G.I. Joe: Reinstated (PG-13)

Discussion in 'The Story Board' started by Young Justice, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    What if, in 2009, instead of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, another movie was made? Same concept: Joes vs. Destro & Baroness, International Joes, but based on Snake-Eyes: Declassified, much more character development, more realistic, without silly iron man like suits, goofy Ripcord and specially a brainwashed former Duke fiancee Baroness? This is the novelization of that movie.

    [​IMG]

    When a nuclear weapon trade between a terrorist and a criminal weapons dealer in Afghanistan, post 9/11, goes terribly wrong, a series of events is set in motion that results in a dark path for a soldier with a mysterious identity and a global threat that only the reinstatement of the G.I. Joe Special Forces team can prevent.

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    Based on the Snake-Eyes: Declassified and other G.I. Joe comic books, especially the ones by Devil's Due Publishing. Design of characters and vehicles based on various G.I. Joe Toys design, including classic Real American Hero of the 80's and Sigma Six from 2000's. Copyright by Hasbro.

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    Disclaimer: I've been writing this fan fiction since 2008. There are similarities with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra that are intentional, since I've started the story with the same concept. Other similarities with RoC and Retaliation are purely coincidental.
     
  2. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 1

    Scotland, 17th Century.

    A medieval castle in flames. An English Lord, accompanied by some guards enter in the castle. They, riding majestic horses, pass through a big and shattered wooden gate door. They ride through, without noticing minor battles happening besides them. British soldiers ending the lives of Scottish men from the defeated castle.

    The Lord gets down from his horse, and with his guards, walks up the castle tower stairs. Swordfights happen besides them. They pass by all, aloof, fixated on their destiny ahead. A Scottish soldier tries to attack them, but is stopped readily by one of the guards. The other brutally kill the attacker. The Lord continues his way as if nothing had happened.

    In the throne room of the caste, two English guards hold, by the ground, the defeated Scottish Lord. He is all bloodstained, as if he had been hurt during the battle, but not deadly so. The Scottish men has an arrogant, proud eye. He lost the battle but was not defeated.

    - McCullen! - Yells the English Lord - Your weapons were a great help for us against your countrymen, Scottish! Be aware that they were easily defeated.

    James McCullen tries to raise up to attack the English Lord, but the guards, that were holding him in the ground, hit him with a punch, making him go down again.

    - You tried to be clever, McCullen. Selling arms to both sides, you helped your countrymen, made the war last much longer and above all profited a lot with all that. But you failed on making Lord Cromwell a fool, Scottish!

    The English Lord receives from an assistant an iron mask. With little openings for the eyes and mouth, the mask looks like an iron box, dark and old.

    - For this boldness of yours, McCullen, you will be condemned by the Power of the English Parliament to wear this iron mask for the rest of your life.

    The Lord opens the mask. Inside it there are several metal spikes, pointing to the face of the poor soul bastard who would wear it.

    The guards hold McCullen tight and the Lord puts the mask on him with a lot of strength. The metal halves close themselves against the Scotsman head. McCullen screams in intense pain. Strips of blood run by his neck out of the mask.

    The Lord throws McCullen on the ground of the throne room, turn around and leave the place with his guards, The eyes of the Scotsman are full of hate and pain. McCullen whispers:

    - This is not over yet…
     
    #2 Young Justice, Apr 22, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2016
  3. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 2

    A small town in the countryside of USA. September 12th, 2001.

    A military jeep stops in front of a suburban house, with front lawn, no walls. From the jeep, a young blond guy leaves. He is in his early twenties, with an US Army uniform, carrying a big dark green bag.

    The light of the front porch goes on. A young woman, also in her early twenties pass through the door to hold the young man. At the door, a senior man, in his fifties watch them hug.

    Everybody is sit at the dinner table. The empty plates indicated that the meal had finished and that everybody is full. By far, at the kitchen, the turned on TV set doesn't stop passing news about the World Trade Center attacks in New York City that happened in the day before. Theresa, the young man's sister and his mom do the dishes. His dad and the young man are still at the table.

    - Son, when I saw those planes yesterday... - The father starts the conversation - I knew you would be called, but not so fast...

    - Dad, I'm in an elite troop, remember. The Rangers. We are the first to embark. We have to show them we are not defeated! - says the blond guy with anger in his voice.

    - When do you go? - Asks the apprehensive father.

    - Today we embark for Afghanistan. We start the recon and guerrilla ops for the regular troops that will arrive in a month or so. - he answers, proudly.

    - You are going to pass for a lot of bad things, son. You need to keep your faith strong - says the father, holding the son's hands.

    - I just need to be lucky. Only that - answers the son, in a very arrogant way.

    - I wish all the luck in the world, but you know... - The dad, then, takes, from his pocket a pair of red dice, with white dots. The dice are beautiful, semi-transparent. - You already know my old dice, don't you?

    - Yeah, Dad. I always played with them when I was a kid - answers the young man with blond hair, with a nostalgic expression in his eyes.

    - What I never told you before, my son, it's that before I got married with your Mom I was a game addict... - The father exposes his past to his son with a little grieving in his voice.

    - How come? What... - The young man gets surprised

    - Yes, son. Meeting your Mom was one of the things that made me quit my addiction. When I met her I was in my lowest point, my life was shattered. She helped me to put my life together and after that I bought this dice. They are loaded dice, used to cheat. I kept them with me to remind me that luck in our lives is a good thing, but one day we can run out of it and then... - The dad throws the dice over the dinner table. They roll, and as they are loaded, they fall with the two number one turned up. - "Snake-Eyes".

    The father, Theresa, his mom and the brother, the young man, are in the front lawn. It is late an night. The Army jeep arrives to take the soldier away. Theresa gives a strong hug to his brother and, with tear in her eyes, gives him a picture of her.

    - Please, brother, I want you to return safe and sound so you can give me back this photo - Pleads Theresa.

    - I will never be apart form it, Terri. You can be sure that I will give you back this photo anytime soon. - Answers the young soldier.
     
  4. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 3

    Brussels, Belgium. Current days.

    A Soldier, with a military suit walks by a large lawn. In it are displayed a set of poles with flags of several countries. In the entry point of the path that leads to the main building, covered entirely with glass, there's a metal plate. On it is written NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. At the side of it, the dark steel monument embellish the entry of the building. The soldier, sporting a very short blond hair, carry a lot of medals in his chest. He is in his mid thirties, and has a little scar near his eyes. He carries with him a leather suitcase. Before he enters the building, he looks to the USA flag with proud.

    He enters in a luxurious office. The beautiful secretary, well dressed, ask him to sit down.

    - Lieutenant Hauser, can you wait for a second? Colonel Abernathy will see you in a moment.

    Conrad Hauser, after waiting for some minutes, enters in the Colonel Clayton Abernathy's office. The graduated military officer, sit at his desk, wears a fine military suit, and has light brown hair, and although he is in his mid-fifties, he shows a vitality from when he was young.

    - Sit down, soldier - Orders Clayton.

    Conrad pulls a chair and sits in front of the large desk of Abernathy's office. Clayton picks a sheet of paper on a file and stand up, standing in front of the big glass window in his wide office. Out there a nice view of the entrance garden, where the flags of the member countries of NATO are.

    - Let me see... - Clayton starts talking, reading the sheet - Lieutenant Conrad S. Hauser of United States of America Army. Graduated with honors in the academy. Part of the Delta Special Forces. Specialty in Infantry and Airborne Ops. Platoon leader. Medals for bravery and merit on Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the best.

    Clayton gives a look at Hauser to see if he is following the conversation. Conrad looks back to Clayton, without showing any reaction.

    - This is the easy part - The Coronel continues - Let's see now the more difficult one: Secret missions of guerrilla and unconventional warfare on Serbia, North Korea, Pakistan and recently Georgia.

    Clayton returns to look at Conrad, whom is already showing some surprise about it.

    - These informations are highly confidential, correct, Lieutenant?

    - Yes sir - Hauser answers.

    - You must be asking yourself what are you doing here. Why the hell you have been taken off your base at US, put on a plane to Europe and who the hell am I, who knows a lot of things that, theoretically, a reserve Colonel, couldn't know, alright?

    - Frankly Sir, that's exactly what I'm thinking about - Conrad answers in a rather aggressive way.

    - Let me ask you something, son: Your father was arrested a few years ago, wasn't he? - Clayton asks, with a little ironic grin.

    - Colonel, with all due respect, I think this interview is already gone too far...

    - Answer me please, Lieutenant. - Orders the Colonel.

    - Yes, Sir. My father was arrested a few years back, protesting about our invasion of Afghanistan.

    - The same invasion which you took part and received several medal for bravery, am I right?

    - Yes, Sir.

    - And, right after your father was released, he filed a suit complaining about the loss of his civil rights against the Federal Government, didn't he?

    - I believe, Sir that you already have all those infor... - Conrad answers, a little annoyed by all this questioning without sense.

    - Lieutenant, please, answer your superior officer. Here may be Europe, but both of us are still officers of United States Army, aren't we?

    - Yes, Sir. - Hauser answers, returning to military standard behaviour. - My father is moving a suit against the government.

    - And it's you that is helping him financially in this lawsuit, am I right?

    - Yes, Sir. - Hauser already begins to answer this questions automatically, not knowing exactly where this line of questioning will go.

    - Don't you think it's a certain paradox, a Special Forces soldier from USA, helping his father to file a suit against the government because he was arrested protesting against the war which himself went to fight, and did it with merit and bravery? Just answer me one more question, Lieutenant: Did you, personally, agreed with our invasion of Afghanistan?

    - Yes, Sir - Hauser answers with a lot of conviction.

    - So, what do you tell me about this situation?

    - Permission to speak frankly, Sir.

    - Permission granted, son.

    - When I fight on our army, I'm not only representing our corporation, or our government. But, instead our ideals as a Nation. And these ideals say that we can protest against the current government, don't matter what we are protesting for - Conrad answers seriously - I may not agree with my father's methods, but I believe we both are fighting for our country. Each one with his own way.

    - Son, come with me. I have something to show you. - Colonel Clayton Abernathy answers with a smile on his face.

    The Lieutenant Hauser and Colonel Abernathy are in an Army Humvee, passing by a remote area in the NATO Headquarters. The Colonel is driving

    - Lieutenant, what I'm about to tell you is Top Secret. If you leak this information for whomever they are you will be subject to court martial, alright?

    - Yes sir, I understand - Hauser confirms, acknowledging the seriousness of the situation.

    - In the 60's, our government created a top secret elite unit. It was called G.I. Joe, an homage to our soldiers that came back victorious from World War 2. This unit was of much value in the Vietnam conflict. God knows how much soldiers we would have loose that without them...

    Abernathy pauses and then continues:

    - The team kept working through the 70's. In the 80's the team was restructured, gained more operatives, and became specialized in unconventional warfare. I was the field leader in that time. We fought in several places of the world: Afghanistan, Central America, Caribbean, Central Asia, Middle East. It was the peak of the Cold War.

    The Jeep makes a hard curve left and starts to head for a garage, in a remote area, very far away from the Central Building of NATO Headquarters.

    - We are officially disbanded in the early 90's. With the end of the Iron Curtain, the American Government had not much use for us.

    The Humvee enters in the garage and parks over one of those rails used to fix cars. The Colonel presses a button on the wheel and says:

    - Command: Get down.

    A red light beam goes out from the wall in front of the jeep, pass through the windshield glass and scan the Colonel eyes. A female voice pre-recorded, without any intonation speaks:

    - Voice and Retina identification confirmed. Welcome, Colonel Hawk.

    The Humvee then starts to get down underground. Lieutenant Hauser look around surprised for what's going on. The car continues descending until it gets in a floor way below. The two soldiers get out of the vehicle.

    They are in a big dark ambient, with several large computer screens that shows maps of the world and status of American and foreign troops around the globe. In front of the monitors a big computer console with a lot of displays and controllers. Around the console, a set of tall chairs. There is also several corridors originating from this office, indicating there are more rooms in this complex.

    - Welcome to our Headquarters, Lieutenant - The Colonel says. - As you must be imagining, the G.I. Joe are being reinstated. But the times are different, as are the enemies. We are facing a secret terrorist organization. We know very little about it. only it doesn't have any religious or ideological view. Only the desire of power.

    Hawk stands in front of one of the consoles and presses a few buttons. In the monitors appear a lot of scenes of conflicts and terrorists attempts around the world: Africa, Middle East, Asia...

    - We have evidences of this terrorist group participation in most of this events - Hawk explains - That's why G.I. Joe can't be a simple Special Forces unit from the USA government. As far as we know, these terrorists can be infiltrated everywhere. We are now a secret outfit. Secret inside the very government. Not even the President knows we exist. To be very far way from the Pentagon eyes, we are based here on Brussel, on the NATO site.

    Hawk sits down on the central chair of the command console and starts pressing down some buttons.

    - We are now a multinational troop, with American members and also from other allied nations. We have to be more aware of what happens in every corners of the globe.

    In the monitor, a map of the world appears, and all NATO countries and other allies are marked in a different color, showing members that are already part of G.I. Joe. Among the countries: USA, Canada, Western Europe, Mexico, Israel, Australia, Korea and Japan.

    - Inside the G.I. Joe there's the elite of the elite, a group of few member that will be the main core of our organization. This group will be helped by other specialist soldiers when necessary.

    Hawk presses some more buttons and in the screen appears five files of G.I. Joe operatives. In the console there's a touchscreen area with a content that is the same as the big monitors. Hawk presses the first file with his index finger. It opens and fills the entire screen in the big monitors. It shows a picture of a redhead woman, beautiful, with some freckles in her face. She is in her thirties.

    - I believe you already know her, don't you, Lieutenant? - Hawk asks - Shana Müller O'Hara. Codename: Scarlett - The Colonel continues.

    In the monitors, Scarlett, with black standard combat fatigues. She is crouched behind a war tank. In the palm of her hand there is a 7 inch mini tablet that is connected to the tank. Scarlett is hacking and controlling the armored vehicle. In another scene, O'Hara is wearing a martial arts kimono, sporting a black belt. She is knocking down a recruit during a fight practice in a military academy.

    - Primary Specialty: Intel and Hi-Tech. Second Specialty: Martial Arts. Former Military Intelligence, Germany based. Major in Technology by the Technical University of Munich.

    Hawk presses over the second file. This one goes to the monitor.

    - Marin Farrukh Hilton. Codename: Roadblock.

    In the screen, Roadblock, a big and strong black man, in his mid thirties holding a heavy gatling gun fires against some armored vehicles during a simulation.

    - Primary Specialty: Heavy weapons. Secondary specialties: Tank and land vehicles pilot, demolition. Nigerian by birth, naturalized British citizen. member of the Special Forces Support Group.

    The third file goes to the screen this time. The picture is of a white soldier in his middle thirties. He wears a sand color beret.

    - Dashiell Remington Faireborn. Codename: Flint.

    In the big monitors, Flint, wearing his beret and a headset with microphone, is in an helicopter cockpit. Right after that, the rotary wings aircraft, a Tiger, attacks a tank in a combat simulation. In another scene, Flint, using dark paint over his face, lands on a beach at night, from a zodiac boat, helming a F88 Austeyr assault rifle, in another combat simulation.

    - Primary Specialty: Fixed and rotary wings aircraft pilot. Secondary Specialty: Amphibious assault. Member of the Australian SAS boat troop.

    A fourth file goes to the monitors. In the picture, a Native American Soldier, in his thirties, with his long hair arranged in braids, very characteristic of the Native American culture.

    - Charlie Iron-Knife. Codename: Spirit.

    In the monitors, Spirit, with a woodland camo pattern fatigue, is in a temperate forest, amidst a lot of eucalypt trees, analyzing footprints and marks in the forest ground. In another scene, he hits a bullseye shot in target over a klick of distance with a marksman rifle. In a third scene, he is applying a bandage in a recruit's leg.

    - Primary Specialty: Tracker. Secondary Specialties: Marksman and field medic. Member of the Canadian Special Forces, Spirit in one of the best trackers in the world. His past as a Shaman of his native tribe made him choose also the field of medicine inside the army. He is our field medic.

    And finally, the fifth and last file. In the picture, a masked man, with a glass visor and a black balaclava. Conrad is surprised with this soldier, but gives an impression that he already knows him.

    - Name: Classified. Codename: Snake-Eyes.

    In the big screen, Snake-Eyes, wearing an all black military fatigue, with a webgear, pockets and military gadgets, throws a flashbang grenade and enters alone in a bunker, during a simulation. He helms two mini-Uzi submachine guns, one in each hand. He defeats an entire platoon of soldiers. Some he knocks out with punches and kicks, others with rubber bullets.

    - Primary Specialty: Commando. Secondary Specialties: Martial Arts, Infiltration and Sabotage. Former US Army Ranger. He is one of our best men, specialized in any form of combat, with firearms or not. He has a background of being a ninja in Japan.

    - I assume that you are telling me all this because you are inviting me to join your crew, aren't you, Colonel - Hauser gets ahead in the subject.

    - Yes, son. Actually, I'm inviting you to be the field leader to the core team for the G.I. Joe. I have my eyes on you for a long time, Lieutenant Conrad Hause. You have the leadership skills and the necessary idealism to lead them in the battlefield.

    - I assume this has to do also with that mission I took part with Agent O'Hara, am I right?

    - Scarlett, please. We use codenames here. Yes, you are correct - The Colonel answers.

    - Conrad Hauser stands thoughtful. He looks to the screens and watch the videos of the other members that are still going on. He looks back to the Colonel Hawk with a serious expression in his eyes.

    - Yes, sir. I'll be honored to be a G.I. Joe.

    - Excellent, son. I was sure that you would accept it. We have to decide what's going to be your codename. Everyone picked their own. What's going to be yours, Lieutenant?

    - You can call me Duke.

    - Ok, Duke. Do you have any questions?

    - A lot, sir. But for starters: The masked ninja is who I...

    - This is a long story - The Colonel interrupts.
     
  5. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 4

    Afghanistan. February 2002.

    It's night around the rocky mountains of the Central Asia country. A military camp. Some trucks and jeeps are parked. In the middle, a big tent, with lights on. A meeting takes place inside.

    The young Ranger looks at the photo of her sister, with a thoughtful expression. The soldier of blond hair is sitting together with other American soldiers like him. Besides them, a group of Japanese soldiers talk in their native language.

    A redhead woman, with a ponytail, tall, with an athletic body, wearing camouflaged military fatigues enters in the tent and goes in front of a white board. She is beautiful and with some freckles in her face. She is in her early twenties. She is accompanied by an older officer, in his forties. He is shorter and with a stocky body. He has gray hair and moustache. He is also wearing camo fatigues.

    - Good evening, soldiers. My name is Colonel Malthus. You know that I am the Coalition Special Ops Commander in this region of Afghanistan. If I'm here it's because it's an important mission.

    The Colonel turns to the woman and introduces her to the crowd:

    - This is Special Agent Shana O'Hara from Military Intelligence. She will run this operation. Agent, they are all yours.

    - Lights, please? - The Agent asks.

    The lights go out. While Agent O'Hara is preparing to start her briefing, behind the young Ranger with blond hair, one American soldier whisper to another:

    - I've heard she is kind of a wonder girl. Graduated at college in her teens. IQ to the roof. Enlisted at 18 and with 20 was already in a command position inside MI.

    Ignoring the gossip that was being said about her, the Military Intelligence Special Agent begins her explanation. A projector is turned on and an image of a Stealth bomber fallen in a rocky valley appears in the white screen.

    - Two days ago, one of our Stealth airplanes suffered a breakdown and crashed in a Taliban controlled valley. We managed to sent a Search and Rescue team in time, but what we feared the most happened: one of the nuclear missiles is gone.

    An archived image of a nuclear missile, similar to the one lost in the accident appears in the screen of the projector.

    - And to get things worse, one of the pilots was also kidnapped. We think he might have been tortured to reveal the missile safe code.

    An image of a Taliban terrorist appears in the projector.

    - We know that this man, known only as Ahmed is behind of this missile heist. We think he is negotiating the sell of this artifact for a more important terrorist.

    Agent O'Hara turns to the group of Japanese soldiers and continues:

    - The Sergeant Tomito Arashikage platoon has found Ahmed in a recon mission yesterday and find out that he was heading to a refugee camp. It's likely the transaction is going to happen there.

    The young Ranger looks to Arashikage, whom returns the look with an ironic smile, as if he was bragging about the deed. The Ranger smiles back, with a certain disdain, but deep down reflects the camaraderie between the two soldiers. Tomito salutes the Ranger. He salutes back.

    - The Sergeant Arashikage team will assist this operation because they are very familiarized with this region. A Ranger platoon will help us as well.

    O'Hara presses a button in the projector and a picture of a man of noble face in his late thirties appears on the screen.

    - The refugee camp is managed by the Baron Eugen DeCobray. He is a famous humanitarian and has concentrated his efforts here in Afghanistan to help Taliban victims. Tomorrow the camp will receive a large shipment of supplies and we are going to infiltrate it as volunteers.

    The lights go on again. The Colonel speaks

    - Gentlemen, I don't need to say how much important is this mission. Our priority is to retrieve the missile at any cost and we have to do it before the world knows about it. It would be too dangerous for the USA if this information leaks. Rest well today because tomorrow at Five-Hundred in the morning we will be heading to the refugee camp. All dismissed.

    The Japanese soldiers and the Rangers get up and leave the main tent. O'Hara gets closer to the Colonel and talks to him discreetly:

    - Colonel, are you sure this is the best way? We are risking a lot using this volunteer disguise...

    - There's too much at stake here, Agent O'Hara. We can't afford to lose any time. If we don't act quickly, we are going to lose this opportunity.

    The Military Intelligence Agent gets apprehensive but eventually she ends up agreeing.

    At night, in a hill next of the coalition soldiers camp. In the back, the tents, with dim lights and some vehicles. The young Ranger is taking guard, holding his M4 Assault Rifle, with a telescopic sight. The hill gives a panoramic view of the entire camp.

    The Sergeant Arashikage gets close, also carrying his M4. The Ranger stands up, looks the Japanese in the eyes and says:

    - Congrats, Tommy, for the lead.

    The soldier from Japan sports a smile and then they both hug each other.

    - Long time no see, huh, buddy? - Tomito Arashikage speaks in an english with a strong Japanese accent.

    - Yes, since that last mission... - The Ranger answers with a depressed expression on his face.

    - I've seen that you haven't get over it...

    - All our squad dead, Tommy! On my first assignment! What did you expect?

    - You saved my life that day, my friend. You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. - Tomito "Tommy" Arashikage says, tapping on his American comrade's shoulder.

    - Yeah, you'd probably right.

    - And the rumors, are they true? You are everyday more closed, shutted? I've heard some comments from your new colleagues?

    - They don't understand. I'm not a shutted person. I'm only doing my job. This is not a walk in the park.

    - I know what this is about. It was not your fault what happened. Don't let the ghosts of the past keep you from the flesh and blood of the present.

    - Tommy, I can't do it. I can't make the emotional investment in these guys, because I know the moment I let myself feel like I have some semblance of a family out here, they are going to disappear, just like the others!

    - I didn't disappear. I'm here, just like your new colleagues. Don't be afraid. Let us help you carry the weight of the world from time to time, okay?

    - You're a good friend, Tommy. You know that? - The blond hair soldier declares with a big smile.

    - Of course I do - The Japanese answers, smiling as well - And I always will be.

    Inside one of the coalition's camp tent. Colonel Malthus sits besides his bed and gets a global communication device. It looks like a mobile phone, only bigger. He presses some buttons and stats to talk:

    - Tomorrow we will start the operation, Senator Hagel.

    Someone answers in the other end of the line.

    - Yes, you can rest assured that we will not fail. Of course I know the problems we would have if the media knows of the loss of this artifact. You don't have to worry. Over and out.

    Refugee camp. The next day.

    The camp spreads for a big high plane surrounded by large rocky mountains. Everything has a grey color. Lots of dust. Lots of poorness.

    Two men get close to a tent. They are tall, strong and have an aristocratic demeanor. Both of them wear a proper outfit for a safari, high black leather boots and shirts and trousers in khaki color, with a style very similar to a military fatigue. The man who comes first is older, in his sixties with his hair is already grey. The youngest comes a little behind, and is in his thirties, with light brown hair.

    They come in the direction of Baron Eugen DeCobray. He is standing in front of his tent. Beside him, two tables with sun umbrellas. The tent is an high ground place that gives a good view of the entire camp.

    The Baron is accompanied by a young woman, in her twenties. She has long and very dark black hair. Her skin in white and she wears horn-rimmed glasses. Her face is very beautiful and she has a great body as well. She is sit by the Baron. Her expression is proud, arrogant even. But she also shows sensuality and bit of naïveté.

    The older man shake hands with the Baron and says with a heavy scottish accent:

    - It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Baron DeCobray.

    - The pleasure is mine, Mister McCullen - The Baron answers, revealing with his accent, to come from some Eastern Europe country.

    - Please call me James.

    James McCullen turns to the younger man who accompanies him, and then introduces them to the Baron:

    - I want you to meet my son: James McCullen XXIV. He is already joining me in my business. Very soon he will be in front of it all.

    The son of the James McCullen XXIII shakes hands with the Baron:

    - Nice to meet you, Baron.

    - Let me introduce you to my sister, Baroness Anastasia DeCobray.

    The Scottish father kisses the hand of the Baroness, who keeps sit. James McCullen XXIV does the same. In this moment, the eyes of the scottish young man and Anastasia meet and a spark of sexual attraction appears in the air.

    - Enchanté, Baroness.

    - The pleasure is all mine, Mister McCullen.

    - Please, call me James - He return the greetings to the Baroness with a smile.

    The Baron and James McCullen Senior sit down at one table and start to talk. In the other table, James McCullen Junior sits besides Anastasia.

    - So is it true that you came to bring a donation to my brother's work? - The Baroness asks, showing a bit of pride in her commentary. She also has a strong Eastern Europe Country accent.

    - The company of our family, M.A.R.S. dedicates also to humanitarian causes. We try to give back some of the money we make for the people who need the most. Which better investment that helping the innocent people that suffers with the misguided use of the weapons we sell?

    In this moment, a photographer takes a picture of James McCullen XXIII giving a check to Baron DeCobray.

    - You rest assured that my brother and I are very thankful with the donation of your family's company, "James" - The Baroness answers, stressing well the end of the phrase, suggesting a little flirtation.

    - We are more than happy to help, Baroness, or I can call you Anastasia? - The Scotsman asks, wasting charm.

    In the opposite side of the refugee camp, several heavy trucks pass by the entrance gates. The vehicles are loaded with supplies. In the wheel is the blond Ranger, and besides him, Tommy Arashikage, both disguised as volunteers. In the body of another truck, Shana O'Hara, with a khaki outfit and a Red Cross arm band observes the mission development with apprehension.

    The sun is setting and a small helicopter get ready to land. Baron DeCobray shake hands with James McCullen father and son.

    - Thank you very much for your donation, Mister McCullen. I'm certain I will give good destination to your contribution.

    - The M.A.R.S. Industries are always willing to help you with your excellent work.

    - Forgive the brevity of our meeting, but today is arriving a very important supply shipment and I must overview it personally.

    - There's nothing to forgive about, Baron. It's part of the job. I know this very well. Besides, our ride is already here. We will meet again in another occasion.

    The oldest Scotsman kisses the hand of the Baroness

    - Goodbye my dear. I'm very pleased to meet you.

    - The pleasure is all mine, Mister McCullen.

    The youngest Scotsman also kisses the hand of Anastasia.

    - So long, Anastasia. I was very pleased to meet you as well.

    - See you later, James - The Baroness answers, giving him a "will meet again soon" smile.

    The two Scottish men get near the chopper that is already on the ground spreading a world of dust in the arid terrain of Afghanistan. The two embark and the helicopter takes off. It's almost night in the Central Asia country.

    The helicopter travels through some kilometers. McCullen 23 talks to his son:

    - You already know what to do, right?

    - Yes - The son answers.

    - This weapon must be ours. It's too important. It will be a great milestone for our family's company.

    - I won't let you down, father.

    The chopper lands down in a valley, a little distant of the refugee camp. James McCullen, the son, takes a dark briefcase, a night vision goggles and jumps from the helicopter, while it keeps itself one meter, more or less, above the ground. The son of the M.A.R.S. C.E.O. crouches as he touches the ground. The chopper then takes off. After the dust settles, walking rapidly, crouched, as in a stealth operation, McCullen goes towards the camp as the night falls in.

    In her bed, inside her tent, Anastasia, restless, tries to read a book to calm herself down. Something, she doesn't know exactly what, is robbing her sleep that night.

    Near there, in the central warehouse, Baron DeCobray inspects personally the medic and food supplies that are being unloaded. Among the Red Cross volunteers are some soldiers in disguise. Some of them are Shana O'Hara, Tommy Arashikage and the blond Ranger.

    Not too far of the camp, in a small valley, two Ranger platoons and Japanese soldiers wait inside two Humvees, ready to engage in combat. Inside of the of cars is Colonel Malthus. He waits anxiously for some news to start action.

    Shana, while putting some medic box in the floor, seizes the moment to whisper to Tommy:

    - Let's split up discretely and walk around the camp searching for leads. Tell the others.

    Tommy nods and looks to the Ranger of blond hair. He gives the look back, indicating that understood the command. One after another, they leave their work in the main warehouse and start the mission of finding the terrorists that have the nuclear device.

    It's already late of the night and the young Ranger, dressed as a local muslim, with his face hidden by a dark cloth, walks around the camp looking for clues. As he passes by a tent, he listens to an Arab men calling some other to go with him to some place. Both are nervous and edgy.

    The Ranger notices that this may be a lead. He looks to his communicator and then to the two nervous guys walking right beside him. He turns his back to the men, concealing his real motives and decides to follow them, discretely.

    In one of the far parts of the camp, there's a pickup stationed, with its cargo back inside of a tent. The light is very dim inside the shelter. In the car front cabin, two Arab terrorists wait distracted.

    At a dimmed light, James McCullen, with his face covered with shadows asks to the terrorist, called simply Ahmed:

    - Do you have what I want?

    - Yes, as it was settled with your boss, Destro. - The Arab answers with an English with a strong Farsi accent.

    Behind him are two other terrorists armed with AK-47 rifles posing as his bodyguards. They are the Arabs that were discussing near the blond Ranger.

    - And the code? This serves nothing to me without the code.

    - Of course I have it. The American pilot tried to resist but it was in vain. He suffered for nothing. - The Arab terrorist says it with a little smile in his lips. - What about the money? - The Arab continues.

    - It is all inside this briefcase. But first the code.

    - Calm down, my friend. We are here to do a fair negotiation. - The terrorist walks towards the pickup.

    In the cargo back of the vehicle, there's an object of great volume, covered by a heavy cloth. James tries to accompany Ahmed, but he is stopped by one of the Arab bodyguards.

    - You better stay right there, friend. - The terrorist warns - Only I know the code, and it will be like that until you give me the money.

    The tent has a little side entrance, next to the cargo back. Hidden in the shadows, the blond Ranger, stands holding a 9mm suppressed handgun. He observes how the negotiation is proceeding, waiting for the right moment to act.

    The Arab takes of the cloth of the cargo back of the pickup, revealing the American nuclear artifact. The weapon has a little more than one meter of length and appears to weigh several kilograms. The metal body shines in the dimmed light of the tent.

    James get out of the shadows for a moment and it's possible to see the sparkle on his eyes as he sees the so desired ordnance.

    The Arab stands in front of a console that projects itself out of the weapon body. The interface has an electronic display and a group of numeric keys. Ahmed types a set of sixteen algarisms. The blond Ranger, outside of the tent, observes the sequence typed down. The weapon display panel activates itself, lightning the face of the Arab terrorist. In the artifact console display, a message appears in phosphorous green letters: Nuclear Weapon Activated.

    James realizes the terrorist has the code and gets apprehensive and anxious. Rapidly, the arab types again a key sequence and the weapon disarms itself. He turns to James:

    - OK, my friend, you already saw that we have the correct code. Now the money, uh?

    In this moment, the blond Ranger breaches the tent by its lateral entry. He points his gun to all: the terrorist, his bodyguards and James McCullen:

    - Freeze! All of you drop your weapons - Speaks the young soldier, trying not to raise his voice so he wouldn't alert the drivers of the truck

    James immediately takes a step back and stays again with his face in the shadows. The body guards continue to hold their assault rifles. The terrorist shows he will give a command to the driver and then the Ranger shoots the arab dealer with his suppressed pistol.

    James seizes the opportunity and in a split second raise his black briefcase until the height of his head and position it like a video camera. He presses a button in the valise and a small piece moves out of the briefcase. A muzzle of an integrated submachine gun is revealed inside. A volley of bullets rips the tent. The Ranger throws himself on the side entry where he went. The two bodyguards are down, but not before they fire their assault rifles. The arab terrorist leader, even hurt, manages to get inside the truck rear. In arab, he screams something, and the car starts running at high speed.

    In different places of the camp, far away from there, Shana O'Hara and Tommy listen to the shots fired.

    In the main warehouse, the Baron also listen to the shots and run to see what's happening.

    In her tent, Anastasia tosses her book away, wears some clothes and starts preparing to check things out.

    James notices that another truck, similar to the one carrying the Nuclear device and two motorcycles are coming fast in high velocity. The truck and the bikes bring more arab soldiers towards the tent. The Scottish hides in the shadows and escapes the scene discreetly.

    The Ranger see the cycles approaching, faster than the second truck. He shoots one of the bike riders making him fall from his two wheeled vehicle. The motorcycle swirls on the ground and almost hit the Ranger in the feet. With a rapid movement he takes the bike of the floor, rides it and starts chasing the other chopper that was already following the first truck with the nuclear weapon. The second truck comes right behind them.

    Shana O'Hara holds a radio communicator and yells:

    - Colonel Malthus, there's something happening here. I've heard shots, but I don't have any strong intel yet.

    - I doesn't matter, agent. This is our cue. - Replies the Colonel. He turns to the driver sitting next to him in the HumVee and orders: - Engage, soldier!

    - Colonel, it could be too risky to attack that way… - The Military Intelligence agent tries to convince the US officer.

    - Continue the operation and give us more intel. We're coming. Over and out.

    The Ranger, riding the bike he stole from one Taliban rebel, is almost hit by the second truck that was coming right behind him. He talks in a communication device:

    - Agent O'Hara, I'm chasing a Toyota truck with the nuclear warhead. It appears they are heading towards the main warehouse.

    - All units - Orders the Colonel - head to the main warehouse!

    The Colonel's humvee and the other vehicles turn in a curve at high speed in the outer rim of the refugee camp, rising sand and dust all over the place.

    The Ranger continues to pursuit the two trucks and the bike that is escorting them. One of the trucks is carrying the nuclear device.

    The arab riding the bike hits the breaks and gets side by side with the Ranger. The choppers pair themselves. The Ranger tries to unholster his pistol but the Taliban rebel hits him with a kick making his bike to lose balance a bit. The Ranger manages to pull himself together and stabilize his motorcycle.

    The rebel pair his bike again and draws a big and sharp knife. He deals a strike against the Ranger. The young soldier with blond hair stops the blow holding the arab's pulse very tightly. The terrorist tries to let go but can't do it. The bikes are glued together by the arms of their pilots. Just ahead, on the side of the afghan rebel's bike stands a parking truck. The American pushes the arab's arm away making his bike to lose direction. In the next moment the rebel's bike shocks itself with the truck. The motorcycle twirl in the air tossing the arab rebel several meters away. The Ranger continues to purchase the trucks.

    In the truck that is closer to the American pursuer, an arab soldier draw his AK-47. He points his assault rifle against the bike riding Ranger and fires a continuous burst of bullets, ripping the floor making dust to rise. The blond soldier is able to dodge the shots in the last second. He was on one side of the road and makes a total inversion to the other side while the shots of the AK-47 continue to chase him. He then draws his 9mm pistol, now without the suppressor and fires. The shot hits the body of the truck. He fires for a second time. The shot hits right in the Taliban's soldier chest. He drops his assault rifle and falls from the truck.

    Before the Ranger could shot another time, another taliban soldier, in a crouched position points a RPG launcher and fires against the American's bike. The projectile fires in a straight line leaving a smoking trail. The Ranger jumps for his bike in the very moment the grenade will hit him. The explosive ordnance reaches the bike making it to explode in a huge ball of heat and fire. Still in the air, the Ranger is tossed away by the explosion's shockwave.

    The American soon recovers from the setback and is already running after the truck. Pointing his pistol, he makes a lot of fires, all in vain, against the truck that is disappearing behind a downhill. The Ranger, while running, looses an empty clip of his gun and reloads with another one full of bullets. When he reaches the top of the downhill he can only see one truck. Right ahead, the central warehouse.

    - I'm still on pursuit. The truck is heading to the main warehouse. - The Ranger informs using his communication link.

    The afghan rebel onboard the truck prepares himself to fire another shot of the RPG launcher that he holds. He aims to the Ranger. The American soldier, still running, points his 9mm pistol with laser sights against the terrorist and fires. The shot hits right in the head. The rebel falls from the track as he was a ragdoll, carrying with him his RPG launcher.

    The American shoots one few times against the truck, with no success. As the afghan vehicle gain speed towards the main warehouse, the Ranger is being left behind.

    The warehouse is nothing more than a group of high tents. Its ceiling is covered by a thick and waterproof fabric. There's no walls or doors, it is wide open and sustained by some columns and cables from the ceiling to the ground. Inside the tents there are several boxes of food piled up. The warehouse has a wide open area. Inside, among the wooden boxes, is the Taliban pickup truck. In the cargo bed, a thick cloth cover its loadout.

    The Ranger assaults the warehouse, holding his 9mm pistol. He is still wearing local muslim clothes, without the cover of the face. The terrorist leader Ahmed is holding Baron Eugen DeCobray hostage. Pointing a handgun against the face of the European noble, the rebel shows a nervous expression of rage. Two other rebels are beside the hostage, each one holding an AK-47 assault rifle, both aiming against the American soldier.

    - Freeze! Drop your weapons and let the hostage go - Orders the young Ranger.

    - You drop your weapon, or else we are going to kill him - replies the Afghan rebel.

    The attack troops of Colonel Mathus are next to the warehouse. The humvees move in high speed. They accelerate when they get near a curve. Right next to them is their target: The pickup truck with the nuclear device.

    Shana O'Hara runs from the other side of the camp towards the main warehouse, but she knows she wouldn't make it in time. She tries to warn the Colonel about the hostage situation:

    - Colonel, we have a civilian hostage in the warehouse. We must abort the attack - Screams the MI agent.

    - Continue the attack - confirms the Colonel - We can't miss this opportunity to retrieve the weapon back. Prepare to engage!

    Right in this moment, a strong thud happens in the top of the jeep where the Colonel is. Something has hit the roof.

    - What the hell is that? - Asks the Colonel astounded to a Ranger that is driving his humvee.

    When he looks through the window he see a person, dressed in typical afghan clothing jumping from shed to shed, from roof to roof.

    - What are you waiting for? Use your .50 in him! - Orders the Colonel.

    A Ranger that was in the top of one of the humvees points his .50 caliber mounted heavy machine gun against the suspect that is hoping through the sheds of the refugee camp. The machine gun is fired and spits a burst of bullets. Yellow lines light the night and also the face of the American soldier while the projectiles fly towards their target. A bunch of capsules are tossed in the air passing right in the front of the Ranger's face.

    Tomito "Tommy" Arashikage, pounces from one roof to another. Behind him the trail of .50 bullets destroy the zinc tiling of one shed. Showing an incredible agility, he jumps, makes a somersault in mid air and falls into another roof, avoiding another volley of bullets. Rapidly he makes a straight line, from where the Colonel humvee was, towards the main warehouse as he is becoming out of reach of the friendly fire.

    At the same time Tommy is taking his shortcut through the shed roofs, the Colonel's jeep convoy makes one last curve before they reach the warehouse. In different speed and paths, both get to their destination almost at the same time.

    The Colonel's humvees breach the warehouse with much speed and violence. Both of the vehicles make a handbrake turn and at the same time the side doors open. At the Colonel's command, everyone is firing their assault rifles and light machine guns. American and Japanese soldiers firing as one against the terrorists that hold the Baron as hostage. Without distinguishing friend and foe, the bullets fill the warehouse space. One shot hits the leg or the blond Ranger, while other two hit his chest and stomach.

    In this exact moment, Tommy breaches the warehouse by a passage open in the ceiling. He dives towards the American friend, hammering him on the ground. Arashikage's movement is magic of being so certain. He avoids any friendly fire and save his comrade of earlier battles.

    The terrorists and the Baron don't have the same luck. Several rounds hit their bodies making them shudder as if they were convulsing. For a few moments they stay up, but soon they kneel over without life.

    The Baroness Anastasia DeCobray arrives at the place at the exact moment that his brother is killed by the friendly fire of the American Army. She sees the scene with horror. Her eyes are filled with pain and anger. Her brother is dead.

    Near the floor of the warehouse, still gliding in the air, next to all the dust raised by the gunfire, the picture of Theresa, sister of the blond Ranger, is stubborn in not falling into the ground.

    Colonel Malthus, escorted by some American and Japanese soldiers, removes the thick fabric that was covering the bed cargo of the Afghan terrorist's pickup truck. It was only conventional ammo. The nuclear device was in the other truck. They were fooled.

    The Baroness tries to enter the warehouse, but she's blocked by an American soldier. She cries and struggle, but can't pass the barrier the soldier imposes to her. She then gives up, falls on her knees in shock with his brother death.

    Bagram Air Force Base. Afghanistan. February 2002.

    In a sunny day, filled with dust, typical for the Central Asian country, a C-130 Hercules lands in a concrete airfield.

    In a far area of the base there's a building, all white, with a red cross painted on its roof. The hospital of the base, in one of its rooms, accommodate the blond Ranger. The American soldier is laid down in a hospital bed, with intravenous cannula and monitors attached to several parts of his body. Medical equipment monitor his life signs.

    An image of an arid mountain appears. Right above it a sizzling sun stands in the sky. The horizon blurs as it was underwater, showing that is a very hot day. Over this whole landscape there's a graphic symbol. It has the color red. A set of horizontal tiles. As it was bricks on a wall: Two tiles, side by side, in the first row. Then one tile of double size in the next one. One more row of two tiles and then another of one double tile. Then for the third time: one row, two tiles. One more row: a double tile.

    At the background, the Ranger hears the voice of Tommy Arashikage:

    - There's fire within, there's fire without, but you will not feel it burn.

    The Ranger now sees himself meditating in the Lotus position. He has his eyes closed and feels the drops of heavy rain hitting against his bare naked body. Again, Tommy whispers:

    - There is peace within, there's peace without and it shall embrace you as the mother does her child.

    - Terri… - whispers the blond Ranger, slowly opening his eyes.

    His face is filled with bandages, because of the injuries he suffered during the ill succeed attack at the refugee camp's warehouse.

    Tommy is sit by the side of the bed of the American soldier. Standing up is the agent Shana O'Hara.

    - Now try not to move just yet. You took some hot fire out there… - says Tommy trying to comfort his friend.

    ...Until mister Arashikage here jumped to save your life. I haven't seen nothing like that in my life and I doubt I will again. Tommy pounced by several shed roofs to get just in time to save you. - completes agent O'Hara - I've got a lot of paperwork to do, but I wanted to be here when you woke up. Good to see you, soldier.

    - Thank you, ma'am - replies the Ranger.

    - You can call me Shana - answers the Agent, smiling.

    The Military Intelligence agent gets out of the room. The young Ranger and the Japanese friend continue the conversation:

    - Tommy, what did.. how did you… ? When I was there in the warehouse, facing the terrorists, everything went black and then I… saw things.. but it was like you were making me see them, like you were in my head somehow.

    - Let's just say I made sure you had the right mindset, OK? I'll tell you all about it when you're kicking around a little better, I promise.

    Tommy takes out from a pocket of his military uniform a photo and then show it to the blond Ranger.

    - I think you dropped this - says the Japanese soldier showing Terri's photo the Ranger had lost in the gunfire.

    Thank you, Tommy - replies the Ranger, holding the sister's photo with cherish.

    - Listen, I guess I'd better say this now: whatever happens… wherever we end up in the world… just remember that you always have a friend.

    Tommy stands up, adjust the American friend in the bed and gets ready to leave.

    - Now make sure to get some rest, because as soon as you're feeling up to it, the Colonel and agent O'Hara…

    - Shana - interrupts the blond Ranger, grinning.

    Shana - continues Tommy - have a lot to discuss with you.

    Debriefing room, a few days later. The young Ranger is sitting in a wooden chair, in front of a also wooden table in a very tight room. In the ceiling the fan spin very slowly. On the table, a set of photos and documents. In the other side of the table is Agent O'Hara.

    - Colonel Malthus was supposed to be here having this debriefing routine with you, Soldier, but I convinced him to take his place - The agent starts the interrogatory - It's not necessary to say that he is anything but happy about his situation.

    The young Ranger listen to all quietly, but very focused.

    - The operation was a failure. We couldn't retrieve the nuclear device and even resulted in the death of a very important European philanthropist. Unfortunately we will have to cover all up in the media..

    The agent O'Hara makes an expression of frustration and disappointment and continues:

    - As in your report, you stated you saw the nuclear weapon being activated and know the activation sequence, didn't you?

    Affirmative. The sequence is…

    - Don't. Don't tell me - interrupts Shana - It's better I don't know. The less people know it the better. As your report you also claim that at the moment of the activation, the criminal buyer didn't get to know the code and who knew died, correct?

    - Yes, ma'am.

    - OK - answers the Agent. - She gets thoughtful for a while and then continues - I've already spoke with the Colonel about this and we both agree: You will be put under a special status, soldier.

    The young Ranger makes an expression of surprise and confusion. The agent starts the explanation:

    - Let me explain: Your name and record inside the Army will be classified. "Top Secret" status. All will be deleted from the systems. For all effects you were never been in the armed forces.

    - But that's not fair! I mean, I fought bravely for my country!

    The Agent makes a serious expression, look in the eyes of the Ranger and finalizes:

    - I know, soldier. But it's needed. In this moment I ask you to continue fighting for your country a little more. The nuclear weapon is still at large, God knows with which terrorist group and as far as we know you might be the only person in the world to know how to activate it. We must avoid at all costs that the enemy finds you and discover the code.

    Shana stands up and gets next to the Ranger:

    - Don't worry. You will be very well paid by the government, as you were an special agent of some sort and besides you'll get to go home and see your family again.

    The Ranger frowns his eyebrows in discontent, but he seems to understand the gravity of the situation. He stands up as well, shakes the Agent hand, salute her and leaves the room.

    JFK Airport, New York, USA. February 2002.

    The young Ranger arrives in a civil flight, wearing everyday clothing, with sunglasses, incognito after his unconventional leave from the US Army. He picks his baggage and sit down at the airport lounge, waiting for his family to get there and pick him up.

    His father comes driving a car in a highway towards the airport. His mother and sister are in the vehicle as well. Terri picks, from a pocket in her blouse, his brother's photo and touches it gently. Hanging in the rear mirror support are the loaded red dice. The lucky charm of Ranger's father.

    The young Ranger checks his watch for the umpteenth time. He is very anxious so he could meet his family again. The people which were with him at the airport are already leaving.

    In an intersection of the highway, a runaway car, in high speed, crosses the lane and hits hard the Rangers family's vehicle. Terri and his parent's car roll over in the road. Everyone inside are shaken like ragdolls, like madmen agitated trying to get out of their cells. The crooked dice are tossed away in the concrete. The dice roll and turn up, each, with the number one on top: Snake-Eyes.

    The Ranger checks his watch again. His family is way too late. He starts to get worried. At the background he sees a well dressed military, with badges and medal. He looks like a high ranked officer.

    Colonel Abernathy gets near the Ranger with an expression of extreme sorrow. The blond soldier worries about this meeting. Abernathy speaks something and hands over to the Ranger the pair of loaded dice which belonged to his father. The young soldier gets an expression of much sadness and shock. He falls on his knees, devastated with the news. The Colonel crouches to comfort him.
     
  6. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 5

    Paris, France. Two years ago.

    In a starry night, in the City of Light, the Eiffel Towers stands with its grandiosity. At the top of the French postal card, a sophisticated restaurant receives the high society of the Europe and the World.

    In the salon, painted in pastel colors, with yellowish hues, the lightning is weak and soft. Waiters pass through the salon serving the patrons: Rich businessmen and their beautiful dates, artists, fashion people. At the back a huge glass windows with a view of the French capital.

    In a table, with a very elegant suit, is sit James McCullen XXIV accompanied by a gorgeous woman, blond, a little vulgar, wearing a very sophisticated nightly white dress. The two of them drink their wines, enjoying their dinner.

    A woman with a amazing body enters the salon. She wears a nightly black dress, made with leather. The dress is long, with an opening in the inferior part, revealing some of her beautiful legs. The dress has an open neckline valuing her chest. Her skin is white as the snow and in her neck, a ruby jewel that a lot of people would murder to have it. Her hair is black as the Paris night and she wears, over her feline and beautiful eyes, a sophisticated horn rimmed glasses. Anastasia DeCobray crosses the salon towards McCullen's table.

    Escorting her closely, her bodyguard, Tommy Arashikage, wearing an all white suit: pants, jacket, shirt and tie.

    In a table next to McCullen's, are sit down two very strong men, dressed in black suits. As they notice Anastasia coming, they rise up to stop her advance. With an impressive speed, Tommy hits the Adam's apple of one of the security detail men, making him choke, disabling him. The bodyguard makes a guttural noise and falls in the ground. The Japanese bodyguard grabs the arm of the other security men, hold him in a lock, immobilizing him.

    The McCullen's date gets scared and frightened. The Scottish arms deals stands up and faces Anastasia. He makes a movement with his hands for his bodyguards saying that is alright and then Tommy releases the bodyguard. The movement is noticed by everyone in the salon and all attention are drawn to the incident.

    - It's always good to see you again, James - greets Anastasia in an English with a strong accent from the Eastern Europe.

    People on the salon start to come back to normality as the incident is finished.

    - You've got a lot of nerve to show here like that, Anastasia. You are compromising me. Furthermore, attacking my bodyguards in that manner - replies McCullen with his Scottish accent.

    - You should hire better people. There are excellent professionals on the market, like my own, for instance - Smiles Anastasia, looking for Tommy that is serious and focused.

    McCullen gets close to Anastasia and whispers:

    - Someone may recognize you! If this happen, it can be rather unpleasant to me. Meet me at the top of the tower in 2 hours. In the area that is prohibited for visitation. Of course you would not have any problem getting there, would you?

    OK, Destro - answers the European Baroness - with an ironic smile, stressing the second word of her phrase.

    James return the look with surprise and concern.

    - Don't worry, James. Your secret is safe with me - Anastasia continues ironic - finish your dinner with your escort girl and we will see each other later - finalizes DeCobray, oozing venom and despise for James date.

    Anastasia and Tommy Arashikage leave the restaurant's salon.

    Later, James sneaks out through the metal structures of the Eiffel Tower. It's late at night and McCullen enters an area prohibited for visitation. He goes up a few floors until an isolated and remote part of the tourist landmark from Paris. In a metal platform, waiting, is Anastasia, now dressed with a standard black military fatigue, tight in the body, with a web gear in black leather, sporting a holster for a handgun. She is still wearing her horn rimmed glasses, her trademark.

    - Very well, Anastasia, here I am. Or would it be Baroness?

    - This is the nickname the Americans gave, no? Totally appropriate. As a matter of fact I'm proud of it.

    - The last years were agitated for you, weren't they? Military training in the most important terrorist camps in the world. Attacks at Americans worldwide: Europe, Africa, Middle East…

    - I'm flattered that you are following me so closely, my dear - answers the Baroness, flirting a little bit with the Scottish.

    - Actually just knowing better a possible client.. - returns McCullen with some coldness.

    - Talking about nicknames, your is also very appropriate, no? Destro…

    - What do you want, Anastasia? - says McCullen changing the subject.

    - I have a proposal to you. Something that is the great interest for both of us - She starts the conversation, turning herself to enjoy the view of Paris and continues - I have the bomb.

    - Bomb?

    - Yes, the nuclear device that was lost in the Afghanistan War in 2002. The bomb you wanted to buy.

    - I don't know what you are talking about…

    - Oh, c'mon, dear. Don't play dumb to me. I know you were in a mission for your father that day to purchase that nuclear weapon - replies harshly, returning her eyes toward McCullen - Since your father died of natural causes and you assumed the helm of M.A.R.S. Industries, you have been trying to put your hands in that bomb to satisfy the wish your father never accomplished in life: Turn M.A.R.S. into a nuclear power.

    - But you know that I haven't anything to do with your brother's death… - Admits the Scottish, changing the tone of the conversation.

    - Of course I do, James. Or else you would be dead by now - answers the Baroness grinning ironically.

    Edinburgh, Scotland. 4 years ago.

    A luxurious bathroom with a enormous marble sink, gold-plated faucets. A huge mirror that covers almost an entire wall. In the background a big jacuzzi.

    Wearing a bathrobe, enters James McCullen XXIII, with his 70 years. He is still a young man, very fit for his age. He fetches a crystal glass from inside of a cabinet and fills it with tap water. He feels a pinch in his neck and scratches it like it was some kind of bug. In a few seconds he starts to feel nauseous, his body starts to tremble. He takes his hand to his throat to see if he can free his respiration. He looses his balance, knocks his head on the sink. The blood spills in the marble surface of the sink. Eventually, his body falls heavy on the ground.

    From behind a fabric curtain, which separates the bathroom from a wardrobe, The Baroness shows up. She is wearing his black tight military fatigue. She crouches and pulls from the neck of the elderly Scottish, a little dart. As she sees the face of McCullen XXIII dead, half naked, she sports a smile of satisfaction because of the revenge accomplished.

    Paris, France. Two years ago.

    - Funny how things are, aren't they, James? - continues Anastasia - Fate wanted us to meet here, in Paris, to discuss this. That was our favorite city in the Europe. Eugen and I. When we were kids, we loved when our parents, the Baron and the Baroness came here in vacation time. We stayed hours here in the tower staring at the view.

    The Baroness changes the tone of the conversation, now incisive:

    - I've got the bomb, James, but I don't have the code. And I need it to activate the nuclear device. This weapon, which caused my brother's death will be the instrument for my revenge…

    - And why do you think I have the code? - asks the Scottish.

    - If you look for this bomb is for use it, no? You can't be after its design or technology. I'm sure you have this knowledge to spare. You need it working, to be used in something and thus you need the activation code. - The Baroness approaches McCullen, involving her arms around the weapon dealer's neck - I'll make a deal: you give me the code and I'll give you the bomb. I'm sure we can think at something that will fulfill our interests - finalizes Anastasia, already with her lips very close to the lips of the Scottish.

    - I think we can think of something, yes… - answers McCullen with a very pleased smile on his face. He changes his expression and asks - Where's your bodyguard, Anastasia?

    - Hahahaha - She bursts with a genuine laughter - Are you afraid he was watching us? Don't worry, dear. He is doing a little job for me.

    McCullen looks into Anastasia eyes with a suspicious expression, with a small grin.

    - You wouldn't…

    At the luxurious bathroom of the restaurant, the blond date of McCullen is in front of a mirror, retouching her makeup. She finishes it and turns around to go back to the restaurant salon. As she passes at a dark part of the bathroom, Tommy Arashikage breaches from the shadows, fetches her from behind and breaks her neck. The lifeless body of the companion girl falls into the floor by the Japanese bodyguard's feet.

    - C'mon, James, you wouldn't think I was going to let that go, you going out with that one, would you? - answers the Baroness, picking up a blond wig from inside a bag that was on the floor. - Don't worry James. You would still be seen leaving the restaurant in the company of a gorgeous blondie. And after that she will take a long vacation and no one will miss her - comments Anastasia, with much sarcasm.

    James holds the Baroness by her waist while she hangs by his neck. The two of them embrace themselves in a ardent and passionate kiss.
     
  7. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 6

    Washington D.C., USA. One year ago.

    Situated by the Potomac river bed, in the Arlington county, the Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense, towers above the movement of the people around it.

    Walking calmly in one of its corridors, passing by many overworked professionals, civilians with suits and pantsuits and military with impeccable uniforms, there's a men in his middle forties, with dark brown hair, with an aloof but somewhat friendly expression, dressing a very elegant and sober suit.

    He gets near a room, with a very strong and thick metallic door. He puts his hand by a fingerprint digital scanner, of biometrical identification. The reader passes his light beam and prints the results on the side screen: George Strawhacker, Secretary of State.

    The door opens and he enters in an ill lighted room, full of big racks. Each one contains dozens of high performance servers, each computer with its leds blinking, indicating an intense flow of information that traffics through here.

    In a small desk in a corner of the room there's a workstation with a flatscreen monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. In the screen, a login interface, waiting to be used. The Secretary sits in front of the monitor and types his login and password. He enters the system that identifies him: Welcome, George Strawhacker.

    The politician starts typing in the keyboard. In the field search appears written: Military operation, US Army, Rangers, 02/17/2002, Afghanistan. He types the "Enter" key. The system takes a while to answer, and then appears: No results.

    At the surroundings of the Pentagon, next to a hot dog cart, the Military Intelligence agent, Shana O'Hara, with a short haircut, wearing a dark and sober suit with a white shirt and sunglasses, is taking her lunch from the hands of the hot dog seller when his smartphone rings. She recognizes the ringtone and makes an expression of concern and surprise. She leaves the money for the hot dog with the seller but doesn't take the meal. Instead she moves out in a hurry back to the Pentagon. She looks at the Smartphone interface and a message is written: Classified file was searched. She types some commands and a map of the Pentagon is formed in the screen. A blinking red dot appears in the visual interface in one of the rooms of the military facility. She picks up the pace.

    In the data servers room, George Strawhacker, fetches from his pocket a flash drive. He connects it in the USB port of the flat screen monitor, right under the display. Immediately a different graphic user interface appears over the Pentagon system in fullscreen. There's only one search field in there and the button "Search". The Secretary of State types in the field: Military operation, US Army, Rangers, 02/17/2002, Afghanistan, Nuclear weapon lost in combat. He types the "Enter" key. The search file interface undoes itself and a cluster of hexadecimal numbers appears on the screen, scrolling in high speed. The pixels of the tracing code reflect on the face of the apprehensive and anxious Strawhacker.

    Shana O'Hara passes her card at the Pentagon entrance. She looks at her smartphone again. In it appears an image from a security camera on the server room. In the moving picture, a man wearing a suit accessing the terminal. At the side of the video, a label telling who is accessing: George Strawhacker, Secretary of State. The blinking red dot gets stronger and bigger. A message appears: Hacker attack to the Classified file initiated. In the middle of the corridor, full of Pentagon employees, agent O'Hara starts running.

    In the server room, the computer screen informs: File found. The Secretary of State starts grinning slightly. He moves the mouse cursor and clicks with on the message and a list of people appears on the DoD system. On the header of the screen: Top Secret, Omega class. On the list, the names of the people that have participated of the Afghanistan Op, February 2002. The frustrated attempt to recover the lost nuclear weapon. ln the middle of the soldiers of USA and Japan appear the names of Shana O'Hara, Tommy Arashikage and Colonel Malthus. The Secretary doesn't care much about them and scrolls directly to one of the names on the list that is hidden by a block labeled "Classified". He clicks on that block waiting to be redirected to the screen of the details for this military person.

    Shana O'Hara opens the server room door and challenges the Secretary in an energetic way:

    - Is there a problem, Mr. Secretary?

    George turns around and faces his company:

    - And who would you be?

    - Special agent Shana O'Hara, Military Intelligence. The files you are accessing are highly classified…

    - Yes, I know, but I'm Secretary of State. I have access to classified files.

    - Yes, Sir. I understand. But I'm afraid those particular files are out of your clearance… I will have to ask you to move out from the computer and follow me, Mr. Secretary.

    - Yes, of course… - answers calmly George Strawhacker.

    Very quickly, the American politician pulls a pistol from inside his jacket and points it to O'Hara. The Military Intelligence agent does the same and they fire their handguns at the same time. Shana misses her shot and hits the flat screen monitor shattering the glass of the display. The Secretary hit his target and throws agent O'Hara on the floor. She does an expression of pain and presses her torax, indicating she was wearing a bulletproof vest. Strawhacker rapidly approaches the agent, with his firearm in hand to finish the job. Shana pulls herself together very rapidly and hits a spinning kick sweep on the Secretary of State, tossing him to the floor. His gun looses itself from his hand and slides to the other corner of the room.

    The two of them rise up at the same time, readying themselves for a hand to hand fight. Strawhacker deals the first strike, a right punch, making a spin using his body as an axis. Shana blocks the attack and links with another punch direct to the adversary face. They are both completely stand up now. George defends Shana's strike with a downwards block and deals a kick right in her chest. She is hurled and hits right on one of the servers decks. The computers disconnect from the electrical system creating sparks and noises.

    The Secretary advances towards Shana and grabs her neck intending to strangle her. The Military Intelligence agent tries to loose from the grip of her opponent, but the enemy is much stronger and she begins to suffocate. In a desperate attempt she grabs the face of the Secretary and unexpectedly his skin detaches from his body, like it was rubber. Strawhacker is surprised by the fact, and gives a margin for O'Hara's reaction. She strikes a blow in the throat of the Secretary pushing him away a few meters. His face is completely out of his body, stretched out, shapeless. With a look of surprise and horror she exclaims:

    - What the hell is going on here?

    The Secretary takes advantage of the opponent's surprise and flee through the door. Shana goes right after him but spend a few seconds to fetch her gun back. The false Secretary now runs the infested corridors of Pentagon officials, pushing everyone that stand in his way. During the escape he tries to fix his mask on his face so that his deformity does not attract more attention. The agent, chasing her opponent, uses her earpiece radio to alert security:

    - Attention, Pentagon security. Close all the exits. A spy is escaping in the North wing towards the Northwest exit. Repeat, a spy is escaping.

    The masked spy faces an armed security officer with a submachine gun of German manufacture, HK UMP with front grip. He deals a blow to the security officer and takes his gun. Shana reaches her enemy and points her pistol:

    - Freeze!

    With surprising speed, the spy aims the submachine gun against O'Hara and shoots. A flash is formed in the muzzle, and capsules fly upward. The fake Secretary of State scans horizontally while firing several sequential shots. Shana manages throw herself on the floor, but the other employees who were in the hall don't have the same luck. Several are hit by the shots of the spy. Blood splashes on their well cleaned and pressed white shirts. For the spy there's no favoritism in the corporate business: executive men and women die equally.

    The spy seizes the opportunity and continues his escape. Shana gets up and runs after him. She soon gets to the Northwest exit. The spy left a trail. On his way some dead guards, three right at the exit gate. Shana goes out on the sidewalk around the Pentagon and looks around in the surrounding streets. She turns her body into 360o movement looking for some clue from the running spy. Nothing. She looks down then and sees a rubber mask, with the Secretary of State face features, on the cement sidewalk from the district of Arlington, Washington, DC.

    The Military Intelligence agent Shana O'Hara is waiting impatiently in a small room of an office. A door opens, and a secretary informs her:

    - Colonel Abernathy will see you now, Miss O'Hara.

    Shana does not think twice and pass through the secretary without saying a word and heads straight for the US Army Colonel room. Clayton Abernathy is sitting at his desk with his head resting on his arms. O'Hara bursts in and asks right away anxiously:

    - Colonel what is so urgent that made me come here? You know, sir, I have a report to deliver, right?

    Colonel calmly responds:

    - You haven't delivered your report ... good. Have you talked to anyone else about what happened?

    - No…

    - Great. It will be easier…

    - With all due respect sir, I don't understand. I have to take my report to my superior…

    - Unfortunately it won't be like that, Agent O'Hara. You work for me now.

    - I'm sorry, sir... But you have no authority, I'm at Military Intelligence, and you are a Colonel of the reserve...

    The army Colonel makes a stop sign with his hand and interrupts agent O'Hara:

    - The spy was after the soldier who knows the code of the nuclear weapon, wasn't he?

    - Yes, but, Sir, how do you...

    - There are few things happening here at the Pentagon I do not know, miss. I was already doing clandestine operations for the United States before you were in kindergarten.

    Colonel Abernathy makes a pause, gets up and continues to talk while walking by his office:

    - It will be the like this: We can't let anyone know that the Secretary of Defense was kidnapped. If this leaks, it will generate an uproar from here to the White House and this case will get bogged down in so much bureaucracy that it would take forever for something to be done. And time is something we don't have.

    The agent O'Hara adds:

    - They know that we know they are with the Secretary. They will move him to another hiding place or worse…

    - Exactly! - The Colonel exclaims, enthusiastic, seeing that Shana is now beginning to understand things. - We have to rescue the Secretary at least in 48 hours or else will be pointless. I'm sure you've already started running your facial recognition program, right, Miss. O'Hara?

    - Yes sir. If we're lucky, the face of George Strawhacker will be caught in a security camera at some domestic place departing to somewhere. We are also running the cameras outside the country, but it takes much more time...

    Shana pauses and continues:

    - Sir, but how we cover up the shooting here inside the Pentagon? Everyone saw, people were killed…

    - Don't worry, Miss. O'Hara, I already took care of that: An employee with mental problems was fired and did not take it so well. He tried to break into the computer system, was chased and killed several people on the trail. The police will have a lot of trouble finding this employee... since he does not exist outside the paperwork…

    - OK, sir, then we have all in progress.

    - Great. Now we have to start planning the rescue operation.

    - Colonel, I have an idea about it…

    High Sierras, California, USA

    On a clear and blue summer sky without a single cloud, the great rock of Mount Whitney stands out on the horizon as a giant watchmen taking care of the pine forest below it.

    The same forest of pines, with green pastures appropriate for the season of the July month, surrounds the lakes of the Kearsarge Lakes Basin with their reflecting pools of clear blue water.

    Embedded in the heart of the mountains, a typically American small town: A church, houses in country style, the City Hall building and a police car wandering its empty streets. One thing is breaking the monotony: A camouflaged military humvee.

    Driving the vehicle is Colonel Clayton Abernathy, wearing a standard military fatigues, khaki dress shirt with a white t-shirt underneath. Badges on the shoulder and collar and medals on his chest. In addition to his uniform, a standard cap of US Army Colonel.

    In the passenger's seat is agent O'Hara, also wearing a standard military uniform, similar to the Colonel's, but with a green cap covering her red short hair. They stop the car to talk to a resident of the city, a man in his early 60s, heavyset, wearing a leather hat already beaten from several decades of lifetime. Colonel addresses the man:

    - Good day, sir. Could you give me some information? - He reaches out and shows a picture to the local resident. - You know this man?

    - Can't say I know the feller, Sojer. This ain't exactly the clearest picture in the world, y'know...

    At this time, the local postman, with a handful of cards and envelopes, passes by and gives a peek in the picture:

    - I know that guy. He hasn't been into town since he got here three years ago. Picks up his government check every month at the High Logging Camp. The jacks up there say he got a little cabin up there in the mountains.

    The postman, take the photo in his hand, and look at the two occupants of the car, Shana and the Colonel:

    - They also say he's some kinda werewolf.

    The two soldiers look at each other, surprised. Shana, stretches out a little from her driver's position to have a good look at the postman:

    - I'm sorry…

    - Yeah, a werewolf - Confirms the Mailman - Fur, tail, barks at the moon, Even got some sort of mark on his wrist.

    The military Humvee arrives to a wooden hut on the top of the mountain. In the background a typical pine forest from the region. Shana asks Colonel Abernathy:

    - Colonel, what do you make of all that Werewolf talk?

    - Superstitious drivel.

    Shana looks at the Colonel and gives a little grin:

    - Okay, Sir, you go first, then.

    They jump from the car and enter the porch of the cabin. The old timbers creak like ghosts in a horror movie. Colonel Abernathy opens the front door very carefully. The interior of the cabin: A deep darkness. The sunlight clear partly the interior and a pair of eyes appears in the darkness. A wild beast growl fills the room. A wolf is inside the cabin. The Colonel questions startled and surprised:

    - Soldier?

    - That's just a wolf, Colonel. - Soothes agent O'Hara.

    The two of them turn around sensing that someone is entering the cabin.

    - That's our man, coming in the door behind us. - Points Shana O'Hara.

    At the door, standing, the young blond Ranger, from the incident in Afghanistan. The only one in the world who knows the combination to the nuclear weapon lost by the US government. The Military Intelligence agent goes on with an expression of surprise:

    - Looks like he's been out hunting rabbit… without a gun.

    The Ranger raises his arm and shows two rabbits that he is holding by the ears. His other hand is empty. In the arm that his holding his game there is a tattoo of red color, exactly the same symbol he saw when he was delirious in the Bagram Air Force Base, next to his friend Tommy Arashikage.

    The young Ranger raises his hand and makes a stop sign with his palm:

    - Timber, friends…

    The wolf stops growling and goes quietly to one of the corners of the cabin. Colonel and Military Intelligence agent look at each other and then stare at the cabin's owner.

    - Agent O'Hara? - asks the Ranger.

    - Long time no see, Soldier. - Greets the agent - I told you, you can call me Shana.

    - What are you doing here? - Questions the Ranger, a little impatient.

    - This is Colonel Clayton Abernathy - interrupts, Shana, introducing his superior.

    Colonel shakes hands with the Ranger.

    - We've met before - states the Colonel. - Too bad it has been in that situation. My condolences again, soldier.

    The Ranger lowers his head and stares at nothing. With sorrow in his voice he says:

    - Thank you, Colonel. It's all right. It's been a while. - And impatient he asks again - But what are you doing here?

    - We need your help - Answers Shana.

    She makes a pause and begins the explanation:

    - Yesterday, a spy, using the US State Secretary as cover, tried to break into Pentagon systems to find your whereabouts. We are sure that he wants the code of the nuclear weapon the US government has lost in Afghanistan.

    The Ranger looks at her with an expression of surprise. A Military Intelligence agent carries on:

    - We have reasons to believe that whoever are the terrorists behind it, they have the Secretary now and we must rescue him as soon as possible.

    The Ranger interrupts:

    - OK, but what it has to do with me?

    - We need you to join the rescue operation. - Confirms the Colonel.

    - Me? Let me see if I get this straight: The government loses a nuclear weapon. I am aware of the code and so they bury me in a classified paperwork so that I will never be found. Then a spy tries to find me and you want me, the reason of all that, to join the rescue mission?

    - I don't think you know this, but the US State Secretary is George Strawhacker. - Stops the Military Intelligence agent.

    The Ranger expression changes completely. He is surprised and apprehensive:

    - George...

    - Yes - Continues Shana - George Strawhacker. You were childhood friends. Later on he was engaged to your sister. Until she passed away…

    - George, Secretary of State? It makes sense. He's older than me, but we've always been good friends. We always said we would fight for our country. I joined the Army and he went into politics. When I left to fight in Afghanistan, he had already gone to Washington.

    - The Spy chose him because he has access to important documents, and after what happened to your sister, his fiancee, he became a recluse, without friends, family. It was very easy for him to stand as the Secretary for quite some time. - Explains the Agent.

    Shana O'Hara continues:

    - The problem is this spy seems to be a master of disguise. He tricked our biometric systems. When we meet the Secretary in his captivity, how do we know it will not be the spy again? We need someone who knows George Strawhacker intimately. And that someone is you.

    - We know it's risky to involve you in this mission - complements the Colonel.

    - But it's a chance we have to take - Ends the Military Intelligence Agent - It's amazing the coincidence of you knowing each other and all, but…

    - It's no coincidence - Stops the Ranger - It's a curse. Everyone around me suffer something. Even George.

    The agent O'Hara and the Colonel exchange glances, thinking how odd that statement from their military colleague is. The Ranger is still serious, speaking firmly:

    - I'm sure you already have a team of great soldiers for this mission, agent O'Hara. You have a good intuition and will be able to distinguish the true George from the spy. I wish you good luck.

    - You don't understand, soldier - answers the agent, irritated - he was engaged to your sister. She loved him. That doesn't count?

    - My participation in this mission will only compromise it. Believe me. My sister wouldn't want George to suffer more than he already suffered.

    The Colonel puts his hand on the agent's shoulder, and pulls her towards the exit door.

    - Come on, agent O'Hara. We have no more business here. Obviously this soldier got isolated here for too long and lost his reason.

    - I used to know this guy who had been brought up proper by his folks. He was big on the basics: Looking out for the little guy, treading the right path, protecting the helpless, all that junk - says Shana O'Hara, disappointed.

    The Ranger with blond hair lowers his head.

    - If you happen to run into that guy, send him my way, cause I don't know what happened to him... - Ends the Military Intelligence agent, leaving the cabin.

    The Ranger stays in silence, staring at nothing.
     
  8. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 6 (continued)

    Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, USA

    In the dark concrete runway of the airfield, hot as the summer of the southernmost US state, two F-35 fighters run at high speed, and reach flight for a war maneuver.

    In a wooden hut, outside the base, Shana O'Hara meets with a group of soldiers, preparing to start the next mission briefing. The room is dark and the soldiers are sitting in two groups of six men, all wearing combat uniforms, with US Army standard pixelated camouflage, in green, beige and brown colors, like the ones the Woodland pattern. One of them is Lieutenant Conrad Hauser. On his shoulder, a black monochromatic badge, with a sword in a vertical position pointing up. Tearing over the badge, three lightning bolts. Above, the text "Special Forces Airborne."

    - Good morning, gentlemen. - Greets the Military Intelligence agent.

    - Good morning, Ma'am - the soldiers respond in unison.

    - I believe your superiors have told you that we are preparing a special mission. I'm here to give you the details. You, Green Berets, are already used to clandestine missions, aren't you? This is one of them.

    Shana pulls down the projector whiteboard, turn out the lights and press a button on her remote control. An image is projected on the board. It's the photo of the Secretary of State George Strawhacker.

    - This is a highly classified information: The Secretary of State was kidnapped and this is the mission to rescue him - begins the agent.

    A new image is projected: a black and white photo, with low quality, showing with poor precision, Strawhacker being pushed into a black van by a man with light color hair with ponytail and Ray-Ban sunglasses. He wears a light color sleeveless vest.

    - Our image capture has detected that George was kidnapped here in Florida about two months ago. This man with him is Richard Blinken-Smythe. He was an extreme left wing sociologist from Cambridge in England. A few years ago he went to Australia to research biker gangs. Rumors say his experiences there made him the object of his research.

    The agent O'Hara shows another picture. Newspaper clippings and images from the internet, depicting crimes in Florida by biker gangs.

    - Among the crimes allegedly credited to biker gangs in Florida, one name stands out: Dreadnoks. They are new and we know little about them. We believe they may be behind the Secretary's kidnapping. There is no history of terrorist activities associated with them, but we can't count on it.

    A new image appears on the whiteboard: A satellite photo of an area of dense vegetation and a dirt road. In the picture there's also two trucks in that road, seen from above.

    - Our satellites detected a suspicious movement of these two trucks in an area of the Everglades. In the next satellite photo, the trucks are gone, and so we believe that there is some sort of secret base of some criminal group in this area. It's a little thin, but we don't have the luxury of time to search for more because we believe the Secretary will be moved into a new captivity place soon.

    The agent O'Hara is positioned in front of the projector and the image of the Everglades, seen from the top, paints her face green.

    - We will make an assault insertion on this site and hope that the Secretary will be there. Two Blackhawks will carry each one of the Delta teams. An Apache will escort us to the LZ. I will follow you on the mission to advise on intel, and Alpha team leader Lieutenant Hauser will lead the whole operation on the field and I, with the support of Sergeant Greer shall lead the Bravo team.

    At this time, an African American soldier, tall, with slender body, short hair and wearing a mirrored Ray-Ban sunglasses, sitting next to the Lieutenant Hauser, starts a smile and makes a salute signal to Conrad, in a camaraderie greeting, indicating intimacy between the two. On his chest there is a medical soldier badge.

    - Any question? - the Shane O'Hara ends his presentation, opening for audience feedback.

    The Lieutenant Conrad Hauser raises his hand. The agent O'Hara agent waives her arm indicating that he is allowed to ask:

    - If the Secretary was kidnapped two months ago why is the rescue mission happening only now?

    - This is a complicating issue in our mission - Answers, Shana - I was about to explain to everyone about it. The Secretary was replaced by a spy who has already proved to be a master of disguise. Once we have rescued our hostage, it must be presented to me on the site, so I can identify if he is our real target or not. It will be difficult but it must be that away.

    - I think I can help you with this problem, Miss O'Hara. - Says a voice in the back.

    All soldiers get up and look back. The Military Intelligence agent turns on the light. Sitting in a chair, with a smile, dressed in the same combat uniform as the Delta soldiers, is the Ranger of blond hair.

    The other soldiers assume a fighting stance, thinking the intruder could be hostile.

    - Who are you, soldier? - Questions firmly Lieutenant Hauser.

    - He is a special agent who will integrate our rescue team - Shana O'Hara answers with a smile. - His presence here is highly classified, gentlemen. - Shana ends the explanation looking into the eyes of the old friend from Afghanistan.

    The soldier with blond hair, returns the look and smiles back at the Military Intelligence agent.

    On the runway of the air base, the two Blackhawks and Apache choppers are with their rotors at full speed, preparing to take off. All helicopters have a dark green color, and carry the US Army insignia.

    The Blackhawks have each, two mounted light machine guns, M240, with telescopic scopes, on a side door, between the troops accommodation cabin door and the cockpit. Each gun is placed on each side of the aircraft.

    The Apache carries, on each of its two stub wings, an air-to-air and four anti-tank missiles. In the bottom of its fuselage, between the main landing gear, right below the cockpit, a high-caliber single barrel machine gun.

    Two groups, of six Delta soldiers each, already with dark green camouflage painted on their faces, head to the rotary wing aircrafts. Some carry American-made M4 assault rifles, black color, with front grip. Others, like Lieutenant Hauser, carry HK 416 assault rifles of German manufacture, in khaki color. All rifles have red dot sights and suppressors. The commandos carry, on their webgear, frag and flashbang grenades.

    Further back comes walking Agent O'Hara and the classified name Ranger. Both dressed in the same military fatigues, camouflaged face and equipped as the Delta soldiers. The Military Intelligence agent is carrying a HK MP5K-PDW submachine gun, of German manufacture, attached by a strap to her body. The weapon is a MP5 variant with short barrel, with front grip and suppressor. The Ranger holds another variant of the MP5, the MP5SD3 with red dot sight scope and an integrated suppressor. The Military Intelligence agent turns to the Ranger and asks:

    - This is a military installation of high security. How did you get here unnoticed? - her voice is almost muted by the noise of the choppers' rotors in high speed.

    - I have my ways - answers the Ranger, ironic.

    - I hope to count on them in the mission - Returns the Military Intelligence agent with a smile. It changes the tone and continues - Now seriously: Why have you changed your mind?

    - Amazingly, I had a dream. You know? One of those disturbing ones. And when I woke up I knew I had to participate in this mission. I realized I was actually feeling sorry for myself. Terri would want me to do everything I could to help George. She would want me to do what is right. - Answers the Ranger in a solemn and emotional tone.

    - I'm glad you changed your mind - complements Shana, lowering her head to enter the Blackhawk transport helicopter.

    The two of them sit in a chair on the helicopter, along with six other US Army Special Forces commandos. In another helicopter, Lieutenant Hauser ties himself to the chair, together with his five other squadmates.

    In the helicopter where the Ranger is, the African American soldier who greeted Hauser in the briefing, carrying an HK 416 assault rifle, addresses the Ranger in a joking tone:

    - Carl "Doc" Greer. Sergeant First Class, Medic. - Says the African American soldier introducing himself and then continuing - didn't want to get a man's rifle, soldier? Submachine guns are for girls. My niece, who just entered the Army, also like to use one of these. - Greer makes a joke with the weapon that O'Hara agent is using.

    The other commandos laugh at the comment. Agent O'Hara laughs too and looks at the Ranger. He looks back at the Military Intelligence agent and says to everyone:

    - I have no problem with that. I like the more compact and lightweight weapons. They give me more agility.

    In each of the three helicopters, the pilots and co-pilots check the last details of their instrument panels. Confirmation of the control tower arrives and the three rotary wings aircrafts take off in the Florida summer sky. In the background, a tropical storm begins to form.

    The Ranger with blond hair fetches a picture from the pocket of his uniform. He looks at a photo of his sister Terri, perhaps hoping that this time it will give him luck.

    The two Blackhawk move at high speed under the rainy skies of Florida. Below, the Everglades marshland, typical of the region. Right behind the transport helicopters, the Apache attack helicopter is positioned a little higher making the protection of the convoy.

    The co-pilot of Apache, with poor vision because of the heavy tropical rain, make an effort to see farther because he detected something moving there on the horizon. He looks at the radar display and there is nothing there. When he returns to look through the cabin glass, he realizes that missiles are heading in his direction:

    - Alert! Alert! Missiles ahead! We are being attacked...

    The co-pilot can't finish his warning and three rockets hit hard the Apache, which turns into a fireball, shattering into a thousand pieces.

    The shockwave reaches the transport helicopters, making them sidetrack. Shana and the Ranger hold themselves tight inside the helicopter. On the other, Hauser does the same. One of his companions is not as lucky and is tossed away from the Blackhawk.

    Approaching at high velocity towards the American aerial vehicles, arrive three other helicopters. They are black, small and with skids as landing gear. The cabin is sufficient for only one man and the tail is short of about a meter and a half. In the tail, a built-in rotor. Making the lifting, two blades in the rotor and right behind it, a turbine providing forward thrust. The small helicopters move with high speed and agility.

    Through the transparent glass of the cabin, drenched in rainwater, it's possible to see that one of the pilots is the Dreadnok mercenary who appeared in the photo of the kidnapping of George Strawhacker: Richard Blinken-Smythe. The muscular mercenary is wearing a khaki t-shirt with ripped sleeves, denim pants and Ray-Ban sunglasses. His hair is blond, long and tied in a ponytail.

    In another Dreadnoks chopper, a man, also burly, black-haired, with mohawk hair, beard and mustache and visor sunglasses. He wears an camouflaged sleeveless t-shirt with the colors of the old US Army Woodland pattern. He also wears a pair of jeans.

    In the third helicopter, another mercenary, with brown hair and a red headband. He also wears dark glasses of visor style, beard and mustache. He wears a leather vest over his muscular shirtless chest and denim pants.

    The three enemy helicopters approach the US Army air convoy. Richard Blinken-Smythe, says to the others:

    - Ripper, Torch, see how they fall like flies!

    A high-caliber single barrel machine gun mounted on Smythe's helicopter nose begins to breathe fire, as its muzzle burns with the passage of projectiles. Bullet risks cross the sky and hit in full two commandos that were in the Conrad Hauser chopper, throwing them out of the air vehicle.

    The hit Blackhawk tries to make an evasive maneuver, and the soldier who is on of the 240 machine gun fires his weapon against the Dreadnok helicopters. The shots rip through the air chasing one of the attackers, but he evade fast and no shot hits its target.

    The three black helicopters pass over the Americans and further on make a curve to start another attack.

    The other Blackhawk, which are agent O'Hara and the Ranger, prepares to strike back. It faces the enemies and the two soldiers mounted in front of the 240 guns begin to shoot. The bullets hit the cabins of enemy helicopters, but nothing happens. The Dreadnoks aircrafts seem to be armored.

    The black haired man with mohawk hairstyle tells the other:

    - Buzzer, Torch, now it's my turn!

    Ripper's chopper machine gun spits fire and rake the of the sides of the Shana and the Ranger's Blackhawk. The shots break the window of the door where is the 240 machine gun, cross the fuselage, cut the helicopter in a transverse direction and hit at once both the soldiers who operated the defense machine guns. Their bodies tremble with the hits. Blood flows on the inner space of the helicopter.

    Now is the turn of the brown-haired, red bandana Dreadnok, Torch talks:

    - You will love the customizing I made to my helicopter!

    Torch hovers his chopper next Shana and Ranger's Blackhawk and press a button with a fire icon on his panel. A cloud of fire spurts from the rotary wing aircraft's flamethrower and hits the American transport helicopter rotor. The fire spreads on the roof of the Blackhawk, seeping into the troops cabin. Two of the Green Beret commandos are hit by flames and fall of the helicopter. The fire begins to spread with speed. The helicopter begins to lose control. The pilot tries to re-establish control clutching the stick. The panels beep indicating that the unit is losing altitude. Shana commands:

    - Everyone jump from the helicopter! Now!

    Sergeant Greer arrives next to the exit door and his face, already without his sunglasses, receives the bath of torrential rain that keeps falling. He and two other Special Forces commandos manage to jump out of the helicopter. Another, is not as luck. He is shredded by another gunfire burst from one of the Dreadnoks helicopters. The Blackhawk makes a turn with more speed and one of the helicopter's door shuts, hitting Shana's belt, and fastening it to the fuselage. She will not be able to jump. The Ranger tries to cut the belt with a knife, but it's stuck in various places. Shana worries about her partner:

    - You have to jump! Let me go and jump, soldier! It's an order!

    - I have seen too many deaths, I will not miss you too - denies the Ranger.

    The other Blackhawk in under heavy attack from the helicopter helmed by Smythe which now adopts the codename of Buzzer. Conrad Hauser holds his HK 416 rifle, and puts his eye behind the telescopic sight of his weapon. In the center of the crosshairs, the rotor of the helicopter enemy. Hauser makes a shot, but the helicopter moves a lot and he misses the mark. The Special Forces Lieutenant takes another two shots until one of them hits the enemy helicopter's rotor. The shot outputs smoke from the Dreadnok attack vehicle engine.

    - I'm hit - complains Buzzer! - We have to go back.

    - Come on guys! - Agree Torch. - They are already without a chopper and no men. Their rescue mission is over. - The mercenary complement chuckling.

    The Ranger manages to cut the straps of Shana. He holds her arm and throws her away from the helicopter. He runs to the door, starting his escape. At this very moment the fire reaches the fuel tank and the helicopter explodes. A flame licks the face and the neck of the Ranger with blond hair. With the impact of the explosion he is hurled away from the fireball that became one of the Blackhawk.

    In the other Blackhawk, Hauser orders:

    - Land there! We have to rescue the injured!

    The transport helicopter starts landing where Shana, the Ranger with the burned face, Greer and his two Green Beret companions fell, on a beach that borders the swamps of the Everglades.

    In the background, the three Dreadnok helicopters return to base, flying under a rain curtain, leaving behind, besides the smoke from one of their damaged aircraft, a trail of death and destruction.

    The Blackhawk barely touches the ground and Conrad Hauser and another Green Beret soldier, caucasian, thin, black-haired, with doctor insígina like Sergeant Carl "Doc" Greer's one, runs to help the Ranger. His face is still burning. The heavy rain drops try in vain to put out the fire on his face. Hauser takes his jacket and puts on the face of the wounded colleague to contain the flames. The Ranger writhes in pain in the beach sand. black haired medic soldier is preparing his equipment to help the Ranger with the wounded face.

    The other commandos that were in Blackhawk that remained intact also run and help the three Green Beret who jumped. Apparently they're fine. Carl "Doc" Greer gets up, recovering from his fall and holds Shana O'Hara, unconscious, in his hands and position her on a stretcher into the helicopter. He speaks to all, but especially to the leader of the mission:

    - We have to put the wounded in the chopper and return to base. We can not continue this mission, Lieutenant Hauser.

    - I know, Doc. The Secretary will be moved from his captivity, especially now, after this attack... - Observed Conrad Hauser - But we have no other way.

    At this time, the Ranger with blond hair, gets up, takes Conrad's jacket off his face. He faces away from everyone and remains so for a few seconds. All are astonished to see the colleague standing up after suffering such heavy injury. Lieutenant Hauser tries to get close and say:

    - Are you okay?

    The Ranger raises his hand, requesting the Green Beret to wait. A few seconds pass, but it seems like an eternity. Then he takes off of his web gear and jacket, undresses his olive green t-shirt, rips it in shreds, and applies to his face. He dresses again his jacket over his bare skin torso. He turns, and as Arab men cover their faces, only his eyes are showing, full of anger but also of stubbornness. Around his eyes, the scars from the burns.

    The Ranger approaches the Green Berets group, squats and writes with his finger on the sand, wet and dark with rain: A letter "C" and another "M".

    The doctor soldier of black hair speaks:

    - Charlie Mike? What do you mean?

    Conrad Hauser looks in the eye of the wounded colleague with a mixture of surprise and admiration.

    - Continue the Mission. He wants us to go ahead and save the Secretary.

    The wounded face Ranger nods positively.

    That's not possible! - Denies Doc - This man is mortally wounded, it is our duty to return to base with the injured. We can not continue with this mission, Conrad.

    Lieutenant Hauser looks at Doc and the other Medic Sergeant and notes that both have the same opinion. He looks in the eyes of the blond Ranger again. The soldier with the burned face stare at Conrad's eyes and fix his gaze on the letters "CM", confirming that wants to continue the mission. The masked Ranger nods, in a sign of confirmation.

    Conrad Hauser looks away and says:

    - We still have a combat ready squad. Sergeant Steen, you are the Alpha Team Medic. Go with the helicopter that's returning to base to carry agent O'Hara. Doc, you're coming with us. We are not so far from the LZ. If we're fast by land and we're lucky we can get to captivity and the Secretary will still be there. If this man who is widely wounded says we can continue the mission, we, Green Beret, can do it as well, right, soldiers?

    Lieutenant Hauser looks at Doc. The African American Medic Sergeant has an expression that still have reservations but eventually accepts.

    - Huh-Hah - scream in unison the other Green Berets.

    They catch their rifles and equipment, preparing for the double march. Conrad Hauser, picks up the MP5 submachine gun that was with the Ranger and returns it to its owner. The Ranger checks the mag of his weapon and puts it back into place.

    - Let's go - Orders, Hauser, the leader of Special Forces soldiers.

    The squad of Airborne Special Forces soldiers and the masked Ranger step into the Everglades. The Blackhawk soars carrying agent O'Hara back to base. The rain continues to fall hard in the swamps of Florida.

    In the middle of the swamp, where the vegetation is dense and the tree tops cap the sunlight entry, a 30-somethings white male stands guard. He wears a pants with the old Woodland pattern camo, and has his boots immersed on the bed of the Everglades swampy river. He wears a sleeveless vest full of pockets, a belt with ammo and a knife. He carries an AK-47 assault rifle.

    Right behind of the mercenary standing guard, the blond Ranger emerges from the swampy riverbed with extreme speed. He holds the mercenary jaw and as if by magic, cut his throat with a military combat knife. The Ranger holds the lifeless body of the mercenary and drops in in water carefully. The body disappears under the murky waters of the Everglades.

    The Ranger looks back and makes a sign for those who are to following him there. He makes a gesture with his hand, pointing two fingers to his eyes, then to the horizon, instructing his team to keep an eye out and be careful. Conrad Hauser's Airborne squad comes soon after, walking carefully through the swampy river. All soldiers come in a crouched position looking everywhere lurking possible guards.

    All squad advances and Hauser takes a binoculars to looks ahead. From the binoculars view, the Special Forces Lt. observes a bunker all camouflaged, embedded in the swamp. Next to it, a wooden platform, a few meters above the marshy river, where are stationed the helicopters that attacked the Green Beret air convoy an hour ago. Next to one of the helicopters, a mercenary makes maintenance on a damaged rotor.

    The enemy base is full of mercenaries standing guard and it is easy to see that there is a movement to clear the location. Personnel carrying boxes and putting in trucks further back, where a small dirt road borders the marshy bed of the river.

    The entire base is covered with a camouflaged canopy which the cloth fabric would allow some sunlight to pass, if wasn't today a day of heavy rain.

    - This canopy is hiding their base of any air recon. So we can not see with our satellites - concludes Hauser. He then continues - We split into two teams. The Secret Agent here and I will infiltrate the bunker to find the Secretary. Greer, you and the rest of the men get in here and start a sabotage ops. Place C4s in the choppers and trucks. When we leave, the explosions will cover our escape, OK?

    The Ranger nods. Greer and his commandos do the same. The two groups are separated to carry on their respective parts of the mission.

    Lieutenant Hauser and the masked Ranger, with their backs to the thick concrete wall of the bunker painted in a camouflage color, walk carefully looking for some insertion spot that can be used. They are faced with a ventilation duct large enough to accommodate a crouching man. The pipeline is dark and full of slime resulting from the high humidity of the Everglades. The entrance duct is protected by a metal cap with strong iron bars, however moisture rusted part of the edge of it.

    The two soldiers take their combat knives and position each at one end of the lid where the rust is stronger. They force with their knives, trying to leverage the cover off its base. After making a great effort they manage to do it. The grid lid slowly shifts and they put it in the river bed.

    Lieutenant Hauser enters the duct first, crouching and then right after him enters the masked Ranger.

    Sergeant Carl "Doc" Greer, sneaks through the camp trying not to be noticed. He gets close to the wooden base that serves as a helipad for the rotary wing gunships. The base is high enough so one can get under it, but only a few centimeters above the water level. Doc knows what he has to do. He looks at the smelly and blurred color swampy river and makes a disgusted expression, but then dives. Some meters later he emerges from the water, resting his face on the bottom of the timber base. He fetches a plastic bag from a part of his uniform that was underwater. He opens the bag and pulls out a piece of C4 plastic explosive with a detonator, then glue it on the wooden base and activates the detonating equipment. He does a new expression of disgust and dives again.

    In the duct, the two American soldiers arrive to a ventilation outlet in the ceiling of a room. The light from below illuminates the face of Conrad Hauser and the Ranger's cloth mask. They watch from above and see a large room, with a low lamp directly above a person sitting in a chair with his hands tied. It is an interrogation room. Sitting in the chair is the Secretary of State George Strawhacker. At the extremities of the room, next to the walls, all is dark.

    The two soldiers open the intake vent cover and jump into the room in the dark part, hoping not to be seen. The masked Ranger puts his hand on Lieutenant Hauser chest, asking him to wait there while he would get closer.

    - You need to talk to the Secretary. Apparently you are not able to speak, correct? - Asks Hauser - I'll have to explain the situation and you have to make the call.

    The masked Ranger thinks for a moment and ends up agreeing. Both approach the Secretary.

    George Strawhacker see the two soldiers approaching and agitated, anxious for the rescue. Hauser puts his finger in the middle of his lips in a silence signal. The masked Ranger looks the groom of her sister in the eye, trying to identify whether if it's really Strawhacker or the spy. Still staring at the hostage eyes he fetches a picture of his sister and shows to the Secretary of State.

    - Terri. Theresa. - George talks ahead.

    - You need to tell him - explains Conrad Hauser, pointing to the masked partner - something personal about her. Something that only you and her brother knew. Something that proves that you are yourself.

    George looks at the two soldiers for a moment, then lowers his head. When he comes back up, his expression is totally different, as if possessed by a spirit different from his. With a totally different voice he says:

    - You got me there, friends. - in an unrecognizable accent.

    A split second later, a group of Dreadnoks mercenaries enter the room. All wear similar clothes, army pants, jackets and sleeveless denim vests. They carry various types of assault rifles: AK-47, Heckler & Koch HK91A2 of German manufacture, Israelis Micro Galil.

    The Masked Ranger, with an almost superhuman agility takes a Flashbang grenade and throws it on the floor. A great bright light and boom fills the room. The Ranger pushes the Lieutenant Hauser out of the mercenaries aim, rolls over on the floor and fires his German origin MP5 SMG at the Dreadnoks. Capsules fly in the air and the shots hit their targets, reaching the kidnappers in the chest, gunning them down.

    The Ranger makes a signal to Conrad to leave the room.

    - You want me to look for the true Strawhacker, right?

    The Ranger nods. Conrad leaves the room without thinking twice. A blade cuts through the air towards the Ranger who turns and defends himself with his submachine attack against the spy's jungle machete. The MP5 shatters into a thousand pieces. The Ranger draws his knife and prepare the counterattack.

    The Spy makes a new attack, trying to stick his sharp weapon in the enemy's stomach. The Ranger dodges to the side, gives a karate blow to the spy's wrist, causing him to drop the machete and at the same time, striking a blow, with his combat knife, against the face of false Secretary of State. The spy moves his head back, but the point of the blade rips the tip of his cheekbone, making his mask to tear apart.

    On the floor, a piece of soft plastic, similar to the face of George Strawhacker. The real face of the spy is revealed. A man with short light brown hair, a deep and piercing look. A wry smile on his mouth.

    - You got to see who I really am. Now I have to kill you.

    The spy strikes a kick in the Ranger's hand who drops his knife. The spy continues its attack, using his body as an axis, arcing his arm, with clenched fists, hoping to hit with the back of his hand. The Ranger raises his arm, forming with the forearm an angle of ninety degrees, and defends the blow. His hip is down, his legs bent in a martial arts defense position.

    Masked Ranger strikes another blow in the sequence, taking his two palms forward, trying to strike the opponent's chest. The spy puts his two hands in front of him, drawing a defense.

    Both are masters of martial arts and deal blows and counter-blows with elegance and agility.

    Conrad Hauser goes through a dark hallway, holding his HK416 assault rifle, positioned with his eyes within the telescopic sight, alert to any movement. He enters a door through which descends a staircase. At the foot of the staircase, at the end of the steps, there is a mercenary on guard. He sees Hauser and starts shooting.

    - They are here. Let's destroy these computers already! - Warns the mercenary to his accomplices.

    Shots reach a wall near where Lt. Hauser is. He covers himself against enemy fire and launches, into the room located on the bottom of the stairs, a flashbang grenade. The ordnance bounces three times on the floor and passes beneath the mercenary's legs. A dry sound is formed in the room where the Dreadnoks are. With agility, slightly crouched, Conrad Hauser enters the room firing his rifle. Various shots cross the room and reach in full the mercenaries still stunned by the noise and the glare from the grenade, gunning them to the ground.

    After checking that the room is clear, Lieutenant Hauser looks around and sees that it is a computer room. He picks up a HD that was outside of one of disassembled computers, puts inside one of the pockets of his military uniform and leaves the room to continue his search for the US Secretary of State.

    Outside, Carl "Doc" Greer and his Airborne squadmates are hidden behind wooden boxes. A strange movement begins to form in the enemy camp. People running inside the Bunker. Suddenly a group of mercenaries gets out with a person wearing an olive military uniform with tied hand and a rag on his head.

    - It is the Secretary. They are moving him somewhere. We're discovered - Doc exclaims -. Let's act, guys!

    Sergeant Greer pushes a button on the remote control he was holding in his hands and the small attack helicopters, stationed on the wooden deck over the marshy river explode in the air like a house of cards destroyed by the wind. The trucks across Camp explode too.

    The Dreadnoks that were escorting the Secretary are taken by surprise by the explosions and stall. The Airborne hijack the formation, jumping from behind the boxes where they were protected. With expression of anger and determination, they fire their assault rifles, downing the group of mercenary bikers.

    Doc takes the Secretary by the arm, walking backward and even shooting against another Dreadnoks group, retreats back to the safe position behind the wooden boxes to protect the hostage from enemy fire. His companions do the same.

    The Dreadnoks who piloted the helicopters, Ripper, Buzzer and Torch arrives with a party of other mercenaries. Ripper, with his black hair mohawk hairstyle wields a machine gun M249 SAW with a large bayonet mounted under the barrel. With an angry expression, he shoots the American soldiers. Capsules fly in the air while the ammo belt comes out from the cubic compartment under the gun.

    Buzzer, the Dreadnok of blond hair, also fires his M249 machine gun. The shots hit full in the wooden boxes where the Airborne are hiding. They crouch behind the protection to avoid being shot.

    The American soldiers are surrounded. Torch joins the Dreadnoks gang making the offensive and fire his flamethrower. The blaze reach the wooden boxes that begin to burn. It's a matter of time before the Green Beret are defeated.

    - Here is Sergeant Carl Greer. We are with the Secretary, but in danger. We will not resist long.

    Agent O'Hara agent recovers from her knockout and wakes up in the stretch of the Blackhawk that is taking her back to base. She has her eyes still half closed and puts her hand on her face.

    - What happened? - Questions Shana in a voice still groggy.

    - One of the helicopters exploded and we're going back to base to medicate you - responds Medic Sergeant Steen, sitting in the back where the troops are transported.

    - Where are the others? Where is special agent who was with me? - Questions O'Hara, concerned, already in a full alert.

    - They decided to continue the mission.

    - But why did we not go with them?

    - Lieutenant Hauser ordered us to return to take you to the hospital.

    - But I'm fine...

    On the helicopter radio, the distress call from Sergeant Greer could be heard:

    - Here is Sergeant Carl Greer. We are with the Secretary, but in danger. We will not resist long.

    - They are in need of our help! - Exclaims agent O'Hara.

    - We have informed the base. A pair of Apaches and another couple of Blackhawks with more troops are heading to the mission area. - Explains the Medical Sergeant. - They must arrive within 15 minutes.

    - They will not last that long! Turn around, let's help them!

    - But we have orders…

    - I'm in charge of the mission remember? Not Lieutenant Hauser. If I'm telling you to go back, hell, that's what we'll do!

    - Affirmative, Ma'am.

    The Medical specialty Airborne nods to the pilot and makes a sign for him to turn around. The pilot holds the control stick and makes a sudden move to the right. Blackhawk tilts to the side, lifts his nose up a bit and makes a closed arc in the rainy sky above the Everglades. They are returning to the combat zone.

    Lieutenant Hauser listen, in his communicator, the distress call from his friend and comes back running, climbing the stairs that he had descended. On their way up he is finding some mercenaries. With agility, without thinking too much, he goes shooting at them and eliminating any obstacles that would stop him from rescue his squadmates.

    The Ranger nails a strong blow the spy's face causing him to spit blood. They are exhausted, their bodies are bruised and tired. The spy is with the body slightly contracted but expecting a new blow from the opponent. At this time, Doc distress message reaches the Ranger ear communicator. The masked soldier hesitates for a moment, the fight has a brief pause.

    - I just heard my fellow Dreadnoks telling your friends are surrounded. I'm sure you're already aware. We can continue our duel down here, or you can go upstairs to help…

    Before the spy has finished his sentence, the masked Ranger turns around and gives up the fight. The spy retreats and disappears into the shadows.

    The Dreadnoks multiply like cockroaches in a stinking cesspool. They try to get closer to the surrounded soldiers, but one by one they are slaughtered by the Airbornes. Doc hits a few of them with his HK416 rifle. But for every death, one comes closer. In the background, Ripper and Buzzer continue to give support to others Dreadnoks with their SAW machine guns and Torch transforms the protection of Americans in a branch of hell.

    A Dreadnok achieve to break the blockade shots of the Green Beret and stands in front of the Secretary. He wields his AK-47 assault rifle and shoots against George Strawhacker. Doc throws himself in front of Secretary and take all the shots. Most hit his bulletproof vest, but one of them scratch hit an artery in his neck. The Dreadnok will try again. Conrad Hauser emerges from one of the gates of Bunker, near where US troops are protecting and hits a burst of bullets in the back of Dreadnok, saving everyone.

    Lieutenant Hauser hold his friend in his arms, while the Airbornes group remains under heavy fire. He presses his hand tightly on the pierced artery of the Green Beret companion.

    - Hold tight, buddy. We'll get you out.

    - Heh, it seems that who's going to the doctor's me, huh, Conrad? - Jokes Doc, even being badly injured.

    - You are great.

    The masked Ranger tries to leave by the same door as Lieutenant Hauser left, but a volley of bullets prevents him from continuing his movement. The Ranger get cover inside the Bunker. Realizing an break between shots, he takes firing position, holds close to his chest a Rocky Mountain Arms Pistol Patriot assault rifle, a smaller version of the American standard rifle M4. The masked Ranger place his face behind the red dot sights.

    In his aim view, he tries to frame the red dot indicator on where the shot would hit in Buzzer, Ripper or Torch, but they are out of his sight. All way in the background, still seeing through the sights of red dot, the Ranger notices a fuel truck. He makes a shot. The capsule flies from his rifle while the muzzle flash of the gun conceals his face. The bullet pierces the fuel tank. Nothing happens. This all happens in a split second. The Ranger pulls the trigger again. The same. Then he makes a third shot, knowing it will be the last, because after that the enemy will start attacking again. The bullet pierces the truck tank once more and then it explodes into a huge blaze. The impact makes Buzzer and Ripper be thrown away. Torch gets out of balance and falls into the shallow bed of the Everglades swampy river. The flamethrower falls into the water giving a truce in the flames against the American soldiers.

    Taking the cue, the Ranger gets out of the Bunker and runs toward the Americans. The Dreadnoks try to hit him but he is very fast and can dodge the aim of the enemies.

    The Ranger approaches George Strawhacker, the former fianceé of her late sister. The secretary is in panic with the situation. The masked soldier holds his arm and looks him in the eye.

    - You wanna tell me something? - Ask the Secretary.

    The masked Ranger stare him trying to pass confidence.

    - I think you mean that everything will be fine, but... - The Secretary tries to answer himself although apprehensive about the situation.

    Ripper, Buzzer and Torch already recover from the masked Ranger attack and prepare for a new offensive. American soldiers remain hidden, but still surrounded.

    At this very moment, Shana O'Hara's Blackhawk emerges in the still rainy horizon. On the side door of the American transport helicopter, raindrops wash the expression of obstinacy and focus of agent O'Hara while she fires an M240 machine gun with telescopic scope. Capsules fly in front of her face alight with the heavy weapon's muzzle flash.

    The shots hit a group of mercenaries who are immediately overthrown. The Blackhawk, with the advantage or air superiority, passes over the camp, now without the canopy, destroyed by the explosion of the Dreadnok helicopters. Shana is still firing the M240 evening the odds for the Airborne and the US Secretary of State.

    The Green Berets notice the role reversal and depart for the offensive. The masked Ranger, jumps over the wooden boxes and with an impressive agility faces head to head another group of Dreadnoks, liquidating them at close range with his assault rifle.

    The O'Hara agent shoots Ripper, Buzzer and Torch. They run behind a truck for cover.

    - Go down there! Let's get 'em - orders the mission leader.

    Blackhawk approaches the ground, near where the Green Beret are. The forces of the rotor blades make the water surface of the marshy river stir in circumcentric waves. Shana still covering with suppression fire while the Airborne place the Secretary into the helicopter. Lieutenant Conrad puts Sergeant Greer in and then enter.

    - See, buddy! The cavalry has arrived! You'll be fine - tries to cheer Hauser.

    The three other Special Forces soldiers board the Blackhawk.

    - We have to get out of here! We won't hold those yahoos for a long time! - Exclaims the pilot.

    - Still missing one, we have to wait for him. - Replies agent O'Hara.

    - Doc is very hurt, we have to take him to the hospital as quickly as possible! - Responds Steen, the other medic soldier, energetic - We have to go now!

    Let's wait... - Doc insists with a trembling voice, because of his injury.

    At this moment, the Ranger runs back and jumps into the helicopter. Before taking off he can still hit another Dreadnok with his assault rifle. The pilot makes a sudden movement forward with the control stick and the Blackhawk takes off, carrying with American soldiers and the Secretary of State George Strawhacker.

    Lieutenant Hauser is sitting in the helicopter's floor. Doc lies on his back supported by his friend chest. His head hanging back. Conrad holds tightly the wound on his friend's neck. His gloves are red with blood. Sergeant Steen tries to contain the blood with a surgery tool.

    - We made a hell of a team, huh, Hauser? - Doc says, letting out a smile, in a hoarse and weak voice.

    - Don't talk, save your breath - orders the Lieutenant Conrad.

    - I think you'll have to continue solo, my friend - plays Sergeant Greer, taking with good humor his situation of life or death.

    - Don't say that, we'll make it.

    - Hey, masked - Doc continues its weak and trembling voice.

    The Ranger gazes a look of seriousness and respect for Airborne sergeant.

    - Actually you went well with your little girl gun... - plays again the Hauser's friend.

    Doc turns to his friend, Conrad Hauser:

    - Tell my niece that I am very proud of her ... - At the end of the sentence his voice fades into silence. Carl "Doc" Greer closes his eyes for the last time and dies.

    Lieutenant Hauser, agent O'Hara Agent and all other present gain expression of grief and exhaustion. Shana stare at the the eyes of the masked Ranger trying to find an explanation. She does the same with Lieutenant Hauser. The Ranger fetches from his pocket his lucky charm, the picture of Terri. He caresses the photo as if he's caressing the face of sister still alive. He holds the memento of her and close his eyes, blacking out after mission accomplished.

    The Blackhawk crosses the sky of Florida, still under heavy downpour, towards the base.

    Washington, DC

    Across the Potomac River, the obelisk of the Washington Monument stands in the landscape of the city as a guard, watching the nation's capital. On this side of the river, at the Pentagon, headquarters of the US armed forces, the people working there do the same, against all nation's enemies, foreign and domestic.

    In a well decorated office, behind a sophisticated wooden desk, is the American Secretary of State George Strawhacker. Sitting in front of him, Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy.

    - What the hell happened there, Colonel? - Questions Strawhacker.

    - You were already debriefed, right, Secretary? - The colonel tries to confirm

    - Yes, I was, but it's hard to understand what is really happening.

    - We have a threat on our hands. - Explains Abernathy - Probably the biggest we've had in a long time. If they managed to pass for you for so long, they have arms inside the Department of Defense and God knows where else.

    Strawhacker rises from his chair and begins to walk by his office. The General Abernathy is still sitting.

    - We have to do something. I have to do something. Many people died to save me. We have to get to the bottom of it.

    Strawhacker turns to the General with an expression of concern.

    - Is it true that the soldier who saved me is actually Terri's brother?

    - Yes. - Confirms the Colonel.

    - And how is he?

    - He's still recovering.

    - My God. The brother of Terri…

    - I have an idea for our problem, sir - interrupts Hawk, trying to keep the Secretary of State in focus.

    - Yes, what is it?

    - We will set up a special force. A team with the best of the best. And let's make them covert ops. Only you and I will know them. We will use special funds for covert operations to finance this operation.

    - And how do we call all this?

    - Let's reinstate G.I. Joe. - Hawk reveals with a satisfied smile.

    On a lot surrounded by trees and lawns stands a two story building with a simple architecture, square, with large windows. At its entrance is written: U.S. Army Advance Surgical Recovery Facility.

    In the hospital corridor are the agent Shana O'Hara and General Abernathy. Both wear military suits, jacket and tie. They are in front of a door to a room. Both with expression of extreme seriousness and concern.

    - The doctors said even after the surgery he went, the complete recovery of his face is beyond our capabilities. - Explains Hawk to Agent O'Hara - The fire also hit his vocal cords. My biggest concern is psychological, facial scarring, loss of speech, in addition to other tragedies he's suffered.

    - Let me talk to him alone - Asks Shana.

    In the hospital room, surrounded by life sign data devices, is the Ranger with blond hair, lying in bed, his face covered with white bandages. He's eyes closed, as if in deep meditation. He notes the presence of agent O'Hara agent and opens his eyes.

    - Hello... - The Military Intelligence agent starts the conversation, a little reluctantly. - Um... Doctors say that you are improving. In fact, your recovery has been very good, beyond expectations. They say you will be out in a few weeks.

    The Ranger turns his face and looks away, uncomfortable by the conversation.

    - I know you're in pain. I know this isn't easy... But you are stronger than this. Fate dealt you some bad cards, but you don't have to fold and leave the table. Not like this.

    The agent O'Hara Agent goes to the window. Outside, the bucolic landscape of the Military Hospital.

    - You know, Colonel Hawk is assembling a team. The best of the best. A special military force to combat terrorists we faced in the Everglades and whoever else is behind it. - Tells Shana, enthusiastic. She continues:

    - He invited me to be part of his team and extended an invitation to you as well. I'm thinking of accepting, but I would like you to do so. You are one of the best soldiers I've ever fought with. Your presence would make a difference. We actually have here the opportunity to give them payback and do real justice.

    Shana turns to the Ranger and the looks him in the eyes:

    - What happens next is up to you.

    On another day, Shana O'Hara enters the Ranger's room. She carries a closed cardboard box with tape. He is standing next to the bathroom, behind a folding screen as tall as his shoulders.

    - I talked to the doctors and today is the day of your discharge - Starts the conversation agent O'Hara - Colonel Hawk told me you asked for these items.

    The agent puts the box on a wooden table next to the screen.

    - You haven't still given your answer... - Starts the tricky part of the conversation with concern and anxiety about her friend's decision.

    The Ranger turns his back to her and starts taking the bandages from his face. His blond hair begin to appear on the back of his head as bandages fall off.

    - God knows you've been through a lot. You've been hurt more than anyone I've ever known, but if you can be part of it, you can help to prevent anyone else from being hurt like you have. Isn't that worth the effort?

    She puts her hand on the shoulder of Ranger and says:

    - Also… If you stay... I promise... you'll never be alone again.

    The Ranger takes a notepad on the table and writes something. He passes on to agent O'Hara. She holds the notepad eager to read the answer. The Ranger, with speed and agility, puts on his clothes: black trousers, military black boots. Finally He puts a black rib-knit sweater.

    In the pad sheet is written "CM"

    - Charlie Mike... - agent O'Hara reads out loud.

    The Ranger puts in his head, a piece of black cloth. And arranges something in his face. He turns. He is wearing all black military fatigues with an also black balaclava and a dark glass visor.

    - Continue the mission... - Complements agent O'Hara agent with a slightly smile.

    Shana O'Hara recovers from the surprise to see his partner in this new outfit and continues:

    - Now you have to choose your code name. Everyone in the team will have one. Mine is Scarlett. You know: Red head, O'Hara surname, southern origins... What would be your code name?

    The Ranger takes from the table the loaded dice that were his father's. He toss them, and rolling on the table, they stop with two number 1 up.

    Snake-Eyes? - Questions Scarlett.

    The G.I. Joe commando nods.
     
  9. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 7

    Nigeria, present day.

    Under the gray sky, full of storm clouds from tropical rainfall, the mountains, covered with thick vegetation, watch the tall grass savannah and sparse trees. A few kilometers away, the Nigerian rainforest begins to form, with its dense vegetation and humid climate.

    Surrounded by the greenery of the forest, a river of calm, shallow waters and a handful of palm trees here and there, there's a military camp. On its border, guard towers made of wood. Up in the towers, soldiers wearing military clothes, but freely without being uniform, watching the surroundings, in front of mounted heavy machine guns of .50 caliber.

    In the middle of the camp several wooden houses serving to house troops, weapons depot and provision. Around the camp, pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back and jeeps. Troops move from one side to the other in disorganized bands denoting a military training less rigorous. Beside a set of tents, a pair of tanks are stationed, awaiting action. In the middle of the camp, a flag is hoisted: It has green and white vertical stripes interspersed as the flag of Nigeria. In the center, in the white stripe, a growing star and moon, the Muslim symbol, in red.

    Ripper, one of Dreadnoks who kidnapped the Secretary of State George Strawhacker, is in the camp, training the Nigerian militia. With his beard and hair in the Mohawk style, he wears denim pants, a woodland pattern camo vest over his shirtless torso and sunglasses from Ray-Ban brand.

    - See, your weaklings, how to slice a government army soldier! - Order the Dreadnok with his Australian accent.

    He picks up his Beretta ARX 160 assault rifle equipped with a large bayonet under the barrel. The sharp weapon is higher than normal and looks more like a sword blade. He attacks, with the bayonet, a rag doll, which simulates a soldier. Ripper gives several blows, expressing pleasure at every thrust. The doll is in pieces. He turns to the African soldiers being trained, and with an expression of satisfaction commands:

    - Now it's your turn! Attack!

    Soldiers prepare to get their AK-47 assault rifles with bayonets and attack other rag dolls. Then Buzzer appears wielding a HK MG4 light machine gun of German manufacture. Below the machine gun barrel is a kind of attached weapon, like a grenade launcher, but it happens to be a chainsaw.

    - You call that shred, mate? Look how you really destroy your enemy.

    Buzzer pull the trigger on the LMG under barrel attached weapon and the chainsaw starts running emitting its distinctive buzz. The blond-haired Dreadnok opens a macabre smile and, with all the excitement of the world, mangles the rag doll, cutting its limbs and decapitating it.

    Ripper shows a dislike of expression while Buzzer has fun with his speech. The African soldiers are stupefied, not knowing what to do.

    - Why shred the enemy if you can roast them as in a barbecue? - Questions Torch coming close behind.

    He points his flamethrower and pulls the trigger on the weapon. The fuel pressure indicator goes to the maximum and the flames come out of the muzzle incinerating the torn cloth doll. The two other Dreadnoks leave from the side of the doll, feeling the heat of the flames. The African soldiers do the same. Torch leaves out, laughing, full of himself, as the fake government soldier vanishes into ashes.

    Watching from afar to this bizarre dispute over how to confront the enemy, are two African men. One is big and strong. He has a mustache and a big beard on his face. He wears baggy clothes in Muslim classic style and also a Taqiyah, a traditional Muslim hat. Strapped to his body there is a Russian-made light machine gun PKP Pecheneg.

    The other is a little smaller but still strong and healthy. He wears light green standard military fatigues. He has a cloth in his head, similar to the ones used by the Saudis, with a checkered patterned. His face appears to be a younger man than the other, without a mustache and beard. He uses prescription glasses of thin metal rim.

    - See brother, is this kind of training we want to give to our soldiers? - Question the African with the Saudi head cloth, with a strong Nigerian accent, pointing to the Dreadnoks.

    - Always idealist, no, Namir? - Jokes the African with the Taqiyah, also sporting a strong Nigerian accent. - I admit that the methods of our instructors are somewhat aggressive, but we have to fight fire with fire. Soldiers of the President Ngungo show no mercy. We also can not have it.

    - We can not lose our differences in relation to them, Iman - retorts Namir - It worries me these people we are doing business with and getting weapons. They seem to be terrorists…

    - Terrorists are the President and the US for supporting his dictatorial regime! The Americans only fight for democracy when it is their best interest. Washington prefers to suck our oil by Ngungo dictatorship because it is easier for them. - Chafes Iman. - I know your group further south is more moderate. But moderation will not lead us anywhere. We have to get rid of Ngungo any way we can.

    From behind one of the green mountains in the background, rises up a transport and assault helicopter. It has a similar design to the Russian-made Kamov Ka-29. In place of the coaxial rotors, the two intermeshing rotors dance with perfect synchronization, two set of blades crossing the plane of each other, providing support and reverse torque, which ensures that the aircraft does not whirl.

    In the cabin, two riders dressed all in black sit side by side. Below the cabin,under the nose, two twin gatling machine guns of high caliber, one pointing to north-northeast and the other to north-northwest of the aircraft.

    On the sides, four bulges, two on each side, in each of them, a .50 caliber machine gun. Between the bulges, a door to the fairing of the helicopter. The helicopter has a considerable size and appears to carry at least two squads.

    Its tail is short and in the end of it, a small rear wing, with a pair of rudders at each wingtip.

    Covering the fuselage of the aircraft, a camouflage in two shades of green, of similar hues, characteristic of Nigerian jungle.

    The two rebel leaders and brothers interrupt their discussion to observe the arrival of the helicopter.

    - Speaking of them, our suppliers have just arrived. - Iman ends the conversation.

    The helicopter gets near the ground. The wind caused by its rotors shakes the palm trees around and raises dust mixed with grass of the clearing created in the jungle for the rebel camp.

    Before the helicopter fully touch the ground, the side door opens, and from it jumps the Baroness. With her long black hair tied in a ponytail and using her horned rim glasses, she wears dark green military fatigues and combat boots to the ankle. In her waist, a leather belt fallen into diagonal direction, and leaning against one of her well shapely hips, a holster for an automatic gun. The wind of helicopter rotors make the ponytail of her hair to move without stopping. She walks upright and proud, not lowering as normal people do when unboarding from helicopters.

    Just behind her, Tommy Arashikage lands from the helicopter. He follows Baroness closely fulfilling his bodyguard function. He walks upright and proud as his mistress. Wearing jacket, button-down shirt, pants and boots, all white as is his style.

    Then disembark a group of soldiers, strong and tall. They are all wearing the same clothes, a uniform. Black helmets with a similar format to that of Nazi soldiers of World War II, but more rounded. They use a dark visor capping their eyes, and a balaclava fabric covering their nose and mouth. The Baroness soldiers wear a vest and webgear over their torso, full of pockets and hanging grenades. They carry, hanging strapped around their necks, assault rifles with similar design to the QBZ-95, with bullpup layout and curve shaped mags. Their clothes are standard military fatigues with camo in various shades of green with a pattern of small pieces of color.

    Finally two other soldiers land, each carrying a large wooden box on their shoulders, holding it by a handle in side of the box. The Baroness and his soldiers follow towards the rebel leaders.

    Iman, the leader of the Nigerian rebels welcomes his supplier of armaments:

    - Good afternoon, Baroness. We were just talking about you now.

    The international terrorist draws a smile returning his greeting, with his English with an accent of Eastern Europe:

    - Good afternoon, Zamundi. I hope things are good. I brought the items you ordered.

    The two soldiers who were carrying the boxes put them at a table next to the Baroness. She takes off the lid and fetches an assault rifle similar to what her soldiers are using. The rifle has a shiny black color, denoting be brand new. It has a telescopic sight, and paraphernalia under the firing barrel. Baroness wields the gun, points up and with the other hand unlock the safety device.

    - M.A.R.S. MX-1 Assault Rifles. Bullpup design, 950 shots per second. Cartridge with 40 bullets of depleted uranium, telescopic sight with thermal vision and laser sight. They are prototypes of M.A.R.S. that are not on the market yet.

    Anastasia DeCobray pass the rifle for Iman Zamundi to feel his new acquisitions.

    - I brought 100 of these toys for you, Iman. In the next shipment will come another batch.

    The older Zamundi is holding the rifle with a satisfied smile in his mouth. He aims the gun at a nearby board target in a shooting range and fire some shots. The cartridges fly from the ejector compartment of the rifle and the muzzle flash illuminates the face of the rebel. All shots hit squarely, destroying the target, breaking it in two.

    - Excellent! Very accurate, Baroness. See, brother. With these weapons we will be at advantage against the troops of our "beloved" president.

    Baroness turns to Namir and passes it another rifle. He holds it but without the same enthusiasm of his elder brother.

    Anastasia turns to Iman and continues her presentation:

    - We have other merchandise to offer.

    She turns to the two squads of masked elite soldiers behind her.

    - These are the Grenadiers. The Elite troop from Destro, my employer. We want to offer their services.

    The Grenadiers are profiled in two rows of eight soldiers, brandishing their rifles at chest height pointing upwards diagonally. Baroness walks by them and continues her explanation:

    - These are the best soldiers in the world. We hire the best mercenaries and train them in a program we call Mindbender. Including physical and psychological training to develop the perfect soldier: Leal, obedient, but at the same time agile, strong, intelligent and ruthless.

    Baroness makes a sign with his hand. Tommy Arashikage takes a knife from his leather belt and tears the arm of one of the soldiers. He doesn't even blink, staying perfectly still.

    - Look. They feel no pain, no fear.

    - This is brainwashing, it is not? - Stops Namir, annoyed.

    Tommy makes a move intending to confront Namir Zamundi for his impetuous comment, but the Baroness makes a sign for him to stay where he is. She replies coldly:

    - It is a psychological improvement military program, Mr. Zamundi. You can call it as you want. - Responds the Baroness. - We want to offer you a demonstration of the Grenadiers in action. When you see with your own eyes their efficiency, I'm sure we will do business. We can even transfer this technology to you. Imagine, the Nigeria Liberation Front with an elite troops like this. The troops of President Ngungo would not stand a chance. All this for a price of course...

    Iman Zamundi grins with the possibility. Namir turns to his brother and complains:

    - Iman, you can't be taking this seriously. That's brainwashing. Do you want to submit our men to that?

    - Look, Namir, that would make us win the war. Finally rid our people of Ngungo. There are many of us who would be willing to make that sacrifice for the cause. - Responds Iman looking into the eyes of his brother.

    Namir looks back at his brother with an expression of anger and disappointment. He then returns the assault rifle M.A.R.S. he was holding and leave the business meeting.

    - Forgive my brother, Baroness. Sometimes he's a bit of an idealist.

    - We have to have our ideals, and do everything to achieve them. - Responds the Baroness.

    - Exactly! - Exclaims Iman Zamundi.

    - Perfect, then I see we have an agreement. I already have in mind a perfect opportunity to demonstrate, for you, the efficiency of the Grenadiers. But we have something else to offer. - Continues the Baroness, taking Zamundi by the arm and leading him towards the helicopter she arrived. The two begin to walk. Tommy Arashikage stays where he is, next to the other Grenadiers.

    - One more?

    - Yes - confirms the Baroness - We need more uranium, Zamundi. Destro is producing ammunition on a large scale and is lacking in raw materials.

    - But we're already giving all uranium that can pass through the border of Niger - explains the rebel leader.

    - But after you see what we are offering, you will find a way to increase production.

    With a smile, Anastasia DeCobray boards inside the helicopter. Zamundi boards as well. In a cargo compartment of the corner there is a large item covered by a cloth. Baroness pulls the cloth and reveals the nuclear bomb lost by the Americans in Afghanistan. She stands in front of the console and enter a sequence of numbers. The weapon panel lights "Nuclear Weapon Activated" Anastasia turns to the Nigerian rebel.

    - This is a nuclear weapon - Confirms with surprise, Iman Zamundi.

    - Of course, my dear. The most valuable item in Destro's portfolio. And it's all yours, if we manage to double your supply of uranium.

    Zamundi comes close to the weapon and stays analyzing it without speaking.

    - Think of the possibilities - continues the Baroness - With this weapon, the Nigeria Liberation Front would be a nuclear power. More powerful than most countries of the world. More powerful than the government of that dictator helped by the US, Ngungo.

    Anastasia approaches Iman and continues her speech with a condescending tone and full of ulterior motives.

    - Of course you would not use it for real. After all you would not want to explode an atomic bomb on your own country. But just by having it and showing Ngungo that, you would intimidate him to the point of resign and then seize power.

    Zamundi looks away from the weapon and back to the beautiful face of the Baroness.

    - Tell Destro he will have his uranium.

    Anastasia DeCobray opens a big smile of satisfaction.

    Pentagon, Washington DC. USA.

    The former Colonel and now General Malthus, wearing a formal uniform jacket and tie, with all his medals walk into a busy corridor of the Headquarters of the Department of Defense of the USA. He opens a door and enters. Inside there is a room that is a bit dark. In the center, a spot of light illuminating the middle of the room. At the extremities of the room a curved wood table, where are seated several high-ranking military. They wear officer uniforms, also jacket and tie, with his medals on his chest and shoulder insignia. The officers are from various branches of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. It is a conference room. Officials are faded in the dimmed light and is very difficult to distinguish their faces in the dark.

    General Malthus goes to the illuminated central point:

    - Good morning, gentlemen. I have news. We received intelligence information that it is possible that the nuclear device that we have lost in Afghanistan is in the hands of Nigerian rebels. Rebels fighting against the regime of President Ngungo, our ally.

    - How precise is this information, General? - Question one of the officers sit at the table, probably another General.

    - Very precise, sir. This is a unique chance to retrieve the weapon and recover ourselves from the episode in the refugee camp.

    - Episode caused by you, Malthus - complements the mysterious General in the dark.

    - Yes, sir ... - recognizes Malthus, lowering his head slightly.

    - We have to work around this situation very carefully. Let's start a standard military exercise in the Gulf of Guinea. - The General in the dim light that seems to be their leader turns to another dressed in a white uniform - Admiral, prepare the fleet of the Atlantic for this.

    The admiral nods.

    - We will use this exercise as a distraction. Malthus, recruit some men of the special force Delta for a covert operation. Let's go to Nigeria to recover our artifact.

    - And President Ngungo? - Questions Malthus.

    - Give him what he wants. Let's make him help us. After all, in this case we have enemies in common. Let's rescue our artifact and any problem happens, we put the blame on him. The international community already considers him a despot. Some deaths more or less will not make a difference.

    - Yes, sir - responds Malthus. He turns and leaves the meeting room.

    Abuja, Nigeria

    Framing a beautiful green meadow with few trees is Aso Rock Mountain with its double humps, like a mother elephant protecting one of his sons. In front of the rocky mountain is the Nigerian presidential palace.

    The General Malthus, wearing a camouflaged combat uniform, enters the luxurious facilities of the palace. He is escorted by a couple of soldiers with ceremonial attire, each carrying an M4 assault rifle of American manufacturing. They go through several huge and luxurious hardwood doors with gold adornments. Each door has a guard soldier. When the last door opens, they come to a hall of yellow tones, almost golden.

    The lounge is extremely luxurious. The floor is carpeted and there are pure silk curtains. Sitting on a huge sofa also golden yellow, matching the room, is a black man, strong, tall, with a dark green military uniform, full of medals on his chest and insignia on the shoulders. He wears mirrored ray-ban sunglasses. He gets up and, smiling, addresses the American General.

    - Welcome General Malthus. To what do I owe this honor? - Questions the President with a strong Nigerian accent.

    - It should be me to thank you for the hospitality, President Ngungo. - Greets back the General.

    - Have you travelled well? What do you think of my country? We had many improvements, right?

    - Certainly, Mr. President.

    - The help from you has been paramount. The rebels still bother us, but it's all a matter of time. To what do I owe this honor? Our usual meeting would only be in a few weeks, not?

    - Yes, Mr. President, but we have an emergency. - Responds Malthus. - We need to retrieve an important item for the US and this item is in Nigeria. We want your safe conduct and help in this case.

    - And I know which item is that? - Ngungo questions, interested in the issue.

    - I'm afraid it's highly classified, Mr. President.

    - So you want to enter my country with troops, have my help, and will not say to me what this is all about? This is very rude, General. Your group has been more than helpful to me, but a little respect is not important? - provokes the President, approaching the General, who remains impassive.

    - You will be well rewarded, Mr. President.

    - Yes, but what you have to interest me?

    - I've got, on the plane that brought me, a set of Predators to offer. Drones fully automatic, with heavy weapons. These will give you all the firepower to wipe out the rebels once and for all. All we want is a safe passage to find our item.

    President Ngungo, look at Malthus and gives him a smile:

    - What item?
     
  10. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 7 (Continued)

    Somewhere off the coast of Belgium. Exact location: Classified.

    On a dark and cold night of the European winter, the sea is rough, waves rise with the freezing wind coming from the North Pole.

    Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy walk in the tight corridors and full of pipes and conduits of what looks like a submarine. The commander of the G.I. Joe is wearing a black leather jacket with a T-shirt also black underneath. His pants is of camouflaged dark blue and gray, US Navy pattern. He straightens his black beret before entering the next compartment.

    In a small room filled with electronic displays and panels, there is a large console. Sitting on the chair in front with a headset with microphone linked, it is a sailor with short red hair. He wears a tight dark blue rib-knit fabric sweater and the same camo pants that Hawk is using. Hawk stands facing him and salutes, the Navy military man returns.

    - Carry on, sailor. - Greets the Colonel

    - Aye-Aye, Sir - answers the G.I. Joe with red hair.

    Hawk continues his way by another tight corridor of the submarine to get to a meeting room. In the small briefing area, they are sitting in the front row, Duke and Scarlett. Both wearing navy standard fatigues, camouflaged in blue and gray tint. Right behind them is Flint, with his sand-colored beret, a black tight T-shirt and also the same camo pants. In the same row, Roadblock with a sleeveless camo T-Shirt. A Kufi, a type of Taqiyah from West Africa, a round piece of embroidery cotton cloth, typical of Islamic countries, adorns his head. Spirit beside him, with camouflaged military fatigues with the sleeves rolled up. Around his forehead, a red bandana, characteristic of its indigenous origins. His hair is long and tied with two braids, one at each side of his hair. In the back, sitting on a counter, cross-legged in a meditation position, wearing an outfit all dark, black and gray, with his balaclava mask and glass visor, is Snake-Eyes.

    - Good evening, Joes. - Greets the Colonel.

    - Good evening, sir - all respond, except for Snake-Eyes, of course.

    Before the Colonel starts to speak, the wall behind him light up, showing itself as a large LED screen.

    - This is the first mission of you as this new version of G.I. Joe. We have much to explain. Starting with this base of operations of ours. Scarlett?

    The former Military Intelligence agent with short red hair stands up and takes the place of Colonel in front of the monitor. Hawk sits on one of the chairs. On the wall formed by LEDs, an image of a 3D blueprint submarine where the Joes are, is displayed.

    - Gentlemen, this is Whaleshark, our mobile ops base. Nuclear submarine with supersonic traveling capability.

    Deep in the ocean, very close to the submerged land, the Joes submarine moves at high speed. The mountains and the rocks of the sea floor are left behind very rapidly by the Whaleshark. It has a similar format of most submarines, except that its nose is somewhat pointy, looking like a bullet, a projectile. The underwater ship has a dark blue color as all submarines. On the top frontal part of the fairing, there is a square budge denoting a cargo compartment. On the back of the fuselage, a characteristic tower of this type of vessel. In its rear rockets boost the warship to an extreme speed. Around the submarine, a bubble of vapor water insulates it from the contact with the ocean.

    - Supersonic? So that's what caused the acceleration just now? We are moving in the Mach 1 underwater?

    - Yes, Lieutenant Faireborn.

    - Flint, please dear - answers the Australian commando, with a charming smile.

    - Scarlett for you, Flint. - the former Military Intelligence agent answers firmly.

    Duke turns back and Snake Eyes leans forward to face Flint and discourage him from his disrespectful attitude. The Australian shrugs and keeps smiling. Scarlett pretend that nothing happened and continues:

    - It is pretty much all automatic and can be driven by only one crew member.

    The display shows a fact sheet with a picture of the red haired sailor, the pilot of the submarine.

    - This is the Whaleshark pilot: Chief Petty Officer Malcolm R. Willoughby. Code Name: Deep Six. Navy SEAL, SDV team. Primary Specialty: Submarine Pilot. Secondary Specialty: Diver.

    A new schematic map of the submarine appears on the monitor. Scarlett continues her explanation.

    - This submarine was modified from a top secret prototype of the US government. It is equipped with a stealth technology to leave us invisible underwater for enemy fleets. It's a small size vessel, enough to carry an attack helicopter and a small group of commandos.

    Namely, us. - Complete Flint, looking at Spirit who was at his side and giving a wry smile.

    Scarlett sits. Hawk gets up, takes the front of the monitor and continues to explain the mission.

    - We have intel that the nuclear weapon lost by the US in Afghanistan is in Nigeria. It can be in the hands of the Nigeria Liberation Front rebels.

    The display shows a picture of Iman Zamundi, wearing a camouflage military uniform and a Muslim turban.

    - This is Iman Zamundi, leader of the radical Islamic movement that preaches a revolution to seize power in Nigeria. He is from the most radical wing of the movement and has his troops controlling the far north.

    At this point appears a picture of Namir Zamundi, also with a military uniform and using his eyeglasses.

    - This is Namir Zamundi, Iman's brother. More moderate, he commands troops of movement down south.

    The screen now shows photos of Nigerian Islamist soldiers wielding guns and masks.

    - The Zamundi's movement preaches the removal of President Ngungo from power.

    A photo of the president of Nigeria appears on the screen.

    - The president is a dictator of the worst kind, and to make matters worse he has been helped by the United States in clandestine operations led by a group of unscrupulous generals called Jugglers. These generals and admirals command the DoD in the shadows conniving and manipulating events to their advantage. It was they who lost the nuclear device in Afghanistan and will do anything to get it back. A leak to the press can be catastrophic to their shady schemes.

    Then appears on the screen a video of several ships and and an aircraft carrier moving at the sea.

    - The Jugglers already ordered a combat exercise in the Gulf of Guinea to cover up a possible clandestine action to rescue the nuclear device. It is likely that a team of Delta forces or Rangers is in Nigerian territory now.

    - We are already well familiar with this routine... - interrupts Flint.

    Duke then take the floor:

    - But this time is different. These soldiers are just following orders. They don't know why they are fighting for. We do. That's why I took this job.

    - Me too - Confirms Roadblock.

    - So do I - Agrees Spirit.

    Snake-Eyes raises his hand in the back.

    - Could not have said better, Duke. - Praises Hawk who does not mind the interruption and continues - But the Jugglers don't know what we know. We currently have one covert op in the Nigerian jungle collecting intel for us.

    The display shows a picture of a soldier of dark brown hair, mustache and wearing a safari hat with folded brim.

    - Sergeant Daniel M. LeClarie. Code Name: Recondo. Operative of the French Foreign Legion. Primary specialty: Jungle Recon. Secondary specialty: Intelligence. You will find him in the rainforest north of Nigeria. He will confirm that the nuclear weapon is really there and will lead you to the camp of the rebels led by Zamundi.

    The screen shows a map of Nigeria with a point in the north marked in red.

    - Flint and Scarlett will will drop you at this LZ tomorrow 06:00. You will walk through the jungle all day and night and make an attack the next day early in the morning. Flint and Scarlett will provide air support for the assault you'll make on the ground.

    An image of the lost nuclear weapon appears on the monitor.

    - However, recover the lost nuclear device is our priority. We will only make the assault after we rescued the artifact. Snake-Eyes, this is your top priority in the mission.

    Hawk is on the front of the display and continues.

    - In the rescue ops of the Secretary of State George Strawhacker, Duke got an HD containing valuable intelligence about who we will face in this mission.

    The screen shows a picture of the Dreadnok who goes by the nickname Buzzer.

    - This you know already: Richard Blinken-Smythe. AKA Buzzer. A sociologist of Cambridge, England which went to Australia to study motorcycle gangs. Little is known about him until he appeared in the kidnapping of the Secretary Strawhacker. With the intel we got we know he is part of a group of mercenaries called Dreadnoks.

    The monitor displays a video of Buzzer cutting the fairing of a jeep with a chainsaw.

    - His specialty is the use of a chainsaw bayonet in his machine gun.

    The display shows a picture of another Dreadnok, Ripper.

    - This is Henry Nod. AKA Ripper. He was born in Cape Grim in Tasmania Island, Australia. He was in the special Australian forces until he was dishonorably discharged. After that there were records here and there in mercenary activities. He is also part of Dreadnoks now.

    In a video feed Ripper is using a large blade also as an assault rifle bayonet destroying a training doll.

    - His specialty is the use of sharp cutting weapons, blades and bayonets. - Continues Hawk.

    The display shows another Dreadnok, Torch.

    - Tom Winken. AKA Torch. Born in Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Also of special Australian forces. Navy. Also dishonorably discharged and worked as a mercenary. Now forms the triplet of the most important operatives of the biker gang.

    Torch activates his flamethrower on a bunker, covering it with fire and flames in a video shown on the monitor.

    - His specialty is the flamethrower.

    Scarlett looks at Snake-Eyes, with a mixed expression of grief and anger. Snake-Eyes turns slightly his face and meets the gaze of his G.I. Joe friend.

    In the screen appears a sketch of a face with features similar to the villain that was disguised as George Strawhacker in the Everglades operation.

    - In the intel we found, there's a mention of their leader. They call him "Zartan". He is the master of disguise that passed as our Secretary of State for almost an year. This is a composite sketch of his face that was remembered by Snake-Eyes, the only one of us who saw his real face.

    Hawk is about to change images on the monitor.

    - We have evidence that the Dreadnoks are closely involved with these terrorists:

    A photo of Baroness appears on the screen.

    - Anastasia DeCobray. DoD code name: Baroness. His brother was killed in the failed ops to recover the nuclear device we seek. After that she dilapidated the family fortune and joined in radical leftist and anti-American movements.

    In the screen appear several newspapers clippings and TV news videos of Baroness DeCobray protesting and clashing with riot police.

    - She probably used the money from her inheritance to finance her entry into the world of terrorism. We know of her participation in at least 5 known terrorist groups, training around the world.

    Hawk is more serious and stresses more his following comment:

    - She is personally related with the nuclear device that we will rescue. We have to take this into consideration.

    A photo of a person with blurred face in an arms transaction between Muslims in Afghanistan appears on the monitor.

    - There is evidence that she works for a weapons smuggler known as Destro. We have no picture of him. Destro is responsible for more than half of the illegal weapons market in the world. He is a war criminal wanted in several countries. This mission can be a chance to catch him.

    Hawk continues:

    - Remember, the President Ngungo is a despot but it is not our mission face him. The rebels may have their reasons, but are involved with international terrorists. We have to rescue the nuclear device, and stop these criminals before it's too late.

    Scarlett gets up and distributes for each one of the Joes, thin transparent tablets, with their screen filled with images about the mission. Hawk continues his explanation:

    - In these files you will have more details about our mission. Any questions can be directed to me or agent Scarlett. Dismissed.

    On the monitor a picture of Baroness persists while the Hawk finishes his briefing and the Joes leave the meeting.

    Nigeria Liberation Front Camp, Nigeria

    Anastasia DeCobray, better known as the international terrorist Baroness is preparing for a mission. It's night in the jungle of the African country. Baroness is in her quarters in one of the prefabricated houses of the base of the rebels led by the Zamundi brothers. With one hand, she wears the other with a leather glove. Then she does the same with the other hand. She fasten her black leather belt full of bullets, grenades and pockets hanging around her hip. She is wearing a tight to the body, black, tactical sneaking suit. It appears to be made by some resistant material like Kevlar or something similar. She puts, in the holster from his belt, an automatic pistol with a suppressor. She wields, pointing up, a Rocky Mountain Arms Patriot assault rifle with one hand. With the other he puts a double drum magazine with 100 shots. Finally, she wears on his face her horned rim glasses, her trademark. She goes out of her chambers and heads for the airfield of the camp.

    Waiting outside is the squad of Grenadiers, fully equipped, with their camouflaged fatigues, webgear, M.A.R.S. MX-1 assault rifles and night-vision goggles, much more compact than those used by today's military forces.

    Along with the Grenadiers are also the Dreadnoks Buzzer, Ripper and Torch. All wear camouflage pants and vests with webgear over their shirtless torsos. Buzzer is with his SAW machine gun with a chainsaw attached under the firearm's barrel. Ripper with his rifle with bayonet-shaped blade and Torch carries a M.A.R.S. assault rifle and his flamethrower on his back.

    In the middle of Camp airstrip, two helicopters, equal to the one that brought Baroness to the camp, with intermeshing rotors at full throttle, wait for the troops of the mission to board.

    Baroness leads the group of Grenadiers and the Dreadnoks to the cabin door of each of the helicopters. Waiting for them are the two Zamundi brother: Iman and Namir. A group of Grenadiers enter in one of the helicopters. The Baroness, Ripper, Buzzer and Torch enter the other one with the rest of Destro elite troops.

    Baroness stands at the door and reaches for Iman Zamundi so he could board with them. Namir seems to want to enter too. The Eastern Europe terrorist casts a reaffirmation look to Iman. He captures the message from the arms supplier and talks to his brother:

    - Namir, I need you to stay here at camp taking care of everything while I'm gone. I'll watch this demo and then I'll tell you what I found.

    - But Iman ... - contests the younger brother of Zamundi.

    - I need you here, little brother - confirms Iman, with the helicopter already taking off.

    Namir puts his hand on his head as the helicopter, where his brother is, takes off spreading dust and old leaves around the rebel camp. The other helicopter goes up in the sky and follows the Baroness' aircraft.

    The helos approach a crusted village in the middle of the African tropical jungle. With the rotors in silent mode, and all the lights off, they take advantage of moonless night to approach unnoticed.

    Inside of one of the helicopters, Baroness explains the mission pointing on a map that is projected on a screen inside the aircraft:

    - Our helicopter will drop us at one of the extremities of the village while the other moves to the other side. We will scan the town to get to this building in the center where the American Delta Force squad are. Me and the Dreadnoks shall lead this team of Grenadiers. The troops on the other helicopter will be led by a man who is already in the area. He did a scout mission and mapped all the enemy positions.

    - He will lead the other group? Why not us? - Complains Torch.

    Anastasia DeCobray takes a look of disappointment and disapproval for the Dreadnok, who cringes in his corner and stops complaining. Baroness continues:

    - Zamundi, observe the action in this monitor. The Grenadiers have cameras attached on their shoulders. You will be able to see their combat effectiveness.

    The computer screen is divided into four different images. Each shows the view of the four different Grenadiers. In two of these images appear Baroness, Zamundi and the Dreadnoks at two different angles. In the two remaining images, only Grenadiers inside a helicopter can be seen.

    - You will see two Grenadiers from our group and two more from the other one. Enjoy the program. - Complements the Baroness, grinning a little.

    The choppers arrive at their positions. The Baroness aircraft hangs over a small shack on the outskirts of the town. The pilot activates the Thermal vision. All terrain gain shades of blue, as he searches for yellow shapes that emit heat, locating enemy positions. There are no guards around. The side doors open, and a Grenadier points out a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on the helicopter door, covering the exit of the Destro soldiers. Across the city, so does the other Grenadier's helicopter.

    In the first helicopter, some Grenadiers get down by rappelling ropes. The Baroness and the Dreadnoks follow them. When everyone is on the ground, the Baroness platoon and the other on the other side of the city, the helicopters take flight and head to a safer position. On the monitor, Zamundi watches everything in the cameras installed on the Grenadiers.

    The squad that came down across the city, gets close to a building. Stealthily, steps out from behind a dense bush jungle, a man, all in white, wearing a sleeveless vest and a glove with bandanas to the forearm. On his right shoulder is a red tattoo looking like small bricks arranged as a wall. The same symbol the Ranger with blond hair dreamed when he was delirious after the incident in Afghanistan.

    He wields two swords, one in each hand. The stealthy agent wears a white hood. Beneath him, only his eyes are on display because of its white ninja mask. The eyes of Tomito "Tommy" Arashikage. In an English with a slight Japanese accent, he talks with Baroness in a earpiece point.

    - Baroness, enemy positions are marked on the mission map. Shall we proceed?

    - Perfect, Stormshadow. You already know what to do.

    Stealthily, the group formed by the Baroness, Dreadnoks and Grenadiers goes sneaking around the shanty town. In the other side, Stormshadow and his platoon do the same. Ripper draws a large knife and mentions that would kill from behind an American soldier who is standing guard. Baroness raises his hand and prevents him from continuing. She makes a motion with his head pointing to the Grenadier that was coming after them. The Destro elite trooper grabs the neck of the Green Beret and kills him with a knife in the back.

    So does the group led by Stormshadow. The Ninja stands behind the scenes while the Grenadiers will kill one by one of the Delta Force guards who protected the village. As they move through the town, both squads undergo civilians sleeping in their homes, totally unaware of the Destro soldiers infiltration.

    The two groups come close to the town church. It's serving as a shelter for the American Special Forces squad. Each Grenadiers group is at one of entrances of the church. The Baroness group is next to the main door and the Stormshadow group is waiting near the side entrance.

    - Stormshadow. We will attack with everything now - Confirms Baroness.

    Oh, Yeah - exclaims Buzzer, preparing his machine gun with the underbarrel chainsaw.

    Stormshadow picks up a metal grappling hook. He stands back and throws it up aiming at the church tower. The rope attached at the lower end of the hook goes along with it as if it was a snake winding through the air. The hook gets attached on a ledge on the wall of the church. Stormshadow, pull the cable to see if it is firm and then begins to climb.

    Baroness places a plastic explosive in the church's big door. She clears away from the entrance. All Grenadiers and Dreadnoks get ready for the breach. Baroness presses a button on the detonator and the large wooden double door explodes inwards, each door flying on the soldiers who were camped inside the church.

    One of the wooden doors hit a group of soldiers. Others are hit by the explosion. The Baroness, with an expression of anger and a mixed look of hatred and satisfaction, comes firing his double drum Patriot. The muzzle flash illuminates her face, capsules fly as the bullets from the submachine gun travel towards the American soldiers. The Grenadiers invade behind her, firing their assault rifles. Several Americans got hit by the shots of Destro's troops and are decimated.

    On the side door, the Grenadiers breach in with a kick. The door lock is broken and the door slams with full force inwards. One of the Grenadiers throw a flashbang grenade. A glare and a deafening sound fill a room just after the entrance. Some Green Berets are stunned with the invasion. The Grenadiers come right after, shooting and killing the American special forces soldiers.

    In the tower, Storm Shadow, attached to the ceiling by claws on his hands and feet, jumps on a group of Airborne soldiers that was heading to the ground in order to defend their comrades. He falls to the ground, strikes a sharp blow of sword and kills two soldiers. He turns his body and back tucks his katana in another soldier piercing the American's body.

    In the helicopter, Zamundi observes all attacks through the monitors. On his face a look of satisfaction.

    Buzzer enters the church and gets cover next some Grenadiers exchanging fire with a group of Green Berets, holed up in a small room near the altar. The Dreadnok places a C4 in one of the walls of the room. He presses the detonator and the ordnance explodes, opening a new door in the wall leaving the Americans exposed. He enters the room with his chainsaw. The light near the altar projects on the wall a shadow of the English mercenary and his lumberjack weapon. The distance makes his shadow become enormous. He raises his chainsaw and the buzz of his weapon fill the room. Amid cries of pain and horror, a blood gushing jet paints the wall where the shadow of a chainsaw goes up and down.

    Downstairs, besides the soldiers there's also a few civilians, who were helping the Rangers. Without differentiating civilians from soldiers, Ripper fires his assault rifle with a large bayonet and kills all indiscriminately. Before the Dreadnok with black hair could continue, Storm Shadow jumps from the church's mezzanine, hits a kick to the Ripper's weapon and prevents him from killing more innocent.

    - They are civilians. We are warriors, we have to fight our equals. - Orders the Japanese Ninja.

    - Ha! I am not a warrior, mate! I'm a Dreadnok - responds angry Ripper, standing against the Ninja.

    Baroness intervenes, pointing the barrel of his submachine between them.

    - Stop both of you! We have work to do.

    Then she aims for the rest of the civilians who were paralyzed with horror of the situation, and fires her gun, killing them instantly. Anastasia DeCobray continued walking as if nothing had happened. Storm Shadow stands still, full of anger, but contained. Ripper look at him, and outlines a wry and mocking smile. Then he follows the Baroness for another attack.

    Soon after, the fighting ceases. Baroness, the Dreadnoks, Storm Shadow and the Grenadiers gather in front of the church, walking among the bodies of US Green Berets lying on the ground. In the houses near the church in the village, several civilians leave their homes fearing Destro's soldiers. Baroness turns to Torch and orders:

    - Torch, you know what to do.

    Storm Shadow tries to sketch a protest. Baroness raises his hand up with the palm open. The white Ninja obeys and stays silent.

    Torch aims his flamethrower at some two-story houses in the village and shoots a jet of fire. The flames lights up the night while burning of the houses. Torch moves his gun to one side and the other, pouring fire on several houses. The flames spread and they burn the whole village. He turns around and fires also at the church. Within moments the whole place is on fire.

    The two Destro's helicopters land on the small town square. Around them a hell takes over the Nigerian village. The Grenadiers enter the helicopters. Baroness goes back to the helicopter where Zamundi was following all the events of the evening by the screens.

    - Baroness, this village was filled with civilians. Nigerians, my people. You burned their homes...

    - Zamundi, these Nigerians are not your people. They are Ngungo government collaborators. Traitors. They deserved it. The movement has to show everyone what happens to those who collaborates with bloodthirsty dictators. - Respond the terrorist enthusiastically.

    The helicopters take flight, leaving behind a trail of flames, death and destruction.

    Somewhere along the Atlantic Ocean. Exact location: Classified

    The submarine Whaleshark of G.I. Joe, wrapped in a large air bubble, sails along the seabed under the influence of supercavitation, at supersonic speed.

    The submarine kitchen is a very small room, with a tall, narrow counter permeating the wall. Skirting the counter, stools. Sitting on them are Spirit, Duke and Flint. Standing up, Roadblock, wearing a chef's hat, serves food to them. Flint eat the first spoonful of the stew that was served, with his mouth still full, he asks:

    - You really made this food with the military rations we have?

    - Yes

    - It's wonderful.

    The other two Joes are eating too, and still chewing, nod their heads in agreement.

    - When I lived in Nigeria, I was always a good cook. My dream was to be a chef. When I went to Europe, I tried this career, but to no avail. I just had to join the army and have reconciled both.

    - Let me tell you something - Continued Flint - If you are as good with heavy weapons as you are in the kitchen, our enemies are lost.

    The other two Joes, with their mouth still full, shake their heads in agreement. Roadblock manages a smile. Her serves himself some of the food he prepared, and sits next to colleagues to eat. Duke leaves the food aside for a moment and asks:

    - So you know the Zamundi?

    - It's a strange coincidence, isn't it? We were best friends when we were teenagers in London. Our dream was to join the army together. But they decided to go to enlist in Nigeria, our birth country. Soon after they joined the Nigerian Army, President Ngungo took power. They deserted and joined the guerrilla movement. Actually this mission is happening because I know them.

    - What do you mean?

    - A few days ago I received a letter from Nadir Zamundi's mother. She stayed in London while their son returned to Nigeria. She wrote me that her son corresponded with her and said he was concerned about what is happening on the movement, with the actions of his brother, Iman. He told her that his brother is involved with terrorists in suspicious attitudes. He described how they were and so we found it was Baroness and her henchmen.

    - So Nadir is really a moderate.

    - Yes, sure. Since when were younger, Iman was more aggressive and radical. Nadir was more calm and diplomatic. They represent very different wings from Nigeria Liberation Front.

    - We must use this to our advantage - Duke concludes.

    - I was hoping you'd say that.

    - Let's finish our dinner and get some sleep. A few hours from now we have a mission to accomplish - ends Duke.
     
  11. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 7 (Continued)

    Gulf of Guinea.

    The submarine of G.I. Joe, Whaleshark, underwater in a very slow moving, begins to drop bubbles and head to the surface. The night still falls over the ocean that bathes the west side of the African continent. The full moon creates a silver path on the water surface. Waves begin to form at sea and the boat comes for the water surface like a whale that is inspiration for part of its name. Water runs on its fuselage. On the front, a floodgate begins to open to the side, while a structure is lifted out. What stands out first is a pair twin rotors of a helicopter, one in front and one behind, in the rest position where all blades are aligned in parallel pointing inside the aircraft. The front rotor blades pointing to the rear and the rear rotor to the front of the air vehicle.

    Going through one of the narrow doors of G.I. Joe's submarine, Scarlett, wearing her blue pattern camo navy fatigues, enters a large compartment. Flint, with his tight black shirt, camouflage pants and his unfailing sand-colored beret is close behind. Scarlett turns on the light of the compartment, illuminating a helicopter that is stationed there.

    - This is the Tomahawk. Our assault / transport helicopter.

    Being lifted by the floodgate and being at a higher level than the fuselage of Whaleshark, the Tomahawk helicopter starts to get into takeoff position. It has a dark green color camouflage pattern and has a rounded design with many curves. It has the Tandem Rotors design with a rotor in front and another behind on a slightly higher level. The drawing is similar to a Chinook or Sea Knight, but much smaller. The thrust turbines are below the front rotor. Flint is in the right chair of the helicopter's cockpit, with his sand-colored beret, and a headset with microphone. He wears some sort of tight sneaking tactical suit, with some plates on chest and shoulders. His suit has pixelated woodland pattern green and brown camo with a webgear on. Scarlett is in the chair beside him, wearing a similar tactical suit, only more lean, without the armor plating. She has a webgear on and is sporting a standard US Army helicopter pilot helmet.

    Scarlett continues her explanation inside the compartment where the Tomahawk is stationed inside the submarine:

    - Double cockpit for pilot and navigator. Weapons can be controlled by both crewmen.

    Emerging more from the submarine fuselage, the Tomahawk shows its nose. Just below the cockpit, a turret in spherical shape with two barrels side by side. The longer one is a set of multiple narrower barrels, like a rotary machine gun. The shorter is a thicker standard barrel, similar to a cannon muzzle. The two point forward of the aircraft.

    - Twin turret with Vulcan gatling gun with depleted uranium ammunition. 5000 rounds per minute and 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

    The helicopter of the G.I. Joe is already almost in takeoff position on the submarine. Just behind the cabin, on the right, a small wing springs from the fuselage of the Tomahawk. Below it, a support carrying four reddish missiles.

    - Capacity of four Hellfire missiles on a wing and two air-to-air AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles on the other.

    Just behind the wing with weapons, a group of small windows set the dimensions for the cargo area of the rotary wing aircraft. At the rear of the helicopter a ramp that serves as the internal compartment door begins to close.

    - Rear compartment cabin for transportation of a small group of special ops. This chopper was upgraded from a canceled US Army prototype. In the early 80s, there was a design for a helicopter to stand against the Soviet Mil-Mi 24 Hind. It was based on the Sea Knight and Chinook, but much smaller. We took the prototype, improved some things like Stealth technology, supersonic and modern weaponry

    Through the dim light that is coming from the choppers interior, one can see that Roadblock is placed behind a mounted gatling mini-gun next to the rear door. He is wearing the same tactical suit that Flint and Scarlett are wearing: a tight on the body, rubber like armor, covering his legs, torso and arms. On the chest, abdomen, shoulders, arms and legs are reinforced plates for protection. His armor is painted in a pixelated, green and brown, woodland like pattern camouflage. He has heavy combat boots and carry a lot of military equipment on a webgear on his chest and other pockets strapped on his arms and legs. As the helicopter crew prepares to take off, the rear door closes completely.

    Scarlett opens a horizontal draw inside the cargo compartment of the Tomahawk chopper. Inside the draw is a torso part of a body armor similar to the one that Roadblock was wearing.

    - This is our standard tactical suit. It is based on an advanced infantry armor prototype constructed from a Nomex and Kevlar mixed fiber. It has an undersuit with built-in temperature regulators and armor plates over the chest, calves, thighs, arms made of kevlar bi-weave that can absorb substantial damage from slashing weapons and bullets other than a point blank shot.

    The Tomahawk is now in full position to take off, stationed above the Whaleshark fuselage with its front landing gear wheel under the nose and the two rear wheels coming out from two lumps at the end of the aircraft's belly. The full moon in the Gulf of Guinea night illuminates the fuselage of the helicopter. The turbines below the front rotor begin to light up and throw hot air. The rotors, that were in dismounted position, start turning to the flight position, with its three blades coming out of the parallel position they were to form two three-pointed stars above the aircraft.

    Flint turns to Scarlett in the room where the helicopter is stationed:

    - Double Cockpit, huh? I think I'll fly the aircraft, because of my specialty and such... but who will be my navigator? - Asks with a smirk on his face.

    I will accompany you, Flint. - Scarlett replied dryly.

    - Oh, so you mean I'll have the pleasure to take you for a ride? - The soldier from special Australian forces continues playing and flirting.

    - I practically built this helicopter, soldier. If someone is going to take someone to a ride, I think I would take you and not vice versa. - Shana O'Hara answers seriously, leaving Flint behind.

    - I would like if you take me for a ride... - continues Flint, jokingly.

    On the heliport above the submarine fuselage, Flint speaks on the radio.

    - Crew, prepare for takeoff.

    - The rotors of the helicopter are already at full speed, the support wheels tires begin to cease to touch the ground. Flint continues with a smile:

    - Get ready, because Scarlett is taking me for a ride...

    The Tomahawk stands still, hovering a few meters above the submarine. It leans forward slightly and begins to pick up speed. The aircraft of G.I. Joe heads to mainland under a full moon in the African night.

    The African night begins to make room for the day, as the G.I. Joe rotary wing aircraft penetrates deeper into the Nigerian jungle.

    Within the transport compartment of Joe's chopper, Duke is sitting on one of the side seats. He is wearing the G.I. Joe standard hi-tech suit, with a webgear with pockets, grenades and other paraphernalia. He carries his SIG SG 553 assault rifle with suppressor, under barrel grenade launcher, red dot sights and extra magazine tied to the magazine inserted into the rifle. His face is covered in ink patterned in bands of light and dark green colors.

    Spirit is sitting right next to Lieutenant Hauser. The soldier from Canadian special forces, is wearing a more streamlined version of the same camouflaged tactical suit that Duke is wearing. It has the same kevlar like material, but without the armor plating. He has his black hair with a red band over his forehead and has two long braids on the side. On his face, a black war paint crosses, starting at a cheek to the other, through the nose. Painted on the arms of the armor the soldier of indigenous origins is wearing, red tattoo-like painted patterns, characteristic of his tribe. He also wearing a Native American style breechcloth, a piece of cloth hanging from his belt, covering the front part of his legs. He inserts pieces of a gun inside a suitcase. It's a .50 caliber sniper rifle, M107, standard for American Army, painted in camouflaged colors for tropical jungle . Spirit still carries a hi-tech modern bow pinned to his chest, with the bowstring passing on his back and limbs passing in front of his torso. Spirit also has a quiver with multiple arrows, each with a different head.

    Sitting in front of two other Joes, Snake-Eyes, with his black balaclava and glass display, wears the same light armor that Spirit is wearing. He uses two black gloves and has a webgear vest also fully equipped with grenades, knives and an automatic pistol. He carries an MP7 submachine gun of German manufacture, with front grip unfolded, unfolded buttstock, suppressor and red dot sighting.

    Mounted on the door, Roadblock, also wearing the standard G.I. Joe tactical suit, with webgear with lots of pockets and military ordnance, sits in front of his gatling minigun.

    The Tomahawk comes at a point in the forest, near a stream where there is a small clearing. He stops over the clearing causing the water of the the creek to move in small waves. The aircraft's back door starts to open.

    - We arrived at the LZ, folks. Checking perimeter. - Says Flint.

    A blue view of the terrain appears on the helicopter inner glass right in front of the Australian pilot. Roadblock puts on a thermal vision goggles and makes the same searching for possible enemies and ambush.

    - Nothing on sensors - Informs Flint. - The meeting with Recondo is a few klicks north.

    - Let's go down, guys. Go! Go! - orders Duke.

    A rope is thrown by the helicopter door. Roadblock is attentive and continues scanning the area with his rotating machine gun. Duke is the first to unboard. He makes a rappel to the ground which is a few meters down from the helicopter. Once there, Duke gets in alert position, pointing his assault rifle guarding the point of arrival.

    Spirit descends then, also rappelling, followed closely by Snake-Eyes, which is positioned on alert, pointing his submachine gun.

    Roadblock then dismounts his helicopter door mini gun. Puts in on his back. He picks up an HK G36 heavy assault rifle with double drum magazine, telescopic sight and integrated suppressor, and gets down by rappelling.

    Once everyone is on the ground, Flint speaks on communicator:

    - Good luck, comrades. In 24 hours we meet in the rebel camp at the raid.

    The helicopter takes off leaving a small team of Joes marching to find their expert in jungle combat and mission contact.

    A large knife cuts a plant making room in the thick Nigerian jungle. Spirit goes leading the team toward the meeting point with Recondo. The other Joes follow behind in the alert position. The day is now dawning on the African continent and the sun gets through the dense vegetation.

    The G.I. Joe come to a small swampy lake, full of dark water, sludge and slime, within the dense vegetation. A few rays of light illuminate the place. Spirit, holding a suppressed handgun, raises his hands with open palm and the Joes stop their march. He keeps the hand signals and with the index finger pointing up, rotate it in a sign for the team to spread. The Joes follow the tip of the Canadian tracker and round the pond, inspecting the place.

    - There is no one here - Duke reasons.

    - This is the meeting point with Recondo, right? - Questions Roadblock.

    - Yes, but he's not here. - Confirms Duke.

    Spirit moves his eyes without moving his head too much. He has an apprehensive expression.

    - I have a bad feeling...

    Suddenly a soldier comes out of the water very quickly and points his rifle to Spirit. But before he could say anything, as quickly, Snake-Eyes turns and points his submachine gun to the head of the soldier who attacked the group.

    The clothing of the intruder is all wet. He wears a safari hat, with one of part of the brim folded, glued on the crown. His clothing is a standard camouflage uniform for tropical jungles, with the sleeves rolled up. He carries an FN SCAR assault rifle with camouflaged paint in shades of green and an also camouflaged cloth involving the front grip under the barrel. His thick mustache drips some drops from the dirty lake where he was plunged.

    - Eh, I tried to catch you by surprise guys, but you're fast - says the soldier with safari hat and mustache, with an English with a slight French accent, looking at Snake-Eyes.

    - Drop your weapon now and identify yourself - Orders Duke, pointing his assault rifle. All other Joes do the same.

    - Recondo, right? Who else did you expect? The password is: Now you know…

    - And knowing is half the battle - Duke responds, raising his rifle.

    You shouldn't have done that ,you know? - Rebuke Roadblock - You could have died.

    - I had to test you, of course. I wouldn't shove myself in the jungle with a bunch of rookies, no offense.

    - None taken - responds Duke.

    - But you are good ... especially the masked one there. What's his story?

    - You don't wanna know... - Duke answers by pulling Recondo out of the lake.

    The Joes begin to prepare to march to the camp of Nigerian rebels. Roadblock approaches Duke, holds his arm and pushes him for a private chat:

    - Duke, I would ask permission advance in double time. If I'm quick I can get in the the middle of the night before you and convince Namir Zamundi to switch sides.

    - I don't know Roadblock... I agree with you that we have to bring Namir for our side, but we have our orders. We already traced our plan. Going ahead like that is very risky.

    - But Duke, think well. Namir is a good person. I know him. I'm sure I can convince him to face his brother and the Destro soldiers. Without him on our side, we have a great chance to fail.

    - But it's too risky. Besides you have your gatling gun to carry and you could not find the camp alone. We need Recondo as a guide to find the place.

    The other Joes happen to listen the conversation. Spirit, rests his hand on the shoulder of the Nigerian origin Joe and says:

    - I can carry your gun, Roadblock.

    Snake-Eyes takes the Sniper rifle case from Spirit's back and lays it on his own back.

    - But he still won't be able to find his way to camp - argues Recondo.

    - You can go with him - retorts Spirit. You will leave marks in the jungle. I can follow them.

    - Sure he can. He's the best tracker I've ever seen - continues Roadblock.

    Duke has an expression that he's not sure.

    - I read your file, Duke. I know why Hawk called you for the Joes. You put freedom and justice above patriotism and orders. The people of Nigeria need Namir. We have to bring him back to the right path. We need him to win this battle. Let me try.

    Duke looks at his mates, thinks for a moment and replies:

    - OK, Roadblock. Let's do as suggested: Recondo, escort him to the camp, double time. You have only hours to convince Namir to switch sides. If he refuses, you'll have to neutralize him, se he won't compromise the mission. And no need to stress this: don't get caught, right?

    Duke look of the rest of the team and continues:

    - The rest of us, Snake-Eyes, Spirit and I will follow you. We meet on time.

    The sun, a giant orange ball sets in the African jungle, in northern Nigeria, serving as a show for a group of antelopes. Still In the jungle, Recondo cuts the thick vegetation of the forest. In a fast paced march, he and Roadblock walk towards the camp of Namir Zamundi.

    In another point of Nigerian tropical jungle, the rest of the G.I. Joe marches slowly. Spirit, carrying Roadblock's gatling minigun on his back, checks a cut branch. He recognizes it as a track opened by Recondo and instructs his companions to continue. Close behind comes Duke followed by Snake-Eyes, carrying Spirit's sniper rifle case.
     
  12. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 7 (Continued)

    Nigeria Liberation Front Camp.

    In the dark night hanging over the African continent, a rebel soldier, dressed in military clothes, but with a t-shirt of an American rock band is guarding a far area of the camp. He holds his AK-47 and illuminates the surroundings with a flashlight, looking for potential intruders. Roadblock springs from from behind the bushes surrounding the camp and fetches the lookout by his back. His huge arms embrace the neck of the rebel as if they were a grasp from a South American anaconda snake. The Nigerian guerrilla try to scream but he can't. He struggles for a moment, but is soon unconscious. The G.I. Joe holds and gently put him on the floor. Roadblock and Recondo sneak towards the huts in the center of the camp.

    Nadir Zamundi is lying in his housing. The night does not relieve the intense heat of the African tropical weather and the ceiling fan running at a very slow speed also does not contribute to improve the situation. Sweat runs from the revolutionary's forehead as he looks at the ceiling thoughtfully, with an apprehensive expression.

    In a move extremely quickly, a hand of an African and strong person grabs Zamundi's neck. Another hand covers his mouth preventing screaming. Topping the dim light coming from the ceiling fan lamp, Roadblock's face appears for the African guerrilla leader. The whites of her eyes stands out in relation to his black skin and little clarity from Zamundi's room:

    - Take it easy, Nadir. It's me, Marvin. Marvin Hinton. Please don't scream.

    Zamundi tries to say something but only a grunt comes out of his capped mouth.

    - I'll release you now, OK? But you will not scream, right? If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it already, friend. We need to talk. For old times' sake, please let me talk. If after listening to me, you want to call your soldiers, I won't stop you. I can release you now? You will not call your soldiers? - Questions the Nigerian G.I. Joe.

    Zamundi makes a positive nod. Roadblock loose him. Nadir jumps out of bed and defensively stands in a corner of the room, opposite to the Joe.

    - What are you doing here, Marvin? Why did you attack me like this? - Questions Zamundi, nervous and apprehensive.

    Roadblock stands in a calm and not aggressive position. He speaks quietly to try to cool the tension and nervousness of his interlocutor:

    - You have to get out of here, Nadir. You have to leave your brother and reach for the group of soldiers loyal to you further South.

    - What do you mean? You come here to ask me to leave my brother...

    - Your brother is doing business with the wrong people. You've probably noticed. Who is providing weapons to him is an international terrorist wanted and highly dangerous. He's bringing dishonor to the Liberation Front.

    - You did not answer me, Marvin, what are you doing here?

    - I came to fight this terrorist, Nadir and stop your brother.

    - What? And you expect me to help... - Nadir answers with indignation, appearing he would call the camp soldiers. Roadblock holds his arm and stops him.

    - Pay attention, Nadir. Iman is negotiating a nuclear weapon with this terrorist.

    - What? You're lying... - Nadir revolts, but with an expression of doubt.

    - Think, Nadir. In these last days didn't you see anything odd? Iman having meetings with Baroness you could not participate? Things Iman has left you out?

    - Iman has done so lately... and there is a hidden material on the deposits. Iman does not let anyone get near. Not even me. He says that is what will ensure our victory…

    - That's it, Nadir! It's the nuclear bomb! Where is it?

    - In one of the deposits in the southern area of the camp ... - replies Iman's brother, already thoughtful and without conviction.

    - We will deactivate it, Nadir. My team and I. You have to leave now and meet your group further south. Bring them here to fight these terrorists. If your brother sees you taking a stand against it, he will come to his senses.

    Nadir is thoughtful. Roadblock grabs some trekking gear and delivery for his Nigerian friend. Looking into his eyes, the Joe speaks in a forceful tone:

    - Go, Nadir. Now.

    Nadir Zamundi get his gear, weapons and supplies, and goes out of his housing door, leaving camp.

    The day dawns in the Nigerian jungle. The sky begins to become clear, with a bluish color. The Nigeria Liberation Front's camp still has no movement except for a few guards in watchtowers and checking perimeter in the Iman Zamundi's headquarters.

    Duke sneaks near a lot of boxes of supplies on the far area of the camp and takes an assault position.

    Spirit crouches at a higher point in the jungle, which gives him a privileged view of the entire camp. He begins to mount his M107 sniper rifle, putting the gun barrel and the telescopic sight. He puts the bipod on the gun in a position to shoot.

    Roadblock is positioned behind a parked vehicle and begins to mount his gatling machine gun. He picks up a large drum that was in his backpack, opens and checks the ammunition belt of 7.62 mm bullets which is contained within it. He fits the drum on the machine gun and crouching, stays in attack position.

    The face of one of the Nigerian guards hits hard on the ground. His face shows that he is dead. A pair of boots approaches the body. The attacker crouches and takes a military knife from the dead rebel chest. Snake-Eyes takes his knife and continues to burrow by the rebel camp. The masked Joe enters a hut, and finds Recondo hidden behind some furniture.

    - I found the weapon - whispers the Joe expert in jungle combat with his French accent. - It is within this tunnel.

    Recondo points to a hole in the ground, made in the middle of one of the deposits made of wood from the region. In the middle, a pair of strings enter into the crater as if for hoisting equipment into it and vice versa. There is a guard close to the tunnel entrance.

    Snake-Eyes throws something in a more remote area of the deposit and the guard turns to see what it is. He asks something in a Nigerian dialect of the region. As nobody answers, he turns to investigate. Recondo and Snake-Eyes seize the chance and go down by the cable. Inside the cave, in a poorly bright part they see Iman Zamundi sitting in front of the nuclear weapon stolen from the Americans. He admires the artifact. The illuminated panel of the atomic weapon fills his face with green tones. Around him a group of four Iron Grenadiers makes guard of the nuclear device.

    Recondo speaks on his communicator:

    - We found the package.

    Flint, sitting in the pilot cabin of the Tomahawk helicopter, with his sand-colored beret, and a pair of headphones with attached microphone and a transparent visor over one of his eyes, replies:

    - Understood. We are a few minutes from there. Make art, boys!.

    The helicopter of G.I. Joe, the Tomahawk, flies at a very low altitude over the Nigerian forest. In the aircraft cabin, Scarlett, also with a headset, microphone and aiming visor observes the data panels.

    Duke points his assault rifle, which has a small cylindrical device coupled to the gun barrel and looks through its scope. On the display, the crosshair is positioned in a group of tanks ahead. A red light intensifies in the the center point of the cross.

    - Target 1 painted. - Affirms Duke.

    Spirit looks at a target also with his sniper rifle. His weapon also has the same cylindrical device. Inside the telescopic vision, an ammunition depot is framed in the crosshair drawn in the lens. A red light also lights up in the middle of the cross, just upon the target.

    - Target 2 painted - Informs Spirit.

    Roadblock has his rotating machine gun lowered, attached to his body by a belt. He looks through an equipment formed by the same cylindrical device of Duke's and Spirit's firearms, but coupled with a telescope, like a type of binoculars. On the display, he frames a watchtower with a heavy machine gun with .50 ammunition and a rebel soldier doing the guard. The red light is also lit in the middle of the cross.

    - Target 3 painted. We are ready - Tells Roadblock.

    In front of the Tomahawk windscreen hovers a three-dimensional map, formed by small triangular plans, of the land of Nigeria region where the camp of the rebels is. A small 3D helicopter icon shows the current position of the Joes aircraft. Three red dots blink ahead. Red lines connect each flashing point to the small helicopter icon, which advances in the three-dimensional model of the battlefield.

    On a camping hut of the Nigerian rebels, Tomito Arashikage, wearing the white pants of his ninja uniform and shirtless, is sitting in lotus position, eyes closed, meditating. On his left shoulder, a red tattoo with the Arashikage clan symbol. He opens his eyes suddenly, with a look of concern and surprise.

    - Targets locked and loaded. - Confirms Flint with his Australian accent as he presses a button on top of the attack helicopter's control joystick.

    On the left wing of the Tomahawk, of the group of four Hellfire air-to-ground missiles hanging, three light their rear rockets and fire at high speed.

    The helicopter piloted by Flint and Scarlett gets behind as three Hellfires fly above the Nigerian jungle. Their smoke trails meander across the sky as if they were three water snakes swimming at high speed.

    Duke, crouched in his attack position, looks up and sees a missile passing over him. One of the tanks ahead is reached by the Hellfire and explodes. A fireball crosses through the sky, declaring the attack of the G.I. Joe.

    Almost immediately, another missile hits the ammunition depot painted by Spirit. It flies through the air on a even larger explosion.

    Simultaneously, the third missile hits the top of the watchtower, where there was a machine gun nest, the painted target for Roadblock. The Hellfire shatters the head of the tower into a thousand pieces.

    Duke rises from his lookout position, and starts the attack firing a shot from his grenade launcher attached to his assault rifle:

    - Yo Joe!

    The grenade shot hits the top of another tower surveillance and destroys another .50 mounted machine gun.

    Stormshadow, in his hut, quickly leaves the meditation position, puts his white mask, grabs his weapons: a bow, a quiver with several arrows and his two katanas, and comes out to face the Joes.

    While the attack alarm begins to sound in the rebel camp, Roadblock holds his gatling machine gun like a chainsaw, holding the body by a handle with his left arm and handling a joystick in the back of the machine gun with his right arm. From the body of the gun, a mini metal shield, springs out automatically. It has a reinforced glass small window to allow the heavy armor specialist to aim, while protecting his head from enemy fire. He points and makes several shots. The Gatling rotates at high speed, spitting muzzle flash and bullets in the same way as cartridges fly through the air.

    The shots hit a squad of rebels who was leaving a soldiers barracks. Several got hit and most goes back inside.

    Iman Zamundi listens to the beginning of the fight from the underground cavern where he watched the nuclear device. He picks up his M.A.R.S. assault rifle and orders:

    Stay here and keep the nuclear device safe. Kill anyone who comes close!

    Zamundi climbs the rope towards the surface.

    Rebels in a pickup truck with a machine gun mounted on its cargo bed begins to move towards where Duke and Roadblock are. Spirit frames it into his telescopic scope. He fires 3 shots of his anti-materiel sniper rifle and hit all of them in the van hood. The engine explodes and the car hits a heap of barrels.

    The helicopter of G.I. Joe, the Tomahawk, dawns on the camp of the rebels, with its two rotors spinning at full speed.

    Flint targets a squad of Grenadiers moving towards the center of the battle. He presses a trigger on his joystick. The minigun in the nose begins to rotate at thousands of revolutions per minute spitting depleted uranium bullets. The projectiles hit the ground forming small atomic mushrooms. The Destro elite commands are shot and fall to the ground as if they were pins in a bowling alley.

    - Scarlett, another group of tanks at 3 o'clock. - Informs Flint.

    - Seen it. I'll take care of them - answers Scarlett.

    Using the controls of the helicopter, and turning her face, Scarlett observes a couple of tanks preparing to fire their guns. She touches with her finger in the air and marks some red spots on the helicopter windshield interface in sensitive points of the tanks as caterpillars, side armor, guns that are on the top of the tower and the cannons. Scarlett pulls the trigger in a joystick. The twin turret automatically turns to the right and a small cannon fires a series of grenades automatically. Each grenade reaches the targets marked by redhead G.I. Joe and neutralizes both the rebels tanks.

    Baroness lying on her bed, dressed in standard military uniform wakes up with the attack from the US elite troops. She puts on her horn-rimmed glasses and also picks up their weapons and go out to fight.

    In a machine gun nest behind some sandbags, a rebel fires a series of caliber .50 shots against Duke and Roadblock, whom get protected behind one of the tanks neutralized by Scarlett. Spirit aims with his high range telescopic scope at the rebel machine gun and fires an also .50 caliber shot from his sniper rifle. The bullet runs through the rebel camp and 18 kilojoules of energy split the rebel machine gun in half, knocking out the soldier who operated it.

    In the midst of combat, with gunfire and explosions going on everywhere, Baroness, now wearing his black combat tactical suit picks up a military radio and orders:

    - Camp Bravo, we need air support. Now!

    Spirit frames Baroness in his telescopic scope and is ready for a headshot.

    - Baroness in sight. Can I neutralize her?

    - Affirmative! - Answers Duke.

    Stormshadow senses that the Baroness is in danger and looks to a higher area away from the camp. He sees the reflection from the telescopic lens of the Sniper Joe rifle. Spirit pulls the trigger and at the same split second, Stormshadow makes a move with both arms and throws in the air eight shurikens. The japanese metal stars cut through the air and one of them hit the .50 bullet from the M107 rifle, saving the life of the Baroness.

    The white mask ninja with the same agility and speed picks up his bow, places an arrow on the strings and aims to where he had seen the reflection from Spirit's weapon. He shoots the arrow. It flies in an extreme speed, striking the sights of the M107 rifle. The impact makes Spirit falls back. Stormshadow then leaves the battlefield behind him and goes against the impact point of his arrow.

    Baroness realizes she was almost killed and Stormshadow saved her. She looks at Ripper, one of Dreadnoks:

    - What are you waiting, *******? Go after Stormshadow!

    Ripper takes his machine gun with the huge bayonet attached below the barrel and tries to follow the Ninja of white mask.

    In the underground area where the stolen nuclear weapon from US military is, Snake-Eyes removes the pin of a cylindrical shape grenade and toss it where the Grenadiers are mounting guard. The ordnance explodes making a big flash and a strong and bass noise. Recondo and the masked soldier point their guns, a FN Scar rifle and a MP7 submachine gun respectively and assault the Grenadiers group standing guard. The suppressors from the weapons emit weak and muffled sounds while the projectiles hit in full the Destro elite soldiers, eliminating them.

    Snake-Eyes approaches the nuclear weapon console. The green phosphor panel illuminates his black mask. Recondo arrives soon after. On the dashboard, a status message: Nuclear Weapon Activated.

    - The gun is already activated! We arrived too late! They got the code some way - Recondo exclaims with his English with a French accent. - You have to enter the code again, Snake-Eyes, to disable the weapon. So we can capture it and take it back safely.

    Snake-Eyes position himself near the console and enters the secret string of 16 digits that made him a ghost, changing his name to the status "Classified" forever. When he finishes entering the code, he presses the "Enter" key. Then, a red light turns on in the console and a message appears: Activation code captured.

    Recondo is further back than Snake-Eyes. He points his rifle to his mate's back and with a smile on the corner of his mouth says, with a totally different voice and intonation:

    - Thanks for the code, Snake-Eyes.

    Recondo shoots his rifle. Snake-Eyes uses his keen instinct to try to dodge the shots, but ends up taking some on his arm. The masked Joe falls to the ground. Recondo approaches Snake-Eyes to finish him once and for all but right now, one of the Grenadiers rises and strafe Recondo with his assault rifle. The Grenadier takes off his balaclava and reveals himself as Recondo. He closes fast to Snake-Eyes and helps him up. When both look back, the enemy who passed himself off as Recondo is gone.

    While Snake-Eyes examines his arm to see if the shot had perforated his tactical suit kevlar armor, Recondo use his communication earpiece to talk to the rest of the team:

    - Here is Recondo. The nuclear device was a decoy. It was an hollow console to deceive us to enter the real code. Apparently it worked. I was discovered making recon of this place. They drugged and tortured me but I could fake my death. Before they dismissed my body I could escape and change places with a Grenadier who was buried in my place. I took his place and found that someone had taken my place.

    - Zartan! - Answers Duke, crouched next to a piece of wall, protecting himself from a hail of bullets from Nigerian rebels. He continues - We have to go on and capture the Baroness. So we may have some bargaining chips to prevent the firing of the nuclear weapon.

    At this time a flash involves Duke whom is surrounded by flames. Torch fires again a jet of his flamethrower, further worsening the situation.

    At the Tomahawk cockpit while the fighting takes place in full swing below, Scarlett sees her mate surrounded, but does not have a good aim of Torch because of the flames.

    - Torch cornered Duke. Leave him to me. Flint, hover for a moment on that truck.

    Flint does a maneuver while Scarlett, taking of her helmet, runs to the back door of the Joes chopper. The Tomahawk hovers over a truck riddled with bullets. The nose mounted gatling machine gun scans, firing shots in all directions giving cover to Agent O'Hara. She jumps through the back door, falls on a truck hood, gives a somersault and hit a shot in a rebel with her MP9 submachine gun with red dot sight and laser aim. Scarlett runs towards Duke and Torch. The Dreadnok with the flamethrower sees the enemy coming and change his target and tries to burn the G.I. Joe with red hair. She dodges rolling to her side, avoids the flames and falls in prone position, firing her submachine gun at the Torch fuel tank. Some bullets pierce the compartment and the liquid flows through the back of the Dreadnok. The fire of the flamethrower becomes uncontrollable and engulf the body of the Australian biker. He screams out in pain and right after, explodes in a big ball of light and fire. The heat is intense and Scarlett covers her face to protect herself from the explosion that killed the Dreadnok that burned Snake-Eyes's face.

    M.A.R.S. nuclear facilities. Exact location: Unknown

    A huge metal tube lying parallel to the floor remains stationary within an even larger chamber. The tube is supported by two brackets that hold each of its ends. The chamber is cold, completely covered with metal plates and with strong lighting. At one end of the large tube, which actually has its section in the hexagonal format, a large electronic device, from where large and heavy electrical cables, connect to one of the walls of the chamber. At the other end of the tube, another device, following the same direction of the tube itself, like a muzzle of a laser cannon of a science fiction movie, connects to the other wall of the large chamber.

    Controlling this technology installation, through a large heavy and reinforced glass window in front of a large touchscreen console screens, buttons, sliders and knobs are two operators, with scientist coats. One of them is a woman with blond and short hair. The other is a great man, of stocky body with red hair and beard . The man is wearing a Kilt, a Scottish plaid skirt beneath the coat. Behind them, standing, wearing an impeccable dark blue suit, James McCullen XXIV, observes his invention.

    In a part of the console, a red flashing warning states: Nuclear Weapon Code Received. Just below a large green button: Start Enrichment Process.

    - The code has been successfully received, M'Laird. - Informs the short-haired woman with an English with a strong Scottish accent. - The nuclear warhead is active.

    - The procedure is ready to start - Completes the red-bearded man, also with a well loaded Scottish accent. - M'Laird can have the honors.

    Destro draws a big smile and talks to his tech assistants:

    - The G.I. Joe took the bait. When they rescued the US Secretary of State, they brought with them the last person they should have brought. It was easy for us to know the masked soldier was the one who knew the code. We just released a lot of intel suggesting that Baroness would be negotiating the nuclear device with the Zamundi in several channels, hoping some of it would reach G.I. Joe's command. We knew that the masked soldier would be on their team.

    - It worked like a charm. - agrees the short-haired woman.

    - Yes, it did - completes McCullen.

    Destro approaches the touchscreen console and pushes the big green button. At this time several charts and indicators change on the console screen indicating the start of a technological process. A huge noise starts in the control room and the chamber. In the middle of the screen, a counter starts. The kilt wearing scientist follows the countdown:

    - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ignition!

    In the console there's a graphical representation of the great chamber devices in front of the glass window, on the left side where is drawn the large tube of hexagonal section, is the "laser gun" and above it an icon of a nuclear weapon. At this time, the icon of the nuclear device explodes. And an orange color bar begins to fill the tube graphic representation from the left to the right at high speed.

    In the chamber, the actual tube, begins to spin into a ludicrous speed. The noise becomes even more deafening.

    - It's working! - Shouts the short-haired woman - Your design works, M'Laird!

    On the screen, a percentage indicator begins to grow, 10%, 20%, 30%. Below a text: Uranium Enrichment.

    - The energy of the nuclear bomb explosion is enriching the uranium almost instantly - continues the scientist still enthusiastic.

    The percentage indicator continues to grow: 70%, 80%, 90%.

    With a smile and an expression of extreme satisfaction and pride, Destro greets his assistants:

    - Isn't ironic, my companions? The Yankees and the UN try to contain nuclear breakthrough by controlling the uranium enrichment technology. They never imagined that I would design something like that and the only thing I would need was a massive source of instant energy. A nuclear weapon itself.

    With the indicator of 90% enriched uranium emanating from the touchscreen display reflected on his face, McCullen continues, with an almost devilish grin:

    - Finally I realized the great dream of my father. M.A.R.S. is now a nuclear power. And ready to sell our new nuclear products. To the highest bidder!

    Rebel camp. Northern Nigeria.

    Elsewhere in the field, Roadblock fires his gatling machine gun suppressing a group of rebels trapped inside one of the camp houses. Buzzer comes from behind with his chainsaw attached under the barrel of a machine gun. He raises the arms, gives a battle cry and cuts Roadblock's machine gun in the middle. The firearm, still in heavy rotation, explodes and the Nigerian Joe is thrown to the ground. His webgear begins to catch fire. Roadblock strips it quickly and already getting up, get rid of the burning equipment.

    - Let's see how you handle yourself without your big gun - teases Buzzer with an accent that is a mix of British with Australian.

    Buzzer raises his chainsaw again and attacks Roadblock. Marvin Hinton holds the arms of the Dreadnok to prevent the enemy blow. The two make a duel of brute force, their muscles tense and their teeth clenched. Roadblock is much stronger and starts to win the duel. Buzzer allows the Nigerian to enjoy his temporary advantage and kick the enemy in the belly that falls to the ground. Buzzer raises the chainsaw again, gets ready for another attack. Roadblock rolls to the side and throws upon the Dreadnok a sandbag. The chainsaw rips the bag in half, pouring sand everywhere and temporarily blinding Buzzer. Roadblock takes the opportunity and toss himself, like a battering ram, using his shoulders, on the Dreadnok, which falls to the ground. Buzzer gets up and starts spinning his chain saw with speed and force to one side to the other trying to hit in vain the body of the Nigerian Joe who dodges with speed despite his large size. Flint talks in his radio:

    - Roadblock, get the hell outta here and I'll give you a hand.

    Roadblock does not think twice and jumps to the side. Flint presses a trigger on his joystick and the rotating machine gun of the Tomahawk spits a hail of bullets between Roadblock and Buzzer. The Dreadnok manages to roll for the side and avoid the shots.

    An alert appears on the Tomahawk glass interface. Two red dots showing up north. Two airplanes in attack formation approach at full speed to the rebel camp. The aircrafts have a dark green color with a bluish hue. They have a similar design to the A-10 Warthog, but with 3 large turbines, two of them on the wing and one between the rear end wings. Below the nose, a large fixed gatling machine gun in each of the planes. And each of the aircrafts' wings has a pair of air-to-air missile, and a pair of smart bombs. In the cockpit of one aircraft, a pilot with a great black helmet with dark glass visor orders his wingman:

    - Air to Air missiles. Engage!

    The pilot of the enemy plane raises a small plastic cover on top of his control stick and a red button appears. He pushes it and the back of one of the air-to-air missiles glows in an orange color and the rocket flies towards its target. In the other plane happens the same, and two air-to-air missiles run at full speed against the Tomahawk.

    In the Joe's Helicopter interface, a warning lights and blinks while an alarm sound floods the cabin: Target locked, Incoming missiles.

    - Damn! Air to air missiles are coming on us! - Complains Flint.

    He makes a move to the right with his control stick and the helicopter responds, even with all the inertia of its tons. The aircraft leans to the right and begins to make an open curve. Flint presses a button in the cockpit console and a shower of yellow bright spots get out of Tomahawk's back as if they were a spectacle of fireworks. The missiles coming at full speed and miss the target but pass through the bright spots without exploding. The missiles continue their trajectory, but passing a few meters begin to make an open and slowly turn returning to put themselves towards the Tomahawk.

    - I can't believe it! These missiles have counter-countermeasures! These guys are good! - Exclaims Flint, now with a small smile on his face, indicating that he is enjoying the challenge.

    Flint does a risky maneuver and puts the Tomahawk in front of the missiles and hovering the helicopter briefly starts flying backwards. He presses a button on top of his joystick, and two air-to-air missiles leave their pylos on the right wing of the Tomahawk. In mid air, the Joe helicopter missiles meet the the missiles from the the aircrafts of Destro private army and there's a huge explosion in the sky.

    - Yeah! I'm sure you didn't expect this! - Celebrates the Australian G.I. Joe pilot.

    The enemy planes are already much closer. The black helmet pilot presses a trigger on his joystick and the gatling machine gun his plane's nose spins at full speed firing a volley of bright strokes, trails of 30 mm bullets. The Tomahawk turns from its backward flying, leans forward and begins a high-speed frontal flight while the golden traces from enemy bullets cut the air, passing very close to the rotor and the fuselage. The helicopter makes a zig zag and, rotating to the right and to the left, while it's being pursued by the machine guns of the enemy planes coming close behind

    - Hey, guys! I'm like a fish in the barrel here! - Calls Flint - Very soon they will tear me to pieces!

    Roadblock takes his G36 double drum assault rifle and runs toward a tank that is approaching in one of the flanks. In the midst of his run he goes firing at some rebel soldiers that are appearing so they won't prevent his advance. He keeps running and shooting without stopping, now towards the tank and hits a rebel who was on top of the tank turret, behind a Browning .50 caliber mounted machine gun. Using his sprint as a boost, he jumps into the fuselage tank, bypassing the cannon that was preparing to shoot him. He stands close to the tower, take a frag grenade that was attached to a strap in his leg, removes the pin and throws it inside the enemy armored vehicle. He crouches next to the tower tank, and protects himself from remnant blast that happened inside the enemy vehicle. Roadblock then climbs on top of the tower, crouches and grabs the .50 machine gun. He makes a tremendous force for unsticking it from the fuselage tank. A few moments pass. In the air, some 30 mm shots hit the fuselage of the Tomahawk piercing the rear cabin. Roadblock then manages remove the machine gun from the tank. He wraps a cloth in his hand and grabs the gun barrel while with the other he holds the trigger. He points the gun to one of the planes and shoot. The recoil is huge, but the Nigerian is stronger and as a tamer of bulls in a rodeo, he controls the beast tightly and can position its lead jet in the direction of one of the enemy planes, cutting off his wing right in the middle. The bluish green plane spins in the air, and falls more in the background behind a clump of trees, causing a large explosion.

    - Thanks Roadblock! Now there's only one left!

    The other plane continues its pursuit of the Tomahawk. Duke, realizes the difficult situation of his squadmate in the aircraft and talks on the radio:

    - Shoot your Hellfire missile!

    - What? But what it would do against a plane? - Questions Flint, moving the joystick from side to side, dodging enemy shots.

    - Trust me - Ensures Duke.

    Flint presses a button on top of his joystick and the last Hellfire is fired forward in a direction completely opposite to enemy aircraft. Duke takes his assault rifle, places the firearm stock on the shoulder and, looking up, puts his eye on the telescopic sight. In the Tomahawk windshield interface a red dot appears well behind the indicator of where the helicopter is. The Hellfire fins turn 90 degrees and the air-to-ground ordnance begins to make a wide arch, turning around the Joes helicopter to the right.

    - Now I get it Duke! I just hope I can hold myself with this guy on my tail for too long! - Exclaims the sand-colored beret Australian.

    - Duke has the enemy aircraft in his aim, and keeps it as he crosses the air chasing after his squadmate chopper. The missile continues its curve. And the shots are still crossing the air, hitting some on the fuselage of the Tomahawk!

    - I'm almost being shot here, folks!

    - Just a little... - whispers Duke.

    The Hellfire missile completes its turn, goes around the Tomahawk and hits right the middle of the fuselage of the enemy plane, causing a huge explosion in the sky. Flint put his arm up and celebrate!

    - Yeah! I guarantee the guys who designed this missile never thought we would use it that way!

    At this time, the Baroness appears on the middle of the camp with an RPG launcher near where the Tomahawk is hovering and aim her heavy weapon.

    - When you want a thing well done you have to do it yourself.

    With her horn rimmed glasses leaning on the launcher scope she makes a shot. The rocket propelled grenade leaves the barrel of the launcher and flies on a smoky trajectory. The shot hits one of the blades of the rear rotor of the aircraft making it to pieces.

    - I can't believe it! After all that, I'm shot down by an RPG! - Calls Flint.

    The Tomahawk twists in the air, losing its life gradually. Flint tries to keep the aircraft in the air, but he can't. The chopper is losing altitude, spinning and finally falling to the ground, dragging itself in the dirt for a few meters in rebel camp terrain.

    Flint is still sitting in his cockpit, and still stunned by the fall, takes off his headset. A chainsaw noise very close alert him. Buzzer is cutting the fuselage of the helicopter cockpit trying to get to the Australian G.I. Joe.

    - It's tight in there my friend, Let's open a space for you - mocks the Dreadnok.

    Flint grabs a Franchi SPAS shotgun with retracted metal butstoock that was under the seat and gets out from the door opposite of Buzzer. He gets around the aircraft and now the Joe and the Dreadnok are facing each other like a Western duel.

    - Let's see if you can face me without this fancy Helicopter of yours - challenges Buzzer accelerating the rotation of his chainsaw.

    Flint raises his shotgun into the air and loads the 12 gauge cartridge making a move with forestock back and forth. He points the Franchi SPAS and shoots against Buzzer. The Dreadnok gets shot in the chest and is thrown back releasing his chainsaw.

    - You bring a bad name to us Australians, Punk! - Exclaims Flint by defeating the Dreadnok almost instantaneously.

    Roadblock with his G36 gets by the side of the Australian G.I. Joe and with a smile, says:

    - You know, Buzzer was actually English.

    Oh, piss off! - responds Flint already preparing to continue the fight with the rebels.

    Stormshadow burrows on a place of dense jungle, carrying his bow with the string tense pointing an arrow in search of the G.I. Joe Sniper. On top of a tree, all covered with leaves, Spirit, also wielding his hi-tech bow, shoots an arrow with a device at the arrowhead like a grenade. The arrow flies towards the enemy Ninja. Stormshadow hear the noise from the projectile fletching, rolls over to the side and dodges the explosion that happens behind him. He picks up two more arrows, stretches the string of his bow and shoot 3 arrows where Spirit was. The Native American G.I. Joe gets rid of leaves and jumps to another tree. The three arrows scrapes through almost hitting the Canadian and they stick in tree branches that were behind. Spirit makes a new attempt and shoots a second arrow. Stormshadow dodges. The arrow hits close and the grenade breaks spreading a wave of liquid nitrogen, freezing trees and plants of the Nigerian tropical jungle. Spirit is preparing to shoot another arrow. Stormshadow with more speed aims and shoots his arrow. It flies quickly and hit the stretched bowstring of Spirit. With the loss of string tension, the arrow from the Canadian G.I. Joe falls to the ground and explode. Spirit barely has time to rolls to the side and avoid damage of his own weapon.

    Stormshadow and Spirit are already closer now. They are next to a stream. Behind a waterfall denotes a high cliff in the terrain near. The Japanese Ninja, throws aside his bow and unsheathe his two katanas and an extreme rapid movement and runs to attack the Joe. Spirit welds his two hatchets and prepares to attack as well. In a succession of blows Stormshadow alternates attacks with both his Katanas always defended by the small axes from Spirit. The fight is intense, but Stormshadow is faster and Spirit takes one or another blow. The tactical suit deflects some of the strikes, but they are many and some start ripping the fabric apart, drawing blood from his arms and shoulders. The G.I. Joe tries a risky move by slashing his hatchets in a large arc intending to hit the Ninja's legs. Stormshadow jumps at the exact moment, avoids the blow and simultaneously hits a kick to the head of Spirit, throwing him away. Stormshadow leaves the opponent to recover and is in alert position with his two swords crossed in front of his face:

    - You must be Spirit. You are a worthy opponent. I see you respect the traditions of your people. I admire that a lot. Let's make a challenge, a fight to the death - declares Tomito Arashikage, with his English with Japanese accent.

    - Yaahhh - Cries Stormshadow racing against Spirit

    - Ooh Ooh Ooh - Cries also the Native American Joe as his Siouxsie ancestors did.

    The blades of the two foes clash echoing a metallic noise by the Nigerian jungle. The two return to face, now on opposite sides of the battlefield. Stormshadow strikes again with his katanas and Spirit defends. At this time, Ripper passes through the dense tropical jungle foliage and reaches the clearing where the Ninja and Joe were dueling. He passes in front of the waterfall, comes towards Spirit's back and will hit him in the spine. Stormshadow shouts:

    No! - The Ninja spins in a somersault, passes over the Joe enemy and hits a sword blow in the Machine gun underbarrel attached bayonet, disarming the Dreadnok.

    Spirit seizes the moment and kicks Stormshadow throwing him towards the waterfall. Spirit approaches the edge of the waterfall and see Stormshadow holding himself on a stick. Below, many meters down, a group of stones stands out from the river bed, rough with waters that fall. The stick is weak and begins to sag with the Ninja weight. Ripper is still stunned by the blow and begins to rise.

    - It was a stroke of luck, my friend - Starts talking Spirit. - You tried to save me and this opened an opportunity for me to win. To make up for situation I can pull you from there. It won't be no detriment to you. You saved me and I save you. - Spirit reaches out for Stormshadow and continues - But your ally interfered. It was he who caused this situation. It would not be dishonorable for me to have won with these circumstances. So to stay even, I will save you, but you must give up this battle and let me go help my friends.

    Stormshadow eyes highlight under his white mask and overflow with hatred. The stick begins to sag more and more.

    - OK, I agree - answers the Ninja, clutching the arm of the Native American Joe.

    Spirit pulls Stormshadow from the waterfall cliff and brings him back to the clearing where the duel had happened. At this point Ripper is already recovered and tries to go against Spirit. Stormshadow makes a quick movement with his arm and prevents the Dreadnok attack.

    - No. We will let him go.

    Spirit takes his two hatchets, turns his back and starts running towards the camp. Ripper despairs:

    - What is this, Jap fool? You let him go? He's our enem… - Stormshadow's katana pierces the Dreadnok body which falls slowly to the ground, lifeless.

    The Ninja in white clothes rips a white cloth from the bands of his fist, cleans the sword, puts it back in its sheath and turns, entering the forest in the opposite direction to the Nigerian rebels' camp.

    Iman Zamundi within a tank, presses a trigger on a joystick. The vehicle responds, and a cannon shot is fired, creating a flash in the muzzle of the tube as the projectile passes through. The shot hits full in a truck that served as cover for Duke, Roadblock and Flint. The vehicle explodes tossing away the Joes.

    - Fire at will! - Exclaims Iman inside the tank.

    Close behind two other tanks perform same shots against the Joes. The US elite soldiers try to dodge the heavy artillery running behind a rebel bunker. At this time, they meet with Scarlett and also Snake-Eyes and Recondo who are returning from the place where was the false nuclear device.

    - We will not resist long against this heavy artillery - Notes Duke.

    - Without air support and no heavy weapons, what can we do against these tanks? - Questions Flint.

    - The tanks fire again and destroy part of the bunker that protects the Joes. the NATO elite soldiers duck trying to dodge the shot.

    - We have to retre... - Duke was admitting defeat.

    At this point, a trail of smoke crosses the camp and a projectile hit full in the the wheels of a rebel tank, disabling it. Two new projectiles hit the body and the tower of the armored vehicle, disabling it altogether.

    The shots came from a grenade launchers mounted in a pickup truck. Driving the car is Nadir Zamundi. In the cargo bed, a squad of rebel soldiers from southern Nigeria. All armed with AK-47 rifles and other less sophisticated weapons, without standard military fatigues quite characteristic of a militia.

    - Attack them! - Screams Nadir, from behind the wheel, with a smile.

    The southern rebel leader vehicle is the first of a group of similar trucks and all of them shot against the northern rebels tanks, changing from one moment to the next, the tide of battle.

    The Nadir's car stop near the Joes. The southern rebels jump of vehicles and form a line of defense. The northern rebels and some Grenadiers leave the tanks and begin to position themselves, protected by armored vehicles for a new onslaught.

    - I knew you would not let us down - celebrates Roadblock, talking to his Nigerian rebel friend.

    - I just hope it's worth of something - wonders Nadir.

    Iman jumps out from his tank which is on fire and groups together with a couple of Grenadiers.

    There is a huge firefight: North versus South rebels and the Joes. There's casualties on both sides. Iman and two Grenadiers follow to the bunker where the nuclear device is.

    - Follow me, there is a secret underground escape route inside that building - orders Zamundi for the elite soldiers of Destro.

    Nadir realize the escape of his brother, leader of the northern faction of the Nigerian rebellion and runs after to stop him once and for all.

    - Go after him, Roadblock - orders Duke - We handle the situation here - barely finishing the sentence, Duke leaves his cover position, points his assault rifle and hit a shot in a rebel, eliminating him.

    Roadblock takes his G36 double drum assault rifle and follows Nadir Zamundi, in the wake of his brother Iman.

    The rebel leader, ally of Baroness is in the underground bunker, right in the room where the false nuclear device is. Two Grenadiers are in guard stance, with their M.A.R.S. assault rifles in attack position, expecting an assault. Iman, also in the alert position goes forward, while the Grenadiers walk backwards covering the rear of Zamundi.

    Automatic weapons firings occur and the Grenadiers are shot and fall to the ground. Iman turns quickly, but Nadir and Roadblock already have their guns pointed at the enemy rebel leader.

    - Surrender, my brother! The game is over for you - orders Nadir.

    Iman releases his machine gun on the ground and raises his arms

    - Don't you see what you're doing brother! Betraying our movement, allying with these Yankee imperialists! - Screams Iman, quite angry.

    - You were deceived by these terrorists, Iman - answers Roadblock - Look at this device!

    The Nigerian G.I. Joe picks Iman's arm and forces him to look at the nuclear device panel. A red light message is flashing: Activation code captured.

    - In your will to win this war against the dictator Ngungo at any price, you left your judgment to be clouded. Destro and the Baroness took advantage of it. You were a pawn, so they could activate this nuclear weapon. Allah knows what they will do with it!

    - And you served us very well, Iman! - Baroness exclaimed, out of the shadows, pointing his Rocky Mountain Patriot Arms Pistol against the Nigerians and sweeping the small room with a hail of bullets. On the lens of the horn rimmed glasses, the light of the assault rifle's muzzle flash. In the eyes of the terrorist, hatred and the pleasure of killing.

    Roadblock realizes the attack and throws herself upon Nadir, causing both to fall behind some provision boxes, protecting themselves against the shots of the Baroness. Iman does not have the same luck and is hit several times by Anastasia's assault rifle projectiles.

    A landing gear sled from a black and small helicopter hovers over a bunker in the rebel camp. A shot is fired from the helicopter's belly, creating a flash and a projectile is hurled into the roof of the bunker, making into pieces, creating a large hole in the roof.

    A harpoon pulling a steel cable crosses through the crater that connects the bunker floor with the underground chamber where the false nuclear device is and hit the floor near the Baroness, creating an explosion of dust. The terrorist from Eastern Europe, dodges a bit protecting herself from the impact, but quickly release the steel cable from the harpoon and fix it in her belt. Soon after she is quickly pulled up by the same hole where the harpoon passed.

    Hanging in the air, piloting the helicopter, the same used by Dreadnoks in the Florida swamps, is Storm Shadow. While the Baroness is pulled near the aircraft, the Japanese ninja tilts the aerial vehicle forward and both flee at high speed.

    Nadir holds in his lap his brother, soaked in blood. Roadblock help.

    - Don't speak, brother, save your energies - commands Nadir, with tears in his eyes.

    - Listen, little brother - responds Iman, almost with no strength to speak - You're a good soldier. A better leader than me. Lead our people, Nadir. Bring peace and justice to Nigeria. - Soon after, Iman Zamundi dies.

    In the rebel camp, the Joes and the southern rebels are conducting the northern rebels who surrendered to a place where they will be imprisoned. Roadblock and Nadir approach. The rebel leader has his clothes all stained by his dead brother blood.

    - Iman Zamundi is dead. Assassinated by his own allies. - Informs Nadir.

    - We saw the helicopter with Baroness. It was her? - Duke questions.

    - Yes - confirms the Nigerian leader.

    A soldier from Nadir Zamundi's faction comes running and says to his leader:

    - General! I just received a message from the troops at cities in the south! Ngungo is attacking us with all his forces. He's using unmanned flying drones with uranium ammunition. Our intelligence says they were provided by a group of American Generals.

    - Jugglers! - Exclaims Duke - Hawk already told me about them. Damn corrupt!

    - Americans, you were a great help in ridding our movement from the involvement of this terrorists, but it seems that your mission here is over. We have to get ready quickly to prevent Ngungo from destroying the whole country. - Nadir responds with concern and urgency in his voice. - May we meet again in a better occasion - says goodbye Zamundi, already leaving with his subordinates to prepare for a new battle.

    Roadblock turns to Duke and asks:

    - Request permission to stay here and fight, sir. This is my birth country and it needs me now.

    - We have a mission, Roadblock. We can not deviate from it. In addition, it can't have any involvement of NATO in this rebellion.

    - I understand sir. Permission to speak freely.

    - Permission granted.

    - There's been a great injustice here, Duke. The Ngungo dictator is slaughtering his own people and now with US help. Unofficial help, of course, but still... To fight injustice... this is not one of the major objectives of G.I. Joe? We are a military unit, but the fact that we are secret and respond directly to the Secretary of State is not exactly to be able to act more freely, without relying on bureaucrats and politicians in Washington?

    Roadblock pauses and continues:

    - I understand that you continue the mission to capture Destro and the stolen nuclear device. But I need to stay. And if necessary, I'll resign the G.I. Joe.

    Recondo approaches and adds:

    - I'll stay too, Duke. The jungles of Africa are my home also. I spent a long time in this country collecting intelligence for the Joes. I'm staying to help Roadblock.

    Duke waits for a bit and examines the situation.

    - OK, permission granted. I'll resolve this with Colonel Hawk later.

    - He won't like it - notes Flint.

    - I know. Don't you think I don't know? But with this involvement of the Baroness with local rebels, it became clear that there is a terrorist network in this area of Africa. From where came those planes that attacked our helicopter? Nadir can be in charge of the rebellion now, but who knows if a new Iman Zamundi will not form within this movement?

    Duke turns to Roadblock and Recondo:

    - You stay here and pick up as much intelligence on terrorist networks in Nigeria as you can. And always act in stealth manner. No one can know that there are Joes involved in this conflict.

    Duke shakes Roadblock's hand and grins:

    - And please, give a nice kick in Ngungo's ass for us.

    - Of course - replies the Nigerian Joe smiling too.
     
  13. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 7 (Continued)

    Gulf of Guinea. Exact location: Confidential

    Flint, with its sand-colored beret, a black tight T-shirt, green tones camouflaged pants, passes through a narrow corridor inside the Whaleshark submarine serving as mobile HQ for G.I. Joe. He comes to the marine vehicle control room and meet its pilot, former SEAL code-named Deep Six:

    - Thanks for the ride, sailor. - The Australian Joe jokes with his English with the accent of his homeland - Waiting all that time on high seas in a small Zodiac was getting very boring.

    - Would be better if you hadn't destroyed our helicopter - retorts Deep Six. - The Colonel Hawk requested the presence of Duke for debriefing.

    - He is already there talking to the boss. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes now... - Flint responds in a joking manner.

    M.A.R.S. nuclear facilities. Exact Location: Unknown

    Destro is in a spacious and luxurious office. At the back, on a wall, a large screen, which is actually the size of the entire wall, shows a panoramic of some place in the middle of the ocean. The angle of the camera is right at sea level and in the background the sun is setting. In front of the sun, at a very long distance, a fleet of warships, destroyers, battleships and an aircraft carrier.

    Ahead of Destro there is a control console, very similar to that of uranium enrichment laboratory, touchscreen, with various graphics, buttons and other user interface elements. Hovering in the air like holograms, more in front of the console, there is a group of screens. In each, there is a viewer. A Caucasian businesswoman wearing a lined suit; a man in a turban and beard, apparently a Muslim; A Latin American general wearing a dress uniform full of medals; A group of Asian executives; An Arab wearing a white Keffiyeh. And also the dictator of Nigeria, President Ngungo, and Anastasia DeCobray, the terrorist known as Baroness.

    - Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, my friends. So many time zones, right? I hope this presentation would please you - opens the works, James McCullen.

    Destro continues:

    - The major powers, in their arrogance, decided that nuclear power would be theirs and theirs alone, and no one else could have it. They said it was dangerous for the world. But why this difference? Why this discrimination? Why they may have access to this technology and others not? They are best? More well-meaning?

    During the speech, the President Ngungo, watches from his screen and instead of the figure of James McCullen, a dark silhouette figure is seen, and the arms dealer's voice appears to the African dictator with a distorted tone.

    The Baroness, sitting in a comfortable chair of a private jet, wearing a civilian clothing, a shirt and suit pants, both black; accompanied by her bodyguard, Storm Shadow, using his civilian clothes, a white suit; and also by Zartan, wearing more casual clothing; see McCullen normally without digital interference for identity protection of the international terrorist.

    - Very little democratic and capitalist on their part, don't you agree? What they are doing is monopoly. - Continues Destro. - But now we can finally put this hypocrisy to an end.

    James McCullen raises his arm and in a grandiloquent tone:

    - Nuclear Weapons for everyone. Free trade for those who want to buy them. Any country can have its nuclear arsenal to defend itself from its enemies and still be able to build its own arsenal. And why only countries? Why can not the private sector? A PMC has a right to have their own nuclear weapons, hasn't it? And NGOs? I'm sure an organization like Al-Qaeda or the Triad would be delighted to have this technology at their side.

    Destro focuses on the control panel.

    - But enough talk and let's do what you all came here to see. A demonstration of this amazing product. President Ngungo, unfortunately you will find our demonstration rather unpleasant.

    James McCullen XXIV push a big red button: Launch.

    The propellers of a huge missile light up, spouting fire and smoke in an underground launch silo. The rocket carrying the nuclear warheads of M.A.R.S. is out of the ground and, at full speed, it makes a parabolic trajectory towards the sky.

    - In a few minutes, ladies and gentlemen, we'll see what our nuclear weapon is capable of. - Ends Destro.

    In the Joes submarine, Deep Six is leaning on the control panel of the underwater vehicle. Suddenly a red dot appears on Whaleshark radar panel.

    - Alert! Alert! Enemy missile incoming!

    An alarm starts to ring inside the secret elite troops' warship. The Colonel Hawk and Duke get to the control room.

    - What is going on? - Asks Hawk

    - Our buoy-radar detected a missile, an ICBM probably coming towards the Gulf of Guinea. It is equipped with a series of counter measures to be detection invisible but our advanced technology could catch it - responds Deep Six.

    - It's going straight to our fleet in maneuvers here - observes Duke.

    - The one that the Jugglers brought here - complements Hawk - Send an anonymous sign on the help channel. No one can know we're here. And we submerge, as much as we can!

    - Aye-Aye, sir! - Complies Deep Six, pushing down a series of sliders on the control panel.

    From inside the submarine, it happens a quick tilt to 45 degrees. Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, in a compartiment, hold themselves on handles on the wall to not fall forward.

    The submarine, already deepwater, leans forward and begins to descend to a position further in bottom of the ocean.

    In the American aircraft carrier, a radio operator talks to his superior:

    - I'm getting an anonymous transmission, saying that we are about to be attacked by a nuclear missile! But there is nothing in the radar.

    The official approaches:

    - You can confirm the origin of this communication?

    - No, it's encrip… Look outside! - The operator points to the missile that crosses the sky in an almost perpendicular trajectory.

    The missile dives into the water and when it is a few meters deep, explodes its atomic payload.

    A tidal wave-shaped atomic mushroom rises from the Gulf of Guinea waters. The aircraft carrier and other ships in the US fleet tumble like dominoes.

    The shockwave, even though much weaker than that on the surface, reaches the G.I. Joe submarine. Within it, the crew try to hold as they can. The lights flash. Various electrical consoles explode, shooting sparks everywhere.

    Destro observes the result of his masterpiece through the large screen in your office. In the background, the atomic mushroom made of water, and American ships being wrecked. Soon after, a large wave, a tsunami is formed, and come towards the camera. In a few moments, the image becomes just a "out of the air" screen.

    President Ngungo bursts of anger and talks with a lot of aggression:

    - What did you do? You detonated a nuclear weapon against the Nigerian people?

    - President Ngungo, please. It's almost comical to see you worrying about the people of your country. Why don't you calm down and give your best bid. I'm sure your colleagues will do the same. - James McCullen responds to his prospects.

    He lifts a glass of champagne and makes a toast pointing at the screen. On the other side of the world in her private plane, Baroness answers the gesture, also making a toast with her glass.

    In the G.I. Joe submarine, the infirmary, the crew members help each other, treating minor injuries, minor burns and abrasions, result of Destro's nuclear weapon shockwave.

    Scarlett makes a bandage on Flint's arm.

    -You know that a kiss could heal better, right? - The Australian Joe flirts.

    Scarlett further tightens the bandages

    - Hey, it hurts!

    - I know. - Answers the redhead with a smile.

    Snake-Eyes, tears the sleeve of his uniform in order to deal with a flesh wound in the arm. Who's attending is the team medic, Spirit. He picks up the bandage to apply on the the companion wound when he sees, in the Commando arm, a tattoo. A red symbol made up of squares and rectangles.

    - My friend. This tattoo of yours is very familiar to me. In our fight in the jungles of Nigeria, I faced a very agile and powerful enemy. A Ninja. He wore an all white uniform, and had a tattoo just like yours.

    Snake-Eyes turns quickly, in surprise and faces the Native Canadian mate. Spirit returns his gaze to his friend with an expression of surprise and compassion.
     
  14. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 8

    A city in the USA country side. Mid-2002.

    In the edge of a highway, a small establishment is the only stopping point for miles in the middle of night in the desert. Inside people shout:

    - Fight! Fight!

    A group of troublemakers gathers on one side of a bar. A roadside third-rate joint. In the center of the location, in the middle of the tables, two men are fighting. One is the Ranger with blond hair. His long and messy hair and also badly shaved beard suggests that he's leading a disorderly life for a while.

    - Get back in there, Cliff! Show him what's what! - Yells one of the troublemakers.

    - I'm fixin 'to .. and maybe after, we'll all have a lil' Booby-Q 'cause I'm fixing on cookin' you up real nice, ya dirty sonuva ... - replies the other fighter, preparing to attack.

    The local hillbilly strikes a punch with full force, but the Ranger dodges and strikes a blow under the chin hitting the opponent, causing him to fall back.

    The rioters at the back calm down seeing that the fighter they were rooting for was knocked out.

    - Let's give some room, huh? - says one of the locals, aiding the guy who was punched.

    - Did you see that? Like some kinda freakin 'animal… - comments one of the people watching the fight, referring to the winner, the Ranger.

    - Aww, Cliff, man, oh, man… - moans a girl, helping the loser, probably his girlfriend.

    The Ranger is just silent, with an expression of anguish and grief. He addresses the counter:

    - 'M thirsty - orders to the barman with a voice already altered by alcohol.

    - Uh... Yeah, about that... - replies the clerk with much hesitation - Listen, we're gonna have to cut you off, pal. I do not want no trouble...

    - Then you just said the wrong thing - answers the Ranger in a rude and harsh way.

    - We're not going to have any trouble at all, sir... - interrupts a person, a figure that is behind them, and approaches the counter - Let's have two of whatever my friend wants and I'll make sure we take off without a problem when we're done - completes Tomito "Tommy" Arashikage with his English with a slight Japanese accent, making a sign of "two" with his hand.

    The Japanese soldier is wearing a leather jacket, white shirt, belt with a big buckle, and a denim pants. Almost a Nipponic Marlon Brando. He approaches the American brother in arms.

    - You're a hard man to track down, my friend.

    The Ranger looks by the corner of the eye with an expression of anger

    - Well, give y'rself a pat on the back and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

    The bartender brings two beers and puts the glasses on the counter. Tommy sits beside his friend.

    - I finally got in touch with your sister's fiancé, George Strawhacker and he said you were all over the place these days. He used his contacts in the Government to help me find you.

    Tommy puts his hand on his friend's shoulder and speaks in a quiet voice and with compassion:

    - Let's not drag this out, Okay? I'm here to take you home... well, to my home anyw..

    The Ranger turns to the Tomito and casts a very unfriendly look. The Japanese soldier is back to his feet:

    - The silent treatment, huh? You're not going to get rid of me that easily. You've been through a lot. More than anyone ever should. No one's disputing that and you know I'd never insult you with pity. It's not about that at all.

    The Ranger holds his beer with strength and asks angrily:

    - Then what is it about, Tommy?! You think you know me? I mean, really know?! You get t'just walk in here and play here, savin' y'r old friend again...and after you walk out, y'go home to y'r family and go t'sleep with no nightmares... and all I see is hell whether my eyes are open or closed.

    Tomito Arashikage looks in his friend's eyes and tries to explain the situation

    - You're just making my point for me. You know that. You're so much stronger than this. But you've lost your way. Maybe you should take some time and think about what we've been through together. Think about the things we saw in that rotten desert. You're like a brother to me.

    The Ranger takes a sip of his beer and then responds with much calmer, but still with a lot of resentment, looking into the eyes of his Japanese friend.

    - Look Tommy.. you saved my life. I appreciated that, but my father's dead and I don't need a new one.

    An awkward silence is formed. Tomito and the Ranger look at their own glasses, with sulky expressions of resentment and bitterness . A few seconds pass, but it could be like it was an eternity.

    Tommy Arashikage gets up and speaks to his friend:

    - I see. I can't make you come back to Japan with me. I'm really sorry that you lost your parents and your sister in that wreck, but it's been six months now.

    The Japanese soldier leaves a $ 20 bill on the table to pay for the drinks.

    - If you ever wake up from this bad dream, you've created for yourself, all you have to do is to say the word and I'll be there. That's what friends do and maybe someday you'll remember that.

    Tommy Arashikage turns his back and walks away from the bar.

    The Ranger sits in his place, drinking his beer, while the African American waitress serves other customers. Several people in and out. Hours pass. The waitress passes by the former US soldier.

    - Anything else, hon?

    The Ranger gets up to leave.

    - No, I've got to be somewhere else. - Answers the blond-haired man heading for the exit door of the bar.

    The Ranger, already shaved, with his hair cut, wearing a simple outfit, but neat, is standing next to a tree. Daylight is weaker, appearing to be the sunset hour. He looks forward and calmly states:

    - It's been a long time since I've had anyone to answer to for my mistakes. I guess that's why I came, if anyone deserves an apology for my behavior it's you.

    The sun is huge and red in the setting. A group of clouds tries to cap it without success. The big tree and the ranger are just shadows to the light of the King Star.

    - Not allowing you to be a part of my life was wrong. I need you more than ever. I have no excuse. I was feeling sorry for myself. All I do is promise you...

    The Ranger lower his look and takes an expression of regret

    - ..it will never happen again. I'm so sorry. From this day forward... Everything is going back on the right track. Which is why I came to see you... in order to keep these promises, I have to start thread a path I should have chosen a long time ago...

    On a grassy ground, the large shadow of the soldier with blond hair projects over three tombstones covered by dried autumn leaves, very characteristics of that North American continent season. To his foot a bouquet of red roses. In the headstones, his father's name, his mother and Theresa, his sister.

    - ...so I've come to say goodbye again. Please know that I love you, and I'll never forget the people that made me who I am.

    Japan, Arashikage Islands, Mid-2002.

    A road of ancient stones, worn by time, is surrounded by a green lawn, some ornamental stones and also some antique vases, oriental style. A man wearing climbing boots begins to walk down the road.

    The Ranger with blond hair, with a large trip backpack and trekking clothing faces by a large wooden Japanese portal. Crusted in the middle of a group of mountains and a temperate forest, characteristic of this Asia region is a large oriental monastery. Waiting, between the American soldiers and the entrance door, a staircase of stone steps.

    The Ranger hesitate a little, but goes upstairs and knocks on the front door. A girl of about 12 years opens the door that runs to the side. She wears a very traditional kimono, her hair bound by two chop sticks.

    - Hello, I'm... uh... looking for Tomito Arashikage - greets the Ranger awkwardly.

    Down the hall, a person says something in Japanese to the girl. He approaches the door. Tommy sees his friend and greets him with a look of surprise and happiness:

    - So... You completed your journey. But before you enter the home of my family, I need you to answer one question...

    Tomito looks at his friend with a serious expression and the Ranger is expecting something with apprehension.

    - What took you so long? - Tomito releases the tension of the moment with a smile.

    The two friends hold each other strongly. The Arashikage clan tattoo is in sight on Tommy's arm. As if the clan were giving the Western soldier his welcome.

    The Ranger with blond hair is sitting in a meditation position, with his knees bent and feet back. He has a serious and focused expression. In the background someone speaks English with a strong Japanese accent. A voice that shows old age and also a lot of wisdom.

    - You have traveled a great distance. Surely, it has been a journey taken in fewer literal steps than spiritual ones

    The former US soldier is kneeling on the floor, over tatamis without shoes in reverence position. In front of him, an altar, with a support for an oriental sword. In this altar are three people wearing traditional Japanese kimonos, also kneeling in the classic oriental meditation position. At the left there's a man of Asian features, of stocky body, bald with a few hair on the sides of his head, and with a calm and compassionate expression. He wears a yellow kimono. In the center, another man of Asian features, also quite old. His expression is serious and proud. He wears a red kimono. And more to the right, Tommy Arashikage, wearing an all white kimono. The master in red kimono at the center continues:

    - But you have only reached the first stones of your true path. I am called the Hard Master. My brother is known as the Soft Master and we welcome you to the home of the Clan Arashikage

    At this time, while the three Eastern man remain impassive at the altar, doors open behind them and also trap doors on the floor next to the American Ranger. From these doors and hatches gets out a group of men wearing black Ninja clothing, pointing swords and other melee weapons against the American Ranger.

    - What ?! Tommy? - the man with blond hair gets scared, trying to find on his friend, an explanation.

    The three Japanese on the altar, Soft Master, Hard Master and Tommy say nothing. They just stay quiet, looking for the guest of the West.

    The Ranger stands as it is surrounded by several Ninjas.

    - Tommy? What's going on?

    The American, instinctively stands for a fight, while a ninja behind him makes a threat:

    - Prepare yourself westerner!

    Another Ninja raises his sword and charges with full speed against the Ranger who tries to dodge the deadly blow, putting his arm in a defensive position. A voice cries out:

    - Chotto!

    Hard Master makes a gesture with his hand indicating that everyone should stop.

    - That is enough - order Hard Master.

    The Ranger looks at Tommy friend with a serious expression of questioning

    - Tommy! What the hell is this?!

    The three Japanese masters again become silent with serious expressions, looking at the American guest. Then the three outline a smile. Hard Master approaches the Ranger:

    - Tae-Kwon Do?

    - Ah... yes, that, and Jeet-Kune-Do. - Replies the American.

    - Heh, you would have done well, I think.

    - Ha ha ... five minutes, uncle? - Plays Tommy

    - If good fortune smiled upon him, perhaps - answers Hard Master, keeping the joke.

    The red kimono wearing Master turns to the Ranger and Tommy and says:

    - We will eat well tonight, in your honor. After that you rest. Training begins tomorrow morning for both of you.

    Tomito Arashikage is surprised by his uncle.

    - Both? But I've already had the tr...

    Soft Master puts his hand on his nephew's shoulder and speaks quietly, with an English with strong Japanese accent, like that of his brother:

    - You spent a long time outside these compound walls, Tomito, but if you have retained the teachings of your youth, then you should have no concerns.

    Tommy makes an expression of disappointment, upset.

    The two elderly masters leave the room. The two brother in arms, Tommy and the Ranger are alone.

    Night falls on the Arashikage clan monastery. The Ranger and Tommy, already wearing more comfortable clothes, oriental kimonos of neutral colors, talk on a balcony.

    - I just can't believe you're here - the host, Tomito starts the conversation.

    - Neither can I, Tommy. It's... well, it's not what I was expecting, that's for sure. Maybe I'm just a little slower than most, but when you tried to talk me into joining your "Family Business" after our tour of duty…

    - You were expecting a fish market? Accountants?

    - Well, yeah, I guess I was. Funny, huh?

    - I'm sorry I never explained it to you. It's hard to say "By the way I belong to a Ninja clan that's been around for centuries", you know?

    - It's okay. Honestly, I don't know if I would have been able to wrap my mind around it anyway. Hell, I'm not sure I can now. I guess the only thing I don't understand is how I fit into all of this. Why me? I don't know the first thing about this ninja stuff.

    - You will, that's what the training is for.

    Tomito raise up the sleeve of his right arm and shows the Arashikage clan tattoo.

    - This is the mark of the Arashikage Clan. My family. If you wear this symbol, it means that you've accepted a lifetime of discipline and responsibility, the kind that you never turn your back on.

    Tommy continues:

    - You're my best friend. I know you better than I know anyone and I know you understand that kind of devotion. You're worthy of this, if you choose to be.

    The Ranger looks to the horizon, with an expression of concern and seriousness. Rain starts to fall. Some drops wet the American's face.

    - I just don't know if that's true. You have no idea how dark things have been for me these last few months, Tommy. I went so far off the path that I was afraid I'd never find my way back...

    Tommy puts his hand on the shoulder of his friend, comforting him, who is with his head down leaning on the windowsill. The rain pours on the two of them.

    - But you did. You found your way here - continues the Japanese Ninja - If you stay, you'll be living a life that has meaning and direction in ways that you can't even imagine, and you'll have a family again

    - Family... - whispers Ranger, looking at the valleys in the distance on the horizon, through the rain that begins to fall harder.

    Family... - confirms Tommy

    A lightning strikes on the monastery's sky, creating a flash. The Ranger and Tommy become only figures before the strong lightning light.

    - There's nothing to be afraid of anymore - reiterates Tomito Arashikage.

    A sunny day, a few clouds over the Arashikage clan monastery. In a patio fenced by Sakura trees and other traditional Japanese varieties are Hard Master and Soft Master wearing their traditional Kimonos red and yellow respectively. They are in front of a large panel which is drawn the symbol of the ninja clan. Behind them there is a group of ninjas with uniforms and black masks and beside them a big, strong man of oriental features, probably Japanese, with a shaved hair forming a small mohawk in the middle of his head. Hard Master begins a speech:

    - There are many who believe the way of the Ninja is of the Shadow Warrior that follows no Master. By that definition, you are not here to learn of the ways of the Ninja. You are here to learn the ways of the Arashikage. The Arashikage Ninja looks to the new horizon of discipline and honor. Should the ways of War call the ninja forth once again, you will stand prepared. But until that time, you will close your eyes each night and dream of Peace.

    In the courtyard, listening to the speech there are several rows of Ninjas dressed in black uniforms and masks. In the first row, a ninja dressed in black and the other white. Hard Master continues his speech:

    - To the Young Master born into the Arashikage family and his Western-born Brother-in-arms, do we entrust the future of our teachings.

    Hard Master points to the Japanese with the mohawk hairdo who is looking to the group of Ninjas with a serious and concern expression.

    - Master Sato will instruct you in the way of the Warrior.

    Tomito's uncle looks back to the group of students in the art of Ninjitsu and continues:

    - The Soft Master will oversee your teachings in the delicate balance of warfare and disciplined art. Woe to any who would tread this path lightly. Once the choice is made, anything less than absolute dedication will destroy everything you have worked to accomplish in this life.

    The two brother in arms, American Ranger and Tommy Arashikage respond to their masters with a look of pride and motivation while Hard Master ends his speech:

    - As of this day your new life begins.

    The trees around the Arashikage Monastery are leafless and the valley covered with snow, as the winter comes to the Japanese archipelago. Tommy, wearing his traditional white uniform Ninja raises his sword and charges against his friend, the Ranger, who is wearing the traditional black ninja uniform. As the two trade sword blows in a fierce battle, both remember the words of Hard Master, in the first day of training:

    - The first turning of four seasons will see the transformation of your physical form...

    A stream, in a forest inside the Arashikage monastery land, surrounded by flowering Sakuras, denoting the beginning of spring. On top of a wooden post, Ranger and Tommy are balancing themselves so they would not fall. They try to accomplish that while dealing sword blows against each other.

    - ...Into an extension of the hidden word.

    In another forest, on a perfectly sunny day, the American Ranger is waiting for an attack, using two Eastern daggers, Sai, as weapon. From the top of a tree, the nephew of Hard and Soft Master, tosses a chain that has at its end, a small rod. The chain is rolled up on the right hand of his Western opponent. Tommy pulls the chain against him, and using the enemy's resistance to impulse, lashes out against his opponents wielding his sword, ready for an attack.

    - Thought becomes action and action becomes accomplishment...

    In late afternoon, in a monastery courtyard, surrounded by trees with their yellow and brown leaves, as is common in Japanese Autumn, Tommy and his American friend duel in a fight. The Japanese with a wooden stick, a Bo, and the Ranger with a pair of Nunchucks.

    - ...All through the command of your own will.

    In a dark maze of doors, booths and wooden structures, a pair of ninjas with black uniforms scans an area, carefully, looking for an enemy. They separate. Leaving an opening on the ceiling, Tommy quietly gets down behind one of them without the other noticing. The nephew of the Arashikage Masters performs a blow with his wooden sword, a bokken, and knocks the opponent. The other Ninja notices something and turns around, but it's too late, Tommy already hid elsewhere. The Black Ninja arrives to check on the partner, but he is sloppy, allowing the Ninja in white to come from behind and eliminate him from the game as well. Tomito Arashikage moves to another strategic position to escape pursuers and try to beat them with another stealth attack.

    - You can never beat me in this game - boasts Tommy - Even I wearing white, clear as the sun, I'll be invisible to you.

    Another Ninja goes through a corridor on the prowl for Tomito. Suddenly a pair of white split-toe boots arises from the ceiling and grabs the Ninja neck. He looses his breath and falls knocked out.

    Tommy Arashikage passes through a corridor and sees a shadow across the paper door. He rips the wall and try a blow, but the American Ranger blocks it at the last minute and can apply a counter blow to his throat. By the rules of the game, Tomito was defeated.

    Sato appears and speaks to Ninja white clothes with great harshness and disappointment:

    - Tomito! You let your confidence turn to arrogance, which allowed a Westerner to defeat you! Do the exercise again with focus!

    In a Dojo, kneeling in front of the same altar where the American Ranger was first received in Arashikage Monastery, are Hard Master and Soft Master wearing their traditional kimonos, next to them are Sato, the Ninjutsu instructor. Tommy Arashikage is standing holding his sword, a Katana. Kneeling in front of him, wearing a standard black Ninja uniform, the American Ranger has a lit candle placed on the top of his head. Hard Master explains the exercise:

    - Your sword skill will not be tested in the head of the battle today. The Soft Master and I would see you face one another in a challenge of will; Sato shall judge this competition and declare the winner. Tomito, your task is a simple one: Snuff the candle's flame before your sword brother can react.

    - Hai, Hard Master - confirms the White Ninja.

    Soft Master turns to the other masters and speaks in a low voice:

    - I'm not certain this test will prove anything. Their skills are too evenly matched. I have concerns about Tomito. His state of mind appears to me to be so fragile lately. If this exercise cause our nephew to lose face, it could be dangerous.

    Hard Master also answers quietly, while Tommy is preparing to make the blow against the candle that is on the American Ranger head.

    - They move as one, their hearts beat as one, but their spirits are another matter entirely. This test will prove exactly what I intended it to. There is no danger here.

    Tomito Arashikage takes his sword back, starting his strike. The American Ranger remains with his eyes closed. Tommy's sword projects forward with incredible speed. When it is almost hitting the candle, the former US soldier opens his eyes. In an almost instantaneous movement, he joins his palms over his head and stops Tommy's sword in mid air.

    Hard Master looks at Sato and asks:

    - So, Sato. To your eyes, who is the winner?

    - Clearly, young Tomito has failed to snuff the candle. His opponent claims victory.

    - Are you so certain?

    Hard Master punches on the tatami just ahead of him, producing a dry and stuffy sound. The candle above the American Ranger head part in two and falls snuffed. The Tommy's friend lowers his head, staring at the floor with his eyes closed while he remains standing, holding his Katana.

    Soft Master moves forward to his nephew Tommy and his friend and escorts them to the exit of the dojo. Sato responds to the Hard Master:

    - I stand corrected and impressed. If the candle was cut, Then your nephew's sword was not caught until it was returning. Tomito is the winner after all.

    - Is he? - Questions Hard Master.

    He looks at Sato, and seriously continues:

    - To suppress your own skill before those who would judge you, to love your sword brother enough to help him save face in front of his family, that's the way of the true, honorable Arashikage Ninja. Things are never as simple as they appear, Sato, but you surely know that as well as I.

    Sato, with an expression of anger and discontent, hear the words of his Master.

    In a house within the Arashikage monastery, away from the main building, a meeting is being held in the middle of the night. The balcony is guarded by two Eastern man, wearing kimonos and carrying sheathed swords.

    Inside the house, there is a group of Ninjas, wearing their standard black uniform, kneeling on the tatami of a Dojo, listening to a speech. Standing, Sato speaks to this group:

    - Welcome, my brothers, to the true future of this clan. I know that you share my desire to reshape the horizon. To set off the wayward path we've been upon. The Westerner must be sent away.

    With a serious and revolt expression on his face, Sato continues:

    - We will attempt to convince the Leadership of the Arashikage that tradition must be re-embraced! And if they will not take the proper steps toward redeeming the honor of the clan, then new Leadership will rise up!

    The Ninjas kneeling get enraged with the speech and raise their fists up:

    - Hai, Master Sato.

    The rebel Ninja commands:

    - Prepare yourselves!

    Elsewhere in the monastery, enjoying the cool night air, Hard Master and Soft Master take a cup of tea, kneeling in front of a table on a balcony. Soft Master speaks with some concern:

    - So much uncertainty these days…

    - You feel it as well? - Asks Hard Master - I thought perhaps it was nothing more than my tired old bones creaking from the cold.

    Times have changed my brother. Our ideals are unwavering, but I smell dissent in the air.

    - At least one bright hope still shines.

    Soft Master smiles sincerely and continues:

    - Indeed he does! When young master Tomito said that his friend wished to join us here, I had reservations...

    Hard Master serves a cup of tea to his brother and adds:

    - But they vanished like leaves in the wind when you looked him in the eyes for the first time?

    - Exactly. Brothers of the Sword, those two.

    In that same moment, Hard Master changes his expression and diverts his gaze to the outside of the room where he was sitting. Soft Master, with an expression of concern, stretches his arm to reach a Katana which was near on an altar. Hard Master confirms:

    - We are not alone.

    Sato enters the room, followed by a group of ninjas, ready for a fight. The Ninjutsu instructor draws his sword.

    - We have solemn business to attend to, Masters.

    Soft Master passes a sword to his brother, who talks back at Sato:

    - State your business, then.

    Sato approaches his teachers with his sword drawn for battle. So they do the Ninjas that accompany him.

    - Of course, Honored Master. I am here to ask the esteemed leadership of the Arashikage Clan to reject the Westerner that they have allowed into our midst. Send him away and return us to the status we once held! Weakness and age have crippled your teachings. I believe they will bring about the destruction of this clan.

    Hard Master responds with a hard and assertive intonation:

    - We will be sending someone away, Sato, but it will not be our most promising student.

    Sato's gaze is filled with hatred and disappointment.

    - So be it!

    He attacks with all his might against Hard Master

    - Kill Them!

    He raises his sword and makes a blow, cutting the air from top to bottom. Hard Master places his sword atop his head in a perpendicular position defending the rebel strike. Soft Master, already with another sword, is preparing for combat.

    Someone outside the room talks, and the fight stops for a few moments:

    - This fight hardly seems fair...

    The American Ranger, wielding his sword, shirtless with black trousers, accompanied by Tommy Arashikage also shirtless, with white pants, holding his katana, open up a door to the room where the fight takes place. Tommy continues:

    - ...I'd call for more men If I were you, Sato.

    The rebel instructor picks Hard Master by the collar of his kimono.

    The westerner blond runs towards Sato with his sword in attack position.

    - Take your hands of him! Now!

    - You hold no sway over me Westerner. You will not leave this room alive!

    A group of ninjas gets positioned between the brother in arms and Sato. Soft Master raises his sword over his head parallel to the floor and instructs:

    - Leave them alive, Apprentices! Their treachery is unfortunate, but it does not warrant the punishment of death!

    The Ranger strikes a ninja with a sword, but from the side, without the cutting edge to cause injury on the enemy. The blow is accurate at one point of the spine, knocking out the opponent. The American apprentice continues to struggle, hitting another ninja with an accurate kick in the face. While this is happening, a rebellious fellow, with his sword back into attack position, throws himself against Tommy's friend.

    Soft Master makes an horizontal movement with the sword, inflicting a flesh wound on an arm of an enemy Ninja and notes:

    - Your servants fall quickly, Sato. I expect you to follow their example.

    Sato grasps Hard Master's neck, wrapping his arms, on the brink of causing a strangling. Tommy Arashikage stands before them with his sword raised.

    - Stay your hand, Young Master, or this old fool pays the final price for his mistakes.

    Hard Master, under Sato control, answers to the threats:

    - I may be old, Sato...

    Tommy's uncle performs a martial arts strike, spinning Sato over his body and hurling the enemy forward.

    - ...but I am the same Hard Master that trained you!

    Sato falls ahead of Tommy who now holds his sword with his blade back, pointing at himself.

    - I have him, uncle! Now Sato...

    The nephew of Arashikage clan leaders puts his sword in the neck of the rebel leader, lying on the ground.

    - ...Let me show you that your betrayal earned you.

    - My betrayal? - Sato responds indignantly - You brought the outsider here!

    Tommy makes a move with his sword up, ready to kill Sato. Soft Master intervenes:

    - Do not kill him, Tomito!

    Tommy gets distracted and lets Sato strike a punch on his face allowing the enemy to be released from his grasp. The rebel leader takes a small blade from his belt and is preparing to lethally eliminate his opponent.

    - Tonight you will pay for the failure of the clan, Arashikage-Son...

    While Hard Master and Soft Master Master eliminate the rest of the rebels, the Ranger runs in defense of his friend

    - Tommy!

    The American gives a karate blow on the back of Sato's neck, making he to faint, and ending the fight.

    Tomito Arashikage is sit on the floor, still stunned by Sato's hit, who lies inert at his feet. Next to them, stand up, is the Westerner of blond hair. Hard Master and Soft Master approach the group, carrying each, a ninja by the collar of his black uniforms. Hard Master philosophizes:

    - This turn of events was quite unexpected and unfounded. You've done well this night, apprentice.

    - Thank you, Master - answers the Ranger.

    In a large and spacious patio in the evening of an Autumn day, the Sato insurgents are profiled, surrounded by some Ninjas dressed in their standard uniform and armed with swords. The group of rebels who were defeated is wearing a standard kimono and has their arms tied behind them. Ahead of them are Hard Master and Soft Master, and also the Ranger with a black uniform, unmasked and his brother in arms Tommy Arashikage, in white uniform, also unmasked. Hard Master initiates the procedures:

    - Sato. I am certain that you will think we have failed our honor by not taking your lives, but the Arashikage choose to stand for peace and mercy, even in the face of those who do not deserve either.

    Hard Master, with a serious expression, continues:

    - However, should you return to this place, you will not be given the opportunity to leave so peacefully. You are banished. Disgraced in the eyes of the Arashikage forever.

    The Sato group is escorted out of the temple by a Ninja squad through a large wooden gate. Hard Master and Soft Master turn to talk to their apprentices. The most serene Master initiates praise:

    - You were brave and loyal in the face of such treachery and it will not be soon forgotten.

    - Our home is honored by your presence - Completes Hard Master, putting a hand on the shoulder of the blond hair Ranger and looks right in his eye - The Rising sun of this clan is behind your eyes, apprentice, and I look forward to seeing that future come to pass.

    Tommy Arashikage, nephew of Hard and Soft Master makes an expression of surprise, anger and disappointment. His brother in arms, the Ranger with blond hair, also surprised, turns to his friend with an expression of regret.

    - Tommy... I...

    Tomito close his eyes, lower his face and looks away, trying to digest that unpleasant news. Your friend tries an answer.

    - Tommy...

    Soft Master realizes the sentiment of his nephew, bows his head, and with an expression of extreme sadness, speaks softly to himself:

    - The seeds of dissent are rife for growth in this garden...

    Arashikage Islands, several years later.

    Hard Master is inside a temple, in front of a statue.

    - Now that you have come to understand the Kuji-No-In, the finger knitting symbols that represent the aspects of the intuitive mind...

    Hard Master is standing in a space full of wide columns. In front of him are Tommy Arashikage with his white uniform and masks and the Ranger with his black uniform and masked as well. Both are sitting cross-legged, with their fists clenched positioned on top of their knees. Hard Master continues:

    - ...You will once again face the challenge of the Arashikage Mind-set. Only by peering into the void can one find the complete balance of all things that is the heart of the Mind-set.

    Tommy is with his eyes closed eyes with a frown, as if the exercise required of him a huge effort. The Ranger's eyes are closed too, but with a much more peaceful and serene expression.

    - To achieve the Mind-set, you must align all aspects of your physical and spiritual forms and leave them behind.

    In a day of weak and warm sunshine, like dawn or dusk, a sky full of clouds, is a tree, lonely, on top of a hill. A light breeze tear off some of its leaves making them dance smoothly on the air.

    - You hear only the sound of my voice.

    Both apprentices imagine themselves sitting in front of the tree, sitting, each one, with their palms touching each other, and positioned across the chest. They have their eyes closed, concentrating on the Arashikage Mind-set exercise.

    For Tommy, images of his past run through his mind: His uncles, Hard and Soft Master; The tattoo of his clan; Fighting with his brother in arms in Afghanistan; The fight against Sato; The appointment of his friend as successor in the clan.

    For the American Ranger, the same happens: His fighting period in Afghanistan; The incident with the Baron DeCobray; The death of his family; Theresa…

    - You will know focus beyond focus. As you travel further inward. Beyond the void you will find the peace of mind, spirit and body that you seek, but only if you are prepared to do so.

    Tomito Arashikage now stands, without his mask. The leaves dance around him, but fall heavily to the ground.

    - The last step now. Leave behind all that you know ...

    The Ranger with blond hair is also standing and is also unmasked. The leaves also dance around them, but they float in the air, full of life. He looks at the sky, hopeful and confident. He smiles.

    - ...And embrace your complete being.

    Hard Master, at the temple where the exercise takes place, ends the work:

    - Return to us now, apprentices.

    The blond Ranger responds:

    - Hai, Master. I never imagined it could be so... - he looks to his side and, surprised, sees that his Japanese friend is still with his eyes closed and concentrating - ...oh...

    Tommy stands up and aggressively takes off his mask.

    - Failed. I've failed.

    The Ranger is still sitting, and still with his mask.

    - You haven't failed. You used the mindset to save me after I've been shot in the Afghanistan. You've already mastered it!

    Tomito faces away from his friend. With closed eyes and a frown, he answers with disappointment in his voice:

    - That was a long time ago. Being able to do it then doesn't mean anything now!

    The American takes off his mask and tries to comfort his friend:

    - Tommy, please. All you have to do is ...

    Tomito turns around and interrupts his brother in arms:

    - Is what? be more like you?

    Hard Master put his hand up front in a stop sign and breaks his nephew complaint:

    - Tomito! Your anger is misguided. There is no excuse for blaming your sword brother when the fault lies at your own feet.

    Ninja in white clothes get out of the room, revolted:

    - Then I've failed again.

    Hard Master sees his nephew walk through a garden crestfallen. The dried leaves of the trees, dancing around, blown by the breeze of a typical autumn day.

    In a sunny day, Tommy Arashikage is on a lawn, with his bow and arrow. The American Ranger approaches his friend. Tommy puts an arrow in his bow in the shooting position. He aims at a dense bush, pulls the string and shoots. Both Ninja walk towards the bush. Behind the foliage, killed by the arrow, is a squirrel.

    - Your skill with the bow is remarkable, but how did you know...? - Questions the Ranger

    - It's called "The Ear That Sees". The ability to focus on the heartbeat and breathing patterns of another.

    Tommy guards his bow, passing the wooden limp up his chest.

    - Every living thing carries a unique signature, whether is man or animal. A truly gifted assassin can identify his target without ever opening his eyes… If he know him well enough.

    - You seem to have more than a few arrows sticking out of your own back these days. - Notes the Ranger.

    - You didn't came here to talk about my arrows, did you?

    - Sorry... You're right. We need to talk, Tommy.

    Tomito crosses his arms and replies dryly:

    - What do we have to discuss really? I think we both know where things stand by now.

    The Ranger exalts and increases the volume of his voice:

    - Please quit trying to turn this into a competition!

    Tommy also exasperates and responds with aggression:

    - You make it sound like I have a choice! I don't know what else to do. It seems like everyone's already decided that I don't matter anymore. You're the Apt Pupil, the "Bright Shining Hope" of the clan! Congratulations! You wanted a family that adores you and now you have one.

    The Ranger is resentful and with his eyes closed, he lowers his head.

    - Should I step aside? Is that what it will take to prove that you're still my best friend? Say the word and I'll leave and go back to the States tonight.

    A voice speaks from afar and both Ninjas stop the discussion and look to see who is coming.

    - Is this how brothers act?

    Soft Master approaches, with his hands hidden within his yellow Kimono, each hand hidden in the other arm.

    - I am very disappointed. Instead of swords and knives, you choose to cut each other with your words. Those wounds never truly heal.

    Soft Master looks for the American Ranger who is head down, eyes closed, with shame.

    - Tomito is hurt, and he haste at you from that place of pain, but do the ways of this clan mean so little to you that you would walk away from everything you're worked for?

    The master turns and looks at Tommy Arashikage, who is also head down, but with an expression of anger and disappointment.

    - Nephew, my heart breaks to see you that way, but our problems are of your own creation. Only you can change that for yourself.

    Soft Master then speaks to the brothers in arms

    - The two of you must bridge that chasm that is between you or risk falling into it as enemies.

    In a well-lit Dojo there is a large poster of the Arashikage clan symbol on the wall. All people are wearing white kimonos, including the Masters, and all the other ninjas. Hard Master holds a Katana and hands it for the Ranger, who is standing, looking down in a humbling position. The American reaches out to grab the sword, and his right arm is drawn a tattoo of the Arashikage clan symbol.

    - The Mark on your arm tells the tale of your allegiance and this blade will sing with the voice of your discipline - greets Hard Master.

    Soft Master and Kimi, Tommy's young cousin, are smiling. The Ninja, nephew of Hard and Soft Master does not show the same feeling.

    - Those who are gathered here today bear witness to the breaking of a new dawn. We are a family bound together. Never to be divided.

    Soft Master approaches his brother

    - You mentioned a "New Dawn". An apt choice of words.

    - Our young apprentice from the West has grown to embody the principles of this clan, and he has earned his place as its rightful heir.

    - I agree. Perhaps our decision is not as difficult as it may seem, brother. - Complements Soft Master.

    Night falls on the Arashikage monastery. Tommy is on the lawn, outdoors, wearing his ninja white uniform and training archery. He shoots and hits right in the middle of the target.

    The Ranger is with his standard black ninja uniform and trains with his sword in a dojo. Hard Master appears.

    - Good evening apprentice. Join me in the dojo, please.

    The American bows to the master.

    - We have much to discuss.

    The Ranger is sitting on the tatami cross-legged observing the teaching being passed. Hard Master, standing in front of a cut tree trunk, serving as a combat practice, is blindfolded. He holds his sword partially out of its sheath. It is tied to a rope that he holds with his teeth. As he performs this exercise, he teaches his pupil:

    - Beyond the human eye, there is much to be seen. The darkened room techniques have served the Ninja for centuries. We begin with the sword blind form. - Talks Hard Master with some difficulty as his teeth are clenched holding the cord that is tied to the sword sheath.

    Hard Master slams the sheath of his sword in the wooden trunk.

    - Extend the sword by its scabbard, reach out with your senses and find the target. Contact is made and the message is sent across the cord.

    He completely removes the sword from its sheath and cut the trunk.

    - The scabbard drops. The sword cuts.

    A slice of the trunk falls to the floor, while the master takes the blindfold of his eyes. He looks at his apprentice and continues:

    - The clan Arashikage will continue long after my brother and I have left our earthly stations and we would name you the rightful heir.

    The Ranger is surprised

    - Master, I'm honored, but I can not accept this. Tommy is my friend and your nephew. I will not step in front of him.

    Hard Master, with incredible agility, makes a somersault and jumps behind a dressing screen that was near the wooden trunk.

    - Tomito has lost his way. For example: His deadly accuracy with the bow is unsurpassed, even by you, but though he possesses "The Ear that Sees", his jealousy and anger interfere. Your perception is superior.

    The Master stands behind the screen as if trying to hide from the American Ranger.

    - "The Ear that Sees" can be fooled when a target dons the "Chameleon Mantle". Disguising the patterns of breath, movement and heartbeat.

    Hard Master, is facing the screen, and back to a window covered with jute, traditional Japanese paper.

    - Tell me, apprentice, do you know the person I am imitating?

    - I can hear your breathing... I can even sense the quiet pulsing of your heart, and it's familiar to me, but I can't place it.

    - It should be obvious, apprentice. I imitate your own heart.

    An arrow cut the night at high speed. It crosses the dressing screen that was in the dojo and drills the trunk, stopping at it. The arrow is covered in blood. The screen falls forward. It can not bear the weight of Hard Master that falls inert.

    - Master...? Master!

    Soft Master hears the cry of the American Ranger and crosses the lawn towards the dojo where Hard Master and the American were. Suddenly Tommy Arashikage crosses in front of his uncle, running, holding his bow.

    - What is...? Tomito...? - Soft Master is surprised.

    The Yellow Kimono Master opens the door of the dojo and finds the Ranger holding the lifeless body of Hard Master

    - Master… no… no…

    - What's happen... My brother! No! No!

    Soft Master is opposite the trunk and pulls the arrow lodged there.

    - Can this be true? My brother is dead, slain by the hand of our nephew!

    The sun rises in the mountains near the Arashikage Clan monastery, but its light does not illuminate at all the darkness that took over the place.

    Soft Master, head down, walks slowly, and is accompanied by another member of the Arashikage Clan. The ninja apprentice places his hand on the shoulder of his master.

    - You cannot blame yourself, Master.

    - Can't I? All of the signs were there, right before my eyes. Tomito had grown bitter; he could sense that we favor his sword brother and now he has made us suffer of our choice.

    Soft Master knocks the entrance door to a building that serves as a bedroom

    - Apprentice?

    Soft Master opens the door and see the bed made, and the rest of the room empty.

    - Gone. I was afraid this would happen. I'd come to dissuade him from leaving.

    The Ranger with blond hair, wearing a trekking suit, climbs one of the mountains that separate the Arashikage monastery from the rest of the world. Soft Master opens up to one of his apprentices:

    - All that's happened... with him leaving; Tomito betraying the clan and my brother dead... The new dawn of the Arashikage clan ends. Forever.
     
  15. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 9

    M.A.R.S. nuclear facilities. Present day. Exact Location: Unknown.

    In a huge underground chamber, all covered by metal, various planes, fighters in black color, are stationed. In the hangar, also stationed, there is a private jet. Coming from the plane, Baroness, with her leather combat suit and her horn rimmed glasses is accompanied by Storm Shadow, his bodyguard and Zartan. The Ninja wears his standard civilian clothes, a white suit. The master of disguise is wearing a more casual clothing. Jeans, a leather jacket and sweatshirt underneath with a hood on. Destro, accompanied by some Grenadiers in black uniform is there to receive his ally and lover. Destro wears, as always, a lined suit and tie.

    Baroness goes to James McCullen with a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

    - Destro, I hope that my order is already processed.

    - Calm down, my dear. You won't be disappointed - Answers the M.A.R.S. director with a smile. He then heads to the two officers escorting his ally.

    - Congratulations to you, dear friends. Our mission was very successful. You will be rewarded.

    - I did my part - responds Zartan, with an ironic tone - but unfortunately we were not so successful so to be able to save my Dreadnoks.

    - They failed on their own merits. They deserved their fate - interrupts Stormshadow dry and aggressively, staring at Zartan.

    Zartan also looks into the eyes of the Ninja. Hate sparks come out from the two terrorists.

    - Enough! - Intervenes Destro. - The Dreadnoks had their value on this mission. But it's water under the bridge. We have to move on. - He looks at the two agents still in a state of animosity. - I don't have to worry about you two, have I? - Reinforces James too harshly.

    Zartan and Stormshadow frown and apparently become calmer.

    - OK. Come my dear, I have something to show you - Destro picks up on the shoulder of his Eastern Europe ally and leads her to another place.

    In a luxurious room with a huge bed, all in nineteenth century Victorian style, James and Anastasia address to a large heavy object that is on a table under a brown cloth. Destro pulls the fabric and reveals an atomic weapon.

    - See, my dear. This is your present. The first nuclear weapon manufactured by M.A.R.S. I'm sure you will have a good use for it.

    Baroness focuses on the artifact. The light reflected on the metal housing of the weapon of mass destruction is also reflected in the lenses of Anastasia glasses when she comes closer to admire her new gift. Looking from afar, Destro opens a smile, full of pride for the ordnance thats serves as her present.

    - They killed my brother, Destro. The Americans. I was there. He was gunned down by their soldiers. My brother was an important, worthy person. And nothing appeared in the press. They forged all. They will pay for killing my brother.

    Baroness turns to one of the walls of the room and press a button on a remote control. The wall opens to reveal a TV. In the image, an announcement of the coronation of a new king for the United Kingdom in London. The event will be that week. The presence of the US President is confirmed.

    - The President will be in London for the coronation of the new King. He will have a big surprise..

    Destro smiles and responds to Baroness

    - Your vengeance will be my vengeance, my dear.

    He goes to one of the shelves of the room, raises a glass dome and from there, holds in his hand an iron mask, in the style of the seventeenth century.

    - It was the British who imprisoned my ancestor with this iron mask. Instead of feeling shame for the punishment, we embraced it and we keep it as a trophy of our arms dealers clan. Now is the time for payback. Your nuclear weapon will destroy your Americans and my British as well.

    Baroness approach her face to Destro's and both kiss in a fiery and aggressive hold.
     
  16. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 9 (Continued)

    North Sea. Exact location: Classified

    At the bottom of the dark sea, in the icy waters of a harsh winter of the sea bordering the Arctic Ocean, the G.I. Joe submarine, Whaleshark moves slowly, furtively, without being detected.

    Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy is ahead of a LED screen and prepares to start the briefing with the Joes team who are sitting in the meeting room chairs, comfortably and at ease. Duke, wearing the navy standard fatigues with camouflage of shades of blue, sits just ahead in a more traditional way. Flint is sitting with his chair turned backwards, with the back facing forward. The Australian Joe uses his sand-colored beret and a tight black shirt. Scarlett wears the same uniform as Duke and sits in front also at his side. Further back, Spirit, is with a red band encircling his forehead, and wears a tight black sleeveless shirt with his pants in Navy camouflaged pattern. Snake-Eyes is the exception, in addition to his balaclava, he wears an all black military outfit with cargo pants and a ribbed fabric shirt. The Commando is sitting on the table with legs crossed as in the Lotus position. In the back there is another Joe, with standard uniform. He has red hair and beards.

    An image of James McCullen appears on the screen. Hawk begins the briefing:

    - Our intel channels collected some interesting information in the past hours. Adding to the information found in Nigeria, we can conclude that the terrorist Destro can be actually James McCullen, the C.E.O. of the arms company M.A.R.S.

    On the screen appears some satellite photos of an abandoned castle in an area of snow and mountains.

    Scarlett gets up and turns to her colleagues:

    - We researched the real state properties owned by M.A.R.S. or shell companies and we think this castle could have belonged to an ancestor of James McCullen. It's abandoned. We did some research and it seems that there are strange movements in this place. Reports of tourists disappearing and the like. We think this place can be the HQ of Destro. We don't have absolute certainty but it is our best bet. Our time is short.

    Hawk continues:

    - Thank you, Scarlett. In this mission, you will have the support of a specialist.

    On the screen appears a picture of the Joe of red beard who is sitting in the back of the meeting room. In the picture, he is wearing winter military fatigues.

    - Sergeant Harlan W. Moore. Code Name: Snow Job. Primary Specialty: Arctic Ski Patrol. Second Specialty: Sharpshooter.

    Snow Job in the back of the room, makes a greeting to all:

    - Hello all.

    - What kind of code name is that? - Plays Flint.

    - You'll see - The Joe with red hair answers with a wry smile.

    A weather satellite photo showing the map of the British Isles appears on the screen. Hawk continues his explanation:

    - If Destro finds out that we are attacking, he will release all nuclear weapons he has. This has to be a stealth mission. You will be dropped at high altitude, above the clouds, through missiles designed to carry commandos. We can't risk an aircraft flight and get caught on the radar. The storm will cover our airborne assault.

    On the screen, again a satellite photo, now of the area around the abandoned castle.

    - You will make then a HAHO jump to the LZ in this mountain and go down in skis to this lake.

    Scarlett tells to the group:

    - This place should have an underground facility that is where the nuclear weapons are being manufactured. They have to have a source of abundant water, a dam, with transmission pipelines. This will be our entrance.

    - Any questions, gentlemen? - Questions Hawk. As no one answers he concludes: - Yo Joe!

    A Joe, wearing a dark gray combat uniform, matte, of rubberized material, tight to the body sets a webgear in his chest. Snake-Eyes, with his Arashikage clan tattoo in his forearm, wears the same rubberized material combat outfit, but with a white and light gray camo pattern. Another Joe puts on a heavy parka with arctic camouflage over the dark gray rubberized combat suit and close the zipper. Snake-Eyes, with its white combat suit, but wearing his classic black balaclava and glass visor, places a thick arctic camo winter vest full of pockets and equipment over his tight suit. A Joe, wearing a winter heavy parka, holds a bullpup design assault rifle FN F2000 of Belgian manufacturing, with suppressor and red dot vision. The rifle comes in black color but is covered with a white and light gray winter camo cloth. Another Joe, also in parka, holds a black colored crossbow and prepares an arrow to be shot. Duke, with the hood of his parka covering his head, sets a night-vision goggles. The device has, in addition to the pair of round eyes lens that cover his eyes, also has a third "eye", a tube with a slightly smaller lens that is on the left side of the goggles. Snake-Eyes, wearing the same goggles, puts over his black balaclava, another one, in white color, looser and with a thicker material.

    Everyone in the strike team, Duke, Flint, Spirit, Scarlett and Snow Job wear the uniform with arctic camo winter heavy parka and raised hood. Snake-Eyes is the exception, without the parka but a sneaking suit and white vest. All are with their night vision goggles. Duke carries the FN-2000 Arctic covered with camo cloth. Flint adjusts an automatic shotgun, with a similar design to the Pancor Jackhammer, bullpup, drum magazine fitted under the full stock, with rail picatinny instead of top handler, simplified muzzle break, with suppressor and red dot sight, covered also with the winter camo cloth. Spirit has his bow trespassed on his chest. Snow Job has, strapped on his back, one Austrian-made assault rifle Steyr AUG A3, of bullpup design, with telescopic sight, suppressor and arctic camo. The G.I. Joe commando carries a reduced size assault rifle, the IMI Micro Tavor MTAR-21 prototype version, which there is hardly any barrel after the trigger guard, with suppressor and red dot sight, also covered with winter camo cloth. The weapon is Israeli-made and also has the bullpup design.

    Snow Job turns to Snake-Eyes:

    - Won't you feel cold, my friend? Up there will be 40 C below!

    Snake-Eyes makes some hand movements using the sign language for deaf-mutes. Scarlett translates, smiling:

    - He prefers an outfit that gives him more agility.

    The Whaleshark is sailing deep in the North Sea. At the top of its shell, one of a set of eight flood gates opens, causing a burst of air bubbles. Soon after, a missile leaves the launch tube at great speed. The hot jet fuel that propels the projectile causes a moving water cloud. The rocket reaches the surface, through the waterline water, and increases its force of propulsion, boosting into the air at a much higher velocity.

    In sequence, so does another 5 rockets. In the skies over the North Sea, six rockets fly towards the stratosphere in squadron formation. The rockets of the missiles stop working and the projectiles continue their path through inertia. When they start to fall because of gravity, a gate is opened and a G.I. Joe, wearing his parka combat, his night vision goggles and a breathing mask, is ejected into the atmosphere, away from the missile. The other Joe's are also ejected in the same way. Finally, Snake-Eyes, wearing his white sneaking suit is also ejected. All carry a large backpack equipment on their back where their firearms are strapped to.

    The Joes now open their arms and legs, and between them, attached to their uniform, there is a piece of synthetic fabric, similar to a parachute, forming their wingsuit, just like the way flying squirrels glide. They hover calmly over the storm clouds that punishes the British Isles, flying through several kilometers until they reach the LZ of their infiltration mission.

    The insertion group passes through the storm clouds and soar amid strong wind and snow. Inside the night vision goggles view, two images are superimposed: The top of a snowy mountain, where there is a nearby cliff and two humanoid figures in a red color gradient to yellow, semi-transparent, move on the horizon ahead. The two figures are two patrol soldiers, dressed in a winter combat gear

    - Attention, everyone. There is a recon team just ahead! - Scarlett tells the group using her communicator.

    Snow Job reaches for his AUG A3 rifle that was stuck in the back, gets ready to shoot, look through the tactical scope and aims. The crosshair of his scope is positioned near the head of one of the enemy soldiers. The aim shakes a lot because of the Sharpshooter position, in mid tactical jump and weather conditions.

    - Leave it to me! I can hit them, even here! - brags the red bearded Joe.

    Snake-Eyes makes a "Stop" sign with his hand to Scarlett that is gliding right on his side. Right after he makes a movement with his hand indicating a downward direction.

    - Negative, Snow Job! Snake-Eyes will take care the situation - Orders Shana O'Hara and instructs the winter specialist squadmate - Remember, we need their comm gear intact.

    The masked Joe makes an OK sign. Soon after he closes his arms and legs, making them the closest from his body as possible. His wing suit closes. He arches his back backwards and align his entire body like a large arrow. The commando, leaving his companions behind, gains terminal velocity towards the two enemies. Camouflaged by the strong storm he can get close to the pair of recon soldiers undetected. The Grenadiers wear military fatigues for harsh winter: white and light gray camo parka, balaclava, hood and snow goggles. They carry MX-1 rifles with similar design to the QBZ-95, with arctic camo paint. Snake-Eyes open his arms, and as a bird of prey, spreads the wings of his wingsuit at the last moment, above one of the Grenadiers and hits a kick to his head. The impact of the high-speed commando makes the Grenadier to be thrown forward, hitting his companion and both fall into the cliff, along with the masked Joe. Snake-Eyes grabs one of the Grenadiers by the collar of his parka and with the other hand triggers a grapnel gun. The grapple hook, attached to a steel filament, goes winding to get caught on a rock in the top of the cliff. The filament stretches and prevents the fall of Snake-Eyes and the unconscious Grenadier. The other enemy soldier does not have the same luck and falls to his death.

    The Joes comes gliding above the top of the mountain and close their wingsuit making a soft landing on the snowy ground that served as observation post for the Grenadiers. Snake-Eyes appears climbing up the cliff and brings the defeated Grenadier. The Joes ditch their oxygen masks and approach the knocked out enemy. Flint gives a pat on the Snake-Eyes back.

    - Nice kick!

    Scarlett crouches next to Grenadier and takes his ear piece. She opens a mini-notebook and connects a cable to the enemy's equipment. She types some code and after a while, she says:

    - I'm doing a jamming in their communications. If there are other recon teams, they'll think comms are off because of the storm.

    - Great, let's go down the mountain, then. - Orders Duke.

    The Joes remove their backpacks from their back, put on the floor and check their firearms. A pair of metal runners gets out of one of the backpacks. A metal structure is also drawn from the Joe's backpack. This structure is folded and dismantled in a way that forms a chair with a pair of runners below. A backpack is attached in the back of the chair of the other backpack, forming a sled with two seats. Duke directs the team:

    - Let's the split into three teams down the mountain. If we are all together we can be more easily discovered. The meeting point is on the plateau on the foot of the mountain before the Eucalyptus forest. Radio silence from now on.

    Three teams of two Joes are formed. Flint pilots one of the sleds while Spirit goes on the back.

    Duke pilots the next sled with Scarlett as co-pilot, and finally, Snake-Eyes takes the lead with Snow Job as a passenger. All sleds begin the descent at high speed.

    The strong wind storm that plagues the region cuts the face of the G.I. Joe commando, protected by his two balaclavas, the black one and over it, the white looser one. Snow Job is behind pointing his assault rifle forward, scanning for an enemy patrol. They dodge some obstacles and continue down. After some time the redhead joe tries to start a chat:

    - You know, as Flint said, nice kick up there. Are you really a Ninja? I mean, a Japanese Ninja? I thought they existed only in movies...

    Snake-Eyes makes a hush sigh with his finger.

    - Sorry! It's just… Look, I'm a born talker, so to be around someone who does not say anything it's weird.

    Snake-Eyes is unmoved. Snow Job continues in a lower voice, half ashamed.

    - To be honest, you're sort of creeping me out. No offense.

    Snake-Eyes, as usual, does not say anything, and neither outlines any reaction. Snow Job sighs:

    - All right, all right, I'll be quiet now.

    The sled with the pair continues its descent through the snow-covered mountain.

    At the meeting point, the group of Joes is crouching, protecting themselves from enemy sight behind some rocks. Snake-Eyes, Scarlett and Snow Job wait while Duke observes the situation with his binoculars. Behind them come Flint and Spirit in their sled. They brake the vehicle and crouching too, join the rest of the team.

    The meeting point is on a plateau at the foot of the mountain. Just below, there is a plain where an eucalyptus forest, with their tops covered with snow, stands between the Joes and a large frozen lake. In the background the castle that once belonged to McCullen clan and now appears to be abandoned.

    Duke sees in his binoculars, in combination with his night vision goggles sight, several humanoid figures of red and yellow, denoting that there are several enemy patrols in the forest, guarding the place. Duke explains the procedure:

    - As anticipated, security here is tighter. Several patrols. Spirit will be a spotter and Snow Job will cover our way from here to the lake.

    The red-bearded Joe opens his backpack and pulls out a dark gray case and opens it. With an interior entirely covered by protective foam, it contains a set of metal pieces. The Arctic expert Joe goes taking away the parts and assembling what appears to be a major Sniper rifle: Buttstock, Telescope sight, barrel, Pistol Grip, bipod, and a big black box that is positioned in the place of a machine gun magazine, as it was a large ammunition mag. Spirit picks up a hi-tech telescope and both lie on the plateau, watching the horizon ahead.

    Snow Job looks through the telescope of his rifle. In his view, like it was up close, in one of the castle towers, appears an image that is formed by two layers of vision: The regular one is the castle tower itself, with a partially exposed soldiers moving, another is a an X-ray vision, where the soldier skeleton appears completely behind the castle stone wall, his weapon is highlighted with a bright white color, and a red outline highlights the enemy's silhouette as an augmented reality interface. The Grenadier is looking at the horizon with binoculars.

    - There is a patrol with binoculars at the castle. We can be spot at any time. We have to get rid of him now - suggests Snow Job with some urgency.

    - You'll hit a soldier there in the castle? - Inquire Flint. - But this is impossible. He's too far.

    - Wanna bet, my friend? - Challenges the red beard Joe.

    - I'm in. 50 you can't. Even more so with this wind storm.

    - OK, you're on.

    Snow Job adjusts himself into a shooting position. Flint follows with his binoculars. The Arctic expert Joe fits the crosshair of his high range scope at the head of Grenadier enemy and pull the trigger. A buzzing noise of electrical equipment happens and instantly the enemy soldier is hit and falls. Snow Job turns to his colleague and manages a smile.

    - Hey, but what the heck is that weapon? - Flint question already angry. Snow Job responds:

    - It's a new prototype I get with one of our Hi-Tech Joes. He calls it FLASH. F-L-A-S-H. Firing Laser Armament for SHarpshooter. Got it?

    - Laser?! But this is cheating - Claims the Australian Joe. He turns to Scarlett and Spirit, which are smiling. - You knew it, didn't you?

    - He doesn't have the codename of Snow Job for nothing - Spirit answers with a smile.

    - Let's stop joking around and get going. We have a factory of nuclear weapons to destroy - interrupts Conrad Hauser, calling the colleagues back to the mission.

    Duke, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes and Flint put their packs on their backs and check their firearms. They go down the foot of the mountain towards the eucalyptus forest.

    The Baroness is standing in front of a large glass window. She's in the hangar control room of Destro's underground base. In front of her, beyond the window, is a group of black color fighter jets. A James McCullen's soldier approaches.

    - Excuse me, ma'am. The nuclear device is already attached to your plane. Everything is ready for takeoff.

    - Great. Tomorrow will be a big day. - Answers Anastasia DeCobray. Behind her horn rimmed glasses, a look full of hate and excitement.

    The Joes come walking, crouched, slowly, using the trees as cover in search of enemy patrols.

    - Caution ahead - Spirit speaks in the communicator - there is a group of recon troops.

    The Joes stop from walking for a moment to analyze the situation. 6 enemy soldiers are doing a sweep in pairs.

    - OK. We'll hit an enemy each in my mark - coordinates Duke. - Snake-Eyes, you'll take two, OK?

    The commando Joe nods positively. The group starts moving trying to surround the enemy, and position themselves for the shot. Flint comes closest to his target without being noticed. Snow Job targets one of the enemies with the crosshair of his Laser rifle telescopic sights. Duke begins the countdown:

    - 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... fire!

    Everything happens at the same time. The G.I. Joe field leader fires a 3-round burst from his F2000 rifle, the suppressor makes its characteristic stuffy noise and the bullets hits the head of an Ice Grenadier that falls to the ground. Flint fires a shot from his suppressed automatic shotgun right in the chest of the enemy that was paired with Duke's target. He is thrown quite a distance. Scarlett shoots an arrow from her crossbow and hits right on the head of an enemy. The pair of the target hit by Scarlett has his skull drilled and etched by the extreme heat of the laser beam from Snow Job's weapon. Snake-Eyes comes out from behind a tree and, very quickly, hits two shots, one in each skull of the last couple of Ice Grenadiers in recon assignment. All enemies are defeated. Area is clear.

    The Joes arrive at the edge of the frozen lake. In the background, the seemingly abandoned McCullen castle.

    - Snow Job, open a hole for us, will ya? - Suggests Duke.

    - My pleasure - answers the Arctic Specialist.

    A chunk of ice covering the lake, near where the Joes, begins to melt and suddenly breaks, forming a hole for access to its mass of water.

    The team removes the Arctic camo cloths from their firearms and undresses of their winter parkas, revealing beneath a matte dark gray sneaking suit. Each soldier has webgears with equipment like grenades, magazines, and in the case of Flint, two belts full of 12 gauge shotgun shells in the webgear of his chest. Snake-Eyes, takes his heavy winter vest, his white additional balaclava and undresses of his white sneaking suit, leaving his body naked at a -10° C temperature.

    - Why he wasn't wearing the heavy parka again? - comments Flint making a joke for Duke who shares the smile.

    Scarlett looks at Snake-Eyes as he takes from his backpack, a dark gray sneaking suit and begins to put it on. She speaks with a smile:

    - I assume you are not even cold, are you?

    Snake-Eyes looks at her and just shrugs, saying nothing as usual.

    - Oh, shut up! - She says, still laughing. Duke and Flint laugh too.

    Each one of the Joes put a small oxygen mask in their mouth, wear webbed gloves and swim fins, and throw themselves through the hole, into the lake water, below its frozen surface.

    The Joe frogmen swim towards the castle beneath the frozen lake. Even the low light of the winter night can not penetrate the thick ice and the darkness is total. The Joes navigate in the dark using their night vision goggles.

    Suddenly, a beam of light crosses their path. It's a water drone with a searchlight, making patrol of the lake, looking for potential intruders. The drone moves slowly underwater, propelled by two small rotors.

    The Joes swim slowly and get around the drone, reaching a pipe, its entrance is covered by a drain plate with horizontal entrances through which the water passes, but prevents the entry of marine animals like fish. There is a heavy flow of water coming from the lake and into the metal tube. Scarlett makes a signal for the comrades that this is the way they must enter.

    Duke draws a knife from his webgear and using as lever, remove the duct cover. The force of the water passing is now is much stronger. The Joes enter the duct and are drawn into it by the strong flow. At the end of the duct there is a large rotor with blades rotating at high speed drawing water into the James McCullen's facilities. The Joes unsheath each, their knives and cling them to the wall of the duct, preventing them from being sucked into the flow and therefore shredded by the large rotor. Scarlett pulls out her crossbow and shoots an arrow towards the propellers, like a harpoon. The arrow penetrates the metal wall of the duct and locks the rotation of the propeller. The rotor continues to force to maintain rotation, making the whole structure to tremble. The Joes quickly pass through the duct, between the forcibly stopped rotor blades. Snake-Eyes is the latest to pass. As soon as his swim fins passes through the large propeller rotor blade, the power of the engine breaks the arrow and makes the tube propeller to rotate back at full speed.

    In front of a control panel, there is a holographic display with a diagram of all the structures from Destro's nuclear plant. At one point of the graphic scheme, at the bottom, a red light flashes. That diagram part is automatically increased leaving evident that the problem is happening in one of the water absorption rotors. One Grenadier sitting next to control warns his superior:

    - Sir, the system is accusing an anomaly on the rotors of water absorption.

    Soon after the light stops blinking and the diagram shows a dialog box with a status report.

    - The problem is over. Maybe it was an animal that held the propeller momentarily - considers the tech Grenadier.

    - Have someone there to investigate anyway - Orders the supervisor.

    In a dimly lit maintenance area in the secret complex of M.A.R.S. Industries, there is a pool to access the flooded compartments. Suddenly, rising from the water surface, the four Joes, wearing their sneaking suit and frogmen equipment, point their guns forward looking for possible targets. The laser beams from the aiming system of each weapon, scan through the wet and dusty environment, making the red traces well visible.

    The G.I. Joes ditch their fins and oxygen masks, exchange the webbed gloves by regular ones. Duke, Flint and Scarlett remove their night vision goggles from their eyes and rest on their neck, hanging by a strap. Snake-Eyes, with his back to his squadmates, does the same. Then he comes back to face his companions and he is wearing his dark glass visor. Flint takes, from one of the pockets of his webgear, a sand colored beret and puts it on. The others look at him:

    - What? It's my lucky beret. Do you want us to complete the mission, don't you?

    Something makes a noise above them.

    - There's someone here. Let's hide - Duke orders.

    Two Grenadiers, wearing an all black combat outfit with a webgear full of several equipments, grenades and magazines get down by a maintenance ladder. They have a black helmet and his face covered by an also black balaclava. They descend the stairs and start to do a scan on the maintenance area corridor with their M.A.R.S. MX-1 bullpup design rifles.

    - Central Command, we are beginning to investigate the anomaly in the southern maintenance area.

    Hanging from the ceiling, upside down, Snake-Eyes is positioned behind the pair of Destro soldiers. At the same time, Duke steps out from behind a column and points the laser sight of his suppressed FN Five Seven pistol at the head of the Grenadier who is further ahead. In sync, Snake-Eyes grabs the skull of the Grenadier from behind and breaks his neck while Duke puts a bullet right in the middle of the forehead of the other enemy.

    Scarlett and Flint get out of the shadows and meet the other two Joes. Scarlett crouches and picks up the communicator from one of the defeated Grenadiers. She opens a small screen in his left wrist, revealing her mini-computer. She pulls a wire from the machine in his fist and connects to the enemy communicator. She starts to enter several commands in the mini keyboard that is on her left wrist, just below the screen. A series of words in a command line interface scroll through the screen.

    - OK, I've hacked their system. We have to tell the command that "it's all right here."

    - Got it. - Ensures Flint.

    He takes the communicator from Scarlett's hand, puts in his ear and says:

    - Central Command. We've done the searching. There's nothing here. We are returning.

    Flint takes of the earpiece communicator.

    - They bought it.

    - OK, let's go already people. It will not be long before they realize they have been deceived and raise the alarm. - Orders Duke.

    Scarlett presses a button on the keyboard of her mini-computer and a light projects on the wall, a map for the James McCullen nuclear facility. Scarlett points to a part of the plant on the south.

    - We are here. - Scarlett starts her explanation - By the blueprint of the plant, the control for the nuclear weapons should be here - again Shana O'Hara points to another part of the plant. - The quarters are here and it's probably where Destro is - pointing to an opposite part of the plant.

    - All right then. Let's split up - Guides Duke - Scarlett and Snake-Eyes, take care of the nuclear weapons. Flint and I are going after Destro.

    - U-ha - celebrates the Australian Joe.

    Before Scarlett and Snake-Eyes make their way, Duke holds the arm of the Joe commando:

    - Protect her, Snake-Eyes. Bring her back safely. I trust you. You are the best soldier I've ever fought with.

    The masked Joe nods in agreement.

    - I'm still here, you know? - Plays Scarlett flattered by the two squadmates worries about her.

    The two G.I. Joe teams are now separated. They are going to perform their respective part of the mission.

    A maintenance hatch opens behind some boxes in a corner of a room. Duke puts a piece of his head out to see if the coast is clear. As there is no enemy in sight he comes out with his gun and then immediately Flint does the same. They look behind the boxes and realize they are in an hangar.

    In front of them, occupying the entire space of the large hangar, two black color jets, large and slender, denoting being high speed fighters.

    - Look at those birds, Duke - notes Flint, impressed - as modern or even better than ours. The intel mates would love some pictures of them. The technology of M.A.R.S. equipment is impressive.

    - Certainly, Flint, but there's no time for intel. We have to focus on our mission.

    A group of four Grenadiers reaches the maintenance area where the Joes used to infiltrate the complex. One of them speaks to the radio.

    - Central Command, we just arrived to the area. No sign of the group that was here. There's something wrong about this.

    One of the Grenadiers is searching behind a large water passage pipe and shouts:

    - Here! There's one of ours here!

    - They're dead! Raise the alarm!

    In the hangar, where are Duke and Flint, the sound of the alarm starts.

    - Damn it! Our cover was blown - complains Duke. - We have to find Destro ASAP before he shoots the nuclear weapons or escape.

    - I'll cover you - answers Flint - I'll draw enemy fire so you can go after that damned Scot.

    Flint takes the suppressor of his automatic shotgun.

    - Looks like I won't need this anymore.

    The Australian Joe climbs a ladder next to where they were hiding. A ladder that leads out to a balcony that surrounds the entire hangar. He picks up a flashbang grenade in his belt and throws toward a group of Grenadiers. The device explodes causing a loud stomp and flash of light. Flint, aiming his automatic shotgun of bullpup layout, through the Red Dot Sight and very quickly, hit a Grenadier that was stunned. The body of the enemy is reached by a 12 gauge buckshot shell which makes it to be thrown away. Quickly, the sand-colored beret Joe fires another one, two, three shots and three Grenadiers goes to the ground. He runs and gets in cover behind the balcony wall. The Grenadiers who were on patrol across the Hangar, start firing their rifles and keep the Australian Joe in check.

    - Run Duke, this is your chance!

    Conrad Hauser goes on the opposite path, he climbs the stairs on the other side of the balcony and while the enemies are busy with Flint, he aims his FN F2000 assault rifle also in the Red Dot Sight and making 3-round bursts he walks forward eliminating some Grenadiers. Before they could react, Duke enters through a door and continues to advance towards the leader of all these enemy troops: James McCullen, aka Destro.

    The alarm sounds in the room of the M.A.R.S. arms industry C.E.O.. The Scottish entrepreneur and terrorist, wearing a lined suit, comes to a control panel and see where the fighting are taking place and notes Duke in one of the security cameras.

    - Baroness, Storm Shadow, Zartan, the G.I. Joe are here. They will regret by not being more careful.

    James McCullen types commands on a keyboard on the panel, and a high-profile message appears on the large holographic screen that serves as an interface to the Destro's terminal. In the dialog box is written: Run Omega Plan?

    McCullen chooses "Yes". Immediately a World Map appears on the screen where the British Isles are at the center. And some points are marked on the map: New York, London, Paris, Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi.

    - Baroness, the Joes rushed a little our plan, but it's okay. The world will learn the hard way that M.A.R.S. Entreprises is now a nuclear power. I'm sure after that the price of my warheads will rise much on the black market. And you my dear will have your revenge.

    Snow Job and Spirit are on the plateau, at the foot of the mountain, observing the Castle Destro in the distance. On the horizon, somewhere beyond the castle, a deafening roar of rocket boosters being driven travels through the wide landscape, and then five major ICBM rockets cross the skies into space. One by one, they rise in a parabolic trajectory, heading to their targets, the most important cities of the major nuclear powers in the world.

    - We have been discovered - Snow Job exclaims.

    - Colonel Hawk, we were discovered. I repeat: we were discovered - Spirit communicates to the leader of G.I. Joe

    In the Whaleshark submarine, Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy follows the operation next to the underwater ship pilot Deep Six.

    - We're picking up the signal of the five missiles fired. There is interference and we can't calculate their trajectory - informs the Navy Seal, pilot of the submarine which serves as the mobile operations base for the G.I. Joe.

    - Of course, one of the targets is London. - Replies Hawk - Immediately connect me with George Strawhacker. We have to take the President out of there. Tell our Strategic Command. We have to destroy those warheads with our satellites.

    - I've already contacted them, Sir. The missiles have electronic countermeasures. Our satellites can not track them.

    - Damn! - Exclaims the Colonel who returns to speak on the communicator. - It's up to you, Joes. Destroy those missiles. God help us all.

    James McCullen presses at one point of a wall in his room. A door opens to reveal a secret compartment. Inside there is a heavy combat gear, an armor made of material similar to carbon fiber plates. There are plates for the arms, forearms, torso, legs and thighs and also for joints, elbows and knees. The combat clothing is black and over it there is a webgear and pockets to store combat ordnance. There is also a helmet with an attached metal mask. The mask has a light gray and silver color and has carved the features of James McCullen. He takes the mask from the display and puts it in his face. He talks to himself as if the spirits of his ancestors would be right beside him.

    - In the 17th century a metal mask was the symbol of shame for the McCullen family. Today it is its triumph.
     
  17. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

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    Chapter 9 (Continued)

    Scarlett and Snake-Eyes are climbing a metal ladder into a maintenance area. The alarm starts sounding.

    - We've been discovered - notes the Redhead.

    The pair of Joes comes crawling through a ventilation shaft and look down through the slots of the breather opening at the room below. A detachment of Grenadiers stands in alert position in the high-ceiling chamber that leads to the backdoor of the facilities labs.

    - There are plenty of them. We will never go unnoticed in time.

    Snake-Eyes makes sign with his hand for Shana O'Hara to wait. He takes a knife from his webgear sheath and carefully remove the vent plate. The passage is large enough for a person to pass through. He takes a Flashbang grenade from his chest webgear and throws downward in the direction of the enemies. At the same time, he jumps through the vent, and gives a somersault. The device explodes causing a great burst and flash. Joe commando falls to the ground like a black cat and instantly points his IMI Tavor Prototype assault rifle holding the trigger guard and aiming at Red Dot Sight. He shoots one, two, three bursts of 3 rounds. The bullets exit the muzzle of his gun without making much noise because of the suppressor. Two Grenadiers are hit. Before they fall on the floor, Snake-Eyes holds their bodies using them as shield. Just behind, the reinforcements arrive, firing their rifles with uranium bullets. They strafe their comrades who are now protecting the Joe commando. Their bodies tremble with the penetration of projectiles. Snake-Eyes throws his shield formed by the bodies of their enemies to the front, and rolls to the side, protecting himself behind a column. The uranium shots continue, taking chips from the wall, hardening the cover of the masked G.I. Joe.

    Scarlett, takes advantage of the distraction caused by comrade and throws herself through the breather. She grabs one of the edges of the shaft opening, and making an acrobatic maneuver, cast herself opposite of Snake-Eyes. While he trades shots with the Grenadiers, the red-haired agent, sneaks by a darker area of the room, and enters the nuclear plant section of the facilities unnoticed.

    As the winter snow falls on Destro's castle, the alarm sounds strongly, passing through the pine forest that surrounds James McCullen hideout. A intermeshed rotor chopper flies from the castle. It is the same model that Baroness used in Nigeria, but here it has artic camo. The air vehicle has some searchlights below its nose. The lights dance in snowy environment trying to find other intruders.

    The searchlight passes next to Snow Job and Spirit which are crouched trying to hide from the recon helicopter. The light passes again and the Joes can't manage to stay hidden. The enemy chopper finds them.

    - Here, there they are - screams the pilot Grenadier.

    He presses a trigger in his control joystick. A volley of bullets is fired from the chopper's nose machine gun. The projectiles hit the rock that is serving as cover for Snow Job and Spirit. Sharp flints of stone are taken from the rock while the Joes try to protect themselves from the enemy attack.

    - I'll draw their fire - suggests Spirit. - You reposition and take this chopper out!

    - It's your ass buddy. If you say so, who I am to argue? - Jokes Snow Job nervously.

    - We all die someday. Let's hope we can only die saving a friend's life - answers Spirit in a calm and serene way despite of the heavy suppression fire they are under.

    - Let's hope we don't have to come to that today - finishes Snow Job.

    Spirit makes an thumbs up sign with his hand and throws a smoke grenade. The decoy ordnance explodes spreading a black smoke all over the plateau. Spirit seizes the opportunity and starts running to his right. After he gets some distance from Snow Job, he stops momentarily and shoots some bullets at the helicopter using a suppressed M4 Assault Rifle with arctic camo. The shots hit the chopper reinforced windshields and nothing happens. But the tactic works since he got the attention of the enemy aircraft pilots. The machine gun turret turns towards Spirit and the blazing trail of lightened bullets pursuit the Canadian Joe as the sprints towards another cover position.

    Snow Job, stealthy moves to the opposite direction carrying his hi-tech sniper rifle by his top handle. He tries to move fast, but he can't actually do so, since his firearm is rather heavy. The chopper continues to fire against Spirit, but realises that it had maybe been fooled. It starts turning around to look to other enemies, coming right after the arctic specialist Joe.

    Snow Job position himself in a firing stance, points his Laser gun at the chopper and looks through its high range scope. He frames the chopper's rotor in the scope's crosshair. The redhead Joe pulls the trigger. A buzzing sound starts forming. Bullets fire from the muzzle of the rotary wing aircraft nose machine gun. The projectiles hit near Snow Job's cover. The Laser is still charging. The volley of bullets starts getting near the sharpshooter. He releases the trigger. The Laser weapon is discharged. The beam of concentrated light hits the chopper rotor melting the mechanical parts that holds the blades in their axis. The centripetal force ceases to exist and the inertia of the circular movement tosses the blades aside in a helicoidal trajectory in multiple directions. The chopper, without its sustentation, starts to fall also in a spiral fashion towards Snow Job. He leaves his hi-tech heavy weapon behind, and starts to run, hoping to escape the blast from the helicopter fall. In the last moment, Spirit makes a jump against Harlan Moore and both Joes fall into a cliff avoiding the explosion from the falling chopper.

    The Canadian Joe, in mid-air, uses his bow to shoot an arrow with a steel filament attached to its tail into a wall of rocks. The arrow head pierces the stone. The filament tightens as it reaches its maximum length, preventing Spirit's body to plummet, as its other end was attached to the Canadian belt. Charlie Iron-Knife reaches out his hand and manages to hold Snow Job's forearm, saving him from the deadly fall. Above them, the enemy rotary wing aircraft is still burning from the explosion.

    - With all that talk about dying, I really thought I was going to die! - exclaims Snow Job still hanging from the cliff.

    - One day we will encounter our Ancestors Spirits. But not today, my friend. Not today. - replies Spirit, in a very calm and serene way.

    Scarlett, holding her crossbow, is sneaking through a dark area, trying to be stealthy and not be found by the Grenadiers. She turns a corner and comes to a corridor. Suddenly Snake-Eyes comes out of an air duct in the ceiling and falls in front of her. She gets to point her weapon at his companion thinking to be an enemy but retreats when she realizes that it's her squadmate. Suddenly a sword cuts through the body of Snake-Eyes and punches right in the solar plexus. The commando Joe's body falls to the ground, lifeless at the feet of Shana O'Hara. From behind which was the now dead Joe, Storm Shadow appears, wearing his ninja white uniform, holding a bloody Katana.

    Arashikage Clan Monastery. Japan. Several years after 2002.

    A stealthy figure sneaks through an eucalyptus forest at night that is falling dark on the Nipponese archipelago. He wears an all black outfit with a hood and is carrying a shovel. He approaches a tree and starts digging. The attacker is Zartan. He removes from under the ground, a large wooden box. The master of disguise takes a knife from a sheath in his belt and uses it as a lever to open the cover of the box. Inside it there's is a bow, equipped with a Hi-Tech vision apparatus attached to it. Next to the bow, a set of arrows which the heads have notches characteristic from the Arashikage clan. Zartan takes the bow and arrows and climbs up a tree. He watches the monastery gardens ahead, and then he sees Snake-Eyes, before becoming the commando G.I. Joe, when he was a blond hair former Ranger, his face unscarred, wearing ninja clothes in black, crossing the open area towards one of the the eastern styled sheds. The black hooded intruder aims his bow towards the Storm Shadow brother in arms and frames him using his hi-tech display mounted on the bow. Inside the gadget screen, there is a human silhouette of various shades of red and orange on a light green background. In the application interface, a message: Pulmonary 100 bpm. Cardio Processing. And then a message appears floating on the silhouette of the blond hair silhouette: Lock. Zartan puts his wrist, which has a communicator device attached, like a watch, near his mouth and says:

    - Done. The equipment is locked on the target pulse and breathing patterns. It will detect him even through walls and screens.

    Snake-Eyes enters in one of the monastery's dojos. Zartan goes jumping from tree to tree to get a better shooting position. He can't see inside of the eastern shed, only a silhouette of a man appears through the jute windows. He pulls the bowstring, and the arrow points to that human figure. The hi-tech display screen shows the same silhouette, now holding a sword. Zartan moves his bow to right and left to center the silhouette in the middle of the screen. A message appears: Lock. Zartan fires his arrow. It flies at high speed and, instead of hitting Snake-Eyes, the intended target, it hits Hard Master, killing him. Storm Shadow, which was training bow and arrow shots in a nearby backyard, hears the noise of the arrow crossing the air and turns trying to find the source of the shooting. He rushes towards the Dojo where are Hard Master and Snake-Eyes. In the middle of the race he passes Soft Master, and from outside the Dojo, away from the door he sees Hard Master is dead inside. He is horrified, but does not lose much time and continues running towards the source of the shooting sound.

    In the forest he sees Zartan fleeing after his killer shot. The ninja in white clothes runs to try to reach the criminal. He chases him through the forest, but the master of disguise already has a start and runs fast. The forest ends in a cliff. Zartan jumps toward his death. Storm Shadow gets close to the cliff edge and sees an helicopter, the same model used in the attack on the Green Berets in Florida, silently rising and Zartan attached to him by a rope. The Hard Master killer disappears into the night, while Tomito Arashikage watches helplessly.

    M.A.R.S. Nuclear Facilities. Scotland, UK. Current days.

    Storm Shadow, holds his bloody sword in front of the lifeless body of Snake-Eyes. Scarlett, still stupefied by having witnessed the death of her squadmate whom she has much greater feelings than friendship and companionship, places herself in combat stance pointing her Crossbow at the Destro and Baroness' Ninja bodyguard. Suddenly, from behind her, another Snake-Eyes appears, pointing his submachine-like customized bullpup assault rifle against Storm Shadow. Scarlett turns herself in surprise:

    - Snake-Eyes?!

    Storm Shadow gets down and removes the mask of the dead Snake-Eyes. Under the balaclava and dark glass visor: The true face of Zartan.

    - Watch my friends. The real killer of Hard Master. Zartan, the master of disguise. I saw him shoot an arrow that killed my uncle and recorded her heartbeat and breathing pattern with "The Ear that Sees" that I master. I could not forget this pattern in a million years.

    Storm Shadow clean the blood from his Arashikage katana with the false mask of Snake-Eyes.

    - I could not stay in the clan of my uncles after that. I infiltrated various criminal organizations in a search for the killer. But I know he did not act alone. He was just a hired goon. I still have to find out who was the mastermind.

    The Japanese Ninja stands in fighting stance with his sword in hand

    - But make no mistake, my friends, I'm still on contract by Destro and Baroness and I must do my duty. I will stop you from moving forward.

    Snake-Eyes quickly puts himself ahead of Scarlett, positioning between her and her former brother in arms. Shana O'Hara gets the message and backs off looking for an alternative path.

    - OK, my brother. Finally we come to this point. A duel between us to death. - Taunts Tomito Arashikage. - Please give your best shot.

    Snake-Eyes holds his rifle by the trigger guard, aiming through its Red Dot sight, and walking diagonally towards your opponent, makes a series of shots against Storm Shadow. The Ninja in white clothes, runs to the side in a diagonal trajectory approaching more and more of his enemy.

    - You don't need to dodge bullets, only escape from the aim.

    Storm Shadow jumps, raises his sword in the air, and with a straight movement, shatters Snake-Eyes rifle in two. The masked Joe, quickly picks up his HK MK23 handgun with suppressor and tries to hit Tommy Arashikage at point blank range. Storm Shadow turns the sword in a horizontal plane and removes the pistol from the G.I. Joe Commando hand and in a complementary move, returning with his sword, cuts Snake-Eyes webgear, removing the use of flashbang grenade out of the equation. The blond hair former Ranger then tries to draw his knife, and again is disarmed by a katana blow from the Ninja in white clothes.

    Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes are now face to face, both in combat position. Tommy Arashikage wielding his katana. The masked Joe, without any weapons, now is relying only on his punches and kicks.

    - You are slow, brother. You are repressing your eastern knowledge. You are prevailing too much on your western weapons.

    Storm Shadow has an extra sword stored in an extra sheath strapped to his back. He takes the sword from its sheath and tosses for Snake-Eyes, that grabs it by the grip.

    - Remember this sword, my brother? It's the prime sword of the Arashikage Clan. The symbol of leadership of our brotherhood. My uncle would give it to you that night. You would be the heir of Arashikage. She's your now... if you can beat me.

    Storm Shadow raises his sword and attacks Snake-Eyes. He defends himself, holding his sword over his head and preventing the enemy's blow. A sword fight stars, in the most spectacular fashion. Fast and accurate blows are succeeded by defenses and counter attacks as fast and accurate. The ability of the brothers is impressive. After several series of attacks and defenses of equal efficiency, each of the two ninjas are being hit by glancing blows. Clothes are torn. Blood is drawn. Snake-Eyes turns himself at every attack and counterattack, a little better, a little faster.

    In a dark corner of a room, a coated floor plate is lifted and Scarlett appears, pointing her crossbow, sweeping the area with a laser sight. Only the tip of her head appears. She puts the plate aside and rises stealthily into the room. She is behind a cabinet of computer servers, all running at full steam, with their control LEDs blinking frantically. In front there is a console with various controls and after that a large glass window with an overview to the M.A.R.S. secret nuclear factory. In front of the control, the two technical leaders of the installation, which accompanied the creation of the Destro's first nuclear weapon: The woman with blond hair and the man with red hair and beard, wearing a scottish kilt. In the room there are two Grenadiers, guarding the technicians. In a large holographic screen in front of the glasses, a diagram showing the trajectory of nuclear missiles. Targets: London, Paris, Moscow, New York, Beijing and New Delhi. The London's missile is almost reaching its target.

    Scarlett takes a grenade from her chest webgear and launches just ahead of the control panel. The device explodes and a group of arcs formed in the air, transmitting high-voltage electricity in the Grenadiers and technicians, making their bodies tremble and stagger. Scarlett quickly hits a stroke of some oriental martial arts in each of her enemies knocking out everyone.

    The Joe agent approaches the console. Sher raises a tab on her wrist, revealing her mini computer. She then pulls a cable from her hacking device and plugs into an entry in the control panel.

    - Colonel Hawk. I'm in. - Confirms Scarlett.

    In the submarine of G.I. Joe, Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy sees on the screen a copy of the diagram that is displayed on the control panel from Destro's nuclear weapon factory.

    - We have the coordinates of the missiles, Colonel - informs Deep Six.

    Send them to the Strategic Command. We must activate our defense satellites!

    - I have sent the signal, but redirect the satellites to shooting will take time. London will be destroyed! - Replies the former Navy SEAL Whaleshark pilot.

    - Don't worry. It will not be necessary - ensures Scarlett.

    She starts typing with his right hand in the mini keyboard that is on her left wrist. A set of coded instructions on a command line interface appears and then a message: Installing virus. Complete installation in 5 minutes.

    Scarlett hears someone coming in the control room. Baroness points her Bulgarian manufactured submachine gun Arsenal Shipka, controlling the recoil of the firearm by holding the attached mag of 32 shots. The Eastern European terrorist discharges a stream of bullets at Shana O'Hara and in a split second she jumps behind the server group that served as a cover for her stealth insertion. Computers are shattered by gunshots. Scarlett circumvents the electronic equipment that just saved your life, and hits a kick to the hand of Baroness, disarming her. The agent Joe tries to mend a blow with her arms but is prevented by Destro's lover, who hits a strike in the kidneys of the red haired soldier. Scarlett feels the blow but can defend a second attack and grab the arms of the baroness. Using the very momentum of the opponent attack, Shana O'Hara turns her body and hurls Anastasia DeCobray across the room, hitting another server group. Baroness rises quickly. One of the lenses of her horn rimmed glasses is cracked. The two women continue to fight, exchanging punches and kicks, until the Baroness happens to be near where his submachine gun was left. She grabs her gun and gives a burst of shots at Scarlett, covering her escape. The terrorist goes through the door and retreats. Scarlett recovers from the grueling fight and checks the progress of the virus installation. Suddenly she sees a visual report of the manufactured nuclear bombs which were deployed. Scarlett notices that there is still one that was not fired at the cities, attached to an aircraft.

    - Attention all!. There is one more bomb! It is in one of the aircrafts, ready for take off!

    Flint is at some part of the hangar, protected behind an APC, taking 12 gauge bullets from his chest webgear and reloading the drum magazine of his automatic shotgun with bullpup design. Across the APC, a group of Grenadiers, firing their automatic rifle, keep the Joe in check.

    - I'm here at the hangar, Scarlett, but the situation is a bit complicated for me.

    Suddenly a deafening roar of aircraft engines takes the environment. A large gate opens in the underground hangar ceiling, revealing above the icy exterior of a winter night in the Scottish Highlands. Baroness is in the cockpit of an all black fighter airplane, with large triangular shaped rear wings and small front wings, also triangular. In the middle of the the rear wings, two turbines spin at full velocity. In the top of them, two vertical stabilizers. The plane starts a vertical flight and leaves the hangar, gaining height until it reaches the outside area, under the snow storm falling on the North Sea. In the fighter's belly is stuck the damn cargo, one of the Destro's nuclear bombs. The aircraft then triggers its main turbines and gain horizontal velocity, taking flight very quickly.

    - Baroness just took off. But I have no way to reach her. I am surrounded here! - Complains the sand colored beret Joe.

    - Don't worry, we're gonna fix it already! - ensures Scarlett.

    The redheaded Joe reaches the hangar. She is at a high part of it and can see the entire space reserved for planes take off and landing. She aims her crossbow and shoots an arrow with its rear part tied to a steel filament. The arrow is fired, and the filament goes winding like a snake in the air, both towards its target. The arrow penetrates into a concrete wall. The filament is stretched. Scarlett puts a fixture formed by a pulley and a handle on the filament. She rises in a protective guardrail of a bridge. She goes sliding down the filament at high speed and going over the entire hangar. When she passes over the Grenadiers group that is entrenching Flint, she tosses a flashbang grenade. The device explodes in a cloud of smoke, causing a loud sound. Flint takes the hint and leaves cover firing his automatic shotgun, killing down, one by one of the Destro enemy soldiers.

    Scarlett loose the grip and falls right on top of the double cockpit of a black color fighter airplane, the same model as the Baroness one. Soon after, Flint reaches the front landing gear of the same plane, and begin to climb the small side staircase towards the cockpit. Scarlett extends her hand and pulls his colleague up quickly.

    - It seems that you're gonna ride again with me, my dear. - plays the Australian Joe

    .- Shut up! We have a nuclear weapon to catch - Scarlett responds with a smile face.

    Both settle into their cockpits. The enemy aircraft, now in their power, rises in a vertical flight. As soon as they arise out of the underground hangar, they come face to face with an enemy helicopter.

    - Oh, Crap! - complains Flint.

    The rotary wings aircraft painted with arctic camouflage and two intermeshed rotors is about to shoot a gatling machine gun mounted on its nose, when suddenly one of its rotors explodes. The helicopter begins to fall sideways, spinning to crash into the ground in a forest area in the background, causing a large explosion.

    Among some Eucalyptus trees, with the strong wind from the snowstorm hitting their faces, there's Snow Job and Spirit, holding his bow in a firing position. The arctic specialist Joe speaks with Fint and Scarlett on the radio:

    - With the courtesy of your favorite Con Artist.

    - I owe you this one as well, son of a ***** - complains Flint.

    The Joes plane changes to horizontal flight and part at high speed to chase the Baroness' aircraft.

    - But it was me who fired the arrow that destroyed the chopper - observers Spirit.

    - He doesn't need to know that - responds Snow Job, grinning.

    A pair of old heavy crafted wooden doors flies into the interior of a room because of an explosion. Duke storms the room, shooting everything with his FN F2000 assault rifle. On the other side of the personal quarters of M.A.R.S. Industries C.E.O., Destro, wearing a heavy battle armor, with a metal mask and holding a large combat rifle, remains motionless in the face of the enemy attack. Bullets fly in his direction but are pulverized before finding their target, disappearing each, in a light blue glow. James McCullen raises his gun and fires. An electric charge noise occurs and a stream of projectiles fly with high speed towards the field leader of G.I. Joe. Duke jumps behind a sophisticated and antique-style sofa and avoid the first attack. Destro shoots again and parts the piece of furniture in two, destroying the Duke coverage. The blond hair Joe runs for cover behind a large marble column. During his escape he fires another volley of shots against Destro and the same happens: the bullets are destroyed before they find their target. Duke is protected behind the column. Destro fires again with his electric machine gun. Multiple shots hit the column and takes large pieces of the construction artifact, causing it to crack. Duke flinches trying to protect himself from enemy fire.

    - It seems that you came to the end of the line, my boy - instigates Destro.

    The Scottish arms dealer are in front of a big rig that resembles a high-voltage transformer. Electricity arcs dancing in the space between the villain's armor and the large electrical equipment.

    James McCullen's face is illuminated by various graphics, displays and user interfaces coming from the visual control of the internal part of its hi-tech metal mask. He explains to his opponent:

    - See G.I. Joe, you will have the privilege of being part of the baptism of fire of my armor. It is still a prototype, of course, but it will be the battle suit for the future. In the defensive part, a cloud of micro particles of magnetized metal. A motion detector and a large magnetic generator position the particles creating a virtual force field. On the offensive part, a Rail Gun. Of course, all this requires an obscene amount of energy. But when you have access to a nuclear power plant, everything is easier, isn't it?

    Destro fires again two more bursts and destroys more parts of the column where Duke is protecting himself. Conrad Hauser, take a frag grenade from his webgear and tosses against McCullen. The grenade explodes before reaching the target. Again a big light blue flash, and again Destro leaves unharmed after the attack.

    - Ha Ha Ha. Nice try Joe, with a grenade. But it is ineffective to my force field.

    A large metal door falls from the ceiling which was the wooden door and lock the two enemies within the personal quarters of McCullen.

    - You are in a dead end, Yankee. You can not hit me, and will not stay in cover for long. And you can't run away either. You're dead. It's only a matter of time.

    Destro fires two more bursts and finally breaks the column, leaving Duke again without coverage. Conrad Hauser runs again into another obstacle for protection while McCullen, with reduced speed because of his armor tries to hit the Joe with more shots from his Rail Gun.

    Colonel Hawk, with an expression of great anxiety and concern, is in front of a large holographic display in the G.I. Joe Submarine bridge. The nuclear missile whose target is London is almost reaching its destination. At the bottom of the screen, a progress bar indicates: Virus installation, 99%.

    - C'mon, little bugs, C'mon.

    Installation of the virus, 100%. Virus infecting systems…

    One of the circuit boards from the nuclear missile that was reaching London, burns, and the warhead is disabled. The thrusters are turned off and the missile begins to fall. The same goes for other warheads that were destined for the major cities of the world's nuclear powers.

    In the holographic screen on Whaleshark, the warheads visual interface shows all of them with a red "X" and next to a label "Aborted".

    - Yeah! - Exclaims Hawk - Now we need to get Baroness...

    In the holographic screen of the Destro's nuclear installation control panel, a series of warnings and notifications appear on the screen: Project files being erased, backups being deleted. Security measures being disabled. The metal door that was trapping Duke inside Destro's room is lifted. Circuit boards that control the core of the nuclear reactor shut down and the juice drops to zero.

    Duke is reached by Destro's Railgun laser aim. He squeezes the trigger, but just a click happens, and the gun does not respond.

    In the Destro's mask user interface, a warning sign illuminates James McCullen's face: Nuclear Energy Supply, 0%.

    - What is going on!? - James McCullen says surprised.

    Duke takes the hint and throws a Flashbang grenade against the Scottish terrorist. The ordnance explodes in a loud boom and blaze. Destro, with his battle armor, staggers and loses some balance. Duke advances towards the enemy relentlessly shooting his assault rifle. The bullets hit the armor shielding of McCullen's protective clothing and ricochet but are enough to create a distraction. The field leader of G.I. Joe hits a rifle butt strike in the mask James McCullen is wearing, and then immediately make a move to hit another blow, but the Scottish defends with his right arm and follows with a straight left, which disarms the American, hurling him across the room.

    Destro advances towards Duke, but he is slow because of his heavy combat armor. McCullen strikes another blow, but Hauser ducks and hits a kick to the Scots knee without causing much impact. Continuing the attack, Joe hits a blow of open palm in the mask, also without causing any impact. Destro does not lose the opportunity and unleashes a series of punches at Duke, drawing blood from his mouth. Finally he grabs the American, and starts pressing Duke against his body. Using all the strength and resistance of his battle armor, James McCullen tries to crush the body of the G.I. Joes field leader, breaking his ribs and crushing his guts. Duke feels the pressure on his body, and the pain is intense. He gnashes his teeth and tries to resist the enemy strike without success. With much effort he can reach a combat knife in his webgear and stick it in the ribs, through a vulnerable area between the titanium fiber plates of Scottish opponent's armor.

    Destro feels the blow and kneeling on the floor, and arching his arms back to try to remove the knife, he looses Duke. The coup de grace: Duke runs and grabs his rifle by the barrel like a bat and as a baseball player, turns his body and hits a blow to the Destro's head. The M.A.R.S. C.E.O. is thrown against a wall and falls lying on the floor. His armor is broken and sparks of electricity are being released by the absorption devices from the nuclear plant. Duke points his rifle at the fallen enemy, waiting for some reaction. James McCullen takes his metal mask. The hi-tech version of the symbol of proud of his centenary family. Destro is with blood dripping from his mouth, extremely hurt by Duke's knife blow.

    - It was an honor to fight you, Yankee. You are a valor combatant. Too bad I'm a bad loser.

    Destro pushes a button on a control located in the chest of his armor and in a holographic screen on the other side of the chamber, a clock appears doing a countdown: 01:00, 00:59, 00:58…

    - I think you better run G.I. Joe. You don't have much time.

    Duke does not think twice and goes running. When he is in the middle of a corridor, a large explosion occurs in the quarters of the Scottish villain, and the G.I. Joe field leader is thrown to the ground.

    Storm Shadow is with his white ninja suit already well bloodstained due to several blows suffered from Snake-Eyes attacks. Similarly, the Commando Joe, with his clothes also full of cuts and various injuries with blood, because of this struggle that is certainly the most intense in the life of the two Arashikage Clan ninjas. Storm Shadow strikes a sword, Snake-Eyes dodges lowering the body and at the same time hits a sweep kick in the legs of the Japanese Ninja, knocking him to the ground. Continuing the same movement with a unique elegance, as in a ballet step, the masked Joe ends his strike putting his sword right across the neck of his brother in arms, leaving Tommy Arashikage helpless.

    - It was a good fight, brother, but as always, you were the best. Do what has to be done, kill me, and keep my crusade, find the killer of our Master and avenge the Arashikage Clan.

    Snake-Eyes raises his sword as if he was going to do the killing blow but then lowers the blade, showing mercy and friendship for his enemy. He reaches out, to help his, once friend, to get on his feet, but he is actually trying to rescue the troubled soul of his brother in arms. The Storm Shadow's face is filled with hatred:

    - Even now, in defeat, you continue to humiliate me, brother. One day you will pay for...

    A large explosion occurs and a piece of the ceiling falls between the two Ninjas. Snake-Eyes recovers and when he circumvents the obstacle that was now occupying the hallway where he struggled with Storm Shadow, he saw that his opponent was no longer there. Snake-Eyes sheathes his newly acquired sword and runs in the direction where Scarlett went, leaving behind a trail of explosions from the Destro's self destruction mechanism.

    In the middle of the temperate forest, now covered in snow, Snow Job, laying on the ground, behind a slope terrain fires several bursts with his arctic camo assault rifle to keep a group of Grenadiers dressed in winter combat uniforms in check. Spirit is behind him, attaching a explosive ordnance in one of his arrows. Suddenly a large explosion occurs in the Castle. Spirit speaks to his colleague:

    - Come on, we have to go and rescue our friends.

    The Canadian soldier, takes his bow and shoots an arrow at the squad of enemy soldiers. An explosion occurs ensuring coverage that the pair needed to overcome the enemies and get to the castle. Snow Job sets up a claymore in the position they were holding, picks up his assault rifle and with Spirit go around the enemy line to try to reach Destro Headquarters.

    Flying at Mach 5 speed, Flint and Scarlett, both wearing fighter pilot helmets are in the double cockpit of Destro's attack aircraft in pursuit of Baroness plane that is well ahead almost disappearing on the horizon.

    - We have to bring her down now! She is almost reaching London! - Scarlett orders.

    On the control panel of the Joes plane, an interface consisting of a square, a diamond shape and a plane icon dance on random movements on the LED screen.

    - I'm trying to lock on her plane... - Flint notes.

    Suddenly, all geometric symbols get aligned in the same point on the screen and a text appears: Locked.

    - I did it!

    He presses a button on the plane joystick. The back of an air-to-air missile lights up. The flying ordnance comes out at great speed after its target: the Baroness aircraft who is carrying a nuclear device to be detonated in the capital of the UK.

    Anastasia DeCobray also wears a fighter pilot helmet and sees on her console a warning that there is a missile locked on her tail. She presses a button on the dashboard. From under her aircraft wings come out a large group of flares, measures against heat-seeking missiles. The air-to-air rocket encounters what looks like a blast of fireworks and also explodes without reaching its target.

    - Damn it! It has counter-measures! - Complains Flint.

    The Joes plane starts coming closer. Dashiell Faireborn presses a trigger on his joystick. The built-in machine gun in the fuselage of the plane spits 30mm depleted uranium projectiles at a firing rate of 1,800 rounds per second. Lightened bullets fly at high altitude towards their target. The Baroness plane turns its body from side to side dodging the shots. The Joes plane tries to follow the movement, but both planes have difficulty maneuvering due to high speed and altitude.

    Baroness presses a button on the joystick of her plane. A small bomb is released from the bottom of one of the wings and then it breaks in half dropping a set of small bombs attached to mini-parachutes, forming a cloud of explosives to reach her pursuer plane.

    - Air mines ahead - warns Scarlett.

    - I've seen them - responds Flint.

    He presses again on the trigger of your joystick and a hail of bullets crosses the air towards the cloud of aerial mines. A small group is hit by gunfire and explodes blowing up others in a chain reaction. From inside the huge explosion cloud, the Joes plane passes intact.

    The Destro's fighter, stolen by the G.I. Joes, fires its machine gun again and even Baroness trying to dodge the attack, some bullets hit the right wing of her plane. On the control panel of Anastasia's fighter, an indicator of damage blinks incessantly. She looks on the map in the cockpit screen. It shows that she is already in London. She presses a button on the joystick she is using to control the all black aircraft. A mechanism is set to open in the bottom part of the wing and the atomic payload is released to its fall.

    - It's too late, she dropped the nuclear bomb and it is already active! - Exclaims Flint.

    - I'm going after it! Cover me and destroy Baroness plane! - Warns Scarlett.

    The Joe agent with red hair, lowers the visor of her helmet and puts an oxygen mask. She pulls a lever of the seat side of her cockpit. The glass cover of her place on the plane is thrown up, and a small explosion occurs launching Shana O'Hara in the stratosphere.

    - What are you doing?! - Questions Flint, surprised, in his separate cockpit, as he sees his squadmate ejecting.

    Baroness looks from her cockpit that Scarlett ejected and pulls a lever back. The plane opens its flaps and it looses velocity sharply. The plane of Flint, which maintained the same speed, begins to approach the enemy aircraft and is about to surpass it.

    - You will not do that! - Talks to himself the Joe pilot while he fires the machine gun of his plane.

    Bullets fly through the air and cut the left wing of Baroness plane in half as it passes below Flint's aircraft that was punching through faster. The Eastern European terrorist air vehicle loses control and begins to spin. Baroness also ejects and soon after, her plane explodes.

    Scarlett flying in freefall sees the atomic weapon way ahead and prepares to get closer. She notices a hail of bullets whizzing close to her and turns. Baroness, wearing a helmet and an oxygen mask, has her body arched and legs together to increase the velocity of descent and approach Scarlett as soon as possible. She points her Arsenal Shipka submachine gun and fires another salvo. Scarlett makes a motion with her arms to abruptly change its downward trajectory and avoid enemy shots and pulls out her MP9 submachine gun and shoots back. The two enemies are getting close to each other and go making this game of cat and mouse in the air, but due to high speed and turbulence, it's hard to hit a shot. Baroness pull the trigger to shoot again, but is out of bullets. The same happens with Scarlett. Below them, the nuclear bomb is still falling. Baroness throws her gun out, arching her body, joining her arms to the body and brings her legs together, and increasing her speed, pounces on Scarlett. The two wrestle and begin to spin in the air. Baroness takes a combat knife from her webgear and makes an attack from the top trying to hit the neck of the red haired Joe. Scarlett secure the terrorist arm and prevents the blow. Baroness forces down the knife but Scarlett resists. The redhead hits a knee strike at the brunette and then immediately charges a double karate blow, with both arms in the terrorist's neck, knocking her down. The body of the Baroness faints, and the attrition from the air passing through in high velocity makes her to spin away from Scarlett. The bomb continues to fall and down in the ground, the Thames River in London.

    Shana O'Hara takes her crossbow and shoots an arrow with steel filament towards the atomic ordnance. The arrow pierces the fuselage of the nuclear device. She presses the trigger in her crossbow and the filament begins to rewind with great force, pulling Scarlett, who has far less mass, towards the bomb. Scarlett opens a compartment in the fuselage of the nuclear weapon, and reveals a circuit board. She opens her mini computer on her wrist and connects to the circuit board of the mass destruction weapon via a cable.

    - Scarlett, you only have a few seconds to defuse the bomb! - Warns Flint.

    In Scarlett's computer interface, there is an altimeter: 300 feet. She types a series of commands and attempts to hack the detonator for the nuclear device. 200 feet.

    - Come on, girl, you're almost there! - Supports Flint.

    100 feet. Scarlett types another series of commands on the keyboard on the left arm. On the weapons detonator display: Nuclear Artifact Deactivated. She pulls the cord of her parachute and and the wind resistance force pulls her up, separating her from the bomb. Soon after, the nuclear device and Shana O'Hara pass in front of the London Eye Ferris Wheel and fall on the Thames River. The Flint's plane flies over where the Scarlett's chute is floating in the river. The Australian pilot makes a long curve watching to see if his squadmate reaches the surface, but nothing happens. Then suddenly, Scarlett puts her head out of the water desperately seeking to breathe again.

    - Yeah! - Flint celebrates.

    Scarlett makes a thumbs up sign while floating in the water surface and Flint responds in the same way, inside the cockpit of his plane.

    Duke, Snake-Eyes, Snow Job and Spirit climb the snow-covered mountain while, in the background, the Destro's castle is on fire. Above them a group of British Army Wildcat helicopters arrive to control the region.
     
  18. Young Justice

    Young Justice Silent Master Apprentice

    Joined:
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    Chapter 10

    Abuja, Nigeria

    On a hot and sunny day, Nadir Zamundi is parading in a jeep through the streets of the capital of the Western Africa country. Accompanied by other cars and other guerrilla fighters, he gets compliments of the population that is celebrating. A rain of chopped papers falls from the buildings. The dictator Ngungo government soldiers march handcuffed and guarded by armed rebels. On top of one of the buildings, Marvin Hinton, codename Roadblock, watches the victory of his people against the tyrant who ruled his birth country. Beside him, crouched, Recondo with his safari hat with the flaps folded, operates a communication device connected to a portable pizza type antenna. In the mini computer screen a message is sent. From: Recondo, To: G.I. Joe Command. Subject: Intelligence about Jugglers.

    Greenland, Exact Location: Classified.

    Strong winds and snow punish the island of continental proportions when the twin-rotor helicopter of G.I. Joe, the Tomahawk, lands in an open area in the middle of an icy plain. The rear door of the aircraft opens and Baroness, handcuffed and blindfolded, wearing a heavy winter clothing is escorted off the aircraft by Spirit and Snow Job, who are also wearing arctic combat uniforms.

    - You are lucky your reserve parachute opened automatically that day, Baroness. Otherwise you would be food for the fish in the Thames River. - taunts Snow Job.

    - You are the ones that are unlucky that I didn't die there. You will see when I escape this prison. - replies Anastasia.

    - Let's see about that - finishes Harlan Moore, the arctic specialist.

    Waiting for them is a soldier wearing a heavy winter coat and a white helmet with the "MP" sayings. He is accompanied by a light brown German Shepherd dog. The hound is impassive and observes the newcomer prisoner.

    - A package for you, Law. - Snow Job speaks as he faces the military police officer.

    - Welcome to the Coffin, Baroness. - Greets Law.

    He presses a button in his suit and a door that was camouflaged as if it were part of the icy terrain opens. This door reveals a big staircase to an underground facility.

    He grabs the terrorist by her arm and, accompanied by his dog and the two other Joes, goes down the stairs. Soon after, the door closes and the Tomahawk takes off.

    Washington DC, USA.

    A CNN journalist speaks in front of the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense.

    - In a surprising revelation, US Army General Joseph Malthus is accused of corruption and carrying out clandestine operations with the recently deposed dictator of Nigeria Okenwa Ngungo. He will be arrested by military authorities and will be taken to court martial.

    In one of the halls of the Pentagon, General Malthus is led away in handcuffs by a pair of military police soldiers and an officer in charge. Colonel Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy observes, from a distance, the arrest of the corrupt military man.

    The CNN journalist continues her speech:

    - In another related news, the businessman, arms dealer mogul, C.E.O. of M.A.R.S. industries, James McCullen XXIV was exposed as the person behind the international terrorist known as Destro.

    A photo of James McCullen appears on the TV screen.

    - The company's stock plummeted on the international market.

    A graph of the last month M.A.R.S. share prices appear on the screen, showing a sharp drop in the right part of the chart.

    - There are rumors of a takeover by a little known company unknown called Extensive Enterprises.

    The logo of the company that is taking control of M.A.R.S. appears on the TV screen.

    Arlington County, Virginia, USA.

    In the late afternoon of a sunny day with the sky already with an orange color, Lt. Conrad Hauser is wearing his formal military uniform, dark green jacket, light green tie, green beret of his squad of Special Forces and all his medals, including the purple heart, an honor given to a military who died or were injured in fighting against US enemies. He walks by the sea of headstones arranged in diagonal rows of the military cemetery of Arlington. He is in front of a tombstone. It is written: A star icon: 1975, A cross icon: 2008, Carl "Doc" Greer. Duke's father, wearing a black suit with white shirt and black tie, also approaches the tombstone.

    - He was your friend, son?

    - Yes. He was my best friend. He died in combat. He saved many lives that day.

    Hauser takes the Purple Heart medal from his chest and puts it on the friend's tombstone.

    - I know you won one of those, buddy, but you deserve mine as well.

    The American Army Lieutenant makes a salute for the friend who died in combat, and then lower his arm to attention position. Conrad's father puts his hand on his son's shoulder, trying to comfort him.

    - Can I ask you something, son?

    - Yes, you can.

    - You had the gift. That's for sure. Hell I'm jealous... You would've been better than me. S.C.A.D offered you a full scholarship. You could have developed your talent, become an amazing artist. Why, why'd you choose the army instead? Why'd you choose the path that could only lead to violence? It was because of your mother, wasn't it? The way she died, the cancer...

    Duke clenches his fists and lower his head.

    - No, father, it wasn't. It was because it always felt right to me. I don't expect you to understand it. I used to fight for my country. Now it's different. I'm fighting for something more.

    Conrad turns to his father.

    - Do you remember how she called me?

    - Yeah, she said you were strong, like me. "A regular John Wayne" she used to say. She called you her own little "Duke".

    - What I do for the military is ultra classified. Top Secret stuff, so I can't tell you anything. But I will disclosure this for you: That's my codename. "Duke". Do you think she would have been proud of me, Dad?

    - I don't know what you've been doing, son. But knowing you the way I do, I know is nothing less than saving the World, so I think your mom would have been proud of you for sure.

    - And what about you?

    - I've always been proud of you, my son.

    Father and son hug each other in a very strong way, in a gesture filled with emotion.

    High Sierras, California, USA

    In a traditional sunny and cloudless winter day, Mount Whitney and the pine forest below are completely white, covered with snow.

    The cold winter messes with the blond hair from the back of the head of Snake-Eyes, who is wearing an Oriental kimono, black colors, sitting in lotus position, without his classic balaclava, meditating in a snow-covered rock. He feels a strange presence and turns quickly, getting into fighting position.

    The visitor, accompanied by his pet, the wolf called Timber, is one of his former masters: The Soft Master. The Japanese who was one of Arashikage clan leaders is wearing an appropriate common climbing clothing for the cold season.

    - Very well, Snake-Eyes. Very well indeed. This is your name now, isn't it? I almost could approach you without being detected, but you caught me at the last second. Congratulations. - Soft Master praises with an English with strong Japanese accent.

    The Hard Master brother crouches down and pats the head of Timber.

    - Nice friend you got here. He is really very special. We got along right away.

    The Japanese teacher gets up and returns to stare at his former pupil.

    - I came here personally to tell you that I am very proud of you. You really excelled. Life brought much suffering to you. Much more even after you left our clan. But you did not let yourself down. You turned over, and conciliated your Western origin with your Eastern knowledge. You've become a true Master. A Silent Master. It is an honor to know that Arashikage clan will continue through your deeds. Hard Master would have been proud.

    Soft Master bows, greeting the former pupil, now master. Snake-Eyes does the same in respect to his former master.

    - Now go to your cabin. There is a visit to you. Let me excuse myself. I'm sure you'll want a moment alone. - plays Soft Master, outlining a large and generous smile.

    Snake-Eyes, now with his balaclava and glass visor covering his face, goes into his hut by the back door and finds Scarlett waiting for him. She is sitting in a chair, wearing a heavy winter coat. She grins and says:

    - You know, I took care of that damned Dreadnok with the flamethrower. Now we're even.

    Shana O'Hara gets up and approaches the masked Joe.

    - The nuclear weapon authorization code has already been used. There is no more need for you to keep your identity classified.

    Snake-Eyes makes a series of hand movements, using sign language.

    - OK, I understand. You're not that man anymore. You are Snake-Eyes now.

    Scarlett approaches the former Ranger with blond hair, and put her body next to his. She tries to remove his mask, but he feels uncomfortable and put away the hand of the red hair Joe. She looks at his visor, as if she was seeing his eyes through the glass.

    - I know that you feel uncomfortable with your scars. Don't worry. In fact, I accept them with my heart and soul. They are a major aspect of what you are. An integral part of you. I love you completely, with yours scars and all.

    Scarlett, slowly, takes the Snake-Eyes visor and then his black balaclava. The blond hair Ranger expects a disgust reaction from Shana O'Hara, but she smiled with affection and care. They hug and kiss each other passionately.

    The former Ranger with blond hair is lying on his bed, covered by a thick wool blanket. A hand covered with a kevlar like material glove taps on his back. He wakes up. It's late at night.

    - Come up, soldier. We have a mission - Informs Scarlett, already dressed in her black sneaking suit uniform, with webgears, and other combat gadgets.

    She bends down and opens a large metal case on the ground.

    - I did the equipment you asked me. It's here.

    Snake-Eyes begins to dress for the mission. He puts over a wood table a MP7, a German manufacture submachine gun, with suppressor, Red dot sight and without stock beside some flashbang grenades. On the side of the modern military weapons, a group of shurikens, metal ninja throwing stars, and a pair of nunchakus. He puts on the sheath that is stuck on his back, a Katana. The Arashikage clan symbol on the blade is swallowed by the sheath, as the sword is put in its place. Snake-Eyes wears a black boot with split toe, very characteristic of ninja uniforms. Finally, he puts a hi-tech visor, with an angular design, resembling at the same time a futuristic headgear and a middle age helmet visor. Scarlett and Snake-Eyes are now fully dressed in their hi-tech black sneaking combat suit with all gear on, ready for mission.

    Hawk is sitting in the cockpit of an aircraft. He speaks to the radio for the couple on the ground:

    - Scarlett and Snake-Eyes. We're approaching your position. No time for a full briefing. We're leaving for a facility in Alaska. It is an abandoned factory of M.A.R.S. Industries. Intelligence says there is something strange in this place. Something to do with a code name called COBRA.

    Snake-Eyes and Scarlett are outside the cabin. The helicopter of the Joes, the Tomahawk approaches and flies over them. A cable is released by the aircraft to pick up the Joes couple. Shortly before they were extracted, Snake-Eyes makes some movements using sign language. Shana O'Hara nods. As the cable reaches them and both are raised in the air at high speed, Scarlett shouts:

    - Yo Joe!
     

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