Andromeda panted as she made her way through the training course. Her sergeant’s voice rang in her ear com.
“Let’s go team B! I want to see you move it!”
Any sort of motivation from these words was lost on Andromeda as she heaved herself over the climbing wall. She and her “Team B” mates had been training non stop for 3 days. Each morning she would get up at 4:30am to shower and be ready in the mess hall by 5:00am. After role call and the quickest most unappetizing breakfast, everyone would haul themselves to training. Andromeda was so tired that by the time dinner rolled around, she was usually too tired to eat. She had not expected for training to be this intense and it was only day three.
Because Andromeda brought Sparky along, she was required to spend extra time in the “Flight Animal Training Facility”. Here, she and Sparky would perform exercises and training maneuvers that would supposedly help in the future. Andromeda had been lucky that Sparky was already fitted with the Speech Collar. Because of this, he was accepted into the flight school along with her. Apparently, animal companions could replace the need for a safety robot that usually accompanied any space pilot.
“Move it galaxy!” the sergeant shouted her favorite nickname for Andromeda and she picked up speed. She had been trying to beat her previous time through the training course but her sore legs protested.
“You got this Andromeda!” she heard from the sidelines. It was Callie. Callie had also been placed in team B and per her request, had been made Andromeda’s roommate. Callie waved enthusiastically from the sideline. You could always count on Callie to have a smile and wave. Her friend was always cheering on her fellow teammates and encouraging everyone. Andromeda focused back on the training course. There was just one more obstacle before the finish line. It was to army crawl over a sand pit. The great equalizer. Many of Andromeda’s faster teammates struggled on this course. Partly because many of them had never experienced a large expanse of sand before. On Planet 678, the ground consisted mostly of rock and other solid material such as ice and mineral deposits. Andromeda was one of the few people on her team on Earth and from amongst the Earthers, she was the only one who had been to the beach. She loved this obstacle. For it wasn’t about your quickness, but instead your diligence and energy in each movement. Slow and steady won in the end with the sand obstacle.
Why did they need to learn how to crawl on sand to become a pilot? Andromeda had no idea. But it sure was a difficult obstacle. She crawled on her stomach and slowly inched forward on the sand. At last she made it onto the other side, every part of her was covered in sand. She heard her sergeant’s voice from her left ear.
“Good job Galaxy, you’ve shaved off 15 seconds from your last run. Making good progress to make a passing time for fighter crafts. In the space force, the faster and stronger you were meant that you handled the better faster crafts. It didn’t particularly make sense to Andromeda, but many things of Planet 678 didn’t make sense. Andromeda just went with it.
Callie ran to the end and gave her a big squashing hug.
“You did it Dromeda!” She squealed. Andromeda returned the hug and gave her friend a squeeze.
“I’m so sandy, Callie! I wish there was an ocean to swim in!” Andromeda said. They made their way to the dorms. She would have to quickly get cleaned up to make it to the mess hall on time for lunch. Callie sighed, “I wish I didn’t have to do my training class in the afternoon. It just stinks. Literally. All the boys in Team B stink. Smelly shoes galore.”
Andromeda laughed. Everyone on base smelled and the base soap that they used didn’t really help their cause to create a ‘better smelling world”. She quickly showered, changed and went down to the mess hall. There she grabbed the typical slop from the space force chefs 9if you could really call them that) and made her way to the team table. She was greeted by a rag tag group of Team B members. Team B was made up of a lot of Earthers and others who didn’t make the cut for the elite Team A. But the force could use everyone that joined recruitment, so they were put together and labeled “Team B”.
Andromeda set down her tray. Callie was already there and chatting to their friend Ceylon. Ceylon was from India. Her parents had moved to the planet when she was little so she had lived almost half her life in space. They were chatting about new uniforms. Next to them sat Remus and Romulus, twin brothers from Planet 678. When they first introduced themselves to andromeda, they told her that they had been grown in a lab. The first twin lab babies. She was pretty sure this wasn’t true but apparently having twins in space was very uncommon. They were arguing over which spacecraft was the fastest and why.
“You don’t just “boing” along with a SFX-900.” Romulus said. His pale eyes glinted in the fluorescent light. “You can actually fly with that piece of machinery. Everything I’ve read says its better at maneuvering.”
His brother, who at this point was fed up with the conversation, took his brother’s napkin and rubbed it in his face. “We’ll See who’s faster when we actually start flying!”
“Get of mee!” The boys started to scuffle.
“Hey you two, cut it out.” Andromeda turned. It was Harvard. He smiled and took a seat next to her. Harvard had made it into Team A but had ended up spending all the down time with Team B. Andromeda didn’t mind as Harvard was one of the few boys on base she felt actually wanted to talk about more than just “the fastest ship in the galaxy”. Over the past 3 days, Harvard had asked her a lot of questions about her life on earth. It was fun to talk about and even funnier that Harvard didn’t know basic things like McDonalds and IHOP. The pancake house had become a recent fascination for him.
“So back to our conversation yesterday, you really have a restaurant where all you eat is breakfast? People actually sit down and pay money for that?” Harvard looked at Andromda quizzically. She laughed.
“As I said, it’s normal for people to not eat in their houses or at big mess halls. And people on Earth don’t just eat for sustenance, they eat for fun.”
“I’m not sure I can understand that.” Harvard said, starting to eat the mess hall food.
“Yeah, I noticed. Here on 678 no one seems to care how the food is prepared, just if there are enough vitamins in it.” Andromeda said. She missed her mom’s cooking and the yummy jollof rice. Then Callie welcomed another team member,
“Hey C-fix! C’mon over to sit!”
C-fix was a larger Earther from San Francisco. He was half Korean and half black american. Andromeda didn’t really know much about him except that he loved American football and pizza. She knew the pizza thing because when they first met he started his introductions with “Papa Johns or Dominos, that is the question”. When Andromeda admitted that she was lactose intolerant, C-fix seemed very disappointed. Also she knew “C-fix” wasn’t his real name but it was how Callie introduced him. Andromeda was pretty sure that he had a slight crush on Callie. He seemed unable to say no to the random things Callie asked him to do.
“Hey Callie” C-fix said, “Team” he nodded to everyone else. The twin boys had finally stopped grappling with each other and were quickly scooping up food into their mouths. Callie said to the group “I think after our final evaluations in 2 days, we should have a party! Like with soda and cake and maybe even karaoke! What do you guys think?”
But their response was drowned out by the first warning bell, alerting them that there was 5 minutes left to lunch. Everyone quickly finished their lunch and started cleaning up. As Andromeda put her tray away, Harvard said next to her “What do you think of the party idea? Is that a thing you do on Earth?”
Andromeda said “Of course! Parties are the biggest on earth! Every year we celebrate our birthdays with presents and cake! I think a party is an awesome idea. Maybe we could even try to bake something for it!”
As they made their way to training, Andromeda felt her muscles strain. Everywhere hurt and she wasn’t sure she could make it through, so maybe a party is just what she needed to motivate herself. She dreamed that if she got through training, there would be the biggest piece of cake waiting for her on the other side.