April 30, 2028
Georgetown Hospital, Washington, DC
“Reports show that United States President, Avery Bullard, and Russian President, Igor Ozerov, met at the White House three days ago, planning to end this war. Today, a peace treaty has been signed and the long six-year conflict has officially ceased. The Russian president has asked that his men help Americans to rebuild, hoping this will renew and refresh a bond between the countries. More updates after this commercial.”
Ira sat up in the stiff, uncomfortable gurney, and watched the news report switch to a commercial about a new house cleaner.
He scoffed and turned down the volume. It had only been ten days since they had returned from overseas and, already, there were people returning to their previous lives.
All five of the squad mates were admitted to the same room, even Chris and Garth, even though nothing seemed to be wrong with them, at least, not physically.
The captain shook his head and smiled again. We are all mental, he thought to himself as he glanced down at his arm in a sling and his leg in white mold.
“What the hell are you smiling about?” Alec asked as he attempted to shift his cramped position in his own hospital bed. His leg was in a cast, hanging midair in a sling bolted to the ceiling. He had and itch near his ankle and was unable to take care of it.
“Just thinking.” Ira shrugged nonchalantly.
“About?’ Charlie also sat up. Apparently, he had an unknown wound on his forearm so he, too, was in a cast and laid on the gurney opposite of Ira. With his knees raised, he attempted to work on a crossword puzzle but utterly failed.
The latter explained, “We’ve been hospitalized for a week now, and the doctors still think it’s not okay for Noble and Oak to take their leave.”
“Oh, it’s just because they love us too much to let us go. I mean c’mon, we are devilishly handsome. Though I must say, I saw Alec checking out one of the younger nurses a while ago and she wasn’t exactly ignoring him,” Chris joked in the bed next to Alec. Everyone laughed heartily, enjoying the comfort and peace in the cool, sterile smelling room they had all to themselves.
Suddenly, the breaking news alert sounded on the only television in the room. Ira hastily turned up the volume.
“Good day, I am Monica Laskey filling in for Eric. We have just received word that both presidents are about to speak in front of the White House regarding the future. We will go live in just a moment.
“Right now, Megan, an affiliate with this station, and her crew are in Paris, France searching for survivors at none other than the Palace of Versailles. So far, they have found no one, but you can see the damage done. Beware, there are disturbing images. Megan?”
A cinematographer showed what was left of the palace. There was very little. Smoke still billowed from the rubble as two people walked on top of it, searching for anything or anyone. Almost out of the view of the camera, the men, safe in the hospital, noticed two people hastily moving heavy black bags out of sight. They knew they were the presidents’ guards that were slain in the courtyard. The red stain was still visible on the gravel and grass.
“As you can see, there is nothing left of this historical site,” Megan said loudly. The wind whipped in her face as her hooded fur coat tickled her cheek. “Behind me, you can see Susan and Justin walking the perimeter, searching for someone who can give us answers. Although, we have not found anything yet.
“While there were security personnel from both countries here, none survived their wounds. We will, however, continue our search. Whoever destroyed the palace did so with a stone heart. It is saddening to see the ruins of this historical monument, and we can only hope it will be remembered in books and memories.”
The picture returned to Monica in the newsroom, “Thank you Megan. We do not have the full story of how this palace was destroyed but we can confirm that the man who started this war is dead.”
Disappointedly, Ira lowered the volume again. The images of the men on the ground, and even the dead bodies inside the building, made his throat choke up.
“Did you think they were going to find her?” Charlie asked sadly. That was the first time she had been mentioned since their flight home.
“No,” Ira admitted truthfully, “but, I was at least hoping.”
Alec refused to look at his captain as he stated, “No one, not even Clark Kent could survive the explosion or the collapsing building and we had no way of knowing.”
“The presidents are on!” Garth said quickly, before an argument started up.
Ira turned up the volume. All five of the men watched silently.
President Avery Bullard stood at a podium in front of the press conference. Behind him was the United States flag.
“… I’d like to thank you all for coming out here today. I know we have all suffered the loss of friends, family members, and loved ones. I want you to know that no person will ever be forgotten. We will show how brave our men and women were, and we will rebuild our society, create a better life for our generations to come. I would like to give special thanks to President Ozerov for helping us in our time of need.”
He said, as both presidents shook hands, “Please join us in praying for the courageous souls who lost their lives, and for the similarly brave individuals who risked their lives to end this war.
The crowds cheered, clapped, and whistled respectfully.
“President Ozerov has a few words to say. Please give him a great big cheer!” Avery spoke up and stepped back from the podium.
Igor approached it. In his proud accent, he spoke clearly. “Thank you President Avery. Ladies and gentlemen, I truly hope we can create a new bond of peace to last us thousands of years. After our time, our children’s children will look back and see, not two nations that are separated by water and land, but one bond that brings us together. I personally wish to thank the brave men who quashed the evil responsible for the war, and for the one person who saved our lives.”
He stepped away as the crowd applauded and cheered loudly.
Even though he did not say Meryl’s name, Ira and his team knew whom Igor thanked.
Garth, who occupied himself with the newspaper’s business section, looked up from the pages and stated, “I heard they are burying the general on Sunday.”
“I’m going,” Ira stated matter-of-factly.
“Us too,” Alec responded. “I think Matthew would like us to be there.”
“He would,” Ira said as he glanced at the leather bound book on the nightstand next to him.
Unbeknownst to him, Alec knew exactly what he was going to ask and he quickly started up a conversation to engage Ira’s thoughts away from her. “Since three of us are in a cast and the other two are handsome, but mentally disabled…” Garth and Chris chuckled. “What are you going to do now? I’m sure the military will discharge us, honorably of course, but either way, we’ll be out of here sooner or later.”
“What was the question?” Ira stared at him, confused by his random statement.
Alec’s plan worked and he repeated, “What are you going to do after we are discharged from the military and the hospital, if ever?”
“No clue,” Charlie, Garth, and Chris said in unison.
Alec observed Ira, waiting for his captain’s answer.
After a thoughtful silence, Ira replied, “I may go to her farm, rebuild the house, and replant the yard.”
“That sounds like fun. I’ll go with you,” Alec piped up.
“No, you don’t have to,” Ira dissuaded.
“I want to, I have no family; you guys are all I have left,” Alec retorted with a grin.
“We are joining you too,” Chris said for himself and Garth.
“I will too!” Charlie cut in eagerly, “You reckless four will, after all, need a nurse around.” He sat up a little straighter, pleased by his own accomplishments in medical school.
“Captain,” Alec smirked towards Ira. “You really think that after all we’ve been through, we are just going to separate so easily? Besides, it’ll be enjoyable, we can rename the farm, start a new life, have some fun…”
“Do any of you know how to farm?” Ira cut in and glanced at each of his squad mates. He knew they were all from the city.
They shook their heads, smiles broadening at the prospect of a new adventure.
Ira rolled his eyes with a grin, glad that he would have company. “It won’t be easy work.”
“And six years of what we’ve just been through, was? Not to mention boot camp,” Chris questioned, beaming at Ira’s failed attempt.
“Well, it wasn’t easy but-”
“But nothing,” Alec cut him off and stated, “It’s settled, we are going with you.”
Before Ira had another chance to react, the head nurse, an elderly woman with a stern look and wispy white hair under a cap, briskly intruded upon the companions. She held a tray that bore five small plastic cups filled with a strange, blue liquid. “I’ve been ordered to give you these,” she puffed.
“What is this?” Ira asked, staring warily at the drink in his hands.
“This is a new medicine we’ve acquired. It will heal your wounds and help you sleep.”
“For how long?” Charlie questioned quietly.
She stared at him with mistrustful, squinted eyes, “Twelve hours. I hope you can handle that.” She thrust the cup into Alec’s hand and left the room without another word.
“Alec,” Ira spoke up, swirling the contents around in his own cup. “Remember that drink I promised you guys?”
“This doesn’t count,” Alec huffed and sniffed the liquid cautiously.
“Dammit.” Ira muttered and held up the plastic cup. “Well, here goes nothing. Cheers gentlemen.”
“Cheers,” they murmured in unison and they all drained the fluid.
Almost immediately, they felt lightheaded and dizzy. The effect of the medication eased their thoughts and emotions of the past six years. Soon each and every one fell into a deep, restful, and dreamless sleep.
Ira’s thoughts focused on Meryl, her radiant smile and her bright, flashing blue eyes twinkling at the sight of him. She was the last thing on his mind when he fell into his pillow and slept, undisturbed by the nightmares that would soon threaten his peaceful nights.