Author's note: This was a quickie, inspired by TiamatV's "Ennui." In that story, Snake-Eyes' enthusiasm leads to some equipment damage, and there's a throwaway line about how the Joes' quartermaster will react. I took that idea and expanded it a little bit into this. Hope you like it, Tiamat.

Disclaimer: GI Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc, and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.

* * *

In the Line of Duty

by Totenkinder Madchen

* * *

Joining G.I. Joe was considered an auspicious career move, but only among people in the know; "top secret" was no joke. Anybody who was involved with it was considered part of the hidden initiative, and their status was adjusted accordingly. Cover stories, complete secrecy, code names, the works.

The man currently known as Storage Vault had been the Joes' equipment master for an undisclosed and highly-classified number of years. He'd joined the military during the Vietnam years, but had been considered unfit for duty as anything but a quartermaster; undaunted, Storage Vault had decided to be the best damn quartermaster in the whole United States Army, and his effort hadn't gone unnoticed. Now, as the administrative head of a virtual platoon of mechanics and armorers, he oversaw the Joes' equipment for missions and personally checked over the gear for signs of wear and tear. New parts were ordered through dummy companies and assembled right there in the Pit, with Uncle Sam footing the bill. Life could be a hell of a lot worse.

In theory, anyway. G.I. Joe was a professional team, but Storage Vault would be the first to point out that they were also as unhinged a bunch of yahoos as it had ever been his misfortune to encounter. The workers in the motor pool had rechristened the quartermaster Acid Flux, and for a good reason: the wear and tear on the Joes' equipment was slowly but surely driving the man to drink.

It wouldn't have been so bad if it had been the normal kind of damage. Bullet holes, napalm burns, shell casings getting stuck in the chamber . . . these were the hazards of the military life, and ones that Storage Vault could understand. Some things were unavoidable. But time and again, he handed out beautiful, perfectly working equipment, and the Joes brought his babies back with—what the hell was that, anyway? Did that used to be a rifle?

Storage Vault had gotten his wish: he was the best damn quartermaster in the entire United States military. He was good because he cared about the equipment, and because he oversaw the workshop with merciless precision. He got the supplies where they were needed, and he made sure that those supplies were in good shape. So why, oh why, did the team continue to treat him like a vending machine that dispensed shiny things to break?

* * *

On one typical night, Storage Vault was in his office, going over the latest equipment manifest. Damage assessment reports had already been filed by the workshop, and he had to sign off on the order for replacement parts. On the outside, it was hardly the worst job in the military, but it was giving Storage Vault a headache.

Beach Head. Everybody was familiar with terse Staff Sergeant Wayne R. Sneeden, but Storage Vault knew him mainly as Beach Head, Sadistic Destroyer of Cammies, whose PT sessions were responsible for a good portion of the clothing orders that passed through the quartermaster's office. Speaking of burns and bullet holes . . . Storage Vault was damn glad that his group weren't subject to that particular torture.

This time, though, it looked like Beach Head himself had come in for some trouble. The gear that had been checked back in was filled, literally filled, with swamp water and mysterious marsh reeds. An armorer had found a dead frog lodged between two strike plates, and there were crickets stuck to his web gear. Storage Vault would've loved to know how that happened, but instead of asking, he just rolled his eyes and swallowed two Tums with his coffee.

Cover Girl. As a rule, Storage Vault liked Cover Girl; quite aside from her being, hem, easy on the eyes, she spent most of her time inside the Wolverine, and her equipment issues were mostly the trouble of the motor pool. Well, whatever trouble Beach Head had been in, he'd had company: in addition to being similarly festooned with mud and crickets, Cover Girl's Kevlar had a long, clean cut down the back—the kind you got when running like hell from someone with very sharp sword.

Swords. Nobody in the regular military divisions used damn swords.

With Roadblock, at least, he knew what to expect. In addition to the usual damage, Roadblock's gear occasionally suffered from cooking-related mishaps—mainly grease fires. Storage Vault was willing to give Roadblock a pass on that, most days (he'd tasted the man's homemade German chocolate cake, and as far as he was concerned, that was reason enough) but when on long field missions, Roadblock's cooking preparations could sometimes get creative. The current damage was apparently the result of making a camp stove out of several spent mortar brasses and substituting napalm for canned heat. Nobody had been injured, but the person filling out the initial report had apparently seen fit to note that "the chicken was beyond saving." Storage Vault had no idea how the Joes had managed to get a chicken sixty miles outside Deir el Bahri, and at this point, he really didn't care.

Most of the Joes' equipment was paid for by the government, but damage to their personal effects, as well as non-mission-related gear destruction, came out of their own pockets. Storage Vault sighed a little as he signed the report; Roadblock's next paycheck would be taking a hit, and given the market value of military-grade equipment, it would be quite a substantial one.

That little condition had been responsible for some of the weirder damage assessment reports to cross his desk. Nothing had ever been proved, of course, but Storage Vault wouldn't put it past some of the Joes to blame some of their more bizarre damages on enemy fire. Anything to avoid having to pay for the consequences every time someone began a sentence with the words "Hey, guys, why don't we try . . ."

Scarlett was next. Like Cover Girl, Scarlett's damage reports weren't so bad; most of it was explainable, and the rest of it wasn't bad enough to contribute to Storage Vault's ulcers. Flight suits got ripped all the time, after all—and if it was ripped clean in half, well, the quartermaster wasn't going to ask. Her gloves had also sustained some unusual wear, with the fingertips oddly abraded and torn, but nothing that would be too costly or difficult to replace. Storage Vault breathed a little easier as he signed the document, and turned to the last report on his desk.

Snake-Eyes? His brow furrowed as he picked it up, squinting at the writing. Definitely. Snake-Eyes. Now there was a name that didn't cross his desk much; aside from occasionally ordering a new wakizashi from some master swordsmith in Kyoto, and of course, buying ninja stars in bulk (how many did he go through every day? Storage Vault was willing to bet he ate the damn things), Snake-Eyes usually didn't require too much attention from the quartermaster division. He took sometimes battle armor like everyone else, but most of the time, he snuck around in a plain bodysuit and mask.

But then, everybody had their off-days, and the silent ninja master was no exception. Storage Vault raised an eyebrow as he perused the report. A broken belt clasp, a ripped sleeve, two destroyed zippers, and the buckles that normally secured the knife-belts to his legs had been torn clean out of the fabric.

Storage Vault ran his finger down the list of damages, shaking his head as he did so. Somebody had gone to town on Snake-Eyes, that was for certain. He found himself wondering how it had happened. Normally, with damage reports, he could reconstruct the scene of the accident fairly easily; Roadblock's chicken or Cover Girl's sword-slashed armor left nothing to the imagination, but the damage to Snake-Eyes' gear wasn't adding up. It would take serious determination to remove that belt, and for what? Had Snake-Eyes even been on a mission in the last forty-eight hours?

His eyes flicked across the desk, and rested on Scarlett's equipment report. Abraded gloves, torn flight suit . . .

He groaned.

It was with the strong feeling of an oncoming headache that he signed the report. Equipment damage did not occur in the line of duty, he wrote in the margins. Please advise team members that they will be responsible for destruction incurred in the exercise of all "recreational activities."

Forget the Joes; maybe he could get posted to Kuwait, where chickens came in MREs and images of violent ninja sex didn't intrude on his equipment reports. In the meantime, though, he'd be speaking to Beach Head. If they were energetic enough to break his damn equipment, then they clearly weren't being worked hard enough.