against them.” John explained.

The recruits groaned at this.

“Let’s make no bones about it, we are up against impossible odds and the chance of your survival will be small, and will take all of your cunning and wits — you will need more than sheer strength to overcome these creatures. But, rather than teaching you hundreds of techniques that may prove to be of little use, you will learn eight basic maneuvers that will increase your odds of winning dramatically.” The recruits began paying close attention to what was said next.

ROGER had brought a diagram of a Sky Reaper that had been expertly drawn by one of the survivors with the illustration of a human being standing next to it for scale. As he spoke he pointed to the various parts of the body for emphasis.

“From what we have gathered, the creature’s lower legs are made of dense heavy bones covered with thick connective tissues. The columnar shape of the legs  suggest that they are similar to those of elephants meaning that, instead of being a weak spot like that of a human, they are stronger and less vulnerable. It is also understood that the ribs are covered with a mass of compact fibrous muscular tissue, making them almost impervious to fractures. The neck and reproductive organs are virtually absent in their anatomy as well. The typical vulnerabilities of a human aren’t found in these beasts, because of this it will be required that you use different methods of assault in order to render them incapacitated.” ROGER expounded.

Choosing one of the larger men in the battalion, John asked him to attack, “Now, use what I’ve taught you, and attack me!”

The recruit started by lunging with a punch. John parried his attack and disrupted the flow of the recruit’s energy giving him the few seconds he needed to use the energy of his next attack against him. With his next punch John grappled his wrist  and flung him to the ground, then jumped on his back and mimicked stabbing him in his head. John helped him to his feet and thanked him for his aid in his demonstration.

“You’ll all have to learn to use the methods of weight distribution. Used properly, these techniques can be highly effective at overcoming larger opponents. The eyes are a weak spot, go for them. Likewise hands and wrists. Grabbing exposed limbs, or horns, and using your bodyweight to pull them in the direction you want them to go will also be effective.” He looked at his recruits to make sure they were all paying close attention and then continued, “You must use whatever tools you have at your disposal. Disorienting your opponent is key, after that using whatever weapons you have available to subdue them is essential. Knocking them off balance will be the simplest method of attack, once unbalanced your enemy will be confused allowing you the time to strike. Keep in mind your weapons of opportunity training.”

Those who were unable or unwilling to fight helped in the preparation of food and water, cooking and cleaning, maintaining sleeping arrangements for the bunker, or helped in other ways like weapons making, logistics, scouting or communications. At times John felt these tasks were more difficult than training for battle.

Ahhh-ten-SHUN! Form a line.” John shouted.

His soldiers had learned this meant to form straight lines of ten rows with twenty in each column. Each man and woman would stand with their arms down, hands at their sides, chest out, chin up, back straight, feet together.

Sound off!

On these words the soldiers would count, starting with the first column at one and continuing back to the last person.

“Stand at ease.”

At this they would stand with their hands brought together in the front, keeping their shoulders back and square. These motions, although seemingly useless, provided some amount of discipline and orderliness.

Chow time!

The mess hall was located a few corridors down from the rec room. Soldiers would jog down the halls in pairs side by side. The close quarters would be cramped, but they were acceptable. The showers were even worse. After chow they would be allowed an hour of rest while the squad leaders, Po, Rensa, Dade, Ideo and John would go over the training exercises for the day, how they felt the soldiers were accelerating, and which ones they felt would be perfect candidates for special elite guards. When they were finished with them, they would be chiseled out of stone.

John had taken one of the larger dorms and established it as his ready room. Soon they would begin scouting missions in the wastes from which they would make charts and maps of the terrain and the slave gardens. They would be ordered only to observe and report back, but not to engage. Walking out of his ready room John was  stopped by a young man who was proving to be a rather disciplined soldier.

“Sir,” he started, then stopped and saluted.

John returned the salute, “At ease, soldier.”

“Sir, I’m having a bit of trouble with this weapon, sir.” He held out the weapon to John as if presenting to him a gift. He took it from the soldier and examined it.

“What you have here is called an Atlatl. Its used to hurl projectiles like a spear or a rock. The reason you can’t figure the contraption out is because you don’t have a missile.” The notion that he had been attempting to use it as a hammer crept into his mind. “Let’s try to find one for you.” The weapon was undoubtedly crude, but in its time it had served its purpose, and would likely do so again. “We may not have gunpowder or bullets, but we can use this to fling a stone several miles an hour to the target with considerable force.” They walked the halls together in search of a projectile and while they did John thought to himself that a person cannot make someone go to war, that is improper, but someone can prepare a person for war with the right training and skills.

They found a long thin tube of metal that came to a point, and attached it to the notched base of the Atlatl.

“The proper stance is to hold the left arm out using it as a guide. Take the right arm back and hold the Atlatl with the forefinger and thumb, when you are ready extend the right arm with a quick fluid motion and release the missile from your grip to send it flying forcefully to the target.” They found a painting that was most likely hundreds of years old, featuring the image of a bearded man. They chose a spot between the eyes of the man and he began. He did as John instructed and on his first attempt hit the target dead on.

“Very good, soldier.” John said, and the soldier nodded silently. They exchanged salutes and he continued practicing. John headed back toward his ready room and found Po in the hallway.

“John, do you think the men are ready to go topside?” he asked.

“Not all of them. But there are a few that I think will do fine. Let’s assemble a patrol to begin scouting the area.”

“Sounds good. There are a few I have in mind as well that should be perfect for the duty.” Po saluted him and continued down the hall as John made his way to his ready room. John was getting a better understanding of these men and women. They were becoming soldiers, but they still had a long way to go. He would have to train them for survival in the wastes, and with that his job was only just beginning. John had asked Po and Ideo each to assemble fifty of their best soldiers for survival training, he would do the same and meet them in the rec room.

“Until now, you have been training in combat and physical fitness,” John paced back and forth as he spoke to the soldiers while Po and Ideo stood attention, “However, we are about to embark on the most important task required of us.” The  soldiers, both men and women, kept their eyes forward. If they were nervous they didn’t show it. “You have been handpicked for this duty because of your strength and ability as soldiers. We are going to be drawing field maps of the creature camps and gardens, as well as acquiring more gear — clothing and various essentials that  will be used for our training and survival. There are many things you will need to know before we begin. This will be a perilous journey, some of you may not make it back.” He continued as he watched the faces of the soldiers. They showed no emotion. This was good. I will train you to become elite soldiers. “You will use basic survival procedures as well as some advanced techniques that I will teach you. You will learn the essentials of Marine field survival, which can be recalled through the use of a simple acronym: S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L.”

On the wall behind him John had painted the letters in the word “survival” and given a brief explanation pertaining to what each letter in the acronym meant.

S- Size up the situation 
U- Use all your senses 
R- Remember where you are 
V- Vanquish fear and panic 
I- Improvise 
V- Value living 
A- Act like the natives 
L- Live by your wits 

“Many people having no survival skills whatsoever have been able to live through circumstances where the odds were against them, while others who were trained in survival have died. Knowledge of survival skills is only one ingredient to the psychology of survival, it is vital that you also put these skills to good use. There is a basic instinct in all of us to survive, this is the psychology of survival, use your instincts and remember your training when faced with a life threatening situation. Having the skills to survive is important, having the will to survive is essential.”

After explaining the keywords from the acronym and how they related to their particular situation, John began going over the basic examples of the type of gear they would be looking for and easy ways to spot it in the environment.

“Tomorrow, we will be taking our first excursion into the wastes as trained soldiers. Each and every one of you is prepared for this, and you will be successful. We will be making maps, and gathering gear along the way to fashion weapons that will help us in combat. The greatest advantage we have at our disposal is the fact that most of these items will be relatively easy to come by. By that I mean we can simply procure them rather than having to manufacture them. Other items will need to be constructed from parts we can find.” The men and women stood at attention while John spoke. Their unwavering devotion to the common cause they all faced was encouraging.

“We are embarking on a great adventure and one that will be spoken of for generations to come. Our actions today and in the coming months will be written about, studied, examined and argued over by our children’s children. Let’s make them proud.” John finished.

“OO-RAHHH!” They all said in unison.

John felt the sound penetrate him. He then turned to Po and exclaimed for all to hear, “The soldiers are ready. Tomorrow we head out into the wastes.” With that John walked away to the salute of every soldier. He had won their confidence and their admiration. And, in no small way, they had earned his.

It had been two months of intense strength training, weapons training and unarmed hand-to-hand combat. They had learned everything about one another and John’s presence was met with great enthusiasm, inspiring confidence among his soldiers. It looked like the tide might just be turning in their favor. Finally, they were prepared to take to the wastes in search of more gardens and alien slave camps. A real test of the skills they had learned. There were two people who had been coming and going in and out of the shelter. One was a female who worked rather hard at keeping her body hidden beneath a thick coat, and the other was a youthful man with long braided hair. John wanted to get a look at what she had under her coat, it was rumored she was carrying a secret weapon.