Author's Note: (10/02/10) Guys, thanks for pointing out the plot hole as to why Shinji's training with G.I. Joe, despite saying that he refuses to join. Since I haven't made it very clear in the story, I've added some extra dialog, hopefully to explain why he's still hanging round in Tokyo-3 and hasn't left. But hey, if you guys think it's still not clear enough, lemme know. Always appreciate your feedback.

...

Chapter Two

Antarctica…

"Quickly!"

The father yelled, pulling his little daughter by her wrist as they hurried towards the seafront. Only one escape pod remained, and very short time was left. The father lifted his frightened daughter into the pod, operating the control panel. But the buttons were soon splattered with blood…when a sharp blade emerged from his chest and through his button shirt.

The daughter wiped the bloodstains off from her face and gasped in shear terror when she witnessed her father, murdered by a cold dagger belonging to a man…his face concealed within a metal mask. As the father choked his last breath and slumped to the floor, the masked man turned his attention to the girl, his malevolent eyes staring at her before the pod sealed itself shut and escaped to the ocean…

…stretching miles away before a massive explosion blinded the girl's vision for a moment.

"Jaye, wake up!" A familiar voice shouted in her ear.

Misato jumped from her seat in fright, awoken by Ritsuko, who had noticed her napping away whilst waiting for her laundry to be washed. The laundromat had become crowded during her sleep, and her clothes were still not done yet. A streak of sweat trickled down Misato's cheek, and it was clear to Ritsuko's eyes how distressed she looked.

"You okay?" Ritsuko asked. "You seem tense. It was that same dream again, am I right?"

Misato gave a painful nod and sighed, swallowing a lump down her throat. "It was. That same goddamn dream again…with that same goddamn man wearing that same goddamn mask."

"Relax. You're back in reality. He can't get you here."

"True, but you know what the scariest thing is, Mainframe? It's his cold heart stare. His eyes are so empty. I'd be scared to imagine what he was thinking. I'd be even more scared if he actually existed."

Ritsuko wanted to comfort her friend, but she was interrupted when she suddenly heard two dogs barking loudly behind her. Both girls turned around, to see Pen Pen flapping his wings and running away frantically from two fearsome dogs behind his tail. Junkyard and Order continuously barked away as they leapt from washing machines to dryers, knocking over boxes of laundry detergents, treading on dried clothes and wreaking havoc in the laundromat. Their owners, Mutt and Law, tried to end the madness by pursuing them. But the chase ended when Pen Pen leapt onto Misato's lap, embracing her for safety.

"Pen Pen! Just how did you get out of your cage?" Misato coughed at the sight of Pen Pen, now covered completely in laundry detergent. Junkyard and Order didn't look any better either.

"So sorry, Jaye." Law said. "Looks like Order has grown quite attached to your pet penguin!"

"A little too much, I think." Misato replied…Pen Pen couldn't agree with her more.

"It's not like Junkyard was going to do him any harm, let alone eat him."

Misato was doubtful about Mutt's words…and so was Pen Pen; he'd never been so frightened in his life. He grew nervous again, however, when a stranger approached him.

"How adorable." said a young and elegant girl's voice. "I never knew you owned a penguin, Lady Jaye."

Mana Kirishima gently patted Pen Pen on the head, making the poor penguin sneeze as he inhaled some detergent. Of course, 'Mana' wasn't a name she heard much from the Joes. More so, she was more commonly referred to as…

"Cover Girl, long time no see." Misato greeted her.

"It's good to see you too, Mainframe."

"My words exactly." Ritsuko smiled, putting out her cigarette. "So tell me, how's the Wolverine coming along?"

"Great. I think I'm getting the hang of it."

"Good to hear. Sounds like you're ready for another Cobra attack any day. Although I'm not sure if I could say the same for Hawk's son. He's still reluctant to join, but Hawk insists that he gets all the training he needs."

"He's tried to run away, but always ends up getting caught by Sergeant Slaughter." Misato sighed. "That guy's sure got a sharp eye on the kid."

Mana looked surprised. "Oh, yes. You're talking about Duke, aren't you? I've yet to meet the General's son. Where is he now?"

Misato inspected her wristwatch. "He's off on his daily afternoon jog with Sergeant Slaughter. He should be passing by here any moment now."

"Huh…what?" Mana frowned…until out through the window, she caught sight of Shinji running across the street for his dear life, saving himself from getting run over by Sergeant Slaughter on his Triple 'T' tank. "Well…the Sergeant sure knows how to keep a good soldier in perfect shape. " Mana said quite aloud, watching Shinji disappear down the end of the street. "I wonder if he is cute."

Maya Ibuki, one of G.I. Joe's top computer technicians codenamed Firewall, witnessed the short event as well, watching Duke and Sergeant Slaughter appear and disappear. "Who, you mean Sergeant Slaughter?" she asked Mana, grimacing.

"Oh no, Firewall. I'm talking about Duke."

"You're not the only one." Maya chuckled. "Rumor's about that Scarlett has her eyes on him too, ever since he moved here."

"Really?" Mana was shocked. "I thought she was more attracted to Snake-Eyes."

"Face it, the girl can't make up her mind." Shigeru Aoba, alias Breaker, intruded in the girls' brief chitchat. "She'll fall head for heels for anyone she thinks is cute."

"Hey, Breaker." Makoto Hyuga, otherwise referred to as Hi-Tech, tapped Shigeru on the shoulder. "You reckon you could spend the rest of your life wearing a dark skin suit like Snake-Eyes?" he teased.

"As if, Hi-Tech." Shigeru asserted his nerdy friend. "I'm surprised that guy can even breathe through that thing. What's your say on him, girls?"

Mana had nothing to say, except: "Weird."

Maya had never shared her thoughts about Snake-Eyes with the Joes. But now that somebody asked her… "I've never met anyone quite like him. Sometimes I've seen him sit and stare all day. It's so strange…and so unnerving…"

"No doubt he's the creepiest guy in my book." Shigeru said. "I wonder what it is that Scarlett finds in him."

"It beats us." Maya shrugged.

"Speaking of guys." Makoto said, looking over at a certain Joe waving at Maya from the washing machines. "It looks like Popeye over there is trying to catch your attention, Firewall."

Maya couldn't have felt more nervous to see the sailor Shipwreck, alongside with his parrot, Polly. "(Oh, no. Not him, again. Please don't ask me out!)" she felt. Persistent as he was, Shipwreck would never give up asking Maya out on a date…after having tried Mana, Misato, Ritsuko, Asuka and every other female Joe on the team.

Shipwreck let out a high-pitched whistle. "Hey, Firewall!" he called out. "Listen, this evening's my night-off. Wanna go out together to see the movies tonight?"

"RAH! RAH! See the movies tonight! RAH!" Polly squawked.

"Pipe down, Polly." Shipwreck scolded him. "Can't you see I'm-"

Just then, his washing machine beeped. Shipwreck went to collect his shirts. Instead of appearing navy blue, they came out as pure pink. "HUH?" Shipwreck frowned, reaching deeper into his washing machine to discover that his pants had also turned pink…and his socks…and worst of all, his underwear. "Swell! Well isn't this my luckiest day!"

Nobody could hold their hysterical laughter…not even Polly. Maya wasn't joining in the fun though. She just realized that she had accidentally mixed up her clothes with Shipwreck's…and it didn't take long for Shipwreck to fish out her pink nightgown from the washing machine.

Maya blushed with shear embarrassment.

"Um, does this belong to you?" Shipwreck asked her bashfully.

Meanwhile outside…

"NO MORE!" Shinji pleaded, panting desperately for breath, his shirt completely drenched in his own sweat. It was either that or end up being flattened by Sergeant Slaughter's Triple 'T' like a morning pancake. "THIS IS CRAZY! PLEASE, NO MORE!"

"What's that? You said want more?" Sergeant Slaughter asked him eagerly. "All right, you got it!"

"NOOOO!" Shinji cried in agonizing pain.

Sergeant Slaughter doubled the speed of his tank and sent Shinji sprinting as fast as a roadrunner on a highway. He ran so fast that he missed a pedestrian crossing, nearly crashing into Asuka as she was attempting to cross the street with a few Joes. Snake-Eyes was lucky enough to be there to tug her back to the sidewalk. The Joes watched as Sergeant Slaughter pursued Shinji in his vehicle in a flash before they vanished.

"Baka Shinji!" Asuka snorted, stamping her foot. "Can't he ever watch where he's going?"

"Sergeant Slaughter's sure got him runnin'. But who knows if he'll be ready when Cobra's comin'."

Asuka clenched a fist in frustration. "Roadblock, if you say one more thing today that rhymes…"

"Scarlett, chill. It's just the General's will. He wants…oh." Heavy Duty had inadvertently made a rhyme, making Asuka annoyed.

"Hmph! Snake-Eyes," Asuka huffed. "would you be so kind and escort me back home, and away from these two clowns?"

Snake-Eyes offered his arm, and Asuka willingly accepted it, walking together across the street as a couple.

"Scarlett, wait!" Heavy Duty called out to them. "Didn't you say you'd show me and Roadblock how to make sukiyaki?"

Elsewhere…

Mari Illustrious Makinami was a girl who would sacrifice anything for Cobra, even if it meant killing her best friend. She didn't care less of what her inferiors thought of her, all she cared about was getting the job done, which was why she never failed a mission for the Commander. She couldn't feel more proud as she entered the new Terror Drome. Cobra Vipers saluted at her arrival from the moment she stepped out of her Cobra Stinger. She marched past rows of Cobra H.I.S.S. tanks, all fully armed and equipped for battle, and stepped into an elevator, heading deep down below to the lowest grounds, into the experimental compounds.

Mari stepped out of the elevator once reaching her destination, where two B.A.T.s were guarding a heavily secured entrance, its height stretching as high as three giraffes…at least. This was indeed one of Cobra's largest test facilities, and the Commander, for a 'special surprise' that he wouldn't dare spoil for her, had summoned Mari here. Whatever it was, Mari wanted to know what this 'surprise' was. For one thing, it definitely wasn't her birthday.

As she stepped forward, Mari removed her glasses, staring up at a camera fixed to the ceiling that scanned her eyes with an infrared laser. After her identity was confirmed, the doors automatically unlocked. They slid open for the Cobra agent, while a synthetic voice from the speakers revealed her codename:

"Welcome, Baroness."

Mari froze after taking her first step inside. The facility was in utter disarray and panic was everywhere. Lab technicians were rushing back and forth from their control panels, ignoring Mari's presence. Beyond them, there was something very alarming. It was an Eva, acting destructively unstable. What was worse, however, was that it was holding someone in its hands…

"HEEEEEEEELP!" Cobra Commander screeched, struggling to break free from the giant robot's tightened grip. "SOMEBODY STOP THIS MANIACAL TIN CAN!"

Destro, Cobra's main manufacturer, knew how much danger they were in, and couldn't allow the Eva to continue its uncontrollable rampage within the Terror Drome, or else they'd all perish. "Abort the experiment and cut the power!" he commanded.

The power was cut…but the Eva was still active…and still going berserk as it slowly began to crush its cowardly victim like a paper cup.

"No, please!" Cobra Commander begged, reaching his arms out. "Please have mercy!"

Words did nothing for him, and he was forced to endure his punishment as the Eva squeezed his bones…

"Give me a shot." Assassin and mercenary Major Bludd had a clear shot of the Eva's head on his missile gun, and insisted that he fired. "Give me just one shot and I could end this all right now!"

"NO!" Destro ordered him to lay down his gun. "It's too much of a risk! You might end up killing her!"

"Only thirty-five seconds until complete shutdown, sir! The auto-ejection has been activated!"

"WHAT?" Destro let out a startling gasp. "I didn't-"

"NO!" A doctor with a monocle yelled.

The Eva's entry plug suddenly burst out, rocketing to the ceiling for a few intense moments before dropping down with a loud crash.

"Ten seconds…nine…eight…"

"Don't kill me! Let me go!" Cobra Commander cried, pushing his hands against the Eva's mighty fingers. "I don't want to die like this! I can't!"

"…three…two…one."

As the Eva stood motionless, it released its deathly grip on Cobra Commander as he slowly slipped through its fingers, falling to the ground with a loud thud. Technicians helped the poor Commander up onto his feet, but he rudely pushed them away in disgust.

"I'm fine, you nincompoops!" he exclaimed, wiping the dust off his uniform and adjusting his faceplate. "Just wait until I get my hands on that double-crossing child!"

The doctor with the monocle rushed to the damaged entry plug, opening its seal to reveal… "REI!" The doctor cried in utter relief, learning that his child was still alive, although severely injured. He took the fragile girl into his arms and carried her out, laying her gently onto the ground. "Rei…speak to me!"

"Fa…ther…" Rei whispered under her breath.

Cobra Commander stood there watching the drama take place, but was in no way moved by the girl's miraculous survival. Chicken-hearted for one minute, the next minute he was stone. He strode furiously, shoving the doctor aside and slapping the timid girl fiercely in the face.

Rei collapsed, hitting her face on the ground.

"You despicable two-faced scoundrel!" Cobra Commander hissed, drawing his Desert Eagle and cocking it in point-blank range to Rei's forehead. "I should have popped your brains full of lead a long time ago!"

"STOP THIS AT ONCE, COMMANDER!" The doctor stepped in to embrace his petrified child. "It was all an accident, a miscalculation! It was MY fault, not hers!"

"Out of the way, Dr. Mindbender!" Cobra Commander wouldn't spare the time to listen to his cohort's sympathetic excuses. "Need I remind you that you are merely Cobra's chief interrogator and science officer. There's nothing in your file that classifies you to go off acting like Mother Teresa!"

Dr. Mindbender refused to move aside and let the Commander have his way of killing his poor child selfishly. "We just need to give her more time to adjust to the Eva. She'll serve us well, Commander. All I ask is for a little more time."

Cobra Commander paused, thinking about Mindbender's words and watching Rei tremble in fear before him. "Fine…I'll let your little darling princess live. But the next foul-up like this, I won't be so soft-hearted."

With that said, he grumpily marched away towards Destro and Mari, who were in the middle of a conversation with another Cobra agent.

"Cobra Commander. Baroness and I are glad to see that you're unharmed." Destro said in relief.

"Yes," Mari agreed. "I was worried for a moment that you were about to be done for."

Cobra Commander simply snorted, unmoved by their heartfelt concerns. "Cut the beeswax, you two. Just what is all this commotion about?"

"Scrap-Iron here tells us that he has some breaking news concerning G.I. Joe." Destro informed. "It appears that our friend, General Hawk, has recently recruited his own son to pilot a new Eva."

"WHAT?" Cobra Commander hissed. "Tell me this is some kind of a joke!"

"It's true, Commander." Cobra agent Scrap-Iron confirmed with him. "You better come and take a look at this..."

Author's Note: Sorry for the long wait. I guess I was enjoying too much of my summer and I completely neglected my fanfics for a while. You may or may not have noticed the little change I've made in Maya's character (in case you're unsure what I mean, I've made her heterosexual, something she wasn't quite in the anime). So for any diehard Ritsuko/Maya fans out there, sorry to disappoint.

Comments, good or bad, are always welcome. If you have any character requests, I'd be happy to read them any time. See you soon! YO, JOE!