By Kenneth Stepp
Legend has it that there are warriors in our midst. They could be anyone. Your postman, brother, father, even your teacher. They blend in. They tell no one, they just do life in a normal manner like everyone else. They are not a part of the military, nor do they answer to the Pentagon. The story goes that there are 7 of them. On inauguration day, after the new president is installed, they are briefed on them. These men are property of the president alone, and the president may use them for any purpose. The rumors tell that these men are men of valor, principles, and patriots. Their country is only second to their God. Make no mistake though, these men are machines. The mind of a MacGyver and the warrior prowess of the Greek god of war, Ares. They can cross borders and do what must be done, undetected. They leave destruction in their wake. They say they could annihilate standing armies together. Well, if the legends were true, they’re just stories around a campfire to most.
Daniel was working on a marketing and promotion campaign for a woman he’d met online. She was smart, funny, likable, and needed to find herself in the business world again. Divorced and a talented speaker, , and a published author, she would soon be on her way. Daniel was along for the ride, in hopes of riding her coattails while helping her out at the same time. Linda was a single mom, one son, Jerry, was in the Navy, the other, Randy, was an Army man. Her daughter, Kim, was a college student who lived with her. All bright outgoing superstars in their own way. Just a great family that Daniel had become very close to and enjoyed spending time with. Daniel and Linda wrote for a local paper, mostly about relationships, love, and dating. But they enjoyed writing restaurant reviews as well. Time together made them both imagine more, but they kept their feelings private. Both knew, but it wasn’t something that ever became a conversation.
Linda’s son, Jerry received word from his command that he would be stationed in San Diego California. Yep, it’s brutal, but someone has to do it. They all joked about it but were secretly relieved that he would be in a safe and very fun place. The Navy does have a base in Alaska. Linda was beginning to enjoy the thought of being an empty nester. She was fiercely independent and was warming up to the idea of expanding on her adventurous side. Her son, Randy did not however receive great news about where be spending his time. Iraq. Not what any mother wanted to hear. Daniel had lived through it himself when his son Samuel had been in the Army and deployed there. He had many sleepless nights thinking about what might go wrong. His wife wondered why he talked of going himself. He was never in the military, she thought, what a silly thing for him to say.
Life moved quickly for them, Daniel was introducing Linda to his political friends and she was taking him to football games, high school and professional teams. They were having a blast and staying distracted, Daniel’s plan was to try to keep her mind off of what Randy might be up to on foreign soil. Movies, games on cable, events, museums, and a lot of just riding around, sightseeing and talking. Behind the activities though, she was worried. Scared maybe too. She did receive a weekly letter from Randy, they really spoke of very little of his daily activities. He did mention that the children over there would steal his pens, so he hid one to be able to write her with. One week there was no letter. She was concerned, but not freaking out. Daniel comforted her and they continued their adventures. The second week without a letter prompt Linda to begin calling the Army, anyone she could. She even called the politicians she had recently met. Week three without a letter was terrifying for her. The fifth week she did receive a letter. It was from the Army. Randy was believed to be held captive by the Taliban encampment west of his base. His team were out on patrol, they came under fire, they lost most of them that day, two escaped, Randy was taken alive. Linda was beside herself.
Daniel made the one hour drive to Linda’s Saturday morning. He sat with her, read the letter himself, and just held her. His heart was broken too. He could not imagine what was
going on in her mind, the scenarios must have been horrifying. Daniel did make some calls, Linda really had no idea why, he wasn’t military and she knew everyone he did, or so she thought. Daniel was acting strange. Different in a very alpha way. It’s as if he was all of the sudden a different man. The next day was Sunday. Daniel came over, picked Linda up and took her to a church nearby. They went to lunch at a little hole in the wall place in the historic district in Woodstock, near the church. Linda, he said. I’m going to say some things that won’t make sense for a while. I just want you to listen without commenting. He went on to tell her there were things about his past that weren’t exactly what she thought. She listened… Why are you telling me this, she asked? I’m leaving in the morning. I’ll have Randy back home in ten days. She was silent. To her, it was a cruel joke. He dropped her off at home and disappeared down the road.
The next day her mind was going down some very strange roads. Daniel’s phone was no longer on, his social media, which was always busy, was gone, he had suspended what he could and the rest was nothing but crickets. Was this all an elaborate ruse? My son has been kidnapped and now my best friend has abandoned me, her heart was breaking all over again. It was all too much, too much. She was distraught in a way that she couldn’t describe. Her favorite thing to say was, “tomorrow will be a better day”, but would it? How could it. Her son was missing and now Daniel was too. And that cockamamie story about rescuing Randy. Why would he even act like that? Daniel had been gone five days. She stayed glued to the news and alternative news. There was a story of a battle picked up via satellite, an encampment in a no go zone of the desert had lit up like the fourth of July and no one seemed to know what happened. Her mind drifted back on his words. I’m bringing Randy back to you in ten days. Could it be? She tried not to get her hopes up.
Day seven since Daniel disappeared. Her doorbell rang. She looked out the peephole and Army suits were all she could see. May I help you? Mrs Pearl, may we have a moment of your time? She invited them in and seated all of them in her den. What is this about? In her heart, she prayed this wasn’t a visit telling her Randy was dead. My name is Colonel Blakey, we need to ask you what is going to seem like a strange question. Have you heard from Randy? Her heart leaped. No I haven’t, why? He’s captured in Iraq somewhere. Yes Ma’am, he was. The encampment he was being held in was completely destroyed. Randy is no longer there. Why would you think I’d know what happened? How do you know he is not dead or taken by someone else? Well, there was a note. A note? Yes, on a spike at the entrance to the encampment. What I am going to tell you is classified, but we are stumped and are hoping you can shine a light on what this note meant. What did it say? It simply said, I’m taking Private Randy Pearl back to his mother. Linda felt faint. I may know something. A friend told me he was going to get him and bring him back to me.
Ma’am, one man couldn’t have caused this much destruction and death. Linda just smiled at him, this one can. Who is this man? His name is Daniel, but if anyone asked he said to tell them he’s “7”. No idea what that meant. The colonel turned completely white. Are you sure he said he was 7? Actually his exact words were I’m one of the 7. I thought it was an odd thing to say, but I asked no questions about it. They all gasped. One man that had been quiet the entire time spoke, I thought it was just a story, but it explains how one man could do what was done. Is anyone going to explain all this to me? Ma’am, the road to that encampment was destroyed, the base was leveled and 321 combatants were eliminated, 26 of them by someone’s bare hands. The word is out, I’m not sure when the media will catch wind of this, but that’s coming. If you hear from either Private Pearl or Daniel, have them call the number on my card. Please. If we are correct about Daniel, he answers to only one person. And that person isn’t me.
As she watched their car drive away, she wondered what just happened. A warm feeling came over her. She knew Randy was ok now. He was in the care of a man that would and could take care of him. Day nine had arrived. She woke early, about 5:00 am. She was restless and anxious at the same time. She got up, made coffee, and began her workout.
This ordeal had made her lose so much weight. Not a diet she’d recommend at all. As she busied herself to keep from going crazy, she daydreamed about where they were, her guys, her son, and Daniel, what was he? She searched internet for anything about “The 7” she could find. There were stories, some even written by one man that claimed to be a part of it. But it was all so legendary and mythical. These strangely normal acting men were war machines. Warriors that cannot lose. Warriors that can destroy entire armies if need be. After so much searching, she concluded that she may never know what was real or simply stories.
Day ten began quietly. As she sipped her coffee and watched the sun rise out her window, she heard a car pull into the driveway, she looked and it was Daniel’s old truck. She popped her garage door open and ran towards it. There they were, she grabbed Randy and almost squeezed him to death, as she wept and became a little hysterical, she turned to Daniel. I don’t know what to say, or to think. I’m still unsure what just happened. But thank you. I need to get home, Daniel said. His voice was so deep. I’m tired, I may sleep a week. Randy asked if she had any food in the house. Daniel thought that life was back to normal again and headed out. Boy was he wrong… Daniel woke up early, which surprised him, he was beat. He began searching the net for news, something he did every morning while enjoying his coffee. Word was not only out, but The 7 was mentioned as well. He broke protocol, and many international laws. Maybe his name wasn’t embedded in any of the stories. That was wishful thinking…
Now seeing who he was, what he was a part of, and what he did in Iraq all over every news station, he almost panicked. The phone rang. It was his handler. He was being summoned to The to speak with the president. That couldn’t be good, since secrets were what controlled everything in his world. His kids now knew, so did his mom and brothers. While they would think it was cool, no one was supposed to know. He changed phones to a private one that no one knew. Damage control was in order. First, a trip to DC. That should be interesting.
Daniel packed a duffel bag and headed towards DC in his truck. It would be a long drive from his home in Atlanta, over ten hours straight through. The Whitehouse was beautiful. He wondered what the president was going to say, he’d know soon enough. It was 8:00 pm when he arrived. He pulled up to the gate, the Marine standing there said he was expected and told him where to park. The president was waiting in the oval office. He stood and smiled a huge grin when Daniel walked in. Daniel, he said, while shaking his hand. You wowed me. To be honest I really didn’t believe in the program, but you stood tall. You broke all the rules, but the backlash isn’t what we thought. One American that did what you did makes them fear every American. I want this nation to be proud of what we are capable of accomplishing. I need a favor. Anything, Daniel said. Go on a media tour. I trust you. Make us proud again Daniel. And so the journey began…
First up, CNN in Atlanta, not Daniel’s favorite news source, but he has his orders. The reporter was unhappy with him that morning. Daniel was just there to give him an interview but the reporter was antagonistic. He hated the president and it showed. What he wasn’t understanding is Daniel has served 3 presidents, not just this one. But that didn’t seem to matter. You violated 1 international laws while prancing around Iraq. Daniel was getting frustrated by now. First, I wasn’t prancing. I was on a mission to save my friend’s son. He signed up to be a soldier. Daniel looked at him with a gaze that made him uncomfortable. The war that’s going on there isn’t my war, Daniel said. I did not nor would participate in it. I went there to save my friend’s son. That’s one life, what about all the people you killed? Well, if they hadn’t stolen my friend’s son, they’d still be there. This wasn’t about the military or the nation. This was about my friend.
They were waiting for Linda outside her home, she gave them an interview. Her bottom line. Those monsters stole my son. They didn’t know I had my own monster. I sent my monster
to retrieve him and he did. They interviewed Randy. He spoke of watching out the window as Daniel destroyed the camp and killed every combatant in it. He’s a machine. I watched him fight off more men than I could count, when he hit them, their head would explode. What’s strange is when he switched off warrior mode, he’s the nicest guy in the world. He broke the block off the door and told me to follow him. He’s a trip. I’m glad to share my family and my country with him. He did what he did with honor and for all the right reasons. I recapped the fighting on the plane as we were flying back. I said that no one else on the planet could have done what he did. He corrected me, there are others who could have done it, but I’m the only one that loves your mom.
All Daniel wanted to do was to shrink back into the crowd again, and eventually he will, he’ll show up on a farm in Montana or a cabin community in Idaho. Just some guy that moved to the area. He wonders about things though. Who are the other 6? What made them choose him so many years ago? What if he’d said no? The questions never really stop. A night auction and the purchase of an old camper. He’s moving tonight, obscurity here he comes. A nameless, faceless, nobody. Until his light goes green again…