Categories > Cartoons > G.I. Joe > Tenderfoot0 Reviews
A collection of ficlets, in chronological order, focusing on Lift Ticket and Lifeline.
Lift Ticket stretched his legs out to make longer strides. He had plenty of time, as he ran, to regret so casually agreeing to Beachhead's offhand suggestion of "a little exercise." It had turned out to be, thus far, a ten-mile combination jog and scramble across rutted paths and over rocks, in full uniform, with a full pack. Lift Ticket liked to think he was in good shape, but there was no way he could have yelled as Beachhead was doing at this point. He'd be lucky to get a hoarse word out, actually.
Lift Ticket was consoled by the fact that he had company in his misery - everyone who had been sitting in the rec room when Beachhead stuck his head in. Mainframe sweated profusely to his left. Scarlett jogged in front of him, and Lift Ticket was not sure he would have gotten as far as he did if he had not had her rear bobbing hypnotizingly in front of him. He knew that Roadblock and Shipwreck were running behind him, and the thought of being trampled by those two if he faltered was equally motivating. He caught flashes of red to his right, and knew that Lifeline was keeping up. He was the only one of the group not carrying a weapon, but he had a medical bag in addition to his backpack; it looked just as heavy as the rifle Lift Ticket was holding, and perhaps even more ungainly.
Beachhead waved them through a gap in a huge pile of rock, then pelted in front of them. Lift Ticket wiped his forehead. He was enjoying the unusual silence, as none of his fellow runners had the breath to say a word, but he was getting very light-headed.
Lift Ticket stumbled to a stop, breathing heavily. He was glad to see that everyone else was in various stages of exhausted panting. Gaping like a bunch of goldfish, he decided - well, except for Beachhead.
That person, looking only slightly winded, stood in front of them, legs spread. "We're gonna have to work on yer fitness, soldiers!" he barked. "Yeh shouldn't be gaspin' like a buncha accordions after a quick little run like that!" He waited for a chorus of wheezy 'Yes sir's before continuing. "We're goin' to play a little war game, now. Y'all had better hope that your strategizin' is better than your runnin'!"
Lift Ticket, feeling better now that he had a few lungfuls of air in him, straightened. War games, eh? That sounded like fun.
"You three," Beachhead said, tossing a red scarf at one side, where Lift Ticket, Lifeline, and Scarlett stood, "will be against you three. Capture-the-flag." He tossed a blue scarf to the other side, where Roadblock, Shipwreck, and Mainframe stood. "I'll give you half an hour to set up and make yer strategy, then it's go get 'em time!" He looked at his watch. "Oh-seven-twenty now; game starts at oh-seven-fifty, and whoever wins drags the losers back here. Hurry up! I don't wanna be here all day!"
Lift Ticket cast a curious glance at the other two members of his team. Lifeline was unlikely to be of much use. Well, of any use at all. Scarlett, however, took immediate action, turning and jogging off into the brush to the left. Lift Ticket and Lifeline followed.
As soon as they were out of hearing range of the other side, Scarlett muttered to the other two, "There's a bluff off in this direction. I thought we stood a good chance of finding a decent cave to hunker in while we hash out our plans."
"Good thought," Lift Ticket replied.
There was indeed a choice of small caves, once they had scratched themselves thoroughly on brambles. They sat in a small, huddled circle inside of one. The floor was reddish dirt, with scrubby brambles making a desperate attempt to grow in it; darker walls arching above to a craggy roof close enough over their heads to bump a man of reasonable height who stood quickly. "Right, what now?" Scarlett asked, pulling out a twig.
Lifeline found another twig and started to sketch a rough diagram of the surroundings on the dirt. "The bluff ends rather abruptly in the direction the others headed. Our best bet is probably to use the terrain to our advantage and do a little reconnaissance." He sketched rapidly in the dirt. "We can sneak to the edge overlooking their area without being seen, if we stay low. I would guess that their strategy is going to be..." Lifeline paused at the looks he was getting. "What?"
"Lifeline, when we were trying to ambush that Cobra camp last week and asked if yeh had any ideas, yeh shrugged and spread yer hands."
"Yes, but you were planning violence. This is just a game."
Lift Ticket noted that Scarlett's expression was a good mirror of the frustration he felt.
They sequestered their flag in an even smaller and more bramble-ridden cave - more of a depression in the rock - then took Lifeline's advice and climbed to the top of the bluff, then shimmied across on their stomachs. The bluff was not high, but it was steep enough to afford a good view of the area.
"There," Scarlett hissed, pointing. Undergrowth moved in two spots, one bigger than the other, tracing a trail. The two spots converged to make one large area of activity.
"There's a little depression in the ground over there." Lifeline pointed. "We could probably sneak right up behind them, if we cut a good way to the east before looping back."
"Which way is east?" Lift Ticket asked, squinting at the clouds and trying to find the sun's glow.
"That way," said Lifeline and Scarlett in unison, pointing in opposite directions.
Once that was straightened out, the trio scuttled backwards until they were well away from the lip of the bluff. They then stood and began to walk down the other side, picking their way through scraggly copses.
"How 'bout you and I go git 'em, and Scarlett looks after the flag?" Lift Ticket asked.
"Scarlett's the fastest of us," Lifeline objected.
"Actually, Lifeline and I are both faster than you," Scarlett interjected. "Why don't you guard the flag, and he and I..."
Lift Ticket did not let her finish. "You must be kiddin'. No way am I gonna sit on my duff while you two..." He did not get far in his rant, however, before stumbling to a halt, verbally and physically. Lifeline and Scarlett did, as well. The clear signs of a very rough camp stood in front of them. A circle of rocks surrounded a cold fire pit, and rucksacks sat in a haphazard circle around it.
Scarlett poked one of the sacks with her toe. "Campers?" She knelt and started to unfasten the buckles on it.
"Maybe it's part of the game," Lift Ticket said. "Yeh know, Beachhead and a few of the other higher rank muckymucks pretendin' to be Cobras or the like, and leavin'..." Lifeline put one arm over his shoulders and one hand over his mouth. He glared and bit Lifeline's hand, but then heard what the other man must have - the crunch crunch of footsteps. Scarlett heard it, too; she froze, her head cocked.
Zartan walked into the clearing, whistling and fastening his fly. He froze when he saw the trio in the clearing, and for roughly one second, the four stared at each other, forming an odd tableaux.
Lift Ticket thawed first; he saw the potential for mayhem and liked it. He tackled Zartan with a roar; the other man, taken by surprise, went down with a whump of displaced air. But he did not stay frozen for long; he started to scrabble at Lift Ticket's hands and twisted his leg to try to pin Lift Ticket's. They wrestled on the ground, rolling and getting twigs in all kinds of uncomfortable places.
Zartan suddenly went limp. Lift Ticket raised himself up with a yell, ready to punch Zartan's lights out - and the yell caught in his throat as a rifle tapped his temple. A blue-clad Cobra stood behind it.
Lift Ticket stood, slowly, and stepped back with his arms half-raised. The Cobra kept his rife steady. Two steps saw Lift Ticket standing next to Lifeline and Scarlett, facing a circle of well-armed Cobras. "Oh, hell," he muttered.
"Pithy," Lifeline replied.
Zartan stood, brushing ochre-orange dirt and dry twigs off of himself. "Well, well," he said, his voice condescendingly threatening. "What have we here? I was waiting for a few Joes to leave the base, but I wasn't expecting them to walk right into my camp. How considerate of you!"
Two Cobras covered the trio with their rifles while the other three snapped handcuffs on them and kicked their legs out from under them, leaving them sitting in an ignoble pile. At a word from Zartan, two of the three started to remove Lift Ticket's uniform. He was not pleased with this development. He kicked and yelled until one of the two covering him tapped him gently on the small of the back with his rifle butt, and he quieted down somewhat. "I'm not that type of boy," he muttered, wishing for a chiropractor.
"Sorry," Zartan said, sounding anything but sorry, "but I think yours is the only one that will fit." He put on the uniform, then settled down with a small makeup kit that he pulled out of the bag.
"I don't look a thing like that," Lift Ticket muttered when he viewed the result. "He looks like my Aunt Belle." Lifeline commented that it looked exactly like him, which he did not need to hear.
Zartan walked off, leaving the five guards to sit and watch the three Joes. Lift Ticket tried to pull his hands out of the handcuffs, but they were securely fastened, and he only succeeded in scraping his wrists and jerking around on the ground. Scarlett, hearing the commotion, flopped her head on Lifeline's lap to get a good view of where Lift Ticket was scuffling around in his underwear.
"Shall I switch with you?" Lifeline asked.
"No, I'm rather liking this seat," she replied with a smile.
"Do either of you have any good ideas?" Lift Ticket growled, feeling himself blush.
"Plenty, but none that relate to our situation," Lifeline replied.
"I could pick the cuffs with one of my hairpins," Scarlett said, very quietly, "but we'll have to figure out a way to get the guards' attention off of us, first."
"The other Joes should still be looking for us as part of that game," Lifeline replied, equally quietly. "If we could signal to them..."
Lift Ticket sat up, turning his head to join in the quiet conversation. "You know, I've been chattin' with Roadblock in my spare time. We came up with this signal system that we thought we might use some time when we're close but can't see each other, like when we were on that island base. The signal for danger is hootin' like an owl."
"Well, do it, then!" Scarlett hissed.
Lift Ticket hooted. "Well, they'll know that's a signal," Lifeline muttered. "They'd never mistake it for an actual owl."
One of the guards walked over and kicked Lifeline in the side. "Stop mucking around!" he growled. "Sit tight and shut up, or we'll shut you up." He walked back to where the other guards sat.
The leaves in the copse behind them rustled. Roadblock's unmistakable baritone sounded. "Hey, dudes! Great new look for you, Lift Ticket."
"Stop being a smartass and help us out, wouldja?"
"No problem," Roadblock replied. They heard another rustle that diminished with distance, and then three bodies jumped into the clearing from three sides with a loud yell of "Yo Joe!" The guards, startled, were no match for the newcomers, and were quickly (and none too gently) disarmed.
The six Joes used the guards' own cuffs on them, confiscated their satchels and rifles, and Roadblock set the startled, dirty, and rather sore guards to a quick march towards the rendezvous, calling out a cadence that was quite rapid and mildly obscene.
Beachhead startled was not something that Lift Ticket expected to see rather often, so he relished the quick leap to a standing position and the wide-eyed stare for just a moment. A moment was all he had, as Beachhead's eyes rapidly narrows and he stuck his hands on his hips. "What's all this?"
"Good enough wargaming for you?" Mainframe asked with a bright smile.
The story was told in about three different versions from six different throats, but Beachhead finally got the gist. He called back into base and warned them to take the disguised Zartan into custody when he tried to enter the base. "Right," he said, once that order of business was taken care of. "Before we march these fellows back, /you/," he pointed at Lifeline, "tell me what you were doing up there in the first place. I'm still not quite clear on that, yeah?"
"Well," Lifeline replied, in his usual quiet and unassuming manner, "I thought that we could get a good view of the other side from the top of the bluff, and scope out both their base and the terrain."
"It was a good idea," Beachhead replied, "except that all three of ya went up. Ya never can assume that the enemy that you know is there is the only one that's going to be there. Always keep a force in reserve; don't scout with all you got. Right?"
"Good point," Lifeline said, and then added with a slight smile, "but I don't really want to get good at this."
Lift Ticket sighed and buried his face in his right palm.