Bikini Atoll: the perfect place to test an airborne detonation of an atomic bomb. Far from large civilizations, out in the Pacific Ocean, the scientists and military brass behind the project knew that there was no way there would be any negative repercussions from the tests. Except, of course, the radiation that would coat the islands for years to come...but that was neither here nor there to them. They just needed to know how effective the detonations would be...and for that, they needed test subjects.
Ten "lucky" men volunteered for the test, all of them with pasts in the military. No reasons were given or asked for when it came to why they volunteered – most thought they just wanted a way out of being a soldier, suicide-by-science. The grim looks on their faces as they raised their hands to be chosen was just more evidence of this. All of the engineers and scientists present could only share sympathetic looks with the test subjects as they said they would help.
However, there was one exception.
He was a rather unimpressive-looking man, no older than nineteen. It was a hard decision for the men behind the test to make...should they or should they not allow someone so young to participate? Most of them came up with the obvious answer: he was his own man now, and he was allowed to make his own decisions. They welcomed him with open arms, eager to see how the imminent radiation would affect someone like him.
Then, on March 1st, 1954, the test that would be known as "Castle Bravo," and would spawn the famous monster movie Godzilla, took place. The nuclear bomb was detonated high above the island, showering the ten test subjects with radiation. Two of them, both older men, died only minutes after the bomb exploded. The rest would go on to develop leukaemia, and various cancers...except for one. The young man who volunteered, who gave his name as "John Doe," showed absolutely no signs of radiation poisoning. There was no leukaemia, no cancer, no radiation sickness...it was as if he was immune to it. Eventually, they let him go, shipping Private "Doe" back to Korea where he had last been stationed. John, or Jack, as he preferred to be called, was glad to go...he had friends back at his last station in Korea.
And so Jack continued on with his life in Korea, doing the jobs he was assigned, fighting the battles that he was ordered to fight. He was moved from base to base, but he didn't mind. He always got along with the men in each new place. Besides, he had no right to complain...there was a war on, and he needed to follow his orders, no matter how questionable.
Because that was what a soldier was supposed to do.
July 12, 1955. A meaningless day for most, just another day they had to slog through to get to the next. All it meant for most people was another sixteen-to-twenty hours of work, whether that be cooking food for the rest of the soldiers, patching up the other soldiers, or being a soldier yourself. Of course, there were menial tasks around the base that had to be done; otherwise there would be an abundance of soldiers lazing about...which the brass obviously didn't want.
However, this day wasn't completely meaningless. It was a day that two people's lives would cross paths, and that one chance meeting would shape the rest of their path through life...for better and for worse.
Everyone knew who she was when she walked into the base. She was the leader of the famed Cobra Unit, the group of men who were responsible for the Allies winning World War II. It didn't matter that the unit was supposed to stay a secret – everyone who was anyone knew about it, either through friends in the special forces, or because their CO had bragged about being near her during a battle. That is, everyone except for John Doe, who had somehow gone without being told in the few years he had been a soldier. As such, he was the only one who carried on with his work as The Boss strode into the camp, apparently there for a surprise inspection.
Obviously, The Boss did not like what she saw, for all she saw were slack-jawed idiots who gaped at her like she was a fish out of water. She returned their awed stares with equally malicious glares, scaring them back into doing their duty. As she continued through the camp, she became angrier and angrier with the sorry condition the base was in...It was as if no one cared. Except for one man, who diligently carried on with his duties despite her presence in the camp. Either he was extremely focused on taking out the trash, or he didn't know who she was. Either way, she was pleased. Whirling around to face all of the other men and women in the camp, she gestured to Jack, her eyes filled with a mixture of anger and pride.
"Do you see this man?" she asked, her voice ringing throughout the camp. Jack froze, the current bag of trash he was handling almost falling from his hands. No one responded to The Boss at first; they just stared at her, looking dazed. She scoffed, and repeated her question, raising the volume. This time, they hesitantly nodded, an occasional "yes'm" finding its way to The Boss's ears. "Do you see how he carries on with his work even in my presence?" she demanded of the soldiers staring at her. As she said this, Jack blinked once more and then began to carry on with his work, confident that he was doing nothing wrong.
"That's because he does not know who you are, ma'am!" one soldier shouted, but The Boss dismissed it with a wave of her hand.
"What does that matter? Even as every one of his friends turns to stare at me as I walk by, he continues to do his job, which, as you can see, is taking out the garbage, a job most soldiers would gladly turn away from if they had the chance! You should all be ashamed of yourselves...and use this man as an example! Do not let yourself be distracted so easily! Now get back to your duties, and stay that way!"
Not wanting to anger The Boss, every soldier within earshot obeyed this order as fast as they were able, some of them even having to run across the base to get back to their stations...which only served to further disgust The Boss. Eventually, every man and woman who had been gawking went back to their jobs...and Jack was still bring out bags of trash, the bags in question apparently having been left wherever they were, waiting for someone responsible to come and grab them: someone like Jack Doe.
Now it was The Boss's turn to watch as Jack kept right on bringing bags of trash out, tossing them into a large dumpster the base had lying around, which they would later use to incinerate the massive amounts of trash inside. After about fifteen more minutes, Jack finally brought the final bag out and dropped it into the dumpster, slamming the lid closed, breathing a sigh of relief.
"Good work, soldier." The words were unexpected, and Jack whirled around with a start, finding himself face-to-face with The Boss; or, to him, some woman in olive drabs who had berated a bunch of other soldiers for staring at her. "You were the only one who continued to do your duty...I'm impressed."
Jack was at a loss for words. He had never been held so high in regard for taking out the garbage before...but, as his old man once said, you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. With that in mind, he smiled at The Boss, giving her a sharp salute. "It was just what I was assigned to do, ma'am. Besides, wouldn't it have been a better idea to get it out of the way quickly anyway?"
The Boss laughed. "Yes, of course...there is that." She folded her arms, looking the Jack up and down as he saluted. His form was perfect, his uniform pristine. The rifle slung over his back had been checked time and time again by a master's hand; she could tell from where she stood that it would fire at least one magazine without jamming now, no matter the weather conditions. She glanced at the symbol on his shoulder. "What's your name, private?"
"Private John Doe, ma'am," he replied, his tone one of a man who has been pushed to apathy when it comes to a certain subject. It wasn't hard to guess what it was, and The Boss couldn't help but think that his name was odd, as well, but there was no way it could be a euphemism...she could tell a liar from a mile away.
"Well, Private Doe, how about you and I have a little chat?"
Immediately, Jack's face paled. The Boss raised an eyebrow, then laughed, realizing what she had just said. "No, no...it isn't anything like that, private. You're not in trouble." She could see the tension in his shoulders visibly decline. "I just want to ask you a few questions, if that wouldn't be too much trouble."
"No trouble at all, ma'am," came the obvious answer.
"Good," The Boss replied. "Now, at ease. I don't want to have to watch you walk like that the entire time we speak," she said, beckoning to him as she turned around and walked off. Jack followed, relaxing the stiff posture he was holding and following the woman that he still had no knowledge of. "Now," she began, as they began a route around the base, "what do you know of me, private?"
It was an easy question, for it had only one answer. "Nothing, ma'am."
"That's what I suspected," she muttered. She seemed...amused. "Now, what do you know of the Cobra Unit?"
This one Jack could definitively answer. "The group of men who were responsible for our victory in World War II?"
A moment of silence passed between them as they walked. "No offense, ma'am," Jack began, clearing his throat nervously, "but what exactly does that have to do with what happened earlier?"
"Everything, private. I am The Boss, the leader of the Cobra Unit."
That stopped the private literally in his tracks. He stared at her, his eyes widening, realization about what had just happened hitting him in the face with the same force of a tank shell. "So...that's why they all stared at you as you walked by," he guessed, nodding backwards over his shoulder at his comrades. The Boss nodded, causing another realization to hit Jack like a freight train. "Which means that I was the only one in favour of the leader of the legendary Cobra Unit."
"That it does," she replied simply, chuckling inwardly at the private's shock. "Now...onto business. Business that I can only discuss with you, a dedicated soldier." She turned around and began to walk again, prompting Jack to follow alongside. "I am going to be staying here, at your base, for a few days. Your commanding officer has already been informed," she added quickly, seeing the doubt creep onto his face for a second. "I have been looking for an...apprentice. Someone to teach my skills to, in case I am ever killed in battle." Jack could already see where this was going, and the surprise began to creep back onto his face. "Yes, I am already considering you to be my apprentice...but I am not sure yet. I'm going to stay here and observe all of your actions, and all of your friends' actions, and then, at the end of the week, I will make my decision."
The Boss knew what she was doing. With this information, Jack would most likely begin to try too hard to impress her, resulting in making himself look less professional than he arguably was. She wanted to see how he would do in this high stress situation, and whether or not his friends would pressure him into doing things to impress her that he shouldn't do.
"I'll...do my best, ma'am," Jack said, saluting her again. The Boss smiled, saluting him back.
"I'm sure you will," she replied cryptically, nodding once more before clasping her hands behind her back and walking away. Jack stood there, saluting, until she turned the corner, and then he released the salute with a sigh. Feeling a lot better than he had felt that morning, he strode off to do more work around the base, determined not to let The Boss down.
Only time would tell if that attitude ended up screwing him over.