On the night of July 4, 1971, a new war for independence was being waged. While fireworks boomed and crowds oooh’d and ahhh’d outside, Linda Storm cried out again as she pushed once more with all of her might. Didn’t the nurse say she was almost there? She wasn’t sure; her mind was too hot with pain. She thought she heard her husband, Robert, trying to rally her again, but his voice was too distant and seared to be certain. She did, however, want the pain to stop, so she screamed in agony and PUSHED again … her scream finally trailing into fatigued, soft giggling as the pain suddenly ended in sweet reprieve. Moments later a popping sound was followed by the first cries of their son, and a thought crept into her mind: “cold”. Robert watched as the nurse swaddled the newborn boy and handed him to Linda. Another foreign-feeling thought bubbled up, “Much better,” and Linda mentally agreed with herself as she exhaled the name ‘John’ with nothing but love in her mind and tears of joy streaming down her face. Robert nodded in approval; it was a good name for their son.
John Storm (no middle name) was lovingly raised by his parents in upstate New York in the years that followed. He proved to be the proverbial prodigal son, excelling in all areas of learning to which he applied himself. Sports, not so much — a fact that Linda attributed to Robert being gone so much. Robert was a company man who traveled heavily for a business that manufactured and sold both door and window hardware — something Linda always considered horribly uninteresting. But hey, someone had to do it, and it paid handsomely enough to allow her to stay at home, raise John, and provide him with every opportunity. If only she had known that Robert’s ‘company’ was a cover, and that his long trips were typically overseas for the United States government; it might have given her pause…
In the spring of 1986 at the ripe old age of 15, John graduated from high school … his acceptance letter for the fall semester at Princeton already in hand. It made him feel good to make his parents proud, especially his father of whom he never saw enough. He always told his mother he tried his hardest for her, but deep down, it was his father’s approval he really sought — probably because Robert simply wasn’t around to give it. They never talked about it, but John was no idiot; he knew why … and he also knew that Robert gave his approval and full backing when it counted. That was good enough for John; it had to be. And who would complain about an all-expenses paid ride to Princeton, anyway?! His father said he’d earned it, and John agreed. He eagerly looked forward to the fall and the first exploration of campus with his parents, especially since his father had committed to time away from work to see John off to school. But that day never came … at least not for Linda and Robert.
On September 5, 1986, two days before freshman sign-in at Princeton, a Pan American World Airways Boeing 747-121 was hijacked at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. Pan Am Flight 73 had recently arrived from Sahar International Airport in Mumbai, India, with 360 passengers on board — one of which was Robert Storm returning from his most recent ‘company’ effort. Four armed Palestinian men of the Abu Nidal Organization stormed the plane while on the ground in Karachi as it was preparing to depart for Frankfurt International Airport in West Germany, ultimately continuing homeward to JFK International Airport in New York. Seventeen hours after the hijacking commenced, the hijackers opened fire on passengers and planted explosives. Twenty of the passengers were killed during the hijacking, twelve of whom were from India while the rest were from the Pakistan, Mexico, and the United States. Robert was among the U.S. dead; he was 40.
Back in the United States that same day, John came home from the library to find his mother collapsed and cold on the kitchen floor. The house was spotless, as usual … except for the sandwich plate shattered on the floor next to the crumpled body of Linda. There was no sign of break-in, struggle, or theft. The police arrived soon after John called them, readily ruled out foul play, and the coroner attributed Linda’s death to a heart attack. She was 38.
Heartbroken, John applied his father’s wisdom to the situation and prepared to mush on. What else could he do? He had no other family — at least, not that he knew about. Neither of his parents talked of extended family, something so normal for John that he never thought to ask … until now. But there was no one to ask … until a strange, government-looking sedan showed up on the morning of September 6. From it emerged a driver in Army dress uniform who closed his door, opened the one behind his, and snapped to attention; the car was still running. One deliberately placed foot could be seen on the ground, then another, and rising from behind the car door was a fit tower of an older gentleman with four stars on each of his uniform’s shoulder straps that wordlessly projected ‘General’ to anyone he met. More medals and ribbons were pinned on the man’s left breast than John had ever seen on a uniform — in person or in pictures. He held a smartly folded American flag betwixt his white-gloved hands, and he walked purposefully yet reverently for the front door of the house. Full of questions, John opened the front door as the man neared, too overcome by the man, the uniform, the flag, and the loss of his parents … to act. He could do nothing but stand in the threshold and listen as tears ran from both eyes.
The man walked up the stairs and paused before John on the stoop, knelt, and solemnly presented John with the flag. John’s arms reached out and his hands clutched it perfunctorily, his eyes never leaving the hazel-eyed gaze of the man who knelt before him. He began to speak in a hushed, remorseful tone, “John, on behalf of the President of the United States, and the United States Army, it is my high honor to present this flag for the honorable and faithful service of your father … and my son. God, bless you in this difficult time.” He released the flag, rose, took two steps back, and gave a slow, mechanically perfect salute as John stood there, stupefied for the first time in his life.
Burning from John’s core was a molten, volcanic question: “Grandfather??” and almost as if in response, the man explained, “Your father was an heroic man, and your mother a loyal and loving wife. I owe you a debt I can never fully repay, and now our country does, too. We always knew something like this might happen, so we made arrangements — which is where I come in. It’s bad enough that my son saved my life more than once — and much, much worse that I outlived him because of my orders. We were lucky you weren’t home … and are luckier, still, that they didn’t come back looking for you. Come with me, it’s not safe here.” A crisp about-face later, John found himself following the man to the car and into it, with the door closing reassuringly behind.
Once inside with the car moving, the man continued. “I apologize that this morning’s presentation entails the maximum extent of the services we can permit for Robert. Both of your parents deserved better, especially poor Linda; she didn’t sign up for any of this. I don’t expect you to understand now, but you will later.” He paused to let that sink in, and then explained, “Your father’s will was that I handle his affairs should I survive him — including seeing to your needs. Prudence demanded immediate cremation for both of your parents, and it has already been handled, just as will it be for the house in the next few hours. After that you will be all that remains as proof that your parents were ever here. You can never come back to this place; it isn’t ‘home’, anymore. Instead, you will find everything to be in order at Princeton when you arrive, tomorrow, and you must put one foot in front of the other from here, onward, like Robert would have wanted you to do. You have a bright future ahead of you, young man, but in order to see it, I strongly recommend that you promptly adjust your course schedule to add the Princeton ROTC program to your curriculum. Doing so will allow us to see to your needs, safety, and training — all at once. I will also make sure that an account is provided to you to address any future needs you might have. Do you have any questions for me?”
“Us?” John managed.
“The branch of the United States government that your father worked for … and that I work for,” he replied. “We deal with … special situations. Your father was returning from one such situation in India — a successful mission. Clearly someone found out who handled that bit of business and retaliated, which means we’ve got a mole I need to find … and punish severely. I promise you, I will. I also promise that if you follow my suggestion regarding your curriculum … and if you apply yourself diligently to your studies … your eyes will be opened to the way the world really works, and you will not be left staring at the TV screen with bogus coroner’s reports and pre-fabricated lies about hi-jackings to sate your curiosity.”
“Who killed my parents?” John asked.
“I did, John. As I said, it’s all my fault. Robert was the best of us, and our country’s need was urgent, this time, so I gave the order that ultimately sent him to India. It wasn’t my hand that pulled the trigger, but at the end of the day, I am the one responsible for every soldier under my command. So, if you feel the need to blame someone, blame me, and if you need to be angry at someone, be angry at me. I won’t fault you if you do, but I’m pretty sure Linda taught you better than that.”
“She taught me to forgive.” John paused thoughtfully. “You did what you thought was best. You may have given the order, but that doesn’t make it your fault; it simply makes you responsible. You’ve not only accepted that responsibility, but are also living up to whatever promises you made to my father. I could expect or ask for no more. I forgive you,” John finished.
“You’re growing up in an awful hurry, son,” replied General Storm. It was all he could say to try to mask how much he had needed to hear the kid say those words.
“I know,” stated John …. as if in response to both. It left the General a little uneasy…
John Storm finished his undergraduate degree in sociology at Princeton in just under two years, and swore his oath of commission into the United States Army as a 1st Lieutenant on September 5, 1988 — two years to the day after the death of his parents. Thereafter, he made it his mission to assist the United States government with the pursuit of criminal justice by learning to understand the drivers, habits, and minds of criminals such as those who had prematurely taken his parents from him. He continued his studies during his service and, as promised by General Storm, he had a very bright future. By 1991, John had earned a PhD in Sociology from Princeton, the rank of Captain, and a place in the Army JAG Corps. In 1993 he added a PhD in Psychology from Stanford to his curriculum vitae and, soon after in 1995, a PhD in Criminology from the University of Maryland-College Park followed.
On September 6, 2013, at the age of 43 and with 25 years of Army service, 22 years of JAG Corps, and 7 tours of duty (4 in Iraq; 3 in Afghanistan) faithfully given to his country, Colonel John Storm received an aged, sealed envelope addressed to him by name with the current date. Within it, John found a yellowed invitation to join PRIMUS … dated July 4, 1990, and signed by General John Storm, Director of PRIMUS Intelligence. Below his grandfather’s signature were six simple words that read: “Mole KIA – Happy Belated Birthday, John.” It was the first and only time John heard directly from his grandfather since they had met. Electrified and without another stray thought, John filed for retirement from the Army, accepted the invitation, and began to ply his skills for PRIMUS.
Within the last 3 months, PRIMUS’ Sector 17 selected and tested Colonel Storm as a potential candidate for a top secret Cyberline trial, found him suitable, and proceeded with the trial. Within days of the trial’s commencement it was scrubbed, as Storm was exhibiting none of the usual signs of success and the trials cost entirely too much maintain without cause. Post-trial analysis suggested heightened intellect and brain activity were the only effects of the trial — something impossible to verify given Storm’s decades-long history of academic brilliance.