Chapter 7

A day early as a treat for Christmas. This is it, the end, the last chapter. It's been like pulling teeth but here it is.

SnakeEyes was settled into a good hiding spot on a roof overlooking the courtyard of the office building, waiting patiently for the end of the day when his teammates would exit, headed for the safehouse apartment. He had the purloined information and files tucked away safely and was expecting a few hours of boredom before they all met back for dinner.

The sudden fussing and shouts and alarms made him straighten up. The previously bored security at the front gate emerged from the guardhouse with automatic weapons, pointing around and shouting as more Cobra troopers came rushing out. SnakeEyes sighed to himself and tucked his ear bud into place to listen to the mayhem of voices, all contradicting each other in orders to stop two unidentified people. The ninja had no doubt who those two people would turn out to be. How his teammates managed to get fingered wasn't his concern but whether he needed to get involved in extracting them was a possible issue however. Protecting the information he had stored inside his bodysuit should be foremost in his mind, and knowing Jinx and Dusty were both capable skilled Joes helped him stay put listening to the reports.

Slowly he was able to pinpoint that the fighting was moving along towards the front of the building. Since it only had a few exit points, it only stood to reason that the Joes would choose the shortest distance to cover to get themselves outside of the building. SnakeEyes straightened to stand ready as the reports gained in urgency, declaring that the 'intruders' were now in the lobby area and "about to get away, damn you stupid troopers". He smiled at the frustration in that particular voice.

"How is cousin Kimi doing?"

SnakeEyes tried not to jump at the voice that spoke next to his ear. He knew that Stormshadow noticed him jerking in surprise and pressed his lips together in annoyance.

"You really have gotten lazy, brother. Letting me sneak up on you when you're on a rooftop? Sloppy..." The white-clad ninja shook his head in reproof, smiling rather smugly. "What if I were an enemy?"

Flipping a hand at him dismissively, SnakeEyes instead directed attention to the main entrance of the building. Two security guards spilled out backwards, stumbling through the double doors. They were knocked sprawling by a large metal trash can flung by Dusty who followed it up by jumping on one of the guards with both feet. Before he could reach the second guard, Jinx appeared and bounced the Cobra trooper's head off the steps to knock him unconscious. More Cobra guards came boiling out of the doors behind them and the gate guards began to rush towards them to block their escape route.

SnakeEyes started to get up but Stormshadow put a hand on his shoulder. "Don't you think they're handling things just fine on their own?" The silent man snorted softly but stayed in place waiting and watching. "Kimi's moves are tight and well timed." The tone was perhaps slightly grudging even as the words were admiring. "You've continued her training well." Before SnakeEyes could preen very much, Storm continued. "Of course, most of that would be her early training at the Arashikage compound... and her superior genetics... she IS after all, related to me..."

SnakeEyes let out an expressive sigh and turned to look at him. After a second, Storm lost the battle and smiled. SnakeEyes signed quickly that at least Jinx didn't inherit all of the ego that came along with being related to the ninja Master Stormshadow.

"The greatest ninja of history, Stormshadow..." He corrected his silent friend with a smirk. That gained him another snort of derision. They both watched the battle far below them. "Your overly friendly teammate isn't bad at all... for a non-ninja, of course."

SnakeEyes snorted again. Trying to match his companion's nonchalance, he signed casually. *Did you meet with Hawk?*

Stormshadow's entire body tensed just enough for SnakeEyes to notice. "Yes." He paused for a moment. "He's very persuasive, your general... isn't he?" His eyes followed Dusty as he defeated several opponents. Even comparing the desert specialist with the lithe female ninja, he was still an impressive fighter. "General Abernathy... according to all his records, he's capable of inspiring his men, a brilliant tactician and moves easily in political circles. In person..." He paused again as Dusty clotheslined a Viper that had been headed for Jinx's back. "In person, it's very very hard for one to tell him 'no', isn't it?"

SnakeEyes nodded slowly. *Hawk is a good man*

Letting out a dramatic sigh, Storm turned his attention away from Jinx cutting down a handful of troopers to clear the way for her and Dusty to exit the front gateway. "Well so you tell me repeatedly... I suppose I'll find out for myself. I agreed to sign up to the Joe team... with provisions that General Hawk agreed to."

The black wearing ninja tilted his head to encourage him to explain. Stormshadow turned his face away and SnakeEyes snapped his fingers sharply. *Explain.*

The Arashikage Master thought it over for a moment more. "I'll tell you that it involves a safe house for my apprentice. And generous leave time for me so I can check on him if I feel it's needed." He raised an eyebrow as SnakeEyes began to sign. "No, I'm not telling you details about my apprentice... a secret is best kept by one." He tilted his head back and forth. "Or in this case... two. But still. It's the principle."

SnakeEyes took a few seconds to check that his teammates were in the process of escaping before he responded with annoyance. *You simply enjoy making me wonder* He plucked the ear bud out and tucked it away. *I have to go clear the apartment and meet them*

Stormshadow held up a hand. "I swept the apartment, the gear is in two packs downstairs. And yes... I disposed of everything that I didn't remove." He smirked as he twisted to shinny down a drainpipe to head down the building. "You don't have to thank me... I'm a teammate now."

SnakeEyes snorted at that, but followed him down, silently and unnoticed by the uproar at the Cobra offices.

Dusty felt as if his heart would never stop racing. It wasn't that being in the midst of a life-or-death fight was a novelty. He was a Joe... and before that an experienced veteran of battles more deadly than this one had been. But fighting through a mob of Cobra troops, security guards and Vipers, while keeping up with the deceivingly small ninja Jinx, then racing through streets, dodging into alleys and dim pathways... it had pushed him past his reserves. When they stopped, it wasn't to rest, only to hide. Dusty noticed that Jinx was breathing hard and felt slightly justified in his own weariness. He might not be a "ninja" but he was no slouch.

"You'll be able to retreat to the airfield in ten minutes, there's a patrol coming so I'd suggest you get behind the dumpsters before they arrive."

The voice from just above his head made Dusty swallow a yelp as he dove to the side. "Holyshit... " When he identified the figure as Stormshadow, somehow clinging to the side of the brick building's wall, it did little to calm his newly overclocking heart. "Wh-what are you doing here?!" His eyes darted about, detecting SnakeEyes higher up, obviously watching down the alleyway. The presence of his trusted teammate settled the fear somewhat. He did notice that Jinx had at least flinched when her fellow ninja had startled him.

Stormshadow moved slightly further down the wall, crabbing sideways to peer into the shadows. "I'm here to meet up with the two of you, to join you in the run for the airfield. SnakeEyes and I will guard your rear and scout ahead. It'll be much faster if you can move without having to do both of those duties as well." He frowned at Jinx and spoke quickly in a language that Dusty assumed was Japanese. She got an unhappy stubborn look on her face and answered him in a tart tone, but used Japanese again. From the blink that briefly marred Storm's impassive expression, her rejoinder had struck a nerve. Dusty cheered his teammate for scoring some sort of hit on the former enemy. On the inside, of course. He had no desire to be skewered because his snarking awakened some latent murdering rage.

Jinx motioned Dusty towards the dumpsters. "Get out of sight. Once the patrol is past, we'll make a run for it." As they settled behind the bin, she spoke up again, directing her comments upwards towards their hidden companions. "We'll need to go by the apartment and retrieve our gear." She tilted her head up and spoke with a sarcastic tone. "Unless the two ninja masters have been useful and done that already... seeing as they certainly didn't busy themselves assisting us."

Storm seemed unaffected by her sarcasm. "Well we could have swept down and saved both of you, but I was under the impression that you were both full members of an elite group of American soldiers...highly trained just for combat situations. But I suppose..."

Jinx's glare could have melted the bricks he perched on. "Just because we didn't need assistance is no reason to not assist us."

Dusty spoke up. "Yeah! It's only polite... like holding the door for someone who can obviously open it themselves..." He blinked up at the ninja hanging over his head. "Please don't crush my kidneys."

Stormshadow suddenly smiled and looked at Jinx. "I like him. He has spirit. You should definitely sleep with him until you get tired of him." Without waiting for any reply, he scrabbled further up the wall to disappear. Jinx glared after him while Dusty opened and shut his mouth a few times.

She finally turned the glare onto him. "What?"

He blinked at her, checked the now apparently empty but probably ninja-containing brick wall and then blinked again before he replied. "What what? There's no way I'm ever getting near you! I don't know if I should even be IN the Pitt, what if he's really mad that I was... you know... not that I did anything... but you know I was... what if he's mad over it? You're his little cousin!"

Jinx snorted disdainfully and settled in behind the garbage dumpster as the patrol of Cobra Vipers came through the streets outside the alley. "Don't worry Dusty. If you're all that frightened, I'm sure I can get Duke to install plenty of ferns for you to use as hiding spots."

He frowned and scrunched further under the edge of the trash bags. "Gee thanks Jinx, just because I don't want a murdering deadly ninja out after my guy parts for hitting on his cousin, you gotta make a bunch of jokes. Maybe I should have taken you up on your offers and then you'd know what you'll be missing." His tone would have almost been sulky.

Jinx was briefly torn between wanting to reassure his male ego and getting in a snarky rejoinder. As usual, her mischievous nature showed itself dominant. "Well, perhaps I should let you know..." Her smile was deceptively kind and demure. "...with Stormshadow's 'Ear That Sees', he undoubtedly just heard that. He can hear everything, just so you know."

Dusty blanched. "Why... whhhyyy did I volunteer for this mission? Oh yeah, 'Listen to the hippy Dusty, don't get involved with ninja stuff, Dusty, let someone else go' but noooo, did I listen to Footloose? No, and now I'm gonna die sliced up into tiny baklava sized bits."

Stormshadow's voice seemed to come from next to Dusty's ear. "Oh, I wouldn't cut you into small pieces... it's terribly inconvenient to dispose of evidence when the blood gets all over everything..."

Dusty's forebrain tried to convince him that it was just the new ninja yanking his chain. Dusty's hindbrain was looking for ferns.

SnakeEyes shook his head silently. The patrols had finally left the area and he dropped into the alley to motion the others to move out. They would be at the airfield and headed to the Pitt within an hour with the mission complete and intel in hand. Of course, once they arrived with the possibly least welcome new member of the GI Joe team... then it would get interesting.

End chapter

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