Disclaimer: Like you haven't heard this a million times: Except for the obvious exceptions, all characters are property of Hasbro and some other companies. I am getting nothing from this but fun and writing practice.
Once again I am operating from mainly the cartoon.
PG - For language
A View From The Bottom
Most of my colleagues hate late night guard duty. Not me, baby. Almost none of the higher ups are around and if they are, they're busy with their own personal business and very unlikely to take much notice of us low rank types. You can stroll around high security areas and see what kind of projects are in the works, and there's always time to B.S. with whoever else has the late duty in their areas. (I tell ya, some of those Tele-Vipers the greatest source of gossip.) There's lots of valuable things to be learned from simple observation. No, I haven't always been the low level infantry kind. I was even farther down the ladder than that. I used to be part of the kitchen crew. Can you imagine? Here I am committing treason only to wind up bussing tables and ladling out gravy to make the mystery meat more palatable. Yes, I said treason. It's not that long of a story so I'll start back before my past started getting checkered. Checkered. Hell, it's bordering on plaid these days.
I was one of the many young kids who join the army right out of high school. See the world, and get college money all while serving your country. Sounds pretty good, huh? And it was good for a while. I went through basic training, got assigned to a base in Texas and was living my life. I even used my off duty time to get a degree in history. I took to the military life quite well. Unfortunately, some would disagree.
The "problems" started showing up early, especially during training exercises. I was under the impression that they were supposed to simulate real world experience as much as possible. So say you wind up in hand to hand combat with an enemy… you'd beat the holy hell out of them if you could, wouldn't you? That's what I did. I got caught and told my captors on the other team they'd never take me alive and they seemed to find this funny. They went to the hospital and I got a big fat reprimand. Skip ahead a couple of months. Here I am on guard duty late one night and along comes this soldier drunk as can be and he's got no ID on him. I take my job seriously. He said he lost his wallet or left it in his room or some damn thing, and I said too bad. He starts giving me a hard time and is getting a little pushy so I tell him to step back and I point my weapon at him. The son of a bitch has the temerity to laugh at me and go on his way. Well now what would you do? You have a guy flagrantly breaching security and ignoring your orders to halt. I know what I did. I shot his ass. Literally. You don't want to kill 'em if you can help it, that way you can interrogate them later.
Technically I did the right thing. I was within the rules but because of past incidents, I get sent to talk to an Army shrink. To make a long story short, it was decided I wasn't right for the Army and I got a medical discharge and then tossed out. I could have kept going to a VA shrink but what was the point? I wasn't nuts, just really exuberant when it came to the job. And this is bad?
There I am, pissed off and back to working a dull 9 to 5 civilian job. The more I thought about it, the madder I got. Finally I decided that if you can't join 'em then beat 'em. I knew all about COBRA from what the Army had taught me, so it wasn't that hard to find the right people. They do a little digging into my story and a couple of months later: ta da, I'm in.
Their basic training wasn't any stretch for me. A lot of it was stuff I already knew, and the rest was so much fun it wasn't like work at all. Think of it…training where you score higher for absolutely whaling on your opponent like it was the real deal? So many different weapons you hardly see the same ones twice except for the standard issue stuff, that is. I tell ya, I was like a kid in a candy store. I did well in all my classes and training so naturally I was expecting to land in a job where I could put all of it to use. But, no. The day we get our assignments, I discover I'm in the kitchen. I couldn't believe it. A lot of the other women in my company were going off for pilot training and some were going to H.I.S.S. school and stuff like that, so I guess it wasn't anything sexist that landed me in the cafeteria, but talk about a let down. Still, I didn't lose hope. In an organization like this sometimes you just have to wait for the opportunity to come along. When mine finally did, I didn't even recognize it.
I had been doing the kitchen thing for a year and was starting to get good and discouraged. I still practiced my marksmanship and fighting techniques just incase, and I had also spent a lot of time in the archives and library studying old battles and tactics. I still hadn't gone anywhere.
So there I am one evening gathering up a bunch of dishes and the like and next to me at another table is a bunch of Strato-Vipers. I had developed a healthy dislike of them. Not out of jealousy mind you, but because they tended to treat us like we were their personal servants or something, and not very bright ones at that. One of these jerks was regaling his pals with some kind of story and then for emphasis says to me:
"Ain't that right, Toots?" and smacks me on the ass for even more emphasis. They laughed like the pigs they were and I saw red. Nope, nope, nope, screw this. I have had enough. I grabbed a plate and smashed it down on the edge of the table. It was the thick, heavy, white glass kind like you used to see in truck stops and cheap diners. The portion left in my hand was suitably jagged for what I was planning to do. The sound got the scum's attention in a hurry. He turned in his seat and I whipped out a good solid kick to the ribs that put him on the floor.
"C'MON MOTHERFUCKER, LET'S DANCE!!!" I howled, and then smiled like a lunatic. Psychological advantage is very important, you know.
Before that guy got up it was probably the loudest silence I had ever heard, if you get me.
For a few seconds it was like a tomb and then it was like the superbowl, with the sounds of chairs scraping and people getting out of the way and yelling encouragement. I think a few were even placing bets. Of course it was probably the most entertainment they'd had in a while. We squared off. I think the guy was far more embarrassed than hurt. He called me "bitch" (how original, huh?) and got ready to get it on. What's the first thing he does? He tries a fake punch. Moron. For the life of me I cannot understand why guys do that. I mean they know the kind of training we've had and yet they still have to be cute. I bet he never tried that again. I didn't even bother to acknowledge the fake bullshit, I just went for broke. I got in two good punches to the face and a slash to the arm with the plate before he knew what was happening. Now that REALLY pissed him off. Ol' boy snatched a steak knife from one of the tables and looked ready to start carving. When he paused to wipe the blood away from his mouth, I tore the apron from around my waist and wrapped it around my forearm for a little protection. Some of our hand to hand combat training had come from Storm Shadow himself and I took it all to heart, believe me, but no sense in not having a little extra protection. We were kind of circling each other and I must admit I was having a good time. I was actually wanting this loser to take a shot at me with the knife. A year's worth of frustration was going to come out. I didn't have to wait long. He came at me clearly intending to bury the knife in my guts and as I took a step back to get into a better defensive stance, I stepped in a puddle of something that had been spilled and went down on my back hard. (It turned out to be lumpy custard pudding.) Flyboy was committed to his attack at that point and couldn't stop. Just before he would have fallen on me, I rolled to the side and got into a crouch. The minute he was down, I jumped onto his back, grabbed him by the hair and poked the broken plate against his neck. The room was silent again.
"Apologize, you bastard," I said.
"No!" Came the reply. They always want to do it the hard way.
"Last chance," I said, and pushed harder on the plate.
"HEY! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?! BREAK IT UP RIGHT NOW!" a very authoritative voice boomed. It was the Captain of the Watch for that shift. He had four of his people with him. Uh-oh.
Well of course I let myself get distracted so what happened next was my fault. I had let up on the pressure I was applying to the plate so the jerk had gotten onto his side just enough to throw a very hard elbow into my side. I fell off and banged my head on a table leg. That might have been the end if he hadn't looked down and smirked at me. I had him as good as dead not 10 seconds before, he throws one little elbow and thinks he's a ninja or some shit like that. Well, then I was pissed all over again. I had lost my broken plate but there was a nice pointy fork lying next to my hand. I could work with that. I grabbed it and then dove forward and planted it in his outer thigh. Boy, that'll wipe a smirk off in a hurry. He screamed a colorful string of swears and then started to come after me again. I was up again and ready to go but then the guards were pulling us apart.
"You! Go to the infirmary and get fixed up then return to your quarters and wait for further instructions!" The Captain said to the Strato-Viper.
"But she started it," he said, like an 8 year old kid. Can you imagine?
"Shut up! Don't give me any excuses. You're in enough trouble as it is,"
Trouble? From who? The blue shirt Captain didn't have the authority to hand out punishment. He was more or less a cop. I didn't have time to think about it though.
He turned to me and said "You have 30 minutes to get cleaned up and be outside Cobra Commander's office. Go."
Of course you've heard of someone's blood running cold. I had never understood it until then. I was probably as good as dead. Ah well, it would mean I wouldn't be cleaning any more burned on noodles from the bottom of pans. I sprinted back to my room and did as instructed. I put on my best uniform and shiniest boots. I might be dead but I'd look like I soldier when I went. I started to leave a note for my room mate but then decided she'd figure it out when the story got around and then I never came back.
That was the longest walk of my life. I met a few people in the halls. In the masks we all wear all you can see are a person's eyes. It's really amazing the range of expression you can see in just that one feature. I saw everything from curiosity, to sympathy to "better you than me." Soon I was alone with only my echoing steps in the large hallways. The office I was going to was more a cavernous throne room with a lot of computers and control panels. I had never been in there. What I knew came from what I could see in the background during the Commander's weekly address to the troops. Eventually I came to a huge set of double doors emblazoned with a red COBRA symbol (what else?) There was a member of the Crimson Guard on either side. They were expecting me. One of them turned to a small panel to key in a code that would open the doors while the other waved a metal detector around me. Good idea, that. Not that I would ever be so dumb as to take such a direct approach, but you never know what a desperate person will try. I had managed to calm down some on my way there. Maybe I'd live after all. Maybe I'd just get put into a worse job as punishment. I could see getting sent to housekeeping or becoming a valet or something. Don't laugh. You seriously didn't think someone like the Baroness would take out her own garbage did you? And who cleans up the mess when the Dreadnoks are visiting the island and destroy one of the lounges in a fit of high spirits? The doors slid apart almost silently and all my thoughts stopped. No, I had to be a goner. Why else would the big man take a personal interest in this nonsense?
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. The room was dimly lit. All around I could see various buttons and visual displays glowing softly in the gloom. Most of the light was coming from a small spotlight pointed down and directly over a throne featuring the ubiquitous cobra. (The boss does like the drama.) The Commander was sitting there looking at a video monitor featuring the Strato Viper – Mess Cook title fight. At least I think he was looking at it, because with that hood he wears it's hard to tell. I knew he knew I was there, but I wasn't about to say a word until I was addressed. What could I say, really?
"Private Reynauer, how do you explain thissss?" he said, with that hiss that comes with any "s" sound. I still don't know if that's intentional or what. I immediately saluted and then threw in a little bow to get that servile thing across. I knew what an ego I was working with.
"Well, Sir, I guess I was just fed up with being treated like a personal servant. And that slap was just the height of unprofessionalism." What the hell? I was probably toast, so why not be honest? " I know that's not really a reason, but…"
"On the contrary," he interrupted, "I like to see my soldiers show some backbone." He got up and started walking toward me. Aw, man, I thought. This is probably where the "but" comes in and I get offed.
"If you can't stand up to your own, how will you ever defeat the enemy?" he asked.
I didn't really have an answer and it felt rhetorical, so I kept quiet and he went on.
"I was so impressed with your fighting spirit, I've decided to promote you."
I guess the confusion was evident on my face even with the mask because he chuckled in that indulgent parent way he has when he's in a good mood.
"Now of course there will be some consequences. I can't have my soldiers brawling at every provocation. As of this moment you are a Viper Corporal but you will start by pulling guard duty on the late shift and will do so for a year with no vacation. Whenever someone is gone on assignment or for whatever reason and a replacement is needed, you will be that replacement." His beady little eyes bored into mine like he was expecting some kind of argument. Puh-leeze! It was all I could do to not dance around.
Instead, I made another of the little bows and said: "Thank you sir. That is most generous of you."
"Yes it is, and remember Corporal, I'll be keeping an eye on you."
He said this last in a speculative sort of way. Was this his way of hitting on me? Was I an unwitting candidate for something? Who knew? I saluted and got out of there. Taking no chances, I reported for duty that night. I was far too wired to sleep anyway. And so months later we wind up here.
02:00 hours and everything is cool. It's my turn to walk the circuit all throughout our section of the compound. Each guard post sends someone to check out designated areas. Our routes overlap so if you don't see one of the other guards the way you should it gets called in, the same thing goes if security in the areas we pass through doesn't see us. It makes it real hard to sneak around.
There must be something about to happen because we've got a full house tonight. All the big shot high command types are here. There have even been sightings of Serpentor around. I have yet to see him in person and am perfectly happy to keep it that way. With someone like the Commander you can generally figure out what he's going to do or why unless he's really pissed then he gets a little incoherent. But with Serpentor it's anyone's guess, and you'd better not let him hear you guessing, either. Rumor has it he blew away someone for saying "good morning" to him when he was still mad about something that had gone awry the night before. He lives in the lower levels of the compound and is rarely seen by people like me. The security around him makes us in the upper levels look like one of those little locks that come with a suitcase. I've seen plenty of pictures though, and what a fashion victim. I guess being scrambled together from various DNA samples and whatever glop holds it all together makes you immune to worrying about stuff like that. I don't know and I have no intention of ever asking him or anyone else. Asking the wrong things has a way of coming back and biting you hard around here.
Down a couple of hallways and up some stairs and you find yourself in the area that houses the private quarters. Some of the high level types, like the Commander, live here all the time unless business takes them to another base. I have no idea what it looks like in there but I have heard that his personal valets have a very short tenure if they don't keep it absolutely spotless. Also, to have such a job you'd better be able to keep your big yap shut. One time, one of the old valets disappeared on the same day a rumor started that if you look in an armoire in there, you'd find buckets of those little plastic army men. Some were green and some were blue. I could see the claim that you could use them to plot strategy on a map or something, but then how would that explain the additional bucket of cowboys and Indians? Supposedly there were even some lincoln logs and other stuff to make a fort. Is it true? I have no idea and it's not like you can ask. I can say that I have no trouble imagining him setting up some elaborate arrangement of soldiers and then stomping around amongst them like in that comic strip Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin would make a city from sand and then pretend to be Godzilla.
The next suite is Destro's but I don't think he uses it for much besides storage. He usually stays at the Baroness' place. This is no secret. It's usually more interesting when he does actually use it to live in. It gives a lot of the chicks around here hope for the future. They've been a couple for years and you have to wonder how since they seem to fight like cats and dogs as often as not. Personally, I have no problem with either of them. Back when I was still in the cafeteria and it was my turn to bring dinner up here to whoever ordered it, I always went the extra mile for Destro and the Baroness. They are the sort who notice little things like snow white linen napkins and spotless dishes and silverware. There was no rule it had to be that way it was just something I did to stand out a bit and possibly curry a little favor. A former co worker said they actually asked what happened to me after several evenings of water spots on the glasses and polyester napkins. He told them and said they both seemed pretty amused. I have a good idea why. As a man of honor, Destro would not abide such treatment and would probably have done something similar (only he'd inflict a lot more damage.) The Baroness, on the other hand, wouldn't put up with that bullshit from a man. She probably would have just shot the guy. Oh, and don't get the idea I view them as foster parents or something. I know full well they'd crush me like a bug if I made trouble for them.
There are also people here who you cannot please no matter how hard you try. Thankfully they don't stay here that often. If you make a left at the end of the hall you get them. By "them" I mean the Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot. They are freaky bastards and I don't like them a bit. Arrogance like theirs always rubs me the wrong way almost instantly. And that whole mental link. I guess that's what makes it possible or them to spend so much time together. You'd think they'd get sick of each other. On the other hand they are both such jerks they're probably the only ones who can stand themselves. A lot of the women I know would like a little of their company, purely for career purposes I hope, but that brings up the next question... if one of those guys scores, is it a two for one kind of deal? Well now I'm just grossing myself out.
If you go right at the end of that same hall you'd come to Major Bludd's place. Now there's a brain I'd like to pick. A soldier's soldier. Unfortunately, not much of a poet. In the library there are several books about battlefield strategy the Major has written, but for some reason, he felt the need to thrown in some poems too. Maybe he was really inspired. Here's a couple examples:
Spot your enemies
cut them all down where they stand
blood makes the grass grow
See the mighty H.I.S.S.
a death machine of beauty
blasting things to bits
There are pages and pages of this stuff. You don't want to get into the long ones.
At the end of this hall is a passageway to another larger hall that dead ends. This area has a lounge and some janitor's closets and the like. And also a few odd rooms that have been converted to dormatory style guest rooms. This is where they sequester the Dreadnoks when they come around. It keeps the noise and damage to a minimum. Generally, we guards don't even venture into this section because you can find out what you need to know by listening. There was this one time me and another guard who got to this point at the same time heard what was a pretty serious discussion going on. Well it was serious for them, anyway.
"I can't believe he hit that tree! What a moron!" A disgusted voice said. Thrasher, no doubt.
"And why did he try to run? I woulda just cut 'em and then stole their car." Ripper added.
"Well there was too many of' 'em to cut. I woulda just shot 'em and then set their car on fire," said Torch.
"And can you believe the bloomin' idiot didn't even have a gun? I mean, what kind of shit is that?" Buzzer asked.
"Let's see if this arse can do better." Monkeywrench said, effectively silencing the rest of them.
And then it was all quiet. Jerry (That was the other guard's name. You have to be up there to get a cool codename) looked at me and I just shrugged so we crept a little closer. What we saw was the 'Noks huddled around the tv watching an episode of COPS then critiquing the performance of the various perpetrators. They always seemed so disappointed when the police got their man, like a bunch of big dumb kids getting a lump of coal in their stockings at Christmas. Evidently it never occurred to them that there would not be a show that featured the bad guys getting away. Let me say right now while I'm still talking about these guys that not a single female I know would have a thing to do with any of them. While all this was going on there was not a sign of the family Z. Just like tonight.
There's a colorful bunch. Imagine what the sibling rivalry must have been like, or maybe still is like. Personally, I haven't had any dealings with any of them that I was aware of. But then again, as good as they are at disguise maybe I did and just didn't know it. That's why I make it a point not to say anything bad about them. A lot of the Vipers kind of look down on them (that elitist thing rears its head early.) I maintain indifference on the surface but really it's like this: Zartan just plain gives me the creeps. You never know where he is and he always looks at you like he thinks he may have to cut your throat in a minute. It's said he's crazy and not in a good way, either. Not a hard thing to believe, but he must not be as psycho as they say or how else would he stay in charge of his crew? Also, the independent contractor route seems a lot easier than working your way up from the bottom like me. A real maniac would never come up with that.
Zarana must be as smart as her older brother. She always seems pretty pissed off, though. Then again, if I were stuck working with the Dreadnok brain trust, I'd be short on patience too. Zandar is next to unreadable. He's not hard to look at though, even with that orangey-pink hair. At least I think he's not bad looking. I tend to forget in between sightings. Weird, huh? I don't think I've ever heard him say a word either.
Things seem no more out of control in this area than they usually do. Now it's time to go up a few levels. Once you get up a couple flights of echoey metal stairs you get to the level that houses a lot of the scientific departments.
Dr. Mindbender's lab looks to be a busy place even at this hour of the night. Usually it's been closed up for hours. Another sign that something's up. There are guards posted at the entry and I give them a nod as I pass. I'm happy to see them, really. Had they not been out there then I would have had to go in myself. If Zartan strikes me as the sort who spent lots of time as a kid pulling the wings off flies, then Mindbender must have been a kid who pulled fly wings off and then tried sewing them on to something else. I don't like him at all. My mama didn't raise me to be a guinea pig. I won't even use the water fountain across the hall from that lab, just to be safe.
I know he's done a lot of successful experiments like physically enhancing pilots to be able to withstand high g's and giving other soldiers far more strength than they could obtain naturally, but still.... The man is goofy and weird and has a way of looking at you like he wonders if maybe he could replace your brain with some gadget he's just been waiting to try before you'd notice what he was up to. I bet he didn't date much in high school.
And so the tour continues. I pass rooms that have hackers going 24/7 and another that contains genetic experiments of all kinds ( a real horror show, they tell me.) Some rooms have defunct projects and others have remains of stuff like the weather dominator. Heh. I remember that one. I had just been booted out of the Army. Things have certainly changed for me.
On the way back to the main guard post I check the bulletin board to look over the roster for the upcoming mission. Of course I'm not on it, but I only have 3 months left on my year of guard duty, so I can dream. Whatever comes next, I'm ready for it and I guarantee it WON'T be ready for me. And in case you were wondering, that Strato-Viper got sent to patrol duty at Ice Station 0967. You know it's a crappy locale when they don't even bother to give it a snake name.