Agent Scarlett/Shana O'Hana and GI Joe: A Real American Hero are copyright to Marvel Comics and Hasbro. GI Joe: Sigma Six is copyright to Hasbro, Devil's Due Productions, 4Kids, Gonzo and Kobun Shizuno, along with their respective partners and license holders. The Mask is copyright to Dark Horse Comics, Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, Mike Badger, John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke, and New Line Cinema.
Tales of the She-Mask
Classified with Extreme Prejudice
Night was a clear, vast veil pricked with stars; the occasional clouds which eased by under supernal winds faintly luminous as the moon's brilliance mingled with them. Far beneath, sea met land and there was little save for the lapping of waves and the occasional bluster from coastal skies. But, there was one notable exception; some way out from land and quite alien to the tranquil scenery. A long, distinct shape; strong, sleek contours which sat atop the still water while its dark colours aided in masking its truly great size against prying eyes. A special ship that bore no flag, no name stamped cleanly upon its side and no lights blinking.
Of course, this special kind of ship was necessary for its often very special kind of occupants.
Its name was the Sea Titan current headquarters and base of a certain special forces group; in turn a smaller sub-division of a more renowned military organisation. The more junior of the organisations, the group which now called this vessel home mostly was named Sigma Six; a select team of military specialists and soldiers assembled to undertake the most challenging of tasks though presently their objective was and had been the impediment and destruction of that group called Cobra, and all of their ambitions worldwide.
Currently, the ship was stationed just off the south west coast of France as part of a greater operation against a Cobra enclave in Europe. After many days, the operation had proven a remarkable success. The enemy operation having been pinned down and destroyed through Interpol intelligence and the work of both German and French special forces, with Sigma Six being the spearhead against the enemies facility and objectives.
It was that the peace of this quiet coast was dimly broken as a fast, sleek helicopter broke from the mainland skies and approached the vessel; its black shape lingering around the vessel until a silent command was given and it made to land on the wide deck. Having touched down, the landing pad began to descend smoothly as shutters slid out to close the recess; the aircraft descending into the ship's bowels below.
As the descent completed, two figures waited on the adjacent enclave leading away. A tall, well built blonde man clad in custom fatigues and a red headed woman; goggles perched on her brow while her toned form was well clad in the fitting combat suit she wore. Duke, field commander, and Scarlett, his lieutenant commander and counter-intelligence officer. Eyes fixed on the aircraft, they waited until its cabin opened and a number of familiar faces climbed out; making their way across the wide opening and gingerly carrying assorted containers.
The men code named Heavy Duty, Tunnel Rat and Long Range were greeted with eager smiles; the select group having succeeded in their mission completely and with the weighty evidence to prove it. The returning men relating their encounter with the enemy to Duke, Scarlett made quick work of examining the various containers; hardy vessels of metal and plastic with pressurised seals. Whimsically tapping one with gloved knuckles she loosened a smile under satisfied brown eyes.
With a round of congratulations, the assembled left and returned further inside the great ship and headed for debriefing.
In all, Operation Merlin had been a complete success; a powerful Cobra enclave had been neutralised, its months long operation stopped and Sigma Six had acquired the materials which Cobra command had so hoped to requisition in turn.
In the familiar comfort of the briefing room, Duke and the team's tech-specialist, High Tech, debriefed the assembled members on the mission success and its implications. Operation Merlin had been a bi-lateral response to Cobra operatives acquiring, by any means, an assortment of objects which were believed to have some...supernatural significance. Despite this being received with some scepticism by many parties and being a little beyond Cobra's usual interests, an operation had been planned and swung into action. The enemies base storage site for such numerous and notable objects being stormed and the enemy cell destroyed. But, what now remained was to decide how to handle these odd objects; a question which strangely sparked some dissension in the group.
Not quite believing, but too cautious not too, Duke consulted High-Tech and both concluded that the best bet was to follow protocol: isolation and containment until these things could be surrendered to the right authorities soon. Spirit Iron Knife, the sombre and skilled tracker of Navajo blood, was ill at ease about the things being onboard; his views born less of superstition and more of respected spiritual sensitivity. He did not like it, and something in particular amongst the collected items put him in a dim mood. More so, the team's veteran ninja, the famed Snake-Eyes, made it clear that he was disturbed by these things onboard, and felt that something among them was particularly resonant...a marked statement from a man seemingly imperturbable by either death or torture.
Duke considered these views well and decided on a compromise of sorts. The objects, still sealed, would be stored in a distant security hold before later being surrendered to the authorities. All parties cautiously agreed to this and it was done. Though she had been relatively quiet during the discussion, the more retired Scarlett had been making a few observations of her own; more hidden thoughts and views composing as the team tried to deal with their unusual acquisitions.
In the team, Scarlett was a operative of many roles. She was Duke's talented and brave second in command and a audaciously gifted helicopter pilot, but her role as counter intelligence officer was a more...shadowy vocation. Her intentions and conclusions not always relayed and her work sometimes very secretive, she was often the arbiter of what the team had to know, and what they did not need to know. Sometimes including Duke himself.
It was not something she relished, and it did often put her apart from her teammates, but it was necessary and complimented by her greater discretionary powers as Duke's lieutenant. Thus it certainly seemed that this issue would see her more covert calling come into play. There were things she needed to know, and that needed further investigation beyond the eyes of Duke and the team...
It was long past midnight, and Sigma Six had settled into their usual post-op routine after a big mission. The rooms and corridors of the ships more active quarters now quieter as those onboard either moved to personal occupations or other duties. With things now more subdued, it was time for the red headed woman to begin; avoiding the elevators and carefully using a secondary stairs until reaching the right deck. A long dimly lit corridor leading far off where Duke's chosen storage hold was found. Silent and focused, she passed the distances with a soft, steady tread and ever sharp eyed for unexpected company.
The distance of the room had taken her a little while, but soon brown eyes rose to find the bold white code stamped above a reinforced, electronically locked room.
RL27. Yes. This was it. With a habitual glance in front and back, she found the world empty and set to work, hacking the control panel and using a more specific code to maintain her secrecy. With a short dance of deft fingers, the door groaned, hissed and slid aside with a metallic thump. The threshold leading to a small walkway with steps leading down on into the darkness of hold RL27. Hiding her handiwork, the operative slipped inside quietly as the door closed behind her. Inside, the flick of a switch brought lights on as Scarlett made her way down.
As the gifted soldier set to her task, she would have been grateful to know that the contents of that lonely hold were on other people's minds too, and not of the same side either...
Streaming forward amid choppy waves, three sleek and small black transports headed north at maximum speed. Their purpose and pace dictated by hastily composed plans and intentions. On the bridge of the lead boat, a certain woman sat with a icy expression; the various lights and miscellaneous read outs reflected in her thin framed glasses. Cybernetic hands danced upon a keyboard as she planned her approach; her ultimate intentions declared by her accompanying weaponry and the other vessels each packed with contingents of Cobra's robotic infantry, the Battle Android Trooper or B.A.T.S.
Her thoughts like a willing bayonet, she was torn from her plans when a incoming message opened on the bridge's main screen. Rising with a sigh, she stepped forward as the figure of a powerfully built man appeared; clad in a custom uniform while his features were sealed in a lustrous chrome mask. From metal lips came a rich, but cold, scottish accent.
"Barnoness...what are you doing? Cobra Commander hasn't sanctioned this and we're already dealing with the collapse of the Hamburg cell. We need you back here until a better plan comes to mind."
The woman's voice was cold and refined, with a legacy of her eastern European heritage and her eyes held no doubts.
"Destro, no. I can't. What happened to the Hamburg cell set us back months, and me personally. What was taken is too...important to just wash our hands of, and I believe that Sigma Six do not realize that what is in their possession. If we strike now, when they are still glowing from victory, we can take back what was lost in Hamburg, before those ignorant toy soldiers find out the importance of their bounty."
The man's features were famously inscrutable as hard eyes observed her.
"Granted. But Cobra Commander still hasn't been briefed on the situation at all. He's still at Cobra Central and dealing with other things. If you pull back now, maybe I can arrange for a mission in two days time, perhaps with Zartan's support..."
She simply shook her head; long ebony tresses shifting about slender shoulders.
"Destro, I can't. We are almost ready for the operation to begin, and the bounty is too great to play it as we usually do. Not with some much research and power at stake..."
"Baroness..." The man grumbled dimly.
She affected a small smile; stepping forward into the light of the screen as she inclined her head just a little.
The man onscreen was silent, though she could probably guess as to his thoughts. At last he spoke; the response blunt but desired.
"Very well. I hope this succeeds and they will not be expecting it so early; this could be a new phase in this war if you can do it after such a defeat. But, if asked, I know nothing of this. Destro out."
The screen blanked and the woman remained for a moment before returning to her seat; metal nails sweeping over the keyboard again. Eyes focused on the screen, she gave a airy command to the assembled androids.
"We put up cloak and radio silence in half an hour. Once we pass the half mile mark, the operation begins. Intel and schematics will be transmitted by me at that time. Now, continue to proceed..."
Her rubber soled boots dim on the metal floor, Scarlett approached the number of secured cases, canisters and assorted metal vessels; a few bearing the vivid crest of the red, striking cobra. Peering about with silent interest, she planted a hand upon one hip as she found all items accounted for. Raising her arm, she flipped back a small lid to reveal a computer screen and small keys. Briefly hitting a few, she looked up occasionally to confirm the target of her analysis. Having made her way through all of them, she identified her primary focus and closed the screen; striding over to a electronically sealed canister which Heavy Duty had brought aboard just some hours ago.
Considering it before her, she gave over to her personal findings as she examined the object.
Operation Merlin had, seemingly, thwarted one of Cobra's more fanciful ambitions in collecting these assorted artefacts, though Scarlett's own research pointed to something perhaps more immediately important amongst them. Having previously hacked the Hamburg Cell's mainframe, she had happened upon a compelling number of findings about this thing; remarkable and others fanciful in what the Cobra researchers believed they had acquired.
Of particular note, Cobra had acquired from a collection in northern Europe, a obscure artefact called "The Mask of Loki" so named after the trickster deity of Norse legend, and around which swirled a number of weird little tall tales and folklore. Cobra had believed they were onto something big, and it was Scarlett's belief that the Baroness was involved; the world of subtle, under-stated or hidden things among her speciality in the Cobra triumvirate. With opportunity to investigate further, Scarlett was left with a number of curiosities and suspicions about just what they had been planning to do with this apparently ancient piece of wood, and found it in her role as intelligence officer to try and decipher this mystery.
Inputting the code, the mechanism gave a short bleep before three small lights lit bright green. Under the end of the locked hub, metal collars started to slowly turn until a sharp click was heard and a few short blasts of pressurised air escaped. Under cautious eyes, the canister opened as one end slid away and the contents were revealed; set upon a specially contoured surface attached to a tray, a green, wooden mask looked up to her under the bright light.
Regarding the oddity for a few moments, she found it just as expected. A very old wooden mask of earthly green colour. Its expression and sex neutral, its mouth and eyes were empty while the only notable decoration was a studded nose guard. Here, after so much, was "The Mask of Loki" and apparently the focus of much Cobra attention, despite so little to recommend it. And yet still, why the fuss?
Always a little reserved and clinical, she carefully decided on a closer look; reaching down to softly raise it up from its contoured bed. Considering its weight and presence, she examined it from all angles and found little immediately. She was about to open her computer again to record her sparse findings, thus far, when something stilled her. With a little incredulity, she found that movement seemed to stir some odd brilliance in the weathered contours of the inner face; a flowing luminescence of greens and dully purple highlights. She blinked, and looked again only to see a similar show as her hands tilted it another way as the voice of her suspicions grew stronger.
There was something definitely strange about this mask, and she had witnessed it first hand...
In those moments she was sorely tempted to contact Duke, but the nature of her position called for discretion; especially with such a discovery on her hands, quite literally. Raising it up, she carefully watched the enigmatic lustre shimmer back and forth while her mind rumbled with questions the pressing of her intellect frustrated as little seemed able to explain this oddity beyond the supernatural, and that was something she remained extremely cautious about. Especially with something which Cobra had taken a interest in sinking its fangs into.
Still, she could not deny a little spark of excitement inside at the possibility of such a remarkable find and its implications. Secure in her hands, she let its mystery play out before her while she considered how to record this remarkable data.
Cautiously fascinated as she was, the red headed agent was oblivious to the approach of the three sleek black vessels near the ship; two pressing onward while one swung back in an arc to cover the perimeter of the impeding attack. A silence lingered on the sea for a time until a silent order was given and a flurry of shapes took flight. Landing on the deck, progress seemed good until a alarm was triggered, then silenced by laser fire; the explosion setting of security systems and further gun fire. In a few minutes, the deck descended into pandemonium.
Below, Scarlett was pulled from her analysis as a familiar siren sounded and the door locked in default. Taking the sudden reality of a attack in, a missile from one of the attacking vessels landed nearby; the warhead strong enough to shake the room as she stumbled. Her grip slackening as she wavered, the jolt brought the mask's still shifting lustre newly close to her face. It was then that the shock was doubled as the formerly ancient wood tore from her hand and sucked itself upon her wide eyed features.
Gripping and throbbing as the wood came alive like some rubbery animal, its pulsing mass began to distort as it lost hard definition and stretched over her head. Sucking and distending, a hard cry followed as gloved hands tried to force it off; its surface having already run under her jaw and covered her ears with her goggles now sandwiched between the rubbery green and her forehead.
Her pulling barely effectual, she could feel the pulsating mass suck up her hair as it drew around her head the spray of red locks about her shoulders drawn away as the cascade down her back was sucked up and finally under the ever expanding, clutching thing. With a last cry, she tried to loosen the invader from herself but only felt encroaching tendrils meet and seal around the back of her head; her familiar red head now a throbbing, wriggling chunk of brightening green with dwindling mouth and eye holes.
Grunting and screaming profanity, she gripped and clawed feebly as she fell to her knees. It may have been the shock of what was happening, but the young soldier soon found a wild vertigo infecting her; spiralling through her body like the g-forces she felt in flight and increasingly irresistible. With a chocked shout, she fell forward and was consumed by a torrent of motion. The power of the sudden force scattering containers and even denting the steel walls, green lighting surged in wild arcs. Dancing along the walls and even the ceiling, the spinning shape came to a complete stop on the floor.
It was strange for all the fear, panic and danger she had felt in the last few minutes, she was feeling exceedingly...excited. And the chiming of little known intel in her mind let her know precisely why.
Throwing her long hair back, she ran gloved finger tips about a familiar, but new face. Grinning with cold pleasure, she groaned as she rolled her shoulders, stretched her arms and flexed eager fingers.
"Well, no time like the present to test myself out..."
Moments later, the sealed door was burst open as a tornado of red and green erupted from the hold and roared down the corridor....
Of the various battles raging on deck, the main one was concentrated around the superstructure; with Cobra forces attempting to gain access to the lower decks through it and suffering losses despite some sizeable success.
Some way back from the central fire fight, the armed and alert Baroness was overseeing operations with a stormy mood her forces getting bogged down and with her objectives seeming so close, yet so far. Committing her reserves, she ordered the remaining vessel to close in and commit to the attack here, while ignoring a summons from Destro in turn.
"Damn it...damn it all. We just have to secure that stairway beneath the first deck and we can proceed...and we can't get to the place directly without heavy weapons...and those idiots are probably planning their counter attack...this is taking too long!!!"
The deadly woman's thoughts roaring behind cold eyes as she slammed a new clip into her rifle, she resolved to take aim when a sudden roar of rending metal was heard some way behind her position. The noise harsh enough to momentarily drown out the gun fire, she turned and saw something in the air. High, but descending as it twirled and tossed in acrobatic finery, the thing landed upon a nearby large metal crate with a thud of crumpling steel; drawing itself up as inexplicable fireworks of red, blue and green erupted above.
The figure was a woman the Baroness knew all too well as her enemy eyed her with relish, and a weirdly green face...
The black clad woman ground her teeth.
With a high vault, Scarlett landed smoothly and regarded the other woman who now trained her weapon on her.
What the Baroness found was her enemy, but not quite the one she was so used to. Her distinct, long red hair and goggles framed a echo of her usual features; accentuated in smooth, rubbery green with dashes of orange lipstick and eye shadow. Whereas the older features could be coldly sombre, this was a window of unrestrained expression as those plump lips parted to reveal a wide toothed smile. Her uniform peeled open to reveal the slope of a generous bosom, there were a few other weird little idiosyncrasies to her suit which proclaimed this was Scarlett, but not quite as others knew her...
Hands tightening on her weapon, the bespectacled woman's worst fears had been confirmed and with particular severity now that Scarlett, of all Cobra's enemies, wore the Mask of Loki.
Her country accent higher and sharper, the red clad woman approached her enemy with care free steps.
"Ahh...hi, B. Looks like you have a nice little party going on her; naughty, naughty thinking you could slip under our nose after such a big op. Still...I think you can guess what's happened to me, right...and why you're in so much trouble now..."
Cold eyes narrowed.
"Fool. Twice the fool for thinking you can begin to understand this, and what that...the relic can do. You ignorant clod..."
This only made the green faced woman coo and grin coldly.
"Ooooh...let me guess...it was you in line for this green new look, wasn't it? That's why you risked coming here, among all the other stuff we scooped out from your boys in Hamburg? But why? What's up? the tight cat suit and accent not doing it these days, B.?"
The Cobra intelligence officer hissed and let her rifle thunder; blasts of energy searing the deck and world around her as her foe whimsically dodged in a blur of green speed. The weapon empty, the red head came to a stop with a twirl and laughed coolly.
"Well now, B, seems I've hit a nerve. So, you really, really wanted the green look and I can see why. I feel more of myself and better than I've ever been...still, cute to see a professional liar like you really say what she feel's."
Dropping the weapon as the sounds of gunfire were tossed on the sea wind, the Cobra agent composed herself as Scarlett seemed delighted in simply being.
"You cannot begin to comprehend what you wear...what you have become. You think your scraps of intel make you a expert now on most ancient sorceries and artefacts. No, stupid woman. So...I'll make a little deal with you. I call of this attack, sparing your comrades harm and death, and you return to me that...mask, and only that mask..."
Eyebrows perking, Scarlett smirked.
"Can I just say you're really funny when you're desperate like this. Still, as one girl with a hot accent to another, I do feel for you. I mean it must really hack at a woman's confidence to be like you, yet the most important men in her life never reveal their faces to her...truly, isn't that just a farce!!! We've got big CC hiding under a oversized napkin and Destro with his chrome head...really, that chunk of tin must get really hot when its bright! Still, we've got you with the cat suit and the four inch heels to keep it cool, that right B.?"
The Baroness inclined her head with a thin smile and stabbing eyes.
"You are a dead woman..."
Behind Scarlett a B.A.T had clamoured up on the metal crate and took aim. The Baroness sprinting away as a puzzled Scarlett suddenly realised and vaulted back high above; the robot uncomprehending as it peered skyward and right down the length of the red head's tech-crossbow; the head and body erupting under a hail of powerful, emerald energy bolts as Scarlett let out a battle cry...
The Baroness was giving brief covering fire from behind a crate as the battle continued. The now alert Sigma Six counter attacking as the ships automated 50. Cal cannons came online, was tearing up scores of the invaders and exchanging fire with the nearby Cobra ships. Leaving cover, the woman sprinted, vaulted and ducked as she sought new shelter; her intention to get to the other side of the deck and away on one of the ships. Pressing ahead, it did little for her temper when her communicator came to life to a livid Destro on screen...
"Baroness!!! What the hell, why are you still on deck; the operation is nearing its time limit and one of the vessels is gone! What's happening?!!"
"Oh, shut up Destro!! It's over, they she found the damn thing and put it on...it's over. We still have the data and there's nothing more to do. I am evacuating now."
"Baroness, you mean that "
The conversation was broken when something lunged, grabbed the woman by the arm and flipped her; tossed through the air while Scarlett stood with a unsavoury, wide smile; the Cobra communicator in her hands with a perplexed Destro raging on the other end.
Turning to the device, the red head cooed in condescension.
"Sorry, scotch egg, but this is ladies business no guys allowed tonight!" Wiggling a finger at the screen, a strong hand crushed it like a frozen yogurt pot. The remains falling away, she strode with confidence as her enemy rose up; nursing a split lip and cracked glasses. In moments, they faced each other and Scarlett could not have been happier. The Baroness eyed her venomously.
"Heh...so what now? You want to have it out with me, here and now? What about your unit's code, and honour and such?"
Inclining her head, Scarlett relaxed as she planted on fist on a hip. Her eyes and unnerving smile making her face seem all the more alien.
"Hmm...well, my nasty Anastasia, usually I would be very by the book, but tonight...well...hmm." She deeply caressed the contours of her rubbery green face as another explosion rocked the ship and tracer fire punctured the night sky.
"You see...I' m feeling a little...experimental tonight, and it just so happened that you are really burnt up over this new look of mine, and it is mine, darlin'. So, I decided to hang up the usual stuff and really get to wringing out some frustrations and since you've come lead to this circus act tonight, it's all the more fortuitous..."
The other woman hastily considered her chances behind a cruel look when Scarlett's eyes suddenly widened in realisation.
"Wait just a moment, dear, I've got a little chore to do..."
At this, she rose up on her toes and gave a long, hard whistle. The Baroness was more concerned with her own escape when the familiar, sleek shape of Scarlett's chopper emerged over head high up...and apparently unmanned. Below, Scarlett waved vigorously and called out.
"Excellent! Now, be a good boy and rip up that gunboat making all the noise! Okay!"
At this bizarre calling, the engines of the machine gave a harsh bark, almost like a dog, and the small aircraft soared off; the sounds of its chain gun and rockets heard nearby amid the ruckus of war as the still smiling Scarlett turned around. Her enemy now beginning to feel somewhat truly afraid at these supernatural acts, she let fear turn to anger. The Sigma Six operative, green faced, chuckled.
"Now, B, that's out of the way and we can settle down to things."
"You wish to duel me, or some other idiotic showdown, you stupid bitch..."
"Well, in a way...yes. Winner take all and I'm taking that suit of your's, and your glasses. I confess, they look good; and I think the suit would look even better in my closet, with some...changes, of course. And then you go to prison."
"Huh...well, I'll settle for putting a few holes in you and taking my mask back...deal?"
Scarlett snickered. "Okay, girl friend."
Both enemies faced each other; the Baroness feeling genuinely taxed, at least...and Scarlett rather enjoying the sudden twist in things...even if Duke would probably have some lecture about it later, not to mention the way Scarlett herself might feel after this ruckus.
With a swift motion, both drew their weapon's; the Baroness seeking cover as Scarlett brandished both crossbow and pistol like a old west gun fighter - unleashing a hail of fire with a battle cry of belligerent delight as combat waged on around them...