His coffee cup in one hand, and a clip board holding a pad of paper in the other, Lifeline headed down the hall towards the “Ready Room” in Joe Headquarters for the morning briefing. Things had been quiet since his return three days earlier and he’d spent the time getting caught up on paperwork and closing out patient charts. As he walked, the medic’s thoughts once again turned towards Billy Coen. He hadn’t seen or talked to Billy since the two had parted ways at Lake Havasu.
The door to the Ready Room was already opened when he arrived and as he stepped inside, his dark eyes automatically scanned the occupants. The room itself was a state-of-the-art conference center with a large conference-style table that almost ran the length of the room. The table was equipped with flat panel LCD monitors and keyboards, and several telephones, including a speaker phone for conference calls. The walls of the room were lined with large plasma screens that could display maps and geographical charts, photographs and just about any other type of data that the Joe’s could want or need. The Ready Room was the heart of Joe Headquarters and was second only to similar accommodations located beneath the White House.
Lady Jaye and Flint were already seated, the two of them pausing their quiet conversation to nod and greet the medic as he moved to take his usual seat. It was no secret around the base that the two had an interest in each other, with several of the motor pool guys even starting a pool to guess at when they would finally get around to going out on a date. Scarlett and Duke looked to be discussing something quite intently at the other end of the table, the petite red-head was using her gloved hands to emphasize whatever point she was trying to make to the usually stoic Joe Field Commander. As with Flint and Lady J, there was an obvious attraction between the big blond and the fiery-haired intelligence specialist, even as the two tried to maintain a professional atmosphere.
Murmuring a good morning to the others, Lifeline set down his coffee mug and slid into his seat to wait quietly until Duke called the briefing to order. It was five or ten minutes later before Duke and Scarlett broke off their conversation, the remaining standing Joes following their lead and taking their seats at the table. The morning briefings were designed to keep the senior officers up to date on Cobra activity, discuss needs and as a general sounding board regarding various issues that that the officers and their staff might have.
Duke bid everyone good morning as he shuffled the papers in front of him. Immediately, all other conversation stopped with the assembled Joes turning their complete attention to the blond man. Reaching for his pen, Edwin listened intently as the Joe’s Field Commander began speaking. Among the items to be dealt with was Beach Head's monthly report on the status of their latest recruits. As usual, the report was full of positive remarks.
“Thanks, Beach Head,” Duke said with a nod before glancing at the others seated before him. “Anyone have anything else they want to bring up before we move on?” Almost collectively, there was a shake of heads in the negative. “Okay, then. Our next piece of business is the new unit that General Hawk has gotten the okay on from the Office of Homeland Security.”
Pausing for a moment, he pressed a button on the intercom phone next to him. “We’re ready for him,” he said without preamble before releasing the button. “I’m sure you’re all aware of the collaboration between Cobra and the Umbrella Corporation that’s come to light recently.” Duke glanced around the table as he spoke. “Due to the potentially devastating implications, the Secretary of Homeland Security has asked us to put together a specialized unit that will be trained specifically for bio-weapon terrorism and warfare.”
Almost as if on cue, there was a light rap on the closed door of the Ready Room, before it was opened seconds later by a “green shirt” – the term given to Joe recruits who were still undergoing training and evaluation. After giving Duke a crisp salute, the recruit moved to the side and stood at attention, allowing the man behind him to enter the room.
It was Billy Coen who stepped into the room, his eyes moving to Duke immediately as he snapped into a precise salute. "Sir," He said. Billy wasn't entirely sure just what was going on. Only that he'd been informed he would be required at the morning's briefing, having only gotten back to base the day before. All eyes in the room fell on the Marine, Lifeline’s widening slightly behind his glasses and it was all he could do to keep from smiling at the sight of his friend.
“At ease soldier,” Duke said after returning Billy’s salute. “I think you know some of those here already, Scarlett...Lifeline...” the blond man indicated the named Joes with his hand. “This is Flint...Lady Jaye...Beach Head...” Duke made his way around the table, introducing the senior officers. Finished, he turned his attention back to Billy. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here?”
"Yes, Sir," Billy replied, falling into an 'at ease' stance, but looking no more relaxed. After what he'd been through, he tended to get a little nervous when he was confronted with a room full of superior officers.
Edwin was curious as well, a slight frown between his dark brows as he glanced at his commanding officer, the big blond’s expression giving away nothing however. “Just four pieces of business and we’ll let you go. The first is to welcome you aboard,” Duke’s cool gaze settled on the Marine. “The second is to fill you in on your first assignment.” That brought a low murmur from around the table.
Billy only nodded, hearing the low murmur, and not quite sure what to make of it. Duke gave the others a quick glance that instantly silenced them before turning his attention back to Billy. “In light of what you uncovered regarding Umbrella and Cobra, we’ve been directed to form a new unit designed to deal with any similar threats should they come up.” As Duke spoke, a slow smile spread over Scarlett’s attractive features as she looked at Billy. “Because of your knowledge and experience in dealing with the bio-weapons created by Umbrella, coupled with your previous combat field experience, we’d like for you to head this new unit. “
Billy blinked, the only show of surprise that crossed the man's features before a small smile quirked the corners of his mouth. "It would be an honor, Sir," he said.
Despite his best efforts, Lifeline found himself smiling as well as he gazed at the Marine. Duke merely nodded his head. “Officially you’ll be our Covert Ops and Bio-weapon Specialist. You’ll work with Scarlett and Beach Head on putting together your team. We’ll get together to go over specifics later.”
The blond glanced down at the papers on the table in front of him. “In light of your new assignment -- and your . . . service, I’m also happy to tell you that you’ve been promoted as well, Lieutenant.” Duke emphasized the word.
For the second time, that surprised blink touched Billy's face, and he was struck absolutely speechless. Edwin suppressed a chuckle at the look on Billy’s face. He was happy for the Marine, happy that Billy was finally being recognized for what he’d done and been through. He also felt a sense of pride, knowing just what kind of opportunity his friend was being offered. “I assume this is all agreeable with you, Lieutenant?” Duke asked Billy, his usually cool demeanor cracking a bit so that a slight glint of warmth shone in his blue eyes.
Another small smile pulled at the corners of Billy's mouth, and he nodded. "More than agreeable, Sir."
There were smiles all around the table, although due to the partial mask that covered the lower half of his face, it was impossible to tell with Beach Head. Duke nodded his head. “Very well then, that just leaves one more thing.” The blond’s eyes once again fell on the Marine. “As you know, all the Joe’s take code names once they become members of the team. Generally we leave the choice up to the individual. Give it some thought over the next day or two and let me know what you decide.”
"Understood, Sir," Billy said with a nod.
Scarlett was all smiles as he looked at Billy. She’d been quite pleased when he’d agreed to join the Joes and even more so now that he’d accepted to take on a potentially monumental assignment. “You’re free to go, Lieutenant. I believe they’re expecting you down in personnel so they can get you processed in.” Duke’s cool, professional demeanor had returned once more.
Billy snapped to attention again. "Yes, Sir," He said, grateful for the dismissal. Outwardly, he gave no sign of it though, his expression neutral and his pace brisk but not unnecessarily so as he headed out.
Duke had dismissed the rest of the Joes not long after Billy’s departure. With a grin still on his face, Lifeline had returned to his small office in the infirmary wing only to find that one of the ever efficient file clerks had left a new stack of old patient files for him to review and sign off on. Looking at the paperwork, he sighed and sat down at his desk before reaching for the top most folder.
It wasn't very long into the stack when Billy poked his head in the office, smiling a little to himself when he saw the medic sitting there. "Was hoping I'd find you here..." he said softly.
Lifeline’s back was to the door and he didn’t hear Billy’s approach until the Marine spoke. Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” was softly flowing from the speakers of a small bookshelf stereo system on the shelf over the medic’s desk. Edwin swiveled his chair around and smiled at Billy. “Well, if it isn’t the Lieutenant.”
That drew a smile from the Marine. "You too busy to talk for a few?"
The medic shook his head. “No, come on in.” Rising from his seat, he reached to clear off the side chair next to his desk.
"Thanks...." Billy was quiet as he walked in, sinking down into the chair with a soft sound. "I'd almost forgotten how much I hate military processing procedures. I think my brain's going to explode if I have to sign another piece of paper today."
Edwin chuckled as he balanced the folders he’d taken from the chair on top of the ones remaining on his desk. “The government lives and dies with paperwork.”
"Don't I know it....but apparently I'm finished with all the processing stuff, I'm in all the right computer banks, and the last of it'll go through by tomorrow."
“Final security clearances and you’ll be all set.” Lifeline smiled as he spoke, his eyes on the man across from him.
"Then it'll just be a matter of putting together a team...."
“Beach Head has a good eye – Scarlett, too. They’ll give you all the help you need.” The medic relaxed in his chair a bit, moving to cross his legs as he spoke. “I’m really glad for you Billy. It’s a great opportunity.”
"It's a fantastic opportunity," Billy replied, nodding. "It's just overwhelming. I didn't expect the unit or the promotion..."
Edwin’s smile widened a bit more. “I think you more than earned it.”
Lifeline smiled quietly at the Marine for a few moments before he spoke again. “Given any thought to a code name?”
Billy smiled a bit, and nodded. "Yeah, I did..."
The medic raised his eyebrow slightly. “Did you decide on something?”
"I think so... wanted to keep it something close to my Marine background, so when I heard Leatherneck was in use already, I decided on the other mostly flattering nickname the Corps has."
“Should I ask?” Edwin inquired with a chuckle.
Lifeline sat and looked at the Marine silently for a minute or so before he started laughing.
“It’s perfect,” the medic replied in-between chuckles.
"I thought so," Billy said with a grin. "So that's what's on my records."
“Does that mean I can call you DeeDee?” The question set Lifeline to laughing again.
"Do I look like a cocktail waitress to you?" Billy shot back, doing his best to look indignant.
"Maybe in the right pumps..."
"Don't make me hurt you, Doc."
It took Edwin a few more moments before he was able to quiet his laughter, but the smile stayed on his lips. “Why don’t we go out for dinner tonight to celebrate? My treat.”
"Sounds good to me. Since you're buying dinner, I'll drive."
Lifeline nodded. “Sounds like plan...Devil Dog.”