Something different. How much trouble can a guy who is always in control get into, when he loses that control?

* * * *

The Pit was quiet. It should be quiet, it was extremely late at night, and Flint was happily writing out a very short report that nothing of note was happening. The best kind of night. No alarms, no issues, no pranking, no problems. He glanced at the sign-in sheet from the front gate and frowned. Several Joes and greenshirts were still off base. They had a eleven p.m. curfew to be back. He glanced at the clock. Ten-forty-two.

Looking down the list of names, he called the gate guards to double-check and found most of them were still not back.

Breaker looked over his shoulder at the warrant officer. "Flint.. they're out celebrating. Remember? Clutch's sister just had that baby.. so he invited everyone out for a few beers?" The communications specialist blew a large pink bubble with his gum and popped it loudly. "They might have just lost track of time. I know Clutch was mighty proud that he'll be an uncle. And Shipwreck went with them.. "

Flint groaned. "Great. The sailor and Clutch both out on the town with a good excuse to get drunk and enough other guys to cause mayhem. Just what we need." He ran his eyes over the list. Clutch, RockNRoll, Shipwreck, Dusty, Greenshirts Mouth and Buyour, Alpine, Bazooka and Footloose were listed as off-base. He looked up at the clock again. "Well.. if they're not back on base in the next fourteen minutes, they're gonna be AWOL."

Breaker sighed and ran a quick check of the local police scanners and alerts. "Nothing showing on the PD alerts. No mass call for cops anywhere. Maybe they're just cutting it really close."

Flint grumbled but went to check the reports from the fences, guardposts and security systems. Everything came back green and he looked at the clock again. They had three minutes to arrive now. Another call to the front gate netted him nothing.

Breaker suddenly clicked a switch. "Incoming call." He punched a code in to scramble the line. "Breaker here, communications center."

The voice on the line was slurred but recognizable as Shipwreck. "Heeeey Breaker old pal. We're ... we need.. uhh.. " His voice got loud and they could hear loud background noise. "What was it I needed to ask him? Hey! HEY!! GUYSSS!? What was I askin' Breaker??" There was a pause and Flint frowned and stepped over to wait. "Stop putting peanuts on Footloose!! Oh yeah! Breaker.. dude.. you gotta send someone out here to get us. Cause we're about to bust curfew.. and Flint'll get ALLLLL outa joint over it if we ain't on base at eleven!"

Flint leaned over. "Flint IS 'outa joint'. It's two minutes to curfew! You better get your sorry butts back on base RIGHT NOW!"

It was very quiet and then Shipwreck sighed. "We can't come back to base.. we're all drunk! We gotta have a driver, but we can't be the drivers, on account of we're ALL drunk! We designatededed a driver.. but it was confusing.. so everyone got drunk on accident.. so now we wanna be on base.. honest Flint!! We WANNA be on base! But.. but.. we CAN'T drive! On account of we're all really really drunk! Yeah.. drunk.. cause we all drank a lot of alhoocoocoo.. alcooocoo.. alllhoohoo... beer."

Flint gritted his teeth. "Alright. You're all drunk and you don't have a driver. You idiots. Which bar are you at?" He got the name and Breaker pulled up the address and directions. "I'm sending someone out now with a truck. You guys better be there when they get there, and when you get back here, you're all in BIG trouble." He listened to some giggling in the background.

Shipwreck came back, whispering loudly. "Shh.. shhh.. SHUT UP!!! Guys.. he's gonna hear you! Shush it up!! Hey I told you!! No peanuts on Footloose.. well.. throw something else at him! NOT A GLASS!! You moron!!!" He began to talk in a slow exaggeratedly calm voice into the phone. "Okay Flint. We're not causin' no trouble, just didn't want to drive drunk, safety first and all that, you know!"

"Just stay there." Flint clicked the connection closed. "Good lord. Who am I supposed to send out for the idiots?" He glanced over the board of on-base Joes. "I should send BeachHead out to get them. That'd teach them to get drunk and call in here."

Breaker popped another bubble. "Why not? He's ranked higher than they are, and he's loud enough to get them all rounded up. He's on base."

Flint grimaced. "He's gonna have been in bed for hours. Be grumpy as heck to have to get up.. and.. go off base to.. heh heh.. get them. Yeah.. I think Beach is the obvious choice. He's fourth in command... he should go retrieve these troublemakers." The warrant officer turned to one of the greenshirts on duty. "Go wake up BeachHead.. have him take one of the deuce-and-a-half trucks to pick up this lot of troublemakers. Here's the directions and bar address."

The poor Greenshirt looked like he was a lamb going to a particularly messy painful slaughter. Flint wondered idly to himself if the poor guy would end up with broken arms from having to wake up the sergeant major. BeachHead was notorious for being out of sorts when he had to get up from his sleep for anything but an emergency involving shooting people. He tended to want to shoot people anyway.. and if there wasn't any enemy around.. well..

As he half expected, his communicator chimed at him. He'd swear that every time it was BeachHead, the chime managed to sound angry. "Flint here."

"What the hell is goin' on?" Yes.. the greenshirt was probably lying in a puddle somewhere.

"Need you to go pick up a group at that address on the paper the greenie should have given you." Flint smiled to himself. "Is there an issue, Sergeant major?" His voice was a self-satisfied purr.

"No sir. I'll leave right away." Each word sounded like it had been bitten off and thrown through the comm unit. Flint savored the moment. It wasn't all that often that he got to annoy BeachHead so much. Waking him up out of his sleep, to send him driving off to town, to retrieve a load of drunks.. that was three for three. To top it off, it was perfectly in order for BeachHead to be the one going to retrieve the Joes. Especially because two of his greenshirts were part of the group. Of course, the PT tomorrow would be a horror show.. but occasionally it was worth it. He almost wished he'd made the Ranger come up to the command center in person to get the orders. Then he'd have gotten to see his face.

The greenshirt returned, albeit a bit rumpled up. "Sergeant major BeachHead said to let you know he's leaving now."

Flint grinned. "Yeah? What did he really say?"

The young man flinched and sat down into his chair to take over his station. "I'd really prefer not to repeat it, sir."

"I'll bet."

* * * *

BeachHead scowled as he downshifted to make it up a steep bit of road. The old deuce-and-a-half grumbled and growled as it made the top of the hill. He glanced at his watch and swore. It was nearly midnight, and here he was out of bed to go retrieve drunks. Going into town meant he wore his usual green sweater and lightweight tactical vest, with a minimum of open-carry weapons. One pistol on his hip.. well.. and no less than two hide-aways plus knives.. would have to do.

Holding up the page of directions, he squinted and then had to dig out his small flashlight and hold it in his teeth to read the rumpled paper. The steering wheel tried to drag out of his hands as he took a sharp curve a bit too fast for the huge transport truck and he swore again, dropping the flashlight and paper.

"Son-of-a... dang stupid Flint sending me out here.." He groped around in the floorboards and found his flashlight. The paper eluded him until he used the light to find it. "Dang stupid drunks.. wait till tomorrow morning.. we'll see who's grumpy in the danged morning."

When he pulled in, he parked at the outside edge of the parking lot, the only area that had space for him to back out with the truck. Flint should be glad he was qualified to drive nearly anything out there. Not everyone was allowed to drive transport trucks. After double-checking the address, he sighed and slammed the truck's emergency brakes on as hard as he could, hoping the stupid thing didn't slip and roll into a ditch or something. It'd been known to happen with some of the older trucks, and he sure wasn't going to be calling the base to report he'd put the truck into a ditch.

He pulled off his balaclava before he entered the bar, having learned that lesson early on. Masked robbers and masked sergeant majors looked a lot alike to shotgun wielding bartenders. The inside of the bar was loud and bright and annoying. The missing Joe's were gathered in one end of the bar, singing loudly, and off-key. He strode over, scowling at them. "ALRIGHT!! Form up, you buncha lousy maggots! Time to go back to base."

Dusty staggered over and draped an arm over him instead. "BEACH!!! DUDE!! You're HERE! That's great!! Someone get old Beachie-Beach a big tall cold beer! He wants a beer too!"

"I don't want a beer. I want to be sleeping. BUT instead.. I'm here to drag your sorry butts back to base. Buncha lowlifes." He shrugged off the arm and dragged the trooper to the rest of the group by a tight grip on his shirt.

Dusty shook his head, allowing the sergeant major to manhandle him into place without protest. "LowLight ain't here... he's on base."

"I SAID lowlifes.. not LowLight.. idiot." He barked at the rest of the group. "Ya'll form up over here!! NOW!!" The group came to stand in a small cluster and he counted heads. "Where the hell is Bazooka and Alpine? If I gotta go hunt those two down.. I swear.."

Clutch belched loudly. "Whhooooo.. that was rancid. Nooo.. Bazooka is bein' sick in the bathroom.. Alpine is making sure that he don't pass out and drown in a toilet."

"Awww gawd.. that's jus' great." He went to check and found Alpine standing over the miserable infantryman. "Ya'll get it gear.. we're going back to base."

Bazooka groaned and tilted his head up to look at him. "I drank too many beers. Stomach can't hold 'em all now."

Alpine blinked at him. "Well.. we can do that sarge.. but he's gonna barf all the way to base.. if you just give us a few minutes here.. he can finish throwing up. Not that I care either way, except as his buddy, I know he'll barf on me first."

Beach twitched as Bazooka began loudly retching again. "Alright.. alright.. just a few minutes though.. " He went back to the little group and stood there with his hands on his hips. "Dang it.. where's Footloose?" A visual search found him coming back from the bar with a glass. "What are ya doin? Ya don't need no more beer! Get over here!"

Footloose grinned happily. "NO NO!!!! I GOT THIS FOR YOU!!" Beach winced away from the shouting.

Dusty put a finger to his lips. "Inside voice Footloose... inside voice.. don't yell at Beachie-Beach.. he'll get ALLLL kinds of grumpy at us."

Shipwreck snickered suddenly. "Awww.. Beach is a good guy.. he'll take us back to base!! I knew Breaker would help us out, and now we won't be bustin' curfew!"

BeachHead snarled at the men. "Ya'll are all in deep trouble already. Footloose.. take that drink back ta the bar! I'm drivin', and I'm on duty.. I ain't about to go sucking down some two-bit beer in a shoddy bar like here."

Dusty looked around suddenly. "Two-Bits is here? Where!? I'll buy him a beer!"

The Ranger put a hand over his eyes. "Gawd I hate drunks. Two-Bits ain't here Dusty. Shut it, and sit down. No one go anywhere!"

Footloose was trying to hand him the glass. "No no no no.. no no.. it's not beer! I got you your FAVORITE DRINK BEACHHEAD!!! It's cold tea with lots of sh-sh-sh-sugar.. got it for ya.. not beer. Beach WOULDN'T DRINK A BUNCHA BEER!!!" The faulty volume control on the trooper made BeachHead wince and he took the glass from him to shut him up.

He pointed to the corner of the bar. "Alright.. shhh.. hush that shoutin' up. Everyone over there." He lifted the glass and sipped at it absently and then glared as Shipwreck and Mouth began to snicker loudly. "What are you two loons gigglin' at?!" He turned on Buyour and pointed at her. "I expected a LOT better from you, girl. What are you doin' out here with this bunch of reprobates?"

She sighed at him, blinking the large brown eyes dramatically in a fashion she never had while sober. "I'm a sucker for new babes.. and Clutch was sooooo happy about his sister having a baaaaaby. And you know.. I was going to make sure we didn't get into trouble, but then.. I wasn't the designated d-d-driver. So I drunk a lotta beer too. And then I got drank. Drunk. Drunken. Non-sober. Whatever. But I'm okay!" She smiled blissfully at him. "I think you're cute Sergeant major!"

He rolled his eyes. "Great." The tea wasn't half bad.. for heretic tea. People just didn't know how to make proper iced tea out here in Arizona. They preferred to brew tea.. chill it, then force a person to try to dissolve sugar in cold fluid. Just wasn't the same as proper tea.

Footloose was looking rather closely at him. "How's your drink? Sergeant major.. how's the drink, huh? Huh Sergeant?"

"It's fine. Sit down." He glared at the small group who happily continued to chat and drink the last of their various alcoholic concoctions.. and beers. Mouth was watching him intently, probably worried about the PT session he'd better know was coming in the morning. "I should make the lotta ya run back ta base.. 'steada ridin' ina truck." He blinked slightly.

Mouth pulled out an extra chair and motioned to it. "Sergeant major.. sit down.. you might as well sit while we're all waiting on Bazooka to finish puking up his shoelaces.." Without being quite certain why, Beach settled into the chair and peered around the bar which seemed to have gone a little blurry. "You feeling okay, Sergeant major?"

He shook his head to clear it. "I'm fine. The danged bar is all.. " He waved one hand around vaguely. "Fuzzy.. fuzzy bar.. " Mouth sat down across from him. "It's the middle of the danged night.. I hadda get up to come get ya'll. I ain't happy 'bout that.. not one bit, no sir. Not happy."

Shipwreck peered at his face as he blinked, trying to clear his vision up. "Wow... Mouth you weren't kidding.. that stuff is fast." He leaned over the table. "Hey BeachHead.. you okay?"

He felt his head wobble slightly as he looked at the annoying sailor. "Yeah.. why am I inna bar? We're 'sposed to be.. uhh.. " He tilted his head back slightly and peered upwards trying to remember. "I came ta.. umm.. wow... lookit them holes inna ceilin' up there.."

Mouth gave a smug smile. "I told you it would loosen him up. This stuff is the best.. he'll be all kinds of drunk now. Come on Sergeant major.. I'll get you a beer."

"Yeah... ya do that.. " Beach continued to tilt his head back. "How ya 'spose them holes got up there?" Shipwreck put his hand on the back of his head and tipped it forward. "Oh whoa.. where'd ya'll come from? Ain't I 'spose to be.. uh.. goin' sommere?" He blinked. "I gotta truck."

Dusty smiled as he slumped into the chair next to him. "Hey.. you can't go driving off now.. you gotta have a beer. Toast Clutch's new niece! Gotta do that before we leave!"

He narrowed his gaze at the lean trooper. "You.." He pointed at him. "You getta too mush troubles. Yer a trouble-maker. I gotta eyeball on ya, so don't ya think that I don't know tha' ya gotta trouble brewin' up inna side-a yer head.. yeah."

Dusty reached to push a tall beer to his hand. "Yeah.. I'm not a trouble-maker.. that's Shipwreck.. but look.. you got a beer to drink!"

BeachHead shifted to hitch his chair sideways a little and looked closely at the beer. "I dunno.. I'm... I'm on duty. No beer on duty."

Clutch shook a finger at him sternly, making him focus on the wagging finger. "Now you gotta toast my niece! If you don't toast my niece.. I'll think you're insulting her! You wouldn't insult a tiny newborn baby, would you!?"

BeachHead thought that over carefully. "Umm.. no..." Picking up the beer, he looked at it suspiciously. "Ya'll didn't spike it, didja?" There was a chorus of protests that they wouldn't ever put anything into his beer. He missed the significant emphasis they were putting on the word 'beer'. "M'kay.. I guess it's okay.. since we're toastin' a bitty baby." He drank down about half the cold beer and licked at his lip a little bit. "Well.. that's not a bad beer.. for a sawdust bar." He suddenly looked at them all. "How come I'm the only one drinkin' a beer... if'n it's a toast?"

"Oh yeah!! We should have drinks too!" There was a general scramble and Beach managed to finish his glass as everyone else got their own drinks. It was okay though, because Dusty was nice enough to bring him a second beer to use in the toast.

"You have to have something to toast with! You drank the other one but you didn't make a toast!" Dusty grinned at him and tapped his beer glass against Beach's. "So make a toast!"

"Ahh.. I ain't very good at that." The Ranger closed one eye to think about it and became slightly distracted by half the room suddenly disappearing. "Whoa.. where'd.. oh.. there's the room again. That was WEIRD!" He sat himself up straight.. when had he started leaning? "Okay.. toastin' a baby. Here's ta a quiet non-cryin' child what grows up big 'n strong n hope she don't take affer Clutch!" He drank deeply and everyone cheered at that and followed suit. "Ohhh-kay. Now we toasted.. now we gotta go back ta base." He started to get up and Footloose put his hands on his shoulders and pushed him back into the chair.

"No no.." Footloose smiled at him. "We gotta make toasts too! Can't just be YOU TOASTING! YOU GOTTA HAVE US TOAST TOO!"

BeachHead frowned at him and Footloose jumped backwards. He wasn't so drunk as to have lost all self-preservation instincts. "Hands off the Sergeant major."

The infantryman nodded at him. "Sorry.. hands off.. got it." He lifted his whiskey-on-the-rocks high. "To a beautiful little girl.. never let her meet any guys like us!" They all drank to that, Clutch chugging his beer down entirely.

"AMEN!!!" The mechanic looked into his empty glass. "Wait.. I have to get another drink!" He wandered to the bar and retrieved another beer and a small glass for BeachHead who seemed to have developed a hole in his beer glass. It had somehow emptied when he wasn't paying attention. "Here Beach.. "

The Ranger leaned over the table to put his face down to the glass and check it out carefully. "What is this?"

Clutch leaned over to peer closely at it too, then sniffed it. "It's... uhh.. it's brown. Drink it, it'll put hair on your chest."

"Bah.. hairy chest.. I got that already." Beach picked up the glass anyway. "So who's next? We ain't got all night here! I gotta drag yer sorry butts back ta base. Got up outa bed ta come get ya buncha pogues. Flint made me. He's a sorry piece of snot.. dumb warrant officer."

Everyone nodded and there was a short discussion about whether Shipwreck or Dusty should toast next. BeachHead ended it by smacking his fist into the tabletop sharply. "SHUDDDDUP! Dusty goes next. Alfa-fa-beta-lickedly 'D' before 'S'. He's next. 'Sides.. Ship ain't no one we want the baby ta meet no how." He tried to peer at the sailor. "Nuthin' personal. But if ya was ta come around mah daughter.. I'd shoot ya. In the nads. Maybe twice. Jus' sayin'."

Shipwreck looked insulted. "But Beach.. why? I'm a nice guy.. lots of gals date me! I gotta lotta dates!"

"Tha's why. No lotta gals-datin' guy would date MAH daughter. Yeah." Beach tilted the glass back and swallowed the drink then coughed wildly. "WHOOO holy crud.. what was that?" He coughed more. "Dang it.. ya done gone and poisoned me!" He huffed out his breath a few times. "Whoa. Gimme another one of those things. I wanna try it again."

* * * *

End Chapter:

I can't help but think of Pandora's Box.. once you get the man 'drunk', there is no going back. I'm planning on a chapter a night posted. Reviews are always adored.