The land ahead fell away into a shallow valley. Steve lay on his front, unzipped a pouch and took a pair of green binoculars out. Spending time scouring the forest for movement, all was still so he packed them away. The wind rasped his ears as he strolled back down the hill and over the bridge, turning toward the woodland. Passing along a grassy edge, he reached a point where the stream ran close to the trees. The waters trickled and the bank gave way to sand and pebbles. Steve leapt over the stream and his boots thudded on the other side. Scrambling uphill, he climbed over a barbed wire fence. It angled away with his weight and swayed until he grabbed a tree and jumped into the final field. This was his usual entry point to the forest.

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Industrial Wasteland

On the far side of the road, he saw an industrial estate with huge commercial units. Green fields had been ripped apart in the pursuit of profit. His heart sank. Steve walked through the industrial estate and saw roads and car parks leading up to the enormous industrial buildings. He passed alongside the biggest of them all and the car park nearest the motorway toward the ever-present hum of traffic. He headed in the direction of the meadows beyond and grinned when he saw the old broken fence he remembered from years before. It was in the same dilapidated state. Steve jumped over with the skill of a boy attuned to the outdoors and ran downhill to the stream.

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Back In The Forest

It was nearing summertime and Steve decided to take a trip down memory lane to the forbidden forest where he used to adventure as a schoolboy. Well, technically it was trespassing, but adventure will do. The estate was no longer owned by the landed gentry as it had been sold to a corporation with planning permission to build on fields nearest the road. Several industrial buildings were already constructed, but the rest of the meadows beyond were as yet unscarred. And the forest was standing firm against the nearby development.

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Steve passed the exams and was called to the bar in a medieval church. During the after-party, he felt out of place amongst the Poshey barristers and judges but knew this was a real opportunity. As the final stage of his barrister training began, Steve spent his days either in court with a barrister or in chambers working on cases. He drafted pleadings and wrote legal opinions using resources in the old library. Every piece of work was graded and any pupil barrister who was not good enough was told to leave. Some had their work thrown out of windows and other mentally cracked under the pressure. Steve plugged away and received good reports from his pupilmasters. After a year of training, Steve qualified as a barrister and landed a legal job in SmogCity.

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Bar School

After graduation, Steve and Michelle moved to Snookington Village. Michelle got a job in SmogCity, while Steve attended Bar School. He learned how to write and speak like a lawyer, and practiced writing legal opinions and advocacy in court. The learning was intense and he spent most evenings in the library preparing for the next day’s activities. The library was covered from wall to wall in bookshelves filled with legal books. The old floorboards creaked when walked on and each study area had its own lamp. It smelled musty and everyone there huddled over papers and books, preparing legal arguments.

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Terms went by and Steve made many friends at University. Good times were spent on nights out until one day his life would change. He met a girl and they talked briefly. The next week, he saw her again and found out she was called Michelle. They talked all evening and began to spend more time together. Before long, they were going out and life was happy for them both.

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Whilst soldiering, Steve found a desire to study was gathering momentum. He applied for a University place and was accepted. He considered a career in the army against the opportunity to gain a degree and do something else. Before long, he told his commanding officer of his decision to go to University. And so, the time came for him to leave the regiment. He had grown in confidence during his time as a soldier. But, more than anything, he had learned from the best how to be resilient.

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In The Regiment

As a junior soldier, the training continued for Steve. He spent time in different garrisons and went on exercises during day and night in rugged terrain. A lot of time was spent on the ranges where he honed his skill with a rifle. The soldiers practised firing in the prone position, kneeling and standing.  Steve found his accuracy improving and was confident of hitting the targets at distances exceeding four hundred metres, even in bad weather conditions.

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Pass Or Fail

When the teams had finished, they were speed marched back to the barracks and everyone was ordered into ranks as the Corporals and Sergeant gathered around to collate their marks. After all the effort, this was it. The Sergeant walked purposefully to the front and cleared his throat. He explained there were three grades. Elite pass, marginal pass and fail. Without messing about, he read the name of each recruit out and their grade. Steve closed his eyes and breathed evenly. It had all come down to this.

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Final Tests

After lunch, the recruits were led to an assault course made from scaffolding and planks of wood. It was an aerial confidence course between three and fifteen metres high designed to test the recruits’ suitability for military parachuting. Steve climbed a metal ladder about ten metres high to a platform. Up there, he ran along planks, jumped between gaps and then ran over horizontal ladders. He had to swing across ropes and leap off ramps above the trees without anything to break a fall. Several recruits failed this event and were removed from the course. One unfortunate recruit fell from height and was taken away in an ambulance. The recruits never saw him again. At the end, Steve lined up with the men who passed.

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