The Meaning of Sacrifice
The woman gave a long sigh as she stared at the left wall of her dining room. Her eyes flicked to each of the picture frames present, each of them holding a newspaper cutout. There were nine in total, the four on top belonging to her mother, the five below, her father. She stepped closer and ran her fingers along the first frame. She read the headline.
"Prodigy – Angela Ziegler graduates from Harvard Med at 16"
Angela Ziegler, a Swiss national, has completed the required coursework for the General Medicine Curriculum at Harvard Med this May, and is set to graduate summa cum laude from the prestigious university alongside a set of 34 other classmates. Ziegler completed the 8 years worth of work in a single year, astounding critics who once voiced dissent at someone so young being granted the ability to undergo a residency. She has stated to be unsure as to whether she will apply for residency at a hospital back in Switzerland, or New York Mercy.
The woman smiled, her fingertip trailing to the frame below her current one. The picture showed two distinct images vertical to one another, the top was a mountainous pile of rubble, although the location itself was unidentifiable. The image below was of a young boy covered in bandages, standing next to a beautiful young woman. The caption beneath it read:
Following the attacks on Norfolk Intl' Airport leaving a death toll of nearly 1000 people, a young survivor by the name of Isaac Marsh, has undergone the final of a number of surgeries, and is set to be discharged from Sentara Hospital later this month. The 8 year old was the only surviving victim of the attack, and was found unresponsive, but stable on scene by first responder Angela Ziegler. Ziegler, who had recently transferred to the hospital, stated that had her or the rest of her team been later, there was a significant chance of irreparable damage to his brain."
She recalled her father's words on the event.
"I had just waved goodbye to my Dad... who had left for a business meeting in the UK... I think it was... about 4 minutes after his plane had lifted off when I heard a scream... then I blacked out. When I woke up... your mother was looking right into my eyes... she was like a genuine angel... I think that's when I fell in love with her. I spent... the next 8 years finishing school before I attended Med School like she did. It took a lot out of me... but I managed to complete all of my coursework in a year... and graduated." His voice boomed in her memory.
She began eyeing the frame next to the one that she was currently touching. The headline echoed the statement at the end of her memory.
"From Saved to Surgeon"
Isaac Marsh, the Virginia native who survived the terrorist attack on Norfolk Intl' Airport, has followed in his savior's footsteps, graduating magna cum laude from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this Spring. Marsh, who stated that his experiences following the attack spurred him to become a surgeon. His surgical skills have been lauded by his professors as prodigal, if not perfect. Marsh has been offered a residency by CHUV, in Switzerland, where he will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with his savior, Angela Ziegler. Ziegler has gone on record voicing her excitement at the opportunity to work with Marsh, saying that being one of his inspirations was flattering, and that being his colleague would be an honor.
She moved her gaze up, towards the next paper involving her mother. The picture above the caption showed her mother wrapped in heavy bandages, sat in a bed while a man, who was now much more easily distinguishable as her father, changed an IV. She smiled as she read the headline.
"Returning the Favor"
Just hours after he arrived at CHUV, a main gas line exploded in the area where Dr. Ziegler and Dr. Marsh were working, despite suffering heavy injuries consisting of a concussion and second degree burns, Marsh powered through the pain and began operating on an unconscious Ziegler. Several of the pipes that had shattered were launched as shrapnel into the body of Ziegler, but an 8-hour operation saw every piece of metal removed. The current chairman of CHUV's Board of Medicine stated that Marsh's quick thinking prevented Ziegler's death. As of the time of writing this, Ziegler is conscious, and has issued both a formal and personal thanks to Marsh.
She smiled as she remembered her mother's words.
"I remember hearing the boom, but that was it... when I woke up he was rushing back and forth between a bag of medical supplies and the operating table upon which he had placed me. I thought that the distress in his face was cute. After I had fully recovered... making conversation with him began being difficult, I found it hard to see him as a colleague after he saved my life. I think... it was about six months afterwards that he told me how he felt about me... it was so out of the blue! I was shocked... but I told him I felt the same. A few years later... after... losing one pregnancy, we got married, then shortly after that, you were born."
It was a good memory to her, and the next of her father's frames expressed a happy moment in her mother and father's life.
"From Saviors to Lovers"
Isaac Marsh and Angela Ziegler have been confirmed to be recently engaged, reports from colleagues say. The two started a romantic relationship a few months after the accident at CHUV, and two and a half years later, have decided to tie the knot. Their announcement came almost immediately after the final repairs to the CHUV building. Best wishes to them!
Her mother's recollection of meeting Isaac's parents brought a soft smile back to her lips.
"Your father's parents accepted me rather easily, and they got along with my mother quite well. Honestly, I thought they would be suspicious of me when they realized I was more than 10 years older than your father. But... they only really seemed to care about Isaac's happiness... so when they first met me... they just... smiled. Our wedding was nice, too... we got married in Zurich in order to allow my mother to attend. The look on her face when she saw me in my wedding gown made the wait worthwhile, she was in tears, smiling and bouncing in her seat with excitement. Ah... I miss her."
She looked to the final newspaper detailing information about her mother. The picture was a wonderful one. It showed her mother in her Valkyrie Suit, holding her Caduceus Staff. The pose was a common one for her, standing watch as paramedics worked to save the lives of those in need. The caption however, made the woman feel slightly sick.
"BREAKING! Ziegler Dies on Scene"
Angela Marsh, who was currently serving with Anti-Terrorist organization, Overwatch, as their Chief First Responder, has been declared dead, following what was supposed to have been a simple response to the collapse of an elderly gentleman in a park. Witnesses say that a cloaked figure dashed behind her before unloading a shotgun into her back. Witnesses to the murder are being questioned, however there has been no official suspect named. She is survived by her husband, Isaac Marsh, and their daughter, Mercy Marsh. Citizens worldwide have already begun an outpouring of condolences to her remaining family.
Mercy brushed away a few tears that had begun forming. She remembered her father telling her about her mother's death.
"Hey... sweetie, it's Daddy... umm... Mommy had an accident... and she didn't make it. It's okay though! She... she... died doing what was right... and she'll always love you, so don't worry."
She remembered his face, how tear-stained his cheeks and clothes had been. He could hardly choke the words out as he spoke them. She felt as though it made the news that much worse. Of course, a seven year old could never really fathom death. The next clipping showed her father in a similar suit to her mother's, although it was larger to fit his bigger body. She had been there when he finished it, he had called it the Surgeon's Shroud. The clipping's words brought forth a more neutral memory.
"Following in her Footsteps"
Today, Overwatch announced that Isaac Marsh would be taking over his late wife's position as their Chief First Responder. This news comes just months after her death, and some are saying that it's unfair of Overwatch to ask him to take the position. However, Marsh has gone on record saying that he was more than willing to fulfill his wife's duty, saying that, if necessary, he too, would give his life for the greater good.
Mercy recalled going with him to Overwatch Headquarters that day. She met many unfamiliar people, but the most memorable was the gorilla, Winston.
"Hey there, Winston."
"Oh... hello Isaac, did you come to see her today, too?" Winston asked.
Isaac nodded. "I brought Mercy along too." He added.
The gorilla looked down to her, his enormous body swaying slightly as he spoke.
"Hello, Mercy... it's nice to see you." He said.
She remembered nodding, but clamping onto her father's hand.
"About your request, Winston... I'll do it." Isaac said calmly.
"Are you sure? We'll find someone else if it's absolutely necessary." The monkey asked.
"Yeah... I'm sure... it's the right thing to do." Isaac said.
Mercy's eyes moved to the final frame. This newspaper didn't provide a photo, although the reason why was clear to her. Isaac had continued as Chief First Responder for another 7 years, before Winston called her with the news that he had died. The newspaper displayed the grim headline.
"Crushed Flat, Isaac Marsh Declared Dead"
Today, we say goodbye to yet another prodigal First Responder, as a terrorist has taken the life of Isaac Marsh. Marsh, who was responding to reports of an unconscious man in the city square, was taken by surprise as the "unconscious man" was simply feigning his ailment, and detonated a suicide bomb that seemed to be intended solely for Marsh, which buried Marsh under several tons of rubble. It is unknown whether this attack is at all connected to Angela Marsh's death years prior, but speculation has already begun. Mercy Marsh, the daughter of the two Responders, is the sole remnant of the Marsh or Ziegler family, as both grandparents have since passed away.
This clipping was even harder to read, she remembered waiting for hours after the media had broken the story of the bomb, before finally learning that she had lost her father in the blast. His helmet was retrieved first, and contained a message to her that he recorded while buried underneath the rubble before succumbing to his injuries.
She turned around, taking her eyes away from the frames. Her gaze fell upon the helmet on the table. She had listened to the message contained within many times, and today would be the most important of all for her to hear it. She nearly screamed in shock when she heard a knock at her door.
"Mercy... it's me... it's almost time, are you ready?" Winston's voice boomed through the door.
"Oh, yeah, let me just grab something." She said.
She looked down, ensuring that there were no problems with her Goddess' Weave Suit. Satisfied, she lifted her fathers red helmet into her arms. She stumbled slightly, her body had grown comfortable with standing. She rushed to the door, opening it, and was greeted with the statue she had grown fond of. It was a gilded statue picturing her mother and father hand in hand, looking alert and ready for anything. It truly embodied them. As she passed by it, she caught a glimpse of the two plaques bolted underneath, and the words engraved on them.
To our Finest Heroes.
Angela "Mercy" Marsh – Original Overwatch First Responder
Paragon of Peace and Harmony.
Proud Mother and Wife
Isaac "Hellstitch" Marsh
Paragon of Protection and Calm
Proud Father and Husband
She turned away from the statue, and moved across the grass courtyard she was currently in. Her eyes flicked up to the Overwatch insignia adorning the courtyard's exit. Across from the exit was a small stage, and a podium. She moved towards it, feeling her emotions well up as she did. She was playing the recording back in her head, remembering the tears her father's words brought her.
"They need to hear it." She said, solidifying her resolve.
Winston crossed the courtyard from the exit, followed by a large group of people, at least 80 in number. They flooded to the front of the podium, standing at attention at what seemed to be Winston's command.
"Alright everyone, welcome to your short introduction to Overwatch FR. We are not here to teach you how to respond to huge events, you are here because you already know how. With this in mind, I would like to allow someone to speak to you on the subject of being a First Responder. Ladies and gentlemen, Overwatch's Chief First Responder, Mercy Marsh." He said.
Mercy stepped up to the podium and activated the microphone, before clearing her throat.
"Good afternoon, everyone. As Winston stated, I am Mercy Marsh, Chief First Responder of Overwatch." She said. A sigh escaped her lips as she began her next, long winded sentence.
"21 years ago... this world stole my mother from me... and my father told me that she had sacrificed her life to make this world a better place. It made me see my mother as a saint... but then... 7 years after that... my father was taken from me as well. They were both killed by a single man who had once been their colleague. He had grown frustrated at their fame, and felt as though their prestige was unfair. Because of his envy... they are dead."
"When my father died, he left me a message that I've listened to once a week, every week for the last 14 years. I'd like for you all to hear it as well, because I think his message is the most important thing you'll hear in your life." She said.
She set the helmet down softly on the podium, connecting the microphone to its audio output, and activating its voice command module.
"Play Audio Log #0" She said.
The helmet buzzed for a moment, bringing up two screens, one, a level that showed audio intensity, and the other a caption device that relayed his words onto a screen. The recording began.
Isaac could be heard coughing violently before he spoke.
"Ow... fuck... this hurts... so... I'm, ah... currently buried under about 6 tons of rubble, but luckily my suit can withstand about 10 tons of weight... man... I am really regretting not staying in bed this morning. "Go out and do your job... go be a hero!" Fuck me... I'm stupid." He griped.
His oddly placed humor elicited a number of laughs from the crowd of people.
He sighed, hushing the slight uproar.
"Mercy, honey, I'm recording this for you... I'm sure by now you've figured out something has happened... well good job, I'm dead. Well... not yet... but you get the point. Ah... fuck... I don't know how to do this... should I go ahead and give my own eulogy or something?" He asked facetiously.
There was more laughter this time, even Winston chuckled.
"When your mom died... I told you that she sacrificed herself for the greater good... I lied." His words rang through the microphone, and many in the crowd raised their eyebrows in surprise.
"When your mom died... I was angry... angry at myself for not being there, angry at her for going... angry at the world, for killing the perfect woman. I was a wreck... the woman I had wanted to spend the rest of my life with was torn from my arms by a violent typhoon, that I wasn't prepared for." He said.
"I belittled her life by making light of her death... death my dear... is not a game... there is no respawn... you die... it's over. Which is why I want to leave you with this advice... nothing is worth your life." He said.
His words garnered a large collective mumble from the crowd.
"That's not to say, this world isn't worth saving... it absolutely is... but I don't think people should be killing one another to save it." His voice had begun shuddering, likely due to blood loss and fading consciousness.
"I... I might have believed my words about your mother's death at some point myself... but here and now, on the edge... I can't just not tell you what I'm feeling before I turn into soup. Heh... I can't stop joking about it... can I?" He asked.
He began sobbing, the sound of his breath becoming slightly more faint as he spoke.
"I'm... I'm dying, baby girl... I wanted to see you grow up... I wanted to be there when you graduated... I... I wanted to watch you choose a path for your life... I'll never get to do that now..."
His familiar choke breaths made Mercy's eyes well with tears. She had listened to it enough that she could keep from crying outright, but the fact that these were her father's last words made it difficult.
"I don't want to die. I wanna be in your life... I want to keep being your father... but... that doesn't matter now... I'm getting tired... so I probably don't have long..."
His voice calmed down slowly, until his words were stern and earnest.
"There is no cause that is worth human or robot life... everyone's life is equal in value, and you will always be better than the greater good... I hope in your lifetime, you get to see a world that understands that." He said.
His breath grew shallow, once again filled with sobs as he spoke one final time.
"And... Mercy... sweetie... your mom and I? We love you... so much. Goodbye, baby... End Recording."
The audio output ended, and Mercy wiped her tears away.
"Those words... spurred me to follow a path that I hadn't considered when I was young. I want to change this world... at its very core, this is a world of violence, where pacifism is seen as weakness. Where arguments are settled with weapons rather than debates. This needs to stop... now, more than ever... and your actions from this day forward will help a more peaceful, loving world come to fruition. Dismissed!" She shouted the last word loudly.
A few minutes went by, and eventually, the once crowded courtyard was again empty. Mercy looked back to the housing door she had exited from. She started her way back to it, before being stopped by the sound of her name.
"Miss Marsh... Miss Marsh!" A voice shouted from the entrance.
She turned around, it was CHUV's chairman, waving to her. He walked quickly over the grass, before stopping short of her. He extended his hand, offering her a small, square package and an envelope. She took them, despite being confused.
"These are?" She asked.
"Ah! You're mother and father requested that I give them to you on your 25th birthday... needless to say... I'm a few years late." He said, embarrassed.
Intrigued, she thanked him, then returned to her room. She set the package down gently on her table, along with her father's helmet. She tore into the envelope, removing two brightly colored pieces of paper, which had been folded up and tucked neatly inside. Assuming them to be notes, she had a hard time choosing between reading the soft, cream colored one, or the pastel pink one. She decided on the cream one, believing it would be her father's. It wasn't
Today is your first day on this Earth, and as a mother I'm feeling a multitude of things right now. However I'll sum all of them up at once and simply say that I'm excited. You are my daughter, and I'm so excited at the idea of teaching you about the world alongside your father. Regardless, that isn't what this note is for. Isaac insisted we write these just in case one of us isn't around as you get older. With that in mind I will simply say this. I love you more than anything in this world. You and your father are the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of being with, and I can't wait for us to live together for the rest of our lives.
Your Mother, Angela Marsh (Ziegler)
Mercy grinned like a fool as she folded the note back up, and set it down on the table. She unfolded the other note carefully, and began to read.
Dear Sweet Baby Mercy,
Today is the day you were born, the day I became a father, and the day I fell in love with your mother even more. She's such a fighter, trying her hardest to ignore the pain as she brought you into this world. Anyway, that isn't why I and your mother are writing these notes. I'll tell you this, but only because your mother and I promised not to read each others note. So I'll just say it, I've been having nightmares, of one or both of us dying. Just in case that happens, we've left you a gift I want you to be able to remember us, and I realized that Angela and I hadn't taken many picture together. With that in mind, I'll leave you with this, we love you, sweetheart, never forget that.
Your Father, Isaac Marsh
Mercy let the note fall to the table, her eyes now overflowing with tears.
"You two... you're idiots... I love you too." She sobbed.
She gave herself a few moments to calm herself, then picked up the package she had set down. She tore the plain white packaging covering it. A small box remained. She opened it excitedly, revealing a small picture frame with a single picture resting inside of it.
Her mother and father, standing hand in hand. Isaac had his lips pressed to Angela's cheek, and her free hand was holding her bulging belly. A small white caption was embossed at the bottom of the frame.
We Love You Mercy
"I love you too."
Her hands brushed a small clasp on the side. An idea formed in her head, and she popped the clasped open. She slipped the two folded notes in behind the photo, then clasped the frame back together.
"I'll never be able to do what you did for me... but I understand why your sacrifices were important, even if you didn't think they were. Thank you both... so much... for everything." She smiled.
"I'll make sure no one else has to make the sacrifices you two did... I promise."