After crawling through the sand under barbed wire with live fire overhead, Thomas felt straight at home. His squad however, not so much.

"Fuck me, why are they using live ammunition?" Smith complained loudly, his voice competing with the roar of the machine guns from both sides of the barbed wire field. He yelped as a bullet bounced off some of the barbed wire above his head. They'd only manage to cross ten yards of the fifty yard field in one hour, for some reason after they started crossing, the machine gun fire became more intense.

"Just shut up Smith! Your boot is in my face!" McLaney was struggling right behind Smith who's boot was indeed in his face. "Besides, it's not that bad, once you get used to the bullets flying overhead."

"I don't want to get used to the bullets flying overhead! I want to get that flag and get some chow!" Smith retorted.

"Can it you two, just focus on crawling across this field, we've got bigger problems than bullets overhead." Thomas finally snapped, normally he could stand these two, one lifetime of them arguing was enough for him, let alone two lifetimes. On top of that, he had the feeling that something was wrong, but he couldn't figure out what.

Thomas and his squad made about another thirty meters progress under the barbed wire, which was awfully cramped right now, it seems the farther you get the lower the barbed wire gets; on top of that, the machine gunfire was getting more intense to the point where they were kicking up the sand in front of their faces and blinding them. They gritted their teeth and kept crawling, the soft sand and hard dirt underneath them giving the distinct impression of both giving way and compacting. This made it even harder for them to advance with their tired and exhausted bodies.

"Come on, we're almost there!" Thomas tried to bolster his squad with encouraging words, "just a few more yards and we'll be through this hell!" After having been through a lot of hell today, his squad was trusting towards him, his attempts to bolster their spirits were successful.

"He's right! It's just a stupid bit of sand and a few yards of ground!" Smith spat out, being the shortest he had to work almost twice as hard to cover just as much ground. Eight yards, then five, and before they realized it they were free and the machine gun fire stopped. "Shit, we made it? We made it!" Smith was happy. "Just think of how much ammunition those bastards wasted on us! Hahaha!" He laughed pretty joyously. "On to the next one!"

After another hour, they were sitting four hours out of the allotted six, with most of the three hundred yards of obstacles done. If you asked anyone about the funniest thing they had seen all day that day, they would have replied Smith trying to jump the wall. Apparently no matter how high he tried to jump, it looked like a retarded frog trying to jump onto a rock only slightly bigger than itself.


It might be more apt to describe a grasshopper constantly jumping into a wall instead of over it, only to land on it's ass time and time again. Finally, Thomas had to droop himself over the wall and pull Smith up and over.

Now they stood in front of the giant fort, which if Thomas remembered right, was named, Fort Excellence. Thomas chuckled when he remembered why, that day was pretty clear in his mind and it happened after a few weeks of all the squads struggling. They were all assembled right here by Drill Sergeant Lloyd, and it was much like any other day, desert heat, shining sun, dusty winds. Thomas spaced out as he started to remember the memories, they almost felt like they weren't his, almost.

They stood there, two lines of ten recruits, all tired, hungry, and exhausted. The sun beating the sweat down their necks, curious gazes looking respectfully at the drill sergeant, their direct superior.

After a grueling day of clearing the obstacles all of the recruits wanted to get some chow, a shower maybe, but definitely some food. Fighting for six hours would make anyone exhausted and hungry, but they had to stand in the ninety degree sweltering heat at parade attention in front of the massive fort they were all fighting to reach.

"Listen up recruits! The massive fort you stand in front of today," the drill sergeant paused. "The fort you stand in front of today is only for those who excel against all others, you want to claim the flag at the top?" He pointed towards the flag at the top of the fort.

"THEN YOU'VE GOT TO WANT IT!" He roared at them. "ONLY THOSE WILLING TO STEP ON EVERYONE ELSE, THOSE WILLING TO CLAW, PUSH, SHOVE EVERYONE ELSE BELOW CAN CLAIM THIS FLAG!!" He gazed at everyone with the intensity of a thousand suns, no, with a passion more fierce than a true love story. "This is Fort Excellence and only those who are the best, who are excellent in every regard can forge a path to top and claim victory and glory. I won't lie. It's a team effort, no one can claim victory alone, at the top there can only be one victor, but it takes a dozen men to propel him there."

"I know that many of you are hungry, many of you are tired," the drill sergeant was hitting a climax in his speech, BUT IF YOU SHOULD HUNGER, HUNGER FOR VICTORY! IF YOU SHOULD TIRE, THEN TIRE OF THE CHAINS OF WEAKNESS AND LIMITED STRENGTH THAT HOLD YOU BACK! CAST OFF YOUR SHELL AND REACH DEEP INSIDE YOURSELVES FOR EVERY BIT OF POTENTIAL YOU CAN FIND AND CLIMB TO THE TOP! YOU ARE NOT ALONE, YOUR BROTHERS IN ARMS STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH YOU, THE NAZIS, THE JAPANESE, THE ITALIANS, NONE OF THEM HAVE WHAT YOU HAVE! THE INDOMITABLE AMERICAN SPIRIT! PICK YOURSELVES UP AND CHARGE INTO THAT FORT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! CLAIM VICTORY! BE VICTORIOUS! DISMISSED!"

Drill Sergeant Lloyd gave the recruits passion and focus a target, they found themselves revitalized and rejuvenated. They were not hungry, they were not tired, they thirsted for the sweet wine of victory. All of the recruits roared as they got into their respective squads and charged into the fort. At the end of the massive melee and search for the way to the top, it was not Thomas's squad that raised the flag, but that of another. Then he was brought back to the present, the journey into his memories taking but a moment in time. He looked around at his current squad, they weren't the best, but they had what it takes. He just had to drag it out of them, by force if necessary.

"All right men, get ready to head inside, I doubt this is as simple as I think it's going to be." Thomas cautioned his squad to be ready for anything. "This course wasn't simple and the rules have changed several times, be ready for anything. Let's go." He assigned McLaney as the point man being that he had the most muscle mass and he was also on the tall side. Being the shortest, Smith was rear guard. Thomas and Joshua in the middle as they headed into the fort, their figured disappearing from view one by one.

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