Mercury’s on her first big, top secret mission when she’s assigned with Beachhead, Airtight, Tripwire, and Flash to prevent the spread of the ‘Death Angel’ virus that had been captured by T...
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own G.I. Joe, which makes me want to cry, because if I did, I’d own Beachhead, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Duke, Hawk, and a ton of cute guys...
AUTHOR: Zpan Sven
E-MAIL: NOTES: I do own Mercury (Private Patricia Elizabeth Reed), Chaplain (Sophia Deheune), COBRA Televiper Fredrick “Freddy” Michealson (Codenamed Virus), Fredericka “Rikki” Michealson, COBRA ninja viper Eric Leum (Codenamed Black Mamba) and COBRA SAW-Viper Jonathan Helmsley (Codenamed Sidewinder), Jamieson “Jamie” Helmsley, Xanatos, and Ryoko. Takes place between A Joe Called “Mercury”: Chapters Four and Five, and during GI JOE: FRONTLINE issues Eleven and Twelve. Many thanks and worship goes to the wonderful Wolfman-sama for helping me!
STORY SUMMARY: At the USAF Olympics, Hawk catches sight of a potential Joe days before the reemergence of Cobra. After Cobra resurfaces, he recruits the young Private. Just how will this Private aid in the battle against the forces of Cobra and what is the secret that resides in the Private’s past that Hawk knows?
CHAPTER SUMMARY: Mercury’s on her first big, top secret mission when she’s assigned with Beachhead, Airtight, Tripwire, and Flash to prevent the spread of the ‘Death Angel’ virus that had been captured by Tyler Wingfield, who is seeking to sell it to Cobra.
WARNINGS: Language, Violence, Mild Sexual Situations
GENRE: Action & Adventure/Romance/General
ARCHIVE: ask, and ye will more than likely receive!
INTERLUDE ONE: HISTORY REPEATING
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
“Man, look at some of these names!” Snickered one soldier, “I mean, Reed’s reasonable, but the other four! Gambello? Schnurr? Skoog? Sneeden?? Are these guys for real?”
“They’re very real and happen to be standing behind two of the sorriest looking assholes they’ve ever seen,” snarled an angry, harsh voice laced with the drawl of Alabama that snapped out a brisk: “TEN-HUT!”
The nervous pair of soldiers stood at attention, sweating heavily as the voice continued the chastising, “Bad enough we had to come back here while we wait for a new home. Now why don’t you run down that list again, you sorry son of a—“
“Yes, sir. Very sorry, sir!” One gulped nervously.
“I think they might be more comfortable with our proper names…” a more soothing, but highly amused, male voice said. Behind them, a calm Airtight had a hand on Beachhead’s chest, restraining the towering Ranger as the two soldiers turned to face four tall male soldiers. “Mister Sunshine there is called Beachhead…”
The balaclava wearing Joe that the garishly clad man gestured to glowered at them evilly, his dark eyes promising pain in their futures.
“This is Flash…” the man now gestured to a man clad in green and padded crimson protective gear, the overhead lights gleaming off his visor and green helmet.
“That’s Tripwire…” This man was garbed similarly to the Green Shirts, only with much heavier blast gear over his clothing and a dark visor in place of goggles.
“Little Missus Sunshine over there is Mercury…” Now they saw the other Joe, the shortest and scrawniest of the bunch. If the man hadn’t called her ‘missus’ they could have assumed she was a young, undernourished male buck private due to the tight, form smothering black gear she was garbed in; a matching black cap was neatly tucked under her right arm. Her nearly platinum blonde hair was cropped close to her scalp, spiking up slightly, her pale eyes glowering at them with the same intensity and disgust as Beachhead and her skin was an almost unhealthy shade of white, the stark contrast between her uniform and skin draining her of color.
“And I’m Airtight.” The man in the garish environmental suit held out his gloved hand to the soldiers, “Pleased to meet you.”
There came an audible snap after one soldier gathered his wits and took Airtight’s gloved hand. The hazardous environment specialist let out a scream as his hand broke off at the wrist. Both soldiers stared aghast. “Oh-my-God-Oh-my-God-Oh-my-God...!!”
“It’s OK, I brought a spare,” Airtight snickered after he stopped screaming, adjusting the wrist of his gauntlet, his real hand sliding out.
Flash and Tripwire cracked up, laughing at the prankster while Beachhead rolled his eyes in irritation. Mercury tapped her foot, glaring at the childish antics of her male comrades, impatient to get the mission briefing underway.
“Could we get a move on here, people?!” An annoyed Beachhead snapped, shoving the three pranksters into the briefing room.
“Thank you,” Mercury sighed, strolling in after them, shaking her head in disgust of her comrade’s juvenile antics; really, how old were they?! Hard to believe she was the youngest of the team with their behavior...
She stopped and stared at what waited inside, the doors sliding closed behind her. There were only four chairs around the briefing table -- and five of Joes on the mission. The youngest Joe sighed and was prepared to stand during the mission briefing, seeing the males of the group had sat down without thinking. Airtight took notice of her situation and grinned behind his breather. Good chance to flirt with the new girl!
“Hey, Mercury, you can always sit here on my lap!” he called over to the petite blonde teasingly.
Mercury scowled at him, while Beachhead twitched in annoyance and glared at Airtight. The Ranger prepared to stand so that she could have his chair when Mercury’s devilish side decided to have some fun with Airtight’s ‘pea-brain’.
“No thanks, I’ll just sit here.” She replied snidely, sitting on Beachhead’s lap. The balaclava wearing Ranger froze suddenly, his fingers gripping the armrests of his chair tightly when her buttocks touched his muscular thighs, unused to the sudden contact and proximity of the younger Joe.
“Brat, what do you think yer doin’?” The Ranger growled in her ear.
“Teaching Airtight a lesson,” Mercury replied smugly, leaning back in her ‘chair’, her back against Beachhead’s chest. “So just chill, old man. Temporary truce until the mission’s over, okay?”
“Fine,” Beachhead shifted slightly in his seat, uncomfortable by her sudden, unexpected closeness. It was disconcerting to be so close to his young nemesis…it was one thing to be in her face and berating her or running her through his PT regime, but this…was different, and he didn’t know why. And he didn’t like not knowing why it was different, not with his need to be in complete and total control...
“Congratulations, you just passed,” Duke’s voice said drolly as he entered the room.
“Passed? Who passed what?” Mercury asked as she blinked at the Top Shirt in confusion, a rare expression on the young woman’s normally stoic face.
“You did, kiddo. You put your negative emotions for Beachhead aside for the sake of the mission, for the sake of the unity of the team. Good work. I had hoped this would be the outcome when I arranged for there to only be four chairs and I’m satisfied.” Duke informed her, allowing himself to grin; perhaps the General’s handpicked Joe would be able to make it past the tests still ahead of her after all. “Now, let’s get started...”
“So that’s the story. There is no margin of error in this one, boys,” the blond Top Shirt concluded; there was a slightly annoyed clearing of a throat and Duke grinned at Mercury, “and girl. Get in, get what we need, and get out. Beachhead will be Team Leader. Mercury, you are recon and communications. If the hijackers open that lab, Airtight is the only one qualified to handle the virus. Tripwire’s along in case they’ve wired the plane or the lab, and Flash is the man to crack the electronic lock if necessary. The access code changes every ten minutes.”
Duke gestured to the picture of an older man, foreign in nationality on the massive screen behind him; his face was worn and tired, showing him to possibly being older then his years. “This is Dr. Masoud Sharifi, creator of what’s been dubbed the ‘Death Angel’ virus. It’s a good bet the hijackers have kept him alive. Let’s just hope they haven’t pried any information out of him. CIA says he’s expendable. If he’s alive, I want you to bring him back.”
“I’ve seen the files on this virus. It’s a flesh-eater, and works at a phenomenal rate. They call it ‘Death Angel’ because it creates a feeling of euphoria in the victim as the effects take hold,” Airtight chimed in, leaning forward in his chair, hands gesturing in excitement. Tripwire made a ‘ewww’ face at the man’s intensity and description of the virus.
“Pretty cool stuff,” Airtight added, either not seeing or ignoring Flash’s cringe and the glare Beachhead sent his way. Mercury was paler then normal, her young face twisted into a grimace of revulsion.
“Freak,” Beachhead muttered softly and saw Mercury – the only one close enough to clearly hear him -- nod her head in agreement, her face still scrunched in disgust of the garish-clad man’s enthusiasm of a manmade virus that could potentially kill the team if they made the slightest of errors. Sometimes she wondered if becoming a Joe meant one had to be somewhat insane…
“I guess I’ll ask the obvious question,” Flash stated, getting Duke’s attention by casually raising his hand. “If this virus is so horrible, why was the Air Force carrying it around anyway?”
“Dr. Sharifi was a top brain for the Iranian government, specializing in biological weaponry,” Duke replied. “At some point, his conscious kicked in and he contacted the CIA with an offer: If they could protect him, he’d turn over the secrets of Iran’s bio-weapons program. Sharifi has only been out of Iran two days. Some welcome wagon, eh?”
Mercury grimaced. ‘Welcome Wagon’ indeed. What a way to send the man running back to Iran or some other country that’d love to get their hands on his secrets to use bio-weapons against the United States and her allies…
“You’ll drop in at dusk, five miles from the camp. Chopper will be on stand-by, in case you need extraction or an escort,” the Top Kick told them.
“Do we wait for Cobra to make the buy before we make the hit?” Beachhead asked as he carefully shifted in his chair, his hands on the round table. Mercury was unknowingly leaning against his forearm as she studied the Intel on the monitors, peering intently at the screens, committing the vital information on them to memory.
“That’s your call. If you can finish the job before Cobra shows up, I’d say go for it.” Duke stated, “If not, watch and wait and let the bad guys do the work for us.”
“What about Chuckles? Is he coming back with us?” Tripwire asked.
Mercury blinked in confusion of the question for a moment before recalling Chuckles was one of their undercover Intel operatives. He was supposed to be good, very good, but why he was called ‘Chuckles’ of all things was still beyond her. Must be an inside joke a rookie like her wasn’t privy too…
“You’ll have to take your cues from Chuckles on that one. He’s the one whose neck is on the line here. So that’s his decision,” Duke replied. “If you extract him, treat him like the enemy. That’s hard, I know. But it’s for his safety.”
Beachhead shifted again and Mercury took that as her cue, rising up off his lap. She stepped to the side as he stood; immediately she heard the scrapping of chairs and saw the other three men rise to their feet from the corner of her eye, following the designated Team Leader’s lead. The Ranger crossed his arms over his muscular chest as he waited for dismissal, his mind already calculating several plans of attack. Mercury rested her hands on her hips, raising a pale brow at Duke impatiently, eager for dismissal so she could go kick the asses of those that threatened her nation.
“We don’t know who we’re dealing with here. Stay on your toes and be careful.” Duke reminded them sternly. “Now grab your gear and hit the slicks!”
Location: Five miles from the Wingfield Installation, Colorado
Mercury was rather disgruntled; once more there had been limited seating options, so here she was lying across the laps of her four male comrades. Her parachute was secured to her back and she was currently belly down across their legs, playing her GameBoy Advance SP, fingers punching the buttons swiftly, the light from the screen casting an eerie glow on her pale face. The soft bleeps of the game were barely audible over the sounds of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ or the sound of the chopper blades.
“Man, what is it with you and that cow-pie music?” Flash demanded irritably of Beachhead, shifting his weight in agitation, his hands moving expressively as he vented his frustrations. He flinched when Mercury growled as his hand accidentally struck her shoulder, causing her character on screen to plummet through the air instead of attacking the main villain of the game.
The youngest Joe had to keep from groaning as she rolled her eyes in irritation. Not this again! Flash and Airtight had began complaining the very second Beachhead strapped in his CD player overhead. Tripwire didn’t mind and when they had tried to get her vote, she’d pulled out her GameBoy and gotten as comfortable as possible, essentially giving the burly Ranger her consent; right now she really wasn’t in the mood to break the temporary peace with her former trainer over something as trivial as his choice in music.
“You better watch what you say about Johnny Cash, Boy,” Beachhead growled at Flash as he pointed a reprimanding finger at the complaining man over Mercury’s head, “If you sissy boys were half the man he is, you’d probably get a lot more—“
“Time to drop,” Tripwire hastily interrupted the potentially explosive argument and Mercury sighed in relief as she saved her game and turned her GameBoy off and flipping it closed.
Tucking the GameBoy into one of her belt pouches, she shifted, bracing her gloved hands on Beachhead’s muscular thigh as she moved; the Ranger stiffened, suddenly uncomfortable with the feeling of the youngest Joe’s slender, deceptively delicate hands on him so near his crotch; in the back of his mind he grumbled about how long it’d been since he’d last gotten laid if his body was reacting so strongly to the young Joe’s touch. Drawing her legs up under her, Tripwire let out a silent sigh of relief as her slender calves and booted feet slid off his lap allowing the flow of blood in his legs to be unimpeded once more, and while Airtight had to deal with her knees digging in the sliver of space between Flash and himself, he was suddenly awarded with a new view.
As Mercury pushed herself into a stretch to remove the kinks of staying immobile for so long, her rear-end went up before the hazardous environments specialist’s face. Behind his protective facemask, Airtight grinned; the gear she wore might have been made to smother her curves when she was moving normally, when she was stretching, it was another thing entirely as he beheld the young Joe’s surprisingly shapely rear. Mercury gracefully moved, tumbling off of them onto the chopper floor, her feet making no noise.
“About time too -- I was going to beat my game again,” Mercury complained as she finished her stretches, watching as Beachhead carefully stood, turning to switch off his stereo.
“And since when do you guys carry nightsticks?” The female Private demanded before Beachhead shoved her out of the chopper.
“Women and children first,” he drawled as she yelped in protest while falling backwards out of the chopper. Her slender, black-clad body plummeted through the air and she turned midair to look at the pristine white snowy ground beneath her; her screamed profanities drifted back up towards them.
“Nightsticks?” Ripcord asked as he raised his brows at the four men, taking in their somewhat uncomfortable state. “Is she serious?”
“She’s naïve,” Beachhead growled as he jumped out of the chopper after Mercury, muttering something vile-sounding under his breath.
“Lift-ticket, you and Ripcord better be ready to pick us up if we holler. No naps this time,” Tripwire reminded the two in the cockpit of the chopper as Airtight leapt from the chopper.
“No naps, but I did see a nice little watering hole a few miles back though…” Lift-ticket teased.
“We’ll save it for the after-party. First round’s on me,” Ripcord promised.
“Hey, Tripwire! If I get squashed make sure my Momma knows I love her!” Flash called to the explosives expert as he leapt from the helicopter.
“Quit worrying, Flash, chopper jumps are a piece of -- oooops!!” Tripwire’s reply was cut off with a yelp as he tripped, falling from the chopper.
Five parachutes gently floated to the white earth below, snow whirling about them. Mercury, Beachhead, and Tripwire reached the ground first and were bundling their parachutes as Flash and Airtight floated down.
“Parade in five minutes -- Ah’ll take point and Flash is the tail man.” Beachhead ordered.
“Nobody said we’d be freezing out here! Why didn’t they send Frostbite?” Flash complained as his boots contacted with the pristine snow.
“Awww, did somebody forget his mittens?” Tripwire teased, finishing burying his parachute in the snow. Beside him, Mercury snickered softly as she covered her parachute, silently contemplating hurling a snowball at Beachhead, before decided to hold to their truce – but that meant after they were done, it was open season on that big Ranger!
“Cut the chatter you two,” Beachhead scolded them in a low voice, holding his weapon at the ready as they moved out, Mercury falling in step behind him. “We don’t know how far out their security goes, so pay attention!”
The five Joes walked in silence for a few moments before Airtight quietly spoke up softly, “I have a question.”
“Yeah?” Beachhead’s grunt was soft.
“What’s the firefight protocol as far as Chuckles is concerned?” The Hazardous Environments Specialist asked the question his comrades had been mulling over. “I know it’s important to make him look like an enemy, but how far do we go? Cobra’s gonna be awfully suspicious if we shoot everyone except him.”
“Chuckles knew the risks when he took the job,” Beachhead replied after a moment’s thought. “Ah’m not saying to aim for his head, but if you have to put a bullet in a friend to save his life, Ah don’t think you should hesitate to pull the trigger. Being a professional means we can be counted on to do what must be done every time, whether we like it or not. You and Ah may not exactly jibe in the Mess Hall, but I know you’re a professional, same as me and Ah respect that. Ah know you can do the job if you have to.”
They traveled in thoughtful silence until they arrived in a grove of trees on a hill above a massive hanger. In front of it, standing illuminated by the powerful outdoor lights were two male guards garbed in white cold-weather gear. The five Joes crouched in the shadows of the bare limbed trees, peering at their target through the lightly falling snow.
“Something doesn’t smell right – only two guards?” Airtight said softly.
“No joke,” Tripwire agreed. “Either these guys are cocky or we’re walking into a trap.”
“I’m leaning towards it being a trap myself. Of course I’m a paranoid lil bitch,” Mercury murmured her assessment as she shifted her weight.
“Ah’m gonna take those guards out and have a look-see in the hangar,” Beachhead began, not seeing the black-clad form of the young female Joe had already slipped away, making a beeline to the blindside of the hangar. “When Ah signal, Ah want Flash and Airtight to come over. Tripwire and Mercury, you’ll cover them, and then join us…” He ordered before noticing they were a Joe short. “Mercury?! Where the Hell is that brat?!”
“Umm….” Tripwire pointed to the front of the hangar right as they heard the sounds of a fight. Turning, Beachhead saw the small Joe securing the two now unconscious guards.
“That little…” Beachhead’s eyebrow twitched in rage as he stalked down the embankment. His long strides brought him to her side quickly, right as she was standing and dusting off her gear. “What the Hell do you think you were doin’?!”
“Taking down the guards…?” Mercury squeaked as the tall Ranger checked the hangar, bristling anger in his body language. Subconsciously her posture became submissive before his anger, shrinking her petite frame down smaller to make herself a less obvious target.
“Ah was gonna take down the guards! Did you ignore mah orders?!” Beachhead snarled, giving the signal to Flash and Airtight.
“I didn’t hear you, Sergeant Major,” she gulped nervously in the face of the enraged Ranger. “I was already moving when you started talking…”
“I don’t like it – this is way too easy,” Airtight whispered to Flash as they ran over to Beachhead, who had taken Mercury’s cap and slapped her upside the head with it in chastisement before returning it to her with the promise of even more PT when they returned to base.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Flash replied softly.
“Good news – nobody’s here,” Airtight said cheerfully as the four Joes made their way into the hangar, Mercury hanging back, embarrassed from her chastisement in front of her teammates as she pulled her cap back on. Before them was the missing aircraft, its cargo bay door open.
“Yeah, but why not?” Flash murmured, frowning behind his visor.
“Hey, I heard something out there, like trucks coming up the trail,” Tripwire informed them as he entered the hangar. “Sounded like they were still off in the distance, but…”
“That should be Chuckles. We need to move this along,” Beachhead growled as they moved into the plane, the beams of their flashlights on the walls, searching their surroundings. The beams landed on a massive door sealed with a high-tech electronic lock. “Lets get to work.”
After the team finished slipping on their breathers, Beachhead, Airtight, and Mercury stood watch as Flash and Tripwire investigated the door; Flash was working on the lock while Tripwire checked for any explosives wired to the door itself. Moments passed until Flash finally had to give up. Turning to Beachhead, he gave the Ranger an update.
“Tripwire says the doors don’t appear to be wired, so this should work just fine,” Flash reported, grabbing the strap of his laser rifle. Carefully aiming it, he activated it, cutting into the thick metal. “This may take a minute…”
The sound of the laser cutting into the metal reverberated in the frigid air of the abandoned plane was near deafening in the tight confines. Mercury’s pale eyes scanned the plane’s cargo bay as she and her teammates stood guard; she nearly jumped when the laser cut off, plunging the plane into silence once more. Turning, she watched Flash and Tripwire kick the door in. Securing his laser rifle, Flash grinned behind his breather, beginning to turn to Tripwire when a glaring spotlight suddenly shone on the small team. Mercury whirled, leveling her weapon at the spotlight. Behind the team stood ten shadow encased silhouettes, which turned out to be men garbed in the same white artic gear as the fallen guards when the Joes’ eyes adjusted to the light; they outnumbered the Joe team two to one. Their leader was completely bald with a smug smirk on his cleanly shaven face, his eyes hidden behind a pair of dark Rayban sunglasses.
“Thank you so much for your hard work, gentlemen. You’ve just saved us quite a bit of trouble,” the bald man stated in a superior tone before looking at one of his men. “Get the virus containers out of there. As for the prisoners, keep them nearby. I want them to see what happens next.”
Mercury growled savagely as her rifle was suddenly jerked from her hands; they could take them, she knew they could, but the risk provided by the virus was firm in thwarting them from that course of action. She could hear Beachhead growl when her shoulder was grabbed roughly by one of the men. From the corner of her eye the young Joe could see that her comrades were having their weaponry removed, shoved against the interior walls as they were roughly searched for hidden knives or other forms of surprises. Her jaw clenching, the petite Joe glared up at her captor.
A soft grunt escaped her when she was roughly shoved against the wall beside Beachhead, who gave her handler a dirty look; the big Ranger might have been brutal in training his men on the O-Course, but when it came to searching captives, he didn’t approve of casual cruelty; do what needed to be done, do it fast and do it right, was his belief – taking out ones anger on a captive during a search could blind the one performing the search to a hidden weapon. Placing her hands on the wall, Mercury growled silently as she was frisked aggressively, the man’s hands moving over her side, waist, and legs. She stiffened when the man’s hand ran between her legs; he paused, frowning before shrugging dismissively and continuing. Callously he grabbed her slender wrist and twisted her arm behind her and the petite Joe felt her wrists being bound tightly with rope.
Once they were dragged outside the plane, back into the hangar, Mercury was thrown among her comrades and she rolled deeper into the shadows, gritting her teeth. Shivering with cold, she huddled between Tripwire and Beachhead, grateful for the heat of their bodies in the frigid hanger. To conserve energy, the youngest Joe began to ‘shut down’, her breathing evening out and heart rate slowing down, slipping into a self-taught trance she’d learned when she was much younger to dull out the pain and extreme temperatures she had to cope with in the abusive foster home she grew up in.
She didn’t know how long she rested like this when the soft buzz of their captor’s voice and the voices of other men caught her attention. There was the sound of a brief struggle as Mercury shifted her weight slightly, her eyes opening as she came out of her self-induced trance. From the corner of her eye, she saw Beachhead was tense as he stared at the pair of men coming closer. One was the bald captor, the other a man with long brown hair pulled back in a loose tail with a goatee. The lapel pin on his dark suit made him as a Cobra…or would have if the Joes didn’t know who he really was.
“If you’re the loyal supporter of Cobra you claim to be, Mr. Joseph,” their captor drawled smugly, taking a semi-automatic pistol from one of his men before passing it to Chuckles, “then you should find this test particularly pleasing.”
The glare Chuckles gave the man told him to stop being so melodramatic and get on with what he was trying to say. Mercury silently agreed and would have said so verbally if Beachhead hadn’t leaned back suddenly, pressing his weight on her in a silent warning to behave and not to attract the attention of their captors; some times it seemed the man could read her mind…or more accurately her intentions through her body language and past history.
“Prove yourself. Prove your loyalty to Cobra and your life back from me. All you have to do,” their captor sneered while pulling back, gesturing to the Joes; Chuckles eyes widen in surprise at the sight of the five bound Joes, “is kill one of these men.”
Mercury allowed herself a low growl at being called a man, gaining the attention of the bald man. Beachhead lifted his head and glared at him icily, discreetly elbowing her in the side to make her shut up. Swallowing discreetly, Chuckles lifted the weapon and Beachhead transferred his defiant glare to their undercover comrade, his hazel eyes hard, all but telling the other man to do it as he shifted his weight, positioning himself before the others of his team.
“I say again, Mr. Joseph,” their captor snarled, “kill him. Kill him and prove your loyalty to Cobra!”
Standing in the background were two Crimson Guardsmen, a Crimson Guardsman Immortal, and Wild Weasel. The pilot shifted nervously; killing another in the middle of a battle was one thing – this was out and out murder to his eyes, with the obvious team leader ready to take a bullet for his team, shielding the youngest, smallest member of the team with his own bulk. The kid was probably a greenie on his first or second mission and the leader, who the pilot recognized as Beachhead, must feel responsible for him, something the pilot was quite familiar with concerning his own subordinates.
Mercury gritted her teeth, staring at Beachhead’s massive back as he shielded her. ‘Damnit, old man!’ she mentally cursed at him. ‘I don’t need protection!’
“Step forward and pull the trigger!” The bald man demanded impatiently, “I’m tired of waiti—“
“Hey, what’s that noise?” Wild Weasel interrupted, his keen ears – trained to be sensitive to the sound of the engine of his plane in the bush wars he’d cut his teeth in -- detecting the sound of a motor before the others; the Crimson Guardsmen and the Immortal all jerked towards the sound when it grew loud enough for them to hear as well.
“Look out!” One of the Crimson Guard shouted as the car Chuckles and his Cobra ‘comrades’ had rode in suddenly barreled into the hanger.
“Scatter!” The Immortal bellowed as they leapt aside, the Joes’ captor screaming out in indignation.
“What is this?!” The bald man demanded of the Cobra agents.
The two Crimson Guardsmen were struck by the car as the rest of them scattered wildly. Chuckles tackled Beachhead to the cold floor, Mercury’s lean form inadvertently breaking their fall.
“Make this look good,” Chuckles hissed softly to his comrades.
The tires of the black car squealed as the brakes were suddenly applied, the vehicle swinging to a halt between the Joes and their enemies. Mercury could hear the bullets slamming into the side of the car and their captor’s voice suddenly rang out in shrill outrage.
“We’ve been double-crossed! Shoot everyone!”
“Wingfield, this wasn’t our doing!” The Immortal protested before a gunshot echoed and he staggered with a hole in his chest.
“Shut up,” Wingfield, the bald man holding the Joes prisoner, snarled as the Cobra agent fell to the cold concrete floor of the hanger, the barrel of his weapon still smoking. “We were going to kill all of you anyway.”
“Grenade!” One of Wingfield’s guards screamed as the small black explosive sudden came flying over the roof of the car.
The grenade exploded, sending the men flying; Wingfield, still clutching the briefcase, slammed into the side of the car. Gasping to recover his breath he braced his weight on the car door. The smoke hid his captives and Chuckles from view, allowing the deep cover agent the chance to free his comrades, while the driver held the two Crimson Guardsmen and Wild Weasel at bay.
“Lose the hardware now,” the man threatened, leveling his sidearm and hefting a rocket launcher on his shoulder, “or the plane and its cargo hit the atmosphere, and we go along for the ride.”
“You’re bluffing,” Wild Weasel hissed, his sidearm aimed at the driver’s head; flanking him, the Guardsmen had their rifles trained on the threat as well.
“Boys, I’m CIA… we run nastier ops on Sunday than you women do all year,” the agent sneered, “you think Uncle Sam wouldn’t scrub this mission just to avoid embarrassment?”
“Man’s got a point,” Wild Weasel sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat as he and the two Crimson Guardsmen threw their weapons to the ground.
“The guy with the rocket launcher’s on our side,” Chuckles whispered to his fellow Joes, “Help him get the Snakes dealt with, then back me up. I’m going after Wingfield.”
“Uhhh…” Wingfield groaned in pain, pushing himself to his feet. Looking around at the carnage inside the hangar, he came to a single conclusion: “Time to go.”
Chuckles straightened and saw the smoke clearing. He could see Wild Weasel’s back, the pilot standing stiff with his hands raised over his head; flanking him were the Crimson Guardsmen. Beyond them stood the agent…and Wingfield making his escape, still clutching the briefcase.
“This is all a diversion! Wingfield’s getting away with our money!” Chuckles bellowed, running out of the smoke, leveling his weapon at the fleeing man, providing the freed Joes an opportunity to stay out of the Cobras’ sight. The CIA agent turned and opened fire on the fleeing covert operative, adding to Chuckles’ cover as a Cobra in the eyes of Wild Weasel and the Crimson Guardsmen.
The undercover Joe’s fleeing form vanished and the smoke dissipated enough for the three captive Cobras to see the Joes were free. Beachhead took immediate control of the situation, picking up a weapon dropped by one of Wingfield’s men, aiming at the captives.
“That bald bastard’ll have more on tha way so be ready,” the surly Ranger barked. “Tripwire, start lookin’ for our gear. Mercury, gather all the weapons you can find. Flash, Ah’m gonna need you and Airtight to secure the prisoners.”
“On it,” replied the demolitions expert as he turned and tripped over his own feet. In one smooth motion, he pushed himself back up and scrambled away to begin a sweep for their gear. Airtight and Flash hunted around and found some rope to use on the prisoners, probably left over from their own bondage, while Mercury silently gathered the fallen weapons of the dead.
“We appreciate the help, Agent Caulder,” Flash said after the trio of surviving Cobra agents were properly secured. “But why are we here, if the CIA is in on this, too?”
“Beats me. One of our SIGNIT teams picked up a distress call from the plane when Wingfield took control,” Agent Caulder replied.
Mercury frowned at the Agent from where she was crouched beside Airtight as they sorted through the weapons she had gathered – while she was nothing more then a rookie, there was just something about this man that didn’t seem to sit right…of course, she could simply be picking up from the vibe she was getting from Beachhead, whom was standing at his full height, his muscles visibly tense beneath his nearly skintight shirt. It was something she recognized when one of the Greenshirts tried to pull something over him thinking he was a dumb hick…and it was something that never ended well…
“And you just happened to find a way to join the Cobra team that was coming here?” Beachhead asked, his Alabama drawl dripping with disbelief and a hint of distain at the blatant attempt to lie to them. The towering Ranger leaned forward, a gloved finger in the CIA Agent’s face. “Lame story, Caulder. You’re running a deep cover Op here, but what’s your objective…the Virus or Wingfield? You Spooks may thing we’re a bunch of dumb grunts---“
“—who can’t afford deodorant apparently,” the Agent cut in with an acidic tone, his thin mustache and lips curling in distain for the Ranger’s lack of hygiene.
The young Joe’s jaw dropped at the blatant disrespect to her commanding officer from the CIA operative as Beachhead lunged forward, his large fist curling into the lapels of the agent’s jacket and hauling him off the ground – it was one thing for the Greenshirts to make snide comments and jokes behind the Ranger’s back after he pounded them into a pulp on the O-Course, but this guy…! Did he have a deathwish or something?!
“All right, Mister Mouth, why don’t we see who’s go—“ Beachhead snarled, his pupils mere pinpricks in rage and his free hand hauled back and curled into a fist that would have shattered the CIA Agent’s face has Airtight not made a desperate lunge and snagged the drawn back arm; Flash’s fingers was digging into the thick muscle of the arm and shoulder that was holding Caulder up off the ground.
“Enough of this, both of you!” Flash snapped irritably at the quarrelsome pair; honestly he’d have expected this of Beachhead and Mercury, since the young Joe had a knack for getting under the big Ranger’s skin, but not a trained operative like Caulder had appeared to be. “We have a mission here. Save it for later!”
“Feh!” Beachhead snorted and when he dropped Caulder, his comrades released him, relief coming off of his subordinates in near-visible waves.
A second later, Tripwire walked into the Hanger, his arms full of their gear; the demolition’s expert could feel the tension in the air. “I found our gear stashed in the supply closet! Arm yourselves!”
With an inaudible sigh of relief, Mercury reclaimed her weaponry from her comrade, returning the throwing blades to their respective sheathes as her team checked their weapons for tampering. As they finished, the team began to walk away; Beachhead looked over his shoulder to see her checking over her GameBoy Advance SP.
“Come on, kid,” he ordered gruffly. “Take point.”
“Yes, Sergeant Major!” Mercury replied automatically, tucking the handheld game system into her belt-pouch and darting forward to rejoin her team, taking the front easily. She could barely hear the conversation between her team leader and the CIA Agent as she lead the team, her rifle at the ready and keeping her footsteps as quiet as possible. Her ears strained as she ignored the sounds of the conversation and she concealed a flinch at… “Beachhead! Weapons fired ahead!”
Almost as one they ran forward, heading for the side door. Mercury went to the side in a low run, taking in the situation as her comrades ran by; one of Wingfield’s men was standing over the prone form of Chuckles with his rifle aimed at the fallen man’s head, three of his comrades dead and the undercover Joe agent wounded, bleeding in the fight disturbed snow.
Two gunshots echoed as one, one piercing the back of the man and exiting through his heart, the other punching a hole through the back of his head. The dual kill-shots caused the dead man to fall to the ground beside his intended victim.
“Hope you don’t mind me jumping in,” Caulder quipped, a thin wisp of smoke curling up from the barrel of his handgun; kneeling in the snow in front of Beachhead was Mercury, smoke rising from the end of her rifle’s muzzle.
“Oh I think I can excuse it this once,” Chuckles retorted as he rose shakily to his feet.
“Look alive!” Beachhead interrupted, his eyes on the oncoming pair of enemy troopers, “There’s more on the way!”
The Ranger tossed one of the two rifles he carried over to Chuckles, whom had a hand pressed to his bleeding side, asking over the oncoming gunfire, “You too proud to use a Cobra weapon?””
“Not right now I’m not…” Chuckled retorted, catching the weapon one-handed.
Hot lead sliced through the snowy air as the two sides exchanged fire, the pair of Wingfield’s militia falling in the onslaught of the Joes and CIA operative’s superior numbers; it didn’t come easily though, as Flash’s snarl of “Owww!” echoed through the cold night air.
“Flash?” Beachhead demanded a sitrep of his subordinate’s condition as he turned towards the bunker the enemy had come from.
“I’m okay!” The laser-rifle wielding trooper replied, exasperation in his tone as he began to run for the bunker. “Let’s just get to the bunker.”
“You heard the man,” Beachhead barked at Chuckles, Tripwire, Airtight, and Mercury as the remaining Joes scanned their surroundings for any more attackers. “Cover us ‘til the door is open, then move in!”
As Caulder joined Beachhead and Flash, the four other Joes formed a loose formation with their backs to their teammates, their weapons at the ready as they scanned the surrounding buildings for enemy movement. Chuckles wheezed slightly, the steamy vapor escaping his mouth into the cold night air resembling large puffs rather then the controlled wisps of his fellow Joes. The undercover agent’s vision was blurry and the muzzle of his ‘borrowed’ rifle dipped as his knees began to buckle; he fell back and expected to hit the snow. Instead he heard a grunt as he landed on the newest Joe, whom slid a lean arm around his waist, pulling his arm over her shoulders.
“Hold still,” Mercury said, pressing her gloved hand against the wound on his side to stem the flow of the bleeding as she dragged him deeper into cover, Tripwire and Airtight moving to form a tighter formation as Caulder seemed to appear on the other side of Chuckles to help her.
Behind them they could hear the bunker doors open, along with Flash’s triumphant exclamation:
“See? I’m that good.”
Beachhead and Flash entered the bunker with their weapons at the ready, the Team Leader snarling: “Nobody move!”
Airtight entered behind them, covering the entrance of Caulder, Chuckles, and Mercury, with Tripwire guarding the rear; the young Joe lifted her head, seeing Beachhead and a blonde woman with long hair garbed like one of Wingfield’s militia darting from the room as Flash cut the bonds of the missing Iranian, Doctor Sharifi.
Lying on the ground, clutching where he’d been stabbed in the ribs was Wingfield himself. The terrorist snarled out two words as he rolled to his knees: “Too late!”
With a wobbly lunge at one of the consoles, the bald man coughed violently. “-koff- Initiate -koff- Launch sequence!”
With his hand on the console, Mercury felt her stomach drop to her knees at the sound of the computer’s mechanical voice: “Identity verified: Wingfield, Tyler Alan. Launch Sequence initiated.”
“You’re insane!” Flash screamed, his fist slamming into Wingfield’s jaw, sending the terrorist falling into one of the room’s many consoles. “Airtight! Tripwire! Hit the missile bay while I look for an override! Mercury, see what you can do for Chuckles!”
“Yessir!” The young Joe grunted as her older male teammates exited the control room in a dead run. She found herself alone in supporting the undercover agent’s weight; Caulder had Wingfield up by the collar and was smirking down at his foe.
“Well, the worm is really crawling now, eh?” the CIA operative sneered. “How’s it feel, worm?”
Mercury bit back the urge to snarl at him as she tried to keep from dropping Chuckles. To her surprise, Sharifi slid in on Chuckles other side, helping her lower him to the floor as Flash snapped at Caulder.
“Caulder, shut up and see if you can help Mercury with Chuckles. You got what you wanted. This is our show now.”
“There’s a full medical kit onboard the plane in the hangar,” Sharifi informed the young Joe and the CIA agent. “Is it safe to take him out there?”
“I can provide cover for you if you can fix him up,” Mercury replied before Caulder could speak.
“Good. Let’s get him there…” Sharifi murmured as they lifted the undercover agent back to his feet.
“Chuckles, sir, if you can hear me – hang on!” Mercury urged her superior through gritted teeth as she and the Iranian refugee dragged him out of the bunker.
“Don’t…call me…sir….” The older Joe groaned out with a weak laugh, his breath visible, ragged puffs in the night air.
The snow swirled around the trio as they dragged the injured man to the hangar; the sound of pounding footsteps caused Mercury to shift her hold on her wounded superior. One of Wingfield’s militia was charging at them as her rifle was pinned – but her throwing knives were a different story. With a near blur of movement, the female Joe pulled on of her small throwing blades from the sheath on her thigh; it whistled through the air before embedding in the oncoming attacker’s throat in a spray of arterial blood.
As the man collapsed into the disturbed snow, thrashing for a couple seconds before stilling in the now crimson snow, she and Sharifi returned to their original task – get Chuckles to the plane so they could tend his wounds. They were forced to pause again as the young woman did a visual sweep of the hangar before they entered. Their footsteps echoed as they guided Chuckles up the ramp leading into cargo bay of the plane.
“Can you handle him from here? I’ll secure the area so we can work on him in peace…” Mercury murmured.
“Yes, thank you, young man,” Sharifi replied as she shifted her grip on Chuckles, not seeing the young Joe’s grimace at the older man’s incorrect assumption.
“If you need an extra set of hands, call out for me. I’m Mercury,” the young woman replied gruffly.
As the Iranian carted her wounded superior off further into the bowels of the plane, she slid into the shadows of the open cargo bay door, her dark gear and black-painted rifle blending with the shadows as she watched for any movement in the far corners of the hangar. Not seeing any, she retreated, following Sharifi’s path into the interior of the plane.
The lab they had broken into had a table that the Iranian bio-chemist was helping Chuckles up onto; her superior was groggy from blood loss and she set her rifle aside to assist the older Joe. Sharifi passed her a pair of scissors to remove Chuckles’s bloodied jacket as he grabbed the medical kit. The young Joe spared a glance and arched a brow at the kit’s contents – when the Iranian had said it was fully equipped, he hadn’t been exaggerating.
With the deep-cover agent’s jacket cut off and tossed aside, she stepped out of Sharifi’s way to allow him access to treat the more severe injuries to Chuckles’s torso. She stopped at where the blood caused the material of his pants to cling to his thigh and with a quick snip-snip, gained access to the injuries. Like all Greenshirts, she had undergone some basic first aid and was relieved to see only a flesh wound on her superior’s thigh; that she could handle.
The air was tense as the duo worked and the only words spoken were for the supplies on the medical kit between the American and Iranian. As Mercury secured the gauze around his right thigh, she saw from the corner of her eye Sharifi still working on Chuckles’s torso; without a word, she moved to tend to what looked to be a flesh wound on his left shoulder.
“Sir? Can you hear me?” Mercury asked as she gained access to the flesh wound.
“Nnnh….” Chuckles groaned softly. “Which are you…?”
“Mercury, sir. You’re going to be fine, mostly flesh wounds from my uneducated guess. I’m no Lifeline…” she murmured softly as she cleansed the wound.
“We’ll need to get him to sit up so I can wrap him,” Sharifi interjected softly.
Within moment the pair was carefully helping the deep-cover agent sit up; between the two of them, they securely wound the remaining bandages from the kit around the older Joe’s abdomen and up to cover his injured left shoulder. Chuckles seemed more alert, looking around with the ingrained paranoia of all veteran undercover operatives.
“I’m good. Let’s get outta here…” he murmured, his words only slightly slurred.
“Yessir,” Mercury replied, gliding around the table as he swung his legs over.
She and Sharifi supported his weight as he slipped off the table; carefully, ever mindful of his wounds, they helped him from the laboratory back into the cargo bay of the aircraft; as they descended the loading ramp, they could hear the sound of an explosion and felt the slight tremors resulting in the metal under their feet.
“What the hell was that?” Mercury hissed, scanning the hangar warily as she and the bio-chemist hauled Chuckles towards the open hangar door. As they approached the doorway, they heard the familiar sound of helicopters beating down on the compound. Exiting the hangar, Mercury sighed in relief.
“Its ours,” she informed her wounded superior and the Iranian. “We won!”
The next few minutes were a blur as she helped load Chuckles and Sharifi into a medical transport; when things calmed down, she found herself looking at Beachhead’s back. He was laughing along with the other males of her team, his mask off – Airtight had his helmet off, tucked under his arm. The petite Joe leaned over, scooping up a handful of snow, her eyes trained on the back of the Ranger’s dark head. Flash caught sight of what she was doing and elbowed Tripwire, then Airtight. Beachhead saw their antics was aimed at something they saw behind him and as he turned, he caught the loosely packed ball of slushy snow square in the face.
The cold, wet slush dripped off his face and vaguely the Ranger could make out the laughter of his comrades behind him; wiping his eyes, he caught sight of his young nemesis standing a few feet before him with slush clinging to her gloved fingers and a surprised expression on her face. His lips pulled back in a silent snarl, hazel eyes hard as he ground out one word:
With that, the young Joe was running for her life screaming bloody murder with the angered Ranger hot on her heels; they kicked up slush and snow as they ran past Caulder and his female partner, weaving through various Greenshirts in the chase, Beachhead bellowing profanity and threats at the youngest member of his team, her wails of “He’s gonna killll me!” and “I didn’t mean to hit you in the face…!” echoing in the snowy night air.
Later that week…
Mercury’s unabashed staring from where she sat at his right hand was getting on Beachhead’s nerves. A muscle in the Ranger’s jaw twitched as he glared at her, grinding out an annoyed, “What?!”
“Beachhead in civvies. World’s endin’… World’s endin’…” the young Joe said with a mock wide-eyed innocence stare, making her teammates crack up in fits of laughter at their team leader’s expense.
“Why you lil brat!” The Ranger growled, taking a rather lazy swat at the petite young woman; she ducked in time for his bare fingertips to barely brush her short nearly platinum blonde hair.
“Gotta be faster then that, old man!” The female member of the team taunted, resting her elbows on the table beside her plate. The pushed up sleeves of her thick gray fleece sweatshirt bared her pale forearms and under the white table cloth, one of her booted feet tapped impatiently; she hated having to waited for the bathroom and the lodge they were in only had single stalls. She seriously contemplating using the men’s room if the waitress took any longer; in the back of her mind, the young Joe figured she was probably touching up her makeup due to the ‘cute’ guys the young Joe was sitting with.
The entire team was in civilian wear, their faces bared for all to see and their trained forms barely hidden under the non-military clothing, but for the youngest of them, seeing the Drill Instructor from Hell in blue jeans and a turtleneck sweater had been a real eye-opener. So the sweater was similar to some of what he normally wear, but the blue jeans...the blue jeans looked like he’d been almost poured in them, clinging to his powerful legs; silently she was surprised he was able to move around as gracefully as normal before mentally denying even looking at him below the waist.
She fidgeted before asking without thinking: “Are any of you going to the bathroom?”
“What?” Tripwire asked in surprise, his brows raised at her unusual question.
“That woman is taking forever and the men’s room is unoccupied,” she explained her bizarre question. “Are any of you needin’ to go?”
“I’m good,” Ripcord replied, amused by the young Joe’s pragmatic attitude.
At hearing negative’s to needing the use of the men’s room, she practically leapt to her feet, her chair rocking as she did. Mercury lived up to her codename, speeding to the unoccupied men’s room; a moment later, the waitress exited the women’s room, still preening by smoothing her now loose dark hair back from her face. As she discretely adjusted her top, the waitress made her way over to the Joes’ table. Moments later, the young Joe exited the men’s room, running a hand over her short, spiky hair the same second as Tripwire got fed up with the news report on the television.
“I’ll tell you what we’re not being told!” The demolitions expert yelled, waving a donut threateningly at the face of Hector Ramirez. “Maybe it’s the part about Flash saving the day, or the three Cobras who were arrested, or the brave explosives expert who was prying open warheads with a pocketknife…!”
“Bitter much, Tripwire?” Rpcord asked dryly.
“Stop wasting food or else -- superior or not -- I’ll punch you!” Mercury snapped as she sat down, she gave the clumsy explosives expert a dirty look, gaining looks of surprise from her fellow Joes.
“Calm down, kiddo…Just annoyed that Ramirez is running his mouth again…” Tripwire laughed uneasily, the glare she sent his way downright intimidating coming from such a small teenaged girl; although with the loose sweatshirt and the worn tight blue jeans she wore, she looked more masculine then feminine... Hesitantly he offered her a donut. “Donut?”
“…thanks,” she accepted the peace offering for what it was and swallowed it down in three huge bites, washing the pastry back with a chug of her soda.
“Kid, no offense, but you eat like a pig,” Flash said in amusement.
“I like food. Grew up where wastin’ was a big offense and supplies were low,” the young Joe stated matter-of-factly as she grabbed the leg of the turkey before Beachhead, whom was leaning back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest watching her from the corner of his eye. “I’m not a bag of bones because I want to be.”
“You aren’t that skinny…” Tripwire placated the young woman.
“True. I looked worse before. Joining the Army let me put on some weight!” The rookie agreed, gnawing happily on the turkey leg. “What’d that bonehead Ramirez get you riled about, Trip? I hear you’re normally very Zen…”
“Oh his usual bullshit about why the public wasn’t informed about the missing plane, and leaving out about our color of Wild Weasel and those Crimson Guard goons,” Lift-Ticket informed her of what she missed. “Praised those two CIA agents and neglected us Joes of course.”
“Hmph. What a jerk…” Mercury mumbled around the turkey leg while Flash noticed the team leader’s dark look.
“Come on, Beachhead. Lighten up, man,” the laser-trooper cajoled the Ranger.
“I’m fine, Flash,” the Ranger insisted. “I’m just thinking about Chuckles.”
“Where is he, anyway?” Ripcord asked, echoed by Lift-Ticket’s soft “…yeah.”
Mercury grunted in agreement as she washed down a mouthful of turkey. “Yeah, how is the victim of my first attempt to patch someone up? I didn’t screw up so badly he’s cooped up in the infirmary with those vampires, right?”
“He decided to go back in,” Beachhead informed them, causing Mercury to choke.
“No way…” Tripwire agreed with the young Joe, who was pounding on the table as she tried to get the combined liquid to go back down the right pipe with tears trickling down her cheeks until Flash gave her a strong smack on the back. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Don’t do that when I’m swallowing, old man!” Mercury wheezed, tears welling in her eyes; coughing she muttered a soft ‘thanks’ to Flash, whom nodded in a distracted manner, his eyes on the Ranger.
“It’s true, I heard it from Duke this morning.” Beachhead confirmed, ignoring the youngest of the Joes’ threats.
“So what happens to him now?” the explosives expert asked.
“Wild Weasel and the two Crimson Guardsmen were interrogated alone, and they think Chuckles was given the same treatment,” the burly Ranger sighed, picking up his water. “Now they’re off to Blackwater Prison, pending trial. That’s where Chuckles is staying, until Cobra breaks him out or tries to have him killed.”
He took a sip of water, tilting his head back; his Adam’s apple, visible in the gap between his turtleneck and flesh bobbed slightly and Mercury found herself staring before shaking herself out of it as he continued, ”That’s one brave man there. Hangs out in the snake pit to feed us Intel, and goes to prison to convince Cobra Command he’s loyal. It’s one thing to pick up a gun and fight, but…to go into the enemy’s house and fight from the inside? That’s a hard man. The kind of man you admire. The kind you observe…but every night, you pray he never snaps. And being strong enough to handle that life…nothing makes him a hero more then that.”