Follow the adventures and misadventures of one of the Original 13 Joes, as he contemplates the end of his career and searches for love. Watch out for action, because Cobra can strike at any time!
G.I. Joe, and all names and trademarks associated thereof, are the property of Hasbro International, Inc, Marvel Comics and Devil's Due Comics. Any other trademarks or service marks mentioned herein are the property of their respective companies. No infringement of any existing copyright is intended.
This is entirely a work of fiction, although some information is based on fact. I derive no income from producing this work, but please credit me if you reproduce or retransmit this material in whole or in part. All original material in this work is mine, all mine, and I will hunt down anyone who steals it!
'At the Java Joint'
45 Wall Street, New York City
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
08:00 hours, local time
The lines in the small hole-in-the-wall Starbucks Coffee location in downtown Manhattan were already growing long as the early morning crowd scrambled to get their morning fix of java before they were late for work. Despite the usual hustle and bustle normally associated with New Yorkers in the busy time of the morning, many of them paused an extra heartbeat when a U.S. Army M-1114 Armored Hummer pulled up to a curbside parking space behind a pair of NYPD radio motor patrol cars.
Patrons and soon-to-be customers alike glanced nervously out the large picture window at the front of the coffee house, wondering what the military vehicle was out and about for. Most of the people understood that because of Fleet Week, there were a lot more military types than usual around lower Manhattan, especially with people visiting Ground Zero and the local politicos making their speeches about the armed forces. But, seeing a fully armed and combat-ready vehicle was guaranteed to generate at least a few stares and hushed whispers of gossip among onlookers as to its purpose.
Two soldiers dressed in brand new, crisply-starched, camouflage battle dress utilities and carrying loaded M-16 rifles dismounted from the Hummer, discussing the topic of the moment in a very animated manner, gesturing and pointing to their environs before the taller, blond man shook his head and walked towards the Starbucks, soon to be followed by the dark-haired and thickly-bearded driver. The coffee house almost fell dead silent when the two soldiers entered the shop and joined the ordering line.
"Come on, Steeler, let's just hit a diner over on Tenth Avenue, like the one up in the forties that Back-Blast recommended," Clutch, the bearded soldier, insisted. "You can spend half of our weekly base pay just for a teeny dose of lifer's juice at a joint like this."
"We're already here, and I can't wait any longer," Steeler, the blond soldier, replied. "Your decision to take the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel during rush hour got us into this mess to begin with, or did you forget already, you grease monkey?"
Clutch tugged at his full beard and shrugged. "I thought we'd catch a break, seeing as how we cruise around in Uncle Sugar's best wheels out there! How was I supposed to know nobody would clear the way?"
"You're used to racing on the NASCAR circuit and doing eighty-five on the Jersey Turnpike, Clutch," Steeler replied, nudging the light vehicle driver in the ribs. "Where is bumper to bumper traffic gonna go when we need to get by? They can't very well go swimming in the river or take a powder on the foot-wide shoulder just so you can go ripping by, can they?"
The bearded man shook his head. "Oh well," Clutch said with a shrug. "I'm going to visit the can while you figure out what kind of snot-nose java you're having. Don't forget, we need to be at the Empire State Building by ten-hundred to meet Duke and Grunt for that security training seminar." The Marine Sergeant shifted his M-16A2 assault rifle, which was slung over his shoulder, and trudged off to find the men's room.
The initial silence had subsided and soon the Starbucks was buzzing again. The line cleared rather quickly, and Steeler settled onto a bar stool that had been left vacant by a previous customer. He sipped at his Mocha Grande, spinning one of three almond-flavored biscotti that he purchased around lazily on the polished countertop while he waited for Clutch to come back.
Murmuring customers came and went rapidly, eager to attack the challenges of their business day, or off to attend to their routines or errands. Steeler paid them little attention, aside from an occasional casual wave at a smiling child who wanted to admire his assault rifle before a doting mother would haul the kid off with a small admonition to stay away from guns. Clutch was taking his sweet time, and the biscotti supply was slowly dwindling.
Unexpectedly, Steeler felt a soft touch on his left shoulder and almost jumped out of his skin, despite his still expecting Clutch to leave the lavatory. The voice attached to the touch was soft and sensual, oozing with a sense of sophistication. "Excuse me, soldier. Is this stool taken?"
Steeler's head turned slowly and his eyes traced a route from the floor up. In the space of a few heartbeats, he took in the lady's stylish black leather pumps, sheer stockings that covered long, shapely legs, and her fashion-savvy work ensemble. Her face was long and conservatively made up, not that she really needed much to enhance her natural beauty. "Please feel free," Steeler replied. "My buddy doesn't seem to want it right now."
"Thanks," the lady said, pulling back the stool and hoisting herself onto it. Steeler, always the gentleman, slid from his own stool to make sure she was safely on hers before getting back to his coffee sipping and playing with the biscotti, now reduced to a few small chunks and lots of crumbs.
The lady regarded Steeler intently with her steely blue eyes, trying to get a measure of the man sitting beside her. "I've seen a lot of soldiers and sailors in my day, but I'm not sure I recognize what you have on your collar," she said, making small talk while she blew on the steam rising off her coffee cup. "Are you a colonel or general or something?"
Steeler's lips cracked into a slight smile. "You're close. I'm actually a Major. Colonels and generals are still higher than me." He turned his head to see that she was studying him. "My name is Pulaski. Major Ralph Pulaski."
Her soft, red lipstick-coated lips parted in a warm smile. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Lisa, Lisa Underwood. I work as an advertising executive over at Citibank on Wall Street. What post are you from?"
Steeler's gaze went sheepishly back to the biscotti crumbs, as he was abundantly aware that his eyes had become locked on the low-cut blouse Lisa was wearing and he was admiring her tangible assets. Hoping that she didn't notice, he mumbled in reply, "I'm in transition right now."
Lisa was struck for a second that Steeler might have much more on his mind than the conversation at hand, especially when she rested her hand on the counter and squeezed her arms together to make her cleavage stand out a bit more. "Come on, Major Pulaski. I don't bite. There's nothing wrong with talking over coffee."
Steeler noticed what the flirtatious lady was doing in his peripheral vision. "I'm sorry. My assignment is on my mind today. I'm posted in Brooklyn right now, at Fort Hamilton. But I was just moved here from Ohio."
"You don't look like a medical officer or a doctor, Major," Lisa said. "My dad was a career Army Reservist at Fort Hamilton before he died. Are you with the 44th Medical Brigade?"
"I'm not a Medical Corps soldier, ma'am," Steeler replied, taking a swig of his coffee and spotting Clutch in the corner of his eye ducking out a side entrance and running back to the Hummer to retrieve a large mess hall Thermos full of "bug juice", a favorite drink of the infantry and naval pilots, which was just powdered Grape Kool-Aid and water. "I'm an Armor officer. I command tanks."
Lisa laughed and her eyes and cheeks shone brightly when she smiled. "Then the Army posted you to one helluva job. I know for a fact they don't base tanks at Fort Hamilton."
"You're right, they don't," Steeler lied, knowing full well that his personal mount, an XM-60A5 'MOBAT', was housed in his outfit's underground vehicle garage there. "I just live in the officers' quarters right now. I'm really here to work with the government authorities to train their police on security measures."
After the words came out of his mouth, Steeler was ready to kick himself. He wasn't supposed to reveal the fact that G.I. Joe had a unit in New York, never mind what the team's mission was during Fleet Week or at any time.
Lisa seemed even more interested in Steeler's answer and leaned closer. Steeler's nostrils could detect the slight flowery scent of a high-priced perfume sprayed on her neck. "What does a guy who drives fifty tons of steel around know about security?"
Steeler groaned softly to himself. Now he had done it. "I wasn't asked to do the security stuff because I drive tanks," he said. "I was also an artilleryman back before I attended OCS, and I know a few things about munitions." Although he was being truthful about himself, he hoped that the lie would stick and Lisa would drop the subject rather than probe for more details.
Lisa was more street savvy than Steeler realized, and being in the ad business, she had an idea how people ticked. She knew there was something about the Major that didn't stick, and that it might be more intelligent to let it go for the time being. To change the subject, Lisa glanced at a discarded copy of New York Newsday. "I guess you're something of a minority in town, what with the hordes of sailors running around here, huh?"
Steeler had set himself to gathering up the remains of his biscotti so that he would be able to focus on keeping his mouth shut. He mumbled an unintelligible response and nodded in the affirmative. Glancing about, he noticed that Clutch was standing on the sidewalk next to the Hummer with hands on hips, trying to admire the female passers-by. His posture and expression gave away the fact that the Marine was getting antsy.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," Steeler said, dumping his last crumbs into a napkin and balling it up to stuff the contents neatly into his empty coffee cup. "We need to be off, and I see my partner in crime outside."
Lisa had her small purse opened with lightning speed. She fished around for a moment as she asked for Steeler to hold on for a second. Digging out a pen and one of her business cards, she scrawled her home phone number on the back and handed it to the major. "Feel free to call me any time. I'd like to talk more about the Army. It was really nice to meet you!"
Steeler accepted the card and put it into one of his shirt pockets. He extended his hand briefly to shake Lisa's and replied, "Pleasure to meet you too, ma'am."
A few minutes later, Clutch and Steeler were working their way uptown through the snarl of New York motor vehicle traffic, when Clutch looked over to Steeler. The major was sitting quietly in his seat, looking out the window at the passing crowds, honking taxis and groups of sailors taking in the city from the paved sidewalks.
"Hey, Major," Clutch said, giving Steeler a knowing look and curving his lips into a shit-eating grin. "That was some hot chick sitting next to you in the Starbucks. You're one lucky devil, man." Steeler didn't appear to respond, so Clutch began fantasizing out loud. "Oh, yeah... I'll bet she has legs that go all the way, baby. Mmm hmm. The things I could do with that tight little body of hers... We could play a little game of 'Twister-in-the-sack'... She was like an all-day sucker that you can just lick and lick..."
"CLUTCH!" Steeler snapped angrily. "Shut your fucking pie hole, you sick bastard! Show some respect for the lady, God dammit! Watch the fucking road, Marine!"
Clutch's face took on a look like he was a hurt puppy dog. "Sorry, Steeler. I didn't mean nuthin' by it. I didn't know you were in love with her." The hurt puppy look quickly grew into a lecherous sneer. "That's my boy Steeler! First day in town from Joe Headquarters and already you're making points with the local color!"
"Just shut the fuck up and drive, will you?" Steeler swore in a low tone. "Let's get to this security thing and get it over with. I owe my mother in Pittsburgh a call later."
Clutch held tenaciously onto the subject of Steeler's new acquaintance. "I was only kidding with ya, Steeler. If I wasn't so committed to my own motor pool sweetheart, I would've tried to horn in on you in an instant!"
Steeler groaned loudly, partly in frustration that Clutch wasn't shutting his loud mouth, and partly because of the references to Cover Girl he kept on using. "Listen, Clutch. Cover Girl never had time for you, and never liked you. She's not even posted to the New York outfit right now."
"I know deep down inside, she wants a rugged strapping sex machine like me to make her a satisfied woman," Clutch said with a laugh. "I just have to keep up the pressure and she'll give me the big reward."
"How little you know, Clutch," Steeler replied. "When the team was broken up, Cover Girl re-classified at Fort Huachuca and stayed in the Army. General Hawk gave her a recommendation for Military Intel and she got through the school hands-down. She isn't grease monkeying anymore."
"I always knew she was a classy chick," Clutch said. "I can't wait to get back to Wright-Patterson so I can find her and give her some real hearty personal congratulations!"
Steeler was really frustrated at Clutch. He realized that grease monkeys were a breed all their own, and that a lot of the Joe men especially were rough around the edges. But the time spent in sensitivity and gender training with the Army got him motivated to not accept any forms of harassment that he could control. The female members of the Joe Team had enough trouble with Cobra. "Clutch, for the last time," Steeler said angrily. "Just get off the topic of Cover Girl, shut the fuck up and drive this Hummer, or else the first thing I'm doing when we see Duke is putting your stupid ass on report! You'd be lucky if Duke doesn't have you personally scrub down the U.S.S. Intrepid from stem to stern for this weekend's Memorial Day festivities with your favorite toothbrush!"
"I guess you really missed being in charge of us in the motor pool, eh, Steeler?" Clutch said, changing the subject of discussion. "Lieutenant Crecelius... er... Thunderwing is doing a bang-up job running the show down there now..."
"CLUTCH, WILL YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP UNTIL WE GET THERE!?!" Steeler yelled, finally reaching his tolerance point with the Marine.
Clutch sighed and tightened his grip on the Hummer's steering wheel. "Yes, sir, Major Steeler. Sorry, sir," he mumbled.
Wall Street, New York City
08:30 hours, local time
The Personal Accounts Marketing department was abuzz with good news when Lisa finally stepped off the elevator and marched along the hallway to her corner office. Her personal assistant, a lithe and well-toned redhead named Patricia Moore, had been in the office since 7:15, taking the time before her boss arrived to study up on the marketing courses she was taking at a New York University night school program.
Nodding and greeting her coworkers and fellow Marketing Executives along the hallway, Lisa approached Patricia's desk and caught the young woman's sunny smile as she looked up. "Good morning, Patricia," Lisa said. "What's all the excitement about today?"
"Good morning, Lisa," Patricia said with a smile, looking up from her textbooks. "The ad agency you went with struck it big with that television campaign you worked on with them." Patricia spoke excitedly, a broad smile fixed on her pouty lips. "The 'Live Richly' campaign kicked off on TV commercials this week, and the word from the top is the big bosses really like it!"
"That's great news!" Lisa said, walking past Patricia's desk and entering her office. She set her briefcase down beside her desk and called out into the main space. "Patricia, what's the day looking like for me?"
Patricia got up from her office chair and smoothed her form-fitting mini skirt, carrying a neatly-kept, leather-bound Franklin-Covey organizer into Lisa's office. "Not much today, Lisa. You have a couple of mandatory department meetings with the other marketing execs in the afternoon, and Mike Jeffries asked me to see if you'd be willing to visit a licensing expo at the Empire State Building around ten-thirty. He's too busy to go himself today. You don't have to sign any deals; Mike just wants a body from our department to go look around the displays. Dave Hamilton in Partnership Marketing is going there with you to look for some opportunities."
"Dave Hamilton... Ugh," Lisa groaned at Patricia's mention of the Partnership Executive's name. "He tried to get me to go for a quick grope-and-bang in a hotel room at the Plaza when we had the Marketing Division Christmas party. That guy's a slime ball, but you can tell Mike I'll go in his place. I feel like I could use some outside time today."
Patricia closed the organizer and pressed the snap closure into place before settling into one of Lisa's chairs and crossing her legs. "You look like you're having a great morning. It's going to be in the fifties by ten o'clock. You might as well take advantage of it."
The assistant studied her boss for a moment, as Lisa started thinking about her introductions to Steeler in the coffee house. She thought she had instant chemistry with the major and really hoped he would feel the same way. She fell silent as her thoughts began to wander.
"Lisa? Are you okay?" Patricia asked, her smile turning down at the edges.
Lisa snapped back into reality. "Fine... I'm fine, Patricia. I just met someone this morning at the Starbucks that I thought I'd like to get to know. I feel kind of silly in retrospect. I gave him my phone number on the back of one of my business cards. Is that tacky?"
"Nah," Patricia said with a smile. "It's the new millennium. People are seeing the world in a new light. If you ask me, I say you go, girl! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Was he a hottie?"
Lisa giggled a bit. "Was he? Oh, God, Patricia. This guy was a soldier, and let me tell you, he was built like one, big time! I hope he gives me a call. The ball's in his court."
Patricia smiled back at Lisa and let out a girlish giggle. "I hope so too, Lisa, because if you don't end up liking a hunk like that, I'll be more than happy to relieve him from you. I just LOVE tight men in uniform!"