GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
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Newly-promoted First Sergeant Conrad Hauser walked briskly down the long, sterile hallway, his uniform crisp and clean. His dress shoes clicked neatly on the hard linoleum floor, echoing down the corridor. Huge windows to his right gave him a view of the Potomac River. This was only his second ever visit to the Pentagon, and his calm exterior did not match the churning nervousness he felt.
There was no real reason to be worried, of course. But the prospect of meeting personally with a General was enough to make any non-commissioned soldier nervous. A black leather attaché case rested under his arm, containing a series of reports he had authored in the past few weeks. It was his understanding that his meeting with the General regarded the reports, although it surprised him that anyone had taken the time to even read them.
As he walked down the hall, a woman passed him going the other way. She was a tall blonde wearing glasses with black frames, her lips coated in dark red lipstick. She wore a plain black blouse and skirt, marking her as a civilian. Hauser caught himself glancing down at her legs. Her skirt was not quite short enough to be considered inappropriate, but it was still short enough to attract attention.
He looked back up and caught her eyes for a brief moment as they passed each other. She smiled and winked at him. Hauser looked back as she walked away and admired her legs once more, displayed above her black high heels. He grinned to himself, feeling slightly more at ease.
Checking the memo tucked into his pocket to make sure he had the right number, he went inside one of the Pentagon’s many offices and walked up to the desk. A middle-aged woman sat behind the desk, typing at a computer. She glanced up as Hauser came in.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m here to see General Abernathy.”
The secretary ran her finger down an appointment book on her desk. “Sergeant Hauser, correct?”
“You can go right in,” she said with a smile. “He’s been waiting for you.”
Hauser cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and went to the door. He turned the knob and walked inside, closing it after him.
The office was large but not exactly luxurious. The carpet was dark green, and appropriate photos of military service dotted the walls, along with a few honors and awards, and a large American flag. The office smelled new, as if the General had just moved in.
When Hauser entered, General Abernathy was leaning against the front of his desk, instead of sitting behind it as Hauser had expected. Wearing dark blue slacks and a light blue dress shirt, Abernathy had his arms crossed over his chest and a jovial smile on his face. He was talking to someone else in the office, and he stopped in mid-sentence when Hauser came in.
Hauser stood at attention and saluted. Abernathy smiled and acknowledged it, and Hauser returned to an at ease posture. “General Abernathy?” he said, somewhat awkwardly, having interrupted the conversation. “Your secretary said I could come right in.”
“Yes, of course,” the General said. “We were just talking.”
He came forward and shook Hauser’s hand firmly. He offered him a chair and walked around to the other side of the large oak desk. He gestured to the other officer in the room, an African American with a Major’s insignia on the sleeve of his green uniform. He stood up and shook Hauser’s hand as well.
“Sergeant Hauser, please meet Major Wilkinson,” Abernathy said, taking a seat. “I’ve asked him here as well for this little meeting.”
Wilkinson sat back down in a chair against the wall, and Hauser sat down in one of the two office chairs facing the front of the desk. He set the attaché case in his lap and sat up straight out of habit.
Abernathy was probably in his fifties at least, but he wore his years well and came across as no older than about forty. He had marked creases on his forehead, and a tinge of gray at his temples invaded his otherwise dark brown hair, but his eyes were sharp and active, and his mouth seemed perpetually on the edge of a smile. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, steepling his fingers.
“I see you brought a copy of your reports,” he said, pointing at the attaché case.
“Yes,” Hauser said. “I have copies of all six.”
“If you like, you can hand them over to Major Wilkinson. He hasn’t had a chance to read all of them yet.”
Hauser did so, handing the case over to Wilkinson. “I didn’t think they would get this much attention, sir. I have to admit I’m really not sure what this meeting is about.”
“Well then, let me get straight to the point,” Abernathy said. “As you certainly know by now, the main threat to our country doesn’t come from enemy nations, as it did in the past. Our primary focus, along with defending our borders, is combating international terrorism.”
“Of course, sir.”
Abernathy nodded to himself and leaned back in his chair. “Since the events of September 11th, we’ve been tasked with identifying and dealing with terrorist threats from all across the globe. Other federal agencies like the FBI and CIA do this as well, but they both rely on us to deal with the threats that they discover. Of course, we focus on major terrorist and extremist organizations, such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Shabaab, and even the IRA. But identifying new threats is just as important as dealing with known ones. Which brings me to your reports.”
Hauser nodded. “Cobra.”
“Yes. I had never heard of this group until I your reports crossed my desk.”
“I don’t think many people have, sir. They’re pretty new, it seems.”
“But you think they pose a major threat.”
Hauser let out a short laugh and nodded emphatically. “Yes, sir. I certainly do.”
The group known as Cobra had been active for maybe as long as five or six years, or even longer, but concrete information on them was rare and sketchy at best. The first inkling of the group’s activity was a series of daring bank robberies five years ago, when two men had stolen close to three million dollars over the course of several months, before finally running out of luck. Both men were gunned down while trying to evade capture after their eighth robbery. Both men wore dark red shirts with a large snake head emblem printed on it, although the importance of that image was not understood at the time. None of the money from their previous robberies was ever recovered.
Nearly a year later, there was an attempt on the life of a well-known Senator. The would-be assassin had the snake head emblem tattooed on his arm. Another series of bank robberies followed, although this time the perpetrators got away, each of them identified in security videos wearing the same red shirts as the other bank robbers. Anonymous postings were made on public websites regarding the “rise of the Cobra” and the “new world order of Cobra.” Mexican officials uncovered a huge bribery scandal involving a group calling themselves Cobra, although no one was ever arrested. A lobbyist in Washington was murdered, and hidden memos in his office made mention of Cobra. A huge identity theft scheme in Florida led investigators to an abandoned office with the mysterious snake head emblem on the wall. The FBI had some files on a possible religious cult called Cobra, after receiving worried phone calls from a handful of parents who claimed their children were being brainwashed. No solid evidence was ever found of illegal activity.
Major Wilkinson lowered the reports into his lap, looking impressed. “How in the world did you compile all of this information?” he asked.
“I have some friends in the FBI,” Hauser said. “They gave me access to some files. The rest was just grunt paperwork. The more I researched, the more connections I found. It was kind of strange, actually.”
“You started your investigation after the kidnapping of Dr. Ward Stevens, is that right?” Abernathy asked.
“Yes, that’s where I first learned about the group.”
Dr. Stevens, a noted neurologist and behavioral psychologist, had been kidnapped from his New York offices five months earlier. A grainy video from a security camera located outside the building showed at least one of the kidnappers wearing a Cobra shirt. The police investigation into the kidnapping had gone nowhere, and so far his current whereabouts were still unknown. No messages or ransom demands had ever been received.
“There was another scientist kidnapped as well, wasn’t there?” Wilkinson asked. “I heard about it on the news.”
“Yes,” Hauser said. “Two scientists, actually. There was a researcher at Purdue, also a psychologist, specializing in the effects of various drugs on brain chemistry. He disappeared without a trace about four months ago. And there was also a Belgian scientist named Dr. Emile Brusch, who also disappeared four months ago. He ran an institute working on the use of mind-altering drugs to combat mental disorders.”
“You think they’re all connected?” Abernathy asked.
“It seems possible. Three scientists all studying the same thing, kidnapped with a month or two of each other?”
Abernathy glanced over at Major Wilkinson, who only nodded. “And you think that Cobra is responsible for all three kidnappings?”
“I don’t have access to any European files,” Hauser said. “So I can’t be sure, but I’d bet that there is evidence that Cobra was involved.”
“You’d be right,” Abernathy said. He opened a drawer on his desk and pulled out a manilla folder stuffed with sheets of paper, then handed it to Hauser. “I got these faxed over from the US Embassy in Belgium.”
Hauser started scanning the papers as Abernathy summarized. “They found fingerprints in Brusch’s office that belonged to a man named Sebastian Bludd. He’s wanted by Interpol for a long list of crimes in Europe and Russia, but we don’t have much information on him. Turns out that Interpol almost caught him last year in England. He got away that time, but they found lots of evidence when they searched his safe house, including a briefcase full of money.”
Hauser turned the page and saw a photocopy of the picture of the briefcase. Printed right on it was a large snake head, the Cobra insignia.
“They think he’s working for Cobra?”
Abernathy nodded. “Seems that way. It looks like this group called Cobra is starting to enter the big time. If they have enough influence to hire a man like Bludd, then they’re bigger than we think. And these kidnappings are serious, especially because the police investigations have turned up nothing. This group has learned to cover its tracks very well.”
Hauser set the folder down. He would read the rest of it later. “Sir, if the military is concerned with Cobra, I would be more than happy to help in any way I can.”
“I think you can do one better than that, Sergeant,” Abernathy said with a smile. “I have been granted authority to create a new task force for this exact purpose. It will be a joint operation between all the branches of the military, and will deal primarily with terrorist activity here in the United States. The first order of business will be an investigation of Cobra.”
“And you’d like me to ... brief the team?” Hauser offered.
“Sergeant,” Abernathy said, “I’m offering you a position on the team. You’ll be third in command, under myself and Major Wilkinson.”
“I’d be honored, sir,” Hauser said quickly, almost stumbling over the words. “How long will it take to recruit the team? How many other members are there?”
Abernathy chuckled. “Right now it’s just the three of us. But it won’t take long to recruit the other members. Major Wilkinson and I already have some people in mind.”
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