Author's Note: Watching the film Club Dread gave me the idea of creating a franchise called Coconut Pete's for this one.
The Pit, Headquarters Building
General Hawk, Roadblock, Flint, Stormshadow
17 February 2002, 1550
"So let me get this straight." Hawk said as he sat at his desk, his fingertips coming together in the form of a steeple, "Todd accidentally triggered some sort of booby trap in the dojo while doing some chores you assigned him."
"Yes." Stormshadow said.
"Alright," Hawk said, "I am all for ensuring the boy gets the training with you, Stormshadow. Both you and Roadblock made your points clearly about the discipline that the martial arts would teach the kid. But the reason I called this meeting was about that stone Todd found by accident."
Hawk paused before adding, "From what you told me, Stormshadow, that was no ordinary stone that Todd discovered by accident.”
“Correct.” Stormshadow said.
“And Lifeline said he wanted to do some additional tests too.” Roadblock added.
“This is something I’m not sure I necessarily want ACME or the Secret Service to know about until I have more information.” Hawk replied.
“Scarlett and Quick Kick are keeping an eye on our guests for now.” Roadblock replied, “They’re heading out into town for dinner.”
“Whereabouts?” Hawk asked.
“Coconut Pete’s.” Stormshadow replied, “Out in town.”
“Please tell me Shipwreck didn’t try to join in.” Hawk commented.
“Not a chance, given Shipwreck has been banned from that place for the last two years.” Roadblock replied.
Coconut Pete's Restaurant
Kate, Conrad, Quick Kick, and Scarlett
17 February 2002, 1700
“What are you reading?” Kate asked Conrad as she, Quick Kick, Scarlett and Conrad were heading out into town for dinner.
Conrad looked up from the paperback he was reading, sticking his index finger in the page he had been reading and turned to address Kate, “It’s the Stingray Shuffle by Tim Dorsey, an author from my home state.”
“And where would that be?” Kate asked.
“Florida.” Conrad replied.
“Florida?” Kate said, “I was way off.”
“Way off on what?” Conrad asked.
“Where I guessed you were from.” Kate asked, “And other than the French Foreign Legion.”
“So, where did you figure me to be from?” Conrad said.
“Well, you’ve got a really neutral accent, but if I had to guess I would say the Northeast.” Kate replied.
“There are a lot of folks from up North that moved to Florida. My Dad is from New York originally, and has that thick New Yorker accent.” Conrad replied, “And it sort of rubbed off on me.”
“So where are you from?” Conrad asked.
“Well, I did the work to guess where you were from…” Kate replied.
“I would say you’re definitely from either the West or Midwest, I get that kind of vibe from you.” Conrad replied.
“I’m from Indiana, actually.” Kate replied, “Near Indianapolis.”
“That explains the country girl sort of vibe I get from you.” Conrad replied.
“Indianapolis isn’t a small town, Conrad.” Kate replied, “But still, you guessed right.”
“So where are you guys from?” Conrad asked Scarlett and Quick Kick.
“Atlanta.” Scarlett replied.
“Los Angeles.” Quick Kick replied.
The car continued down the street and Conrad asked, “So where are we going?”
“To the Coconut Pete’s out in town.” Scarlett replied, “You know it?”
“A franchise restaurant about as popular as Margaritaville.” Conrad replied, “Similar to Margaritaville it’s owned by a famous singer, in this case Coconut Pete, a fellow often compared to Jimmy Buffett.”
“Definitely unfavorably in my opinion.” Kate remarked.
“How so?” Quick Kick said.
“Oh no…” Scarlett groaned as Quick Kick turned around in the front seat to talk to Kate.
“Oh no, why?” Conrad asked.
“Quick Kick happens to be a Coconut Pete fan.” Scarlett replied.
Kate shot Conrad a look that said, ‘a little help?’ only for Conrad to chuckle, “You might have walked into that one, mademoiselle.”
“Some legionnaire you are, avoiding a fight.” Kate replied.
“Well, there is the old saying that discretion is the better part of valor.” Conrad replied, “However...I happen to find both Jimmy Buffett and Coconut Pete to be quite good artists.”
“I admit I do like Jimmy Buffett’s music as well.” Quick Kick said, “But I think there’s a more ‘island freedom’ aspect to Coconut Pete’s music.”
“Don’t get him started.” Scarlett groaned as they stopped the car as the foursome stepped out of the car.
It was as they entered the restaurant the lyrics to the song Coconut Pete song Naughty Cal began to play.
“Naughty Cal. Bongo and Tokey got tired of living on land. So the three amigos took an undersea trip, and never were seen again.”
"See, that’s a sign of the island escapism that Coconut Pete espouses, just like Buffett.” Quick Kick said.
“Started out alright and made a couple of miles till they spotted a watering hole. Had their wits about them until they were served a bottomless scorpion bowl.”
“More like advocating rampant alcoholism.” Kate quipped.
“Like Jimmy Buffett doesn’t have a lot of drinking in his songs?” Quick Kick countered.
“He’s a lot less blatant about it.” Kate replied.
“But it’s still in his songs...I mean ‘Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville’?” Quick Kick observed.
“It’s still part of the theme of both Jimmy Buffett and Coconut Pete’s songs.” Conrad added, “There’s a certain island escapism…”
“Not to mention blatant hedonism.” Kate added.
“As I was saying there is that island escapism in the songs of both men. Therefore they’re great artists.” Conrad replied as their hostess seated them.
“And the most bitter rivals.” Kate replied.
“Believe me, I did see the interview that E! did with Coconut Pete at a bar in Marseilles.” Conrad replied, “It was rather interesting how they managed to translate the infamous phrase to describe his rival: Son of a Son of a Bitch…”
Scarlett looked up from the menu and smiled, “So what does ‘Son of a son of a *****’ translate into in French?”
“Fils d'un fils de pute.” Conrad replied with a grin.
Kate snickered, “French, a language that sounds almost too pretty to swear in.
“Wait till you actually hang around the French and then you’ll see/hear different.” Conrad countered as he glanced at the menu.
“Any recommendations for drinks?” Kate replied.
“They do have good beer on tap.” Scarlett replied
“What’s a Hurricane Shipwreck Punch?” Conrad asked.
“It’s a cocktail named after Shipwreck. However Shipwreck’s been banned from the premises indefinitely.” Scarlett said.
“I am almost afraid to ask this,” Kate began, “But why is Shipwreck banned from here?”
“About two years ago we had word that a COBRA spy ring was operating right here in this restaurant. Shipwreck was a regular here.” Scarlett replied.
“So naturally he was the best candidate to try and flush this spy ring out.” Quick Kick added.
“So he failed to do so?” Conrad asked.
“No, he succeeded.” Scarlett said, “However the management was rather miffed about the fact that one COBRA got thrown through the front window and about the fires…”
“Fires?” Kate began, blinking her eyes with surprise and shock, “As in multiple fires?”
“Yes. Shipwreck burned down the restaurant in the process of flushing out the spy ring…” Scarlett replied.
“And because of that the patrons of this place nicknamed him Hurricane Shipwreck." Quick Kick added.
"There's the irony." Scarlett said, "Shipwreck's never tasted the drink named after him at the drink's birthplace."
"Well, how is the drink?" Conrad asked.
"It's not bad." Scarlett said, "It's really strong, but it doesn't taste bad."
As the evening progressed Kate thought to herself. I wonder if that’s the incident Tim was talking about regarding Shipwreck.
I have attempted to secure the files you requested on Althea and Claudius Delgato. All I can say is those files are sealed as well, and it was deemed that you don’t need to know the information in either file for your mission.
Your last message confirmed that at least one of the Delgato children is a mutant. The young baby, Claudius. I want you to figure out what his powers are, and note any potential powers that can arise as the kid gets older.
Please keep us abreast of Tolansky’s progress and the possibility of cultivating Agent Hart as a source of information.
The Pit, Ninja Dojo
Kate, Conrad, Quick Kick, and Shipwreck
18 February 2002, 0845
“Oh there’s a sequel to that incident with Shipwreck burning down the Coconut Pete’s.” Quick Kick began as he approached Conrad and Kate.
“So Shipwreck destroyed another restaurant in town?” Kate asked.
Quick Kick replied, “It involves another restaurant, the local Margaritaville just up the street.”
“Let me guess, Shipwreck got a gift certificate or something from them.” Conrad chimed in.
“Nope, better, he evidently has a lifetime discount on drinks at any Margaritaville restaurant chain he comes across.” Quick Kick replied.
“How far will Shipwreck go to get on a bender?” Kate asked.
“That is a question best left unanswered.” Quick Kick replied.
“What’s best left unanswered?” Shipwreck said as he walked into the room.
“How far you’ll go to get on a bender.” Quick Kick replied, “I was telling them about the Coconut Pete’s incident two years ago…”
“There is another side to that story.” Shipwreck began.
“There’s another side to burning down a restaurant?” Kate asked, incredulous.
“Exactly. It was in the line of duty…” Shipwreck replied.
“You still burned down a restaurant.” Kate countered.
“Jeez, trash one place and you get marked for life.” Shipwreck replied, defensively before saying, “Looks like my little girl and Todd are about to get some sparring in.”
Indeed, in the same small sparring area where Kate and Conrad had faced off the day before Todd, clad in a white training gi wearing a white belt was facing off against Althea, similarly clad with the exception of the black belt across her waist and her trademark fingerless black gloves.
"So you train here too?" Todd asked.
"Yup. Uhm, hey, about yesterday I'm sorry. It's just that Claudie is so little and I thought you were picking on him..." Althea said.
"No sweat, you were just watching out for your little bro." Todd replied, "I understand..."
Stormshadow headed over to them just then and said, "Well, it is good that the two of you have gotten to know one another. Now, Toad, I want to assess your fighting skills."
"Ok, uhm, so you want me to fight you or something?" Todd asked.
"Pfah." Althea commented, "You're fighting me, pal. And don't worry about hurting me because I'm a girl. I want a good fight."
"If that's what you want," Todd said as he raised and lowered his right knee and then his left, "That's what you'll get. I won't hold back on my powers much."
"This should be good." Conrad remarked.
"I'd say they're overmatched." Kate countered.
"I'd be inclined to agree with the lady, Hart." Shipwreck replied, "My little girl has fighting in her blood."
"And I presume the same penchant for destruction?" Kate replied.
"You know it." Shipwreck said, as he proudly tugged on the lapels of his own training gi.
Note to self, leave that out of my next report to Baer. Kate thought as Todd leapt into the air.
"Ok sister let's see you handle this!" Todd leaped towards Althea from across the sparring area, doing a flip in mid air, as he attempted to kick her.
With expert timing Althea dodged with a slip to the right and with a front snap kick she managed to shove him off balance. Todd tried to throw a roundhouse kick after he regained his footing but Althea simply jumped backward and Todd's foot passed harmlessly in front of her.
"Is that all you've got?" Althea taunted as she dodged three other attacks from Todd, "You ain't got nothing."
"Hey, I'm the Toad! I've got style, character, and charisma yo!" Todd countered as he swept Althea's legs out from underneath her before she could react. However she rolled away before he could pin her down.
"About time." Althea grinned as she flipped up to a standing position, "Maybe this might last longer than a few seconds."
"I'm just getting warmed up." Todd crowed. He only now realized that their match was starting to draw a small crowd.
"I've got moves you wouldn't believe." Todd added as he jumped up again and went for another jump kick, this time with both feet.
"Blah! Blah! Blah!" Althea replied as she dodged the kick with a springing leap of her own.
Todd shot out his tongue, which snaked around Althea's left arm.
"Hey! I don't do tongue on first dates!" Althea snapped, and grabbing hold of Todd's tongue with her free arm and pulled hard before cocking that same arm back for a punch.
As Todd flew towards Althea he saw her fist heading straight for his face but had no time to do anything about it. After the punch Todd found himself pinned on his back.
"Okay! Okay! I give up! Let me up! Man, what do you do, train with the Hulk or something?" Todd asked.
"Althea, let him up." Stormshadow commanded, "Now I need to see how everyone else does."
"Well," Shipwreck declared, "I guess that means you two need to go for round two of your little sparring match."
At both Conrad and Kate's quizzical looks, Shipwreck continued, "Well everyone heard about how you two fought each other yesterday striking. Let's see how you do rolling around on the ground.
"SHIPWRECK!" Kate admonished.
“Come on, not everything I say is full of innuendo!” Shipwreck replied defensively.
Jinx walked by and casually smacked Shipwreck in the back of the head, “No, but most of the things you say are full of innuendo. We can’t take that chance.”
“Ow!” Shipwreck yelped.
“Alright you two,” Jinx said, “Let’s go see how you do grappling with each other. We’ll start standing up.”
“Shipwreck, you and I are sparring right after these two are done.” Jinx replied.
They started with Conrad’s right hand gripping the left sleeve of Kate’s gi, near her tricep and his left hand gripped a handful of fabric around Kate’s right shoulderblade. Kate’s grips mirrored Conrad’s.
“Alright, begin.” Jinx said.
Conrad stepped forward, seeking to try and unbalance Kate, looking for the opportunity for a takedown.
If I can get my arm loose I can throw him. Kate thought. However it doesn’t seem like he’s going to let go anytime soon.
Kate stepped back, just as Conrad tried to hook his right foot around the back of her leg to sweep it.
Immediately Conrad tried to pull Kate down with a pull to right, but without a leg sweep to assist he didn’t get very far.
The two continued to step around the mat, still holding onto each other, trying to take the other down but not succeeding in either case.
“Alright you two, stop dancing with each other and go for a takedown.” Jinx replied.
“You dance divinely.” Conrad smirked.
“Somehow I don’t think leg sweeps are normal dance steps.” Kate replied as she tried to slide her arm from underneath Conrad’s armpit only for the ex-Legionnaire to clamp his arm around Kate’s arm before he pitched backwards, landing on the mat on his back, immediately wrapping his legs around Kate’s waist, just above her hips.
“Solid guard, Hart.” Jinx began.
She’s right. Kate thought. His legs are pretty strong, he’s probably going to try and bridge to roll me on my back and mount me...Then I’m in a bad position.
Kate felt Conrad attempt to do just that, before she pushed her left hand onto Conrad’s right hip to check his movement.
Conrad felt Kate’s right hand on his left thigh. She’s trying to pass my guard. Clever girl...But if I time this right…
Kate pushed on Conrad’s thigh, and Conrad let go with his guard, shrimping backward with a shoulder shimmy before hooking his right leg around the back of Kate’s neck, his left hand grabbing a hold of her sleeve.
Then he hooked his left leg around his right ankle. Pulling with both legs and with his arm, tugging on her lapel with his free hand.
Triangle choke...Kate thought. And he’s got a good grip…
As Kate felt her vision narrowing she began tapping the side of Conrad’s right leg with a free hand. Conrad let go.
“Nice triangle choke.” She quipped as they stood up.
“You weren't too bad yourself.” Conrad replied, “If my timing had been off you would’ve mounted me…”
Shipwreck chuckled and both Conrad and Kate simultaneously shouted, “SHIPWRECK GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER!”
“That’s a physically impossible for Shipwreck.” Quick Kick quipped as he headed over to watch.
“Ok, now let’s reset and see how you do this time.” Jinx said.
“Grappling is a martial art full of Freudian slips.” Conrad quipped as he and Kate got reset in position again.
“And of course Shipwreck will find them all.” Kate replied as she and Conrad began the all too familiar dance of trying to take the other down.
Alright, I don’t want to roll around with this guy. Kate thought. Gotta try for a solid throw if I can manage it.
She’s pretty good at dodging takedowns. Conrad thought. But I’m stronger than she is, and if I can get her on the ground I’m in good shape.
Conrad felt Kate backing up and Conrad advanced, keeping their close proximity, trying for yet another leg sweep but missing.
He’s stronger than I am, and his timing’s good, I just avoided that takedown too. Kate thought.
Kate took a couple steps backward. I’ve got to time this just right…And if I’m right he’ll follow me.
Conrad took the two steps to match Kate’s movement.
Gotcha. Kate thought, a smile on her lips.
Kate slipped her arm out from underneath Conrad’s arm, managing to grab his lapel, then got her other hand around his other lapel before she planted her foot just above his right hip and fell backwards.
A near perfect sacrifice throw that sent Conrad flying and landing with a thud on his back that knocked the wind out of him.
“Solid sacrifice throw, Agent Todd!” Jinx called out.
“Agreed, mademoiselle.” Conrad replied as he shakily got to his feet.
The Pit, Ninja Dojo
Todd Tolansky, Althea Delgado, Beach Head
18 February 2002, 0903
“What do you want you little troll?” Beach Head remarked as he saw Todd looking at him.
“Can I see your teddy bear sometime?” Todd asked innocently, “I used to have a stuffed frog. I miss it. I couldn’t sleep without it either.”
“Go away you ugly little wart farm.” Beach Head snapped.
Todd glared at him, walking outside, as he grumbled, “Just trying to be nice.”
He leaned against a tree, watching some other soldiers training. Why’d he have to throw that in my face? As if I didn’t know how I look? Okay, I can handle losing to a chick who’s cute, but he didn’t have to point out the obvious! Who am I kidding? It’s not like she’d go out with me anyway. Not when she sees these guys with these perfect bodies all the time. Oh yeah. What could she ever see in a guy like me?
Althea walked over to him, an amused look on her face. “What’s wrong? For someone who’s never done martial arts before you did great. So what’s wrong?”
“Try me.” Althea said, and then her eyes moved to some of the soldiers who were jogging by, “Wait a minute, is this about what that jerk Beach Head said about how you look?”
“Well,” Todd said, making a semi-circle on the ground with his right foot and looking down, “I ain’t exactly called Toad because of my good looks.”
“What’s wrong with the way you look?” Althea said, looking askance at him.
Amazed Todd looked at her, “You don’t think I’m ugly?”
“Ugly?” Althea challenged, “Please! You may not have perfect chins and rippling abs and stuff! You’ve got style, character, and charisma!”
“Yeah,” Todd blushed slightly, “You don’t have to say that you know.”
“You calling me a liar?” Althea glared.
“No! No! Nothing like that…” Todd backpedalled, “I just...uh...um...well…”
“You really think you’re ugly, don’t you?” Althea said, shock in her voice, mixed with recognition.
“Well, I ain’t perfect,” Todd sighed, “I mean you...uhm...nevermind.”
Althea replied, “Todd, you know, you and I are alike in a lot more ways than you think.”
She slowly removed her left glove, putting her now bare left hand on his right. Todd absently looked at it and with widening eyes he noticed that it was webbed, recognizing the slight expanse of skin between her fingers, just like his own.
“You...you’re just like me! I mean your hands!” Todd stammered.
“I have gills too,” Althea added as she moved her hair out of her way on the right side of her neck, revealing three delicate gills on her neck right below her ear, “I’ve been able to breathe on both land and water since I was born.”
“You’re a mutant too!” Todd replied.
“Duh!” Althea shot back with amusement, “So is my brother and all my sisters. We all have the same ability. My mom’s one too, but she had trouble breathing out of water. It’s kind of a long story. You see, Todd sometimes...not for long you understand...but even I feel a little weird about how I look.”
“But you’re beautiful!” Todd protested, the words coming out of his mouth faster than he could think. He blushed.
Althea blushed as well. “Don’t get me wrong. My Dad’s always made me feel special. He’s really great with this mutant thing. Actually sometimes, no most of the time, he does make me feel normal with how crazy he is. And around her nobody cares I’m a mutant. I’ve known most of them all my life. But sometimes I feel a little...sheltered...you know. Afraid to let other people see the real me.”
“Yeah, I guess I can understand that.” Todd replied.
“So, you wanna go back inside? I’ll let you fight me again.” Althea replied.
“Okay…” Todd replied, “I just gotta ask you something.”
“What’s the deal with the spaceship? I overheard some of the Joes talking about it yesterday.”
To Be Continued…
Of note, in Ronin Toad there was a spaceship on the Pit.
From Conrad's Notebook:Six days have passed since being assigned to work with Agent Todd from the Secret Service here at the Pit.
Almost a month ago a boy was found in the swamps not far from the Pit, having been beaten and thrown out of a jet by none other than Magneto. Of course this was right after Mystique had administered a savage beating. If I ever get the chance to put a knife into the woman's gut I will take it.
Violence against children is abhorrent. In my own case I at least meted out violence because it was in war. I digress, however, as I am as likely to be judged for my own actions at the Gates of Saint Peter when my time comes.
Tolansky seems to be making progress, that much is clear to me. He has clearly bonded with Sergeant Marvin Hinton, a.k.a. Roadblock and in my assessment it is the boy's best hope. Every one of my daily reports to my team leader at ACME states as much.
There also appear to be other mutants here at the Pit. For one, the two children of Shipwreck that I've seen so far appear to be mutants. This environment is best for Todd, since he has people close to his own age to bond with...
The Pit, Officer's Quarters
Caitlin Todd and Conrad Hart
19 February 2002, 0655
Kate stepped out of her bedroom, to the small kitchen/dining area where she noticed Conrad was busily writing something in a medium sized leather bound notebook with graph-lined pages. Beside the notebook were three photos next to Conrad's right hand, clutching a pen as he wrote in the notebook's pages.
She was careful to come up from the right side, since she knew his hearing came and went in his left ear.
"Conrad?" Kate said softly.
The ex-Legionnaire turned and said, "Yes?"
"Want to chance going to breakfast, or should we break into our food supply?" Kate asked.
"I had a look at the breakfast menu when I went out for a run earlier." Conrad replied, "Are you partial to green eggs and ham?"
"No way..." Kate groaned.
"Yes way." Conrad replied, with a snicker.
"You're making this up." Kate accused.
"I don't have that good of an imagination." Conrad countered.
"As in actually green eggs and ham?" Kate asked, incredulous.
"Todd was lugging around what appeared to be industrial sized plastic containers of green food coloring." Conrad replied, "And under BA's supervision to boot."
"Ugh..." Kate replied, "That settles it, I think a nice breakfast in the apartment is in order."
"My sentiments exactly." Conrad said as he rose to head over to the coffee pot and took out a filter and put some coffee grounds into it, "Not sure how strong you like your coffee."
"Surprise me." Kate replied as she opened the refrigerator, rummaging around inside for a bag of bagels, some cream cheese and some sliced smoked salmon.
"Suit yourself." Conrad replied as he put water into the coffee pot and took out two mugs and two plates.
Kate offered, "Bagel?"
"Sure, thanks." Conrad replied.
Kate sliced two bagels and stuck them into the toaster as the coffee brewed. Once the bagels and coffee were done Conrad handed Kate a mug before filling his own mug with coffee as Kate handed him a plate with a bagel on it.
After breakfast was ready they walked back to the dining room table and began to eat. As they did so Kate’s glance moved to the three photographs near Conrad’s notebook. Conrad noticed as well.
“I didn’t mean to be nosy…” Kate replied.
“It’s quite alright, they’re personal photos, not private ones.” Conrad replied. He gathered the three photos, each of them 3.5” by 5” and laminated, and handed them to Kate.
Kate wiped her fingers on a napkin before handling the photo.
The first photo was of Conrad and eight other men clad in camouflage uniforms. Four of the men wore black kepis with the gold seven flame grenade insignia of the French Foreign Legion. The other five wore white kepis, indicating lower ranking Legionnaires. They carried weapons and were posed in front of three French armored cars.
Conrad stood up and standing to Kate’s left side, and slightly behind her he began to point to the different men in the picture.
“I could tell you something about each of the men in this photo.” Conrad replied, “We were selected from units all over the Legion to form these advisory teams.”
He pointed to a lean bodied, almost gaunt fellow with a black mustache, in the center of the picture “That was Capitaine Bernard Depuis from France, our team leader, whom our unit was named after. The man was quite possibly the biggest triathlon fanatic I’d met, always wore the biggest GPS watch.”
His finger moved to the man’s right, landing on a fellow with a graying near handlebar type mustache, “That’s Sergent-Chef Hans Van Pelt, from the Netherlands. He was a hard as nails sort, widely rumored to have never smiled at his own mother. Always smelled of cheap cologne and cigarettes when in garrison.”
Kate, despite herself, couldn’t help but chuckle at the remark, then she stopped herself. Aside from Conrad the other eight men in that picture are dead. Way to go, Kate.
As if sensing her mortification Conrad replied, “It’s quite alright. That was often something we made jokes about anyway, the cheap cologne and Galouise brand cigarettes stench being his trademark.”
Conrad’s index finger moved to Van Pelt’s right, it settled on a tall, wiry man with a slightly grown in flat top haircut just slightly visible beneath the brim of his black kepi, “Sergent Ian Laposte, from the United Kingdom. He was an ex-corrections officer at Borstal prison who had undergone a nasty divorce before joining the Legion. He was always regarded as the complete legionnaire, a professional soldier through and through. Didn’t have the best regard for his ex-wife but loved his two daughters like nothing else.”
“I can’t think of very many divorced people who have much regard for their exes.” Kate commented.
Conrad’s index finger moved to Depuis’ immediate left, landing on a stocky man in a black kepis. His face was almost cherubic in its appearance. “Sergent Henri Leboulletier, from France. We always called him ‘Baby Face’ because he looked so damn young. He was from the Legion’s 1st Foreign Cavalry Regiment, a formation that rides about in wheeled armored personnel carriers.”
“I was wondering why he looks on the round shaped side.” Kate replied.
Kate recognized Conrad standing on the extreme left of Depuis, and followed the movement of his index finger down to a black man wearing a white kepis. The man was on the leaner side of the fence.
“That’s Caporal Putman Livingston, from the British Virgin Islands we called ‘Chocolat’. He used to be a tennis instructor at a resort before he left over a woman. He had a year left on his contract.” Conrad replied sadly.
“Did he ever get the chance to tell her anything?” Kate asked.
“Honestly I don’t know, but I do have the last letter he wrote to her. He wanted me to deliver it if he didn’t make it.” Conrad replied.
“Did you deliver it?” Kate asked.
“I haven’t yet. I intend to do so, but I’m just not sure what to say. I do want to honor Putman’s last request.” Conrad replied.
Conrad’s index finger moved to Putman’s right, settling on a tanned Latin fellow with a slight stubble on his face. “Legionnaire Lorenzo Rocha, from Brazil. We called him RR or Renzo. He taught me some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”
“I’m sure he would’ve appreciated that triangle choke you pulled off yesterday.” Kate replied.
“He actually pulled that maneuver off on me several times.” Conrad chuckled, “When we’d train in hand to hand combat.”
Conrad’s finger moved to Rocha’s right, where a stocky fellow with a nearly shaved head stood.
“Legionnaire Radoslav ‘Ski the Pole’ Wiersbowski, from Poland. We also called him 'Ski Pole'. He never really spoke much, which led people to sometimes think he wasn’t an especially intelligent sort.” Conrad replied, before adding with a wry grin, “Off duty he was always challenging any comers to a game of chess where he often trounced said comers.”
"The hidden chess champion, nice." Kate commented.
"He always had a small travel chess set on him." Conrad replied, "and he'd always have it out next to the radio set he would be manning."
Conrad's finger slid to the right, settling on a lean, suntanned fellow with a mustache. "Legionnaire Leon Peralta, from Argentina, rounded out our team. He was an adept scrounger, capable of finding damn near anything."
Kate saw a slightly ironic grin on Conrad's face as he spoke again, "I still remember the trip to Africa, when our aircraft was delayed. We were stuck out on a runway in Sigonella, sitting under an awning. Laposte grumbled about how he could've used a drink then I saw Peralta grin suddenly and excuse himself. A half hour later he came trotting back with nine bottles of cold Kronenberg. God knows where he managed to find them."
With a sigh Conrad intoned, "Resquiescant In Pace."
My God. Kate thought before she replied, "I'm so sorry."
"You didn't kill any of them, but I do appreciate your sympathy." Conrad replied gently.
"I can't imagine how you must feel." Kate replied softly, "There are quite a few people in the Secret Service that are almost family to me."
"In many ways rank and nationality among my teammates in Commando Depuis was transcended in ways bigger Legion formations never did." Conrad replied, "Almost all adviser teams have similar stories."
"So why did you join?" Kate asked.
"You mean the adviser teams? I volunteered because where else does a relatively junior man get such an opportunity to lead forces many times larger than a Caporal-Chef is generally entrusted." Conrad replied.
"No, I mean the French Foreign Legion." Kate replied.
"When I was enlisting in Fort de Nogent, in Paris, the cadre showed us a short video. In it one recruit asks another his reason for enlisting, and the second recruit pulls a knife and stabs him to death. The video concluded with a warning to respect the privacy of ones mates." Conrad replied, "It educated recruits, even if most of us didn't speak French at the time, that it's best not to inquire too deeply on a fellow legionnaire's past unless the man volunteers the information."
Ok. The past is definitely a sore subject for this guy. Kate thought to herself. Better to switch topics.
"Your family?" Kate remarked at the second photograph.
Kate looked at the photo, recognizing a younger Conrad straightaway. The family was wearing their Sunday best, suits and ties for the men and dresses for the women. The photo showed Conrad was standing beside a dark haired, stocky middle aged man with graying black hair and a black suit, a small gold US Navy SEAL trident was visible on the man's right lapel.
To the man’s left was a slender woman with jet black hair in a white and blue sundress. And to the woman’s right was a tall, lean bodied youth with dark brown hair in a gray suit. To Conrad’s left side stood a shorter boy who stood to the right of an old woman in a floral print dress. A large German Shepherd, sitting up between Conrad’s mother and father finished the picture.
Conrad's finger slid to the stocky middle aged man first, "We took this photo in Easter of my senior year of high school. That's my Dad. He was a Navy SEAL in Vietnam and served as a Navy Diver after the Vietnam War. He retired as the Master Diver of the Mayport Dive Locker while I was still in the Legion."
Conrad pointed out his mother next, "That's my Mom. She's an ER physician by trade. I remember she was actually considering joining the Navy as a physician before I was born. The running joke in the family is that Dad didn't want to salute her."
Kate couldn't help but laugh.
Conrad's finger slid to the tall, lean bodied boy, "That's my brother, Michael. He's five years younger than me and from his last letter he's working in the corporate world for Anheuser Busch. He's an avid outdoorsman, surfer, and skier."
"Didn't know you could ski in Florida." Kate quipped.
"He works in New York now, from the last email I got from him." Conrad replied.
His finger slid over to the boy, about ten years old, "My younger brother, David. Like you he's the baby of the family."
"Hey!" Kate protested.
Conrad chuckled, "I thought that would get a rise out of you."
Kate fixed him with a mock glare.
Conrad pointed to the old woman, "My grandmother. She immigrated from France in 1957 and she worked as a journalist till she retired in the 1980s."
"Your grandfather was ok with her working outside the house?" Kate asked, "That's unusual for the 1950s."
"She was widowed when my grandfather didn't return from Indochina." Conrad replied.
She saw Conrad slide the third photo to her. This one was a black and white photograph of a dark haired man wearing a beret and the three toned camouflage uniform of the French airborne forces. Slung over his right shoulder was a MAT-49 submachine gun.
"My grandfather on my mother's side, Capitaine Emil Renard." Conrad replied.
"Handsome fellow." Kate remarked.
"He was part of the GCMA in the 1950s." Conrad replied.
"GCMA?" Kate asked.
"It's a French acronym that stands for Groupement de Commandos Mixtes Aéroportés," Conrad replied, before adding, "Roughly translates as Composite Airborne Commando Group. Basically they were French military personnel sent into the hills and deltas to train and arm local tribes against the Viet Minh."
"He was killed in action?"
"Not that simple." Conrad replied, a stony growl in his voice, "After the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu several of these men, stranded in the northern regions of Vietnam, were simply abandoned. With dwindling ammunition and fading radios they were condemned to slow deaths as Communist hunter-killer teams closed in."
Conrad took a deep breath before continuing, "I recall hearing a story of a pilot flying along the border with Vietnam two years after Dien Bien Phu hearing the radio call of a French soldier from the jungle below cursing them for not dropping ammunition so he could die like a man."
Kate sat in stunned silence as Conrad continued, "Grand-mère never forgot the loss, nor the betrayal of the French government. It's why she left France behind with my mother and uncles in tow."
Like grandfather like grandson. Kate thought as she mulled over Conrad's last tour in the French Foreign Legion. The French adviser teams working with local forces in different African countries helped blunt several COBRA actions, but they also took some losses.
The rest of breakfast passed in a relatively peaceful silence. And afterward Kate went to her room, intending to listen to her portable CD player for a couple of minutes before a tour of the G.I. Joe motorpool.
She went to listen to the compilation CD that Tim had made for her as an early Valentine’s Day gift only to find her CD player wasn’t working. She checked the battery compartment only to find it empty.
What the heck? Where did my batteries go? Kate thought.
The Pit, Headquarters Building
Roadblock, Beach Head, Cross Country
19 February 2002, 0845
"Roadblock!" Beach Head said as he stomped out of his office, heading over to his fellow Joe in a manner just slightly reminscent of an enraged grizzly bear.
"What's going on Beach Head?" Roadblock asked.
"I need to talk to you...now!" Beach Head glowered.
"I can see that without a doubt. But what is it you want to talk to me about?" Roadblock replied.
"It's that kid of yours." Beach Head began, without preamble, "He's a menace. A menace I tell you!"
"What has the kid done?" Roadblock asked.
"I saw him near my CD player. Do you know what he did!?" Beach Head demanded.
"He switched your CDs from the Spice Girls to Metallica?" Roadblock quipped.
"Ha ha ha ha." Beach Head snapped, "No, he didn't. He swiped the batteries from it. And from a flashlight as well as an electric pencil sharpener."
"Why would he take batteries?" Roadblock said, brow furrowing with confusion.
"Because he's a menace, that's why!" Beach Head countered, "A menace that should be locked away!"
"Look, Beach Head, the boy needs to be with someone who will care for him and guide him." Roadblock replied, "Someone who will accept him for who he is. Someone who will keep an eye on him every second of the day."
"He's still a menace!" Beach Head snapped, arms snapping into the air.
"Hey guys..." Cross Country began as he headed their way, his Game Boy held in his left hand, "Have you seen Mainframe or Dial Tone around? My Game Boy's busted."
"Check the batteries." Beach Head grumbled.
"That can't be. I just put new ones in yesterday." Cross Country replied, then snapped the compartment open, finding it empty, "Hey, you're right..."
"I'll have a talk with the kid." Roadblock replied, before walking back to their quarters.
The Pit, Officer's Quarters
Roadblock, Conrad, Kate, and Toad
19 February 2002, 0904
Roadblock headed back to the quarters he and Todd shared, running into Conrad and Kate who had just returned from a tour of the G.I. Joe motor pool.
As Roadblock hurried past them, Conrad turned to Kate and said, "Is it just me or was Roadblock unusually terse just now."
"It wasn't." Kate replied, "I noticed it too."
Both agents promptly followed Roadblock into the building, up the stairs and to the apartment he and Todd shared. The trio got inside and to Todd's room just as the boy was putting something into one of the drawers on his dresser.
"Todd, I want to talk to you." Roadblock began.
"Okay." Todd replied.
"What did you put in your drawer?" Roadblock replied.
"This drawer?" Todd asked.
"Yes, that drawer." Roadblock replied, pointing at it.
Todd complied and Roadblock couldn't believe his eyes. And neither could Conrad or Kate. The drawer was filled to capacity with batteries of various kinds.
"Is this where you've been putting the batteries you've been stealing?" Roadblock asked.
"I didn't steal them," Todd protested, "I borrowed them."
"Oh, so you borrow the batteries and stick them in this drawer?" Roadblock replied.
"No," Todd replied. As he spoke he pulled a shoe box from under his bed, crammed to capacity with batteries. He did so again and again. Then he opened his closet which had several more shoe boxes full of batteries.
"There must be hundreds of batteries in this room." Roadblock commented.
"More like thousands, and from all over the base. Impressive scrounging." Conrad replied. Peralta would've turned green with envy at that feat.
Roadblock shot a glare at Conrad.
"Five thousand." Todd said proudly.
"You borrowed five thousand batteries from all around this base?" Roadblock asked.
"Give or take a few dozen." Todd replied.
“Todd, you and I need to have a little talk, I think.” Roadblock said sternly, “Namely about why you’re taking batteries from all over the base and storing them in your room?”
“Because you and Psyche-Out talked to me about taking money and you told me it was bad for me to take money,” Todd fidgeted, “You told me not to do it anymore and I haven’t! I’ve been real good about that!”
“I see…” Roadblock began.
“I haven’t taken any money, Roadblock! I swear! Not one dime!”
“Yes Todd, I know.” Roadblock replied.
“No money. None.”
“I believe you.”
“Zero. Nada. Zip…”
“Ok, I get the message. Now why is it bad to steal money?”
“Because...because you don’t need me to steal money for you. You can take care of me without me stealing money.” Todd replied, regarding Roadblock with wide eyes.
“I see…” Roadblock replied, “Let me get this straight, you don’t take money because I don’t need money. But you do take batteries?”
“Right! You don’t need money!” Todd replied, before grabbing a handful of batteries from his pocket and held them up before Roadblock, as if they were an offering, “You need batteries!”
What a crazy kid. Kate thought.
“Okay…” Roadblock began, head in his hands, “I see your logic, flawed as it is. Just out of curiousity...why do I need 5000 batteries?”
“Because you can be prepared when disaster strikes!” Todd replied, “There are horrible dangers in this world! A typhoon could hit us at any moment! What if there’s a typhoon or something?”
“Oh boy,” Roadblock groaned, “Todd, I think it’s time for you and I to see Psyche-Out. I think we should have another nice little chat.”
“I did something bad, didn’t I?” Todd said, crestfallen.
“Oh yeah,” Roadblock sighed, “And a bit disturbing. Let’s go have a nice talk, shall we?”
“Do you want me to bring the batteries?” Todd asked as they left.
“No, I think we’ll leave the batteries here for now.” Roadblock replied.
“I put some in my pocket just in case.” Todd replied.
“That’s nice.” Roadblock said.
Kate took the time to mouth the words, “Psyche-Out?”
“Our base psychologist.” Roadblock replied.
Note to self, get Psyche-Out to describe some of his sessions with Todd, at least in general terms. Kate thought.
arrives. She says,"Hello, everyone. I brought some cookies, too." Puts down 3 containers of cookies; 1 Christmas tree sugar cookies; 1 Christmas Spiderweb, and 1 reindeer gingerbread (see "A Christmas Story, Part 1 & 2 in The Studio.)