A pretty casual Thursday evening, nothing really special or worthy of remembrance, when Hallard Mitchell Coalston was born in Queens, NY. Just starting with preparations for the upcoming holiday, Hal’s father, Mitchell Coalston rushed his wife to the nearest hospital when Mary’s birth woes announced the imminent arrival of a new human being. Growing up with his older sister Monique, being raised roman catholic his childhood could be described as perfectly sheltered. Though there were ups and downs, but there are barely families in which there are none.
Hal’s appearance changed rather often in his youth. Growing up being a blonde, little overweight kid, his hair color changed rather fast to being brown. Getting into shape after being bullied and lonely in school did not make him belong to the cool kids, as he had hoped, so he gained weight again after a very short time having a healthy BMI. All time of his live Hal dreamt of going to space. Being an astronaut was his biggest wish. Fascinated by the eternal wideness of the skies, he was soaking in everything about astronomy he could find. But Hal’s dreams died with the passing of his father. He fell into a hole, he could not crawl out of and a severe depression lead to laziness in school and bad grades. No college, no space. Life just got meaningless for the teenager, who once wanted to go to the moon and back again.
His resignation papers readily signed in an orderly envelope, Coal’s ringtone pulled him out of his thoughts. “Major Coalston, this is – he forgot the name of the woman on the phone right after she said it – from General Livingston’s office. The General would like to see you to discuss some further procedures…” Great, Hallard thought, he just had finished the paperwork for his resignation and the General wants to talk about his honorable discharge. “Yes Ma’am, please tell the General I am on my way to HQ.” Why the hell did he say Ma’am to the General’s aide? Sometimes his politeness surprised him.
The pouring rain outside painted the base in all shades of black and grey, as he arrived at the office buildings of this mini-city called Fort Bragg. “Go inside, he is already waiting for you, Major!” Coal nodded and smirked a little, while thanking the woman, who must be one, which name he had forgotten this fast. Just after knocking and entering the room at the end of the hall, he pulled the envelope out of his pocket. Some raindrops were scattered all over it, but the wetness did not damage its content. Already on leave the General was greeted via handshake rather than a salute. “General” – “Major Coalston! Have a seat, thanks for making it this fast” As soon as Livingston, had spoken his first few words, all alarm bells in his head went livid. There only could be one reason, he was THIS friendly… Just before General Livingston could continue, Coal interrupted him and handed over the rain sparkled envelope, only stating, this is what we talked about a few weeks ago. “Yes, of course… Let me get this straight forward…” He paused…
“This is Charlie – Zero – Four – Lima… Copy? I repeat, do you read me?” Another hesitant call through the radio, but all that remained was white noise. His old battle buddies were gone and all he could do, was crying in the dark. Sand and dust everywhere, there was no way he would get out of this nightmare.
A loud cough. Soaked in sweat he woke up in total darkness, no sand, no dust. Only the harsh cold wind blowing through every crack of the old wooden shed Coal chose for the night. It took him a while to realize where he was. This is not Afghanistan, not the proclaimed war on terror. It was another hell. The second one he was sent into…
He glanced on his wrist, where he treasured one of the few pieces of technology left. His solar powered ranger watch provided him the intel, he longed for: It was the last days of 2018. One and damn half year had gone by since the world ended. Coal almost lost his faith entirely, when he first saw one of those “things”, that now are as casual as going to the supermarket. With one exception: There are no supermarkets anymore. There is nothing any more that once was civilization. One and a half year, since that rainy July day in North Carolina. Straight Forward – Still hearing those words in his head nearly made him burst out laughing in bitterness. The pressure, god damn the blackmailing by General Livingston. One more tour. No combat. Consultation only. For a limited time, maximum six months. Doing, what Special Forces do best: Guiding and assisting local forces. In Coal’s memory he flipped Livingston the bird and left the base in a hurry. But that was not quite reality. Nearly in a state of trance and before he knew what just had happened, he was boarding a plane with his packed gear instantly after the talking ended.
He shook himself and the memories away and got up from his improvised bed. When in the deepest valley, the only way left is up, so Coal started his day as he always did in the last year. Closing his eyes, he began to whisper:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
People tend to say “it all went so fast” being in overwhelming situations – For Coal it was just literally. No real intel, no information, no follow-up orders was given to the soldiers around Ground Zero. In the few days the world got turned around he had one thought left: Did they contain the spreading? Did they manage to keep it here? Or has the world fallen entirely?
Major Hallard Mitchell Coalston, Operational Detachment Alpha 3211, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, United States Army, service number 71-899-074, is an American soldier born in Queens, New York. He is a polite, well-educated man, who tends to be very shy in situations new to him. By time he can show violent temper. Doing not well (grade-wise) in school and with no real chance to pursue his childhood dream of being an astronaut, he enlisted in the Army (where he was, to his own surprise, chosen to participate in the SF Assessment and Selection – He failed, but found a new “passion” and was selected in his second try for the next phases) and went on multiple tours during the 2nd gulf war. He there had to battle with the loss of his comrades, when one of his own team members went rampage one night at the base, with Coal as only survivor just because he had sleep issues and took a walk outside the barracks. In the following came up psychical issues, which he held to himself and the blame he took on himself for not being able to see the rampage coming and being alive as sole man that night.
Wanting to resign from the Armed Forces, he had to serve one last duty tour to assist the CDF in rebuilding and containing in Chernarus, where he was deployed to Chernogorsk. Other than most of the US and UN forces, his ODA was mainly tasked to consult and advice the locals. After chaos emerged more and more. In the aftermath of the 19th of July attacks and riots and the ultimate retreat of US units Coalston and his ODA where separated from the rest of the allied forces and had to escape inlands wide north. There he and his mates where scattered to the whole country. With no exit left, the only thing for him to do, is trying to find the remains, if anyone survived, of his old team. Therefore, Coal is now trying to head back to Chernogorsk to find clues or even survivors.
And while hope dies last, it someday inevitably will.