The ten-year-old boy sat at the bottom of the stairs, listening to the voice of the police officer as he spoke to his father.
"...sorry for your loss," the voice of the officer spoke up.
Jason's father said nothing. Although the boy could not see actually see his face, he knew exactly what it looked like. A stoic expression to anyone who didn't know the man, unblinking, mouth clenched tight. But under that layer -- in the eyes, was a feeling of... despair. Loss.
In fact, he might have thought the feelings he was envisioning at that moment were his own.
The Redfields exited the cemetery. Rain was pouring down in torrents as they exited the wrought-iron gate. Jason's older brother kept his head hung low, eyes on the ground. His father walked straight, unfaltering. His back was straight, his feet straight. His head looked straight ahead as he marched, the hand of Jason's younger brother held in his hand.
Jace approached his father as they exited. "Dad," he said, quietly.
The man turned to look at him, saying nothing.
"I still want you to teach me, Dad," Jason pressed.
"The answer is no. Don't mention this again," his father warned, before he turned and continued walking.
"You were a soldier. I know you can teach me. Or do you want what happened to Mom to happen again?" Jason spoke with the authority beyond his years.
His statuesque-father visibly flinched at the mention of his wife. His head rotated slowly to look at his son. No... past him. At the grave that held his the woman he loved. His teeth clenched as he stared at the site for what seemed like hours.
"If I do this... if you agree to this, Jason... this is serious," he spoke painfully slowly.
The adolescent returned his father's unblinking gaze. "I know."
The 17-year old walked in to his father's study. The former Marine sitting at his desk turned to examine the paper his teenage son had just placed in front of him.
Jason's father said nothing as he stared at the United States Marine Corps recruitment papers.
Finally, he broke the silence. "No."
Jason frowned. This wasn't the answer he had been expecting. "Dad--"
His father shook his head. "No, no, no."
"But, everything you taught me..." Jace started.
The man sprang from his chair, whirling around to face his son completely. "To protect yourself! To keep you from ending up like your mother, Jason! Not to go off on some crusade to get yourself killed!"
He planted his finger forcefully on the stack of forms. "I will not sign this." His voice was even. Determined.
Jason was silent as the two stared at one another for what seemed like forever.
"You're a coward," Jace said.
"You're selfish. You don't want to lose someone else, the same way you lost Mom. You trained me these last few years, and now that I know what I want do with my life, now that I can do some good in the world, you turn me down. All for you."
That's when the real shouting began. It went on for nearly an hour. Finally, there was another uneasy silence. Several minutes later, Jason left, signed papers in hand and a duffel bag over his shoulder.
The father stood in the doorway, watching his son walk out of the house. A single tear rolled down his face as Jason opened the front door, only to turn and look over his shoulder at his dad. Then he walked out, slamming the door shut.
Jace walked through the empty parade ground of Camp Lejeune, reflecting. The past ten years had brought many things to his life. The training his father had given him had come in handy, and was supplemented by that of the Corps. At times in Iraq and Afghanistan, he felt like he truly was making a difference -- like he had found his niche. But, he could never shake the feeling that he was missing something.
He felt as if he was standing in an empty room, with writing on the wall behind him. He was staring into a mirror, reading the scrambled message backwards. He desperately wanted to believe that his time in the USMC had allowed him to decipher that message. But the hardest person to fool is yourself.
"Master Gunnery Sergeant?" Colonel Wilkins spoke up.
Jason, in uniform, turned to face him. He immediately switched stance, coming to attention and saluting the officer.
"At ease," Wilkins said.
Jason relaxed slightly.
"You have a visitor in my office," the Colonel spoke with barely-veiled hesitance.
Intrigued, Jason followed Wilkins to his the man's office, who opened the door to show him in. Upon entering, Jason spotted a man sitting in a simple wooden chair at the far corner of the room. The man was probably in his late 30s, dressed in a nondescript suit, with receding brown hair and a set of business-like glasses.
Redfield entered, the Colonel shutting the door behind him before leaving.
"Please sit down," the man spoke up, indicating a chair in front of the center of the room.
Bordering on perplexed, Jason did as he was told.
The man nodded with satisfaction, opening a manila folder. He began reading without looking up at the Marine.
"Master Gunnery Sergeant Jason Lucas Redfield. Born October 14th, 1982 in Atlanta, Georgia. Enlisted June 1st, 1999. This all correct?"
Jason nodded. "It is, sir."
"In that case..." the man closed the folder, leaning forward to shake Jason's hand. "I'm Case Officer Alexander Gates. In case you haven't guessed, I'm a representative of the Central Intelligence Agency."
Redfield nodded again. "Can I help you in some way, Mr. Gates?"
The officer smiled. "I think so, Master Guns. This is no social call -- I'm here to recruit you. I read your file. 4 years in the 1st Marine Division Infantry, 6 years after that in special operations: Force Recon, MSOR, MSPF... it's very impressive. Your list of commendations, badges, and qualifications is simply extraordinary. You are definitely SOG material."
"Thank you, sir." Jason responded.
"Now, we can discuss the specifics later. But if I've piqued your interest..."
The man fished a piece of paper from his briefcase, handing it to Jace.
TRANSFER: LANGLEY, VIRGINIA
Jason entered his apartment, tossing the duffel onto the couch and absentmindedly flipping on the TV. This was his "detox" time after a mission, a time to reflect. It was a ritual for him, one that probably kept him sane over the last several years.
Except this night was different. The screams still rang in his mind, no matter how he tried to distract himself. The eyes of the innocent as the bullets and shrapnel tore into them. The shouting match he had with his superiors over his orders... what they wanted him to do in Colombia. All of this still hung freshly in his mind, taunting him.
He stood there, gripping the counter tightly and staring at the far wall of the kitchen.
"...yet another miraculous rescue today in Khazan City. The Sentinels of Liberty and Justice have once again shown their merit when a group of armed men..."
At that moment, a seed was planted in Jason's mind. Was it possible that all along he'd been trying to understand the writing on the wall in the wrong way? Was he simply looking in the wrong places?
He fished his dog tags out from his shirt, examining them for several minutes. Then, he clenched his fists tightly, throwing them against the wall.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
It always had been one of his mother's favorite quotes... and now it rang true through his mind, bringing about a revelation the like of which Jason had never experienced. Suddenly, the writing was deciphered. Jason knew that his destiny wasn't to be a Marine, nor a CIA operative. Though he would never call himself such, fate had decreed that he take the role of a hero.
And so it began.