GI JOE Season 3: episode 2

"Invincible Shield"

Haghartsin Monastery – February 13, 1981

--oOo-- Prologue --oOo--

Hawk shivered and drew his jacket in tighter as he tread the edge of a rocky slope. He had just got off a three-hour bus ride after a ten-hour layover in the Vienna airport. The sun was just coming over the mountains as rays of light started to dart into the canyon below. It was a beautiful view – he might have enjoyed it more if it was thirty degrees warmer. As he walked down the dusty trail, he started to see a tall domed structure peek out from behind the trees. It was decorated by arches and supported by columns that lined each face at its base. The path led him into the entrance of the ancient monastery – the grey and white colored stone was offset by the plush green vines that scaled the walls of the many buildings. The grounds were neatly manicured, suggesting that there is a community here responsible for the upkeep of the complex.

He knocked on the door. After a few minutes, an old monk answered. Hawk introduced himself and showed the monk a picture of Preacher. The monk took the picture and closed the door behind him. Hawk waited another ten minutes before the door opened again. This time a younger monk appeared to greet him.

"Good Morning, I am Brother Dajad, Abbot of this monastery. What can I do for you?"

Hawk noticed that the Abbot held the picture of Preacher in his hand. "My name is Clayton Abernathy. I am looking for the man in that picture."

The Abbot's eye's widened, "You are The Hawk?"

Hawk nodded, grinning at the designation.

Dajad led Hawk inside the church. The antechamber was a long stone-laden walkway in which various stain-glass sculptures adorned the walls.

"You have a beautiful place here Brother Dajad."

"We are just doing God's work. Mister Preacher visits us occasionally in order to meditate. He insists on earning his keep by doing odd jobs and chores."

"So I take it that Preacher has told you all about me?"

"He has not told me anything, but rather relayed it in writing."

"In writing?" he asked, with a puzzled expression.

"Like the other priests here, Mr. Preacher has undergone a vow of silence. Unlike the others, however, it appears that his was a vow made by attrition. I only pray that one day he trusts God to ease his burden, for His yoke is light."

Dajad left Hawk at the door leading to a small cell. Dajad returned the photo to Hawk and said his goodbyes. Hawk knocked on the door. After some shuffling inside, the door opened. A figure in a dark hooded robe stood before him in the doorway. The figure removed his hood.

Hawk greeted him with a weak smile, "Hello Preacher, if you don't ask me how I managed to find you, I won't ask you what you're doing here in an Armenian monastery."

Preacher stood aside and let Hawk enter. It was a small drafty room with a single cot against the far wall. Across from the door, there was a window overlooking the forest outside. In the corner, at the foot of the cot, all of Preacher's possessions were contained inside of an Army duffle bag.

"I've been trying to keep tabs on you; you dropped off the grid for a while. For what it's worth, I'm glad that you're alright."

Preacher did not respond. He retrieved the drawing pad on his cot. He then walked over to the window and picked up a black grease-pencil from the tray on the window-sill. He looked outside to the forest as he scratched the pencil across the paper. Hawk leaned over to see the unfinished drawing of a timber wolf in the foliage.

"Your private war on Asian crime families is stepping on quite a few toes. You have a lot of people looking for you. I suppose I would be wasting my breath trying to convince you how foolish this crusade of yours is."

The only response Hawk got was a glare out of the corner of Preacher's eyes. Hawk stepped back at a respectful distance.

"The Abbot warned me that you can't – or won't speak."

Preacher shook his head in answer.

"Why not? Is it physiological? Post-traumatic?"

Preacher shrugged his shoulders, almost as an afterthought to Hawk's question.

Hawk's expression softened as he looked down to the floor at his feet. "I'm so sorry...for everything."

Preacher snorted as he looked away, out of the window, to resume his drawing.

"I know you don't owe me anything…I haven't exactly been sensitive to your situation…" He sighed nervously as he mused before saying, "On the way up here, I was trying to think of what I would say to you. Sometimes words can be a stumbling block when it comes to getting at the truth…"

Preacher continued to ignore him – focusing only on his art.

"What if I told you there was a way to find Tho."

For the first time, the sound of Preacher's pencil scratching across the paper stopped. Hawk continued when he had his attention.

"It turns out that CIA and DIA both got it wrong: Destro and Tho were merely middle-men. We believe that the real player is a man, as of yet, unseen. He's winning over scores disillusioned and expatriated military professionals under a rallying cry of anti-establishment rhetoric. Finding this shadow commander could give you a lead into tracking down Tho."

Preacher tore a fresh sheet from his drawing pad. He selected the red grease-pencil from the tray and started to draw on the paper. After a quick sketch, he showed the drawing to Hawk: a crude depiction of a cobra.

"Yes, that's their banner," he said in surprise. "You've had some dealings with them during your sabbatical?"

Preacher nodded as he put the drawing away.

"In a few short years, he has managed to amass the fifth largest army in the world. His lieutenants are a motley crew of international gangsters with no clear prior affiliation. However, the scariest thing of all is, we have no idea how he's funding this. He pays mainly in rare gems and precious metals, yet we can find no evidence of mining operations or production facilities to sustain his cash flow. It's like this guy came out of nowhere with infinite resources at his disposal. As cheesy as it sounds, we believe that his ultimate aim is world domination."

Hawk saw that he still had Preacher's attention, although he appeared disinterested in what he was saying.

"In response to this threat, Kilo Company has been reactivated under new colors. It's now code-named GI JOE – in keeping with a culture of anonymity. Some of your old teammates have enlisted, but we're also pulling the best and the brightest from all of the other branches as well. Our main focus will be gathering intelligence, but I expect that these kids are gonna have to chew some serious dirt. They need practical training in combat situations. That's were you come in: you're the best battlefield commando I've ever seen. Also, judging from the path of destruction that you left all over Asia, it's apparent that you've acquired some new skills as well."

Hawk clenched his jaw. His words had been met by another poker-face stare from Preacher. He decided to stop rambling and get to the point, without any more words getting in the way.

"Will you come back to The States with me? Will you be my secret weapon?"

Without a pause, Preacher nodded in affirmation. Hawk was taken aback by his quick reply.

He stood up straight. "There's one small complication. There would no doubt be questions raised with you coming back after six years of being AWOL. I'll have to get creative when I submit your enlistment papers. For your protection, I'll classify your real name and your serial number, but you'll need to choose a new code-name for yourself."

Preacher put the pad on the cot. He walked over to his duffle bag and pulled out a small drawstring. He then came over and put the contents of the purse in Hawks hand.

A smile came across Hawk's face when he unfolded his palm. He stared at the dice in his hand; two single pips stared back at him.

"I think he would have liked that."

Hawk reached out and offered Preacher his hand. Preacher reached back and shook it: he was no longer Preacher:

"Welcome to the team…Snake-Eyes."

The End.

Next Episode: 3.0 - "Chain of Command"

Author's Challenge: Knowing what you know now, go back and see if you catch any clues that you missed the first time around.