3 Chapter 2
Life was perfect.
Everything was going as well as it could have.
Trace was set to graduate university in a week if he could just pass one final test…
Those who passed the test graduated, while those who failed had a far worse fate: being drafted into the military.
When the military "recruiters" walked into the room wearing dress uniforms and wielding their batons, ready to retrieve those who hadn't met the bar, Trace thought there was no way he could be one of those people.
And yet, one of the recruiters walked down Trace's aisle. "Please don't be me, please don't be me," Trace muttered to himself as the recruiter walked further down the aisle, closer and closer to Trace.
He let out a silent gasp of relief as the recruiter took the student in front of him by the arm and dragged her out the door, with her struggling the whole way.
And then a different recruiter walked up the aisle, seeming to be staring straight at Trace.
He walked closer, and closer…
And then the moment Trace had been dreading.
"C'mon kid, you're coming with us," the recruiter said calmly, but with a trace of… regret?
"No… no no no… No!! There must be some kind of mistake!" Trace began panicking as he realized that it was actually happening, that this wasn't some wild dream.
"Sorry kid, there's no mistake. Just come with me willingly and you'll be fine… for now."
Trace despaired in silence for a few seconds, then slowly, in a depressed and downtrodden manner, stood up and followed the recruiter.
The classmates he would've called his friends just hours ago averted their eyes, avoiding eye contact with the students who had been pulled into the draft.
As Trace was walked out of the school along with many other students to an awaiting drop ship, his last glimpse of true freedom was of the huge blue sky.
When he got inside the drop ship, he was told to sit down next to another soldier, but unlike the recruiter, this one was armed with the standard issue marine pulse rifle.
Trace sat down in a daze, having not yet fully accepted his situation as reality.
Some of the non-dropout students were standing outside of the drop ship, watching the failures be drafted off to fight in a war that no one wanted to fight.
As he sat there, Trace overheard some of them talking amongst each other.
"Look, the dropouts are all getting drafted! I know a couple of them, but that's gotta be at least half of the graduating class!" One of them said to another.
"Well, I'll bet that this is a just more idiots. None of those dropouts will ever actually make a difference in this war," The other responded, smirking.
As Trace heard this, he felt his face redden in anger.
Suddenly coming to a halting stop, he decided there was only one thing he could do now:
Prove them wrong.
Win this war.
As these thoughts pounded through his head, the door to the drop ship began closing, as the last of the dropouts had entered the now packed drop ship bay. As the door closed, so did all hopes of escape and any small possibility that this was all a big mistake.
Without any windows, it was almost impossible to tell what was going on outside from within the bay, other than that they were taking off.
The drop ship groaned and creaked under the force of gravity, as the inertial dampeners fought to overcome the g-forces that would normally kill the passengers.
And then… quiet.
A couple people coughed, many cried.
But Trace just sat there, in total silence.
He remained that way for what felt like hours, until a soldier walked down the center of the bay with a bag of… somethings.
"Alright everyone, listen up! You're now in the Marine Corps! You're all marines so you better start acting like them. These things are your new food for every meal from now on. They are called meal bars, and you only get one a day, so don't waste it! Though knowing what kind of people you are, I won't be surprised if any of you idiots starve!"
The man began going down Trace's row, handing each person what looked like a cube roughly the size of two fists pressed together, shoved inside silvery tinfoil packaging.
When Trace got his, he immediately opened it, expecting food of some kind.
Instead, he was presented with some sort of shiny brown-blackish cube that was sticky to the touch.
Trace saw other around him eating them, so he cautiously took a bite. He immediately felt fully awake and energized, as if he had drunk a very large amount of caffeine.
"What the heck do they put in these things?!?" Trace questioned aloud.
"Beats me. I just know it's edible, it's food, and it tastes okay." The response came from the person sitting next to him.
After this, Trace went back into his dazed state of stillness, for at least another couple of hours. And then they arrived.
Standing up, the soldier closest to the bay doors said "Well, marines-to-be, welcome to your new home for the next 6 months. Training base Echo!"
He said with a dramatic flourish, sweeping his arms out to gesture outside as the bay door opened into a hangar, through which only a thin blue force field kept them from the total vacuum of an asteroid.
They had arrived.