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The Commander and the Businessman

Chapter Text

Cobra rubbed the side of his metal mask, still wearing his helmet from the field. A medic patched his arm, quiet and cold. He worked without saying a peep like a good underling should when their leader was in a bad mood. Despite the anesthetic numbing the direct area where the bullet grazed him on his bicep, his entire arm still ached. It’d been ripped out of the socket when Destro grabbed him, pulling him out of the way of the next shower of bullets.

He supposed he should be grateful Destro bothered to assist at all. The way things had been going between them, Cobra wouldn’t be surprised if the man celebrated the chance to steal command of Cobra with his leader mowed down by bullets.

But even Destro could sense a bad situation and the need for all the help he could get.

The Joes hadn’t pulled a single punch in their last battle, giving themselves the victory. They were too tired, too frustrated, and too strained after chasing Cobra and his army through the city that housed his latest plan to show mercy.

The miscalculated shot that took out the side wall of a hospital hadn’t helped their mood, either, and motivated the group to fight harder than Cobra’s soldiers.

“Careful!” Cobra screeched when the doctor tightened the bandage. “Watch what you’re doing or I’ll have you thrown in the stockades for a month!”

“Yes, sir,” the medic said, lowering his head. “It won’t happen again.”

Cobra huffed and returned to his thoughts. It was the Joe’s fault the shot had been off! They’re the ones that fired at the weapon’s operator, scaring him into falling backwards on the control panel. If they’d surrendered like they were supposed to, then that stray shot would have never hit the building!

He wasn’t opposed to destroying a hospital or two if it meant he’d win the war, but only when it benefitted him. Kill too many civilians and even the Cobra army might start to question what they were doing or who they’d declared their loyalty.

Not everyone had a ruthless, cold heart.

Cobra’s phone rang, the shrill sound cutting through the quiet medical tent.

Speaking of cold hearts, Cobra pulled the device out and stared at the “Boss” that appeared on the caller I.D. screen next to a small message that he had twenty missed calls over the past few hours.


He’d lost a battle with the Joes, lost his newest headquarters location, and now Eric was mad at him.

“Get out and leave me be,” Cobra said, pulling his arm back from the medic. It was patched enough. “I have a private call.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cobra waited for the medic to leave the small tent before he answered. “What do you want, Eric? I’m busy!”

“Ah, so you are alive,” Eric said, his voice strained. “Minx is convinced you’re dead in a ditch somewhere.”

Cobra’s head hurt. He wanted to go to bed and forget the past day happened, not discuss Minx’s imagination. “What are you talking about?”

Eric didn’t answer for a minute.

“Well? Spit it out!” He didn’t have the patience to deal with the other man. Cobra wanted to go to bed and forget the day happened. “I don’t have time for your whining or stalling. Say what you want or hang up.”

“You’ve been missing for two weeks and haven’t answered anyone’s calls,” Eric said, snarling into the phone. Cobra stared at the screen and the small call timer ticking. He’d remembered a call or two the past week, but he’d ignored them like usually when he was away on Cobra business. The Joes required all of his attention and he didn’t have time to play with the music company. Eric huffed into the line and continued his lecture. “I’m used to you ignoring my calls, but you didn’t answer Minx either.”

“I was busy.”

Cobra refused to feel guilty. He played games with Eric and the other bands and used him as an unwilling stress relief. World domination was his top priority and everything else could take second place.

“Look, Techrat. I know you like to run off and do your own thing and ignore calls from time to time, but it’s never been for more than a couple days,” Eric said. “If you’re going to be gone that long, you need to tell someone. Minx has been worried sick and couldn’t perform last night.”

Cobra huffed.

If the Stingers didn’t perform, Eric lost money. No wonder he sounded cross, but Cobra could not bring himself to care about the man’s small problems when he had a bullet wound on his own arm.

“Let me make something clear, I may work for you, but it’s on my terms and my time,” Cobra said. “If I want to disappear for a week or two, that’s my business. Minx needn’t concern herself with my whereabouts.”

“Tell her that,” Eric snapped. He raised his voice and demanded, “Call her back tonight or you won’t be working for me at all. Breaking Zipper out of jail is becoming more and more appealing if you’re going to continue and pull this disappearing act on a regular basis. And another—”

Cobra hung up the phone.

Eric needed to take lessons from Destro if he wanted to threaten someone. The man’s words had had no bite to them when they both knew he’d never find another eccentric scientist willing to put up with his shady business practices.

Techrat was irreplaceable.

“Zipper, hah.” Cobra shoved his phone in his pocket after silencing the next call and left the medical tent. He saw his second-in-command waiting for him on the other side of the door. “Baroness.”

“Sir,” she replied, falling into step. “We have the reports for the final inventory after the battle. Shall we go over it on the trip back to base?”

“Read away.”

Cobra climbed into their transport and let the woman’s word’s fill his mind with numbers notating their losses. He’d deal with Eric and the others later when his fury for the Joes subsided to a dull roar.

“That rat hung up on me!” Eric shouted, standing in the middle of his office. He growled at the device and slammed his hand on the table. “When he gets back, he is going to regret that. I’m going to make him Pizzazz’s personal servant for a month!”

Eric sucked in a breath and forced himself to calm down.

Techrat was alive and well enough to be a brat.

That was good enough.

He pulled up his contact list and scrolled down until he found the name he wanted. Eric dialed and spoke before the other party could answer. “I got Techrat to answer and told him to call you. If he doesn’t, that’s on him.”

Eric left out the part where it took twenty straight calls to annoy the man into picking up his phone.

He was half surprised the man hadn’t just turned the thing off, but he was a tech addict.

“Is he well?” Minx asked. “Did he tell you what happened?”

“He’s well for now, but he won’t be when I get my hands on him,” Raymond said. He huffed into the speaker and shook his head. “So I suggest you talk him into apologizing for hanging up on me when he calls you.”

If Techrat called her.

The way he sounded on the phone, Eric would give it a fifty-fifty chance the man called Minx to let her know he was alive.

“I will do that,” Minx said. “Though there may not be much left after I’m done with him first. How dare he worry me!”

“Have at him.” Eric took a seat behind his desk and put his palm over his forehead. “Be on time for your practice tomorrow as well. I don’t want to hear Riot complaining again.”

“How awful for you.”

She hung up the phone after him and he set it aside on his desk. Eric folded his fingers together and stared at his office door in the dim light. Techrat had a tendency to disappear for days on end, but never for as long as he had.

He never ignored Minx’s calls, no matter how “busy” he claimed to be.

“Just what are you up to?” Eric spun in his chair and looked outside the window. The city buzzed outside beyond him with people running around tending to their business and hopefully buying a Misfits album. Was Techrat out there somewhere? Or had he gone further away? Eric didn’t know where the man ent when he disappeared. It had never bothered him before, but—No. He didn’t care. “This better not be a regular thing.”

He had a feeling Techrat knew he was bluffing when he said he’d get Zipper back from jail.

“You better have a good excuse for your disappearing act!” Minx screamed through the phone. Cobra covered his ears through his cloth mask and winced as he jerked away from the speaker. “I can not believe you!”

“Lower your voice,” Cobra said. “I have the worst headache, Minx.”

“Poor baby,” Minx said. Her voice had a sneer to it that sounded like it belonged to Rapture. Minx tended to treat him with more kindness, though that was on days he hadn’t blown her off for two weeks. Minx continued her onslaught of questions, barely stopping to take a breath. “Where are you? Why didn’t you pick up the phone? When are you getting back?”

“None of your business, I was too busy to answer, and I don’t know,” Cobra said. He collapsed onto his bunk and pulled off his mask. The Joes continued to be the pests they were and were watching the area closely. Cobra and his army couldn’t afford to leave their hiding place yet, or they’d lose even more. “I’m fine.”

“Are you in trouble?” Minx asked, her voice turning softer. “I know Raymond is an unreliable idiot, but myself and the Stingers can get things done if you need help. Riot used to be in the army, you know!”

Cobra snorted and cracked a smile.

The Stingers versus the Joes. What a sight that would be! They’d never know what hit them when the rock band showed up with their flowing hair and flashy outfits to fight in the dirt and mud.

Maybe it’d give them pause long enough for Riot to be useful in one way or another.

“I am not in trouble, I just…took some time for myself,” Cobra said. He stared at the clock and closed his eyes. “And I am going to bed. I will call you when I return.”

“You had better.” Minx paused. He heard a chair creak on the other end. “We were worried, you know. Even Eric kept asking me if I’d heard from you.”

“He did?”

“Yes,” Minx said. She huffed over the line and Cobra shifted on his mattress. “He tried to hide his worry by complaining he had work for you, but he was fidgety. I could tell he was worried.”

“I see.”

“So you had better not pull a stunt like this again,” Minx said. She sucked in a breath and shouted, “And you’re fixing my synthesizer when you get back!”

Minx hung up the phone, leaving Cobra alone to his thoughts.

“Worried. Eric Raymond?” Cobra scoffed and threw his phone on the other side of the bed. It bounced on the stiff mattress and he covered his eyes with his arms. “Nonsense.”

That man only knew how to take care of himself.

Like the Stingers only cared about the Stingers.

Like Destro and the Baroness looked out for their own interests.

The way Cobra looked out for himself.

Although, Minx did care about “Techrat.” She may have considered considered the like-minded tech genius as one of her own, creating an exception. But there was no possible way she was right about Eric.

“She must have been projecting her own worry,” Cobra said. He sat up again and pulled out his uniform, preparing for bed. “Nothing more.”

He set the alarm for the morning meeting and went to bed praying the Joes gave up their search sooner than later.

If he went missing another week, Minx might actually try and hunt him down.

Chapter Text

“Who’s ‘Boss’?”

“Zartan!” Cobra shot up from his chair in the small meeting room tent where he’d sequestered himself to get away from his annoying subordinates. Their main base of operations in the city only had so much room to spread out, considering it was an underground bunker. “Give that back.”

His ringing phone sat in Zartan’s hand as the mercenary sat on the folding table, with one foot on the ground to hold most of his weight. The man’s finger hovered over the “answer” button and Cobra threw himself forward to snatch the phone out of Zartan’s hand before he could dare. Cobra canceled the call and put it on the desk.

Cobra hissed, “What are you doing in here?”

“I was going to ask if you actually have the money to pay me for all this overtime while we hide out,” Zartan said. He pointed at the phone and grinned, stretching the tattoos on his face. “Though now I’m far more interested in who you’d have in your contact list named Boss, oh great Commander.”

“It’s none of your business,” Cobra said. He put the phone away in his pocket and pointed at the door. “You’ll get your pay, so go out there and earn it and let me know the second the Joes leave so we can get out of here!”

“The Joes made camp, so they’re not going anywhere until at least tomorrow,” Zartan said. He smirked and crossed his leg at the ankle. “My Dreadnoks already completed their recon and earned our keep for the day.”

“Good for you,” Cobra said. His phone rang again and he pulled it out to cancel the call, frowning at the “Boss” that stared at him. Eric didn’t know when to leave things be! Zartan smiled wider and Cobra slammed a hand on the table. “Get out! Go bother Destro. We both know how he adores your company.”

“Sure,” Zartan said. He hopped off the table and drummed his fingers on the table as he went to the door. “Have a fun chat with Boss. It looks like he’s calling again.”

Cobra’s mercenary left the room with a calculating look.

He probably was right outside the tent door, waiting for Cobra to answer his phone so he could listen in. Zartan wouldn’t receive the satisfaction—it was bad enough that Baroness, Destro and Major Bludd of all minions was aware of Cobra’s secret.

Eric’s calls stopped after the third ignored call.

Cobra relaxed in his seat. He’d return Eric’s call later when he turned in for the night in his private tent. The officer tents were on the far corner of the large, open underground bay so it’d give him enough privacy to keep anyone from overhearing. And by then, Zartan would be distracted with something else—maybe even still bickering with Destro.

The phone rang again, though this time “Minx” read across the screen.

“I told you I’d call when I got back, what do you want?”

Eric tapped his fingers on the desk as Techrat’s voice came out of the speaker from woman’s phone. Minx grinned, arms crossed in her seat as she leaned back and waved her hand at the small device with an “I told you so” look. He picked up the phone and huffed.

“If you’ve got time to answer Minx’s calls, you have time to answer mine,” Eric said, tapping a pen tip on his desk. “The Holograms have a concert next week for a client they stole from the Stingers.”

“And what do you want me to do about it? I’m not available,” Techrat replied. Eric heard muffled voices in the background. Was he with someone? Techrat huffed into the speaker. “Do your own dirty work for a change.”

“Talk some sense into him,” Eric said, handing the phone back to Minx. He didn’t have the strength or patience to deal with that brat. “If I thought I could get past the security at the venue, I would do it myself!”

“Eric is not capable of disarming the security system,” Minx said, sitting back in her chair. She tugged a strand of hair over her shoulder and sighed. “And neither am I. We are a bit in need of a genius to shut it down long enough for us to sneak inside and sabotage the equipment. When are you getting back?”

“I don’t know,” Techrat said back, his voice strained. “I really don’t know, Minx. I don’t have control over when I can leave…the place that I am.”

Eric and Minx shared a look over the desk. She dropped her hair and put her hand in her lap. “You said you were fine a couple days ago, but you can tell us if you are in trouble. We will come help you.”

“You can’t help me,” Techrat said. The other side of the line went quiet, though the small murmurs in the background continued. A smack sounded and Techrat shouted, “Wait! There is something you can do!”

Minx held the phone closer. “Anything! I’ll make sure Riot and Rapture help out, too!”

“Assuming it doesn’t cost too much,” Eric added, raising his voice. He might even get the Misfits on board if he had to. Eric hadn’t realized how much he depended on Techrat’s gadgets until they were no longer available and he had no intention of blindly looking through the man’s hideaway considering the high possibility of random explosion. “But what do you need?”

“I need the Stingers to make a scene!”

Eric and Minx shared another glance before listening to the plan Techrat shared in a hurried, hushed tone.

It was perfect.

Why hadn’t he thought of it before?

Cobra could use Eric and the Stingers to distract the Joes and give his men and associates a chance to evacuate the fallen Cobra city. He’d have to come up with a story to explain why he had been trapped in a Joe and Cobra occupied city, but Eric and the others would be easy enough to fool.

“Wait for it,” Cobra said, eyes on the monitor. He watched Joes patrol the city, ever closer to finding the entrance to their hidden base. All of the men, along with the command staff, were packed and ready to move in their vehicles. One opening was all they needed. “Any minute now.”

“What exactly are we waiting for?” Zartan asked. He looked between Destro and Baroness, before glaring at the back of Cobra’s head. “They seem to know. Why not me?”

“You don’t need to know everything,” Cobra muttered. Destro and Baroness had been filled in on the plan because they already knew about Eric and because they wouldn’t cooperate without knowing the full details. Cobra huffed. “You’re getting paid. That’s all that matters.”

“It matters if something goes wrong and we need to adjust on the fly!”

“Quiet, Zartan,” Destro said. He frowned harder, critical of Cobra’s brilliant plan to use the Stingers. “Just be ready to move.”

“I am, but I still don’t like this.”

“There!” Cobra said. He pointed to the monitor as the fireworks appeared in the distance. A constant stream of explosions lit the sky in a beautiful display that had the heads of every Joe on camera turning toward them. “Get everyone ready to mobilize! Now! Phase two will be in five minutes.”

If Eric and the others did as instructed, Cobra would be in the clear and well on his way and back to the safety of their castle.

In a surprising move of competence, on the five minute mark Eric and The Stingers pulled off phase two: A surprise show!

“The Stingers have arrived!” Riot’s voice cried through a loud speaker that echoed. Good! Eric and the others found the amplifiers Cobra had made in his downtime last year. “A gift from us to you! A free show for the entire city starts in ten minutes! Don’t miss it!”

“The pop up stage is easy to find!” Minx’s voice called out afterwards. “You can’t miss it!”

“You better not miss it!” Rapture finished. “Because we’re going to blow you away!”

Another set of fireworks went off. Cobra and his command staff watched the monitors. He grinned under his helmet as a Joe paused and checked his radio before motioning to the men around him. They all left their post, headed toward the Stinger’s mobile stage.

“I can’t believe it’s working,” Destro said, shaking his head. “But it is.”

“The Joes are distracted! This is our chance!” Cobra shouted, turning away. He threw his hadn’t out and pointed toward the vehicles. “Go! Go! Go!”

As he jumped into the jet with Destro and Baroness, Zartan gave him a quick glance before mounting his motorcycle and shooting out of the exit ramp and into the city proper. Cobra’s plane took off, following him and leading the steady stream of jets and ground troops as they poured from the base.

The Stinger’s distraction didn’t get the attention of every Joe on duty, but it lowered their guard enough for Cobra to crash through it!

They lost a car or two on the ground and one plane crashed, but they were small sacrifices Cobra could afford.

He turned his head to glance below as they flew over the stage Eric and the Stingers had set up: It was attached to a large trailer and surrounded by lights and Cobra’s experimental amps. The group’s performance had been cut short by a Joe on stage, yelling at the band.

Cobra sunk in his seat and crossed his arms.

Eric was a smooth talker. He’d handle it.

“Gentleman, gentlemen, calm yourselves,” Eric said. Taking a step back from the soldier in the hat that demanded they stop the show. “We can explain everything.”

Like Techrat would when Eric got his hands around the man’s throat—his no touching rule be damned!

“This is merely a publicity stunt,” Eric said, holding his hand up. “We had no idea there was a battle going on!”

“I don’t believe him,” a man in a sailor’s outfit said. A parrot on his shoulder squawked as he pointed at Eric. “It’s way too convenient that they showed up at the same time Cobra made a run for it! They’re a distraction! I bet you they’re working with those snakes!”

“Snakes?” Eric asked, putting his hand on his chest. “You think we’re working with that terrorist organization? We’re a band.”

“Cobra works with all types,” a woman said, crossing her hands over her chest. Her short hair bounced as she tilted her head. “For all we know, you’re Zartan pulling a stunt!”

“I don’t even know what a Zartan is,” Eric said, his mind racing. He knew he should have pressed Techrat for more details about why a surprise concert in some city he’d never heard of would get the man home sooner. That was the last time he trusted that rat! “We thought a surprise show would be a good way to drum up interest in the band and test out our new loud speakers, that’s all.”

“I’m pretty sure you need a permit for that sort of thing,” the woman said. She looked Eric and the band over. “Which we know you don’t have.”

“What Cover Girl said.” The sailor crossed his arms and smirked. “So you’re in trouble either way.”

“You two go back and see if anyone needs help cleaning up after Cobra left,” their leader said. He turned and grabbed Eric by the arm. “And you’re coming with me for questioning. Maybe you simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or maybe you’re working with Cobra. I’m sure a few questions will clear things up.”

Eric grimaced as he followed the man down the stairs. The soldier waved at a couple men on the ground to go up on stage and collect the Stingers as well. Riot smacked one’s hadn’t away with a “Don’t touch me” reminiscent of Techrat before he walked down the stairs on his own.

He glared at the Joes with distaste as Mink and Rapture followed close behind.

The soldiers led Eric into a tent and declared they’d talk to them all one at a time.

“All right, Mr. Raymond,” the man said, taking a seat on the other side of a portable table. “My name is Flint and you’re going to answer my questions.”

“Of course,” Eric said, forcing his shoulders and body to remain at ease. If he treated the officer like a client to woo, he’d be fine. “I’ll do everything in my power to cooperate.”

“I’m sure you will,” the man said with a friendly, but stern smile. “Why don’t we get started?”

Eric returned the smile and turned on the charm.

Chapter Text

Something was off about their dear commander.

Zartan set his heels on the edge of a control panel, hands resting easy on his chest. Across the room, Destro worked diligently with Baroness going over their losses from the last battle and their wasted time while their dear Cobra Commander sat on his chair and crossed his arms as he surveyed the news.

His heel tapped against the ground in a small tempo and his hood swayed with every shift of the head.

For such a successful and well timed escape from the Joes, one would think he’d be in a better humor.

But alas, they heard no gloating of his genius or success.

Just nervous tapping and a constant, pattern-like glance toward the phone sitting on his chair’s armrest.

If Zartan didn’t know the man better, he’d almost think he was—dare say it—worried about something.

He dropped his feet from the chair and stood, cracking his back as he stretched. The noise drew attention from Destro, but he only scoffed and went back to looking at his weapons reports. Zartan made a careful stroll around the Cobra main war room until he made it to the Commander’s chair.

“What do you want, Zartan? You already got your check,” Cobra said, his heel still tapping on the ground. He picked the remote and changed the channel on the giant television, flipping to a different news station. “Go bother your Dreadnoks and leave me be.”

“You seem tense,” Zartan said. “I’m always a man of opportunity. Maybe there’s something I can assist with?”

“For a price.”

“Always,” Zartan said, laughing. He laced his fingers together and leaned his elbow on the side of Cobra’s miniature snake throne. “Money can buy anything.”

Cobra huffed.

No banter. No demands Zartan leave his presence. No yelling about his world domination plans and not needing money to rule in the future.

Something really was wrong.

The news continued in the background on the television, covering the soft words of Destro and Baroness as they worked. Zartan exhaled and tapped his finger on the back of his hand. What to do? What to do?

He wasn’t necessarily concerned about his main source of income, but he was curious what could rattle the egotistical “genius.”

The phone buzzed on the platform.

Cobra Commander’s head jerked to the lit screen as the word “Boss” appeared once more. His hand moved to grab it, but stopped a second before he answered. His head tilted toward Zartan.

Oh, that was interesting.

Taking a risk—Cobra would never actually do anything to his best Mercenary—Zartan snatched the phone and clicked the “answer” button. He tapped down the stairs and answered in his best “Cobra” voice as the real man in question sucked in a breath and jumped up from his chair. “What do you want? I’m—”

“I don’t give a shit!” a harsh, deep voice came from the speaker and cut Zartan off. He winced and pulled the phone away from his ear. Cobra froze in place, and the loud voice caught Destro and Baroness’ attention. “Boss” may have been an apt description. The speaker certainly held an air of authority. “I just spent four hours being interrogated by some group of oddly dressed soldiers—”

“G.I. Joes!” a second strong voice called from the background, his tone carrying the same love for the Joes as any Cobra agent.

“G.I. Joes, whatever they’re called,” the first speaker continued and Zartan could hear the eye roll over the line. “The end point is I was interrogated by them for four hours because of your stupid plan and I want to know why!”

Zartan found himself at a loss. Cobra wasn’t making a move for the phone and looked as shellshocked as Zartan himself.

“I’m going to take your silence as shame,” the man said again. “Good! Because I’m done. I don’t care how useful you are, if you’re not in my damn office in the next hour to explain yourself then you’re fired! Do you hear me? It’s not a bluff. Not a threat. Fired!”

The call ended as the man hung up.

“You didn’t hear that,” Cobra said, grabbing the phone back. He talked as he ran out of the hanger. “I have to go.”

He dashed out of the room and Zartan could hear his boots stomping as the man sprinted in the direction of the hanger bays.

Zartan walked backwards until he stood next to Destro and the Baroness. “What was that about?”

The two shared a look before Destro said, “Ask Major Bludd.”

Cobra stumbled out of jet he’d borrowed from their shared lot and landed on top of a nearby parking garage using stealth camoflogue—the only one he could find without a Cobra logo on it—and threw his tie on as he pushed into the main offices of Stingers Sound.

He checked his watch as he slammed the button on the elevator.

Ten minutes.

Why was he rushing? Cobra didn’t rush. He was the ruler of a terrorist organization. Cobra was going to rule the world.

He still sprinted down the hallway, sweating in his Techrat disguise and racing to make it to Eric’s office before the allotted hour timer was up.

Getting fired from Eric Raymond’s business genuinely scared him.

Cobra would figure out what the hell that meant later.

He threw open the door, chest heaving and face red from exertion. Eric looked up from his desk, but Cobra didn’t see much after that since he was tackled from the side and dragged into a tight hug.

“You fool! How dare you worry us!” Minx shouted. The hug lasted for a few seconds too long, and Cobra squirmed in her hold before she dropped him and stomped her foot. Rapture stood behind her, glaring at him while Minx said, “You have a lot of explaining to do!”

“He certainly does,” Riot said. Cobra took a step back as the taller, broader man stood up from the guest chair on the side of the office. “Did you know the G.I. Joes were in that city when you had us cause a distraction?”

Cobra took another step back.

Riot was a big guy and he was furious—shit. The main vocalist of The Stingers had been a soldier and he hated his time in the army. Of course he knew who the G.I. Joes were!

“He can’t explain if you break him in half, Riot,” Eric said. He rubbed the side of his face and huffed. “Let’s all calm down.”

“No, he almost ruined our careers with that stunt—a stunt you went along with!” Riot said, turning on his heel. The equally domineering man strut back to the desk and slammed a hand on the surface. “If you hadn’t talked us out of it, we’d have been arrested for interfering in a military operation!”

“Riot has a point,” Eric said. He glared at Cobra across the room and hissed—Cobra was almost proud. “Are you going to explain yourself?”

Cobra had one change to explain himself without giving away his double life.

He couldn’t think of anything.

Which meant Cobra had one chance to distract them all with something else that would make them happy enough to completely ignore that Cobra never explained himself.

“I was securing a new client!” Cobra shouted. He cleared his throat and put his hands in his pockets. It’d still be a risky gamble considering their connections to his organization, but it’d have to work for now. Eric Raymond shared one thing in common with many of those in Cobra’s employ—a love of money. “I discovered through an online forum that a representative for Extensive Enterprises was going to be in town.”

“Extensive Enterprises?” Eric sat up. The bait was set and Cobra could see the gears whirling in the greedy man’s head. “You met with a rep from Extensive Enterprises?”

“Yes,” Cobra said. “I was interested in securing more funding for bigger projects, so I thought I’d be proactive.”

“You?” Riot said. “Aren’t you content to stay locked in that little bunker of yours and work? I didn’t think you socialized.”

“I have big things planned!” Cobra shouted back. He stopped himself and cleared his throat. “The end point, is I made contact with the rep but I was having a hard time convincing him.”

Rapture snorted. “Because you have no social skills.”

“Is that why you were gone so long?” Minx asked. Her nose scrunched as she thought through his statements—she was suspicious, but she was also his friend. She’d support him. “You were trying to woo this business?”

“Exactly! Eric will tell you, they’re big business.” Cobra rubbed his fingers together. “It’s an opportunity we couldn’t let go.”

“They are one of the highest grossing businesses in the country,” Eric said, licking his lips. The sort of money that Extensive Enterprises brought in was unmatched and well out of anything Eric had ever hoped to earn in his life. “But what does that have to do with the Stingers creating a distraction?”

“They wanted a demonstration!” Cobra hoped that worked. “I promised them The Singers would be ready to go at the snap of your fingers.”

He snapped his fingers in example.

“It worked, by the way,” Cobra said. He cleared his throat and shifted. “I secured the deal just before you called and demanded my presence.”

“You did?” Eric said. There was enough disbelief in his tone that Cobra would have to push harder. “Do you have that in writing? Verbal agreements don’t mean anything when it’s an employee and a random rep.”

“Not yet, but like you said, it doesn’t mean much coming from me,” Cobra said. He walked over to Eric’s desk and snatched up a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote out a phone number and turned it around to shove it at Eric. “But what I did get, is a phone number to their main office and they’re expecting your call.”

Eric picked up the paper. “My call?”

“Yes. They’re highly interested in hiring The Stingers for as social event or two, or even a sponsorship deal if we do well enough,” Cobra said. He smoothed down his jacket and walked backwards toward the door. “Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going back to work.”

Cobra turned and ran out the door, slamming it shut behind him. He fished his phone out of his pocket and dialed the twins.

“Tomax and Xamot speaking,” Tomax said. Xamot continued, “What can we do for you Commander?”

“Extensive Enterprises is about to get a call from Eric Raymond from Stingers Sound. Hire his band for something. I don’t care what it is, but do it!” Cobra hissed into the speaker. “I have to go.”

He hung up and hoped they got the memo, because Minx left the office a minute later. On the other side of the door, Riot was talking with Eric Raymond about “Not being a pushover because they’re richer than us.”

“I noticed you dodged the question,” Minx said. She crossed her arms and leaned closer, her long hair spilling over her shoulder. “What were you really doing in that town?”

“Working,” Cobra said, telling the truth. He had been working hard as the Commander of Cobra. Minx huffed and he lowered his shoulders. “I didn’t mean to worry you. I already told you that.”

“I know, but I’m still concerned,” Minx said, leaning back. She bit her lip and tugged on the end of her hair. “I also hope you come up with a better answer just in case. Riot was very upset about having to deal with the G.I. Joes. I don’t know the details, but it brought back bad memories.”

Cobra nodded. He had amused himself with thoughts of The Stingers fighting the Joes in jest, but Riot’s anger made it a more realistic option day by day.

What he wouldn’t give to see Riot deck Duke in the face—and he didn’t like either of them!

“Be more careful,” Minx said. She patted Cobra on the arm and huffed. “I know you like to be alone, but you are a part of Singers Sound and we’d hate to lose you over a lack of communication.”

Cobra grunted.

“But that’s enough scolding,” Minx said. She grinned and put her hands on her hips. “If you really got us an in with Extensive Enterprises, that would be life changing! Jem could only hope to get an ‘in’ with a group that big.”

“They’ll be jealous for years,” Cobra said. He snorted, “The Misfits, too, now that I think about it.”


Minx broke out into a laugh and Cobra matched her grin.

“Eric Raymond. Head producer of Starlight music until he was replaced by Jerrica Benton. He then founded Misfits Music, which was later renamed to Singers Sound to appease the egotistic lead vocalist of the band he was trying to woo.”

Cobra did not immediately react to Zartan’s words, but he did stop and his back straightened just enough to give himself away.

Zartan stepped out from the shadows, holding a photo of Eric Raymond between his fingers. “This is your Boss?”

Cobra’s head turned toward Zartan and those big, blue eyes narrowed behind the holes in his mask.

The Commander didn’t answer—giving further proof that Zartan had hit the nail on the head.

“He’s a good looking fella in a slimy sort of way, isn’t he?” Zartan flipped the photo around. He’d already prepared a disguise of the man and had it tucked away if needed. “But for some reason I can’t see that being the reason for your interest.”

“What interest?” Cobra said. He continued walking, but his body was too tense. True nerves ran through their beloved Commander. Zartan followed him and Cobra hissed in true snake fashion. “I’ve never seen that man before in my life.”

“He called you on the phone earlier. It was easy enough to recognize his voice,” Zartan said, picking up his face to walk faster. He put his skills to use and mimicked the business man’s voice as he repeated a line from earlier, “I don’t care how useful you are, if you’re not in my damn office in the next hour to explain yourself then you’re fired! Do you hear me? It’s not a bluff. Not a threat. Fired!”

Cobra tripped over his feet and had to turn around with a growl.

Zartan dropped his smile as the smaller man grabbed his shirt and walked him to the wall, slamming Zartan’s back into it—or he tried.

Their Commander was not a strong man and only managed to shove Zartan back a step.

“I will fire you if you don’t drop it and forget you ever heard about that man,” Cobra said, his voice low and breath heavy. “Is that understood?”

“Perfectly, boss,” Zartan said. He laughed and held his hands up, crinkling the photo into his palm and squeezing. “Never heard of him.”

Cobra let him go and turned on his heel.

He stomped away and Zartan waited for him to round the corner before he unwrinkled the photograph.

“Eric Raymond, huh?” Zartan said. He looked up at the empty hallway where Cobra had left and folded the photograph, sticking it in his pocket. “I can’t wait to find out all your secrets.”

Chapter Text

Extensive Enterprises booked the Stingers for an in-house company party for the VIP investors and high ranking employees. The CEOs themselves had taken Eric’s call and he was able to speak with the famous Rouge twins themselves.

They even accepted his offer of the Misfits doing a pre-show performance.

Pizzazz would throw a fit about being the “opening act,” but she’d do the concert regardless. She was a smart woman and Extensive Enterprises would be her chance to get one over on Jem.

Eric sipped a brandy at his work desk, feet kicked up on the desk as he leaned back in his seat. The television played a news broadcast at low volume, filling the room with background noise. One of his bands had a gig with one of the largest and richest companies on the planet. They were so high above him, even in his most ambitious plans he hadn’t considered them an option. Eric put his glass on his drink and placed his head in his hand.

Techrat scored him that job—Techrat.

The man that never left his lab unless Eric dragged him out of it. A man who had one friend, zero social skills, and had a single-minded focus dedicated to his tech and inventions.

That same Techrat managed to not only to meet a contact with Extensive Enterprises, but kept their attention for an extended amount of time, and then convinced them to hire Stingers Sound.

Something wasn’t adding up.

Eric dropped his feet off the desk and got up, loosening his tie. He opened his office closet and pulled out his foldable cot. He unhooked the side and flattened it. Eric tossed his suit jacket over a chair and slipped off his tie.

How did Techrat do it?

He kicked off his shoes and climbed onto the cot. Eric laid back and stared at the ceiling, biting the side of his thumb as his thoughts raced. He had made the assumption that whenever Techrat disappeared into radio silence, he was hunched over a workbench in his warehouse and ignoring the phone. Had that been a mistake?

To meet a contact, Techrat would have had to leave the warehouse for something other than his usual grocery trip.

Eric felt his stomach twist.

Techrat wasn’t like Zipper or Torch and Mickey. Eric sat up and folded his hands on the back of his neck. Techrat wasn’t mindless muscle that did what Eric told him without question. He cooperated because he wanted to build machines or cause some chaos. Techrat was smart.

Lacking in common sense and clearly needed employment or he wouldn’t have come running when Eric threatened to fire him for real, but still smarter and more capable than everyone else under Eric’s employ (that wasn’t a band member—Riot and Pizzazz had their own set of goals).

Was he looking for contacts with Extensive Enterprises for himself?

“Get the Stingers hired and show off his skills,” Eric mumbled under his breath. “That would get him noticed.”

That had to be it.

Techrat had ignored Eric’s calls more often the past few months. He’d been busy and irritated more easily. The last project he’d thrown himself into had been that flying drone to ruin the Jem charity concert for the troops.

“Unacceptable,” Eric said. He threw himself off his cot and shoved the thing aside, not bothering to fold it up again. Who could sleep? Eric returned to his desk and pulled out a notebook. “I’m going to keep that man so busy he won’t have the chance to look for another job.”

And he wasn’t going near that Extensive Enterprises gig.

Cobra pressed his fingers into the eye sockets of his mask.

Even forcing Tomax and Xamot to hire him for a fancy gig hadn’t truly curbed his anger. His demands had increased and he would not stop calling until Cobra answered his call, only to receive yet another assignment that Eric wanted done.

A part of him enjoyed it.

He’d taken on the guise as Techrat specifically to get ordered around by a demanding, overbearing boss and Eric was fulfilling that role to a T. Cobra shivered in secret delight every time Eric dared to shout at him, unaware that he was lecturing a man who commanded armies.

But the other part of him also had to run the Cobra organization and that made things difficult when Eric wasn’t letting him “out of sight” so to speak. He hadn’t seen the Cobra base in a week, trapped in his warehouse knowing that Eric could show up at any moment to make a new demand for a new advertisement method or to once again try and hack into the Holograms’ main computer database.

Cobra enjoyed the second half, at least.

The Holograms’ computer held secrets that continued to escape him and one day he would figure out what they were hiding.

“You should file for a vacation,” Baroness said. She sat on the edge of the table and crossed one leg over the other. “Your little double life is giving you eye bags deep enough to see through your mask.”

“I can’t,” Cobra said. “He’s still hot over the G.I. Joes interrogation.”

“Then why are you here and not hiding in your little Techrat warehouse?” Baroness asked. She snickered and leaned back, letting her hair fall over her shoulder. “Destro is loving being in charge while you’re gone.”

“I’m sure.”

“Come now, Commander,” Baroness cooed. “You know I’m teasing—if anyone is in charge while you’re gone, it’s me.”

Cobra dropped his hands and looked up. The woman was sharp and wouldn’t hesitate to throw him in front of a missile if it would save herself, but she was loyal in her own way.

Perhaps he could…share.

“Eric is supervising the Stingers and Misfits at their concert at Extensive Enterprises,” Cobra said. “He’ll be gone all afternoon, so I had a chance to check in back at base. I’m the leader of this organization! I can’t not show my face.”

Baroness snorted.

“You know what I meant!” Cobra said, slamming his hands on the command table. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. I knew he’d be mad, but I didn’t think he’d retaliate by giving me more work. If anything, he should have figured denying me work was a punishment!”


“Having nothing to do would make me bored, and I wouldn’t get paid,” Cobra said. He shook his head and sat back in the chair. “That’s the weirdest part of this all—he’s paying me for all this work. I don’t even know where he’s getting the money for it.”

“His new gig you got him?”

“That or personal funds,” Cobra said, crossing his arms. “Eric’s a cheapskate. He only hires me for what he absolutely needs. This is odd for him.”

“You did mention he was angrier than usual.”

“I’m not sure that’s all there is to it.” Cobra closed his eyes and thought about the past week. What else had been off outside of the onslaught of new projects and demands? Eric had hovered more, but that wasn’t entirely unusual. He liked to watch “Techrat” work if he was bored himself. “I’m missing something.”

“I hate to point out the obvious,” Baroness said, rubbing her fingers together. She adjusted her gloves around her hands and snorted. “But you are the head of an international terrorist organization full of well trained operatives, proficient in espionage and information gathering—why don’t you send someone to spy on on him and find out what he’s up to?”

Cobra glared. “Because I don’t want to explain why they would be following around some hack of a businessman!”

“What about Zartan? He already knows about it, doesn’t he?” Baroness hummed under her breath. “I’m sure he’s been bored with you busy and Destro would love to get him out of the base for a while.”

Cobra curled his lip under his mask. “Zartan wouldn’t be a good fit.”

“Why not?”

Because Cobra threatened him to forget he’d ever so much as heard the name “Eric Raymond.”

“Then have fun trying to run Cobra while your boy-toy runs you ragged.” Baroness hopped off the desk and walked away, waving as she left the room. “Destro and I will be more than happy to pick up the slack and be the face of your organization while you’re hiding in a warehouse.”

Cobra slumped in his chair.

Zartan would never let him live this down.

“Who is my target again? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of an ‘Eric Raymond’ before.”

Zartan couldn’t help himself.

The illustrious Cobra leader stood in front of him, his blue mask in place and eyes narrowed behind it. His tense body and shaking fists told him everything he needed to know about the man’s patience.

But he still relished the teasing.

“I’m leaving.”

Cobra turned on his heel and stomped away in his polished boots. Zartan cursed under his breath and chased after him, grabbing his arm.

“Hey! It was just a bit of fun, Commander!” Zartan soothed. Cobra Commander ripped his arm out of Zartan’s hold and scowled at him. Zartan took a step back and cleared his throat. He squared his shoulders to present himself professionally. “You’re here to talk work and I’m more than happy to listen.”

“Are you?” Cobra asked. “Because what we are discussing is strictly confidential. I want your word that you won’t tell a soul about this job, not even your group of Dreadnoks.”

“A job’s a job and I will honor my contract,” Zartan said. He wasn’t the best of the best for nothing. “What do you need?”

“Find out why he’s increasing Techrat’s workload.” Cobra cleared his throat and shifted from one foot to the other, in an nervous fashion. It clearly pained him to talk about himself in the third person. “Whether he’s being petty about something, or has a new project up his sleeve he’s hiding, or whatever else—find out why and report back to me.”

Zartan licked his lip—extra work for his side job would explain their Commander’s absence around the base.

“Is there anything I should know?” Zartan asked. “Anyone who would be a bad choice for impersonation?”

“Stay away from the Stingers,” Cobra said. “That group is too close knit—even you’d have a hard time fooling them. Anyone else is fair game.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Zartan rubbed his hands together. “Now then! Let’s talk compensation for my time.”

Cobra Commander groaned but indulged Zartan’s price.

Zartan would have taken such a fun job for free, but money was money and he had a reputation to keep up. Cobra had the money and Zartan loved to take it—his own entertainment was an added bonus.

“Eric!” Pizzazz shouted, throwing open Eric’s office door. The woman’s wild hair bounced around her head as she stormed inside, putting her hands on her hips. Eric held in the groan when he saw her scowl. “We need to talk.”

He needed to get work done.

“If you’re still angry about being the opening act for Extensive Enterprises, I can’t help you. They asked for the Stingers, I gave them the Stingers and got you an in.” Eric pulled over a notebook and flipped through the pages. He had to have another job that would appease her. “I’m sure the calls will come in from everyone your group impressed.”

“Stop it, Eric,” Pizzazz said. She crossed her arms and huffed, tilting her head up. “That’s not what I’m here about.”

“It’s not?” Eric looked the woman in the eye. She glared right back with the same fire she was famous for. “Then why are you storming into my office?”

Pizzazz slammed a hand on Eric’s desk. “I want to talk about Techrat.”

Eric closed the notebook on his desk. “Then let’s talk.”

Maybe Pizzazz knew what that man was hiding.