The One Who Lives
Inside a small windowless barrack, four metal beds with military-grade mattresses are in a row. On each bed lies a sleeping man with a thin, gray blanket draped over him. A siren suddenly blares throughout the entire base, then a voice booms over the loudspeaker. “Everyone get up and report to your stations and evacuate. We are under an attack. This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a--”
Everything is silent.
Captain Charlie Stewart--occupant of the bed closest to the door--is now wide awake. He looks around, seeing that everyone else in his unit is up and awake, too.
“What was that?!” Charlie peers through the dark to the three other members of the squad. Ryan Johnson, Joe Thomas, and Mason Evans look tensely back at him.
“I-I have no idea,” Ryan mutters, “What should we do?”
Charlie can tell that he will have to make the call. Ryan is pensive, even in a crisis.
“They told us that we have to evacuate. We have to follow protocol,” Charlie gets up, yanking on his boots. “And that is our only option. Let's head to our plane and see what is going--”
A series of explosions, one after another, thunder around the barracks, as the Russian Viper planes swoop low over the base. Without saying anything, the four men rush through the barrack door and sprint to their plane. The 13th Bomb Squadron’s (better known as the Grim Reapers’) plane is about a hundred yards away, but each of them is running for his life. Their plane was the old B-2 Spirit. Luckily, it was undamaged. The space between the explosions was increasing, so they all get in and fly away from the base as fast as possible following their orders.
For about thirty minutes, no one utters a word to each other. Charlie looks at Mason, the squadron's bombardier. Mason is frantically glancing around at his squadmates’ stony faces. Originally from the West Coast, Mason is lanky with shaggy blond hair, usually the most talkative of the four-man squadron. Charlie knows that the silence is killing Mason.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Mason asks softly.
Joe Thomas, the head pilot, grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Despite his drawling Southern accent, he always cut straight to the point.
Calling back from the c***pit, Joe tells the squad, “Hey y'all, we're gonna try and meet up with the unit on the Eastern front.”
Mason shakes his head. “What is that going to do? We just left our entire unit to die. Are we just going to run away from them?”
Charlie watches as Ryan stands up, stepping into Mason’s space. “What else are we supposed to do? Those were orders. And if we go back--we die. We have no chance unless we meet up with the Eastern unit.” Ryan’s voice becomes more forceful with each word.
Charlie interrupts, “Okay, both of you sit down. There is nothing we can do but meet with the other unit. That is literally our only option. If you don’t agree, grab a chute and go.” Charlie is always calm and authoritative when he speaks. It comes naturally, but he has to maintain the demeanor, even in high-pressure situations. Ryan and Mason both sit down but shoot each other side-long glances.
“Okay, y’all, we’ll be there in thirty. Then we're gonna have to report for debriefing right when we get there,” Joe yells back from the c***pit.
Once they touch down at the Eastern unit's base, they are greeted by the commander of the 5th Armored Division of the Eastern unit. He is a broad-shouldered man, has close-cropped black hair, and wears a concerned expression.
“Hello, I’m General Sam Welker--glad all of you got here safe,” Sam says flatly. “Come follow me to the hanger. We would usually debrief right away, but we’re planning our final push into the enemy territory to try and seize of the Capital. We’ll cover that first.”
As they walk toward the hangar, a faint voice becomes more amplified as they approach. Charlie thinks he makes out, We are hoping they will fly over enemy lines and make way for the rest of us to push onto the Capital. They arrive at the doors.
Sam walks to the front where the speaker is standing.
“Everyone, these are the famous Grim Reapers from the the 13th Bomb Squadron. These guys are part of the unit that was just attacked by the enemy’s recent push-back. They are some of the best pilots we got. They will be big help for tomorrow.” Sam walks over to the side and takes a seat to let the speaker finish the debriefing.
“Okay, like I said, we need a group to fly over to make way for the rest of us to push into Moscow, the Capital.”
Charlie tunes the rest of the speech out. This is a death mission--and they’re going to ask us to head the mission.
Charlie then hears his name. It’s coming from Sam.
“Charlie? How do you and your team feel about taking on this mission?”
Before Charlie can respond, Mason jumps in, “On behalf of the team, we would be honored.”
“Okay, it’s set. The Grim Reapers will lead the assault. We will follow.” Everyone in the hangar looks both tense and relieved as they get up to leave. The only people who stay for further mission details are Charlie's squadron.
Everyone in the unit is stunned and sits there in the hanger just thinking about what is about to happen. What if I never see my family again? This might be my last mission. Charlie thinks, suddenly more certain. This is a death mission.
Then Mason stands up and turns to the squadron, “Guys, I’m so sorry but I felt that we had to do it. We left our entire camp to die back there, and we couldn’t do jack about it. This is our chance to fight back and reclaim our squadron’s honor.”
“I agree with you. We all need to set aside our personal issues and fight for our country and for those who lost their lives today,” Charlie says.
Charlie, Mason, Ryan, and Joe head to their barrack. As they are walking toward the barracks, Sam stops them outside, telling them about the plane they are going to fly tomorrow. “This is the brand new B-3 Stealth bomber, this is going to be the first flight of one of these planes in actual war. It is a big improvement on the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. All I need to say about it is it’s bigger, faster, and stronger.”
“Okay, great. What time are we going to head out?” Charlie responds.
“At 0500 hours; the plane works best at night or in the morning. That way, as you’re flying, we can be behind you as the sun is coming up.” Sam pivots to leave, takes a few steps, but then turns back suddenly, “Be safe out there, and don’t get yourself killed. I know this seems dangerous, but someone has to do it. I am taken aback by the courage and bravery of you and your team. God bless.” Sam solutes the unit turns back around and walks away.
At 0430 hours, the squadron got up and started their last minute preparations. “This is unreal. I can't wait to fly this,” says Joe as he climbed into the c***pit.
Ten or so soldiers were carefully bringing bombs into the plane, varying from standard explosives to nuclear.
Sam walks up to Charlie, as they are loading up and fueling the plane, “Only use the nukes if it is the only option left. If you drop one, the mission is over for us--but you would have destroyed the Capital.” He walks away to let the squad get ready.
Charlie stands in front of his men, “This might be the last mission we ever go on, and we might not make it back alive. But we need to stay strong and complete this mission for our country and for all of those who died for us.”
Joe says, “Okay, it's 0455 hours, we should head off now.” The plane lifts off, then Charlie hears Joe’s voice from the c***pit, “We are about ten minutes from the target .”
Charlie stands up and talks to Mason and Ryan, “Okay, we need to get in our positions. Ryan, you man the main turret. Mason, I will help you with the bombardment,”
Each of them goes to their respective position. Mason looks at Charlie once they are in position, “No matter what happens today, you will always be a brother to me.”
“The same for me. This is going to be our hardest mission--but it’s the most important. So we can't mess this up.”
The loudspeaker from within the plane turns on, and Joe talks to the squadron, “We are T-minus one minute from the position, I'm going to circle around the Capital so we can scout where all of the anti-air support is. Once we figured that out, I will hover over them so you guys can start the bombardment.”
Charlie walks over and presses a button, the whole plane can hear him, “Joe, once you scout out the anti-air defence, send us the location. Ryan you have to watch all around us and shoot down any planes that see our position.”
“I’m starting my first circle.” After they finish circling around the Capital Joe says, “They have four defences each at one corner of the Capital. I’m sending the coordinates to you right now.”
“Good, I got them. Tell us once you get into position for us to start the bombardment.”
“I’m a little suspicious because I don't see anything from the radar or any planes in the air,” Ryan says over the speaker.
“They’re probably just not ready for an attack right now,” Charlie responds.
“We are in position for bombardment.”
“Okay, dropping in 3,2,1.” Charlie presses the button to drop the first set of bombs. They all wait in silence to see if the first set hits the target. They could all see the explosion take out the first air defence. “Success, the first defence is taken out, Joe take us to the other three.”
They do this three more times and destroy all of the air defenses they have in place. They only have one more target left--Vehicle Harbor Bay--then their mission would be over. They knew this final hit was crucial: the Russians stored all of their tanks, trucks, and planes at Vehicle Harbor Bay.
“Charlie we are heading for the Vehicle Harbor Bay, I’m sending the coordinates to you right--”
Suddenly an explosion erupts from the back of the plane. Everyone in the plane is thrusted back and forth against the walls and ceiling. They are all then knocked out. While the engines start to grind, the plane starts free fall. It crashes in a wooded area right outside of the Capital. Charlie is thrown out of the plane through one of the holes caused by the explosion right before it crashed.
Charlie wakes up, having no sense of time or place. What just happened, Where am I? He remembers right before they were shot down. All he can see is smoke and the smell of burning gas and metal. He tries to stand up but feels a sharp pain all down his right leg. He tries to power through it and get into the plane to see if anybody was alive. He first enters the c***pit and sees Joe inside.
“Joe, Joe are you still there.” He checks his pulse. Nothing.
Charlie then runs to see Ryan. Same thing. Dead. Charlie tries not to think as he runs to the space where he and Mason were manning the bombs. He sees Mason lying against the wall, blood all over him from smashing against the walls when the plane went down.
Charlie kneels down and punches the ground.
“Why?!” he screams. This is the only emotion he allows himself. He wipes his eyes.
He runs over to where they keep all their weaponry and takes everything that he needs. A rifle, pistol and ammunition. As he is running out of the plane, Charlie hears a patrol car heading towards him. He leans against the wall to try and shoot one of them. He aims for the driver. The shot is a very tough one, but he shoots and hits his target. Charlie exposes himself and walked outside to see if there is anymore. Right as he does this, Bang.
Charlie is shot in the stomach. He slumps and falls behind one of the walls of the plane. He could barely see now but he could hear perfectly. He could feel every drop of blood pouring out of his body and the taste of it in his mouth. As he is lying there he could here some trees falling and the sound of vehicles coming towards him. Gunfire. Then a tank. What is going on out there, could it be Sam here to save me, or am I going to die here.
The gunfire stops and Charlie can hear the footsteps of a few men running toward him. “Hello, hello anyone in here?” Charlie could recognize that voice but his sight failed him. All Charlie could see is the outline of three men.
“Charlie this is Sam, is there anyone from your squadron alive.”
“No. I am the only one left.”
“Men, try and stop the bleeding and get him on the chopper to bring him back to base.”
“Captain Charlie Stewart, from the 13th Bomb squadron,” the President calls.
Charlie walks up and stands by the President about to be awarded his medal.
As the President places the medal around his neck, Charlie could not believe that it has been six months since he has seen his crew and won the war.
“Charlie and the 13th Bomb Squadron were a very remarkable squad. They were stationed when the Russians surprised our forces. They were the only ones to escape. They then flew to the 5th Armored Division unit to help them on their attack against the Capital. They were brave enough to be the first ones to fly behind enemy lines to scout and take out important air defences there. Sadly, as they were completing their mission their plane was shot down and everyone inside died, aside from Captain Charlie Stewart. Because of his bravery and valor, I present him the Medal of Honor.” The president shakes his hand and gives Charlie a salute.
As the crowd stands up and cheered, Charlie looks down and grasps his medal, with a tear in his eyes he mutters, “This is for you my brothers. The best crew I have ever had the honor to lead.”