May 25th, 2022
0625hrs EEST (Eastern European Summer Time)
Donbas Region, Ukraine
Solex didn’t want this mission, but he had to do it. He had fought for his country, time and time again, racking up a total of six deployments alongside some black ops missions that no one without a Top Secret clearance – and need to know – would have any knowledge of. It’s been ten years since Steve actually saw combat, and like an addict on Skid Row with a needle in sniffing distance, he needed his fix…and he needed it now. Being out of combat for ten years has made Steve soft; at least, that’s what Steve would tell you. To the outside world, Steve’s a hardened man and the famous “#1 Dad,” but inside…he feels weak. Combat withdrawals aren’t something an average person would have to deal with, but Steve isn’t average. He knew that going into a firefight and putting rounds down range on enemy targets would be the perfect preparation for War Games.
“Put it down over there! In that clearing beyond the trees!” He shouted into the microphone on his headset as he leaned out of the side hatch of a Blackhawk helicopter, his finger pressed firmly on the “Talk” button on the left earpiece.
He’d been in the Blackhawk for about four hours, hovering over the flatlands of the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, searching for a cleared landing zone (LZ). Steve knew that if he wanted to engage with the enemy, this was the place to do it. The Russians had taken control of the area only a few days ago, but before he could lay waste to the enemy, he’d have to get briefed onto the battlefield.
“We can’t land there! There have been reports of enemy contact in the area!” The pilot shouted back, his voice nervous and shaky.
Steve had heard the pilot was a new guy and that he would be weak, but he didn’t know it was going to be this bad. Spec Ops missions don’t follow the Rules of Engagement (ROE), and they damn sure don’t fear enemy contact, but this is the soft and pussified world we live in now.
“Cherry fuck,” Solex said to himself, but over the headset and definitely loud enough for the pilot to hear.
Solex shook his head in frustration, but he knew what he had to do. He immediately yanked open the cargo bin to his right, reached in, and pulled out a black, hundred-foot rope. He looped the rope through a silver D-ring hung above the side hatch. He dangled 75 feet of the cordage outside of the helicopter, and with his Karambit style knife, he cut off seven feet of the remaining 25.
“What are you doing!?” The pilot asked, still shouting and still shaky.
“Shut the fuck up and hover 20 meters above the LZ!” Steve shouted back through his gritted teeth.
Steve quickly fashioned a saddle seat around his waist and looped the hundred-foot rope through it. The pilot hovered over the landing zone as instructed and impatiently waited for Steve to make his move.
“You gonna jump?!” The pilot asked, white-knuckled on the controls.
“Shut the fuck up, and keep it steady!” Solex shouted back.
It was clear that Solex intended to rappel to the ground below, but he wasn’t ready yet. Before exiting the Blackhawk, he had to go through his PCCs (Pre-Combat Checks).
M4 Rifle with ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight): Check.
NODs (Night Optic Device): Check.
Glock 45 Sidearm with Red Dot Attachment, fully loaded: Check.
He tapped on the six magazines stowed in the MOLLE pouches on the front of his plate carrier individually.
One FRAG: Check.
Comms device: Check.
He adjusted his Multicam ball cap, ripped off his headset, and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Are you ready?!” The pilot shouted as he looked back over his shoulder and watched Steve lean backward out of the side hatch at a 45-degree angle.
“MIND YOUR CONTROLS AND STAY STEADY! YOU CHERRY FUCK!” Solex shouted, snarling at the pilot.
Steve leaned back a bit further and gave the pilot a big smile and a gloved middle finger. He added a wink for good measure – no perfectly timed ding, not in combat. And then, without warning, Steve dropped from the Blackhawk and rappelled to the soft grass below. He immediately pulled the remaining rope from the plane and went to a knee, bringing the M4 up to the cheek-stock position.
He scanned the area through his ACOG as the helicopter flew off and into the distance. He continued to inspect the area, but everything seemed calm. The pilot said there had been enemy contact in the area only a few hours prior, but Steve’s intel report suggested otherwise. This area might not be secure, but it had definitely been inactive for a few days, and that’s how it felt. Steve’s combat instincts were still on point; he could feel it. Every single one of his senses kicked into high gear and came to life; he had perfect clarity at that moment.
Steve dropped his assault pack to the ground and opened it up. He fished through the contents and then pulled out a Garmin GPS.
“Let’s see where we’re at,” he said.
He pulled a map from his right cargo pocket in his coyote brown 5.11 pants. On the map, Steve spotted a water tower and looked up to identify it. Sure enough, there it was; a two-hundred-foot high, blue water tower, ten klicks to the northeast. He laid the map flat on the ground, and using the right and up method, he quickly found his location using an eight-digit grid.
Steve smiled and shut off the GPS before putting it back into his pack. He folded up the map and stuffed it back into his cargo pocket. He took one last look around through the ACOG mounted securely on top of his M4; everything was clear.
“Alright, old man. We’ve got some walking to do,” he said as he stood up.
He put his M4 down in the low ready and slapped upward on the bottom of his 30-round magazine, ensuring it was firmly in place. He then pulled back and released the charging handle of his M4, putting a round in the chamber as he began to walk in the direction of the water tower.
Solex marched through the grassy field; all the while, he daydreamed about how good the area might look had it been mowed at an angle instead of being knee-high and unkempt. He chuckled to himself as he made it to the edge of the grassy area and stepped inside of a heavily wooded area.
This is where shit could get nasty. Eyes and ears open, Steve.
His inner monologue kept him focused and on the ready. For miles, it’s tree after tree. They all looked exactly the same, but he knew he was headed in the right direction. There wasn’t a sound besides the pine needles crunching under every carefully placed step he took. Not a bird, not a bug; nothing.
And then it happened.
A small explosion and flash of white light, indicative of a flashbang, knocked Steve backward and down to his backside. He scrambled for cover behind a fallen tree and immediately scanned the area using his ACOG. The ringing in his ears was painful and persistent, but he stayed focused. His eyes darted around in every direction as he searched for the culprit.
Everything was silent.
No gunshots. Only silence.
Then, without warning, everything went black.
Steve could tell immediately that a hood had been placed over his head. He breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that it was a cotton hood instead of a plastic bag, but that didn’t stop his heart rate from going through the roof.
The sounds of boots on the ground surrounded him. It had to have been ten men…easily. They didn’t say a word, not even to each other. It was apparent this was a well-trained group, elite even. Steve’s hands were quickly zip-tied behind his back. They attempted to take his M4, but Steve had secured it to his body armor, and it proved to be more of a struggle than they wanted, so they relented. Even if they hadn’t, Steve would have rather died than let his weapon get away from him.
They pulled Steve up to his feet and held him still. One of the men got in close and whispered into Steve’s ear.
“Commander Wade is waiting for you.”
May 25th, 2022
Undisclosed Location, Ukraine
Commander Wade had been a Navy SEAL for the entirety of his military career. He’s an elite operator who needed no introduction in the briefing room or on the field of battle. Commander Wad had served in every major conflict since the Gulf War; some of the shit he’s seen, you can’t even imagine. He’s a highly decorated Sailor and earned the Navy Cross during his 2001 deployment to Afghanistan when he saved seven of his fellow SEAL team members during an ambush and sniper attack during what was supposed to be a routine patrol on the outskirts of Kandahar. It should have been a Medal of Honor, but Commander Wade’s checkered past didn’t mix with the United States Military’s highest award politics. Not only was Commander Wade one of the bravest men to ever lace up his combat boots, but he had a body count that SEAL Team Snipers can only dream of. His body count is only rivaled by one man, and that man is standing ten feet in front of him.
That man is Steve Solex.
Steve wasn’t a Navy SEAL but was instead a Special Forces (SF) Weapon’s Sergeant in the United States Army. He’d spent a lot of time with the SEAL teams during his tours overseas. Joint service operations were pretty standard during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, but none of that mattered now. This wasn’t a joint service op. This was a black op, and Steve isn’t in the Army anymore. He’s an independent contractor, more commonly referred to as a Mercenary, for the Ukrainian government and is under the direction of an elite and covert unit of Navy SEALS.
The publicity surrounding Steve’s deployment to Ukraine did not impress the Commander. One way of putting it would be that he was less than pleased. Another way of putting it would be he was pissed the fuck off. Spec Ops is a place for secrecy, not for public acclaim. If it was anyone else, this mission might have been canceled. But the Ukrainian government needs Steve Solex, and quite frankly…so do the American Armed Forces. So, Commander Wade bit the bullet and recognized those facts.
Commander Wade paced back and forth at the head of the briefing room, formally a living room that had been repurposed. Commander Wade and SEAL Team [redacted] had commandeered this house from a Ukrainian family a few weeks prior in preparation for this mission. The family was rewarded handsomely in American dollars and moved to New Jersey, a common practice when American forces buy out foreign national civilians.
“You’ve got to be careful out there, Steve. We have American civilians on the battlefield that thought it was a good idea to come over here and play Soldier. Without a shadow of a doubt, you will run into a few of these wanna-be operators, and when you do, you’ll see the kind of trouble we’ve been facing,” the Commander said as he continued to pace the floor.
“Commie Chris,” Steve said to himself, but under his breath.
“What’s that, Steve?” Command Wade asked, with an eyebrow cocked up.
“Nothing, sir,” Steve replied, not wanting to give Christopher America any more attention than he already had.
“These dumb fucks are the same shitheads that wouldn’t sign up to fight for their own country, and now they are out here fuckin’ up our whole mission,’ Commander Wade continued.
Steve smiled in agreement, still thinking of Christopher America. He laughed to himself, only briefly, as he thought of the shit that ol’ Commie Chris had probably gotten himself into at this point.
“Our mission and I will not repeat this, is NOT to save civilians. You are here for one thing and one thing only; destroy the enemy. If you see a civilian in danger, you will move on and go after the objective. No matter how perilous their situation may seem, you will move on. The objective is the only thing that matters. Is that clear?” His eyes narrowed, and his voice deepened as he continued to drive his point home.
Civilians that enter the battlefield to fight are usually the ones that end up needing saving, and Christopher America would have no such luck if Steve came across his path.
“Yes, sir,” Steve said in confirmation, giggling at the thought of Christopher America shitting his pants in the middle of a firefight.
“Okay, let’s get down to business,” Commander Wade said as he pulled a wooden pointer off the top of the projector screen.
May 30th, 2022 – Memorial Day
Steve had been blindfolded – for security – and transported in an up-armored Pathfinder to his current location. This was usually how shit went down, but he’d have to go by foot the rest of the way. Steve was in the middle of nowhere, Ukraine. He knew where he was, but he didn’t know anything else. He didn’t know if the enemy was nearby, and he didn’t know if anyone would be tracking his location.
What he did know was that Commander Wade’s instructions were clear. The objective was on the other side of the border, and to reach the objective, Steve would have to cross the border into Russia.
Earlier in the day, Steve plotted his route on the same map he had used when he first arrived in Ukraine only a few days earlier. He took the map out from his cargo pocket and checked the route. Curious about how long the trek may be, he calculated the distance: 35.4 klicks.
The irony of the trek being 22 miles on Memorial Day was not lost on Steve. He knew it wasn’t done on purpose, but he now felt like he had been filled with purpose. Deep and meaningful purpose. Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. And while their names might not be etched into stone at some memorial, they must also be remembered and honored. Steve remembers and honors them every year. He’s has lost plenty of friends, and whether they were lost on the battlefield or lost the war in their own heads, Steve honors them every Memorial Day. Every year he goes and places flags where they were laid to rest.
Today, he wouldn’t have that honor.
He took off his pack and tossed it to the ground. He slung his M4 over his right shoulder, took a knee in the dirt, closed his eyes, and lowered his head.
“To my brothers and sisters. Those gone but not forgotten. Those lost on the field of battle and those who lost the battle internally. You will never be forgotten, and you will always be loved. You are the brave ones. You are the ones who lost everything for a country that you loved. I’m sorry that I can’t be with you today. But know that every step I take, every bullet that I put down range…they are for you.
I swore I would uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That I would obey the orders of the President of the United States and the order of the officers appointed over me. I did and will continue to do just that. But not for me, and not for them.
I will fulfill that oath for every single one of you.
Every day, you hear the same thing. You hear people say that every troop is a hero. You hear that every first responder is a hero. Well, let me tell all of you:
You are heroes.
My Dad told me a long time ago that heroes do hero shit when it’s time to do hero shit.
And every single one of you did hero shit, whether you realize it or not.”
Steve reached into his bag, pulled out a small desktop-style, 4×6 American flag, and stuck it into the dirt.
“This is for all of you.”
Steve stood up and recovered his equipment. He stared into the distance as he wiped a tear from his eye. After regaining his composure, Steve took his first step toward the objective. His first step toward the end of this war.
May 22nd, 2022
1230hrs Local Time
“Don’t you dare tell me everything is going to be okay! You have no idea!” Constance screeched at the top of her lungs.
Steve had just informed her of his plans and contractual obligation to board a flight to Ukraine in less than four hours. What Constance didn’t know, however, was that not only was Steve going to be competing in War Games, but he was also going to be on mission. She also didn’t know that Steve wouldn’t be boarding a flight the typical way; he’d be on a military aircraft. He knew the details wouldn’t sit well with his wife, so Steve kept them to himself.
“Who, in their right mind, would put on a wrestling event in the middle of a War Zone?!”
Steve looked at her and shook his head as he walked past her and into the kitchen. He knew he couldn’t tell her the truth; she would be devastated.
Constance wasn’t around for Steve’s deployments in the past. Hell, she’s hardly been around for a year. She doesn’t have thick skin like Steve’s ex-wife, and to be frank…this wife actually wants him around, unlike his ex.
“And what the heck do you need your sidearm for if you are just going to compete? This all seems real fishy if you ask me!”
Steve didn’t answer and instead reached into the fridge and pulled out a Coors light.
The mountains are blue.
“Store was out of PBR,” he said as he opened the can.
“PBR?! Are you freaking kidding me right now!?” Again she screeched as loud as she could, her sharp tone bouncing off the walls in the kitchen.
Steve shook his head and took a giant gulp, nearly finishing the entire can in one drink.
“Look, this is my job. I have to be there whether we’re wrestling in Chicago or Ukraine or freaking Iraq,’ Steve said as he tried to reason with his wife.
Constance began to cry; tears ran down her cheek as she struggled to stay strong. Steve walked up to her and placed his hand on her cheek. He wiped the tears with his thumb.
“But why do you have to go now?” She sobbed.
“The event isn’t for a few more weeks. Why do you have to go now?”
Steve dropped his hand down to his side and let his head hang low. He walked past her and finished his beer before tossing the can into the trash.
“Because I have to. I have to get acclimated, and I have to secure my training facility ahead of time. Harrison will already be there. He’s gonna need someone to train with. One of us has to win this match; I don’t think you realize the seriousness of the whole thing. This is freaking War Games, babe. This is the biggest match of the year – every year – and I’ve never won it. The odds have been stacked against us. Not only do we have an incompetent video gamer at the helm of the ship, but we also have Lee Best himself in the opposing team’s corner. Whether that be literally or figuratively, he’s there…with them, and he’s calling the shots,” Steve said as he continued walking to the dining room.
He took his seat at the head of the table. Even as mad as she was, Constance still grabbed her old man another beer from the fridge and brought it over to him, and like the excellent housewife that she is, she placed the beer on a coaster and slid the cold beer in front of her man. Steve popped the top and took a swig as his wife took a seat across from him.
“I don’t care about wrestling; I care about you. I’ve seen these War Games matches, Steven. It is sickening and brutal, and you don’t need to win it! You’re already a Hall of Famer; what more could you want?” She continued to fight the words through her incessant sobbing.
“I’m a Hall of Famer that has never won the World Championship. Do you know what that feels like to me? That feels like I’m Joe Frazier and Muhammed Ali went to jail, and someone just handed me the world’s heavyweight championship. That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. I know what people say about me behind my back, and normally, I wouldn’t give a damn, but in this case…they might be right. So winning War Games isn’t about just winning the World Championship; it’s about cementing my legacy properly. Showing every one of these dirtbags that I deserve what I’ve gotten. That I’ve worked just as hard and harder than every one of them, every step of the way,” Steve said, slamming a finger into the table as he attempted to be persuasive enough that his wife might stop crying.
“And on top of all of that, I get to get my hands on Commie Chris. I mean, that’s just icing on the freakin’ cake, babe. This guy’s had it comin’ for a few weeks now, and finally… I’ll get my shot. That Solexecution he got last week was just the beginning. He’ll have nowhere to go when we’re inside that cage, and I’ll get to mangle and destroy that fake American, Stolen Valor, wanna-be Solider, piece of trash,” Steve said, his voice rising and his teeth gritted.
“But what if Conor Fuse doesn’t pick you to be the champion, even if you win the match for your team? Then what?” She asked, pleading her case.
Steve took a sip of his beer and shrugged his shoulders.
“Then, I’ll just have to take that up with The Elder Scrolls,” he said behind a smirk.
Constance rolled her eyes and slapped her hand down on the table. The sound of her hand hitting the cherry-finished table echoed off the dining room walls.
“What about the boy we’ve taken in, huh? What about little Scotty? What will he think when you’re gone, off in some foreign country where a WAR is taking place?!” She shouted.
Steve just looked at her and tilted his head. He winked and took a sip of his beer.
“Oh, no,” she said quietly.
She knew what that look meant, and that look made her blood run cold. The blood rushed away from her face, and Constance immediately went pale.
“You are not taking that boy with you to Ukraine, Steven! That is not happening on my watch!”
Steve laughed and stood up from his chair. He walked past her as she shot daggers at him with her eyes. Just before he exited the dining room, he stopped. He looked back at his wife, and with a smile on his face, he said:
“He’s already there.”
Constance shot up from her chair and ran after Steve. She began pummeling him with tiny hammer fists in the back. Steve, unaffected, continued drinking his beer as he walked through the living room.
“Please, God!” She shouted as Steve continued his pace through the room.
She crumbled to the carpeted floor in the middle of the living room and began sobbing into her hands. Steve stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked over at his wife.
“He’s gotta learn how to be a man, and this is the only way I know how to raise one. I’m raising an Alpha, Constance. This generation needs more alphas.”