This fic is gory, and if descriptions of injury or blood bother you, PLEASE STOP READING NOW. There's plenty of fluff and fun fics here, that you shouldn't NEED to read this. I tried to keep the angst part to a minimum, but it's a definite heavy angst, heavy blood fic, with a side dish of humor here and there.

SnakeEyes is a central figure.. with a surprising amount of Duke, some Scarlett, Ripcord, Ace, BeachHead(come on, you KNOW he'll be around), Lifeline, in addition to several more Joes.

Disclaimer: I don't have any rights to the GI Joe franchise nor do I make any money from writing this fics, they are only to enhance our appreciation of the great works written and shown by the actual Owners of GI Joe. Kiss butt kiss butt, please don't sue, or I'll give you my yorkie who'll poop on your bed, so you'll give him back.

Remember how much we authors LOVE reviews, and yes, I realize I take a bit of license here and there with how things might work in the Real World. But then, in the Real World, no one would be flying any silly personal jet packs. Also, yes, I still have Duke as a Lieutenant, and I KNOW I KNOW.. he's not one in the canon. Suck it up, too many sergeants for a clear command structure to me, so I gave him a promotion. He's not complaining.

Thanks for reading!

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Are you still reading? Are you prepared for blood? Cause I don't want any whining later!

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Cobra interferes with the testing runs of some new personal jetpacks. Hey.. someone has to take the things out, and while certain Joe team members would normally be shoo-ins for testing them, there's always life cropping up and ruining their plans. So Ace is disappointed he'll only get to supervise the test flights.

The new single person jet rigs were compact and looked remarkably like tiny stubby winged jets. About 8 feet from nose to tail, the harness rig underneath looked like the same sort used on hang gliders, only this one was loaded with controls built into the handholds, and each foot slipped into a stirrup to control the flaps.

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Ace was terribly excited and also extremely grumpy that he couldn't do the last testing flights himself, having snapped his leg escaping from the cockpit of a fighter jet the week before. Instead of him flying it with others, he'd hand picked the three Joes who were strapping in now. Scarlett and Duke both had experience with the clumsier slower original jet packs, and he'd added Snake Eyes in, since he not only was qualified with the old jet packs, but his ultra-fast responses would help to smooth out any issues during flight.

Ace checked the screen for their location, flying over the Nevada desert in a completely empty area. They had a course set up on the ground, and also maneuvers for the fliers to preform to check the units for flight abilities. Once they got comfortable flying the things, they would move low to the ground, to test the stealth abilities on radar, and the ease of handling closer to the ground.

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Snake Eyes kept shaking his head, sliding the helmet on and tapping the controls on. Scarlett looked at him and yelled over the noise.

"What's up Snakes? Pre-flight jitters?"

He shook his head. *I don't like it much. Something feels wrong today.*

She shifted the harness around her thighs and pulled them tight. "I think you just hate flying using jetpacks. You always have some excuse why you'd rather use some other way. Why did you volunteer to test these, if you don't think they are safe?"

He straightened up and gestured at her. *The jets are safe, I just have a bad feeling today. Besides, personal jets are silly. Other than being stealthy, what good are they?*

The redhead stepped back against her jet unit, which was hooked to the side of the cargo plane. As she started snapping the straps into place, she rolled her eyes at him. "These will be not only nearly invisible on radar, once they are tested, they'll be loaded with weapons, so they will be one of the most maneuverable air cover units ever. Not everyone can free fall out of a plane using a birdman suit and land on the ground without dying. Not everyone has ninja abilities you know."

He tilted his head at her, making sure no one else was looking. *You know I was terrified out of my skin that whole time. If there had been another way.. *

She laughed at him and he shook his head, slightly disgusted he'd fallen for her teasing again. Duke stepped back to where they were, already in his harness.

He began hooking himself up eagerly. "This is gonna be GREAT. I've been waiting for weeks to make this flight."

Snake Eyes twisted a finger at the side of his head, looking at Scarlett who laughed. Ace hobbled back with his clipboard cursing at his leg brace, and double-checked all the hookups and electrical systems. Once they were locked into place, they could lean forward and lift the whole unit on their backs, although it was an obvious struggle for Scarlett. Ace frowned and noted it on his clipboard, since it would be even heavier once weapons were added. It was possible that the units would only be useful to soldiers that were strong enough to lift and carry them easily, or he would have to revamp the design to lighten them.. again. Once they jumped out of the plane, they would kick their feet into the stirrups and be flying, then the weight and awkwardness wouldn't matter. They were designed to fly, not be carried on the ground really.

Snake Eyes took the lead, adjusting his jet pack straps. Duke and Scarlett lined up behind him.

Ace shouted at them over the engine noise of the cargo plane. "These prototypes are really responsive. You know the controls, the trickiest part should be landing, and that's just done hang-glider style. If you need more speed, just feather the throttle gently, don't gun it unless you just have to. Once you make the drop, get straightened out fast, then trigger the engine on, and feather the throttle until you feel it getting up to speed." He motioned at the nose area of the little winged jet packs. "The display right here will give you all the fuel info you should need.. and the rest is on your helmet screens. Head's up display, and full audio hook up." He grimaced at Snake Eyes. "Sorry we couldn't get a text set up, but you have your regular wrist communicator, but you'll have to judge when it's safe to use it. Snake Eyes will be lead.. he's got faster reflexes, and Scarlett and Duke will ride formation behind him. Watch your altitude like a hawk!! Once you start ground maneuvers, you'll be really low, and it wouldn't take a twitch to drive you into the dirt rather than flying over it. Take your time getting used to the things before you go low. You all have compact chutes for emergency, but they won't do any good too close to the ground. Alright, ready to jump?"

He got nods from all three, and he watched carefully as they leaned and lifted the units upright, reaching to check manually the controls.

Snake Eyes suddenly turned slightly to sign at him. *What's the point spread for us all to go splat?* He laughed and shook his head.

There was a shout from the front and Duke and Scarlett moved closer to the cargo doors which began to open. Ace slapped at their shoulders, and gave them thumbs up. Once the door was fully open, Snake Eyes moved up to the drop, bracing his legs as the wind threatened to tug him right out the cargo hatch. He looked back at Ace and crossed himself a few times. "Very funny Snake Eyes.. ready to go?" He gave a nod. "You'll all drop at five second intervals, then you can form up midair. Ready? Five.. four.. three.. two.. ONE! GO!"

Closing his eyes briefly, the commando leaned forward and allowed himself to fall out of the plane. The mini-jet caught air almost immediately, and he felt it begin to level out all on it's own. He hit the engine button and felt them catch. Feathering the controls like he was instructed, he was relieved to hear it smooth out and begin to roar. He kept it slow, waiting for his two team mates to join him.

Scarlett moved up on his right, and then Duke on his left. The lieutenant shouted into his mic. "Okay, let's see what these babies can do!"

He goosed the fuel, and felt the acceleration surge. The hand controls let him twist to get more speed, and he did so, reveling in the high rate of speed he achieved in only moments. The commando moved out ahead, and he could drop his head to look behind him to see both his teammates flying next to each other. He gave a tilt and lean and suddenly the unit dipped and swooped to the right, and with a slight pull on one foot, it swerved upwards, looping easily in response to his movements. He checked behind and saw they had followed easily.

Ace's voice came over his headset. "I have you all on screen, and all the systems are preforming perfectly. Are the head's up displays in the helmets working?" Duke and Scarlett confirmed verbally and Snake Eyes waited a second and blew into his useless mic twice. "Ha! Good. When you're ready, take them down to a thousand feet, and work there, be aware of warm updrafts off the sands, but it's midday so most of the winds have died down."

Snake Eyes dropped the nose slightly and began sloping downwards toward the ground. Watching the altimeter carefully, he nudged himself slightly more level a little at a time, until he was near 1200 feet. Scarlett's comm-link yelped suddenly and he looked back to see her still descending and felt his heart lurch. The jetpack wobbled slightly and then went sideway, finally gaining altitude again.

Ace came on the link again. "Scarlett.. left foot.. nudge it more.. give it more gas.. little more.. now straighten it out." Finally she was flying straight again, and he calmed. "Good good. You have to watch the dives, you can whip it back up easy, but you have to remember to use the flaps, you're not used to foot controls."

Her voice sounded exhilarated rather than scared. "Got it! I was trying to wrench it around but it's going smooth now.. in the pipe.. five by five.. Duke.. you okay over there?"

Duke sounded off. "Going good. This is great! Gonna drop back another couple hundred yards off Snakes.. if he slows down for some reason, we'll be up his tailpipe before we could react." Ace agreed and the two trailing jets dropped back further. Duke tilted over and slipped sideways further from Scarlett and then straightened and leveled out. Now ready for practice runs, he began to call out the marks.

"Take it to point three oh seven, elevation 850 on my mark... three two one MARK." All three shifted in unison, making the turn easily. They spent twenty minutes performing drills.

Ace finally interrupted. "Alright.. take it to the deck guys.. bring it around to point four eight seven five.. drop to elevation 200 feet.. watch for the guide poles." They carefully dove to the proper elevation, leveling out all too close to the unforgiving ground for Snake Eyes peace of mind. At the speeds they were moving, the ground was practically a blur. "You're all in the course, go for green, all you gotta do is follow the course, and stay between one hundred and two hundred feet elevation. Piece of cake."

Flying low, and shifting to maneuver along the shalom course, they passed by the four hundred foot tall towers, going between red and green lighted pairs. The jet packs' abilities at shifting their course on an instant made it easy work. Snake Eyes had nearly begun to relax when he spotted a slight gleam ahead between two of the towers..

...wires.... stretched in a maze between the two towers.. he started to pull up and realized the two following would never see it in time, and would plow into it.... making a split second decision, he killed his engines, blowing into his mic in warning and wrenched himself around wildly, throwing the jet pack into a uncontrolled spinning tumble in an attempt to get the pack between himself and the oncoming wires. He barely spotted Duke and Scarlett's startled faces in the distance behind him as they suddenly pulled up, shooting upwards to avoid the deadly barrier... then he hit.. wires snapping around him wildly and throwing the jet and himself around like a rubber ball...

Duke yelled wildly as he watched the engines suddenly cut off in front of them. "Snakes!! What.." As the whole unit began to tumble, he saw the wire field ahead and screamed into the mic as he yanked downwards with both feet to force his jet upwards in a all-but vertical climb. He noted Scarlett doing the same, and winced when the tail of his jet pack caught the edge of one wire, causing a nasty shake which he corrected as best he could. By the time he'd turned to swoop back, Snake Eyes and his jetpack was halfway through the wire jumble, being tossed around like a child's discarded toy.

"NO!! Snake Eyes!! Ace.. man down!! Man down! We need help here! There's a wire trap set between the towers!! Snakes went right into it!"

Scarlett was screaming as she jerked her unit around, diving towards the ground as she watched the helpless tumbling of her lover. She'd seen the wires just before he had hit, the jet taking the initial impact, and snapping the first several wires. Now the whole mess was tumbling, being jerked around every time he hit another of the wire web. His drop slowed as he continued to break wires, but fewer snapped under his weight now. Instead the individual wires caught him and flipped him around, letting him fall to the next. Finally the pack caught on a bottom wire, the last chance to stop him free falling to the ground. It whined loudly as it stretched under his weight, dropping him downward slowly before it snapped on one side, sending him, unit and all, to the earth beneath in a puff of dust.

Duke reached the ground first, having taken more time to get straightened out, he swooped in to land while Scarlett had to take another pass around. When he landed, he fumbled himself out of the harnessing straps tying him to the jet unit and raced across the ground towards the wreckage. He yanked off his helmet and let it fall, grabbing the earpiece and mic back into place. "ACE!! Connect me to Wild Bill's emergency channel.. we need a medic here NOW! Snakes.. hey.. " Reaching the tumbled wreck, he lifted the edge, and managed to hit the emergency harness release, allowing the limp body to collapse to the dirt. Tilting the jet unit over and out of the way, he knelt next to the crumpled figure. "Hey.. can you hear me.. I got help coming." He was unfastening the helmet and easing it off when he finally heard a reply over his comm.

"Wild Bill here, I got Lifeline on board, headed to your twenty now. Where's the wire trap?"

Duke lifted his head to check. "Strung between the eighty-third towers. Probably three hundred feet high. Land to the south, I got him here.. he's breathing... but it's wet sounding.. I gotta turn him over."

Lifeline spoke up. "Keep his neck steady.. don't move him if you don't have to.."

Duke winced as blood sprayed across the sand from a gaping thigh wound. Holding the commando's head, he rolled him onto his back and gasped. The jet unit had taken the initial impact but the wires he'd hit after had sliced him apart. A steady spurt of blood sprayed out of the thigh wound and he grabbed over it, staunching the flow as best he could while dragging his own outer shirt off. Wadding it up, he pressed it over the thigh and leaned down. He tried to assess the worst damage and sucked in a breath as he spotted the throat wound. The source of the wet gasping, it had been torn open and was quickly becoming covered in blood foam. "Hang in there.. " He shifted his hands away and felt the blood begin to pour again, so he put a knee onto the gaping thigh and shifted his weight onto it. He got the first movement then, as Snake Eyes flopped a arm over weakly in protest. The gasping got more ragged. "I know I know.. I gotta stop the bleeding.. Lifeline!! His neck is torn open.."

Scarlett landed to one side and Duke turned to yell at her. "Don't come over here! Get back up and go get Lifeline! He's on the chopper with Wild Bill, you can go pick him up on your jetpack and fly him back here! It'll save at least ten minutes.. and Snakes needs every minute he can get! GO!!" She hesitated only a few seconds.. obviously wanting to go to her lover. "It's the only way! I'm too heavy to carry Lifeline too! Go get him!" She whirled and snapped the harness fastenings back into place and did a ground level vertical takeoff that had to have wrenched her back terribly. Duke switched to the other channel again.

"Lifeline.. tell me what to do! He's got a huge hole in his throat.. there's blood foaming out of it.."

The medic's voice sounded slightly out of breath. "Okay.. is the foam coming from the hole?" Getting a yes, he continued. "Put your hand over the hole and keep it closed.. does that improve his breathing?"

Duke winced and did it, patching the gaping hole with his palm. Almost immediately Snake Eyes twisted feebly and struggled and Duke turned loose, getting spattered with more blood as the stricken man coughed out of the hole. "No!! No he couldn't breathe.. now he's choking.. it sounds like he's gargling blood.. what do I do?"

Lifeline spoke calmly to him. "Is the hole big enough for two fingers to fit in it?"

"Geez dude.. I could put my hand in it.. his whole neck is torn open..."

"Good.. put two fingers in.. then pull the hole open so he can breathe through it.. "

Duke swallowed back nausea and did it. Once he twisted his fingers to open the ragged wound, Snake Eyes' breathing slowed and he could feel the air going past his hand. "Oh god.. I'm gonna be sick.."

Lifeline's voice cracked sharply. "No! You're not! You are going to hold that open until I get there. Stop thinking and just do it! Now look, is he breathing?" Getting a shaky affirmative, he continued. "Is there any bad bleeding?"

"Yeah.. " Duke shifted to lift his knee off the man's thigh but put it back when blood welled up through the shirt padding. "His thigh is sliced to the bone.. and it's spurting blood. I got pressure on it and it seems to have slowed.. as long as I keep my weight on it. He's got a lot of cuts.. " He began to look and spotting a long rip in the shirt, he tugged it open to look at his chest. "Oh.. oh geez..."

The medic's calm voice helped him. "What? How bad?"

Duke swallowed and forbid himself to faint. The darkness that had threatened for an instant left. "I'm looking at his lung.. I think.. his chest is laid open.. he's uhh... he's bleeding really bad from a hundred places.."

"Is the lung inflating?"

Duke gulped. "Yeah.. I can see him breathing.. it's kind of grey... like a balloon..."

"Are there any bubbles? Bubbles coming from the wound?" Getting a negative, he puffed out a breath. "That's fine.. ignore it. If it starts to bubble, it's turned into a sucking chest wound, but as long as there's no valve action, ignore it.. how bad is he bleeding now.. is he awake?"

The blood covered lieutenant leaned up and gave the ninja a little nudge. "Hey! Snakes.. wake up.. can you hear me?" He thought he saw the eyes move a little. Reaching up, he peeled the rest of the torn mask free and tossed it aside, exposing the scarred face that was now smeared with blood. "Snakes.. wake up.. stay with me.. hey.. come on.. you'll be fine.. stay with me.." He shifted again to put a hand around the upper arm and squeeze, making the bleeding there slow. "Lifeline.. I got pressure on his arm.. I think most of the worst bleeding is at least slower now.. but there's a lot of blood here.. I think he can hear me.. but he's not responding."

Scarlett's voice broke in. "Intercepting in two minutes.. WildBill, land and kick Lifeline out... make sure he's in a harness. Grab what you need, I'm landing and snatching you up."

Wild Bill acknowledged. "You got in.. landing in one minute.. HeavyDuty's hooking the harness on him now. Are you sure you can lift with him attached?"

Ace joined in. "The units should carry a person the size of HeavyDuty.. they'll lift Scarlett and Lifeline easily. Duke.. you got a ground unit moving in, should be there in three minutes." Duke nodded to himself.

"See Snakes? Got help coming from all directions.. I guess you should have checked into that betting pool after all." A couple of ragged coughs drove foamy blood out past his fingers again. "Oh yeah.. that was funny.. don't try to laugh.. you'll get blood on my shirt, and I gotta clean these you know." He finally saw the blue eyes open up to look at him and fancied they looked just a little irked. The streaks of blood flowing over his scars made him look especially morbid. "Hey just kidding... don't save no butt-kicking up for me later.." Another cough that was weaker. "Hang in there.. "

He felt his hand plucking at his hip and looked. The ninja was trying to point at his thigh, tugging weakly at Duke's pants leg. "Oh no.. I'm keeping pressure on your thigh.. it's bleeding.. I can't get off it.. sorry.. probably hurts.." A slight nod. "Sorry.. again. Lifeline would probably have a better way.. but I'm not a medic.. I'm just a dumb grunt you know.." Another slight cough and he grinned despite the blood and terror in his heart. "Wait until Doc gets a hold of you, you're gonna be in such trouble." He watched the glazed eyes try to roll. "And Scarlett.. she's fit to be tied already.. she'll wait on you hand and foot.. don't want to miss out on that.. right? Stay with me.. hey.. you hear me?"

Hearing a slight rumble, Duke nodded at the wounded man. "See? Here they come faster than expected." He looked and then groaned. "Blazes!!" He clicked the comm unit. "Guys, I got Cobra headed in.. where's my back up!?" Snake Eyes struggled under him slightly and he pressed down. "Lie still, it's fine..." He glanced up again. "They're headed in from the east, two HISS tanks, I need some help.."

"Making the approach, hang tight. Cobra isn't gonna know what hit them.." Ace sounded grim. Duke considered that he probably was grateful to have a target for frustration about now. However.. the Cobra HISS tanks were approaching faster than Ace could possibly take care of. Duke looked around and dragged his handgun out. Ridiculously outmatched.. and in the open.

He looked down at the scarred face that tilted to try to see what he was looking at. "Hey.. when they get here.. you'll take all the guys to the right, I'll get the ones on the left.. got it?" He was treated to a scathing look, and the ninja lifted his hand up a few inches to give him the finger. "Yeah.. I know. You want all of them to yourself, don't be greedy, let me in the fight too." A heavy wheeze and he pointed feebly to a heap of rocks about two hundred yards away.

Duke looked, then looked at the commando. "Sorry.. no way to get you that far.. I let pressure off, you'll bleed to death before I drag you that far.." Another point and he plucked at Duke's pants leg. "What? Leave you? Really? Seriously? Do you hate me so much you'd do that to me? I leave you here to run off and hide, and Scarlett gets back and finds out?" Snake Eyes nodded at him, pointing again. "No way. Stop trying to tell me what to do, dude.. this is the only time I'm stronger, so I'll kick your lame ninja butt if you don't shut up." The intensely blue eyes narrowed slightly. "Oh.. joking.. you know.. don't save up a butt kicking for me for later.. really.."