Watch out for language... The shorts posted here do not necessarily relate to each other, but are based on writing exercises which I happened to choose to write in Joe-speak.
This is a one-shot G.I. Joe Fan fiction inspired by hatred of the blizzard of 2003... Happy reading!
G.I. Joe, and all names and trademarks associated thereof, are the property of Hasbro International, Inc. 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!
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
G.I. Joe 'New York Pit'
Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, NY
Snow-Job sat in his above-ground quarters looking out at the snow that blanketed the ground. He had just checked the duty roster and found himself to be unassigned for a couple of days and wondered if he could get some fun in with all the white stuff that was around.
Tollbooth was driving an M-9 Armored Combat Earthmover and using it as a makeshift snowplow to clear out the vehicle access ramps and the main road leading to the PIT from the rest of Fort Hamilton. The combat engineer was having a rough time with the snow removal, since the twenty-two inches spread out on the base grounds and in every nook and cranny of open property left very little space to put what was coming off the ramps and roadways where it wouldn't obstruct things. Snow-Job chuckled as he watched the excitable Tollbooth yelling from the open-topped vehicle at other Army Reserve soldiers who were manning backhoes and Bobcats, piling the snow higher and higher in every open area they could find.
Eventually becoming bored with watching the plowing, Snow-Job walked down to the mess hall where he found Iceberg and Blizzard enjoying a light meal together. "Hey there, guys. You two look like you're off duty for a while like me. I can read the bored looks on your sorry faces from a mile away!"
Iceberg set a fork down and eyed Snow-Job with a neutral look. "Yeah, we're off duty the rest of this week because we pulled the weekend watch in Base Ops and have to nursemaid some National Guard troopers on security exercises since the Homeland Alert level's gone up."
Snow-Job nodded, stealing a dinner roll from Blizzard's tray and getting a mumbled groan in protest. "I have an idea. We just got some of the best natural snow dumped on us from here all the way up to Boston. Why don't we spend our days off taking a little ski vacation?"
Blizzard finally cleared his mouth and spoke up. "Do you think Duke will give us all passes to go off-base and do this? What if we go on alert? There's still big trouble on the horizon."
"You worry too much, Sergeant Natale," Snow-Job asserted, using Blizzard's real name. "We're just going to hit the slopes to maintain our downhill skiing proficiency."
"Then YOU convince him, Snow-Job," Iceberg said, stuffing a spoonful of tapioca pudding into his mouth.
"I will do just that, my friends," Snow-Job replied. "Pack yourselves a bag each and your ski equipment. I'll see you in a couple hours on the motor pool level." The arctic trooper stole another of Blizzard's dinner rolls and scampered out of the mess hall to head for Duke's office.
Duke and Scarlett were going over the duty roster for the weekend National Guard exercise in the first sergeant's office when they heard a knock sound at the door. "Enter," Duke said.
Snow-Job walked into the office and stood at attention. "Sergeant Moore reporting, Top. May I have a minute?"
Duke nodded and waved to an empty seat next to Scarlett. Snow-Job settled into the chair as Duke leaned back and said, "Okay, Snow-Job, what's on your mind?"
"Well, it's like this, Top," Snow-Job began, trying to put on an innocent smile. "Considering all the snow we just got, there just has to be some primo skiing out on the slopes this week. Would you see fit to issuing Blizzard, Iceberg and me some off-base passes so we can get some downhill practice in before the Guard exercise?"
Duke shook his head as he thought over the request. "I don't know. We're short handed right now, since a lot of the New York unit is spread out around the five boroughs testing the city's counter-terrorism procedures. If there's an alert, I have to muster all off-duty personnel for it."
Scarlett chimed in, at just the right time for Snow-Job's liking. "Aw, come on, Duke," she said, batting her eyes lovingly at Duke. "The guys have been working hard and our snow troops could use a little workout in their natural environment. Honestly, I think you and I could do with a short trip into the mountains ourselves, for some skiing and a burning fire in the local lodge. Where's the harm in letting them go?"
Duke never could resist Scarlett when she started asking for something. He sighed and replied, "I can't go. I have duty all week. But I'll issue the passes on one condition. If we go on alert, you jokers will carry your pagers and come back to the PIT immediately if I call for you. Got it?"
"It's a deal, Duke," Snow-Job said with a satisfied grin. He turned to face Scarlett and asked if she wanted to join the trio on the slopes.
Scarlett nodded, watching Duke to see if he was going to object. He simply wrote out a fourth off-base pass and handed it to her, warning them once more to carry their pagers and even a cell phone in case they had to call in. Snow-Job eagerly collected the passes for Iceberg and Blizzard and excused himself.
"I guess I should go pack too," Scarlett said, giving Duke a farewell kiss on the lips. "I'll try not to have too much fun on the slopes without you."
Duke returned the kiss with a smile. "See to it that you don't, Red."
Motor Pool Level
Two hours later
Iceberg and Blizzard were waiting for Snow-Job to bring their passes and a Hummer from the utility vehicles pool for their trip when Scarlett stepped off the nearby elevator dressed in tight jeans and a cotton blouse, with a down ski jacket draped loosely over her shoulders. She laid her bags down next to the others, along with a set of spare skis and poles drawn from the Pit's equipment lockers.
"You boys mind if I tag along on your ski trip?" Scarlett asked while looking around for Snow-Job.
"We'd love your company, Scarlett," Blizzard replied. "Do you know what Snow-Job had in mind as to where we're going?"
"No ideas here," Scarlett replied. "But we shouldn't be going too far away, and I hope you two packed your emergency beepers."
"We've got 'em," Iceberg said, patting the belt clip that his pager was attached to.
The three Joes turned as they heard the sound of a diesel engine coming from the rows of parked vehicles. Snow-Job brought a civilian-model Hummer H2 up to the waiting group and climbed out from behind the steering wheel to help load their bags and equipment.
"So, where are we going to sample the primo slopes, Snow-Job?" Scarlett asked, handing over a small duffel bag with her extra clothes.
"I was thinking the Catskills, about two hours from the city," Snow-Job replied. "I have a friend who retired from the ski patrol up there who manages a lodge near some of the best skiing in the area. I called him and he set us up with some rooms."
"Sounds great," Blizzard said, loading the group's skis into the ski rack fitted to the Hummer's roof. "This is shaping up to be a better idea than some schemes you've cooked up, Snow-Job!"
After two and a half hours of driving, the Joes finally pulled into the ski lodge near Hunter Mountain, one of New York's sprawling ski resort areas northwest of the town of Kingston.
Scarlett surveyed the peaceful looking ski lodge and the endless stream of people riding the chair lifts up the mountain and remarked, "Snow-Job, this place is beautiful! It's a shame Duke couldn't come and enjoy this with us."
"I hear ya, Red," Snow-Job replied. "Well, we're here. What do you say we check in and have a nice hot toddy and some lunch before sampling the black diamond runs?"
Scarlett shook her head. "Sheesh, Snow-Job, I'm not as good a skier as the rest of you. I'd be content to try out the bunny slope before going out on the hard trails. Otherwise, I might end up losing my lunch!"
The other Joes laughed heartily when Scarlett mentioned the bunny slope and Iceberg said, "Not to worry, Scarlett. I'll buddy ski with you if we go take on the black diamonds. I promise you'll enjoy the ride and we won't let anything bad happen."
"I'll put myself in your hands then, ski-bums," Scarlett said in a warning tone. "But don't forget who I'll report to if I get hurt on this trip."
"How could we forget?" Blizzard said with a smile, climbing out of the Hummer and reaching for the ski rack while Snow-Job popped the tailgate latch. He leaned back into the vehicle and winked, saying, "They'd better have a really good first aid unit here, just in case!"
Elsewhere on the mountain:
Taking a short vacation from his job at Watervliet Arsenal outside of Albany, Doctor Jason Briggs, an expert in computerized fire control and gunnery systems, was enjoying the few days off he was able to coax from his boss.
The working group Briggs belonged to was in the process of developing the state-of-the-art in technologies so that the current fleet of American tanks could be upgraded to have a hyper-intelligent "first shot kill" capability where a computer assisted the tank gunner in making a more accurate shot.
Briggs skied down a couple of typical amateur slopes, totally unaware that a male and female were constantly following him. They were never conspicuous about it, but they always stayed close and at least one of them kept the weapons engineer in sight.
"This is quite exhausting, following our patsy around," the male said as the couple waited for their turn on the chair lifts to the mountaintop. He turned to face the female of the pair and the hood of his parka slipped off his face, revealing a punk-like look underneath.
"I think skiing is good exercise, Zandar," Zarana said, reaching under her own hood to brush some locks of pink hair out of her eyes. "Don't tell me you're an out-of-shape weakling. Zartan would send Big Boa after you."
"Ugh," Zandar groaned. "Never mind I even said something. So when do you want to take the good doctor and scurry him off to the safe house in Rhinebeck?"
Zarana pulled Zandar by the arm as their turn came up at the chair lift and they settled in for the ride up the mountain. "There is no safe house in Rhinebeck anymore. The Rhine Cliff Bridge Motor Inn was raided by the state cops last year. I nearly escaped because I was holed up there at the time. But they never checked the airfield, and that's where we can take him until a plane comes to bring him to Springfield."
Pausing a moment to look several chairs ahead at Doctor Briggs, Zarana continued. "As to when we should take him, I suggest early evening when the majority of the crowds thin out but before the night skiers make a run on the place. That way there's a smaller potential for witnesses. Did you order the Snow Serpent squad to stand ready?"
Zandar nodded. "I did, Zarana. They had four men climb the mountain away from the lifts and those troopers will meet us at the summit when we're ready to make our move. The other eight will be with the Stingers and SUV's near the big equipment shed where we hid them."
"Good," Zarana nodded with an evil smile. "Then this snatch and go mission should be a piece of cake."
Dusk, on the mountain:
Scarlett turned sideways and brought herself to a stop at the base of one of the black diamond trails, panting and puffing. She was the last of the Joes to reach the bottom of the slope, and Snow-Job, Iceberg and Blizzard all closed in on her to make sure she was alright.
"That was tougher than I had imagined, with all the trees to avoid and the moguls to jump over," Scarlett said, catching her breath slowly. "If you guys want to do any night skiing with me, pick out the intermediate trails next time, okay?"
"That's no problem, Scarlett," Snow-Job said. "Why don't we take the lift up to the intermediates and grab a cup of something warm at the refreshment stand up there?"
"That sounds like a plan," Iceberg interjected, propelling himself with his ski poles over to the queue that was boarding the chair lifts to save them a place in line. He came to a stop right behind Doctor Briggs and followed him towards the lift slowly.
As the other Joes moved to join Iceberg on the line, Scarlett inadvertently bumped into Zandar. Neither one was able to recognize the other, since Zandar's face was obscured by the furry lining of his parka hood, and Scarlett wasn't facing him when they bumped.
Apologetically, Scarlett said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I need to be more careful when I have these things on."
Zandar, disguising his voice as part of his cover, replied. "There was no harm in it, ma'am. Enjoy the slopes."
When the two separated, Scarlett moved on and Zandar waited for Zarana to catch up with him before lining up for the chair lifts. Seeing her nodding at him as she approached meant that the stage was set for the kidnapping.
Making sure he was out of the earshot of Scarlett when Zarana stopped next to him, Zandar asked, "So we go with the plan this trip down the slope?"
"That's right," Zarana replied. "Our men at the bottom know what to do. I want you to stay with them in case of trouble. I'm going up to the top. The pre-arranged signal for the men up there is when I stop at the snack stand and try to order a chili dog which isn't on the menu. They're watching the snack stand closely for me. I'll see you back here with the doctor very soon."
Before Zandar turned to face the ski lodge, Zarana stopped him and asked, "Oh, by the way, what was that I saw just now with that woman?"
"Oh, that," Zandar replied. "Just some dizzy bitch with two left feet when it comes to skiing. She ran into me trying to keep up with her group."
"That's good," Zarana replied. "For a moment I thought you were scamming on a pretty girl to make a date and I would have to remind you about why we were here."
Zandar exhaled a long breath, hiding his anticipation under a cloud of cold mist. "Good luck, sister. I hope everything goes smoothly." He then turned on his skis and sped off towards his section of Cobra Snow Serpents and their hiding place.
Ten minutes later:
Iceberg was busy handing around a round of steaming cups of hot chocolate to his fellow Joes when Doctor Briggs pushed off from the trail entrance gate onto one of the more popular intermediate-level slopes. The four Joes sipped at their hot beverages while a female skier moved up to the snack stand and ordered a chili dog.
"Listen, lady," the operator of the snack stand insisted. "I only sell what's stenciled on that plywood right there, see? And I don't got any fucking chili dogs!"
"Then I'll spend my money elsewhere, you foul-mouthed, minimum-wage buffoon!" Zarana said angrily, turning in a huff and then bursting through the starting gate of the slope after Doctor Briggs. As she passed a copse of trees too closely for safety's sake, two men in white snow suits and carrying AK-74's and pistols skied out behind her.
"Hey, guys. Did you see that?" Blizzard observed, since he was looking down the slope while sipping his hot chocolate. "Two armed guys just came out of the tree line. I think something's up."
"Have you noticed we don't have any weapons, Blizzard?" Iceberg asked. "What do you think? We're going to take them down with well-placed snowballs?"
Scarlett turned to look in the direction Blizzard indicated. "Weapons or no, we have to do something. It's our job. Come on, Joes. Let's go see what they're up to."
Farther down the slope, Doctor Briggs skied casually, moving with enough speed to be comfortable for his skills. He occasionally took on a mogul, flying up over the snow mound and landing on the other side. He couldn't tell that Zarana was careening towards him at full downhill speed with two pairs of Snow Serpents on her heels.
"Jason! Jason Briggs!" Zarana shouted out from behind the engineer. He turned his head thinking he was hearing things, and Zarana skied right into him, her body tucked into a shape like a hockey player aiming for a full-body check. Once the engineer was distracted, her impact served to throw him from his skis and he fell face first into the softer unused snow beside the slope. Zarana reached around Doctor Briggs as he fell, so that she landed on top of him and kept his movements under control.
"What is this? What the hell do you want with me?" Briggs asked, his complaints muffled by Zarana holding his face in the snow and against the hard soil underneath.
"Just settle down and you won't get hurt," Zarana warned, withdrawing a silenced Smith and Wesson .22 caliber "Hush Puppy" assassination pistol. "Keep quiet and do as I say or I'll ventilate you right here."
The Joes were a short distance behind the Snow Serpents as they began to converge on the spot where Zarana had taken Doctor Briggs down. All of their instincts were on high alert when they spotted the firepower the Cobra arctic troops were packing. As one pair was coming to a stop to help Zarana pick her prisoner up, the Joes bushwhacked the other pair quietly from behind, tackling them while they were just out of sight of Zarana and moving them behind the tree line at the edge of the slope in order to disarm them without being spotted.
"Grab the bandoleers, Snow-Job," Iceberg said, as he relieved the snow troopers of their pistols and magazines of pistol ammo. Blizzard and Snow-Job took up the captured AK-74's and slung the full bandoleers of rifle ammo over their own shoulders. Scarlett accepted one of the pistols Iceberg had taken, and then turned aside when Blizzard knocked the two enemy troopers unconscious with the butt of his AK-74.
"It ain't pretty, Red, but it got the job done," Snow-Job observed, leading the quartet back onto the slope to challenge the other Cobras.
"... I don't know what you want from me! I'm just an electronics engineer who designs computer chips for Play Station consoles! What could I possibly have to appease you? Money? Property? Stocks?" Briggs was trying his best to play dumb, hoping the masked and hooded terrorists around him didn't really know what he did for the U.S. Army.
"Shut up, fool!" Zarana yelled, whacking Briggs in the side of his head with the barrel of her pistol. "Don't tempt me with your bullshit! I just might be convinced to end your miserable life right here! I know who you are and I know that you design smart weapons for the American military! If you don't come along my way, then we'll just have to go kill your wife and children in front of you!"
Briggs dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms over his head in fear. "No! Leave them out of this!" He could see between the Snow Serpents that four dark shapes were hurtling down the slope towards where the Cobra polar troops stood.
"Oh, Zarana!" Scarlett called out in her best Southern accent.
The Cobra infiltrator turned quickly to see who had identified her. "God damn it! G.I. Joe is here? Troopers, stop them!"
The two Snow Serpents shuffled themselves over to block the way between the Joes and Zarana. Raising their weapons to their shoulders, they pulled back on the charging handles and prepared to spray bullets into the Joes and the crowd of skiers enjoying the main trail.
"Not so fast, snakes!" Snow-Job exclaimed, raising his confiscated AK-74 and firing off a single round at the closest Snow Serpent. The bullet smashed the polar trooper's plastic face shield to pieces before going through his left eye and bursting out the back of his head. Unable to react at all, the Cobra trooper's hands flew up in the air while his body fell backwards, landing on the snow surface with a wet thud.
Blizzard didn't opt to fire at the second trooper; instead, he bore down on the soldier at full speed, swinging his AK-74 like a baseball bat at the last second and hitting the trooper with enough force to knock him cold instantly. Somehow the two men tangled up in the process and Blizzard had to execute a controlled break fall which put him right into a prone firing position facing Zarana.
"You shouldn't be harassing the guests, Zarana!" Scarlett yelled while aiming her pistol at the Cobra agent. "Back away from the civilian and YOU won't get hurt!" Scarlett hadn't yet made an attempt to slow her rate of descent down and was still approaching the Drednok at downhill speed.
Zarana tried to pull the cowering Doctor Briggs in front of her to use as a human shield and raised the barrel of her Hush Puppy to aim for Scarlett. But she was unable to accomplish both fast enough. Scarlett was already on top of Zarana and delivered a powerful right hook into the Drednok's jaw, sending her tumbling into the snow. Immediately coming off balance after the punch was landed, Scarlett had to bring herself to a stop as well, before she plowed head-on into a large oak that loomed ahead of her.
As the Joes began to recover themselves, Iceberg kneeled over the fearful doctor, checking him for any major wounds or broken limbs. Fortunately, he was only scratched and bruised just a bit. "Who... who are you people?" the engineer asked quietly.
Iceberg pulled out his wallet from a pocket of his ski jacket and showed Briggs his military ID. "We're with G.I. Joe, sir. These people belong to Cobra, an enemy of America. Do you have any idea why they came after you?"
Scarlett, Snow-Job and Blizzard busied themselves with disarming the three Cobras and taking their ammunition while they listened to the doctor's reply. "I work at Watervliet Arsenal. We build computerized fire control equipment for main battle tanks there." The former Cobra hostage coughed a moment before continuing. "That must be why they wanted me, for my knowledge of our experimental hyper-intelligent computerized fire controllers."
As Scarlett lifted the Hush Puppy from the snow where Zarana had dropped it, she noticed the Drednok was already stirring awake. "No time for further discussion. Let's get you off the slope and out of here. There's no doubt these snakes have backup hidden away somewhere close."
"My ski bindings were busted when that woman tackled me," Briggs said, holding up bits of metal and woven straps that had been torn from his skis and boots when they separated. "I can't go very fast without them."
Snow-Job skied up next to Briggs, slinging his AK-74 and pointing behind his body. "Ride down with me piggy-back. I'm an experienced rescue skier and can handle your weight. Come on, there's no time to lose!"
Briggs looked the Joe in the eyes and his own fear drew stress lines all over his face. "Are... are you sure about this?"
"Not one bit," Snow-Job said sarcastically. "Get the hell on before I change my mind. The rest of you, cover us. I'm going to aim right for the Hummer and I'm not stopping till we get there! Let's go! YO, JOE!"
Briggs threw his arms around Snow-Job's neck and hung on tightly as the trooper thrust backward with his ski poles and put their movement in gravity's hands. The others raised their assault rifles and pushed off right behind them.
The first pair of Snow Serpents that were bushwhacked by the Joes finally made their way to Zarana and their injured comrade. Their faces and extremities were covered in lumps and streaks of blood from the rough handling they took from Iceberg and Blizzard pounding them into trees until they had stopped resisting and were left behind.
One trooper cautiously laid a gloveless pair of fingers on Zarana's neck, checking for a pulse when she grabbed his wrist and angrily backhanded him, thinking he was one of the Joes. The Snow Serpent fell backwards with a surprised yelp and a thud.
The other two Snow Serpents were already on their feet and looking at the corpse of the one Snow-Job shot in the head, shaking their own heads in disbelief. Zarana brought herself back to her feet and yelled over to all of the surviving troopers. "Hey! We've no time to waste looking at that stiff! Those fucking G.I. Joes have our hostage! Get your lame asses in gear and get after them, you bloody imbeciles, or I'll kill the lot of you myself!"
Zandar had a bad feeling something had gone wrong when he spotted the silhouettes of the Joes skiing away from the warehouse with Briggs draped over one of the men's shoulders. From a distance and in the dark, the group could have passed for Zarana and her detail, but by a count they would have been one Snow Serpent short. He motioned to his section of eight troopers to mount up in the vehicles and skied out to the base of the trail to look for Zarana.
The Joes were able to reach their Hummer H2 without delay since it was parked at the edge of the snowed-over field next to the lodge that cross-country skiers used to warm up before taking to some level trails. They wasted no time in bundling the doctor into the back seat of the utility truck, tossing what equipment they could fit into the cargo bed, and then climbing inside themselves, covering every direction from opened windows.
Snow-Job took the wheel and quickly got the truck started, as he noticed the shapes of the Cobra troopers pointing themselves in their direction. Leaving the headlamps off, he backed the truck into the parking lane and drove it away from the resort at full speed.
"Zandar! It's the Joes!" Zarana shouted as she and her three Snow Serpents skied as fast as they could for the parking lot. "Get the vehicles moving!"
"They all piled into a red Hummer H2," Zandar observed, waving at the resort's storage shed and the Snow Serpents waiting inside. A deafening roar came from the corrugated aluminum building when the Cobra troops burst out the flimsy doors with a pair of Stinger jeeps armed with heavy machineguns and two large sport utility vehicles.
"Fuck," Zarana cursed, as Zandar and her troops piled into the vehicles. "Those are too slow to cover the head start the Joes have. I need something to catch them and slow them down." She reached into her parka and fitted a set of brass knuckles to her fist. She had already spotted a car that would fit her needs when she skied up to the driver's side and smashed in the window with her knuckled fist.
Quickly unlocking the door on the black Acura NSX sports car, Zarana had a thin bladed stiletto out, which she used to crack the steering column and hacked through the ignition wire. Luckily, the vehicle didn't have any theft-deterrent features on board, and the agent had the car started in less than three minutes. With a squeal of the car's high-performance racing tires, she was off in hot pursuit of the Joes and Dr. Briggs while Zandar led the column of four Cobra vehicles behind her.
"The side roads are too icy to get any decent speed without piling into a tree and killing all of us!" Snow-Job protested when Scarlett kept yelling into his ear to get the lead out. "I'm trying to get us out onto the fucking New York Thruway so we have room to maneuver! Get off my back already, Red, and keep an eye out for Zarana and her crew!"
Zarana had punched her stolen NSX up to about sixty miles an hour as she carelessly flew down the lightly plowed and salted state highway that ran between Hunter Mountain and the Thruway. She knew the route was the only reasonably safe one the Joes could follow without getting hopelessly lost or trapped on an icy and treacherous local road. If they were able to get away from the Kingston area unmolested, she knew that they could contact the NY State Police barracks in Saugerties to the north and Poughkeepsie to the south to turn the tables on the Cobra troops and box them in with RMPS full of armed troopers and SWAT cops.
She saw widely-spaced tail lights just ahead, about a mile or so down the road, moving back and forth across the multi-lane state highway. Judging by the mannerisms of the driver, Zarana knew it was the Hummer they were after. Spotting a sign with the symbols for Interstate 87 and the NY Thruway at the side of the road, she watched the truck lights turn onto the southbound entrance ramp ahead of her, and accelerated to get in close contact. Glancing back in her mirror, she spotted the line of headlights that was Zandar and the column of Cobra troops working to keep up.
The Hummer sped through one of the Kingston interchange's EZ Pass toll lanes to avoid stopping. The automated tollbooth picked up on the vehicle's EZ Pass transponder chip that was mounted in a plastic strip on the front license plate holder and registered the truck's point of entry. Snow-Job then steered the vehicle onto the southbound ramp and onto the well-maintained, high-speed roadway.
Zarana placed a small ear bud with an attached boom microphone in her ear and keyed a speed dial number on her small folding cellular phone. It connected with a similar phone in Zandar's hands. "Zandar, it's Zarana," the agent said, her hands moving one over the other as she turned onto the Thruway and raced through an EZ Pass lane at over fifty mph. "We're heading southbound on the NY Thruway. I'll try to get ahead of them and nudge 'em back to you. Watch out for state cops!"
"Are we clear?" Scarlett asked nervously, cradling an AK-74 and watching ahead of the Hummer from the front passenger's seat.
Blizzard scanned behind them as the Hummer merged into the extremely light traffic, shifting around slower-moving tractor trailers. "I can't tell, since Snow-Job is rattling our teeth from one side to the other. But I did spot a sporty thing pulling off the same ramp we did, and in an awful hurry. I'm surprised it hasn't caught up and passed us yet."
"This thing can put on more speed than you realize," Snow-Job said, looking into his rear view mirror at the edge of a long truck to his left. "Don't look now people, but your friend the sports car is using the truck to the left for cover."
Snow-Job goosed a little more power from the Hummer and it pulled ahead of the truck. As soon as there was room, Zarana pulled the NSX out into their lane and began to close in on them. She was talking into her cellular phone using her hands-free headset, guiding Zandar's vehicles up to them. Zandar and the rest of the troopers were about a half mile behind and pushing their Chevy Tahoes and Cobra Stinger jeeps to the limits.
Iceberg whistled when he saw the NSX drifting closer to the Hummer's rear bumper. The tinted windshield made looking at the driver difficult, but it looked like a female was behind the wheel. "Holy cow. That is one sweet sports car! If only the gal behind the wheel would learn not to tailgate! She could kill herself!"
"She?" asked all the other Joes, simultaneously realizing who was following them so closely. "Cover that NSX! It could be Zarana!" Scarlett yelled to Iceberg.
Snow-Job found an open stretch of roadway, leaving the already speeding civilian travelers behind. Pressing all the way down on the accelerator, he began swerving from side to side, trying to keep the NSX behind them where Iceberg and Blizzard could take a shot at it.
Iceberg charged his AK-74 and yanked down the sliding Plexiglas bullet-resistant window to lean out of it, seeing Zarana's left hand snake out of the driver's window of the NSX holding Zandar's .44 Desert Eagle automatic. Zarana fired first, and the large armor-piercing round clanged off the outer shell of the Hummer. Iceberg ducked his head in instinctively, and his volley of bullets went wide, missing the swerving car.
"Damn! She has some hand-cannon back there!" Iceberg swore, leaning back out into the Hummer's slipstream and firing another short burst at the NSX. Blizzard also leaned out his window and when a corner of the NSX peeked out into the Hummer's blind spot, he took a crack at hitting it.
Once the gunfire erupted between the vehicles, the handful of civilians driving behind the two maneuvering vehicles stoically held the road, determined not to let the running chase become an inconvenience to them. Blizzard noticed that even some of the civvies wanted to speed up and were flashing their headlamps angrily for the NSX and Hummer to just pull out of the way, despite the fact that they were driving at between sixty-five and eighty miles an hour already.
"Talk about crazy New Yorkers!" Blizzard shouted, firing another three-round burst from his window. "They're not falling back for their own safety! You could throw a tank at them and so long as it doesn't block the road, they'll try to keep going as fast as they want! Damn freaks!" He shook a fist at the cars and trucks flashing their lights. "Learn to fucking drive safely, assholes!"
Scarlett leaned out of the right front window to get a look behind them, holding her pistol at the ready. "Nothing fazes them anymore. And they're too indifferent to even help each other at times. It's a sorry state of affairs, and probably why Cobra almost got away with the kidnapping!"
"Zarana, we're having trouble getting through some back-up to you," Zandar said over the cell phone connection. "But we can see the gunfire flashes just ahead. These dumb New Yorkers don't even move out of the way when they see a military-type jeep with guns riding up their asses!" He reached his arm in front of the Snow Serpent who was driving the Stinger and leaned on the jeep's horn to try and warn the civvies off to one side.
"Do what you have to, Zandar!" Zarana replied excitedly. "Start shooting into the traffic and kill those stupid fuckers. Start a roadblock, anything! I need you up here to help me stop the Joes!"
"Okay, put them off the road, troopers!" Zandar ordered into the CB radio he used to talk to the rest of the Cobra vehicles. Charging his AK-74, the disguise expert leaned out of the Stinger's roll cage and began spraying bullets into the annoying cars. The Chevy Tahoe SUV's bringing up the rear just used their reinforced all-around steel brush guards and superior engine power to shove cars into guardrails and ditches. The heavy truckers had gotten wise early on and slowed down to stay a safe distance away.
The Cobras made immediate progress once they began shooting the vehicle drivers without warning and otherwise playing a deadly game of bumper cars to clear the civilians that were in their way. Soon the cluster of enemy vehicles was bearing down on the NSX and Hummer, and Snow Serpents were firing over Zarana's head at the taller utility truck.
"They've brought up the big guns!" Blizzard called out, leaning into the Hummer long enough to drop an empty magazine from his AK-74 and slap a new one back in. "They have two big Chevrolets for troop carriers and two Stingers with Ma-Deuces on board! The odds have decidedly turned against us!"
Scarlett already knew how much trouble they were in. When she wasn't covering the NSX while Iceberg or Blizzard reloaded, she was fumbling for the Nextel cell phone she had in the pocket of her ski jacket. Finally locating it, she pulled it out and dialed Duke's cell phone on the speed dial.
New York Pit
Mess Hall, Early Evening
Duke was sitting down to eat some chow after another long day of administrative work when his Nextel beeped insistently at him. Picking up the black satellite-linked cell phone and forgetting to look at the caller ID, he growled into it, "This had better be important. I'm sitting down to chow and all there is to eat is a pile of shit on a shingle."
"Duke, its Scarlett!" the voice of his favorite girl and teammate sounded stressed or worried.
"Sorry, Red," the Top Sergeant replied. "How's the skiing?"
"We're in some hot shit over here, Duke!" Scarlett began, her speech pausing as sounds of pistol fire came over the phone's sound pickup. "Cobra tried kidnapping an engineer who was vacationing at the ski resort. We nabbed him back but they have us outgunned and outnumbered! We need air support pronto!"
Duke spat out a mouthful of creamed chipped beef and crumbled saltine crackers and, in his excitement, threw his whole meal onto the floor, the metal tray it was served in falling with a loud crash. "We're on our way Red!" He jumped to his feet and tore out of the mess hall without looking back.
Covering the hallways to the Operations Center in record time, Duke grabbed a green shirt communications specialist and demanded the base be put on alert. "Get me every flyable whirlybird to take off from Fort Wadsworth yesterday! And open the baseball field doors to launch a Sky Hawk!"
Returning the Nextel to his ear, Duke re-activated the phone's two-way radio feature. "Scarlett, we're launching a reaction unit now! Put your phone on panic mode so that the base station at Ops can relay your exact GPS coordinates to us in the air!"
Wasting no time, Duke snagged the first Kevlar "Fritz" helmet he could find and cinched it tight on his head. He leaped into the cockpit of the Sky Hawk that waited for him on the special equipment level and began the craft's preflight checklist while a green shirt driving a VAMP towed a special wheeled launching platform up past the motor pool and out onto one of Fort Hamilton's ball fields.
When the green shirt brought the VAMP to a stop and chocked the trailer, he gave Duke a thumbs-up and the first sergeant fired up the VTOL craft's jet engines, rotating them to point vertically and launching up into the air with a blast of heat and noise.
The flight computer on board Duke's Sky Hawk already registered information on Scarlett's location that was coming from the Pit's cellular base station, so Duke leveled the craft out at five hundred feet altitude, traversed the engines for forward flight, and adjusted the radio boom mike under his helmet.
"Duke to Ops, I'm in the air and heading northwest to intercept the Joes. They're heading south on the New York Thruway towards the Pit. Who else is flying?"
"Ops here," the operations controller replied. "Wild Bill and Updraft are airborne in AH-6G 'Little Bird' gun ships. They're getting the feed through the data link as well. ETA to a rough intercept point is thirty minutes, top speed."
"I need to get there faster," Duke said insistently. "Clear the low altitudes with New York air traffic control, especially around Teterboro in Jersey and Stewart Airport in Newburgh! I'm kicking this shit box into high gear!" Pushing slightly forward on his control stick, Duke jammed the throttle as far forward as possible, lighting off the Sky Hawk's afterburners and propelling the small, agile VTOL craft up to its maximum velocity. "Scarlett, we're on our way," he thought.
Iceberg had done a fine job of taking one of the Stinger jeeps off the Hummer's tail. The Snow Serpent behind the wheel didn't swerve enough to be evasive, and the snow trooper cooked off a stream of eight to ten bullets that ripped through the driver's head and neck.
Instantly losing control of the vehicle and going limp, the body slumped down onto the wheel, and the Stinger's gunner, riding on a platform behind the vehicle's passenger cabin, had to leap clear before the vehicle plowed nose-first into the Thruway center divider, exploding ferociously as it hit the ribbon of steel that ran along the bottom of the divider's broad drainage ditch.
Word of the goings-on had finally reached the NY State Police from a number of civilians caught up in the initial carnage at the hands of Zandar and the Snow Serpents. From every barracks around Kingston, any officer that could be mobilized for action, was.
Scores of NYSP radio motor patrol cars, RMPS, converged first on the locations where most of the civilian casualties had come to rest with their cars, with the exception of the Poughkeepsie Barracks, whose men formed a solid roadblock on both directions of the highway, just north of the interchange. They were aided by a security forces alert unit from the Air National Guard's 937th Airlift Group which operated out of Stewart Airport, seventeen miles south of the roadblock in Newburgh.
Police and Air Guardsmen at the Poughkeepsie roadblock were startled and almost all hit the dirt when Duke flew over their location at low altitude in the Sky Hawk. The little VTOL craft sounded like a flock of banshees as it screamed by overhead, engines blazing with white-hot fire.
"What exit's next?" Scarlett asked Snow-Job, who was swerving like a maniac to avoid getting the Hummer caught in a deadly crossfire. Already, several hits from the surviving Stinger's M-2 machinegun had holed their special self-sealing tires, and the vehicle's customized central tire inflating system was hard-pressed to keep the tire pressure steady in all four of them at once. The uneven ride on the tires made life more difficult for Snow-Job and he already had to over-steer to compensate for the instability.
"Exit Seventeen, which is the city of Poughkeepsie," Snow-Job replied, fighting the steering wheel so the Hummer wouldn't sideslip into a deep mountain depression that the interstate passed over with a long bridge. "I just hope our steering and tire pressure stays kosher until then!"
Zarana tenaciously kept looking for a way to maneuver her NSX around the Hummer so that she could box the Joes in and bring them to a stop. But Snow-Job had been skillful enough in his driving so far to have thwarted each attempt.
Scarlett's Nextel chirped where it rested in her lap and she brought it to her ear. She could hear a loud mechanical whine in the background and Duke's voice was very loud, as he shouted over the din.
"Red, I'm almost to you," Duke said. "Describe what the Cobras have following you."
"Well, there's one Cobra Stinger back there," Scarlett replied, leaning back out the window and straining her eyes to see. "There's also two Chevy Tahoes and Zarana is driving a black Acura NSX. The weapons flashes ought to give them all away. Come down here and pull our asses out of the fire!"
"Good. Wild Bill and Updraft are in trail formation behind me in AH-6G's and will churn those Cobras up with their mini-guns. Be careful up ahead, because the New York troopers have a roadblock waiting. YO, JOE!"
Updraft and Wild Bill actually made one pass without firing in their Little Birds while Duke orbited above the Hummer. They came up on the Cobra vehicles from behind, and their specially muffled engines combined with the darkness insured that they weren't seen from the ground.
"I'm ready to chop these suckers up," Updraft reported to Wild Bill on their inter-plane frequency. "Let's roll in hot and end this chase."
Wild Bill, however, had spotted a more troubling sight. As earlier in the chase, a number of civilians did not want to be deterred by the rolling shootout and still tried to overtake the Cobra vehicles at speeds well over the legal limit. The Cobras were unexpectedly enforcing the state speed law when they systematically machine-gunned anyone who got in their way.
"Updraft," Wild Bill radioed back. "The Cobras have civilian cars following behind and way too close for comfort. We'll need to exercise a little tail-clearing for the snakes and have Duke do the dirty work. Sweep in low and no guns!"
"Side-slipping at eighty knots isn't the easiest trick in the book at night, Bill," Updraft complained, pressing down on his collective and swooping the AH-6G down to mere feet above the ground. "I hope you note this when I come up for my flight re-certification."
"Shucks, Updraft," Wild Bill responded, dropping his AH-6G to cruise inches over the blacktop as well. "If you and I can handle stopping this traffic without any more casualties, we'll be re-certified for life!"
The two Joe helicopter pilots dipped their black-painted helicopters in between the Cobra SUV's and the closest civilians speeding behind. The swirling dust and road salt kicked up by their downwash did get folks to put their brakes on, but none seemed to care, assuming that a bulk-loaded truck had lost some load ahead of the shootout. Then, the Joe pilots upped the ante.
Facing their bulbous glass noses at the traffic, they dipped down until they were literally flying backwards at over eighty miles an hour just ahead of the cars. Blacked out, Wild Bill and Updraft had to use their night vision systems to keep from crashing into the ground, the cars, or each other. When they were ready, both pilots lit their navigation and forward-looking spotlights and leaped vertically away from the roadway.
Hundreds of thousands of candlepower from the beams flash-illuminated the oncoming cars, and immediately blinded the drivers for precious seconds. The tactic caused a controlled panic among the drivers who saw the dark shapes of helicopters lighting them up. Everyone instinctively slammed on their brakes, and when the spotlights went back out again, the civilian traffic was stopped. The maneuver did cause a few fender-benders back along the way, but it got the job done.
"Another clip!" Iceberg yelled out, hoping someone could pass him more 5.45mm rounds to shoot at the Cobras. "I'm empty!"
"We've used all of Scarlett's and Snow-Job's!" Blizzard replied, doing a quick spot check on the pouches of his own bandoleer. "I have two full clips left!" He passed one of his remaining magazines to Iceberg, warning his comrade to make every shot count.
"Pistol ammo was done a couple miles back," Scarlett reported, dropping the automatic she was using to the floor of the Hummer, the slide locked open after firing the final bullet through the gun's spent barrel. "Duke had better sweep in like the Cavalry!"
And like the Cavalry, Duke dove from his orbit just in the nick of time. As the Hummer's tires all went flat from the CTIS failing, Snow-Job had no choice but to keep the truck facing straight and it barreled right into a pair of NYSP patrol cars that were forming the roadblock.
Zarana's NSX, the Stinger carrying Zandar and the two Tahoes with the extra troops were confronted with a wall of 20mm gunfire from the Sky Hawk. With no place left to go, the Cobras scattered, hitting the thick snow on either side of the Thruway and spinning out or otherwise coming to a final halt.
Although slightly dazed from the impact and the deployment of the civilian Hummer's air bag restraint system, Doctor Briggs and all four Joes were unharmed.
24 hours later, Hunter Mountain Ski Resort
Scarlett leaned back in a plush fabric overstuffed loveseat, watching a roaring fire crackle and burn in a grandiose and ornate fireplace. She had her legs resting atop Duke's, who propped his on top of a coffee table in front of where they lounged.
"Thanks for deciding to spend one day off base with me," Scarlett cooed softly, clinking a glass of champagne she had in her hand with one in Duke's.
"We're both worth it," Duke replied with a smile. "It beats worrying about what other incidents you and the snow bunnies could get into from all the way over in Brooklyn."
Scarlett put on a hurt look and pouted while she looked into Duke's eyes and saw the licks of flame from the fireplace reflected in them. "Spending time at a ski lodge in front of a roaring fire kind of makes you wish winter would never end, huh?"
"Quite the opposite," Duke replied, wiggling his toes in thick woolen socks before the heat of the fire. "I hate when a big blizzard blows in. It always means trouble."