G.I. Joe Season 3: episode 1

"The Gunner and the Grease-Monkey"

GI Joe Headquarters - 0730 hrs.

Zero Eight-Hundred...

Nowhere has the recent spate of budget cuts been more visible than in the chow hall of G.I. Joe Central Command.

Roadblock looked over his ever shrinking supply list, and he frowned. He picked up his pen and scratched three more items off the list as their ranks continue to be gradually whittled down:

No more of Rock n' Roll's deviled lox eggs... no more of Barbecue's bacon french toast rolls... no more of Leatherneck's jelly and steak sliders.

He looked out over the mess to the sea of obsidian clad DoD agents that had supplanted the more familiar green shirts. A junior line cook approached and handed him the manifest.

Roadblock read the heading. "This doesn't look like the standard form." His eyes narrowed. "What is a DFAC?"

"Dining Facility, Sarge."

Roadblock sighed audibly. "REMFs have too much time on their hands..." He signed the form, but not before scratching out the heading, replacing it with the words 'Chow Hall', and he handed it back to the younger soldier. He then looked to the wall clock, not so much as to gauge the time, but rather to regard it as a countdown, and he left.

He entered the administrative building, wondering if he'd ever walk these halls again after today, and he went straight for the south corner elevator. The door to the elevator opened. He paused as an intern brushed past him.

"Excuse me, sir."

Again he found himself involuntarily frowning. Another DoD Blacksuit... He entered the south corner elevator on his way to the command wing. As the doors started to close, he heard a familiar voice.

"Hold the door, please."

Roadblock pressed the button just in time; the doors reversed, and Cover Girl entered the elevator. She looked like she had just gotten out the shower: her hair was damp, as if it were towel-dried, and it hung mussed just past her shoulders. She finished fastening the buttons on her jacket when she noticed that it was Roadblock in the elevator with her.

She smiled. "Marvs! Long time no see, big guy."

"How've you been, Courtney?"

"Running late as usual."

His pointed finger hovered, opposed to the panel, as the doors started to close. "Floor...?"

"Command, please. Thank-you."

He snorted. "I'm headed there also." He pushed the button.

"Oh, really?" She regarded him with a raised eyebrow. "Flint's office at zero eight-hundred?"

"Affirmative."

She snorted. "Looks like they're doubling up on the layoffs."

"It's been two years since the Himalayan incident." He shrugged. "No more Cobra means no more Joe."

The elevator jolted as the pulleys and cables raised the conveyance to the upper levels. Only the electric hum of the motor broke the uncomfortable silence. Roadblock wasn't one to engage in small-talk, but it was preferable to the anxiety he felt over the impending meeting with Flint. Moreover, on the rare occasions that he happened to speak to Cover Girl, they were always pleasant to one another.

"So, you're growing your hair out, I see?"

"Yes, I am." She combed her hair with her fingers and clipped her auburn locks into a ponytail. "And, I see you've shaved your goatee. It makes you look younger."

"Thanks." Roadblock then stroked his bald chin as an afterthought.

"Was it time for a change?"

"Yeah. How about you?"

"Naw, before I became a Joe I always preferred to wear it longer. I cut it when I joined the unit because Hawk kept getting me confused for Scarlett. Since she is on indefinite leave, I figured it was safe to grow it out again."

"I guess it's a moot point now. Are you going back to modeling?"

She shook her head. "I'm over the hill."

"Not if I have anything to say about it."

"You're sweet. Actually, I've been asked to accept a teaching position at Ft. Knox."

"Do tell."

"Well, they're looking for specialists with practical battlefield experience. Colonel Peters wants to publish some of the engine modifications I made to our Wolverines and apply them to the next generation of heavy assault vehicles."

"Damn Girl, you got it goin' on!"

She blushed. "What about you? Are you going back to the regular Army?"

"No, I'm not going to renew my contract. I've been wanting to open my own bistro and maybe write a few books on French cuisine. Now that Cobra is done, It's time for Roadblock's fun in the sun."

A snort escaped her. "I don't know what I'm going to miss more: your cooking, or your off-the-cuff poetry."

Roadblock grinned. "Oh, my rhymes...? Well, I have to be in the right mood to make those happen, but I'll see if I can whip up a few before they kick us to the curb."

The elevator came to a stop, and the doors slowly creaked open. What lay before them was a long hallway leading to the command offices and mission briefing rooms. What was once a bustling corridor of activity has, over the course of the year, become a sparse dimly lit passageway.

Cover Girl exited first. Depressing...

They walked in silence; the sounds of their footfalls echoed unchallenged. As they passed by the conference room, through the open door they could see Mainframe performing routine diagnostics on one of the computers. They rounded the corner leading to General Hawk's office. It was locked with the blinds drawn, deserted. They finally arrived at the end of the adjoining corridor; on the right was a singly lit office. They were close enough to hear voices, but were too far away to discern what was being said. As they approached, their footfalls that preceded them hushed the voices. They stopped just outside the office of the senior warrant officer. Roadblock waited for Cover Girl to finish fussing with her hair before knocking on the door.

"Come," Flint bellowed.

Roadblock and Cover Girl entered. Save for Flint's Ivy League diploma on the wall behind his desk, the office was pretty much the same as Flint's predecessor left it: Spartan. Flint was sitting at his desk with his arms folded. On a couch on the far wall sat Beach Head and Stalker. They were subordinate to Flint in the chain of command. Roadblock and Cover Girl stood in front of the desk and saluted at attention. Flint waived off the formalities.

"At ease. Do you know why you're here?"

"According to the scuttlebutt, the word is we're being cut." Roadblock shared a knowing look with Cover Girl.

"No. You're both being promoted," Flint said. "You two are going to be our newest section chiefs. You will all be reporting directly to Stalker. Hawk will make a formal announcement and outline of your duties when he gets back from Washington by the time you return."

"Return from where, sir?" Cover Girl asked.

In answer, Beach Head rose from the couch and handed them each a sealed envelope. "It's not a Black OP, per se, but it isn't on the books either. You two are going to be the point men on a joint international anti-terrorist cooperative between the CIA and the DGSE—"

"The DGSE... that's French Intelligence," Cover Girl said. "You mean to say we're going to France?"

"She's got looks and brains," Beach Head said with a glower for having been interrupted. "Please note that this an experimental cooperative, and you are there in an advisory capacity"—Beach Head regarded Roadblock directly, looking him in the eye—"Translation: no ma deuce."

"Understood, Master Sergeant," Cover Girl said, interrupting him again. "But, I'm a little confused as to why the CIA handed this off to us?"

"So were we," Stalker replied. "But, it's as simple as this: the DGSE wanted GI Joe, and General Hawk handpicked you two. That's why your promotions were fast-tracked, giving you the necessary security clearance."

Beach Head concluded with, "Everything you need to know is outlined in your dossiers. Your flight leaves tomorrow morning."

Roadblock and Cover Girl saluted and left the office.

The door to the office closed, and Beach Head angrily paced.

Flint regarded him lazily. "You're going to wear a hole in my carpet, Beach."

"Sorry Flint, but this operation stinks!"

"Agreed, but what do you want me to do about it?"

"Nothing, I'm just venting. What do you think, Stalker? You've been awfully quiet sittin' over there."

"Nothing other than the obvious, that Roadblock and Cover Girl are going to be pawns in some greasy bureaucrat's wet-dream for political clout."

"What do you mean?"

"Ever since the oversight committee declared that Cobra was no longer exigent to national security, GI Joe has been chop-shopped and kicked around by the DoD. I also think that if recent intelligence reports are accurate, the cold war will be over in a matter of months. When that happens, GI Joe officially becomes obsolete."

"True," Flint said. "Which is why, ever since they put another star on his shoulder, Hawk's been in the trenches at the Pentagon using all of his influence to justify GI Joe to the big Brass. He believes Cobra has gone underground and is waiting for something as destabilizing as the fall of communism to strike."

"Do you believe that Flint?" Beach Head asked.

"I don't know. On one hand, it's been over twenty months since we've seen any sign of Cobra. Even their front company, Extensive Enterprises, has filed for bankruptcy and auctioned off its assets. But, on the other hand, we've been unable to recover any bodies from Cobra's upper echelon in the ruins of Cobra-La. I would have to say I'm on the fence, Beach."

"Be that as it may, for the moment we can't do anything about Cobra. So, given that this mission is suspicious at best, and given that the DoD has us by the short hairs, it begs the question, what is Hawk thinking sending in Roadblock and Cover Girl? What makes a gunner and a grease monkey qualified for something like this?"

Flint and Stalker didn't have an answer.

GI JOE Headquarters – 2343 hrs

Cover Girl tossed and turned in her bed. Her mind was distracted with thoughts of the mission. Staring at her wall clock from one fruitless minute to the next, she eventually decided to sneak into the galley to raid the refrigerator. She threw on an undershirt and her battle fatigues and went to the chow hall. Once there, she saw Roadblock at the stove, cooking something that smelled delicious, and Bazooka sitting at the prep table with a dinner napkin tucked into his shirt.

Bazooka regarded her. "Hi, Cover Girl."

"Hello, Bazooka. Hello, Marvs... you couldn't sleep either?"

Roadblock shrugged. "I decided to stay up to get preadjusted to the time difference."

Bazooka stretched his arms overhead. "I'm just here for the grub."

"I'm making T-bones with a side of buttered broccoli and cauliflower. Do you want some, Courtney?"

"Yummy!" Bazooka roared.

"No thanks," Cover Girl replied. "I just need something to help me sleep. I'll nuke some hot chocolate."

You will not drink that powdered concoction on my watch. I am going to make you hot cocoa with baker's chocolate and goat's milk sweetened with honey and cinnamon," Roadblock declared. He gathered the ingredients.

"Yummy!" Bazooka roared.

"Er, I didn't realize we kept all that stockpiled in the kitchen," Cover Girl said.

"Since the Culinary Arts is my secondary MOS, I've been given a modest discretionary budget that allows me to experiment with different menu items. It's all part of providing my fellow Joe's with a well-balanced diet."

Cover Girl snorted.

"So, why can't you sleep?"

She shrugged. "I can't stop thinking about the mission—"

"What mission?" Bazooka interrupted.

"It's a secret," Roadblock answered.

Cover Girl continued, saying, "Doesn't it all seem strange to you, Marvs?"

"Of course."

"So, how are we going to pull it off?"

"Hawk believes we have the skill, so all we need is the will."

"That's not bad."

"Meh, it's late." Roadblock took the steaks and vegetables off the heat, and he served a portion to Bazooka.

"Thanks, Roadblock," Bazooka said.

"You're welcome." He efficiently proceeded to stir the baker's chocolate into the now warm goat's milk.

"Well, this isn't so much about my trust in Hawk as it is my distrust of the suits behind the scene," Cover Girl said.

"Fair enough. But, as Joes I believe we will nevertheless complete this mission like any other in the true GI Joe fashion."

Cover Girl yawned. "With tenacity, courage, and perseverance?"

Roadblock shrugged. "I was thinking more along the lines of slopping through it haphazardly, waiting until the last possible minute to pull it out of the fire before it all hits the fan... But, I like your answer better."

"Oh, Marvs, that's terrible!" Cover Girl said disapprovingly, all the while trying to hide her amusement.

Roadblock finished mixing the chocolate, and he served it to Cover Girl. As he was pouring her drink, he saw Bazooka reach over and grab a saltshaker. Roadblock glared as Bazooka held the saltshaker over his steak. "Is there something wrong with your food?"

Bazooka – now cognizant of his faux pas – quickly put down the saltshaker. "Sorry, force of habit."