Author's Note: This is a slightly different tack from my previous work, since it's both multichaptered and an attempt to combine drama and humor. It's building on ideas suggested by a previous story of mine, "In the Line of Duty." That story focused on the lives of the Joes from the perspective of a semi-outsider—the head quartermaster for the Pit. For this, I'm expanding on that concept but switching to a different viewpoint.

I had some difficulty figuring out where exactly the quartermaster corps would fit into the lives of the Joes. An established base would probably have professional cooks in its kitchens, but since the Pit is a secretish place, I can see it being staffed by military personnel instead. And since the Joes are such an odd mixture of formal and informal, it's likely that there'd be some discrepancies between how a real base operates with its quartermasters and how the Joes would do things. If you spot a major mistake, please point it out, and I'll do my best to fix it. Thanks!

Rating: T for swearing and some later adult humor.

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.

Order Up

by Totenkinder Madchen

After a certain point, the code names just got ridiculous.

Private first class Annie Gorshin had a long history with food, and with silly names too. As a child in Hollis Junction, Illinois, Annie had been practically raised behind the counter of the family diner. She'd spoken diner lingo—the staccato, occasionally bizarre code used by cooks and waitresses all across the United States—for as long as she could remember. On a practical level, Annie saw nothing wrong with singing out "Burn one with moo juice!" in a crowded restaurant: it wasn't as simple as "make another cheeseburger," but it was more entertaining, and helped the blizzard of incoming orders stand out from each other. She'd been bussing tables as soon as she could see over them, and waitressing soon after that.

But school didn't pay for itself, and these days, wages from a roadside diner didn't help much either. Annie had dropped Home Ec class, swapped tutoring help for physical conditioning help with the track team, and joined the Army. There were scholarship programs for veterans, after all. She hadn't anticipated being picked out for the Quartermaster Corps.

In retrospect, it should've been obvious. Maybe she wasn't the most outstanding soldier, but she could cook a lot of edible food fast, and that was a skill that was in demand. Annie had been deployed overseas, transferred among a few different units, done her job, and managed to get a few citations for good performance in her jacket. Yet when she'd been given the orders to transfer to General Abernathy's "special" unit, whatever that was, she hadn't minded. Specialists usually had better kitchens, better equipment, and hell, better pay for their overworked support personnel, too. It beat combat deployments, where food arrived dehydrated in hundred-pound drums and the mashed potatoes came out of a box that said "contains no potatoes." Gen. Abernathy's people didn't want her for her combat skills, they wanted somebody who could feed a lot of people quickly. Annie didn't mind that.

But soon after arriving, Annie had run headlong into the almost stifling air of secrecy that lay over the whole business, and she found herself getting acquainted with yet another set of silly names.

It wasn't General Abernathy she reported to—no, it was General Hawk, who would be most often seen making the rounds with a bandage on his arm or a bruised cheek while his stars lay in a drawer. And when Annie got to the kitchens (and good God, she'd never seen such kitchens! Commando units got better chow as a rule, but this was downright ludicrous), she found herself surrounded by half a dozen other cooks, none of whose names had actually appeared in her briefing.

Shingle, Whiskey Down, Eighty-Six, Chopper, S.O.S. and Murphy all took their turns introducing themselves. They had varying degrees of experience: Whiskey Down, the oldest, had a master sergeant's stripes and and the distinctive splay-legged gait of an old-school BAR man, while S.O.S. was a lance corporal with white-blonde hair still growing out of the standard jarhead high-and-tight and a nervous habit of tapping his fingers while he worked. Five of them were Quartermaster Corps; the lone exception was Shingle, who'd apparently been transferred on the strength of a particularly impressive shortcake recipe.

"It's small, for a base," Whiskey Down had told Annie as he showed her around the kitchens. "There's between eighty and a hundred special operatives on base at all times, and double that in support personnel and new recruits—greenshirts, we call 'em. You're a greenshirt, which means you get introductory hand-to-hand and basic PT with the rest of 'em, but you're on assignment with us. And since you didn't specify a preferred code name on your paperwork, we've picked one for you."

Well, wasn't that kind of them. Annie Gorshin had received her orders: from that day out, she would be known as Short Stack.

Fucking code names.

Granted, it could've been worse. Every part of this whole base was absolutely one hundred percent secret and classified, which meant that even support personnel were required to remain discreetly anonymous and adhere to the secrecy regulations. (That, at least, Annie could respect—after all, she'd met a few commanders who assumed that people wound up in the quartermasters because they were too stupid to do anything else. Those commanders tended to be completely blind to the kind of things you could overhear in an echoing kitchen.) And since she thought at first that their assigned names were based solely on their abilities . . . well, Annie had to admit that she could cook a mean pancake. But really—Short Stack?

Eighty-Six, the only other female on the kitchen brigade, kindly filled her in while she got her gear stowed in the women's barracks. Personality was a part of the naming process, but so was "dignity." (Her word.) "If you wanted t'give out names real accurate," she said, the words smoothed together mellifluously by her thick New Orleans accent, "S.O.S. oughtta be Twitchy Li'l Bastud an' Murphy should go by Keeps That Bottle in the Cupboard that We Ain't Supposed t'Know About. But usin' diner lingo sounds nicer, an' none of the other Joes ever worked in a restaurant long enough t'know that S.O.S. stands for Shit on a Shingle."

Annie had to laugh a little at that. "What did S.O.S. do to get named after dried beef on toast, anyway?" she asked, flopping onto her bunk and beginning to undo her boots.

"Welllll . . . originally, he was goin' by Short Order, 'cos back then he was the shortest one in the kitchen. But the first time Roadblock took over, he tried t'teach the li'l guy how to make his special beef compote. His effort wasn't that impressive, if y'know what I mean. He was pretty much stuck as S.O.S. from then on. He's a Navy guy, though, so he swears that's where he got it."

"Roadblock?" Annie blinked, making a mental readjustment. Right. A person, not an obstacle. "Is he a quartermaster too? I thought the senior QM was, uh, 'Storage Vault.'"

This time, it was Eighty-Six who laughed. She explained that Roadblock ("Damn accurate name, fa'true, y'd hit 'im with a truck an' he'd never even know it") was a sergeant and heavy infantry specialist who was nevertheless acknowledged as the greatest cook on the base. Apparently, it was his habit to take over the kitchen for one or two meals every week, sending even the senior Whiskey Down scurrying. Annie couldn't help but be surprised at what sounded like a blatant breach of the chain of command—but when she mentioned that to Eighty-Six, she just got another husky laugh. "You gonna learn quick, Short Stack," she said. "'Round here, a lot of rules get chucked out. People doin' these kind'a jobs got a right to pass a good time when they can, so General Hawk looks the other way most often."

Despite her new acquaintance's assurances, though, Annie couldn't quite believe that. Abernathy was a damn brigadier general, stars and everything, commendations out the ass if even half the official reports were accurate. As Eighty-Six went on and on—describing dress code violations, shattered frat regs, and unauthorized use of highly experimental equipment, all in the same loving tone Annie's mother would use to gossip about the mayor's wife's affair with a minister—Annie found herself skeptical. Specialists or no, enough was enough. Just how stupid did they think she was, anyway?

Come on. A ninja?