Cobra Headquarters

Snickering out loud with unfettered contempt, Cobra Commander rose from his seat at the head of the long mahogany conference table and asked Destro to clarify his latest plan to destroy G.I. Joe and conquer the world.

"It's very simple, Cobra Commander," Destro said disdainfully. The Baroness, Tomax, Xamot, Zartan, Major Bludd, and Scrap Iron also listened attentively.

Destro's lack of respect for Cobra Commander's feeble intellect was painfully obvious to everyone present. He produced a remote control and flicked a switch. On the flat screen television monitor, an image of a bearded Mr. Spock from the episode "Mirror, Mirror" of Star Trek filled the screen.

"Everyone is familiar with the concept of parallel universes. For every universe, there exists a parallel one in which circumstances and events are different. We know that nothing is predetermined. Everything that happens is a result of chance. For every event that occurs, there are a trillion billion alternate possibilities. You could conceivably calculate the result of all these different probabilities compounded upon each other as you go through your individual life. The results are astronomical. There may be a parallel universe in existence in which some of us are actually decent, loving, good hearted human beings."

"That would be the day," the Baroness said with a scornful laugh.

Destro pressed another button and the image changed to that of a large cannon-like device. It was constructed of shiny steel and contained a multitude of switches and panels.

"This machine is the answer to our wildest dreams," Destro said. "I propose we use this device to blast all of G.I. Joe into an alternate universe. This will essentially free us to do anything we want with this world, unhindered by Joe interference. The world will be ours!"

Destro shook his metallic fist for emphasis and took his seat.

"I hope this contraption of yours works," Cobra Commander hissed threateningly. "Otherwise it will be your tin head! We will test the machine in 24 hours."

The Baroness, seated next to Destro, placed a hand on his thigh.

"That is a most ingenious plot," she purred heavily, her voice thick with desire, her hand moving up his thigh to rest on his crotch.

"Thank you, my dear Baroness," Destro said as everyone got up to leave.

"Would you like to tell me more about it in my bedroom?" the Baroness asked.

"My dear Baroness, circumstances being what they are--Oh hell yeah," Destro said as he wrapped an arm around her slender waist.

* * *

G.I. Joe Headquarters

Christmas Day

Taking a break from saving the world from evil terrorists, the G.I. Joe team gathered together at Joe Headquarters to celebrate another Christmas together. No Christmas at the Joe Headquarters would be complete without a full course Christmas feast prepared by Roadblock.

Scarlett and Duke walked arm in arm down the hallway toward the mess hall.

"Duke," Scarlett said with a smile, "Thank you for saving me from Cobra Commander the other day. Why, if you hadn't heroically intervened at the last minute, single handedly, guns blazing like fucking John Wayne, I would surely have been tortured, raped, beaten senseless, and vaporized. I owe you everything."

"I would do anything for you. I would fight for you, lie for you, walk the wire for you, yeah, I'd die for you. You know that," Duke said as he gently pulled Scarlett into a darkened side hall.

Scarlett felt her heart come to a stop as she backed up against the wall and Duke caressed her cheek with his right hand.

Their relationship had been building up to this point for years. For years, Scarlett and Duke were inseparable. They did everything together. They fought together, ate together, worked out together, went out to movies together. The only thing they hadn't done yet was sleep together. Scarlett knew she would not allow their relationship to cross that line until she was absolutely sure that Duke truly was the man of her dreams.

Was Duke "the one?" Scarlett often pondered the question to herself. She lay awake at night, staring at her ceiling, thinking about her dreams and her loves. There was no question that Duke was an all-American stud muffin. He was tall, blond, handsome, and buff. Duke was a real leader of men and there was nothing he wouldn't sacrifice on her behalf.

Still, there was something about this relationship that bothered her. Scarlett couldn't quite put her finger on it; it was just beyond the grasp of her understanding. Something was missing. After so many years of feeling lonely, Scarlett felt happy and content to know that there was someone who genuinely admired her and enjoyed her company. She was glad to have someone she could trust. But was that enough?

Scarlett hardly felt herself breathe as Duke's face drew ever closer to hers. They had never kissed on the lips before.

"We don't have a mistletoe," Scarlett said with a nervous laugh.

"Aw, Shana, the hell with the mistletoe," Duke replied as their lips touched. Scarlett's face flushed, inflamed, as she felt her own lips responding automatically to Duke's. The kissed deepened, and Scarlett dropped her bag of presents to the floor as she wrapped her arms around Duke's neck.

No. It was too much. Scarlett began gently pushing Duke away.

"Conrad, please," she whispered, breathless. She felt confused.

"I'm sorry. Guess I don't know what got into me. Are you all right?"

Duke took out a tissue and wiped Scarlett's lipstick off of his mouth.

"Yeah. Ready, Duke?"

Scarlett held out her arm and her warm smile had lost none of her affection for him. Duke smiled back at her, took her arm, and they proceeded to the party.

The Mess Hall

"Oh yeah baby it's party time!!!" Shipwreck cried out jubilantly.

"Parrrr-tayyyy! Parrrr-tayyy!" Polly the parrot squawked as she flew around the room and came to rest on Shipwreck's shoulder.

"Yo wassup Roadblock my man!" Shipwreck sidled up to Roadblock as the Joes lined up to fill their plates with the chef's sumptuous food.

Scarlett walked in with Duke. Most of the Joes were already present, engaged in boisterous conversation.

"Merry Christmas, Scarlett and Duke!" Breaker waved at them as he blew a bubble with his bubble gum, before taking a seat with a plate full of food.

Soon, everyone in the mess hall had their food and they were seated. General Hawk stood up with a glass of wine and wished the Joes a Merry Christmas. He raised his glass in a toast, and everyone heartily joined him.

Scarlett and Duke were joined at their table by Flint, Lady Jaye, Rock n' Roll, Stalker, Ace, and Snake Eyes. Snake Eyes was sitting next to Scarlett.

"Merry Christmas, Snake Eyes," Scarlett said to him with her sweet smile.

Snake Eyes nodded. His mask was pulled up just enough to expose his mouth so he could eat. Come to think of it, Scarlett did not think she had ever seen Snake Eyes without his mask on. She heard he had gotten scarred in some battle long ago, but she had never really bothered to find out more about the details of what had happened in Snake Eyes' life.

In sign language, he asked her about her family back in Atlanta.

"Oh, they're fine, thank you," Scarlett said. "My brothers and my father are all doing great. My sister, too… I guess."

Snake Eyes signed her another question. It had something to do with the mission that Scarlett had completed the other day.

"Uh, yeah," Scarlett said, not sure what the question was, or whether she had even given an appropriate response.

Snake Eyes said something more in sign language. Once again, Scarlett failed to completely understand him. She had only learned enough sign language to communicate in the most rudimentary terms with Snake Eyes. Stuff like where to go, what to do, let's go kill some Cobra, basic elementary fundamentals like that. The rest of the time, she mostly fudged it and pretended to understand what Snake Eyes was saying, and up till now, she'd had Snake Eyes convinced. It was actually a minor point of embarrassment to her, a trained counter intelligence specialist, that she who was an "expert" in decoding enemy signals could not even competently decode the signals coming from her own trusted teammate.

"Um, sure," Scarlett said.

Snake Eyes gave her a blank stare.

Finally Scarlett had to confess.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're trying to tell me. I hate to admit to you that my sign language skills really suck. I'm sorry, Snake Eyes."

Scarlett saw the corners of Snake Eyes' scarred mouth curl into a slight frown and his eyes lowered from hers. He waved his hand to signal that it was okay, no big deal.

Scarlett turned back to her own food. She silently said grace before digging in. The food was excellent, but Scarlett ate with little enthusiasm. She had never seen Snake Eyes so hurt and disappointed by her, and it bothered her.

"You okay, honey? You looked concerned."

Scarlett looked up to see Lady Jaye looking at her from across the dining table.

"Of course," Scarlett said, forcing a smile.

In all of their experience together, Scarlett and Snake Eyes had never really interacted in social situations. In the heat of battle, it was easy to communicate. Scarlett would give Snake Eyes some orders, point him in the right direction, and Snake Eyes would nod and give a thumbs up. They never had to talk about abstract things like their personal or family lives. They never spoke to each other about the feelings in their hearts. As Scarlett silently ate her food, oblivious to the conversation around her, she wondered why she had never taken the trouble to learn how to communicate better with Snake Eyes. After searching her thoughts and memories, it became apparent to Scarlett that she had been so wrapped up with her handsome boyfriend, that she had been neglecting her friendship with Snake Eyes. Her laziness and uncharacteristic lack of consideration toward Snake Eyes made her feel very guilty.

Dinner was over, and Rock n' Roll, who had appointed himself deejay, put on an LP. Within moments, the lights dimmed and dance music came on the speakers. The Joes eagerly worked to move all the tables to the side of the room as people began to dance.

"Come on Cover Girl, let's get our groove on," Shipwreck shouted to Cover Girl as he took her by the hands to lead her out to the dance floor.

"Okay," Cover Girl said sweetly, "but don't get any funny ideas!"

The other Joes, many of whom had brought dates, began dancing.

Scarlett and Duke danced together, as well as Lady Jaye and Flint.

"That's funny," Stalker said, moving up to Scarlett, "Snake Eyes isn't dancing. Usually he's a dancing freak. That man has got some moves! Wonder if there's anything bothering him."

"Yeah," Scarlett said in a dull voice as she glanced at Snake Eyes.

A slow song came on, and Duke pulled Scarlett into his arms. Soon they were moving as one with the music. It was a soothing feeling, being in Duke's arms. But the sight of Snake Eyes sitting alone and unhappy unsettled Scarlett greatly.

Throughout the song, Scarlett rested her head near Duke's shoulder. Over Duke's shoulder, Scarlett observed Snake Eyes furtively, never letting her eyes stay on him for too long, never letting him suspect that she was watching him. He sat there with his mask on in the darkness, which seemed to magnify the dark mystery of this strange loner's life.

How will I make it up to him? Scarlett turned this thought over and over in her mind as she danced with Duke.

Scarlett returned her gaze to Snake Eyes but he was no longer there. Scarlett's eyes moved quickly around the room, scanning for any sign of Snake Eyes, but the stealthy commando was no where to be found. He had suddenly vanished.

The slow song came to an end, and Scarlett excused herself from Duke. No one in the room had seen Snake Eyes leave.

"Guess he didn't want to talk to anyone today," Stalker said.

Scarlett left the room and ran down the main corridor, stopping momentarily at each side hall to see if she could spot Snake Eyes.

On a hunch, Scarlett decided to take the elevator to the roof. A large helicopter pad dominated the roof, which was surrounded by a rail. Some of the Joes had taken it upon themselves to decorate the roof with a long string of Christmas lights.

A lone figure, dressed in darkness, stood at the forward end of the roof, gazing out into the crystal clear night sky. The green, red, yellow, and blue lights lent Snake Eyes' figure a strange, ethereal glow. He shuddered as Scarlett approached, knowing it was her even without turning around. He had an unusual sixth sense in that way, Scarlett knew.

"It's a beautiful night," Scarlett said, trying to strike up a friendly conversation. She drew up alongside Snake Eyes and joined him in observing the milky starlit sky. To Scarlett, the sky appeared as if God Himself had taken a wet paintbrush, dipped it in white paint, and then flicked it multiple times upon the broad canvas of space.

Snake Eyes said nothing, refusing to even look at her. Scarlett wondered if he was angry with her.

"Snake Eyes, I really am sorry. I've been a terrible friend to you over the last couple of years. The last thing I want to do is hurt your feelings. I want to make it up to you somehow."

Snake Eyes turned to face her. He said nothing.

"Won't you show me a way?"

Scarlett's voice resounded in the still of the night. Together, the two of them stood on the roof until Scarlett forgot how long she had been standing there and had lost track of the passage of time. She might as well have been standing there alone.

* * *

December 26

The two Sky Strikers soared above the plains and rivers of the American midwest region on a patrol. Scarlett piloted on jet, while Ace was in the other.

"We've got some reports of an unusual electromagnetic disturbance in this area," Duke said to Scarlett over the radio from Headquarters.

"Roger that," Scarlett replied, toggling a switch.

"Say there, Duke," Scarlett said, "you got plans for tonight?"

"Not really," Duke said. "What you got in mind?"

"Dinner and a movie?"

"Sounds good to me," Duke said.

"People, please," Ace said in a tone of mock reprobation. "This is an open channel."

Meanwhile, at that moment, Destro and Cobra Commander were busy preparing their test of Destro's new device.

"Ahhh," Cobra Commander hissed with pleasure, "Scarlett is flying above us in her Sky Striker. Revenge will be mine."

Destro rapidly activated a sequence of switches and the giant cannon initiated its final firing sequence. A targeting grid appeared in the computer monitor and Destro locked onto the position occupied by Scarlett's jet, on Cobra Commander's orders.

"Won't Duke be upset when we zap that bitch Scarlett into an alternate dimension. Next time she'll think twice before spurning my sexual advances."

Baroness purred, "Beautiful," as she came up and took Destro's arm. Together, the Cobra leaders watched in rapt attention as the rays of energy came pouring out of the machine's cannon. Within milliseconds, a burst of electromagnetic energy shot into the clear blue sky.

"Scarlett, beautiful and proud Scarlett, your red head burns into my soul, I damn you, you miserable wench! Go forth into the fiery pits of alternate universe oblivion. Ah, ha, ha, HA, HAAA!!!"

A huge, bright, and blinding distortion of space appeared in front of Scarlett's Sky Striker. It was an amorphous blob of many colors.

"What the hell?" Scarlett said, alarmed.

"Scarlett, evasive action! Get out of there!" Ace cried out over the radio.

Before Scarlett could react, the rift in space consumed both her and her plane, and everything went dark.