The dust had hardly settled over Washington, DC, after G.I. JOE had saved the city from annihilation from a nefarious plot to destroy the city with a nano-mite warhead, when the notorious television journalist Hector Ramirez began his work day, visions of high television ratings and million dollar bonuses swimming through his head.
Ramirez strode confidently up to the door where a plaque read, "General Hawk." He was ready for the pitch of a lifetime. Ramirez knocked twice.
Cover Girl opened the door and rolled her eyes when she saw Hector Ramirez standing there, trying to look suave and professional in his black pin striped three piece suit, his slicked back hair, and his well trimmed "porn star" mustache.
"Oh…" she said. "It's you."
"General Hawk," Cover Girl called back, "It's that TV guy."
"Let him in," Hawk said.
"Thank you for this opportunity, General," Ramirez said as he shook Hawk's reluctant hand.
"Ah, just cut the bullshit, Ramirez," Hawk said. Behind him, Cover Girl smirked.
"You know just as well as I do that I'm being forced to see you. So what the hell do you want?"
"It's like this," Ramirez said. "Your team has just saved civilization as we know it from yet another Cobra threat. Of course, it didn't come cheap."
Ramirez showed him a clipping of yesterday's news, showing a picture of the destroyed Eiffel Tower.
"These are hard times, General. We are in the greatest economic recession since World War II. You guys cost billions of dollars a day to maintain. I mean, let's face it, right? Saving the world isn't cheap. You guys need money the Army doesn't have. Or maybe they do have it and they just don't want to give it to you. And the new president is cutting military defense budgets. Your bosses are squirming. Where will all the money come from?"
"You came all the way here to tell me that? Will you get to the point? I need to go yell at Duke in about 15 minutes."
"In this day and age, these hard times," Ramirez said, "you can't count on public gratitude. Americans these days have short memories. You need something that's going to get them excited, make them want to spend money. That's where I come in. I have the solution to all your financial problems."
He took out a newspaper picture of Scarlett.
"Scarlett?" Hawk said, confused. "What's she got to do with this?"
"Let me tell you, you guys here in the PIT may have a sheltered existence, but I am in tune with popular American culture, and the culture is telling me that all those dudes out there, those horny teenagers and dirty old men and married guys who aren't getting it at home—well, they all have the hots for Scarlett. You wouldn't believe how many letters have been coming in this week with people, men AND women (but mostly men), expressing their undying love for Scarlett!"
He produced one such letter.
"Would you happen to know how I can ask Scarlett out on a date? I really want to f--- her."
Ramirez lowered his voice to a whisper and cupped his hand to Hawk's ear, out of the hearing of Cover Girl.
"There's about a thousand more of these. Because… Let's face it. Scarlett is hot!"
"All right, Ramirez. What's your scam?"
Scarlett sat uncomfortably in front of the TV cameras. She was placed on a pedestal on a stage, facing the camera, wearing a blouse and skirt. The outfit generously showed off her legs and cleavage.
Hector Ramirez walked onto the stage from stage left, microphone in hand.
"Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the new reality TV show, called 'Scarlett TV.'"
"Are you for real, sir?" Scarlett said incredulously to Hawk, upon learning of the proposed show.
"Listen, Scarlett, I know it's a lot to ask. But my bosses up in the Pentagon are breathing down my neck here. We need money and we need it now. They're threatening to cut off our funding. I mean, do you know what will happen if they do that? I'll end up in Iraq or some godforsaken hellhole, bossing around ordinary soldiers, instead of super people like you and Snake Eyes who have mad skills, jet packs, and accelerator suits. Where's the fun in that?! The Joint Chiefs of Staff really liked Ramirez's idea. They want us to go along with it. So I'm on my knees. Please! Will you do it… just for me?"
Scarlett glared at him.
"Pretty pretty please, with sugar on top?"
General Hawk was on his knees with his hands clasped in supplication to her, and he had those puppy dog eyes that even Scarlett found hard to resist.
"Now let's face it, America." Ramirez stared seriously into the TV camera. "Miss Scarlett is a… what?"
"I'm a counter-intelligence officer."
"That's right, folks. Isn't that sexy? Miss Scarlett here is an extremely talented Southern Belle who finished school early, has expert knowledge in hand to hand combat, can shoot an apple off your head with a crossbow, and to top it off, is extremely beautiful and sexy! Am I right?"
The studio audience roared in agreement.
"But we're all wondering. Why isn't a beautiful woman like yourself married or at least in a romantic relationship. Surely it's not for a lack of attractiveness! What do you normally do on a Friday night?"
"Well," Scarlett said. "Usually on most nights I'll hang out with Sn--"
"Say no more!!! Holy sweet baby Jesus! It really sounds like what we have here is a 'love SOS.' She's lonely, crying out for companionship, for her true love to come along. And we're going to help you, my dear! We have a number of guests now from her top secret unit. Actually not so top secret anymore, if you've been reading the news lately," Ramirez continued. "Now let me explain the format. Each guest is a man from within her own not-so-top-secret unit, who will compete for her love. The winner will receive Scarlett's hand in marriage!"
Scarlett jumped to her feet. "What?! That wasn't the agreement!"
Hector rushed to her side.
"Shh!" he whispered in her ear. "We're on live TV for Chrissakes. Just marry the guy, I don't give a shit who, you can always get an annulment or a divorce later. That's how they do it on those other bachelorette shows anyway. Who cares?! Just fucking do it, okay?! You want your precious G.I. Joe to get funded don't you???"
"Okay," Scarlett said in a low voice, "let's see who I may or may not temporarily marry."
The first guest was Duke.
"Oh God," Scarlett said, rolling her eyes.
There was no way in hell she was going to marry this guy.
Duke, dressed uncomfortably in a tuxedo, sat in a chair on the stage opposite to Scarlett.
"Shana," Duke said solemnly, "I have been in love with you from day one, and I am here to convince you that I am way better than those other scrubs who are about to follow me on this show."
"Oh, really?" Scarlett said archly. "And since when are we on a first name basis?"
"Just look at it this way, Shana," Duke said, grabbing her hands and ignoring her sarcasm, "You and me, sitting in a rustic hunting lodge out in the mountains, you cleaning the dirt off my boots and feeding the dogs, while the little ones play by the fire. We'll have six or seven of them, of course."
"No!" Duke said. "Strapping young boys like myself! Because let's face it sweetheart. I am an all-American stud man."
Duke undid the top buttons of his shirt.
"I am a real American hero. I'm the kind of guy who was the star quarterback in high school, the king of the senior prom, the heroic soldier who wins lots of medals and comes home to a big ticker tape parade. With a beautiful woman like you, imagine all the beautiful babies we can have together."
Duke reached inside of his suit coat and pulled out what looked like a toy.
"Please take this as a token of my undying love for you."
It was a Duke action figure.
"It's the latest from Hasbro," Duke said. "They're calling it Masterpiece Duke. Because why settle for less than the best?"
He turned to the TV audience and received a rousing ovation.
"Ten inches tall. Multiple joint articulations. Detachable weaponry and accessories. Best of all, you can change my facial expression."
He fiddled with the action figure. The camera closed in to observe the action.
"See? Smiling Duke. Grimacing Duke. Emo Duke. This beauty is going to retail for $199.99, but if you all order it through our special website, you can get a 20% pre-order discount. Most people aren't aware of that. But you all watching this today are now in the know. And knowing is half the battle. Yo Joe!"
Duke handed over the action figure and waved to the audience.
"Thanks, Duke. I always wanted one of these," Scarlett said.
"Thank you, Duke." Ramirez said. "That was a very touching expression of your heart felt love and devotion."
Ramirez wiped away a tear. "Will you please have a seat to the side here?"
He indicated a row of five chairs.
"Our next guest," Ramirez said, "is a long time member of G.I. Joe, who has been in love with Scarlett since the early days of the group. Please bring out… Clutch!!!"
A disheveled and unshaven Clutch, wearing his standard issue Joe uniform smeared with automotive grease, waved to the crowd as he walked onto the stage.
"Jesus, Clutch," Scarlett said. "Couldn't you at least make yourself presentable?"
Clutch walked up to her and put a greasy hand on her shoulder, leaving a stain on her blouse.
Son of a bitch. I paid more than a hundred bucks for this blouse, you asshole!
"Hey baby," Clutch said. "You remember the day we met? You were giving instructions in hand to hand combat."
"I remember that well."
"Whoo hoo! Who's this gorgeous girl?"
Clutch stood next to a grinning Stalker, Steeler, and Breaker. A sullen Snake Eyes stood to the side.
"My name is Scarlett, and I'm going to be your instructor."
"You? You're going to teach us how to fight?"
"Why don't you come at me and see what I got?"
"All right, you asked for it honey. I'll try to go easy on you—"
Within five seconds, Scarlett had Clutch on his back. She smirked at him.
"Well, I just gotta say, when I felt your soft sexy body touch mine in that split second, why, I got a hard on the size of Jupiter—"
Before Clutch could say another word, Scarlett had delivered a back wheel kick to the face, sending him flying next to Duke on the couch, where he slumped over, unconscious.
Scarlett turned to Ramirez. "I'll take the next contestant please."
Ripcord walked onto the stage, dressed in a nice navy blue suit.
"Oh, hi… what's your name again?" Scarlett said.
"Ripcord. You probably don't remember me because I haven't really done too much with you. But I've got a major league crush on you, Scarlett."
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. When I see you running on that treadmill, and then you put up a book and pretend to read it so guys don't come up to you and talk, well gosh darn it I find that so attractive! Now, I may not have as much of a stud as Duke, but I do have my special qualities. For example, even though I mostly parachute out of planes, I can also fly them! I've been trying to get General Hawk to let me pilot those supersonic jets for years! I like to fly airplanes, and then I like to eject out of them, and then parachute down… at high speeds."
"Uh, everyone in G.I. Joe can fly a plane," Scarlett told him. "Sorry to disappoint you, but that don't impress me much."
"I'm also good at something you don't have a lot of," Ripcord went on. "I got lots of emotion."
"Yeah, that's right." Ripcord motioned to the studio band, and they struck up a beat.
"I've been really tryin', baby
Tryin' to hold back this feeling for so long
And if you feel like I feel, baby
Then, c'mon, oh, c'mon
Let's get it on
Ah, baby, let's get it on
Let's love, baby
Let's get it on, sugar
Let's get it on…"
"Thank you Ripcord, for that beautiful song," Ramirez ushered him to the guest couch near Duke and Clutch.
"Our next guest is a long time friend of Scarlett. A very special friend. Will you please come out, Snake Eyes?"
Snake Eyes, dressed in his black commando uniform, walked onto the stage.
"Now, Snake Eyes. Welcome to the show. Will you mind telling us a few words about how you feel about Scarlett?"
Snake Eyes motioned to Scarlett a series of hand motions.
"Uh, Snakes," Ramirez said. "We don't have a sign language translator on the set. Would you mind just talking?"
"He can't talk, you moron," Scarlett called out to him. "He lost his voice after saving me from a burning helicopter over in the Middle East."
"Really?! I, uh, I got some information here saying he took a vow of silence or something when your ninja master got killed. Come on, that's crap right? You can break your vow for the sake of love, right? Let's hear you talk! Sign language doesn't make for good prime time TV, you know."
Snake Eyes angrily signed some more.
"He says if you don't stop disrespecting him, he's going to kick your ass."
"Mr. Snake Eyes," Ramirez said, sweating nervously, "the other guests all had some rather… interesting things to show Miss Scarlett. What have you got?"
Snake Eyes lost it. He karate chopped poor Hector Ramirez in the neck, sending him to the floor. Then he pounded his chest and pointed to the other contestants. This brought Duke and Ripcord to their feet. Clutch remained unconscious.
"Ooohh, wassup commando guy? You getting mad? You gonna fight us for Scarlett?" Ripcord said.
"Bring it mute boy!" Duke said, getting in a kung fu stance he had learned from watching The Matrix.
Within seconds, Snake Eyes whirled through his two opponents, kicking and punching them into submission. They lay sprawled on the floor. The audience roared.
He took off his mask and looked at Scarlett.
"Oh, Snake Eyes," Scarlett said, rushing to his arms. "That was so… so… so romantic!!!"
She kissed him passionately right there on the set, in front of millions of viewers on live TV.
The next day
The Joes sat around their 65 inch plasma TV screen in the PIT lounge. Both Duke and Ripcord sat with neck braces, while Clutch had his left arm in a sling.
Scarlett sat holding hands with Snake Eyes.
General Hawk was beaming.
"Well Joes, I'd say that was a very successful venture. Millions tuned in to that show last night, the revenue generated by advertisers was incredible, army recruitment has jumped up 200% in just 24 hours, thousands of Masterpiece Dukes sold online, and the sponsors have agreed to share the wealth with the U.S. Army. In other words, we aren't getting shut down! They liked us so much, we're set to go next week."
"Next week?" Scarlett said. "Oh, hells no. No fucking way am I going back on there. I don't care what—"
"Relax, Scarlett," Hawk said. "Cover Girl is next up."
Cover Girl shot to her feet. "WHAT?!?"