Flint sighed and rubbed his temples. He was by no means a slacker when it came to disciplining recruits, but for once he wished that he could just palm this one off to Duke. That wouldn't be fair though; you really shouldn't ask someone to tell his own brother off.
"So let's just go over this one more time," he said to the recruits standing there sheepishly. Even the MP's dog looked cowed. "You were meant to be on KP duty, yes?"
They nodded dutifully.
"But the kitchen staff made you leave."
They nodded again.
"Because…" Flint glanced at the report one more time, "You broke three dishes, set fire to the sandwiches and made a dishwasher explode." He couldn't believe that he had said that last part with a straight face.
The recruits nodded, an impressive feat considering that they were staring at their own feet.
"At which point you were asked to leave, and instructed to make yourself useful in the motor pool." Flint put the report down. He had read this part so many times that it was seared into his memory, and still made him want to laugh. He cleared his throat. "I know what happens next. Do any of you have anything you want to add?"
The recruits glanced at each other. Falcon spoke up, of course; the kid was a natural leader. "Sir, we'd just like to say, we didn't know that the brakes were broken."
"Covergirl swears that they weren't," Flint told him.
"Covergirl is wrong, sir," Lee broke in doggedly. "We didn't do nothing to break them brakes."
"You were working on the wrong truck in the first place," Flint pointed out.
"It was an honest mistake, sir," the woman said defensively.
"Sergeant, you were asked to wash a truck. Instead you took the wrong truck, left the garage and parked it on a hill. Have I gotten anything wrong so far?"
"No sir," they chorused.
"You then proceeded to abandon the truck–"
"We were getting the hose!"
"But why was it on a hill?" Flint threw his hands in the air. "Anywhere else, it would have been fine, but a hill?"
"We didn't want the water to pool, sir. We get enough mud pits in PT, we didn't want to cause one where people walk a lot," Falcon explained. "It was meant to run downhill."
"Fine. We'll work with that for the moment. You parked it on a hill, left to get the hose, and didn't think to check that the back of the truck was empty?"
"We thought it had been cleared, sir," Arashikage said meekly. "We thought that that was the truck Covergirl wanted us to clean. It was dirty enough, sir."
"Trucks get dirty, sergeant. It's a fact of life. And I still haven't heard a good reason for removing the truck from the motor pool."
The basketball player opened his mouth, then closed it again. Provost shifted. Flint watched them all with narrowed eyes, and sighed. "You're trying to protect another Joe."
Silence. The MP was blushing, and Arashikage was starting to look slightly pissed-off, as if she were remembering something that had made her extremely pissed off.
Flint was really going to have to do something about that motor pool. "Ok. I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and say that Clutch said something to Covergirl that made you think it would be safer if you got out of the blast zone. How close am I?"
The MP spoke up. "Um, he suggested that we should bring the hose in for a, um, wet T-shirt contest, sir."
Flint nearly face-palmed himself. "Go on."
"I suggested we leave before Falcon gave Sergeant Ari – Arasa-"
"Me," Arashikage said helpfully.
"Right, before he gave her another excuse to beat him up." Despite himself, the MP snickered slightly.
Flint could see it all now. It made a horrible kind of sense. "So Covergirl is angry, and you don't want to make her angrier by asking questions. Fine. And you still say that you thought that the brakes were working when you parked the truck."
"Even though you are well aware that the truck then proceeded to roll down the hill."
"And crash into Beach Head's obstacle course."
"And explode." His voice went a little higher on the last word; he couldn't help it.
Flint had to bite his tongue. He had never wanted to laugh so hard in his life. The truck had been full of a new compound that they had found in one of Cobra's old labs. It had only come into the Pit that morning. The fobbits had been saying that it was a type of fuel. The recruits had proved quite conclusively that it doubled as a type of liquid explosive.
For a moment, he had thought Beach Head would cry.
He cleared his throat again. "Alright. Everything suggests that it was an honest mistake. That's not to mean you're getting a free pass. Double shifts of guard duty for all of you for a month, plus whatever Beach Head decides is fair punishment for ruining his obstacle course."
Provost made the sign of the cross. Lee and Big Lob paled.
"Dismissed," Falcon announced.
The recruits walked through the Pit wrapped in a numbing cloak of impending doom.
"We're dead," Lee said gloomily.
Falcon led the way into the mess and stopped dead as the group was greeted with loud cheers, led by the motor pool crew. Joes were whooping, clapping and stamping their feet. In the corner, Beach Head was quite conspicuously bent over his tray, shovelling up food like it had insulted his mother.
"No," the MP said as they collected their plates, grimacing at the Joes slapping them on the shoulder and congratulating them for fulfilling the real American dream of, as Ripcord put it, 'blowing up the shit of a dude you hate'. Beach Head had to have heard that one. "Now we're dead."
"I blame you," Falcon announced, pointing at Kimi. "You're the one who loaded that dishwasher. That's what got us sent out."
"Like hell!" she shot back. "That thing was faulty. I had nothing to do with it."
"They didn't care about the dishes," Falcon continued. "They didn't even care about the sandwiches. Your exploding dishwasher got us kicked out."
"I put the plates in there!" Kimi replied indignantly. "Dusty said it was a fork that messed the thing up. Not. My. Faut."
"I kinda agree with Falcon on this one," Lee broke in. "You musta been followed by a ghost for your entire life to be as unlucky as you are."
Kimi scowled at her plate. The MP interrupted.
"Enough. It isn't her fault she's bad luck." He grinned, to show it was a joke.
"I'm not bad luck!"
"I suppose it's not her fault," Falcon said to the MP. "And, after all," a tiny grin tugged at his lips, "we did get to blow up Beach Head's obstacle course. How many times will we be able to do that again?"
During the Chinese Ghost Festival, people try to avoid outdoor activities for fear that ghost will follow them home and bring bad luck.