Categories > Cartoons > G.I. Joe > Tenderfoot0 Reviews
A collection of ficlets, in chronological order, focusing on Lift Ticket and Lifeline.
A fourth headed for Lifeline. He noted that one of the Dreadnoks, the one with the screeching voice, was getting to his feet, shaking his head as if dazed. Lifeline ducked and swerved to avoid the BAT's shots, and weaved his way over to the bank of the river to put the Dreadnok between himself and the BAT. The BAT attempted to climb over the Dreadnok, and the man took offense. "Oi!" he yelped. "Yeh silicone twit!" He grabbed the BAT and threw it to the ground. He then picked it up and threw it - directly at him, Lifeline realized belatedly. He dove, but a metal fist caught his boot, the robot's momentum carrying them both into the river.
The water was /cold/, and Lifeline resisted the urge to gasp as he plunged in. The BAT was heavy, and they both sank far too swiftly as Lifeline tried to kick himself away from the BAT. The water did the damaged android no good, and it fizzled and sparked for a moment before falling dead. But its grip on Lifeline's boot did not slacken, and they both hit the river bottom with a soft thud.
Lifeline had not been prepared to go under, and his lungs were demanding air. He pulled out his knife and cut his boot, yanking and tugging at it until he managed to get it, and the artificial hand holding it, to scrape off of his foot. He quickly kicked off his other boot and cut off his belt and his helmet, then ripped off his jacket, letting it take his backpack with it. Lightened, he swam towards what he hoped was the surface. No, the BAT had carried air in nooks and crannies, and he could follow the bubbles; he straightened out his decidedly sideways aim and headed upwards. He swam, his torso screaming breathe! The surface seemed impossibly far; every stroke was the one he was sure would bring him into air, but the water seemed unending. He gasped in a breath of water involuntarily, choked, hacked in another half-breath, and then, with enormous relief, broke through the surface. Air! He tried to pull it into his lungs, but he had taken in too much water; he grabbed for the nearest solid object, coughing.
A hand grabbed his arm, and he was hauled out of the water to sprawl face-first on metal. A boot kicked his back, and he vomited water with relief, sucking in a few good lungfuls of air. Cognizance returned, and he realized with a sinking feeling in his viscera that no Joe vehicles had metal decking like what he lay upon. He started to stand, but the boot kicked him over onto his back and landed forcefully on his throat. He struggled fruitlessly as Zartan leered down at him. "Well, look what we have /here/," the mercenary purred.
"What is it, sir?" a male voice asked.
Zartan looked at the speaker - a Viper, as he came into Lifeline's field of vision. "It's a Joe, you git," Zartan snarled. He looked back down at Lifeline. "What's your name, boy? How many of you are here?"
Lifeline saw no reason to answer. Zartan frowned.
"Should I shoot him?" the Viper asked, kicking Lifeline.
"I think Cobra Commander will pay more for him /alive/," Zartan replied, looking aggravated. "We don't have time for this. Truss him up. We will take him back after we've placed the laser. And," he raised his voice, "keep your eyes /open/, you lumps. There are bound to be more about. Something tells me the Dreadnok advance squad hasn't done much," he added in a growl.
The Viper handcuffed Lifeline to what looked like an unused weapon mount, frisked him, then stood off to the side, rifle at ready. Lifeline looked around. He was on a small riverboat, but one that was armored; armed, as well, with a few tripod-mounted heavy guns. Zartan was without his Dreadnoks; six Vipers appeared to be the ship's whole complement. Two of them were guarding a thick, squat cylinder with a ball-jointed nozzle set in the top center. That must be the laser Zartan was talking about, Lifeline thought, then shivered as a chill wind blew over him. The remnants of his uniform would not be warm enough for the weather even if they weren't sopping wet; as it was, the metal decking sucked away what heat the wind did not.
It had been too hopeful to expect that the mission would be just plain /boring/, he thought ruefully.
Lift Ticket shot the chest panel out of another BAT, and it dropped. He looked around in time to see Roadblock dismantle the second of the two he had taken on. "That'll invalidate the warranty, ya know," Lift Ticket called over, then looked around.
"Where's Lifeline?" Roadblock asked, frowning, as he tossed aside an arm.
"Just what I was wonderin'," Lift Ticket muttered, feeling a sinking sensation. Four destroyed BATs, three groaning Dreadnoks, and no medic.
"Weren't there /five/?" Roadblock asked, rubbing his neck. "I got two, you got two."
"The last one musta taken him," Lift Ticket replied, frowned, and finished, lamely, "somewhere." He jogged quickly around the perimeter of the small depression. "I don't see any footprints. I'd think they'd last some, in this muck."
"I have other ways of trackin'," Roadblock said, then reached down and picked up the head of one of the Dreadnoks by his hair. The man, who had been clutching his back, shivered and groaned. Lift Ticket stepped back and crossed his arms, watching. "You gonna tell me where the main group is?" Roadblock asked, sweetly.
The man looked up at Roadblock groggily. "I dunno," he asked, "are yeh gonna make it worth my while, mate?"
Roadblock stood, still holding the man's hair tightly. The Dreadnok ended up on his feet, then his tiptoes, yelping. "Oi! Ow! Stoppit, mate, stoppit!" he howled.
"I got a reeeal good offer for you," Roadblock said, shaking his finger in the man's face. "I won't scalp you and throw you in the river. How's that?" He shook the man for punctuation, and the Dreadnok danced around on his tiptoes, screeching.
"Righ'! Righ'! Over there!" He pointed, his finger wavering. "On the river, upstream a bit! We was supposeta scout ahead for Zartan. That's all I know, really!"
"Thanks. You've been a help." Roadblock punched the Dreadnok gently in the face, then dropped the newly unconscious man. "You up for puttin' the brakes on a couple of snakes?"
"I'm way aheada ya," Lift Ticket replied. He turned and started to work his way through the trees in the direction the Dreadnok had pointed. Little claws of guilt were starting to scrabble at his insides. If he hadn't been so gung-ho on the idea, would Roadblock have... Lift Ticket clamped down on that line of thought. 'If's in the past never got anyone anywhere. It was done, and they'd deal with things as they stood. Which meant finding Lifeline.
They had not gone far before finding another clearing upriver. They heard activity far before they actually came across it, so they were crawling low in the grass when they emerged from the trees and peeked into the Cobra camp. Four Vipers were escorting a large metal object down the ramp of a beached boat, harangued by Zartan. Curses and directions floated on the air, and the Vipers were looking decidedly sick of hauling what appeared to be a very heavy metal cylinder to the tune of Zartan's gratuitous verbal abuse.
"There's the camp," Roadblock muttered, unnecessarily.
"And there's Lifeline," Lift Ticket replied, noting a figure chained to an unused turret on the boat. "Lessee - you can whistle at Zartan, and I'll sneak up and hit him over the head with my change purse..."
"Stop bein' a smartass. That's my job," Roadblock replied. "You think you can take a few of those?"
"Two or three, yeah. Not six."
"Hang tight, man. I've gotta plan. Wait here." Roadblock shimmied back until he was safely concealed by flora, and then stood and trotted away. Lift Ticket waited, squishing uncomfortably in the wet grass. The Vipers finally brought the lump of metal into a location that seemed to satisfy Zartan; he yelled for them to stop, and then ordered them to dismantle the castors it rested on and remove the bits of rope they had been using to guide it. This went with all of the smooth efficiency that Lift Ticket had seen them use when bringing the thing down off of the boat - very little. One of the castors came off too quickly, causing the metal thing to tip to one side with a splat.
Zartan ran to that side and began to yell at the Viper, speculating on his pedigree. He had not gotten very far, however, before something flew into the clearing, hissing as white gas billowed from it. "Grenade!" one Viper yelled, before he bent over and started coughing.
"Stand your ground!" Zartan yelled, dancing out of the range of the gas. "One of you, guard the laser! The rest with me!" They ran off in the direction the grenade had come from, the one who had gotten a lungful of gas staggering behind.
Lift Ticket took a few deep breaths in case the wind was unkind, and ran towards the boat, crouched over. The guard at the laser was facing the direction the others had run, and paid no attention to him; the guard on the boat had no time to speak before Lift Ticket hit him on the head with the butt of his sidearm. Lift Ticket grabbed the Viper and lowered him to the deck gently to avoid a noisy fall, then scurried over to Lifeline. The medic was slumped against the turret, his head hanging, black hair hiding his face. "Hey, bud," he hissed, but Lifeline did not respond.
Lift Ticket regarded the handcuffs in frustration for a moment. It would be fastest to shoot them off, he fumed, but the guard on the ground would most definitely hear that/. Fortunately, the Cobras took that moment to start to shoot at something in the woods - not Roadblock, Lift Ticket hoped, as he stepped back and shot the connecting chain off of the handcuffs, the noise nicely covered by the Cobra's guns. He grabbed Lifeline. The man's chest was cool and clammy, but Lift Ticket filed that under Things To Worry About Later, and hoisted the man over his shoulder. He clanged his way down the ramp, all pretense of skulk put aside once he was moving, and shot at the Viper on the ground. He did not even try to aim; he was not shooting to hit, just to get the man /out of his way. In that, he succeeded; the Viper dove behind the laser, and Lift Ticket ran back out of the clearing and into the cover of the trees.
Roadblock was waiting for him. "I lead 'em on a merry chase. They're still foolin' around in the other direction. You got him?"
Lift Ticket lowered Lifeline to the ground, the cuffs on his wrists jangling dully. The man had hung off of his shoulder like a sack of wheat for the short rescue dash, and was not showing much more enthusiasm as he lay on the ground. Lift Ticket frowned and put his fingers on the medic's neck. His pulse was steady, but strikingly slow.
"He all right?" Roadblock asked, frowning.
Lift Ticket started to scratch his head. His fingers scraped over his helmet, so he scratched his neck, instead. "Hypothermia - I /think/." He tried to recall his first-aid training. He had spent most of it trying to get a date with the slender blonde girl in his class; he had figured that in any missions, it would be his job to fly, and the medic's job to take care of any health complications. He vaguely remembered something about frostbite, and hadn't there been something about hypothermia afterwards? But no, he had definitely been paying more attention to her chest in that section of the class. What was her name again?
"Well," Roadblock said, after watching what must have been an impressive array of expressions cross Lift Ticket's face, "I happen to know a good medic." He leaned over and tapped Lifeline's cheek, very gently. The man mumbled something. "Hey," Roadblock said. "What do you do for hypothermia?"
"Raise core temp," he mumbled, his eyes closed. "Minimize airway heat loss with artificial respiration. Apologize to victim's spouse when necessary."
Lift Ticket and Roadblock exchanged a look. "We're in the wrong business," Lift Ticket said.
Roadblock had knocked out one of the pursuing Vipers; he circled back and grabbed the pilot's jacket. Lift Ticket replaced Lifeline's damp undershirt with it, and by way of compromise, carried the medic with his head in Lift Ticket's neck. They hurried back to the Tomahawk, giving a wide berth to Zartan's clearing. He was bellowing about the loss of his prisoner loudly enough to be heard in the next zip code, Lift Ticket thought derisively.
Lifeline had recovered enough to elbow Lift Ticket in the ribs and demand to be set down by the time they reached the Tomahawk. Beachhead and Mainframe were already there - the latter smug, the former irate. "Where in hell you boys been?" Beachhead hissed, then looked at Lifeline. "Clothes-shoppin'?"
"What, it's not me?" Lifeline asked, shivering slightly.
Beachhead rolled his eyes. "Get in. We gotta leg it. Cobra's got somethin' big goin' on, and we need to get word back to base."
They all boarded the craft. "What've the snakes got that makes you all hot?" Roadblock asked as he started to strap in.
"A computer-controlled network of lasers!" Mainframe said excitedly, leaning on Roadblock's seat and speaking over Beachhead. "They'll be set at strategic points along the globe, and Cobra will be able to shoot down any satellite from any orbit. If their computers weren't such crap," he sniffed, "they'd be able to shoot down just about any craft bigger'n a good-sized pigeon."
"Thank you, professah," Beachhead sighed. He glared in the approximate direction of the Cobra base. "We'll have to find some way to shut this down before it's operational. And according to the data Mainframe pulled, they already have a prototype hooked to the computer and ready to deploy."
Roadblock, Lifeline, and Lift Ticket gave thee subtle variations on "Erm."
Beachhead turned to them. "Yeh have somethin' to add, gentlemen?"
"Right," Beachhead said to Lift Ticket, after a very hasty war council held just outside of the Tomahawk. "Roadblock and I will take out that laser. You go warm this baby up. We won't have a big window to get outta here after we take that thing out!"
Roadblock stepped back out of the Tomahawk. Additional grenades dangled from his belt, and he carried a distinctive gun on a sling. Lift Ticket raised an eyebrow. "Is that a Bren gun?"
"Old Reliable, she is," Roadblock said with a broad grin, hefting it. He and Beachhead nodded at each other, then ran back into the woods.
Lift Ticket shook his head and walked back into the Tomahawk. Mainframe was talking and gesturing with great excitement. "And the encryption! Rank amateurs. I slipped right in there, smoother than good Jamaican rum..." Lifeline, still wearing the Viper jacket and looking quite bedraggled, looked up at Lift Ticket beseechingly.
"Strap in!" Lift Ticket sang, walking into the cockpit. "Get up here, Lifeline! I'm takin' off as soon as those two set foot inside." He started the engines, and the rotors slowly purred up to the steady, thrumming whup-whup that Lift Ticket found so soothing.
Lifeline ducked into the cockpit and strapped into the co-pilot's seat. "Hey," he said, almost too quietly to be heard over the engines, "thank you for saving me."
Lift Ticket swallowed and shifted. "Well, I figgered it was kinda my fault that you got captured and all, so I..."
"No," Lifeline interrupted. He jerked his head in the direction of the passenger compartment. "From /that/."
"Oh. Yeah." Lift Ticket heard an explosion in the distance, and watched smoke rise from the trees. "Any time."
Lift Ticket stood at attention. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that Roadblock was similarly at attention, looking as professionally deferential as Lift Ticket hoped he did. He wasn't exactly enjoying his chewing-out, but he could hardly argue that he didn't deserve one.
"Unprofessional, impulsive, utterly thoughtless." Duke hit the desk with the palm of his hand. "Utterly unworthy of Joes, and I never, ever want to hear of you doing anything vaguely like that again. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yessir!" Lift Ticket said, hearing the same thing from his right from Roadblock.
"Right. Now that that's done..." Duke stood and walked in front of his desk. "I can't deny that it turned out rather well. You got the information needed to stop Cobra's project in its tracks, and acted on it. For that, well done. But if you ever horse around like that again - you'd better bring me back Serpentor's head on a platter, or not come back at all."
"Yessir," they both repeated.
"Good. Dismissed." Lift Ticket thought he saw Duke wink, but - no. He left the room with Roadblock, and puffed out a deep breath as they closed the door behind them and headed down the corridor.
"Eh. Can't say as I enjoyed that one much," he muttered. "Bitched out after one of my first major assignments here."
Roadblock threw back his head and laughed, a hearty sound that bounced far down the corridor. He slapped Lift Ticket on the back. "Trust me, man. That wasn't bad." He shook his head. "I think he likes you." He chuckled all of the way to the rec room.