They say you’d do anything for those you love.
I worked my way into the US Navy when I was 25. Nowadays, you might say that was a young, fresh age to join. Back then, it really didn’t matter. Throughout your life, from your childhood to later teenage years, you had responsibilities and there was no such thing as questioning them. I did, of course, have some time to myself, but I suppose I’d call myself an outcast as a teenager. The few other people I liked were all, well, nerds, I suppose. When some cool tech came out, they were all over it - just like the cool guys with their girlfriends. You know how they were, and are sort of like how they are now. I didn’t meet Diana until I was 18, and I just remember thinking, “Why me? Look at those badasses out there!” Never would I expect that we’d ever tie the knot.
It took just six years for her to get the news - lung cancer. We broke down, I know. Yet, it was her that mattered. I was willing to lend every cent for her treatment. “A few damaged cells don’t scare me,” she said. That laugh. Well, you know, her laugh. I didn’t release a goddamn chuckle. We had two kids before those times; we knew we’d grow old and feel ashamed of ourselves, saying we never got the chance. I saw them go up to her bedside, I’d tuck them in, and try to sniff back a sob.
“We’ll fight this,” I told her. I now look back at those tapes, those photos. I’ve just gotten good at keeping calm whenever I see her. Then again, it’s a hell of a lot harder to do now that... IT happened. I try to go to bed every night. I just wish I didn’t see what I saw. So early, as well…
Diana soon recovered. She still had issues of her own, but she was a trooper. “That’s my wife!” I’d tell anyone I could. I didn’t give a damn about the people who saw us, and saw freaks. She was a badass, and I was there, that amazing woman, right there…
... I’ll write the next paragraph in a moment… Just have to man up…
That’s what happens when you get into an awful mission like I did. Anyway, the Navy was a long, rough road. One moment, you’re in a bitter hell. The next, you feel strong. Diana and the kids would sprint over whenever I came home to hug their “hero”. I always went back, though. I needed to. Diana and the kids went on, always saw me. They were still my family, and they needed their “hero”. People should never question why I always put those quotations. To me, I’ll never be a hero…
The cancer’s effects began to show again. We knew it would return, but we needed to act fast. I came back to my job at the bank; I was always given the chance to hold it off while I went back to the base. The support for Diana constantly came in, but I would always have a panic attack that it would all be over; I won’t get paid enough, not enough money for support; God, couldn’t get it out of my skull! I knew, though, it was what a good husband needed to do. We needed to keep going on.
I brought her on a walk when we noticed the effects began to calm. We needed time with just me and her; we loved each other, and we both knew it wouldn’t end for quite a while. We finally came back to that same park, when a chopper came by. “Aww, shit!” I called. “Honey, get back!” I approached the chopper, and out came Lieutenant Blake.
“We got a problem down in Arizona,” he ordered. “You’re required to come.”
“Sir,” I spoke, trying to hold respect. “My wife is still healing. We need to make some kind of-”
“Oh, no,” he cut me off. “Yeah, I don’t really think you heard me correctly - I wasn’t asking you. That’s an order. You either get to the designated location or you can kiss your position goodbye. It really is your choice, I insist.”
I looked back at Diana. “You can’t,” she pleaded, her face stricken with fear.
I took one last look, muttered out, “I will be back. Stay strong,” and turned back before Blake could repeat himself. I needed to decide, and I knew that this was what she needed. She needed her “hero” back.
The site was in a massive deserted area in Arizona. A massive metal plate was located a few yards from the helipad. We arrived, and I was exhausted. My squad member, Sergeant Remington, got his equipment and immediately told me, “If you’re concerned, your wife will be fine, I’m sure. Keep it up and you’ll get home soon enough.” I grabbed my equipment and got off the craft. We were then directed to the platform. We were told to come armed, so I stayed alert.
The orders were sent out a matter of time after we left for the ride. Under the plate, a massive underground bunker stood. The area was securely shut down, so we didn’t get enough information on just what the place contained. The objective was to inspect the bunker for any weapons or foreign items. For all we know, it could’ve contained bombs used to attack a city nearby. We may have also needed to send a bomb squad if any dangerous equipment was found, specifically explosives. We took the order and went down. Blake was waiting at a panel at the very end of the plate.
“We found a set of security controls in a nearby shack,” he told me and the rest of the squad. “Whoever kept this place is either a low-life or a real good team of local terrorists. We got a private getting the damn thing open, so move it!” We got into position, and our guns ready. There was always the chance of hostiles in the area. That’s when the iron plate began to slowly rotate and lift upwards. A steel stairway lay beneath, leading to a massive tunnel. Lights turned on all around the bottom of the stairs, but never to the tunnel. “Well, what do you know?!” Blake chuckled. “Big place. Search the area and inspect every inch of it.” We readied our guns - full-auto SMGs, to be exact - and inched our way downstairs. As it were, the place was littered with storage bins.
“Gregory,” I started. “Search the bins to the east and south. Frederick, the west. Remington and I will search the hall to the north.” They nodded and jogged to the bins.
“This side’s empty,” Gregory answered.
“Same on the west,” Frederick answered too.
“Good,” I replied. “Keep searching. We’ll be down the hall.” Remington and I pointed our flashlights down the dark hall. No containers. No equipment or anything else. Only a steel wall at the end.
“Okay,” he said. “We’ll report back, say it’s clear.”
I stayed silent. I began to approach the steel wall.
“What are you doing, Sarge?” Remington called. “Get back and report over!”
I noticed a steel plate on the far left. It was blended in well with the silver metal. “I found something, my location!” I called.
Remington came over. “Shit,” she murmured. “You weren’t lying.” I felt the iron plate and noticed that it was loosely nailed on with steel bolts. I began to softly pull on it, but firmly tugged the edge after a second. Sure enough, the bolts dropped out, revealing a panel of disconnected wires.
“Remington,” I told him. “Get Frederick over here.” He had skill in defusing bombs and fixing damaged hardware, so he connected the wires in no time. “Stay back,” I told them, motioning to a red knob at the bottom. I grabbed it slowly, and turned it clockwise. The wall slid open, and we got an unsettling sight - the hallway was lit dimly, but all the lights were flickering. The entire hall was filthy, covered in cobwebs.
We gathered Gregory, but I knew Blake needed to be aware. I entered the comms, speaking to him. “Sir,” I began. “Another area just opened up.”
“Damn,” Blake chuckled. “It’s bigger than I expected. Keep going in.”
“Sir,” I backfired. “The area is abandoned.”
“No, I’m sure there’s a party being thrown in there,” he hissed sarcastically.
“Of course it’s abandoned! See what else there is, Sarge. That’s an order.” For the first time, Blake seemed like he truly didn’t care. I accepted anyway and motioned for the three other sergeants to keep going through the tunnel. We needed to see what was there, anyway.
The lights kept flickering, but the creepy tone couldn’t startle us. We kept our guns pointed, but somewhere down the hall, through the thick cobwebs, four doors lay. None seemed to have locks, and each had words on them, each making us more cautious.
One, however, stood out:
Dead bodies? There could be many things these places contained, but whatever they were, we couldn’t just run away.
We opened the first door to the right, reading “INTERVIEW”. Unlocked. Whoever was in charge was either careless or was expecting someone to come by. We slid the door open, leading to a small, dim room. A doctor’s desk and an old computer stood near a cushioned seat. Drawers. They could contain anything. Nope. Nothing.
The computer’s light was turned on. Frederick searched to see if anything was on the screen, which had the default Windows XP desktop. A file was on the desktop, titled “Interview 1 - News.wma”. Whatever it was, it had to be some kind of threat, so we opened it. The video was black and white, and showed a doctor and patient standing. They seemed to be just having an average appointment. They greeted each other and sat down. “So, let’s talk,” the doctor began. The camera focused on his face. He began to speak, but it turned to light, quiet static. After a short time, it came back. The doctor was still in the room, smiling. The patient wasn’t there anymore.
“Frederick,” I spoke. “Look for any other files.” As it were, two remained. There was “Interview 2 - Recovery.wma” and “Interview 3 - End.wma”. The second video showed the two men from the first. The patient was pacing around the room, shaking.
“She was sick,” the doctor began. “She needed to let go.” The patient kept pacing and shaking, silent. The doctor sighed. “She was a good girl. You need to accept that she wanted to be relie-”
I jumped when the patient darted at the doctor. The screen turned black, and stayed that way for a while, before finishing. The last left Frederick shaking. It showed nothing but the patient's face, his eyes staring, empty, and as the video played, he began to smile, his eyes widening. Nothing but static played, which, the more and more he smiled, turned to a eerie laugh, which sounded like it was made of the static itself. It got louder and louder, and a frame flashed of the man bleeding before it ended. We rubbed our heads, trying to shake off our headaches, but Frederick did nothing.
“Dad?” he whispered, and began to shake.
“Sarge!” I yelled. “Get control of yourself!” I couldn’t stop him, though, when he pulled his pistol out and shot himself. I cursed loudly as Frederick’s blood covered my face.
“Dear God,” Remington exclaimed. “Not Frederick… You know who that was? On the video?”
“Who?” Gregory yelled. “His father? He never told us his father murdered a doctor, for God’s sake! He told us he had a sister. What the hell did… whoever…. Do to her?”
“Men, shut the hell up!” I yelled. “Search the other doors! These bastards are dead! Move on! Do what Frederick would want from us!” They nodded and carried Frederick’s corpse out of the room. The nearest door read “CLASSIFIED”. We took cover at either side, and I gave the signal. I kicked it open, and jumped back. A woman sat on a small table, facing away. She was nude. Doing absolutely nothing. I noticed I had trouble breathing, and began to choke.
“Sarge!” Remington called.
“On your feet!” I stood up, but no one was there. I was standing in the hall. All the lights were off, and I had nothing in my hand. No lights. Darkness.
A figure stood at the end, just a tad darker than the lighting. It did not look like a woman, but just a bald figure. I stepped once forward, peeking at my belt; nothing at all. I looked up, seeing a hairy face leaping at me. A thin body; wrinkly and lanky. It was, too, nude, but what I noticed was the black eyes and mouth surrounded by a green substance - vomit, maybe - yelping like a dog in my face. I felt its fists bashing on my skull as it yelped on and on.
The figure fell, its head bleeding onto the floor. There, in front of me, was Gregory, holding a handgun, the tip smoking. A bullet shell rolled around on the floor. Remington grabbed me and got me back on my feet. “Shit!” he groaned. “You were gassed! What the hell happened?” The figure was back to a woman, still bleeding. Gregory stood over her, sobbing.
“Dear God!” he yelled. “What have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE!”
I ran over. “Sarge,” I breathed. “Who did you kill? Who is she?” He picked up a C4 detonator.
“Brianna,” he breathed. “I’ll be with her soon.” I looked at Remington.
“GET BACK!” he screamed, and I jumped the very second the C4 blew up. I groggily stood myself up, seeing Gregory’s burnt legs scattered near his corpse. Parts of his face were blown off, revealing a fractured skull and brain. “His wife,” Remington huffed. “He… he killed his fucking wife!” Where in the living hell was Blake?!
Two doors left. Two friends dead. Our lives were slowly getting shredded, one by one. “TESTING”? As long as “BACKUP MORGUE” was last. I’d make sure of it. We entered the door, and saw nothing. Just a giant black wall. “What is it going to be?” Remington hissed. “A wall of spikes? Two friends dead, Sarge! TWO! Might as well kill me now-”
“Shut up!” I silenced him. “If seeing what this place has to offer allows us to kill these sick bastards for what they did, then WE STAY HERE! Understand?”
He nodded, keeping his gun ready. The black wall turned to static, causing Remington to panic, shooting several rounds around the room.
“Calm down!” I hushed. “It’s a TV!” The static faded. A news report came up. Remington came from an awful town, and told us of reports on WM12. That was the channel.
“Recently,” the female reporter told, “Police reports have stated that a teenage son was kidnapped from his home in the Florida Keys.”
Remington had a 14-year old son. He lives in Florida.
No. Not him. I won’t let it happen.
The TV turned to static, ending in it sliding into the wall, revealing a young teen boy sitting in the middle of the room. “Oh God,” Remington began, horrified. “I came on this mission… just to get my FUCKING SON CAPTURED? When I find Blake, I’m going to kick his-” Two gun turrets on the wall opened up, aiming at Remington’s son. “GET AWAY FROM MY SON, YOU FUCKS!” Remington screamed, running over. The turrets, to his surprise, closed, but so did the TV again. He was locked in.
A news report flashed in.
“Recently,” the reporter spoke. “The boy kidnapped in the Florida Keys was found, with a team of four Special Ops officers, including his father, heading to Arizona to-” static. A screen then showed an image of a blue sky and a rainbow, with the text, “YOU HAVE 5 SECONDS UNTIL A FEATURE PRESENTATION!” The door was locked. I grabbed the doorknob, but almost just after, the entire room blew up.
I woke up groggily, but saw Remington nailed to a wall. His son… I can’t say… what did Blake do? Remington, his son, gone, because of this pathetic, screwed-up mission… Remington… my greatest friend… lost his 14-year-old son… He killed himself just to…
Oh my God. Diana.
I ran, filled with rage and carelessness, into the door labeled “BACKUP MORGUE”. The room was white, body-bags loaded into shelves. A sign was hung up, reading “HAPPY MEMORIES”. I looked into each one, unzipping them…
Dreams shattered. One at a time.
Everyone in my family.
Each body-bag on the second level contained everyone I just saw die - Remington, his son, Gregory, his wife, Frederick, and what looked like the corpse of his father. His eyes were black, his face covered in stitches. Just like the final frame on the video.
One body-bag lay on a white table in the middle of the room. Whatever was in there was moving. Alive. I unzipped it, but it immediately fell to the floor. Diana. Then, however, I heard him.
“Hey there, Sarge.”
Was it any surprise? Of course not. Blake.
“What?” he scowled. “You know what Donald Trump said. There are no good people in the government.” I did nothing but stare. “I really had you going there. Look at these badasses, entering an abandoned bunker, Tom Clancy style!”
I picked up my SMG. “WHY?”
“Congrats,” he spoke, uncomfortably quiet. “You were brave. You truly showed you are an incredible hero. You walked into an old bunker - got your friends killed - to stop a psychopath. Do you think that they put a guy like Hitler in charge for nothing? No. He did his job well, and if he didn’t send out the Holocaust, he would be praised by everyone.”
The lights turned on. A squad of lieutenants held their assault rifles in Blake’s direction. I stood up still, feeling the light once again. “US Navy Lieutenant Matthew Blake,” I began. “You are under arrest for treason and manslaughter.” I could feel fear rising up in him…
... he laughed.
“Oh, boy! You think I’M the bad guy?” he chuckled, the soldiers approaching me. “You, Sarge, let your men die. Forced them into a situation, right into death. YOU, Sarge, are the killer here.” I was immediately handcuffed, guns pointed at me. I stared at him, in shock. “I know,” Blake sighed. “It’s sad. All your attempts to save your team. Your wife. All your sacrifices. Yet, you are a public enemy. Good job, Sarge. Right through the dark path to victory. TO HONOR.”
I walked out to the helicopter.
They say you’d do anything for those you’d love.
Indeed. A true American hero.
I sit in a jail cell everyday. A couple of guards threw me a notebook sent by a “friend”, so I had something to write this on. I was lucky…
I had a few words with Diana. She cried, and the bars in front of me stopped me from hugging her. I can see her now - alone, at home with the kids - and I sit here. A failure of a father.
Why did I join the Navy? It’s too late now.
... Or is it?
A friend came through the security. Told me he had permission to see me. He came to my cell and gave me a package. He left, and I tore the package open. My old equipment, my clothes and armor, a key, and a comms system connected to the US Navy forces. Blake will get arrested, and I’ll be free to go home. To my wife, my kids. This one guy, given me everything to escape! Time for an escape plan, right?
That’s just it. No. You know now what I did. My friends are dead. My family is gone. I showed that, even though some may think everything I did was justified, you know that the protagonist of my story is a traitor and a killer. I’m no hero.
Abuse goes on. Prisoners are beaten daily. Hell, some guys even had the whole drop-the-soap thing happen. Sick. I’m fine. I’ll keep going on. Being beaten to a bloody pulp. Mistreated. But I’m a soldier. My fifteen year sentence will be over in no time. I have the comms system. I’ll be free. Diana knows I’m no killer. I need to wait, and in this weird little life of mine, patience is common sense to me.
I saw what I saw. I did what I did.
You’d do anything for those you love.