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“Again!” the sword-master ordered.

The recruits moved in fractured unison through the motions. He growled deep in his throat. “One, five, ten, fourteen, twenty-one, and thirty-two, step forward. Everyone else, one step back.” There was shuffling and muttering until the selected men and women were in front. “Again.” They went through the motions. All but one of them was in sync. “Ten, step back. Two, step forward. Again.”

He ran through six more recruits until he found his battalion. “You six, see the registrar. As a group. Leave your things here.” The two women frowned at him, but obediently left the room with nothing. Their swords were collected at the door. Two pages scurried through the room, securing the recruits things.

The sword-master chose six more and ran them through the forms until he was pleased with their unison. They were sent on. The day continued until he had six battalions being processed. He leaned against the desk in the registrar’s office. She looked at him with dark-rimmed brown eyes. “I hate you, Simpson,” she told him. The desk was polished to a smooth shine. “And I’m not just saying that. I plan to poison your beer.”

“Cruel, cruel, woman,” he chided. “At least make it my coffee so I’m not enjoying myself. Are they in barracks yet?”

“Those last six are getting sheared like the sheep they are at this point. That first group might survive this, but that last one? Send them out as cannon fodder.”

He smirked at her. “My only job is to train them now. What the brass does with them is not my issue. Any of them try to bolt?”

“Watch out for twenty-three. He seemed a little jumpy. And the woman in the fourth group, number fourteen, she seemed a little twitchy at being barracked with the boys. Might be some history there.”

This war had finally broken all of the barriers between the sexes in the military. It was still debatable as to how well the recruits were dealing with that. He’d give them a few days before intervening. He’d train his six battalions until he though they were ready to move on to formations. He rubbed at his forehead. “I’ve got schedules to get out.” The alien invasion had destroyed the majority of the electrical infrastructure. They still had it on the bases and other locations with technological help. But in general, they were set back years in weapons production. He had three sword-smiths that he’d brought with him from training movie stars.

By paper and pens and men on motorcycles and horses, they’d put out the call. Recruits came in every day. Scared, wide-eyed, hard-bitten, shy, punks, preppies, actors, and politicians, men, women, old, and young; as soon as they crossed into the recruitment center they were just recruits. The aliens hadn’t counted on the resilience and adaptability of humans.

The human race would fight those bastards into their ships. They’d display their hides as warnings. And they’d cut off their heads and mount them from every bridge and overpass that still survived the bombings.

Simpson rolled his shoulders and picked up his sword. He ran through the katas that he’d created to teach his recruits fast and dirty. Then, he started on the more formal ones he’d learned from his teachers.

This wasn’t choreography anymore. This was war.

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