Valiant Wedding (Part 1)

Jason Maccavelli has always been a militant and very disciplined man. Whenever he gets a call to complete a mission, he only listens and follows directives. No questions asked. This call, however, is a bit different. It isn’t his officer in command (who remains nameless because Jason hasn’t the clearance for that information), but his best friend of twenty years, Lisa Pratt. It’s three in the morning when the phone rings and Jason answers (he was already up, preparing for his mission).

            “State your business.” He says.

            “Same ole Jason,” Lisa chuckles, “getting ready for another mission?”

            “Lisa,” Jason relaxes and chuckles, “yeah, the last one.”

            “Good.” She says. “I’m getting married and I want you to be at the wedding.” She pauses. “On time. You know what happens when people are late to my events, don’t you?”

            “I know,” Jason cracks his neck and his back muscles stiffen, “a fresh foot in their ass.”

            “Seems you still have your memory.” She retorts. “Alright slugger, get it done and be here at 19:00, not a minute later. Can you do that? Of course, you can.”

            Jason says nothing, only listens.

            “It’s gonna be at the castle, just outside the metropolis by the Cracked Sea. My sources say your mission’s not too far from there, that it should be a straight shot.”

            “It is.”

            “Good. Then there’s no reason you can’t make it on time, is there? Of course not, you’ll be here.”

            Jason finishes his preparations. Machete, check.  Nine millimeters, check. Grenades, check. Swiss-army knives, check. Daggers, check. Katana Blade, check. Everything is in order and he’s ready to hit the field for the last time.

            “Sounds like you’re ready,” Lisa says, “Kick some ass, slugger. See you at the wedding.”

            “Yeah,” Jason says as the phone clicks on the other end.

            He heads out, gets into his car and goes to his rendezvous point.

            When he gets there, he meets a man dressed in all black, couldn’t see his face in a room full of sunlight. The man says nothing, just hands Jason a map of the territory and disappears. This doesn’t faze Jason, most of his career has been black ops. He gets back into his car and looks at the map, a few seconds is all he needs before he takes out his lighter and burns it. When the map is three-quarters of the way burned, he throws it out the window and drives off to his mission start point.

            The air is suffocating, smoky with gray skies as Jason arrives at the start point. He looks up at the volcano and feels the stifling heat emanating from it, even at the base. Looks like this is an active mission. He thinks. He gets out his car, goes to the trunk, and gets his mask. Military grade, meant to withstand temperatures as high as ten thousand degrees and as low as eight thousand. Jason has questioned how the military creates this technology, but his discipline as a soldier dictates not to ask questions that don’t concern you. Complete your mission and go home, and everything will be alright. It’s what’s kept him alive and what’ll keep him alive. Just one more mission.

            Jason decides if he should take anything else but thinks better of it. This is an active mission, better to pack light. He slams the trunk, goes to the front and removes the keys from the ignition, closes the door and starts scaling the volcano. 

            His backpack gets heavy on his back quickly but the pain doesn’t bother him. He’s been exceptionally trained and even more exceptionally deployed on only the toughest missions. Missions so tough even the most hard-boiled black ops pass for something easier. Jason is indifferent, apathetic, but very driven. His ambition lights the eternal fire under his ass and refuses to go out, but alas, his body can’t keep up. It only has one more good mission before Jason is forced to retire. I know, he thinks to his body, you’re tired of this shit but bear with me. Just one more mission. The climb becomes more arduous the higher he gets. The heat becomes more stifling as the sweat builds up in his palms. His muscles start to stiffen, his knees start to ache slightly, his calves tighten. Every muscle in his body becomes more constricting and his bones start to feel like lead inside him. He takes a deep breath but doesn’t stop. He doesn’t quit. Those words don’t exist to him. Never have, never will. When he gets about midway to the top, his right foot missteps and he slips. His right hand is just quick enough to grab hold of a jagged edge to prevent losing altitude. Dammit!  Jason thinks. Not now. Too early. He gains control of his leg and continues climbing.

            When he gets to the top all he sees is a massive pool of lava, almost anxious to overflow and spill into the ground, like a baby about to puke. The heat is enough to drain the energy and deplete the willpower of most people, but not Jason. He’s withstood worse than this in his training. He remembers having to fight with weighted training gear in the middle of the desert and having to fight with hardly any gear in the arctic snow. His body seems to become more exhausted at these memories, so Jason stops trudging down memory lane and gets to work.

            He starts climbing down, into the mouth of the fiery beast, where heatwaves are the standard order. It starts to seep through his mask and sweat starts to drip down his temples. His muscles loosen but start to relax, and in a situation where he doesn’t have a harness for safety, that’s not good. Not good at all. Gotta get down fast. Jason thinks. My body can’t hold out here long. He climbs down as fast as he can and with relative ease. He descends into the mouth and finds safe ground in a matter of minutes.

            He takes off the mask and task deep, almost exhilarating, breath. The area he landed in is protected from the heat. Molten lava hasn’t flown into it yet plus at a protective wall of igneous rock surrounds it, kind of like a crater. Jason gets moving and climbs the wall with little difficulty. His body can hold on if he moves fast, that much he figures out, but for how long is yet to be determined. Here he comes across a bridge. A very, rocky, unstable, and highly questionable bridge. A lake of lava stands between Jason and the other side; the bridge isn’t man-made, not by any means. It’s too rocky, unstable, and jagged.

            Jason shrugs. No choice. He thinks and begins to cross it.

            Being on your toes for an extended period becomes very tiring very quickly, and for Jason, this is exactly the case. His body is tightening up again, and his knees seem to be the first things to go. He clears his mind at this point, for he knows any unsettling thoughts tend to become reality. He doesn’t think about his almost doomed knees, nor does he think about his certainly doomed body should he lollygag any longer, and he definitely doesn’t think about what happens if his body gives out on him in the middle of a volcanic lake. Doesn’t even let that thought enter, even though it’s knocking on the door like police without a search warrant.

            Jason almost dances like a ballerina getting across the bridge. He’s not embarrassed because it’s illogical to be. No one’s there, for one, and two, who cares? He manages to get across the bridge with his knees still in commission and his body still holding out. His mind is in fine shape. Spectacular shape to be precise. These years in black ops have only served to make him sharper. He has an insatiable hunger for the field, like a bloodhound in the midst of devouring its prey. A light hits Jason right in the eyes and blinds him momentarily and he looks up to see where it came from. He sees something shiny, stuck between the rocks at the midpoint of the mouth. Looks like the target. He thinks and gets a move on.

            He scales the rim of the volcano again and this time his body is aching. Almost screaming. Jason tries to will it from his mind, to focus on completing the mission and getting to his best friend’s wedding (the fact he has to go there straight after his mission doesn’t strike him as strange). Alas, his body’s screams of pain will not cease until they are heard and attended to. In fact, his body turns against him as every limb gives out simultaneously and he falls flat on his back. Upon impact, his back cracks but surprisingly doesn’t give out, but boy. . .is he in a lot of pain right now. A lot of pain.

            “FUCK!” Jason screams but quickly closes it off. The sound could cause an eruption.

            He rolls onto his stomach and hits the ground with his fist. Now, Jason’s not an old man trying to relive his glory days. He’s only thirty years old for god’s sake, which means he’s not as spry as he used to be a couple years ago. He knows this in the back of his mind, but the front of his mind has a tight hold on the reins and isn’t even close to willing to let go. Not by a long shot.

            Jason decides he has no choice (actually, his body decided for him, so he has no choice) but to take a few minutes and rest up. He takes deep, slow, and relaxed breaths like he’d been taught in his training. His muscles started to relax, his knees stopped aching, and the screams of his body began to die down. Within a few minutes, his body was completely still and all was well. At least, for now.

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