AN: Here we go, introducing an OC. I was planning on making this an OC free story, but he was needed just to show how the Commander went from crazy maniacal schemes to intelligent devious strategy. Don't worry, he won't play too big of a part, don't hate me! Also, I'm sorry about how long it has taken me to do...anything, really! I've been busy with school (I know! I didn't think I'd start to care either!) and I'm pretty sure the only reason I managed to get something uploaded today was because I fell down some stairs and injured myself and rendered myself useless to do much of anything else! But hopefully this means I'll be getting back on track. Point out any errors, please! I may have missed some (a lot) due to my erratic state of mind right now!
Also, I took the liberty of shaping Slipstream into the way I desired. I actually don't know too much about him, so he may be a little out of character (or a lot) but I think he's the only one that could possibly be off base!
Enough of this nonsense! Are you still reading this! Sheesh. Onward!
It was a word used to describe the conventional, to define the presence of excellence, to grace the importance of the extraordinary. Without common there was no superiority, no distinction from the masses.
He knew what it meant. He knew why it was given to him. Bestowal of a name, an object, insecurity. It was the trademark of the world, a way of identification, separation of the known. If Common was his name, then he would be anything but. Worth was a weak motivator but it fed pride like a child, cultivated the vanity that spurred the animalistic competition between the likeminded.
Motivation was not hard to find for him; life was the stimulator. Nothing more than survival.
Everything about him seemed underplayed and smooth. Smooth skin, smooth hands; nails trimmed short and hair shaved close to his scalp. Even his voice was smooth like heavy cream, low and unchanging in pitch. He seemed soft, almost blurred. His smoothness seemed to blend him into the background of places. Always there but never noticed. He was of average height, of average weight. Strong willed, but not strong muscled. Underplayed, average, usual. Only his eyes stood out; they glittered like the cold seas of Norway.
Nothing seemed to make him smile. Emotion seemed beneath him, or perhaps it was something he did not understand. Love, happiness, trust; these words were intangible. He did not believe in what he could not see. But primal instinct, he believed, was separate. Jealousy, anger, fear; negativity was something he could relate too. He knew that negativity was what kept people alive and referred to these emotions as innate and true. Anger drove people on, fear made people smart. Negative thought was human nature to him, and he followed it like his religion. Happiness isn't real; it is actually a different perception of jealousy. Love is a mistaken form of fear. He did not believe what he could not see, but he could see negativity. He saw it in people; he saw it in himself. Hatred was a hard stone in his body that he wrapped around like a snake. He cultivated it like a small flame until it grew out into something intangible, unmentionable.
As for God, he did not believe. He would snarl at organized religion. He called them fools, praying to something that did not exist. He could not see the divine, just as he could not see joy. Instead, he believed in definite. There was an end to life, just as there had been a start. After death, there would be nothing. No thought, no body. You would simply cease to exist.
For someone who did not believe in the divine, he considered himself the closest to it. Though he had no accomplishments to warrant that feeling, he still held the highest opinion of himself. He believed he could see what others could not. He would find the faults in people, even the people under the most exalted stature. George Washington was really a controlling tyrant; Mother Teresa was a fraud. That, in his mind, made him better than everyone else. People around him were insects, and he was the only true being.
He worked to prove people wrong. If someone called him egotistical, he would go out of his way to publically disprove the notion. He felt superior when others failed. He considered it a right to best others, a right that he had inherited through his very birth. He destroyed to build. He would step on anyone he could to get to what he wanted; he knew he was a hedonist. It was not something he was ashamed of, however. It was something he was proud of. He thought it was natural to look out for what he wanted. If he would not help himself, who would? It was a nasty cycle that he had created himself.
He was parasitic in nature. He was superficially charming, but underneath his smooth skin laid sharp scales. He would go on dates for free meals with women of rich backgrounds. He would only contact his parents when he was in need of something. He could untangle the truth like silk ribbons, but it was the lies that slid out of him like caramel. Compulsive lying was a game to him. What could he get people to believe? How far could he push them?
Money was an interesting concept to him. It meant nothing, but it also meant everything. He had enough of it to get by. It was only paper, he would say. It's just all in our heads. But he knew how important the mind was. He would often second-guess himself, his motives; everything he was doing was a puzzle. The world itself was a puzzle to him. Why is this, why is that? Why is anything the way it is?
Material belongings were important to him. He saw no point in living, other than to be comfortable while it lasted. He spent to time pursuing relationships with family or friends. He had no desire to raise a family. He knew that loneliness, desertion, it was all part of the human experience. He learned to live alone, because it was in his best interest. No one to care about meant nothing to worry about. But he did want things. He wanted games and couches, junk food and a television. He didn't care about his health, but he always managed to look good. He considered attractiveness part of his image that he had to maintain, part of his superiority.
At age 24, he was diagnosed as a sociopath. Someone unable to feel emotions. Was he unable to feel emotion, or did he choose not to feel emotion? Was there a difference? But Common had laughed at the diagnosis. He said it made him better. Sociopathy was the future; it was the pinnacle of human evolution. Everyone looking out for his or her own interests, human instinct at its purest state. No government, no programs. Just people, taking what they want and doing what they want. He believed that was the end of the line. Human nature would eventually push out kindness, love, generosity. There was no room for those unrealistic emotions.
But soon after, something seemed to change. He went from apathetic to dangerous. His hedonist nature seemed to carry him away. It started out small. He would steal from people at the restaurant that he worked at. He'd break into the lockers in the back and go through people's belongings, taking whatever he found interesting. Not only money, but key chains, gift cards. Anything he could use to his own advantage. Then he turned personal. He would take pictures of loved ones out of wallets and burn them with a lighter, then leave half of the picture behind. The restaurant fired him after that.
Then Cobra found him.
He was the kind of man that the Commander had a fondness for. He was young, impetuous, devious. He seemed to be beaten down by the government. But he was not. Common had read the Commander as easily as he had read everyone else. Manipulation was a skill of his. He could feel it; he could pull it out of people.
He wanted to hurt people, and the Commander would give him that opportunity. Oh yes, he would make people see. He would make them taste the reality of the world. He would make them cringe in self-loathing. He would make parents bury their children and then burn the flowers atop the graves.
The Commander was pleased with the progress of his newest recruit. There was no hesitation or questions from Common, only a willingness to complete the mission by whatever means necessary. The Commander saw a man devoted to the cause, devoted to the future that Cobra worked to build. He did not realize the monster he was creating. How could he? That smooth man, how could he be so bad?
But Common saw a chance to destroy. If his job were to convince a man to fund Cobra, he would simply take the money himself and threaten the man into silence. When the cooperation was no longer desired, Common would kill him in the most painful way possible. The truth was becoming clear. Common could not have been a sociopath, he enjoyed the pain of others too much. A sadist, the devil lived in him.
So he spent the years slowly climbing up the ranks, slowly gaining the Commander's trust until he became an adviser of sorts. Now he had his chance. He would make the world see how bad people could truly be. He would show the world what true nature was.
He began systematically. He convinced the Commander to fuel money into groups of rebels in volatile countries, on the notion that the insurgents would distract GI Joe; Cobra's main roadblock to gaining world control. Instead of these crazy schemes the Commander always funneled money into, why not let the people of the world destroy themselves? The Commander liked the idea, and began to fund revolutions in countries like India and Brazil and places all over Africa in the Middle East.
Common had located a group called the Coalition For Freedom, a group dedicated to the eradication of governments of any kind. They were made of angry citizens, and had formed bases all over the world, in every country. Disgruntled and disillusioned people with the will to take things to a violent level. Anarchists, Common could taste the disaster they could cause if they only had the money. Again, he convinced the Commander to support them.
The result: Catastrophic bombings all over Europe and in parts of the United States, bloody rebellions that have spread nearly all over the world. GI Joe was good, yes. But a few skilled people would have a hard time stopping rebellions with no common ground, no common source to stem. The connections to Cobra were few, with only a few overseers in key rebellions to edge things on.
And now, with one more ace in their deck, Common had created a surefire plan. The Commander could have the world, for all he cared. He just wanted to watch it burn.
GI Joe Tango Team
Stalker, Clutch, and Slipstream
"What a delightfully dim coffee shop," Clutch said, holding up the image of the Baroness above him to block out the sun. "I bet that was where she was headed. It looks like the sort of place she would go. Dark, smoky, life sucking…you know, the usual."
"Hardly." Stalker took the image from Clutch and looked down at it, noting the coffee shop in the photo, as well as the small clothing boutique next to it. "But it does look like we're in the right place. Unfortunately, nothing around here seems to be of particular interest." Stalker gazed around before fitting himself in the exact position the Baroness was in the picture, turning his face in the same direction. "It looks like she's looking at this store."
Slipstream stood up from the table he was seated at and stood next to Clutch, squinting his eyes to sharpen his vision in the sun. "It looks like a mom and pop restaurant. See? You can see the housing unit about the diner. Harmless."
"Or made to look harmless," Clutch pointed out, motioning to the building. "Like those flowers that really eat people. If she was heading in there, I bet we'll find more than just the 'best Panini in town'."
Stalker looked at the photo again, trying to take in every piece of it. The picture was blurry, so the facial expression was not distinguished enough to get a reading off of, but her stance seemed business like. In the middle of a wide pace, fingers clutched around a talkie and face angled forward, determined and sure. He doubted she was just looking for a place to eat. They had to handle this carefully; if they ran into a nest of vipers before they were prepared, it would be bad for everyone.
"Well then, let's check it out. It won't hurt, and we're bound to get some delicious Panini out of it." Clutch nudged Slipstream with his elbow and walked past Stalker towards the small restaurant.
The place was small, blue and white tiled with white counter tops and saltshakers shaped like Dalmatian dogs. There was one entrance that was also the only exit, and a wooden door behind the counter that most likely led upstairs. Everything was in the diner itself, a refrigerator and a small stove and oven set, with a small menu noting the specials written in chalk above the fresh pastries that lined the tabletop.
Stalker could smell the sharp scent of cinnamon as soon as the door has opened. It smelled like any other bakery, delicious and unthreatening. A few men were sitting at the counter, eating large scones the size of grapefruits and plates of scrambled eggs. The breakfast crowd must have just ended, unless this was as big as the crowd got.
An elderly woman with her white hair swept up in a bun behind her head wiped her hands off on a decorative towel, placing it neatly back on the rack and turning to face her new customers as the bell dinged over Clutch's head.
"Hello dears," she said cheerfully, motioning with one hand to the stools along the tabletops. "Why don't you have a seat and I'll be right with you."
Clutch sat down on the stool and leaned over the counter, gazing up at the menu like any other customer would as he elbowed Slipstream. "Look. Panini."
"Actually, Ma'am," Slipstream held up the fuzzy photograph again, pointing to the Baroness. "Could you tell us if you've seen this woman around?"
Well, there went Stalker's carefully constructed plan of subtlety. Apparently, Slipstream was not feeling the same sense of tension in the air that Stalker could feel almost as easily as he could feel the cold tile as he sat down with Clutch.
The old woman squinted, leaning closer to see the image more clearly. Stalker took the opportunity to look around the store in more detail. Pictures of family members and frequent eaters lined the wall, holding up large plates of pancakes and burgers. This seemed like a fairly Americanized diner, which was unusual this far into France. The woman, as far as he could tell, didn't even seem to be of French origin, and Stalker categorized her in his mind as an Ex-Pat. He walked over to a few of the framed pictures, gazing over faces. He normally had a fairly good memory, especially with facial recognition.
"Well wait one moment, let me find my glasses dear." The woman straightened back up, looking distinctly unhappy before she made eye contact with Clutch, where her smile returned full throttle. "Please, make yourself at home." She walked into the wooden door that Stalker had noted earlier, opening it briefly to reveal a cluttered room with cardboard boxes overflowing with unorganized papers.
"Don't mind if I do," Clutch said, sitting on a stool and reaching out for a menu. Slipstream promptly knocked his hand away with a heavy stare. "What? We aren't allowed to eat? This place, it has the best Panini in the world, and you don't expect me to get one?"
Stalker ignored their bickering, walking slowly past the row of pictures. Nothing seemed to change much. Faces got older, new ones came and went. There was one photo sequence that showed a toddler growing up into a young adult before his very eyes, and one picture with a dog eating off a full plate of bacon and eggs. But then something caught his eye. A face that he had seen many times before, in briefings and on the television, leaning over the counter and smiling at the same woman that was serving them now.
"Hey, come over here." Stalker waved his team over and pointed to the image. "That look familiar to you?"
"No way." Clutch's eyes widened and he rubbed the back of his head. "Gosh, small world ain't it."
Slipstream snarled. "A little too small, if you ask me. She isn't some French born citizen just looking to make ends meat. Not with friends like those. And she looked at that picture too long. It doesn't take people so long to-"
"I found them," the old lady interrupted, coming out of the back room with he glasses in hand. She wiped them on her apron as Slipstream, with a look from Stalker, approached the counter and placed the photo back in the woman's hand. It was best, they all knew, to act oblivious for the time being, and maybe pull some more information out of her before they made the call.
"You know what," she said as she inspected the photo. "She does look familiar. She came in here a few days ago! Delightful young lady, very classy." She leaned forward with a hand over her mouth and Slipstream leaned back slightly with one eyebrow raised. "Although she was very high maintenance. If I were you, I would look for someone else. She's very pretty, but a lady shouldn't be so needy."
Clutch laughed and put his hand on Slipstream's shoulder, scooting in next to him. "Hear that? Find someone else. Bad news bears, bad news." He laughed again and picked up the menu, handing one to Stalker who had come to sit nearby. "So, I think I may have to try one of these Panini. And what did my buddy's girl come in here for anyway?"
Clutch, for all his irreverence, did produce the sort of safe atmosphere that most people looked for. He was friendly, and that meant he was particularly good at getting people to lower their guards. He opened the menu and seemed to be more involved in finding the right food to order instead of the answer to his question. Stalker wasn't entirely sure if that was purposeful or not.
Slipstream nudged Clutch's hand off his shoulder and gave Stalker a very clear look, one that Stalker recognized as the same look you got from horse the moment before it's released from the gates. Someone was going to be in the infirmary before this day was over, and Stalker was willing to bet money that it would be Clutch. "Yes. What was she doing in here?"
"Well, she had lunch of course," The old woman smiled and turned her back on them, moving to the kitchen supplies. "I'll get you that Panini right away dear."
Clutch looked up from the menu, his eyebrows raised, but he didn't object. Stalker had noticed it too- Clutch hadn't ordered anything yet. Nothing to cause a fuse about, but it still made them both suspicious.
"Do you know where she was headed?" Stalker asked, noticing that the two other people that had been in the restaurant had left. They were the only ones here now. But Stalker hadn't heard the bell go off from the only exit. He hadn't seen them walk past. Which means the only plausible answer was that they had moved to the back room. Something about the diner set off internal alarms, and as a soldier for many years, he had learned to never ignore those feelings. It was the picture, the baroness, the area, the woman; nothing about this seemed right.
"Well, I'm sure I don't, child." She placed a warmed Panini in front of Clutch, who nodded in thanks and after a moment picked the sandwich up, although not taking a bite. "She ate alone and then left. I didn't pay too much attention to her myself, though perhaps I should have!"
"Why do you say that?" Stalker asked, trusting his instinct that something wasn't right here. As far as he was concerned, the woman was involved in this, and knew who they were.
"Well," The woman hesitated briefly as she poured him a glass of water. "I just wish I could be more help to you delightful young men."
Stalker pulled the glass toward him and let it sit there. He hadn't seen where the water from the pitcher came from, and he wasn't going to take the chance.
"Hey!" Slip Stream jumped up as Clutch fell to the floor, the Panini that was in his hand skidding on the tiled floor, still uneaten. He was unconscious, seemingly unharmed but clearly passed out as Slip Stream knelt to check his pulse. "He's alive…what the hell…"
Stalker put a hand to his forehead as the room began to spin ever so slightly. He pulled his hand away from the glass he had been holding, seeing the imprint of his fingers on the cup. He felt nauseous and dizzy, the stool he was sitting on started to tip. Vaguely, he saw Slipstream pull his weapon and fire at two men who had emerged from the backroom, holding pistols of their own.
"DMSO," the old woman said, wiping the water glass off with a cloth calmly as the two men chased Slipstream out of the diner. "Harmless on it's own, but it does help drugs absorb into the skin."
Stalker reached for his radio, his hands fumbling to find the panic button, but before he could, his eyes closed on their own accord, and he forgot why he was trying so hard to fight the sleep that he so desperately wanted.
GI Joe Tango Team
Scarlett, Flint, and Mainframe
"Cover Girl calling in. We have two severely wounded and Ace is MIA. We need evac immediately. Does anyone copy! Hello! This is Cover Girl! This is an emergency transmission! We have our proof!"
"Clutch and Stalker have been captured, requesting backup at 22nd street now! Hello! Can you hear me! Hey! Scarlett, HQ? Hello!"
"Our information was wrong, we got government exterminatin' their own people over here! You here me! This ain't cobra!"
"Please! In about five minutes we're going to be overwhelmed here! There's too many of them! Shit!"
Scarlett heard them, the pleas on the radio unit, but her attention was captured by something else. In front of them was perhaps the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and bombs that she had ever seen, and each bore two insignias on them. The red shaped cobra and a new symbol that she did not recognize, a giant sticker with the letters CFF written in black.
Beside her, Flint was attempting to call back into the Pitt, but the transmission was being blocked, which was what she assumed was happening to the others. If they couldn't get through to base, there would be no evacuation. Mainframe pushed him aside and broke the radio open to make sure everything was working properly.
"The radio is fine, we've got a signal blocker." Disgusted, mainframe sat back, rubbing his forehead and staring at the radio. "What's worse, it's coming directly from the Pit."
Flint took out his phone, snapping pictures of the weapons for evidence if they were discovered.
"Guys," Scarlett picked up her unit and held it close to her mouth, steadying her breath. "We're on our own, and we've got a big problem."
AN: Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. Also, heres a fun fact for you: I actually had a plot that was similar to the new GI Joe movie coming out. I swear, this was coincidental, I had no idea what the plot of that movie was going to be until a few days ago! So in order to not look like a lame copy cat I shall revise some things in future up-coming chapters. This has no importance to you at all really, I just thought you'd like to know...thank you!