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Friday, October 19, 2018

Chapter 14 Armed and Dangerous

Chapter 14
The Joe forces in and around the captured compound had shaken off the cobwebs of the most recent surprise attack and were licking their wounds.  They were slightly embarrassed by the recent attack, but they would be all the more prepared for the unexpected next time around.  Beach-Head returned from the shoreline to report that he had visual confirmation of both the USS Crockett and the Flagg. Ambush had been instructed to give Pathfinder the go-ahead to spring the captured Marines when they met up for their next scheduled rendezvous.  
The jungle specialist was on time and seamlessly took his newest orders from the completely camouflaged soldier.  Without a word, he turned, made the appropriate “all clear” bird call signal and returned to base. Upon his return, he read the note and was unsure what to do. It said the attack would come at 1613 hours from the west and to have the Marines ready for extraction.  He studied the information then properly disposed of it by burning the evidence. Although his mind was still troubled as he tossed around the idea of joining the emerging Cobra factions, he still headed over to the stockade. 
It had been many days since I had had any contact with Pathfinder. The appearance of him outside the window gave me some new found hope. It reminded me of the time my grandmother had needed a heart transplant and both my parents and her doctors had just about given up on finding her an acceptable donor in time. I held her hand as she laid in her hospital bed sobbing softly to myself. My grandmother was a tough woman. She had survived two world wars and close to a dozen Presidents. She looked at me and firmly. 
“Stop crying.  It will all work out. I’m not going out like this.” 
I nodded and did my best to suppress my tears.
“Stevie, you need to have faith. I’m going to die only when I’m good and ready.  And today’s not the day.”
She smiled at me and I immediately wiped away my tears.
“I have a good feeling.”
 A day later, her doctors had found her a suitable heart donor. I watched as they wheeled her into surgery and stayed up all night while the surgery was being completed.  Sixteen hours later, my grandmother woke up and I was there to see her.  She didn’t speak, but her eyes confirmed what I had already known. Three months later, she was out in our backyard weeding her flower gardens on her hands and knees.  My grandmother was a great woman and taught me that above all, you just need to have faith. That and the stubbornness to never give up.
The undercover G.I.Joe flashed me a hand signal and nodded. The message was simple, “Rouse the troops. Freedom arrives at 1613. I will leave the door unlocked. Be ready and alert!”  I nodded slightly and then continued to stare off into the center of the compound as not to arouse any suspicion in case anyone else had been watching.  The position of the sun told me it was already close to 1300 hours, and it was also close to the time that the Cobra prizefighter said he would be returning for his competition the day before. He had single-handedly taken out three of the biggest Marines yesterday and would be requesting five sparring opponents today. As Pathfinder moved out of sight, I flashed a silent code to Hollow Point and Hidalgo.  Everyone’s spirits seemed to be slightly lifted.
Our captors brought us our lunch rations and within an hour the massive, masked boxer appeared in our prison cell once again.  This time, however, Pathfinder was one of the flanking officers. Big Boa began to confidently strut around the prison room sizing up the competition.
“I'm looking for five good men to match me in the ring,” he sneered. “Surely there has to be some of you who can last a few rounds!”
I looked around the room. Most of my fellow Marines avoided making eye contact with the hulking man after having witnessed the sheer power of the Cobra trainer just the day before.  At first, he passed me over. He sized up Hollow Point, Cpl Perez, PFC Conway, PFC O’Mallory and then his eyes fell back onto me.
“Ah, the one who Crystal Ball couldn't break!” He grabbed me by my collar and hoisted me up to his eye level. “I'm sure I'll have a little more luck.” I could see his eyes narrow through the mask.  “Grab these five!”
Pathfinder and the other guards escorted us out of the stockade and into the fast-forming man-made arena. The position of the sun told me it was roughly a quarter to three. We would have to fight now and again later if we hoped to escape.
 “Well now, which one of you pansies is fashioning for a new nose today?”
 We all looked at each other and with a nod of agreement, decided to bum rush him simultaneously. Could he possibly take on all five of us at the same time? We were about to find out.
*     *     *     *     *
Zartan had easily picked Lt. Alkeenen out of the assembled squadrons, all he needed to do now was isolate him, knock him out, and incapacitate him before the convoy left to join the upcoming battle. For a brief moment, he almost scratched his original plan and thought about staying behind hidden in the under-guarded Pit, but the master of disguise was one to be in the thick of it all. He wanted to be there when Cobra either rose to power or fell into obscurity. As he further contemplated the situation at hand, his intended mark made a move for the privy. The disguised chameleon of a man, adjusted his uniform, lowered his hat and chin and strolled in behind him.
*    *     *     *     *
Admiral Keelhaul had been given explicit orders to launch the Sky Strikers at 1605 hours. At 1610 hours, he would deploy the first round of depth charges. By 1613 hours, Recondo, Gung-Ho, and Beach Head would be moving in through the main gates of the Marine compound. The four dozen army grunts would be approaching from the north and south to punch a hole through the outside walls. The initial air strike would take out the command center and the guard towers. Several paratroopers, Rip Cord, and Sky Dive would be deployed from an overhead convoy plane at this time in order to serve as cover fire for the approaching ground troops.  The plan seemed a solid one, and if all went well, not only would the Marines be free, but hopefully some of Cobra’s higher-ups would also be apprehended, and their underwater base either crippled or destroyed.
*     *     *     *     *

Lieutenant Alkeenen straightened his uniform grabbed his rucksack and re-entered APC number two of the convoy.  He sat down and peered over the new laser rifle and grenade launcher in his possession. The three armored personnel carriers drove back to the elevator and exited the Pit’s motorcade along with two Warthog personnel carriers loaded with the other participating G.I.Joe specialists. Afterward, several other Joe vehicles that included a trio of Vamp jeeps, a Mobat and a Wolverine ascended with their prospective drivers. The newly formed armored convoy, along with two dozen other G.I.Joe specialists began their trek to rendezvous with the assault teams stationed outside the Marine outpost.  The whole time the master of disguise rode along completely unnoticed.  If all went well, the real Alkeenen’s now lifeless body would be incinerated long before anyone was the wiser.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Chapter 13 Armed and Dangerous

Chapter 13
Raptor had his feathered minions roost in several of the nearby trees while he sent off one special falcon equipped with a spy camera.  Within thirty minutes he had gathered enough data from the camera’s infrared feed to narrow down the location of the hidden Joe forces. He radioed back to Crystal Ball that the targets were in sight and requested official permission to engage. The hypnotist rubbed his hands together and answered with a sinister “Indeed!” Thus signifying that permission had been granted to initiate his attack.
The skies above the G.I.Joe team turned dark as they were teeming with several dozen large birds of prey. Recondo and Beachhead were the first to notice the motley looking flock as it swooped in upon them.
“What in tarnation is that?”  Everyone’s eyes immediately turned upwards.
“It looks like they're carrying something in their claws!” Recondo signaled for everyone to take cover just as the first grenade landed and exploded nearby. The Cobra falconer watched from nearby, perched in a large tree, as his feathered babies rained destruction down upon his thought-to-be-hidden foes. The attack was quick, concise and effective. Within a matter of just fifteen minutes, Raptor and his birds had not only exposed the Joes but weakened their ranks as well. The last squadron led by two large condors had succeeded in detonating a munitions stockpile and mildly injuring at least four Joe operatives. After each successful run, the birds instinctively withdrew and returned to the safety of the captured Marine compound. A loud “PeKaw!” Recalled any stragglers to the Cobra stronghold and the onslaught was ended almost as quickly as it had begun. As the Joes scrambled to tend to the injured, the bird whisperer was already on his way back to his former roost.
Flint was the first to receive the news of the sneak attack on Alpha and Beta teams. He shook his head in disbelief. How was he going to explain this attack to the brass? Two of his best squadrons had just been decimated by a flock of grenade-wielding falcons.  G.I.Joe needed to get their act together and quickly before the chance of saving the Marines was lost forever.
Mainframe established a secured communication link to General Hawk, who listened intently to the report of the attacking birds and then informed the warrant officer that reinforcements would be arriving later that day by both land and sea.
“Tell your squadrons to regroup. Any injured that cannot return to active duty need to return to the Pit immediately for medical treatment. The USS Flagg will be within range for air support by this afternoon. I'm also sending three APCs full of ground troops to you to bolster your ranks.  This situation ends tomorrow!”
 The General's response to the recent events was reassuring. Flint saluted the screen and then took to the regular channels to relay the information to the rest of the Joe team. Afterward, he radioed Grand Slam. “The first group of injured Joes will be arriving in sickbay shortly. Please inform Doc and Lifeline that their skills will be needed.”
“Affirmative. I'll send them right over.” The radio crackled once more as Grand Slam signed off.  Flint left his private quarters to meet up with Mainframe and a recently returned Dialtone.  He needed to send word to all involved parties that the threat of Cobra would be dealt with shortly, and that everyone needed to be ready when the orders were given.
Gnawgahyde listened intently to the whole conversation from the safety of the air conditioning vent positioned above the small group of assembled Joes. He thought to himself about how the upcoming battle would further clear out the compound and allow him to more easily search for the cheetah cubs. At the same time, he wondered what the information would be worth to Zartan and the Cobra leadership, but he had no way of sending the message from his current locale. He pondered using the built-in distress beacon in his boot but thought better of it when faced with the level of military technology surrounding him. So far, he had managed to remain undetected, but he had gained only a little footing in the underground Joe base. Zartan would have to wait.  He would be of no use to his current employer if he got himself captured.
*     *     *     *     *
The USS Flagg had caught up with the Crockett in record time. They each were eager to finally engage the enemy and to repay them for their recent heinous acts. Torpedo and Wetsuit had been sent to retrieve the missing sailor, Shipwreck, and battle preparations had already begun.
Shipwreck glanced at his waterproof watch. He knew he had roughly twelve minutes of oxygen remaining to get back to the Crockett. He peered up at the two dark shadows above him. He smiled knowing that the Flagg had finally navigated into range. He then noticed what appeared to be another S.H.A.R.C. scouring the depths. He pushed himself to get closer to the surface and was happy when he saw the underwater craft turning clearly to intercept him.
Torpedo and Wetsuit were not surprised to see the scurvy sailor swimming towards the surface. If they knew anything about Shipwreck it was that he was resourceful and a survivor. As the small two-man sub approached, the submerged sailor was more than happy to hitch a ride by grabbing onto the rear outside pull bar.  Once at the surface, a line was tossed and the prodigal sailor was hoisted on board.
“Awk! Awk! Shiver me timbers.  Man overboard!”  Polly, the sailor's green and yellow parrot, was excited to see his buddy returning to the ship's deck.  
“Yeah I’m happy to see you too birdbrain, but I need to see the Captain, pronto; we’re sitting atop the entrance to Cobra’s secret underwater base. If they have missile silos, we are as good as sitting ducks!”
Shipwreck’s information would be an added bonus. When the order was given to finally attack, the USS Flagg would deploy some fast sinking underwater explosives right on the head snake’s doorstep. G.I.Joe would be hitting them twice.  Admiral Keelhaul and Captain Seaward were excited to be more than a secondary presence in the upcoming firefight, but initiated code yellow as a precaution.
*    *    *    *    *
The master of disguise had noticed the approach of the three armored personnel carriers from a distance and was more than ready to hitch a ride to the Joe secret base once they were in range.  He had managed to acquire the full uniform and dossier of one Lieutenant John R. Alkeenen. The soldier was an army lieutenant had recently been deployed to the area with a good field record and few friends. Zartan had ascertained that he would be joining up with the Joes as part of the government-sent green shirt reinforcements. They would be assisting in quelling the advances of the Cobra army.  All he needed to do was grab the underside of one of the APCs as it drove by, and wait until he was inside the Joe headquarters to subdue and assume his identity. If the Joes won the battle, he would remain undercover as one of them; if Cobra won, he would reveal himself at an opportune time to prove his worth to the Commander. It was a win-win situation.  Zartan was always the opportunistic type and would benefit regardless of the battle’s victor. He assumed his position in his hidden road trench and awaited the convoy’s approach.
The first APC passed unknowingly over the master mimic. The second followed shortly thereafter. After observing the undercarriage of the first two, he knew exactly where to grab onto the third. Effortlessly and without a sound, the Dreadnok leader positioned himself above the dual rear axles.  Now he could rest a moment before enacting stage two.  The small group of military vehicles traveled another hour or so before coming to a stop above the Pit’s hidden entrance.  The elevator hummed and shook slightly as the troop carriers were delivered to the underground motorcade. Flint and several other members of the G.I.Joe team were there to greet the new personnel. They weren’t official members of the Joe team, but the nice thing about being an elite force is that when a request for backup is requested, it is provided from the branches of the military best suited to the mission. This was no longer a covert infiltration and extraction mission. This had blossomed into an all-out coordinated strike by the United States armed forces to bring home their boys.
Zartan watched with a mirror from his perch beneath the six-wheeled, all-terrain personnel carrier, as close to four dozen army infantrymen and women unloaded and assembled before the warrant officer. Stalker addressed them all first calling them to order with a salute. Flint then proceeded to further instruct them.
“Welcome. Each of you has been called upon to serve your great nation in an act of military valor. Today each of you may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice and lay down your life for your fellow men and women. I know that this may seem like a daunting affair, but I have faith that each of you is up to the challenge at hand. Know this, we will use every measure possible to limit casualties, but there is a chance that some may still occur.  You will have only three hours to rest, reload, and prepare to move out. I, as well as some of the other men and women you see before you, will be joining you in combat today, as well as many of the members of the Navy and Air Force stationed upon the USS Flagg and USS Crocket. Our mission is simple: to isolate and remove an enemy threat, while rescuing some boys in blue. Can I count on you to serve our great nation?”
 Flint’s speech was heartfelt and inspiring.  A resounding, “Sir, yes sir!” erupted from the assembled troops. The warrant officer saluted and then the Army Ranger led them through a door to the munitions locker.

As the soldiers arranged themselves in an orderly fashion, each walked forward to receive some new high tech munitions, a Kevlar vest, and a state-of-the-art helmet.  The master of disguise easily located his new mark from those assembled. Now all he needed to do was wait for the opportunity to present itself.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Chapter 12 Armed and Dangerous

Chapter 12
The terrorist group was clearly no longer hiding from the outside world or from G.I.Joe. The blatant attack on the USS Crockett had proved that. It was also clear that there was little chance of taking Cobra by surprise. At this time, both G.I.Joe and the United States government would take the opportunity to speak with several of the appointed leaders in central Africa. Most of the area’s leadership was in agreement that brute force, if warranted, should be used to stop the growing threat of Cobra. It seemed as if the anticipated strike would finally occur.  Word would be sent to Pathfinder that he would soon need to be ready to spring the lock on the Marine stockade and clear a path for the prisoners to escape. The G.I.Joe team would soon be striking out at Cobra and hard.
Admiral Keelhaul of the crew of the USS Flagg had received formal notification that she was now welcome in the private coastal waters close to the Kenyan outpost. If Cobra wanted a fight, they would be more than willing to give them one, but the attack on the Crockett had been swift and no other threats had been made.  Their enemy had disappeared almost as quickly as they had appeared, causing little, if any damage to the American destroyer. 
“What are they all about?  What was the point of the attack?” the Admiral pondered amongst his closest advisors.  “It makes little sense. Why initiate an attack and then not follow up on it? What do they hope to accomplish by attacking a U.S. naval vessel?
The other officers in attendance could offer little more than a shrug. This Cobra was not an easy foe to figure out. It was as if the rules of engagement didn’t apply to the head snake.  Little was known about his origin or designs and what was known didn’t always make sense.  Cobra Commander was an egomaniacal leader with his sights set upon world conquest and power.  He cared little about whom he had to go through to get there, but just five years prior.  He didn’t even exist.  What major event had served as his impetus into power?  The elite task force would need to figure this out and quickly if they had any hopes of quelling their further rise to power.
Pathfinder looked over the newest note from the Joes with quiet disdain. It had been just over four weeks since he went undercover on this mission, and he found himself oddly intrigued by the promises and prospects of this terrorist organization. He began to wrestle internally with the implications of not only turning on the Joe team, but the possibilities of staying in as a Cobra. The terrorist organization had been welcoming to him and nonjudgmental. Croc Master had become a good friend in a short period of time, and he oddly felt guilty about abandoning the guy. There were too many dilemmas and decisions to contend with. He glanced down at his wrist watch, fully aware that the time was fast approaching for his next check in with Officer 5.  He hand began to weigh his options. How would he explain away the fact that he was indeed a G.I.Joe undercover operative? Who would believe that he was turning traitor and joining Cobra’s ranks? Why was he now having these thoughts? He loved his country and the freedoms he had been sworn to protect. Why was he having second thoughts?
What the Joe infiltrator didn't know was that his affiliation with G.I.Joe had been determined two weeks prior by the terrorist organization. Croc Master had his suspicions and Crystal Ball had secretly probed his mind for the truth. But the terrorist group was cunning and as easy as it would be to just execute the interloper, they found more sport in the possibility of brainwashing him and turning him on to their cause.
As the jungle specialist once again stared at the orders from his teammates, invisible wavelengths emanating from one of his uniform buttons, continued to barrage his innermost thoughts with Crystal Ball’s all enticing psychic message. This whole time, the hypnotist had been watching from a hidden camera buried deep in the ceiling of the Joe turned Cobra’s barracks.  Watching intently as his suggestions began to challenge his loyalties.
 “If he thinks that he is fooling us in any way, he is greatly mistaken.”
As he rubbed his fingertips together in his signature pose, he returned his full attention to his avian-like friend.
“I believe it’s time for you and your feathered allies to drop in, quite literally on the Joes camping nearby. The Joes will never expect the attack to come from birds of all places.”
Raptor’s excitement was hard to conceal, but before he whisked out of the room he nodded to the hypnotist and the two of them shared in a much necessary.
“Indeed!”
 His feathered cape rustled with a loud and piercing. “PeKaw!” He was off to unleash mayhem on the unsuspecting Joe forces.
Crystal ball could do little more than laugh maniacally in reply. As the bird-like man left the room to make his preparations, the illusionist received a new notification. The text was nondescript stating only that the Commander had recently dispatched another of his big guns to get the troops prepared for the upcoming skirmish. The hypnotist pondered this new information for a second and then smiled once more.
“It is going to be a good day indeed!”
*       *      *      *      *
The USS Crockett had taken little damage during their recent brush up with Cobra and after extinguishing a few minor fires below deck, they began to turn their attention to the impending battle. Torpedo and Wetsuit had radioed Captain Seaward and requested to lead the search for Shipwreck, but they were still aboard the USS Flagg, which was currently a few nautical miles out.  Captain Seaward was more than happy to comply with their request as the two ships were set to rendezvous within the next twenty minutes.
Shipwreck had managed to secure two additional oxygen tanks to his person upon exiting his damaged and sinking S.H.A.R.C. By his estimations, he had enough oxygen to last him at least another forty-five minutes. This was hopefully enough time to find a way out of the sunken tanker and back to the surface and the safety of his ship. His original ingress was now blocked by the mangled wreckage of his S.H.A.R.C. But something about this sunken freighter just didn’t feel right to him. It seemed a little too new and too convenient for the veteran sailor’s liking. Then he saw them through an opening in the ship’s deck. Three Cobra frogmen swam into an area several meters below him. As they came to a stop, it appeared that they were manipulating an underwater computer panel of sorts. Shipwreck watched in amazement as a glass half dome emerged from the wall, lowered diagonally around them, and sealed them in. A few moments later, the water drained from inside and a doorway opened that they stepped through.
“Well, I'll be a barnacle’s brother! I think I just found Cobra’s secret underwater base.”
The naval officer squeezed through the opening then swam down the extra couple meters knowing full well that he may also have found his way back to the surface. As he turned the underwater corner, he could clearly see his way back out into the open sea. He hugged the walls of the freighter tightly and began his crawl/swim out of the confines of the sunken ship, he kept his eyes peeled for any other unwanted guests.
*     *     *     *     *
I had been informed that the Joe team had successfully entrenched themselves about fifty yards from the besieged Marine outpost. They had been keeping a careful watch of the entire goings on and had been able to determine the total number of enemy troops stationed inside the base, due to the intelligence of Ambush and Pathfinder.  My boot camera by this time was no longer transmitting information due to its battery dying nearly a week earlier.  It was an odd day and I watched from the prison window as the man dressed in the bird costume assembled his entourage of birds. He was distributing two grenades to each of his avian allies from a wooden box marked with the word “explosives.”
Was I seeing this correctly? Was this guy actually arming his hawks to wage an attack the Joe team? I shook my head in disbelief as the strange bird man and his feathered troops grabbed their explosives in their talons and took to the open skies.  This time they left in complete silence as their flanked the Cobra falconer who took to the skies with the aid of two wrist rockets.
Several minutes later, the door to our prison opened and two officers and a hulking mass of a man wearing boxing gloves and a silver spiked mask walked in. This guy was new. We had never seen the likes of him before. He walked over to me and through the mask addressed me in a gruff military type voice.
“What did you just witness chump?” He growled at me.
 “I.. I didn’t see anything other than a bunch of birds.”
 I lied, of course, not wanting to incur the wrath of this newly arrived Cobra operative.
“Good. And let's keep it that way!” He leaned into me so I could see his eyes through the opening in his mask. They appeared cold, dark and ruthless and I shuddered as a chill move up my spine. He then turned to the rest of the room and addressed the two officers that came in with him. 
“Find me the three biggest and strongest Marines and drag them outside. I need some boxing practice!”
“Right away Big Boa.” The officers moved hurriedly about the room and surrounded PFC Rigger, Lance Corporal James, and Sergeant Montalvo. Montalvo was a solid tank of a man. He was 6 foot 7 and 265 pounds of solid muscle. Few men would want to tangle with him. In fact, he was one of the few of us that had not been tortured or questioned up until this time. Rigger was 6 foot 3 and 225 pounds, but no less intimidating. LCpl James was built like a linebacker standing close to 6 foot 4 and about 240 pounds. None of these guys were by any means diminutive or weak. What did this newcomer hope to prove? Most guys would be hard pressed to subdue one of these guys without a gun and he wanted all three?
The officers leveled their assault rifles at my fellow brothers in blue and marched them outside. A ring of Cobra troops quickly formed in the courtyard outside of our prison. All three Marines were led into the middle of the makeshift arena. A shirtless Big Boa, complete with boxing gloves, stepped to the center amongst the cheers of the Cobra legion. We all watched as the event unfolded from the cell’s barred door and solitary window.
“Alright you wannabe tough guys, today you're all going to find out why you can't beat Cobra.” Rigger and Montalvo just glared at the guy. “Come on then let me see what the biggest and baddest of the Marine corps has to offer!” He taunted them from one side of the ring. “I'll take the three of you on at the same time.” Then he gestured for them to attack him. 
Sgt. Montalvo was the first to make a move. He lunged at the big man in an attempt to overpower him and take him down to the ground. Big Boa easily scooped the two hundred plus pounder over his head and threw him into the other two potential attackers. PFC Rigger side stepped his flying corpsman and came at the boxer with leading punches. He landed a few body blows, but the Cobra trainer was like hitting a sheet of steel. James came at him from the other side with a well-placed roundhouse kick. The kick landed squarely on Big Boa’s jaw, and for a brief moment, the two Marines thought they might have gained the upper hand as the 6 foot 8 man staggered a step. The massive boxer shook off the kick and growled loudly before launching into a flurry of his own punches. By this time, Sgt. Montalvo was back to his feet and once again joining the fray. Big Boa landed five of his six solid punches on the Marine and Rigger found himself trying to cover up from the assault. Montalvo attempted an attack from behind but was once again thwarted as the Cobra trainer simply deflected the attack by flipping him over his back and into a rear naked choke accompanied by an arm bar. The crowd erupted in cheers much to our chagrin. 
James and Rigger moved in quickly to attack the occupied prize fighter in unison, but before they could save their friend, a sound similar to a large firecracker exploding was heard.  Followed shortly after by the sounds of Sgt. Montalvo howling in pain. The man cowered on the ground gripping his shattered arm. The hulking mass of a man having incapacitated Montalvo turned his rage upon the other two combatants. He landed two uppercuts on LCpl James successfully sprawling him out cold. PFC Rigger was now the only remaining threat. He spun into a series of offensive kicks once more catching his opponent a little off guard and managing to once again land several body blows and a head shot. The Cobra fighter staggered slightly to the left before once again shaking off the effects of the volley. When Rigger came in for another round, Big Boa caught him by the leg and swung him around like a rag doll then tossing him into the crowd. Crawling to get back to his feet, the strange masked man sprung forward with lightning speed and delivered a right kick to the man’s jaw. PFC Rigger sat up, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he was knocked unconscious. The ring of Cobra soldiers cheered again.  The whole incident lasted about ten minutes. We all looked at each other in disbelief. This new guy was definitely not someone to be trifled with.
“Get these wretched excuses for men out of my sight! Tomorrow, I want five attackers! Maybe then I'll have some competition!”
The crowd cheered again. James and Rigger were dragged back into the prison. Sgt. Montalvo was taken away by what appeared to be a medic to tend to his shattered arm. Pathfinder could do little more than swallow hard from the sidelines. He had witnessed Sergeant Slaughter in a similar situation and wondered if the hardened Joe drill instructor could match the brute strength of this newest Cobra champion.
“I will be conducting the evening sparring lessons from here on in. I look forward to turning all of you Nancies into real Cobra troopers!” The crowd cheered again.   Big Boa then turned and headed for the recreation center with a slew of enthusiastic Cobra combatants following close behind. 
We all went to the aid of our battered and beaten brothers once the doors of the cell were slammed shut.  Both men were really shaken up from the incident that had just transpired, but neither would graciously accept their defeat. 

“That guy must be genetically enhanced, I hit him with enough force to drop a grizzly bear, and he just shook it off like a mosquito had stung him!” PFC Rigger was completely dumbfounded and LCpl James could do little more than nod in agreement.  

Monday, October 15, 2018

Chapter 11 Armed and Dangerous

Chapter 11
When Pathfinder finally got the chance to sit down and read the most recent note from his teammates, he was none too pleased. It had been nearly three weeks since he had assumed the identity of Cobra infantry soldier 413.  In that time, he had gradually risen amongst the nameless ranks and even became somewhat of a team favorite with the Cobra higher-ups, Croc Master more specifically.  As a result of his short meeting with Crystal Ball, they had reduced his jungle patrol times and given him increased security clearance within the compound.  From the looks of his most recent correspondence, it could be at least another week before the Joes would be ready to make a strategic attack. He entered the bathroom and burned the coded evidence. This time he flushed the ashes down the drain with a rush of swirling cold water.
That day, the base was abuzz with excitement.  He had heard whispering within the ranks of another high-ranking senior officer arriving that day but was not prepared for what he saw next.  The sky erupted with the sounds of multiple bird screeching.  Next, a dark cloud of large predatory birds filled the afternoon sky. The flock appeared to be escorting what looked like a man in a bird costume, who effortlessly glided into the center of the compound on two large feathered wings.  Pathfinder put his hand to his hip holster until he noticed the other Cobra troopers immediately greeting and saluting the odd man. Some of the larger birds perched themselves atop the guard tower and barrack rooves, but one particularly magnificent falcon landed on this stranger’s shoulder.   The crocodile wrangler appeared almost moments later to welcome this new eccentric individual and to usher him into the command center.
“Do make sure my pets are well-fed until my return, PeKaw!” Casting his glance onto the closest Cobra troopers.  Only after they nodded to him did he turn and follow Croc Master through the security door.
A few minutes later, another Cobra grunt brought out a large sickly cow at the end of a rope and promptly shot it dead point blank in the head.  After the echo of the shot ended and the animal hit the ground, a swarm of the visitor’s birds descended upon it in order to feast.  The feeding frenzy was like nothing I had ever seen before.
Another soldier could be heard commenting about the event. “When those birds are through, there’ll be little more than bones left.”  Pathfinder could only nod as he watched the bevy of birds tear apart the withered cow’s carcass.
*     *     *     *     *
          Cobra Commander sat comfortably upon his serpent-shaped throne safely tucked away nearly a mile below the ocean.  His plan had been playing out nicely.  New recruits were being sworn in daily and his forces in Kenya were easily holding the Marine outpost with little interference from any substantial military power.  But what really made the supreme leader smile beneath his hood was the fact that his other forces were slowly draining the African continent of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of precious gems: Rubies the size of his fists, sapphires, and multi-colored garnet amongst tanzanite, topaz, and tourmaline. He was stealing the stones right out from under the eyes of the miners and the dealers alike.  Although it wasn’t all for monetary gain, these precious gems would provide an untraceable way for the Cobra front man to pay his anti-government and militia constituents around the globe.
 His sympathizers further south on the continent were also pilfering more than a small share of Africa’s gold and diamonds.  These substances would secure his wealth throughout the terrorist organizations and at the same time allow his scientists to continue making more unique weaponry and armor-plating for his air force and motor pool. In a matter of only a few short months, the ruthless and cunning Commander had managed to infiltrate or befriend every major terrorist agency in Europe and Asia.  Every major player by this time knew of or had already seen the power that he possessed.  With such factions as the Dreadnoks, Destro, and the Red Shadows making open dealings with his emissaries, it would only be a matter of time before a Cobra flag flew over a major European country.  Yet, even if that didn’t happen, he was now in a position to take over some of the smaller countries simply by inserting the correct operative.
He leaned back only briefly to consider his next plan of action.  It had been a few days since he had checked in with Zartan or Crystal Ball.  Being a calculated leader, he knew to keep their leashes short and their pockets full to ensure their allegiance.  He then pressed a red button on the right side handrail of his throne.  A large computer screen slowly descended from the ceiling to halt directly in front of him.  After a brief moment, the screen illuminated on his Dreadnok cohort.
“Greetings Cobra Commander,  I was just thinking about you.” 
“Yessss my dear Zartan, I’m sssssure you were!”
*     *     *     *     *
The Pit was well guarded and a maze of sorts.  The Dreadnok poacher had made very little progress in fully infiltrating or mapping out the interior floor plan, and there were more activities taking place within than he could ever have fathomed.  It had been nearly two weeks since his initial ingress and he had done little more than locating the food rations.  Several Sky Hawks and a Dragonfly helicopter had entered and left the base since his initial arrival and although he had managed to make his way into the ventilation system, he had not been able to locate his prized cheetah cubs.  This weighed heavily on the poacher, as he needed those kittens for a rather wealthy client.  Never had it taken him this long to deliver on a promise.  He was hungrier than his belly led him to believe and he began to rethink his strategy. 
From what he had been able to glean from his exploration of the base, even if he found the cheetahs, there was no easy egress.  It might simply be easier to locate two other kittens and be done with this place. That was until he noticed a Native American man walking across the room in front of him with a bald eagle perched upon his shoulder.  Now, this was something that he didn’t see every day, and it just so happened that Gnawgahyde knew a guy, who knew a guy, that was looking to purchase a bird just like that one.  This particular G.I.Joe operative, who he heard referred to as Spirit, then helped himself to a sandwich from the room’s concealed refrigerator. He twisted his mustache while he thought and watched as the G.I.Joe with the bird and a sandwich in hand exited through a door on the left side of the room.  Now he had another direction to check out, but first, he needed to check the contents of that room’s refrigerator. His stomach grumbled loudly as he crept from the room’s ventilation system, lucky for him this grate swung open with a little force and having already checked this room for security cameras, it couldn’t hurt to grab a bite to eat.  Inside he found at least a dozen pre-made sub sandwiches, so he grabbed two with a bottle of water and silently returned to the obscurity of the heating and cooling vent.  He crawled a bit further back into the shaft as not to possibly be seen by anyone entering the room and unwrapped his first hoagie.  Upon taking a bite he laughed to himself and thought, “It could use some bacon.”
*     *     *    *     *
          The United States aircraft carrier known as the Flagg, had covered many nautical miles in the last five days to anchor itself out in international waters some thirty miles from the eastern coast of Kenya.  She was instructed to remain in radio silence until word arrived from central command.  The smaller vessel, a destroyer, known as the USS Davy Crockett was scouting the waters nearby on a daily basis.  Unlike, the USS Flagg, the Crockett had permission from the African and Asian mainland to be in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.  So, the Joe team had used this to their advantage by stationing several Joe Naval officers on board. 
Topside and Shipwreck loved the open seas.  Both of them felt much more at home on the bridge of a naval vessel than on dry land any day.  They had been working closely with the Crockett’s crew using the ship’s sonar to scour the ocean floor in search of Cobra submarines.  Their search had since turned up little evidence. It was as if the slippery serpents had gone dark and ceased any activity in the area once the two larger vessels appeared. 
“The ocean is eerily quiet, Topside.  And I don’t like it one bit.  It chills my bones knowing that those snakes are somewhere slithering deep beneath the waves.”
“Oh stop being such a worry wart Shipwreck.  If Cobra’s out there, the new age sonar technology on this ship will have little trouble finding them.  There’s no way any nuclear subs will be getting past this ship’s defenses.” 
Topside was right.  The USS Crockett and the Flagg were both equipped with the absolute best in water penetrating sonar that the world had to offer.  If a school of orcas wandered within a quarter mile, they would be the first to know about it. 
“I don’t know, I still got a bad feeling like old Davy Jones himself is staring up at us from his barnacle-covered locker deep below.” 
“You’re so dramatic Hector! We’ll have plenty of warning if Cobra makes a move.” Topside was quick to retort.
“I sure hope you’re right.”
Then something appeared on the screen.  Two large, unknown anomalies a half a mile off the port bow. Shipwreck instinctively called for battle stations and to take evasive actions. As they prepared to sound the air raid sirens and the crew below decks readied several torpedoes, to their surprise, it turned out to be nothing more than a large humpback whale and her calf. The ship’s high-tech underwater scanners and cameras locked in on the location of the two blips which allowed them to form a clearer image on the ship’s monitor. 
“Avast ye landlubbers, it’s just a false alarm.” The ship’s senior navigator was quick to point out.
Shipwreck was far from convinced. The veteran sailor rubbed his eyes as he tried to focus on what he thought was a smaller radar blip.  But when his eyes refocused on the screen, there was still nothing there except the two whales.
“Relax Shipwreck, it was nothing more than a couple of humpbacks.”
“I dunno, I still have that uneasy feeling, and I’m never wrong.  These bones know what they feel and something isn’t right.  Ready a S.H.A.R.C., I’m going down under to take a closer look.” 
“Have it your way, but I think you’re wasting your time.”
The salty sailor made his way to the deck and jumped inside a recently readied S.H.A.R.C.  After closing the airlock and securing a scuba mask, he powered up the sea and air vehicle to dive below the ship’s hull.  He kept his radio channel open in order to report in on everything he saw.
The small craft easily descended beneath the waves.
“Hmmm. What do we have here? The sailor’s keen eyes noticed a pair of flippered appendages darting just below the destroyer’s hull.  Then he saw it.  Someone had secured a large mass of underwater explosives to the ship’s middle hull.
“How in the blue blazes did they pull that off?” 
As he began to relay the information to Topside, a harpoon strike took out his starboard engine.  The impact sent the small underwater craft spiraling to the ocean floor. 
“Mayday!  Mayday! I’ve been hit by a harpoon! And there’s currently enough explosives strapped to the ship’s underbelly to split her in two.  I repeat the Crockett is going to explode!”
Shipwreck’s coms link fizzled out just as a second harpoon slammed into his windshield.  The tempered glass took the brunt of the hit without buckling, but then he saw two Cobra Eels readying their next shots.  He knew he had seen flippers mixed in with the whales.  The enemy had used the large marine mammals as a decoy to get them close to the ship’s underbelly.  
The battle-hardened naval officer was quick to hit the S.H.A.R.C.’s emergency ink jets which emitted a large, black cloud around his doomed vessel.  It wouldn’t conceal his location, but it might help throw off the next couple of attacks. He cut the second engine and pulled the escape hatch.  If he timed it right, he might be able to slip out just before the next two harpoons hit.  As he hit the cold water beneath the inky cloud, he could see another sunken ship below him.  Shipwreck began swimming with all his strength as a thunderous sound erupted above him, and the downward shock wave pushed him closer to the abandoned wreck.  Was that the impact of the other two harpoons? Or had the Davy Crockett’s hull just been breached?  There was no way to tell at the moment as the ink cloud obstructed his upward view.
Shipwreck pulled himself inside the cabin of the sunken freighter.  He would have roughly thirty minutes of oxygen in his first tank to sort it all out.  He looked down at his wristwatch and mentally noted the time.
*     *     *     *      *
The explosion rocked the USS Crockett, but did little to damage her dual reinforced hull.  The problem that presented itself now was that there had been an incident in broad daylight and in protected waters on a United States destroyer.  As the crew continued to check the ship’s gauges and assess any battle damage, it was safe to say that they were no longer in friendly waters.  The ship’s captain, a middle-aged man by the name of Captain Seaward sent an encrypted message to the Flagg
“We have been attacked.  I repeat the Crockett has been attacked!”
Admiral Keel Haul shook his head in disbelief.  Had Cobra really just attacked a U.S. military vessel in protected ocean waters?  The entire situation had occurred in a matter of only a few short minutes.  Cobra clearly knew that they were here and was not about to back down without a fight. 
“Is anyone injured on board?” The battle-hardened Admiral’s message was answered shortly thereafter.

“We still ship shape Admiral. The explosion did little more than rock us. All ship’s personnel are safe and secured; we are only missing one of your boys, that parrot-toting sailor, Shipwreck.  We lost communication with him shortly before the explosion. He was having a weird feeling about the two humpback whales that appeared on our radar, so he took one of those sea and air vehicles the Joe team placed on my ship to investigate. We will be sending down a dive team to search for him shortly.”  Captain Seaward was calm and collected as he detailed the situation.  They would find Shipwreck and once central command got wind of this recent attack, Cobra was going to pay!