Sergeant Major Jared Brent Warren bit his lip and forced himself not to snarl. His kids couldn't see the white knuckles he was getting from gripping the steering wheel too hard, but there was no doubt in his mind they'd notice and understand that their parents were fighting if he gave in and tore that bitch's head off.
And maybe not merely in the figurative sense, either. If it weren't for the kids, he'd have hurt her long since.
"And Angela has this simply wonderful diamond ring her husband bought her for their anniversary," she nagged him. He was almost -- almost -- tempted to give in. She'd been incensed that his idea of a ten-year anniversary present had been a 'mere' trip to a day spa and not fancy jewelry. She'd been dropping hints that even if he hadn't made it up on their eleventh, their twelfth anniversary would work. Or, you know, get her some bling for no reason except that he 'loved her'.
Bitch, she knew full well he loathed her guts. If it weren't for the kids...
Jared sighed. The kids. David and Cody were the lights of his life and the only reason he'd ever married this gold-digging bitch. He'd never expected to have kids, not after he'd turned twelve and realized-
"Are you listening to me at all, Jared?" the bitch shrilled.
"Of course I'm listening," Jared lied. "But why should I bother responding to demands for luxuries we can't afford?"
"Luxuries?" she screeched. "But we can afford the 'luxuries' of David's new braces?"
Jared tried to bite his tongue, really he did. "There is a difference between worthless, horrifically expensive jewelry and the equipment necessary to straighten our son's teeth!" he ground out evenly.
"I don't know why I ever married such a brute!" Samantha complained, finally crossing the line. "You ugly, stupid, useless piece of trash!"
"Samantha!" Jared snapped, twisting around to glare at her. "Not in front of the children!"
Later he'd wonder if losing his temper had caused the accident, or if it was inevitable. Hell, the truck was coming from her side of the car, so glaring at her had bought him a few precious extra fractions of a second to hit the brakes. Instead of hitting the car dead on in an accident that would have killed all four of them, the large truck 'merely' caught the forward part of the car, spinning it around until the car bounced off the rear end of the cab. If the truck had hit any further forward on the car, the car might have ended up under the wheels of the shipping container the truck was hauling, and then all four of them would have died.
Later Jared would learn how lucky he and his family were, for now his eyes widened as he saw the dark form of an eighteen wheeler bearing down the side road with its headlights off. His nearly twenty years in the Marine Corps took over and his mind dropped into the hyper-aware state that had saved his life in hundreds of firefights. Even as he slammed the brakes, he checked the impulse to turn left, away from the truck and forced himself to turn right. It was a two lane road, and there was too much oncoming traffic. Despair filled him as he started to jerk the wheel right. His initial instinct to turn left had cost him too much time. He didn't even have time to shout out a warning as the truck slammed into his car and everything began to spin around him.
Jared's last thoughts, as the blackness overwhelmed him, was a hope, something that given an instant more would have become a prayer, that his kids at least die quickly, without feeling too much pain. He would have hoped for their survival, but he'd always been a bit of a pessimist.
What seemed like moments later, he obeyed his CO's barked order to wake up. "Yessir!" he slurred, pulling himself out of the blackness by sheer will and reflexive obedience to the lawful orders of an officer.
He didn't even question General Sheridan's presence in the afterlife. If the general wanted a day-pass to Hell to visit one of his marines, Satan would damned well provide one... or else. God, of course, would have long since issued the general a lifelong visitors pass to Heaven for such things; after all he was far wiser than the fallen angel in charge of the underworld.
"Sergeant, I need you to wake up and pay attention, we don't have a lot of time," Sheridan said urgently.
"M'boys," Jared tried to ask.
"Your wife is dead," the General answered, "David will live and is estimated to make a full recovery. Cody and you are the problem."
"Cohdy?" Jared mumbled, trying to force his mouth to work. Sudden worry helped burn away the fog that had muffled his mind, and held the pain at bay for a few moments.
"They're not sure if Cody will survive," the general admitted, "but if he does he's going to be crippled for life thanks to his spinal injury. And the doctors..." the general took a deep breath, and for a moment Jared could have sworn he saw tears in the man's eyes before the general wiped them away. "The doctors give you another three hours, if you're lucky, before you die. Modern medicine can't save you."
"No," Jared moaned. "Have to be there for the boys!" he tried to add, but the cotton stuffed in his mouth turned it into a jumbled mess. "I want to see them," he added slightly more clearly.
"There is one option I need you to consider," General Sheridan said urgently. "It's one of the projects I've been handling, and by God's grace you got brought to the one hospital in the country equipped to try it."
"What?" Jared demanded.
"It's called Project Prometheus, and if it works both you and Cody will make full recoveries and then some," the General promised. "But I need your permission, and we have to do it now if it's to do any good."
"Do it," Jared decided quickly. He trusted Sheridan not to bring this up unless it was the only option, and he had to live, he had to give his children a father.
And he'd be damned if he let a seven year old boy live the rest of his life as a cripple simply because the boy's only hope was an experiment. The General wouldn't be offering this if he didn't think there was a good chance of making it work.
"I'll need temporary power of attorney to oversee your affairs for the duration," the general asked. "With you wife dead, and none of your kin available, things are going to be a mess without it."
"Granted," Jared said as the darkness began to rise. "Protect.... Prt'ctmmmuhkeds..."