Chapter One

Duty of Honor

As his long red cape flapped in the cool Scottish wind, James McCullen Destro smiled and sipped his tea, enjoying the spring breeze racing down the steep green slopes of the Highlands. It was a day of rare beauty: the sky was blue, and the usual gray clouds were high and thin. From his high perch at the peak of his own personal mountain, standing before his family's mighty stone and granite castle, Lord Destro was warm, and almost regretted wearing his thick dress uniform—almost.

It was his castle and riches that made him part of a family that could trace its heritage back over eight centuries, but it was the uniform he wore, and more importantly, the mask, that made him the man most of the world knew only as Destro.

Made of bullet-proof alloys, the black suit carried an appearance similar to renaissance nobility. Highlighted with gold and silver, it was actually difficult to look at in the sunlight. A red cape attached at his right shoulder.

Wearing a metallic mask had been a family tradition for centuries, since the English Civil War of 1642. Destro's ancestor found it profitable to sell weapons to both the parliamentarians and the cavaliers during the war. One of Oliver Cromwell's men discovered this operation, and as a punishment, Destro's ancestor was forced to wear a painful steel mask; that didn't stop Cromwell from asking for weapons, however, and so the Destro fortune flourished. In honor of their ancestor, the family of Destro has proudly passed the tradition of wearing steel masks for generations, with James McCullen Destro daring to modify the mask with high-tech technologies.

Molded to the shape of his clean-shaven head and constructed with enriched titanium, Destro's mask was more like an indestructible helmet; it was composed of bullet-proof metal, yet surprisingly comfortable. Thinly lined with soft padding and vented, it could control perspiration and serve as a gas mask for short periods of time. A short range communication system and eye-protection devices were installed as well.

Taking a sip from his cup, it chipped as it hit the slit if his metal mask in front of his mouth. Perhaps the mask still had a few imperfections.

"Damn. And this was the good china."

Waving up his butler, Destro handed him the broken cup, then picked up another one from the table resting out on the grassy slope next to him. After pouring himself some more tea—Earl Grey, of course—he looked back out across the Highlands.

Soft, nearly silent footsteps tapped the ground behind the Lord of Destro Castle, and although he did not hear the person approach, he was not startled by the intruder's sudden arrival; it was far from the first time that this person had appeared out of nowhere.

"You have called for me?" asked a shorter man dressed in a white shinobi shozoku, a traditional ninja uniform. He carried an ample supply of short swords, a bow, arrows and nunchaku. The red emblem of Cobra stood out brightly upon the left of his chest.

Destro set his tea cup onto its plate. "You are late, Storm Shadow." The words carried a touch of discipline.

"I am here because I choose to be," the man in white turned his head towards the castle's lord, and punched his words through his mask, "Not because I am required to be."

Frowning, the lord picked up his tea and took another sip through his mask. It was exactly the answer he expected from the self-centered ninja. "Perhaps not. But you have sworn allegiance to Cobra Command, and when I have a contract with Cobra, as I do now, I expect you to put a little more effort into your work for me. I may not be Cobra Commander, or for that matter even an official member of the Cobra Terrorist Organization, but I do hold a considerable amount of rank, nonetheless."

Storm Shadow turned to the Highlands and gazed emptily across the Scottish mountain range. His stance was motionless, but the raging energy pouring from his body was undeniably present, and sent shivers down Destro's spine. Turning back around, the white ninja dropped to one knee and looked at the grassy ground. "Very well. I apologize for my poor performance today. How may I serve you, Lord Destro?"

Now smiling, Destro handed his tea cup over to his butler and took a stance in front of the much more controllable ninja. "I am having a package of considerable importance delivered to Edinburgh International Airport. Please be at Gate 12B at 7:00pm this evening to retrieve it for me.

Storm Shadow looked up with an insulted look in his eyes. His facemask covered his complete expression, but Destro had little doubt as to how he felt; the ninja had a lot of pent-up anger in him, Destro was sure of that.

"You have called me four-thousand miles to pick something up for you at the airport? I do not do petty chores!"

Knowing that harsh words could not be used against such a hateful man, Destro played a new game. Crouching down so that the two men could look eye-to-eye, the castle lord spoke softly, yet sternly, "I am not so shallow of a person, my dear Storm Shadow. Do you think me so arrogant as to waste my assets as Cobra Commander would? No, my friend. I ask you to pick this up for me, because you are the only warrior I can trust to complete this task successfully."

Standing up with a cautious look in his eye, the ninja asked, "Am I to know what this special package is?"

To hide his frustration, Destro grinned. "No, I am afraid not. It is part of a project where 'the less who know the better,' if you can appreciate my concern."

Storm Shadow wanted to feel insulted again, and so he almost walked off, but he could never reject such a stupid task. He would simply have to change his emotions into something stronger, something that could drive him on, and give him strength.

Now engulfed with enough curiosity, he simply had to do it, just to settle his mind. Bowing, the white ninja turned and disappeared back to the direction he came, quietly swearing that if this little "delivery service" job turned out to be an attempt on his life, Destro would surely suffer before he died.

1.

After Storm Shadow had left, Destro sat down at the small table. Discussions with assassins, even concerning the simplest of tasks, were always a bit exhausting. It were times like these that he had the most respect for Cobra Commander. That sniveling, abrasive scoundrel had to put up with people like Storm Shadow every second of every day. There was little wonder behind why that hooded fool's mind had snapped, oh, so many years ago. Still, for an idiot, the Commander had achieved what many thought impossible goals, and would forever be remembered as one of the greatest terrorists of all time.

Although often seen simply as Cobra Commander's right-hand man, Destro's legacy wasn't weak by any means. He was a billionaire, manager of Military Armaments Research System (M.A.R.S.), and owned massive manufacturing plants all over the world. He also owned four luxury estates, most importantly his family's castle in Scotland. He even had his own small army, the Iron Grenadiers. They were usually used as back-up to Cobra forces, but occasionally they saw action working for small war-stricken countries in South America and central Africa.

But Destro owed much of his wealth to his family name and inheritance. Cobra Commander started from scratch; he was just a used car salesman, sick of just barely getting by in a capitalist society; now he was leader of the largest terrorist organization in the world. And above all, ruler of an island nation sitting mere miles off the coast of the United States!

Perhaps intelligence will plant the bigger ideas, but ambition will reap the bigger rewards.

So deep in thought, Destro jumped as long, pointed fingers slithered across his shoulders. Soft breaths began puffing against his neck, quickly followed by a rich red tap from her lips. "Tsk, tsk, Destro. Are we a little stressed, hmm?" The deep, Romanian accent erased all confusion from Destro's mind, as it always did.

"Ah, my dear Baroness. When you are with me, stress is a word long forgotten."

As she sat in a chair across the table from Destro, her long black hair flowed in the wind, but her black leather outfit remained bewitchingly tight against her lean, curving body. "James, you know I love you, but how much longer must we stay at this castle? It has been two weeks!"

"Yes, yes I know, my dear. Not much longer, I promise you. I am still awaiting one more delivery that should come tonight. We can move to my plant in Libya by tomorr--."

"Libya!" shrieked the Baroness, nearly throwing her rectangular, black-rimmed eye-glasses down the mountain, "What about South America? I'm not going back to that hell-hole in the desert again! I'm still cleaning the sand out of my suit from the last time!"

Paralleling his hands with the ground, Destro tried to calm her, "Please, my dear, you must understand: it is the only plant I have that is safe from the Joe team at this time. With their increased activity in Central Asia and Central America, the Joes have completely cut me off from my plants in Syria and Columbia. I don't like the idea of returning to the Sahara, either, but it is the only choice that I have."

Baroness slumped back in her chair with her arms crossed, then reached out for her tea cup. Seeing that it was empty, she began pounding the table. "Where is my tea?" The butler scrambled over and began pouring as fast as he could. As the shaking servant walked away, the Cobra Princess stared at him and sipped. "Fine. We'll go to Libya. This plan of yours had better work, Destro."

The castle's lord reached over and fondled her fingers. "It will, my dear, for I do it solely for you, my Amazon queen."

As cheesy as it sounded, it was just what the Baroness loved to hear. She smiled, adjusted her monstrous glasses, then took another sip of tea.

2.

With the sun mere inches above the horizon, business at the Edinburgh International Airport was picking up. Traffic in most lanes was down to a crawl, but through pure determination, a fast-moving taxi cab screeched to a stop in front of the main entrance. Storm Shadow removed a knife from the side of the taxi-driver's neck and cranked the thirty-year-old taxi's door handle down, then shoved it open. The ninja was no longer dressed in his uniform; instead he now suffered blue jeans and a black-and-white checkered short-sleeve shirt. Pulling out his black duffle bag, he tossed the sweating driver a pile of money.

"Forget you ever saw me." Passionately nodding and holding on to the bleeding right side of his neck, the driver pressed the accelerator as hard as he could. Storm Shadow quickly hid the knife in the duffle bag.

The large wad of cash was provided by Destro, so its loss was of no concern to the ninja. Of course, he suddenly realized that he had no money to make a taxi-ride-return to the castle with. Bah. He would just have to convince the next driver to provide him free transit.

Airport security in this day-and-age was nearly impenetrable, even for a ninja, and Storm Shadow had no desire to put too much effort into this stupid chore for Destro. The ninja walked to the far end of the main complex and found a dumpster. After checking for any witnesses, he quickly opened the garbage container and threw in his duffle bag—it was stock full of his weapons, of course—then he silently closed the dumpster. Now his only threat would be if garbage pick-up came on Tuesday nights.

The airport was a simple design: the Ground Floor was a long, narrow flat that bent at an ell, extending for a shorter distance with rooms and doorways that all served the same basic purpose of airline ticket purchase. The First Floor, accessible by a massive escalator, was identical in shape to the Ground Floor and was where all the aircraft waiting areas and aircraft-access bridges were.

Despite being of Japanese origin, it was easy enough for Storm Shadow to blend in; the multi-ethnic swarm of foot traffic kept him pretty inconspicuous. To assist his invisibility, he re-focused his state-of-mind: he was no longer Storm Shadow, Cobra Ninja. Now, he was back to his political identity: Tommy Arashikage, American tourist. He was still proud of his family name, Arashikage, but the name he took while in the United States Army, "Tommy," stung whenever he heard it. It was a reminder of days long ago; days when two eventual sworn enemies would have died for each other…

As Tommy walked through the Ground Floor Terminal, heading for the escalators to the First Floor, the work was beginning to grind his nerves. This was not the work of a ninja, it was the work of a trainee; even a Viper would reject the work of a "gopher-boy."

Once he stepped onto the upper floor, he nervously walked through the metal detectors. Although he was sure that he had discarded all of his weapons, security was so tight in this day and age that any slight mistake could be his undoing.

"Okay, you're clear." said the scanner operator, showing no concern or interest in anything around her at the moment. "Next."

Nodding, Tommy relaxed at bee-lined for the waiting areas. Stepping through the door, he could see the Gate 4 exit. Destro's package was going to be delivered to Gate 12B, the absolute farthest away off to the right.

Walking down the terminal, Tommy reached Gate 5, and spun around in panic. Someone was following him. He was sure of it. The airport wasn't crowded on the First Floor, but every sense that he had said that there was someone keeping an eye on him, and more importantly, they knew how to keep out of sight.

Checking the time, Tommy could see that it was 7:02pm. He needed to get down to 12B soon. There was no time to take care of his stalker. Perhaps once he had Destro's little prize he could take a moment to dispose of his adversary, but not now.

Quickly moving down to the far end of the First Floor, he reached the lounge right in front of 12A and 12B. The time was now 7:05pm, and a 737 passenger jet pulled up outside the windows. Thankfully, it was on time.

There. The chill down his spine said that he was being watched again. It was not acceptable for a ninja to feel panic, but something about this predicament felt—dangerous.

Sounds of talking began echoing down the walkway bridge tunnel connected to the jet as passengers began rumbling through and pouring into the airport, meeting their friends and loved ones, invoking feelings that Tommy had long fought hard to ignore. In the midst of the herd of humans a man in a grey suit approached the ninja, put his arm around his shoulders and walked him over to a lounge chair. Upon the man's chest was a pin shaped in the "Extensive Enterprises" emblem. So, the Crimson Guard was in this, too. Setting a fat briefcase down, the man opened it, pulled out a small, bolted box no larger than a shoebox, and handed it to Tommy. Without even looking at the ninja, he closed his briefcase, locked it, then disappeared into the departing crowd.

The ninja stood in front of Gate 12B, unsure of what to do next. Shaking off his feelings of uneasiness, he tucked the box under his right arm and began walking towards the escalators.

Tommy fought to ignore the feelings of fear that followed him as he raced for the exits of the airport. His chore was nearly completed; all that remained was a taxi-ride to Destro's stupid castle and then he could be free of this cursed land called Scotland. Once he cleared the front entrance, he pushed through a crowd of people and headed for the dumpster.

The waning sunlight was a welcome sight to the fleeing ninja—darkness was a powerful asset. As he briskly charged through the gray light towards his hiding place, he erased the identity of Tommy Arashikage from his mind and once again reabsorbed the power of Storm Shadow.

Rounding the building's edge, he dropped into a crouch and took defensive stance, staring in fear at a blond man and a crimson-haired woman standing next to the dumpster that held his weapons. Covered in long black trench-coats that flapped in the spring breeze, and sporting dark sunglasses, the gothic duo reflected the aura of a melodramatic sci-fi movie. More importantly, their heavy black coats were perfect shrouds to cover any weapons.

"So, Scarlett, it was you who followed me through the airport." growled Storm Shadow. "I salute you in avoiding my detection."

"I was not alone." replied Scarlett, nodding at her silent companion. The blond man stared forward with a stale, emotionless expression. His eyes were unreadable behind his thick glasses. "Hand over the box, Storm Shadow," ordered the woman, "You can't defeat both of us, especially without your weapons."

"A true warrior is the only weapon that he needs."

Leveling up a small crossbow from behind her trench-coat, the woman restated her command: "Storm Shadow, give us the box. Damn it, we don't want to hurt you!"

Briefly eying a pipe on the wall next to him, Storm Shadow wiggled his feet into a jumping position. "I am a ninja, Scarlett. A fool like you could never harm me!" With that, the ninja jumped for the green pipe and grabbed it with his left hand. Swinging himself onto the brick wall, Storm Shadow impressively climbed it single-handedly—he was still carrying the black box. When Scarlett fired her crossbow, he pushed himself from the wall and spun around in air, landing with a deep slam atop the big red dumpster. Anticipating his move, the emotionless blond man grabbed the metal crate's side and flung himself onto the garbage dumpster meeting Storm Shadow face-to-face.

"Brother!" cried the Cobra ninja, "I do not wish to fight you. This is not the time for us to resolve our differences. Let me go, and I promise you a fair fight in the future." Storm Shadow took a step back, but the blond man charged forward and stabbed a fire-fast punch in the ninja's direction. Dropping the black box, Storm Shadow barely dodged it, and then responded with a punch of his own. Crouching down, the blond swung out a leg. Storm Shadow jumped up then kicked his foot out at the man. Grabbing it, the blond swung the ninja into the wall. Storm Shadow dropped to his knee and grabbed the box.

"This is pointless, brother! This is no place for us to fight. My weapons are forfeit this day!" Back-flipping off of the dumpster, Storm Shadow sailed to the ground then sprinted around the building's corner.

Throwing off their trench-coats and sunglasses, the two G.I. Joe warriors revealed their true costumed identities. Scarlett was clothed in a yellow outfit, but her arms and legs wore grey spandex and yellow gloves and boots. Snake Eyes wore solid black, with a grenade belt wrapped over his right shoulder and various gear strapped across his body.

"We have to go after him. He can't get away with that box!" Scarlett walked over to Snake Eyes as he began scratching at his neck. "Here, let me help you." Grabbing the back of the blond man's neck she peeled the rubber facemask off. Once it was removed, the brutally-scarred soldier pulled a black spandex mask from his backpack and pulled it tightly over his head, then attached a metallic visor over his eyes.

"You look good, Snake-Eyes." said Scarlett as she smiled, wishing that she could run her fingers through his hair.

Snake-Eyes raised his hand and gave a thumbs up, wishing he still had the ability to tell her how beautiful she was to him, too.

3.

The drive into downtown Edinburgh was emotionally difficult. Slumped in the cab's rear seat, Storm Shadow fought his feelings of dishonor for abandoning his battle with Snake Eyes. He had never left a battle so ridiculously before, but he also could not accept the ridiculous situation of the battle, either. The true thorn in his side was the sacrifice of his weapons, some of which were beyond irreplaceable. Looking over at the little black box rattling on the cab seat next to him, he clenched his fists and fought the urge to roll down the window, toss it to the sidewalk and feel a little a satisfaction this day.

The streets of Edinburgh were built with ancient brick buildings and littered with modern technology. Between these tributes to the past were long rows of modern transportation, squeezed onto roadways meant for horse-drawn carriages, not big fat automobiles. As the gray sky took on a shade of fiery red, the old Scottish city transformed from a buzzing hive of modern life into a labyrinth of darkness, with the silhouettes of the ancient buildings creating a gothic view.

"Might I be having a word with ya?" asked the cabby.

Turning his focus to the back of the driver's head, Storm Shadow replied, "What do you want?"

"I've noticed a black sedan zippin' up after me car. If they're after you I'm afraid I'm goin' ta have to kick ya out. I don't want to be havin' any trouble."

The ninja flipped around and looked westward down Haymarket Terrace. Sure enough, a black Toyota four-door sedan was swerving through traffic and revving itself closer to the cab. It didn't take long to recognize the passengers as Scarlett and Snake-Eyes. The driver's identity was a mystery, however. Oddly enough he wore a Hawaiian-style shirt.

Turning back around, Storm Shadow dug his fingers into the neck of the cabby. "If you wish to stay alive, drive this car as fast as you can."

Wincing in pain, the driver slowly nodded. "Where…where do you want ta go?"

Pointing to a pair of large hills across the city, Storm Shadow replied, "Arthur's Seat." The cab turned on to Prince's Street, which would take it by Edinburgh Castle, a massive complex of buildings that sat far from the road across Prince's St. Gardens. The enormous and widely-spread stone castle was built high upon a rocky mount, lifting the buildings that stood upon its top ever higher into the air.

As the cab headed down Prince's Street, the Joe's Toyota made a punch for it. Snake Eyes quickly climbed out of the shotgun-side window and crawled across the hood. Showing his amazing aptitude for balance, the Joe commando crouched down and drew his sword. With Edinburgh Castle and a ruby red sky as a backdrop, Snake Eyes leapt through the air from the Toyota's front end and came slamming down upon the cab's rear, stabbing his sword into the yellow car's trunk. After standing himself upright by pulling on his sword's imbedded handle, the black commando unsheathed the blade from the cab, swung it back behind him, and slashed it forward, shattering the rear windshield.

In quick response, Storm Shadow swung himself horizontally out of the cab's rear right window and kicked Snake Eyes' in the side. To keep from sliding off of the cab, the commando was forced to collapse onto his stomach and grab for the edge of the broken window; the shattered glass cut his hand, but more importantly, it forced him to drop his sword.

As the taxi cab drove past the majestic St. Giles Cathedral, the wind blew Storm Shadow's loose common-man clothing and ruffled his long black hair as he stood next to Snake Eye's fallen body…and raised his brother's sword. "So this is how it ends, my brother: you will die in an almost comical fashion. This is not right. This is why I left you at the airport: so we could fight with honor; this is not how a ninja must die." Storm Shadow looked up at the sky. "But unfortunately, it is how it must be." The white ninja began to swing the stolen blade…and was pierced in the left side by an arrow.

Whipping a hard glare back at the Toyota, Storm Shadow saw Scarlett leaning out of the car's window and reloading her crossbow. Knowing of no other option, the ninja crouched down next to Snake Eyes. "You are saved, my brother. I do not regret this failure!" Using his foot, Storm Shadow shoved the Joe off of the back of the cab, sending him into a brutal tumble across the pavement. The Toyota screeched to a halt and Scarlett jumped out.

Storm Shadow crawled back into the cab, now holding a sword against the neck of the cabby. "Hurry up, driver. I have no more patience!"

4.

At the edge of Holyrood Park, the black Toyota screeched to another hard stop. Slowly standing back up, the cabby coughed and began brushing the dust off of himself. The rear door popped open and Scarlett stepped out. "Are you all right?"

Giving a sarcastic look, the cabby looked back down and worked his joints. "You guys have been smashin' up me car, and then some looney goes and steals it for a drive to Arthur's Seat. No, lass. No, I'm not all--." Before he could finish, the door slammed shut and the black four-door sedan raced across the bumpy fields of Holyrood Park towards a large pointed rock standing in the middle of the park.

Thankfully for the Joes, it was getting dark. As such, there were a couple of yellow lights shining at the base of Arthur's Seat.

Nearly shaken to pieces by the rocky ride, the Toyota pulled up next to the abandoned cab, which looked like it was in even worse shape than the sedan was.

"Fill us in, Chuckles," asked Scarlett, "How long does it take to get up there?"

The only G.I. Joe soldier allowed to wear a loud Hawaiian shirt and green slacks looked up the hill and replied, "On this side, some people can do it in half-an-hour, but the average is about forty-five."

Swooping out of the car, Scarlett warned her friend, "He'll be up there in fifteen, Snake, and he's got a five-minute head-start on us. Let's go. Chuckles, stay here in case he comes back down."

"Um…okay."

Before the dark Joe commando left, he reached to the back seat and pulled out a sword. Noticing that it wasn't Snake Eyes' usual sword, Chuckles thought to himself, Why didn't he take his Uzi?

5.

The one advantage that Storm Shadow had over the G.I. Joes chasing him was that he had reached the top of Arthur's Seat first—and could catch his breath. There was no way that he would let his enemies have that luxury when they rounded the top of the hill.

The top of Arthur's Seat was a small plateau with a large pyramid-like rock at one end. It gave a fantastic view of the city of Edinburgh, especially during the fiery sunset blanketing the city on this night.

Although he stood with his back to the rock and looked upon the city, its beauty was not Storm Shadow's concern tonight.

The sounds of crumbling rock behind him were.

Snake Eyes came over the tall rock behind him, leaping across the white ninja and landing in a roll. After rolling a few feet, he stopped, spun around and took a defensive crouching position.

"So, brother," said Storm Shadow, with a hint of shame, "You have surprised me. Again you have shown your worthiness to call yourself Arashikage." Raising his sword, he stared deeply at Snake Eyes. "But you are a fool to call yourself G.I. Joe. You have skill, but no intelligence." He raised Snake Eyes' sword and slid his fingers along the edge. "I am forced to destroy you with your own blade. Perhaps then you will realize that your choice was a fool's--."

As Storm Shadow rattled on, Snake Eyes exposed the handle of the sword he carried, which silenced the white ninja, then turned his face red. "You…you carry my katana!" His eyes grew even sharper. "Very well, we will fight with each others' blade, the blade of our own brothers!"

Clangs of metal fiercely rang from the top of the hill. As Scarlett finally rounded the crest, what little breath she had left was swept from her lungs. Against a bursting red sunset, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes engaged in a passionate duel of sword and body. Mercy was not a factor in their battle; every blow did equal harm to both men, every slash cut just an inch too deep. The two men had finally found the perfect place to finish their empty war.

6.

Skidding across the ground as he landed from a kick, Storm Shadow scrambled around with his sword raised and came back chopping repeatedly. Snake Eyes blocked every slash, then responded with a hard left kick into the white ninja's side. Refusing to move from the blow, Storm Shadow elbowed the black commando in the face, then slashed him across the right side. After moving away to regain his wits, Snake Eyes turned back around—and couldn't see his brother. Quickly looking up, he saw Storm Shadow stabbing down from a short dive. Unable to block, the black commando rolled with it, dropped onto his back, re-directed the sword with his own and used his foot to fling the white ninja's body six feet behind him. Landing disgracefully on his back, Storm Shadow flipped over and quickly stood back up.

"I…I will not stop until your heart hangs from my blade!" panted the enraged warrior. As he took a step forward, he was sent jumping back by a sudden burst of machine gun fire.

The whipping sounds were indistinguishable. The men knew what was approaching, but Storm Shadow was by far the most affected. "No! Not now! Not while I am so close!"

A Cobra F.A.N.G. helicopter closed in on Arthur's Seat, or more accurately, Storm Shadow. Speaking through a bullhorn, the pilot called down to the distinctly-out-of-uniform white ninja. "Come on, Storm Shadow! Get the box and get onto the F.A.N.G.!"

With his head hung in silence, and his body engulfed in swirling dust, the white ninja stood in anger. He wished to continue his duel, but he had a mission to complete for Destro, and honor bound him to his chore. Snake Eyes passionately wanted to approach, but was in the direct line-of-fire of the F.A.N.G.'s front machine-gun. Scarlett, still thirty feet away, knew that her crossbow was useless amidst so much wind.

"C'mon, Storm Shadow! Destro is waiting for us!"

Painfully, the ninja walked to the edge of the hill where he had hidden the box, picked it up and headed over to the helicopter. As he stepped onto the rails, he looked over to Snake Eyes. His brother raised his sword, and threw it at the F.A.N.G. It stuck into the side of the helicopter inches from the white ninja's head. Storm Shadow held out the black commando's sword as the F.A.N.G. lifted upward, but instead of throwing it to Snake Eyes, he shook his head, and sheathed it.

Scarlett walked over to Snake Eyes as the F.A.N.G. took a low flight plan across Holyrood Park. "I'm sorry, Snake. Things will work out some day, I know it."

The black commando stepped over to the edge of Arthur's Seat. Scarlett could feel the silent scream roaring from his lungs. After looking across the twinkling lights of Edinburgh for a few minutes, he began a slow descent down the hill.

6.

Chuckles sat in the Toyota twiddling his thumbs. It had been pretty quiet and lonely for over half-an-hour. Just a couple minutes ago a F.A.N.G. flew to the top of the hill, but there was no way to warn the other Joes. He wanted to help, but what could he do? All he had was a pistol. He was no match for a ninja, especially Storm Shadow.

What was that? It was the sound of a small helicopter approaching the car. As the thundering sound got louder, it was soon drowned out by the crunching crash of Storm Shadow's feet landing on the hood of the Toyota. Chuckles looked down to draw his gun, but when he looked up, the feet were gone. Frantically looking around, Chuckles jumped when the back door was yanked open and Storm Shadow's bag slid out. Turning around as fast as he could, Chuckles only managed to pop off a couple of shots into the back seat.

As the G.I. Joe undercover agent stepped out of his car, he watched as the F.A.N.G. flew away into the fading sunset.

7.

The black box crashed onto the desk next to Destro's computer monitor. Destro stopped his typing and picked up his spilt office supplies. Still sitting in his luxurious chair, he pushed himself away from his desk and turned himself around. Baroness stood leaning against his desk, sipping a glass of wine.

"Ah, Storm Shadow. I expected to see you sooner." said the weapons manufacturer.

The white ninja stood inside the doorway with the hall's bright light behind him, transforming him into a dark silhouette. "You have your damn box, Destro. My duty to you is complete."

"Excellent work, as always. I know that fighting Snake Eyes is never a simple task."

"You mock me?" growled the white ninja.

"Please, Storm Shadow. I have more respect for my warriors than that fool Cobra Commander."

"Then why did your soldier not let me finish my fight?"

"Because you had a mission to complete; one of such importance that your personal matters were to be set aside until it was finished." Destro poured himself some more tea.

"Tell me, Storm Shadow," asked the Baroness, "Do you want to fight your 'brother' again?"

Whipping her a hard glare, the ninja replied, "Of course I do. I prepare for it every day."

First taking a sip of her wine, the Baroness continued, "Then keep working for us, and we promise you, you will see your 'brother' in the near future."

After a moment of silence, Storm Shadow spoke, with just a bit less intensity, "How can you promise this?"

Destro picked up the black box. "Because you completed your important chore for me, dear Storm Shadow. This device will guarantee the appearance of G.I. Joe wherever we go, I promise you that."

Once again, curiosity insured the white ninja's obedience…for the time being.

8.

Scarlett pressed the "Enter" button on her laptop. The video communication screen activated and Brigadier General Clayton Abernathy, a.k.a. "Hawk" popped up onto the LCD. He was wearing his black one-star general's uniform and sitting in his lightly decorated office in G.I. Joe headquarters, nicknamed the "Pit."

"Scarlett, it's good to see you. Is everyone all right?" asked the General.

Nodding Scarlett turned to her right to show Snake Eyes and Chuckles. "We're okay, Hawk. Snake Eyes took a few scrapes, but they won't kill him."

Hawk smiled. "I'm beginning to doubt if anything really can." Leaning back in his chair, the General's expression tightened up. "So, how did the mission go?"

Looking down with a touch of shame, the red-haired Joe reported, "We lost, Hawk. Storm Shadow got away and took the box with him. We…we have no idea where he was headed."

Hawk intertwined his fingers and paused to think for a moment. "You are two of my very best troops. I sent you on this mission because I needed my questions answered, period."

"Y-yes, Hawk, we know."

"This was the best lead we had on this hidden shipping network Cobra has started up. Cobra is up to something big. You all know that. We can't afford to mess this up." Scarlett looked down as the General looked at a statue on his desk. "It looks like we'll have to go to plan-B." Hawk dug out some papers from beneath a pile on his desk and studied them. "I'm sending you three to the Phillipines. The government there has been keeping an eye on a Caucasian man that has basically moved in to a beach resort outside of Davao City. He appears to make weekly deliveries to 'friends' that show up at the resort. It's not a confirmed delivery like Edinburgh was, but it might lead to something."

"Any other information on him, Hawk?" asked Chuckles.

The General shook his head. "That's about all we have. I'm sending you your orders to your computer now."

Scarlett checked here e-mail, then nodded. "Got 'em, sir."

"Good. Look, I know that no one is perfect, but I expect more from you guys. You can't fail this one again."

The red-haired Joe stood up boldly and saluted, "We won't General Hawk."

"I know you won't. Good luck." With that, the General's image popped off the screen.

Scarlett looked back at her teammates with the expression of a leader. "All right, guys, we're going back to the airport. We've got a long way to go."

Chuckles groaned. "We've only been in Edinburgh for twelve hours, now we have to fly clear to the Phillipines in the same day?"

Snake Eyes patted him on the shoulder. Scarlett folded up her laptop and spoke, "You can catch plenty of Z's on the plane, Chuckles. We're going and we're going now."