The compound was unlike anything I had ever seen before. There was the two-story office building/fortress, complete with portcullis, and several smaller, less fortified buildings that served as barracks, classrooms, workshops and armories. Some of them were as simple as double-wide trailers, others were more permanent. A couple hundred yards from the main building was a hangar, which housed a C-130 cargo plane and an MI-24 Hind helicopter. On the far side of the runway were the various different types of shooting ranges and kill houses. Surrounding all of this was a ten or twelve foot tall chain link fence with barbed and razor wire over the top.
We got to know the compound so well because we went absolutely everywhere on it. Our training would begin at 0800 after a breakfast in the cafeteria, and would go until our final instructor had finished with us.
Our classes were interesting, at least. We had classroom sessions, where would sit in a dark room for hours taking notes while instructors lectured on us various types of monsters. Some instructors were more genial than others, and would let the class turn into a question-and-answer session, which we all enjoyed.
There were also long lectures on tactic, how you kill certain monsters, what worked and didn’t work. And shooting. It seemed that every other time period was a range session or a trip to the kill house. Me and the guys didn’t mind this at all, as MHI had some of the coolest hardware we’d ever gotten our hands on. Even with our PUFF riches, there was no way we could have afforded M2 machine guns, MK19 automatic grenade launchers, Milkor M32s, M60s, and the various other bits of awesome MHI had. Owen, the gorilla that had come to help Earl recruit us, had a shotgun that none of us had ever seen the likes of before. He called it Abomination.
The other training was brutal, though. The physical aspect was the hardest, as we seemed to be constantly running, practicing hand-to-hand combat, doing pushups or chin-ups, or hiking through the woods with heavy packs every other day. The worst was a six mile long track through the woods. It was invariably raining whenever we did that run. Trying to run in ankle deep clay sucks, let me tell you.
All the intensive training for a horrific purpose made many people think twice about their new career choice. Some were dismissed after failing academic or shooting tests, but most simply up and left. At times I couldn’t blame them, as some part of me wanted to pretend none of this had ever happened, and I would wake up someday to find myself at my desk, selling insurance to a parade of humanity.
However, so many people actually left that Ryan overheard some of the instructors wondering how many would be left. By about three weeks into the program, thirty-four out of fifty-one people had left, leaving behind a meager seventeen behind, twelve men and five women.
By no intention of our own, however, we four South Carolinians kept distinguishing ourselves in the class. For one, we had had plenty of experience with guns before coming to MHI, and didn’t need to start from anywhere near square one. In fact, one of the instructors, the gorgeous Miss Julie Pitt, took the four of us, along with Peter, a bulky Swede who had been a wrestler before going up against a werewolf, under her wing for a course in long range shooting. The three days lying on my belly in the chilly Alabama winter, with an enormous sniper rifle in front of me, slinging everything from .380 to .50 shells downrange, were some of the best instructional hours I’d ever had.
We also inadvertently excelled in the classroom sessions. For the first time in my life, I was enjoying schooling, and sucked up information like a sponge. Tony did as well, along with doing an impressive job in every kill house.
Phil, meanwhile, was demonstrating an impressive ability with mechanical things, an ability that none of us knew he possessed. He spent almost all his free time out on the flight line with MHI’s mysterious ninja pilot, fine-tuning the engines on our aircraft.
Ryan also found himself in hog heaven. Even before we knew of monsters or had unlimited money to spend, he had been heavily into gunsmithing. One of the instructors, and unique, red-bearded man named Milo Anderson began giving him special classes on gunsmithing and construction and maintenance of MHI’s varied hardware. Ryan’s proudest moment during training was when he built an enormous harpoon that could be fired from an RPG.
Tony continued attempting to pursue Holly to no effect. She shunned him whenever he was around and responded with cutting insults whenever he spoke to her. Driven by either pride or sheer stupidity, Tony just kept at it.