Unsung Heroes: Mission Zero

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Chapter Nine

Silently, the white-clad nurse set the tray down on the bedside table before turning on her heel and leaving just as silently as she had entered, a glimpse of two guards positioned on either side of the door visible before it closed behind her.

Once the Joes had returned to the base, Snake Eyes had turned over custody of Billy Coen to a pair of waiting MPs before trailing after Scarlett. The guards had escorted the Marine to the infirmary where his injuries had been attended to before being promptly escorted to a bed. The nurses that periodically came and went rarely spoke except to ask questions that could be answered with a simple yes or no, before quickly departing. That suited Billy just fine, as he was bordering on panic all over again. He wasn't in a straight jacket, and that was encouraging. Even so, he was nervous about what might happen. The official papers didn't exist, Billy knew. He'd had that much confirmed when he first met Edwin, which felt like a hundred years ago now. Still...what now?

There was a knock on the door before it was unceremoniously opened, a man that Billy did not know framed in the doorway. Without asking for an invitation, the man stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. He stood there silently for a few moments as if scrutinizing the Marine. “So you’re Coen, huh?”

"That's right."

The man stepped away from the door. “You’re the guy that’s caused all the trouble.” He kept moving until he was only a few feet away from the bed where Billy was. “Nice to finally meet you. I’m Mainframe.”

Billy's icy expression softened marginally and he nodded once. "You're Lifeline's friend. The one who got the info on Regarthon for me," he said quietly.

Mainframe nodded before moving to retrieve the chair against the wall and pull it closer to the bed. “He told me why when he got back.” The computer specialist turned the chair around and straddled it. “I was the one who got him the papers that got you out of the hospital.”

"I owe you one for that."

“Now I’m sorry I did.” There was a slight undercurrent of bitterness in Mainframe’s tone.

"Have you figured out where he is, yet?"

“Yeah,” Mainframe replied. “There’s a GPS chip in his watch – we all carry one, it’s kind of a test project. There’s something interfering with the signal so we can’t get an exact lock, but it’s probably within ten miles. Scarlett is putting together a team to head out in the next hour.”

"What would it take to get them to take me along?"

Mainframe couldn’t help chuckling. “You’ve gotta be kidding.”

Billy's expression was all business. "The hell I am."

“Somehow I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

"There's gotta be a way. Fuck, he ended up in this mess because of me and Umbrella. I owe it to him...and if you guys are going into an Umbrella facility of some sort, you'll need someone along who has dealt with their experiments before."

“He’s in a Cobra base,” Mainframe said. “We’ve already got some satellite reconnaissance on it. Although I remember he had me do a check on some company called Umbrella.”

"They specialize in bio-weapons. One was following me when he found me. The two seem to be connected somehow."

“You think Cobra has some of these things?”

"I think it wouldn't surprise me a whole helluva lot."

Mainframe rubbed his face with the palm of his hand. “I thought Lifeline was in shock or something, he was talking about some weird thing that attacked you guys – sounded like something he saw in a horror movie.”

"A Tyrant."

The computer specialist sat quietly, apparently thinking. After a few moments, he looked back at Billy. “Let’s say they let you go, are you going to try taking off once they get Lifeline out?”

There were several long moments of silence before Billy looked over at Mainframe. "If I promise I won't run off, will you find a way to let me go along?"

“It’s not up to me. Scarlett is the one in charge of the mission. It’ll be up to her and Duke.”

"Then let me talk to someone who can cut me a deal. I want Edwin safe. Period. If that means staying in military custody after it's all said and done, then it means staying in custody..."

Mainframe sat quietly once again, his eyes scrutinizing Billy as he did so. After several long minutes, he rose to his feet. “I’ll go talk to Scarlett,” he said as he moved the chair back to it’s place by the wall. “I don’t know how much good it will do, so I can’t make any promises.”

There was a nod, and nothing more.

Mainframe made his way back to the door. As his hand closed over the handle, he turned back towards Billy. “He put his whole career on the line for you; I just hope you don’t do something to make him regret it.” Opening the door, the computer specialist stepped out.

Scarlett stepped lightly, her footfalls silent as she cautiously moved down the dim hallway. After several feet she stopped and raised her hand, waving her companions forward as she adjusted her grip on the laser pistol in her other hand.

One by one, the remaining Joes and Billy Coen moved forward, ever alert now that they had made their way inside the Cobra bunker. Glancing back at the small party, Scarlett’s blue eyes settled on Coen. The Marine’s inclusion in the party had not entirely been her idea, but the final decision had been Duke’s. Scarlett had purposely put him between Low Light and Snake Eyes, who was bringing up the rear. She still didn’t entirely trust Coen’s motives but if what he had told she and Duke about Umbrella and the possible connection between the pharmaceutical company and Cobra, the Joes just might be grateful to have him along despite her misgivings. And, if the suspicion bothered the Marine, he gave no sign of it. He'd been expecting that kind of treatment after all, and he was fully aware that they were taking a gamble on bringing him along.

Once the group was altogether again, Scarlett motioned for them to follow her as she crept further down the long corridor. She had only gone a few yards when she stopped short, her gloved hand coming up as a signal for the others to halt. The red-headed woman waited motionless for several minutes before glancing back at the others for a moment before starting forward once more.

They'd gone only a few feet more before Billy moved up and cut Scarlett off. He was visibly tense as he listened before murmuring. "Shit...."

As a few more choice curses fell from his lips, a large creature skittered into view. It looked like a scorpion -- except scorpions weren't supposed to be the size of minivans. Scarlett had opened her mouth to rebuke Billy when her blue eyes widened and she immediately brought her weapon up. Almost as if one, the other Joes followed her lead, except for Snake Eyes, who pulled a long knife from the sheath strapped to his thigh.

Hefting his own shotgun, Billy took aim and pulled the trigger as the creature started for them. The scorpion staggered back a few steps, its shell smoking from the assault, before charging at them again. "That thing gets a stinger in you, there isn't an anti-venom anywhere that's gonna save your ass," Billy called out to them. "Aim for its head."

Almost immediately, the flash and sound of laser fire filled the corridor, the Joes focusing their shots on the creature’s head as instructed. Yet even as their shots found their intended target, the creature still continued to bear down on them so that they were forced to retreat back down the tunnel. Billy let the others retreat, staying just a little ahead of them, calling attention to himself as a target, and firing the shotgun over and over. Each blast made the creature stagger, and finally, the shell over its head cracked, pieces of glassy black chitin falling away to expose the brain beneath. "Now!"

Without hesitation, the Joes aimed and fired, their laser weapons hitting with precision at the exposed brain tissue, Gung Ho even going so far as to give a patented “Yo Joe!” in the process. The concentrated laser fire did its work, the creature collapsing a scant foot away from them, the tail falling limply to the ground as a sickly green ooze flowed from the wound, over the creature, and onto the floor.

“Cease fire!” Scarlett commanded, the laser fire dying off within seconds.

“What the hell was that?” Gung Ho asked, an obvious look of distaste on his face.

"That is a very good reason to be an arachniphobe," Billy replied, kicking one of the massive pincers irritably, keeping his shotgun trained on it for a few more moments.

“Ain’t that the truth,” muttered the bald Marine as he finally lowered his weapon.

“Baroness, we’ve detected a disturbance in corridor fifteen.” The blue-clad trooper saluted as he spoke, not waiting for the raven-haired woman to acknowledge him first.

The Baroness turned away from the computer monitor that she had been intently studying. “Have the security cameras picked up anything?”

“No, ma'am. Do you want me to send a team down to check it out?”

The woman thought for a moment. “Probably those Umbrella creatures fighting with one another again.” The Baroness was just about to turn away when she had another thought. “Keep monitoring it just in case.”

“Yes, ma'am.” Saluting once again, the trooper turned smartly on his heels and left.

The black-clad woman’s lip curled in distaste, “Filthy things.” Turning her dark eyes towards the large cage in the corner of the room, the Baroness studied the unconscious man inside for a moment before returning to the computer monitor once again.

“We’ve got to move, people. All that firepower is going to bring somebody.” Scarlett’s voice echoed slightly in the empty corridor. “We need to find another tunnel off this one.” As the rest of the team got back into formation, the red-head stopped Billy for a moment. “Nice work, soldier,” she said with an approving nod before moving to take her place back at point. “Let’s move out.”

Billy didn't spare Scarlett so much as a smile, but internally, he was pleased. He didn't care if these people trusted him, but now that he'd seen for himself that there were Umbrella creatures about, he wanted to be sure they'd trust his judgment, at least.

Moving silently down the corridor the Joe team and Billy Coen crept along, their eyes and ears ever alert for more of Umbrella’s creatures. It wasn’t very long until they came to a juncture with another corridor that led off to their right. With a wave of her gloved hand, Scarlett summoned Snake Eyes forward, the black-clad man disappearing down the tunnel for several moments before returning to signal the group to follow. Without a word, Scarlett followed the ninja, the rest of team right behind her.

“I should be there within the hour, Baroness.” Doctor Mindbender’s mustachioed face wavered slightly on the screen. “I’m transmitting the encrypted file to you now.” A red light on the panel next to the screen began to blink, indicating that the data was being received. “By the way, Destro informed me that you have a subject available for our next phase of testing.”

“One of the loose ends from the Coen affair. Destro thought that he could at least be useful since we went to so much trouble to retrieve him” The Baroness’ dark gaze flicked towards the unconscious man laying on the floor of the cell. “He looks like a prime specimen, perfect for this project.”

Mindbender smiled. “Wonderful! He can be the first to test the new strain before we move on to the next phase.”

“I’ll see he’s delivered to you as soon as you arrive, Doctor. Baroness out.” With a flick of her gloved hand, the raven-haired woman turned off the screen.

Behind the Baroness, his eyes still closed as he feigned unconsciousness, Lifeline couldn’t help the feeling of impending dread that seemed to creep down his spine.

As the rescue team moved farther down the corridor, the hum of machinery began to increase, hopefully signally that the group was nearing the inhabited part of the base itself. It wasn’t long before the team was brought to a halt by a heavy-looking metal door blocking their path. “This looks like our way in.” Scarlett studied the vault-like door for a few moments, looking for sensors or traps.

Billy stepped up quietly. "Let me take point," He said softly. "There may be another B.O.W. on the other side."

Scarlett’s sapphire gaze fell on Billy for a few moments before she silently nodded her head. Stepping back from the door, she motioned the others away as well. “Stand back. Let me have a go at it first.”

Reaching down, the petite woman tugged free the crossbow that was harnessed at her hip before reaching over her shoulder for one of the metal bolts contained in a quiver across her back to arm it with. Sliding the bolt in place, she took several steps back and aimed. With trained precision, she sent the silver shaft sailing through the dim light and straight into what appeared to the be locking mechanism. With a small flash, the explosives-tipped, armor piercing bolt blew an almost perfect circular hole in the door, jarring it from its frame.

"Nice piece of machinery," Billy said approvingly, before stepping ahead of the group to push the door open slowly, and peek his head inside.

There was nothing immediately out of place, and he stepped further into the room, gesturing for the others to wait. Scarlett strapped the crossbow back in place and resettled her grip on her rifle while Low Light kept his goggled gaze turned back the way they had come, his legendary night vision scanning for signs of attack. Gung Ho and Snake Eyes, both of them alert and poised to fight waited silently with Scarlett for Billy to signal them to follow.

A side to side sweep of the room still revealed nothing, and just as Billy looked up, he suddenly found himself flying through the air, victim of a B.O.W. hanging from the ceiling. It was also one he'd never seen before. Oh shit oh shit, he thought before he hit the wall.

Within seconds of the sound of the impact, Gung Ho and Snake Eyes rushed into the room, the ninja pulling a laser pistol from the holster on his hip. Scarlett was right behind the two men, Low Light practically on her heels.

Billy scrambled to his feet as the creature dropped to the ground, turning an eerie, almost skeletal face towards the dark-haired man. The Marine raised his shotgun, but couldn't so much as fire off a shot before the creature's arm stretched impossibly long, catching the Marine across the face and sending him to the ground again, stunned and startled. What the hell?!

“Billy!” Gung Ho’s voice called out as his finger squeezed the trigger on his laser rifle, the weapon trained on the creature.

The laser fire burned into the creature's skin, and it howled in pain, turning toward Gung Ho. Billy was clutching at his face, tears streaming down his face from the strike to the nose. Shitshit...my luck, it's broken...

The creature only managed a couple of steps before the big Cajun’s fire was joined by that of the other Joes, the concentrated energy of four lasers striking it in the head and chest, hoping to hit a vital organ. With short bursts from her weapon, Scarlett edged her way around the others until she was standing in front of Billy, covering him from further attack.

The creature lashed out at the Joes blindly, each laser strike leaving smoking holes in its skin, until it tumbled silently to the ground and was still. The Joes ceased firing once the creature hit the ground, but did not lower their weapons. Cautiously stepping forward, Low Light prodded the thing with his booted foot before taking one last shot at it’s head from point-blank range, leaving half the creature’s head a blackened, smoking crater before stepping away.

Scarlett turned and knelt down in front of Billy. “Alright, Coen?”

"Mighta broke my nose....but I'll be fine...hold my shotgun a sec?" He asked, holding the weapon out for her. The flame-haired woman took the weapon before rising to her feet once more, Gung Ho and Low Light crowding around her.

Shifting until his forehead was resting against his knee, Billy touched the bridge of his nose gently and made a quiet sound. Then, he gritted his teeth, braced himself, and reset the bone, letting out a cry as it wrenched back into place. "Anybody got a bandanna they can part with or some gauze or something?" he asked when he came to a few moments later, keeping his head down.

“Low Light,” Scarlett looked at the tall blond man. Silently slinging the pack that he was carrying off his back, Low Light knelt down next to Billy and opened it. Fishing around for a few moments, he pulled out a soft sided pouch and unzipped it, revealing a small first-aid kit. He quickly located a couple packages of sealed gauze pads and offered them to Billy. “Here ya go.”

"Thanks," Billy said, tearing open the packs and bringing the gauze to his nose to stem the flow of blood before standing slowly.

Low Light quickly repacked the kit and resettled the pack on his back as he rose to his feet. Scarlett and Snake Eyes had moved and were looking down at the corpse of the creature. “No wonder we haven’t met up with any Cobra troops,” the flame-haired woman was saying.

"I've never seen a critter like that one before," Billy said with a frown, walking over to study the creature himself. "We'll have to be damn careful..."

“I’m sure Cobra isn’t wasting any time trying to see what they can do with that virus you told us about,” Scarlett said. “Based on our past experiences, Doctor Mindbender doesn’t have any ethics when it comes to human experimentation.” A slight look of distaste marred her attractive face.

"Then we'd better get a move on," Billy said, reaching for his shotgun again, wiping away the excess blood with the gauze and trying to resist the urge to touch his nose.

Scarlett relinquished the weapon with a nod. “Lets get moving.”

Rising from her seat at the console, the Baroness moved towards the cell, her boot-heels clicking on the cement floor as she crossed the room. Stopping in front of the cage-like structure, she put her hand on her hip, the black fabric of her uniform clinging tightly to her shapely form. Behind the lenses of her tinted glasses, her dark eyes flicked over the man on the floor.

“Enjoy listening to our conversation, Mr. Steen?”

Lifeline felt something clench in the pit of stomach even as he kept his eyes closed and tried to keep his breathing steady, hoping that the Baroness would think that he was still unconsciousness. “Come Mr. Steen, I know you’re awake. The sedative that you were given is very precise, you’ve been awake for the past twenty minutes at least.”

Silently cursing, Edwin opened his eyes, his slightly fuzzy gaze falling on the black-clad woman on the other side of the bars. With an almost inaudible groan, the medic slowly rose to his feet, his body feeling battered and bruised. “W-What are you going to do to me?” Lifeline’s mouth felt dry, and he had to swallow a couple of times before he could speak.

“You’re going to add to the glory of Cobra, Mr. Steen. You should feel honored.” The Baroness smiled, her accented voice ringing with a hint of amusement. From her demeanor and stance, it didn’t appear as if the woman recognized Edwin as Lifeline, the Joe medic – the two of them had met face-to-face a few times, most notably when he and Sci-Fi had been captured and used as “entertainment” on television by Cobra.

“I – I don’t know anything . . .” Lifeline started. From earlier snatches of conversation between the Baroness, her underlings and Doctor Mindbender, the medic was able to surmise that Billy had not been captured, a thought that relieved him a great deal despite his current predicament.

“Perhaps not, but we can’t take that chance. I’m sure you understand.”

“You – you can’t do this!” Edwin moved towards the bars, his hands wrapping around the cool steel. “What you’re doing . . . it’s wrong! It’s evil! You’re playing with the very building blocks of life!”

The Baroness raised a raven black eyebrow. “Indeed? And I thought you said you didn’t know anything?” With a slight chuckle, she turned away from the cell and walked away, disappearing through another doorway.

Lifeline’s head fell forward and he closed his eyes.

Billy and Scarlett alternated taking point, and the Marine couldn't help but feel more and more uneasy as the minutes ticked away. It was part of the reason he volunteered to check the more suspect rooms himself. In spite of his earlier injury, he wasn't slowing down, and he wasn't going to risk any of the others to creatures they'd know nothing about.

As the team moved through the apparently abandoned halls and rooms, Scarlett’s opinion of Billy Coen continued to rise. From what she had briefly read of his file, he’d been an exemplary soldier prior to the events that had led to his court martial – highly regarded by his superiors; and much to her surprise, once recommended as a possible Joe candidate. He’d practically begged Duke to let him come on the mission, promising to follow any stipulations and conditions that might be set down – even giving his word to return to military custody once the mission had been completed. He had followed her orders, been respectful and had done nothing out of line. In fact, she thought to herself with a faint smile, Billy Coen had been much easier to have under her command then some of her fellow Joes.

On point once again, Scarlett stopped short as she picked up the sound of faint voices. Signaling the group to halt, she pressed her ear to the wall and listened intently.

The others halted obediently, waiting for Scarlett to hear what she was able to hear. It gave Billy a rare chance to think, and his thoughts turned down bittersweet tracks. Being with the Joes had given him a taste of what it had been like with his old unit, and it was a camaraderie that he found he sorely missed. Even though he was an outsider, and one with rather a nasty shadow on his background, the Joes were giving him a chance to do what he felt he had to. And he had been doing everything within his power to try and repay that favor.

A few moments, Scarlett turned back to the others, her voice a hushed whisper. “Think we’ve hit the inhabited part of the bunker, guys. Voices on the other side of the door – at least three.” Her blue eyes settled on Billy. “Can any of those things make intelligent conversation, Coen?”

Billy frowned, considering that, before shaking his head. "Not a single one I've ever run across..."

The woman nodded her head, “Then we’ll just have to assume they’re Cobra troops then. I’ll stay on point, keep the same formation as before. Remember, we need to find out where Lifeline is. Snake Eyes . . .” motioning to the ninja, Scarlett made her way back to the wall where she’d been standing earlier. The two examined the wall for a few moments before Snake Eyes removed something from on of the pouches attached to the belt around his waist. With a signal at Scarlett, the two of them hurried back over to the others. “Heads down, people,” Scarlett said as she pressed herself against the wall. A few moments later there was a small explosion as the piece of wall was blown inward.

Within seconds, Scarlett was climbing through the gaping hole, firing as she went. Gung Ho was right behind her, a cry of “Yo Joe!” on his lips.

The four Cobra troopers within jumped to their feet surprised and it was several seconds before they responded, reaching for their weapons to return the fire.

The rest of the Joe team streamed into the room, weapons firing; and it was only a matter of minutes before they’d penned the Cobra soldiers into a tight knot in the corner. Perhaps realizing that they were beat, the blue-clad troopers ceased firing one-by-one, tossing their weapons to the floor before putting their hands in the air.

As the last gun hit the floor, Scarlett called for a cease-fire, the Joes and Billy immediately following her orders but not lowering their weapons an inch. “There was a man who was brought here. Where is he?” Scarlett’s intense gaze settled on the captured soldiers, the tone of her voice firm and commanding. She’d purposely kept from calling Lifeline a Joe, instead referring to him as if he were a civilian.

The Cobra troopers looked at one another, but remained silent.

“It will go easier for you if you cooperate.”

Still the enemy soldiers refused to answer. In the silence, the sound of a shotgun being pumped was almost deafeningly loud, and Billy stepped forward, all eyes turning toward him. He smiled a little, the expression not at all pleasant. "Okay, ladies," he said, keeping his icy blue gaze on the Cobra soldiers. "We've come a long way, and there are two ways we can do this. Either you can tell us where your guest is, and we can go on our merry way, or I can take you back with me the way we came, and you can say hi to some of the other critters who've given me problems already..."

Above the half-masks that covered their faces, almost all of the Cobra soldiers blanched, one of them visibly beginning to tremble slightly.

Scarlett had begun to frown when Billy had injected himself into her questioning of the troopers, but soon found a faint smile trying to tug at the corners of her mouth as she watched the reaction that his threat had on the Cobra soldiers.

“T-The B-Baroness . . .” one of the troopers managed to stumble out.

"Go on," Billy said, his expression shifting into an almost sickly sweet smile.

“She – she has him . . . going to give him to Doctor Mindbender.”


“P-Probably in the lab b-by now,” the trooper replied, his eyes darting back and forth between the various Joes. “Another level down.”

Billy glanced over at Scarlett at that, silently handing the reins of the situation back over to her, letting her take complete control again.

“Snake Eyes, you take care of these guys. The rest of you, lets go.” Moving to the door that led out of the room, Scarlett opened it a few inches and peeked out, relieved to find the hall empty. Slipping out, she kept her back to the wall as she cautiously crept down the hallway.

True to his word, Doctor Mindbender arrived at the hidden base several minutes ahead of schedule. Without preamble he disembarked from his plane and immediately headed towards the laboratory that he’d help set up a few weeks before. Clutched tightly in his right hand was a square black leather case. Today would be the first step in putting Cobra’s most ambitious plan yet for world domination into action.

Having been informed of the scientist’s arrival, the Baroness ordered that the prisoner be delivered to the Cobra scientist. “Tell the Doctor that I’ll be with him shortly.”

Sitting on the hard cement floor, his back to the bars and his knees pulled up to his chest, Lifeline started as he heard footfalls entering the room. Rising to his feet, he turned and grasped the bars of the cage as a pair of Cobra soldiers approached his cell.

“Hands up on your head.” One of them barked, the other leveling his laser pistol on the medic.

“What’s going on?” Edwin asked as he did as he was told, folding his hands above his head.

“Keep your trap shut and do as you’re told.” The guard said as he unlocked the door of the cell and entered, followed by the armed man. Moving behind Lifeline the soldier quickly cuffed his hands behind the medic’s back and roughly pushed him forward. “Move.”

Edwin stumbled a little as he moved towards the door of the cell. “Where are you taking me?”

The trooper slapped him in the back of the head. “I said no talking.”

With another rough shove, he pushed Lifeline out the door.

The small team continued to move down the hallway unmolested, eventually finding an elevator. Snake Eyes had rejoined them after taking care of the Cobra soldiers – knocking them unconscious and securing them so that they couldn’t raise an alarm.

Scarlett had been feeling uneasy, finding it odd that they hadn’t been detected yet. She supposed she should have been glad for small favors, but when it came to Cobra nothing was ever as easy as it seemed.

“Snake Eyes, you and Low Light take a look further down and see if there are any stairs. I’d rather not have to take the elevator if we don’t have to.”

With nods, the two Joes quickly departed.

Scarlett and her team had made it down to the next level of the bunker and were now inching their way down a seemingly deserted corridor. They’d encountered only minimal resistance, happening upon a pair of Cobra troopers who appeared to be very startled to see them. Before the enemy soldiers could even take a breath to shout an alarm, Snake Eyes had been on them, knocking them unconscious and binding them before stowing their unconscious forms in what appeared to be a utility closet. Unlike the Joe’s previous forays into Cobra strongholds, the bunker seemed to be heavily lacking in both guards and surveillance equipment, something that Scarlett could only attribute to the presence of the Umbrella creatures.

On point once again, the red-haired woman suddenly brought the team to a halt, as the sound of booted feet echoed in the hallway. Quickly signaling for Billy and the Joes to follow her into a side corridor, Scarlett pressed her back against the cement block wall her eyes on the corridor they had just vacated. It was only a minute or so later, that the black-clad form of the Baroness walked past their hiding point, the female Cobra officer flanked by a pair of blue-uniformed troopers. Scarlett waited until the echo of the Baroness’ footfalls faded away before silently signaling the team to move out.

Warily, the Joes and Billy Coen followed in the Baroness’s wake, hoping that the black-haired woman was heading to wherever Lifeline was being held prisoner. The team soon rounded a corner just in time to watch the Baroness pass through an opening in the wall, the two guards behind her. Once again pulling the team to a halt, Scarlett signaled Snake Eyes with her hand, the ninja quickly moving forward and disappearing into the darkened entrance way.

The further into the facility they went, the more uneasy Billy became. The lack of guards wasn't surprising, considering the creatures they'd run into so far. But even the number of B.O.W.s seemed less than normal. And he couldn't shake the feeling that something worse was yet to come. Still, he kept his fears and his thoughts to himself, not wanting to worry the others anymore than they already were.

Lifeline struggled against the guards as they tried to force him down on the oblong metal table, Doctor Mindbender standing nearby, his hands on his hips as he watched.

It took a good round-house punch to the stomach that knocked the breath from the medic before the guards could roll him onto the table and secure him. As the guards strapped down his legs and arms, Mindbender strode closer, looking down at the captive man, stroking his long mustache as he did so.

Their task finished, the Cobra scientist waved the guards from the room as he made a circuit around the table, his eyes on the bound man.

Once before the Joe called Lifeline had been bound and at the mercy of Cobra, and just like then, Edwin could feel a cold trickle of fear run down his spine. As Doctor Mindbender studied him, Lifeline’s head snapped around as muffled thumps sounded from a heavily bolted door to his right. Squinting a little, the medic thought he could see the steel door shake as if being impacted by something.

“It would seem my latest pet wants to come out and play,” Mindbender said with a small chuckle. Edwin tore his attention from the door and focused it on the scientist.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to let him out just yet. Maybe once you’re better . . . equipped to play with him.” The chuckle turned into a small laugh that held no warmth as Doctor Mindbender turned away from Lifeline to retrieve the black leather case that he’d brought with him.

It seemed like an eternity before Snake Eyes slipped back out of the shadows and rejoined the team. The other Joes and Billy waited silently while the ninja made his report, Scarlett’s eyes intent on every movement of his gloved hands until he finished. With a nod of her head, the woman motioned for the others to join her and Snake Eyes, waiting until the rest of the team were crowded close before she spoke. “The entrance leads to a lab of some kind. The Baroness is there, along with Doctor Mindbender plus two guards.” Scarlett’s voice was hushed as she spoke. “Lifeline is there too, on some kind of an examination table.” The red-head’s eyes flashed with anger.

Billy's eyes widened in something akin to panic. Shit...they're going to infect him....no....nonono. Can't let that happen.

As if reading his thoughts, Scarlett’s gaze briefly flicked to Billy. “From what Snake Eyes could see, he was conscious and alright, just a little roughed up.” Turning her attention back to the rest of group, she continued on. “It’s four on four, and hopefully they’re not expecting us. I’ll go first, followed by Gung Ho, then Coen and Low Light. Snake Eyes will back us up. Got it?” Her eyes flicked from one man to the other, each one nodding their head silently. “Alright then, let’s move out.”

Taking up formation, the team crept towards the entrance way, disappearing one by one into its shadowed recesses.

“Didn’t I say he would be a perfect specimen, Doctor?” The Baroness watched the scientist as he methodically undid the locks on the black case.

“Yes, a worthy addition to our menagerie.” As the last lock yielded, Mindbender opened the case. Inside, carefully nestled in thick black foam, were several small vials and what looked like a CD-ROM, the silvery sheen of the circular disc flashing briefly in the overhead lights.

Helplessly, Edwin struggled against the bonds that held him, the metal and leather of the cuffs rubbing harshly on his wrists and ankles.

Turning back to look at his captive, Doctor Mindbender stroked his mustache once again. “Now, what shall we do with you? That’s always the hard part.” The doctor’s eyes studied Lifeline intently. “Something new I think . . .” Turning his back on the prisoner once again, the scientist moved to retrieve various instruments from the numerous drawers and cupboards that lined the wall.

The medic watched Mindbender’s every move, a rising sense of panic slowly starting to overtake him as his slightly fuzzy gaze fell on the various objects that the doctor placed on a medical cart next to the table where he was bound. Even though the vials inside the case bore no labels, Edwin knew beyond a doubt what they contained – the virus that Umbrella had created and that now apparently belonged to Cobra.

As he watched Mindbender remove one of the vials from the case, Edwin renewed his struggles, gritting his teeth as he pulled and jerked at his bonds, the metal cuffs biting into the soft skin of his wrists.

A syringe filled with dark yellowish fluid in his hand, Doctor Mindbender approached the still struggling medic. “It’s useless to struggle. Those restraints were designed to hold a Tyrant.”

“NO!” Edwin’s voice rang out as the scientist reached for his arm.

Her laser rifle up, her finger on the trigger, Scarlett burst into the lab, the familiar battle cry of “Yo Joe” dying on her lips as she heard Lifeline’s heart-wrenching cry.

The cry pierced Billy's consciousness, and time seemed to slow to a crawl as he pushed his way between Scarlett and Gung-Ho, raised his Magnum, and squeezed the trigger once. The magnum's retort seemed far away, but there was a sense of accomplishment as the syringe in Mindbender's hand exploded into a mass of shattered glass and useless liquid that fell to the floor. Then time seemed to jolt back to a normal pace, and the sounds that fell into his awareness were almost painful for their suddenness.

The initial shock at the sudden attack only lasted for a minute before the two Cobra troopers and the Baroness drew their weapons and started firing. The black-clad women fired off short bursts from her laser pistol as she dashed for cover, leaving Mindbender to make a hasty dodge behind a small bank of computer equipment. The Joes returned fire, the small team fanning out as they picked their targets, the distinctive sound of laser fire echoing all the way into the corridor.

Edwin’s dark eyes widened as he watched the shattered glass of the syringe cascade down to the floor. For the first time since he’d heard the Baroness and Mindbender speaking over the communications link, he began to have hope.

As laser fire continued to rain around him, the medic once again began to struggle against the cuffs that held him. Billy let the Joes handle the Cobras, and made his way closer to the examination table. "Hey, guy, miss me?" He asked as he started working on the cuffs.

Lifeline didn’t know whether to smile or cry as he saw Billy, ceasing his struggles so that the Marine could free him. “Took you long enough.”

"You shouldn't have come back for me," Billy scolded quietly, freeing one of Edwin's wrists and moving to unbind the other.

“So you told me before.” Lifeline watched Billy, hunching his soldiers slightly as a burst of laser fire flashed near the table.

It didn’t take long for the Joes to take care of the two troopers, one clutching a wound in his shoulder and the other unconscious thanks to Snake Eyes. The Baroness however, was still continuing to fire on the team, barking out orders into her wrist communicator in-between shots.

From his hiding place, Doctor Mindbender’s attention was focused squarely on the black leather case and its contents. The scientist didn’t care about the guards or even the Baroness, but he would protect the virus and the information on the disc with his life.

"Meant it," Billy said, flinching as a laser shot flashed too close to his face for comfort, as he started to move toward Edwin's ankles.

Edwin kept his head down, not wanting to make himself any more of a target than was necessary. When the last cuff was undone, he quickly slid off the table and down to the floor, crouching next to Billy.

"Here," Billy said, passing his shotgun over to the other man on reflex. "Not a bad civilian weapon," he went on with a slight grin. "Good spread, doesn't need a lot of accuracy."

Lifeline shook his head and pushed the gun back towards Billy. It took the Marine a moment to realize just why the shotgun had been passed back, but when he did, he couldn't help the sheepish smile that touched his lips. “All right, then stay close. You die, and I will find a way to resurrect your ass so I can kick it," He said, then his smile faded and his head snapped over toward the sound of an impact against the nearby door. "Shit! What's in there?"

Edwin’s eyes went to the door as well, “Nothing good I’m sure.” The medic said.

The laser fire had slowed, the Baroness apparently the only Cobra still armed. As Low Light continued to trade fire with the woman, Scarlett and the others started retreating towards the door. “Let’s go before reinforcements get here!”

"You heard the lady. C'mon," Billy said, urging Edwin back toward the door as he kept himself between the medic and the Baroness. The medic took a few steps before suddenly stopping and spinning around. Dodging around the Marine, Edwin sprinted back towards the counter for the black leather case and its contents.

What in the fuck is he doing?! Billy thought, spinning toward Edwin. He saw almost immediately what the medic was going after, and shook his head. Trying to get me killed, that's what...

From his hiding place, Doctor Mindbender watched as the formerly bound man headed towards the leather case. “No!” Immediately, the scientist was on his feet, lunging towards the dark-haired man to stop him.

Billy barely had time to brace himself, before he stepped to take the lunge from the scientist. "Back the fuck off, Doc," he growled at Mindbender as the man collided with him.

With a grunt the Cobra scientist went down, the unknown Joe under him. Immediately his eyes went to the leather case, a small cry of alarm escaping from him as he watched Lifeline close it and hug it to his chest as he turned around.

“Billy!” Several long strides took Edwin over to the struggling men, and without a second thought he kicked out at Mindbender, his foot landing solidly in the middle of the man’s chest and knocking the air from his lungs. Struggling to breathe, the doctor slumped back down to the ground, his hand going to his chest.

The Marine got in a swing of his own, catching Mindbender in the jaw and leaving him dazed as he scrambled to his feet. "Nice job," he said, grinning at Edwin, and gesturing. "Now c'mon. Time to get the hell outta Dodge."

The black leather case clutched to his chest, Edwin only nodded his head and followed Billy, the two of them scrambling towards the door, the Baroness’ random laser fire continuing in small bursts.

With a growl of rage, Doctor Mindbender wiped at the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. “You’ll never escape Cobra!” Almost crawling, he pulled himself back over to the console that he had been hiding behind. Reaching up, he slammed his fist down on an unassuming square button.

Within seconds, the hum of machinery could be heard as the automated locks on the reinforced door across the room began to slide open. The scientist’s lips curled up in a cold smile as an inhuman roar sounded from behind the door. Billy's eyes widened at the sound. Oh no...

"Okay, people, time to get the hell outta here. Move! Move!" He barked out, his countenance all soldier as he spun on his heel, shotgun in hand. ‘If that's what I think it is, we're fucked...’

Scarlett was already halfway out of the room, when the roar sounded, sending a shiver down her spine. Spinning on her heel she turned back concerned for the rest of the team. Almost as one, Gung Ho, Low Light and Snake Eyes all swung their eyes towards the direction of the unearthly sound. Billy's gaze flicked over his shoulder and he resisted the urge to face palm. "Get outta here! GO!"

The words had no sooner left his lips than the Tyrant staggered into the room, roaring again at the overwhelming scent of fresh meat that struck his senses. Billy raised the shotgun, aiming and pulling the trigger in the space of a breath. The gun went off, and the Tyrant staggered, then roared again, turning its attention toward Billy. "That's right, you overgrown Frankenstein," Billy shouted at it. "I'm over here."

Scarlett’s mouth dropped open as she saw the creature lumber into view. Without even thinking about it, she slung her laser rifle over her shoulder and reached for her crossbow. Reaching back, she pulled out one of the explosives-tipped bolts and loaded the weapon. Aiming carefully, she let it fly. The bolt impacted, exploding in the creature’s chest and making the Tyrant turn toward her. Moving deceptively quickly, it began charging at her.

Fuck! Billy thought, raising the shotgun and aiming again.

With a speed honed by years of practice and experience, Scarlett was already reaching for another bolt even as the first flew towards the creature. Without even looking down at the crossbow, she slapped it in place and raised the weapon, her countenance cool and professional as she released it.

The other Joes reacted almost immediately, darting towards their leader. The Tyrant didn't stop running, even when the second bolt caught it square in the throat. It staggered, slowing for a moment, then started moving again, roaring as it swung its clawed arm at the red-head who was causing him so much pain. Billy's shotgun went off again, and the creature staggered.

Even as she ducked to avoid the blow, Scarlett knew that she was in trouble. She caught a glancing blow from the Tyrant’s over-sized arm on her shoulder that sent her reeling backwards, her crossbow flying from her hand as she hit the wall with a solid thud before slumping down to the floor of the laboratory.

“Scarlett!” Lifeline’s voice rang out along with Gung Ho’s and Low Light’s as the woman went down. It was the medic however, who rushed forward towards her, his instincts automatically taking over.

The Tyrant raised its clawed hand again, intent on smashing Scarlett into the wall, when two more shotgun blasts slammed into its back. It turned toward Billy again and began lumbering toward him. Billy's brain went blank, simply preoccupied with pumping the shotgun, firing, and repeating the motion over and over again. Until he heard a sound that told him he'd miscounted. The gun went off with nothing more than a dry click. From behind Billy, a laser pistol in his gloved hand, Snake Eyes fired at the creature as he grabbed the Marine by the back of his shirt and hauled him back. Flanked on either side by Gung Ho and Low Light, the trio of Joe’s fired at the creature, concentrating their shots at its head.

Kneeling down next to Scarlett, Lifeline shifted the leather box into the crook of his arm, not wanting to put it down. The shoulder of the woman’s uniform was torn, blood seeping up from ugly looking furrows in her skin. “I’m alright, Lifeline, don’t worry about me right now.” Scarlett clenched her teeth against the pain as she reached back to brace her hand on the wall before slowly pulling herself up. Reaching out, Edwin helped her to her feet, the pair of them immediately turning their attention to the battle between their teammates and the Tyrant.

Billy abandoned the shotgun, a little thrown when Snake Eyes hauled him back. He brought the Magnum to bear. "Aim for that tumor looking thing on his shoulder!" He called out, only moments before he felt the Tyrant's claw rip into his chest and pain exploded in his brain, a cry ripping itself from his lips as he was thrown backwards.

“BILLY!” Lifeline watched in horror as the Marine flew backwards, bright crimson drops hanging in the air for a moment before falling to splatter on the pale cement floor.

“Coen!” Scarlett cried out as well, wincing as pain shot through her shoulder.

The Marine barely managed to keep his grip on the magnum, trying to raise it, although his hand trembled. One shot...need one shot...

The remaining Joes continued their barrage on the Tyrant, but to no avail as it seemed as if the creature knew what they were trying to do and was purposefully moving erratically to avoid being hit. Leaving Scarlett, Edwin rushed over to Billy’s side, the black case still cradled in the crook of his arm. “Good God!” He exclaimed as he knelt down next to the fallen man, his eyes alighting on the profusely bleeding slash down Billy’s chest.

"Help...me sit up..." Billy gasped out, each word causing white-shocks of pain to blank his vision briefly.

Lifeline shook his head, “You’re bleeding too much.” Adjusting his hold on the leather case, he reached for the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it over his head. Taking the bunched up shirt, he pressed it to Billy’s wound as Gung Ho and the others continued their rain of laser fire at the Tyrant trying to keep it from getting between them and their only escape route.

"Edwin....don't....argue...." Billy hissed. "...Please..."

Lifeline opened his mouth to protest, but quickly shut it, his dark eyes on the fallen man. After a few moments, he slid his arm around Billy, the black case held in the crook of the other and slowly helped the injured man into a sitting position.

Billy nearly toppled over as he was hauled up, already starting to feel himself going into shock. Raising the magnum in a badly trembling hand, he took a slow breath, said, "Gotta...hit it...there..." before squeezing the trigger, the bullet tearing into the tumor-like growth on the Tyrant's shoulder. The recoil of the weapon was more than he could handle and he slumped back against the medic.

The creature let out an ear-splitting roar as it fell backwards, landing heavily on the concrete floor. Lifeline just barely managed to catch Billy, trying to keep from dropping the box containing the virus and the disc. The rest of the Joes immediately moved to see to their comrades, Snake Eyes going to assist Scarlett while Low Light and Gung Ho joined Billy and Lifeline.

Billy pried his eyes open as the Tyrant hit the ground. "...Good..." He whispered, before he passed out.

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