This is the last chapter, revealing the fic from the Joe's instead of what the hostage has been seeing. It should answer any questions about whether some Joes have jumped ship to become dirty mercenaries. This wraps up this odd little fic. I hope everyone enjoyed it and thank you to everyone who read and big huge thanks to all who reviewed. Also, big thanks go to those who helped me out by beta-reading it in early stages, especially Karama9.


The Jeep made it to a distant bit of desert. As the engine died, the sniper driving clicked the ignition off and gave a sigh of frustration. "Next time, Beach... try not to catch any bullets. You know the UN personnel dislike mercenaries." He climbed out of the driver's seat and began to pull items out to pack up, leaving much of the supplies behind.

Beachhead grunted in irritation at his companion. "Yeah yeah... well, try corrallin' two damn stupid civilians yerself next mission, LowLight. And one a scared girl with no danged sense. Hell, she walked right out in front of a damn guard." He winced and reached around to his back. "Gawd dammit... Ah'm bleedin' again."

LowLight, having already checked the wound and found it minor enough if painful, snorted at him. "At least you're not bleeding on your own boots this time."

Tossing a stray ration pack at the sniper's head, Beach rolled his eyes. "Shut it. You weren't carrying the little chit up the damn mountain. Naw, you was up top, waitin' around instead of pickin' off pursuit like you was supposed to be doin'."

"I picked them off as soon as you brought them in range. Besides..." LowLight paused as he finished zipping the false paperwork they'd been issued for the mission into a packet. "... besides, you were limping like a three-legged dog when you first came into view."

"Ah was doin' no such thing!" Beach protested before he saw the glint in the sniper's eyes. Rolling his eyes again at falling for the taunts, the Ranger sighed and sat in the passenger seat to wait. "Bastard. Remind me again why we hadda go rushin' to rescue some media princess and her tagalong? There's plenty of danged UN prissyboys here." His gaze traveled around the completely empty landscape filled with nothing larger than the knee-high scrub brush and an occasional lizard darting about in the hot sunlight. "What gawd damn time is it?" He looked at his wristwatch and then shook it. "Stupid piece a crap."

LowLight checked his own watch. "We're early for dust off. WildBill will be here." He looked around the lonesome desert. "You know better than I do that the UN can't get caught sending operatives into sensitive areas. Especially not openly carrying weapons on a rescue mission, killing citizens, even if they were terrorists who kidnap American journalists and blow up roads and schools on a regular basis. That's why we exist."

Beach interrupted his dry speech. "Yeah yeah, GI Joe exists to provide troops that can engage in secret operations that the United States can deny if it's inconvenient for them to have a bunch of kickass soldiers in someone else's country without authorization. Still be nice if'n the folks appreciated us a little."

LowLight was finding too much amusing about Beach's grumpiness. "Well, you're only feeling ornery over this mission because some bastard shot you in the ass. Otherwise, you'd be strutting around because you rescued some helpless lady from deadly peril."

Beach couldn't quite suppress the smile that twitched the corners of his mouth upwards. He turned it into a scowl. "He didn't shoot me in the danged ass. A bit higher and the damn bullet would have taken one of my kidneys. Be laughin' up a storm then, wouldn't you?"

"Oh good lord. You sound like a girl. A bit lower and it would have put a nice little scar on your right buttcheek. Be interesting to have that stitched up." LowLight gave one of his rare grins at the Ranger. "Give it up, Sergeant major. Considering how many hostiles were in that little burg, you know you kicked ass and got out easy. We should have been sending in half a troop with air support. You like getting to go sneaking in and steal things out from under the noses of the enemy."

Struggling to not smirk, Beach gave a little shrug. "Well... maybe just a little. They was lax as hell in their security though. The shutter hinges were on the danged outside of the windows! Who the hell failed to check that?"

Chuckling at the outrage in Beachhead's voice, LowLight straightened up. "People trying to keep hostages in, not sneaky ninja-like Rangers out." Before Beach could get too angry, he nodded at the horizon. "There's WildBill right on schedule. Got your ditty bag?"

Grabbing up the satchel containing his own equipment, Beach still glared at the sniper. "Ain't no need to be callin' names like that." His eyes turned to the heavy chopper lumbering it way across the sky towards them. "About danged time." He shielded his eyes against the rush of sand blown up by the rotors and followed LowLight as he ran up to climb aboard. LiftTicket gave them both grins and nods from his seat behind the door gun. "Lift off, area is clear of hostiles. Mission complete." BeachHead stepped forward to give WildBill instructions on the area and was given the quick extraction route. He nodded and moved back to the cargo area again, taking a seat on the opposite side of the transport as LowLight. The sniper had settled in behind the second door gun, relaxing back in the seat and watching with indifference as the desert passed by underneath the speeding helicopter.

Lifeline immediately homed in on the Ranger. "LowLight said you've got a GSW, how bad is it?" He was already holding his medical bag and hovering.

Beach glared at the oblivious sniper. "The fuck? Damn sniper don't say two words a gawd damned week and goes on a mission with me and turns into chatty-Cathy? Keep yer mouth shut."

LowLight's head leaned back although he didn't bother to turn around. "You were trying to get medical help at the UN camp."

"Well yeah but..." Beach sputtered to a stop. "You ain't gotta go tattlin' to Lifeline!" He reached up to brush the medic's hand away from the buckle on his shoulder. "I got that." He began to unfasten the mismatched tactical vest, unwinding the bit of wire holding the strap in place. "I hope someone brought my gear. This shitty junk's been drivin' me nuts." As the straps came loose, he pulled the kevlar loose and held it up to show Lifeline. "Look at this seam! Comin' apart like a cheap pair of pants." He fingered the chest piece. "The plates ain't even secured, been slippin' to the side the whole goddamn time." Making a face, he tossed it out of the chopper door.

LiftTicket leaned to watch it falling the quarter mile to the desert floor passing beneath them. "Probably shouldn't toss stuff out like that."

"Ain't nothin' out there to hit 'cept maybe a lizard." Beach fished a roll of money out of the front of his dirty shirt. He gazed at it a moment quietly.

LowLight glanced around and spotted the reward money. "Hey... do I get half of that? I mean, I was the other mercenary."

Beach scowled at him. "You? All you did was take potshots at targets I brought to you, while I carrying that fluff on my danged back. While bleedin'!"

LowLight looked pleased at the results of his needling. "Oh I see. You just want to keep it for yourself." He twisted to look across to LiftTicket. "Did you tell him how much those local girls charge a night?"

Ignoring the angry sputtering Ranger, LiftTicket pretended to think it over. "I'm not sure, they might charge extra if he doesn't shower. If he gets two girls, think he'd share?"

Beach stood up and pitched the roll of money out of the open door. LiftTicket watched the bits of paper fluttering in the downwash of the rotor blades before it all disappeared behind them. "There. Now ya'll ain't gotta make no more suggestions. And I hear you sayin' I was hiring hookers, I'll beat yer asses myself." He grunted at LiftTicket who lifted his hands in surrender. "Some of the local kids will probably find it scattered all over now. Good use fer it." He settled back into the seat with further grumbling. Beach stretched slightly and winced, putting a hand around to his back.

Lifeline, having wisely stayed out of the entire squabble, reached to peel the cloth away from the ragged edge of the wound. "Didn't you even clean it out?" He began swabbing betadine scrub over the bloody wound. "It's not that bad, just messy. It could get infected."

"I haven't had a chance and the damn camp medics wouldn't do it." Beach grumped and tried not to jump as the stinging antiseptic was poured over the raw flesh. He glanced up and saw Lifeline's disapproval. "Wasn't their fault totally neither. We was undercover as a pair of unsavory types, remember. Wasn't much to make them want to help us out." He looked away in embarrassment. "I might have... uhh... spit on one of them..."

Lifeline paused. "What? You spit on a medic? By accident?"

"Uuuhhhh, no not so much. I kinda spit in his face." Beach's eyes flicked up to Lifeline's disgusted expression. "He was startin' to sound all admirin' and askin' a bunch of questions. I hadda make him not wanna know nothin' about us!"

"And you chose to hide your identities by spitting on someone." Lifeline went back to taping a clean bandage into place. "It's no wonder they didn't want to treat you."

"I didn't want 'em to treat me no how. I just wanted some danged bandages to stick on it to stop mosta the bleedin'." Beach twisted to try to look at the wound and winced. Lifeline reached up to push his head back around. "I just wanna see!"

"You don't need to see. Just sit. It'll take some stitches when we get back to base, but it doesn't look too bad. Clean it and stitch it and antibiotics. You got off easy. It didn't hit anything important." Lifeline finished taping the gauze over the cleaned wound.

Beach snorted loudly. "Didn't hit nothin' important? Ain't I important?" Lifeline's exasperated sigh made him smirk. Settling back in the seat, he leaned slightly and watched out the doorway as they sped towards the airstrip to get transport back to the United States.

LowLight turned to gaze somberly at him. "What's important is that we got the mission done, the civies didn't get killed and the bad guys did. Now we're going home until we're needed again. That's the important thing. Right Sergeant major?"

Beach nodded. "Damned right it is. Doin' our job to the best of our abilities."

LowLight couldn't help but add one last remark. "Yep. Not the fact that you got shot in your fat ass... again."

"Dang it, sniper! Ah'll throw you OUTA this chopper!"

"Might make your ass hurt. Better stay sitting down."

"BEACH! Sit down!"

"He started it!"


News article posted as a small blurb, mostly unnoticed by the general public...

Rueters:

Yesterday a joint mission by the UN resulted in the retrieval of two US journalists from a suspected terrorist camp. Both are said to be doing well and in good spirits. No UN troops were injured during the mission.


END

I hope you enjoyed. A little sideline of what the Joes do when they aren't fighting Cobra in particular.