And so, the story of Dusty comes to an end. He is a challenging character, I discovered, good natured and amiable, but also intensely private. There's a lot more going on inside his head than one would think and he tends to hide those thoughts behind a friendly smile. It's easy to see why he has so many friends among the Joes. I enjoyed getting to know him, even if just a little. I hope you did, too.
Final disclaimer: I still don't own GI Joe, Sunbow or Marvel...I just like borrowing their characters.
Dusty entered the Joe meeting room. He stared in confusion as he noticed the room filled to capacity with already seated Joes. General Hawk was at his usual place in the front, Duke, Flint and Beach Head, seated in a line beside him.
"Welcome, Dusty," Hawk interrupted his thoughts, "Do you have the special report I requested?"
"Uh, Yes Sir," Dusty drawled, stepping forward nervously and handing a thick folder to him.
He stood patiently, waiting as Hawk skimmed over the contents, watching as his eyebrow's rose slowly with the reading. Dusty had ended up listing each and every Joe who went through his camp as excelling in desert combat training.
Finally, the General put the folder down. Chuckling lightly, he leaned back in his chair. He looked up at Dusty and smiled, "I should never have doubted them."
Then, he turned to the Joes, a humorous glint in his eye, "Looks like we can all skip desert training next year," he announced loudly.
"Hooray!," the room full of Joes erupted in joy, exchanging fist bumps and high fives, laughing and cheering.
In that whole room of jubilant celebration, there was only one face of disappointment...Dusty's.
Hawk returned his gaze to Dusty, studying him with a bemused expression. When the room had finally resettled, he spoke again, gently, "You know, Dusty, not everyone is cut out for desert living…"
"And not everyone can appreciate the desert like you do."
Dusty nodded again.
"But, I'm pleased to know my Joes are well prepared for missions out there...very pleased."
Dusty looked at the General in surprise.
Hawk smiled, "I'm proud of you, Son. You did a good job."
"Thank you, Sir," Dusty smiled humbly.
"Oh, and Dusty?" Hawk's piercing eyes looked straight at him.
"Yes, Sir?," Dusty swallowed nervously. His smile faded.
"This desert training wasn't just about training the Joes and getting them ready for desert combat and missions."
"It…it wasn't?," Dusty stammered.
No, it wasn't," he held Dusty's eyes, "It was also about testing out new Joe leaders…"
Chairs scraped and squeaked loudly as every Joe in the room suddenly rose to attention.
"Leaders, Sir?," His eyes widened as he glanced around at the now standing Joes, licking his lips nervously.
"Yes," Hawk suddenly smiled, "May I be the first to congratulate you," he stepped forward and pinned him, "Sergeant Ronald Tadur."
Dusty's eyes widened. "Thank you…, Sir," he tripped over the words, the realisation of what had just happened dawning on him.
The Joes clapped and cheered. Beach Head and Flint stepped forward and slapped him good-naturedly on the back. Duke shook his hand.
"No, thank you. Keep up the good work, Dusty."
"Sir, Yes, Sir!," Dusty fired off a smart salute. He was grinning proudly from ear to ear.
"Yo Joe!," The Joes voices lifted as one, rising and filling the room till it nearly was bursting with joy.
Hawk swept his eyes over the cheering Joes. They came to rest on Flint and Lady Jaye, who were now standing side by side, so close that their hands were nearly touching. He met their eyes candidly. Flint, understanding what he was asking, acknowledged him and gave the barest of nods, Lady Jaye smiled softly and nodded as well.
The lines of worry along his brow faded. He was pleased to see that in spite of everything, he still had their friendship.
"Road Block prepared some trays of goodies. They're in the mess. Enjoy!," Duke informed everyone.
"Yo Joe!" Dusty laughed, as he was swept along with the crowd of high spirited Joes.
"Yo Joe," Hawk echoed softly, watching him go.
As the rest of the Joes departed, Hawk made out individual faces in the crowd: Shipwreck, Bazooka, Alpine, Gung Ho, Ace, Footloose... Quick Kick.
He stood watching them, his chest swelling with pride. They were his Joes, he smiled, each and every last one of them.
Note: Dusty's Joe file lists him as an E-4 Corporal. In my story, I have just promoted him to E-5 Sergeant. Considering what he's just accomplished, I think he's earned it, don't you?
Additional notes: I don't have any personal experience with the military, so I have to confess all my knowledge comes second hand. I stand up in honour of those of you have first hand knowledge. Thank you for your service.
Acknowledgements to Wikipedia for the following information: (bolded sections mine.)
Army Non-Commissioned Officers (E-4 to E-6)
The rank of corporal has always been placed at the base of the NCO ranks. For the most part, corporals have served as the smallest unit leaders in the Army: principally, leaders of teams.
The first NCO rank is the E5, or Sergeant. These are the NCOs who carry the most impact when it comes to training and supervising junior enlisted personnel in military life and personal care.
To Guest reader Please Adopt: You have a great idea for a story, thank you for sending it. It is very Sunbow-ish and has good potential for humour. It's not the kind of story I think I could write, though, at this time...but maybe some other reader/writer will pick it up. Or maybe you could take a stab at it...It's always fun to see new Joe writers.