July 2, 1988

COBRA City. Shit. Still in COBRA City. Every time I wake up, I think I’m bivouacked under a HISS tank. Then I look around and see I’m stuck here.

Been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Joe squats in the bush he gets stronger.

I need a mission.

July 5, 1988

Be careful what you ask for.

I’d just chugged a 2-liter of root beer—Barq’s, the hard stuff—and was on my bed with the sugar jitters when a couple of Crimson Guardsmen busted down the door. They dragged me to a briefing room in a corner of the Terrordrome I’d never seen before.

I was trying to decide if it was OK to open one of the bottled waters on the table when the door opened and Destro and the Baroness strode in.

I jumped to attention.

“At ease,” Destro rumbled. “As far as records are concerned, this meeting never happened.”

“Or this mission,” the Baroness added. I tried to keep my eyes off her skintight uniform. It was hard, but I just focused on her weird glasses.

Then things got strange. They showed me a picture and asked me if I knew the gentleman in it. Of course I did—it was the Commander! I helped build the laser that was going to carve his face on the moon! How could I not know it?

Destro sighed. “Baroness, would you please play the tape?” he asked, staring down at his chest medallion.

She did, and I heard the Commander’s voice. Only instead of laying out a fiendish plan for world domination or sticking it to Joe, he was going on and on about genetic mutation and ancient societies of snakemen. And then, when I thought he’d come to his senses and launched into the good old battle cry, he just yelled “COBRA-LALALALALALALALALA!” for like three minutes.

“Turn it off,” Destro said.

The Baroness switched it off and looked at me. “The Commander’s gone into the jungle out on COBRA Island. He’s headed up the Hama River with an army of fanatics who worship him like a god. They’ll follow his every order, no matter how crazy.”

“Isn’t that pretty much COBRA?” I asked.

“We need you to go up there and put an end to this, Captain Loring,” Destro said. “This is bad for morale and bad for COBRA’s public image. We’re a terrorist organization, and no one’s going to take us seriously with this foolishness going on.”

“You’re going to head up the Hama River by boat. Gather what intelligence you can along the way. When you reach the Commander’s camp, infiltrate it and do what you must to stop this.”

I spent the evening back in my hotel room mulling it over. I’m a hard man, I know it, and I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty on a mission. Put me up against Joe, and I’ll do my duty. I’ve had sword fights with their silent ninja weirdo on the deck of a moving hovercraft.

But this. This wasn’t Joe. They wanted me to go out there after the Commander. The man who built this organization up out of a used car lot! So they say he’s crazy. So what! Aren’t we all a little crazy in this business? One time I wore my underwear backwards three days straight just because I felt like getting silly!

I knew this was just the Barq’s talking. I’ll do it. I’m a COBRA trooper, and we do what we have to. My orders are to report to COBRA Harbor to link up with a Moray hydrofoil crew who’ll to ferry me up the river. Hydrofoils are pretty common, so we’ll blend in and not attract attention.

July 8, 1988

On our way up the river now. The hydrofoil guys don’t trust me.

Late in the afternoon, we came across a derelict wind-surfing rig. I wanted to ignore it and keep moving, but the Chief insisted it was COBRA policy to investigate everything we see on the water. So we moved in close, and I got real nervous as we went. Just as I was heading up towards the bow, there was a big clatter and a bunch of blue laser fire started sweeping the deck! It was a Joe trick! I knew it!

The guy manning our bow laser cannon saw some incoming fire right above his head and jumped into the drink. I leapt up to his place and opened up with both barrels, firing over the head of the Joe on the surfboard and yelling “COBRAAAAAA!” like my soul was on fire. I think it was. I was a little crazy then, and it showed; the Joe looked scared and stepped off of his board into the water, shaking his fist at me.

July 11, 1988

A dirty, bearded guy in a blue shirt and a sailor hat walked toward me as soon as I set foot on the dock.

“You’re here for the Commander, aren’t you?” he asked. “We knew you’d come.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I have orders. You know what I have to do. If you want to take me prisoner for a while, I understand.” I put my wrists together and looked around for the tiger cages.

He looked confused. “Prisoner? Heck, no” (“Heck, no,” echoed the parrot on his shoulder). “He just wants to talk to you.”

The sailor led me through a crowd of shirtless COBRAs towards a big stone temple, nattering on and on all the time about the Commander’s genius (like I needed to be told). I saw a machete sticking up out of a pile of coconuts, and grabbed it.

The Commander sat by himself in a dark room, next to a candle on a table; he was reading, murmuring to himself.

“Verily,” he muttered. “I say thee nay.” He looked up.

Thor, huh?” the sailor asked. “Good choice, Commander. Great stuff, especially if it’s from the Lee-Kirby—”

The Commander threw his comic book at the sailor. “Get out,” he hissed. “And let me know when we get the new Batman books.” The sailor slunk away, parrot squawking.

I stared at the Commander, machete in hand. The light played dramatically on the folds of his hood.

“They sent you from the Terrordrome.”

I said nothing, still staring. The whole way up, I’d figured I’d know what to do when the time came. But I was wrong. All I knew to do was listen.

“They don’t understand. No one does. They can’t see the grand gesture. They think in terms of numbers and logistics. Major Bludd and his rosters. Destro and his tables of organization. They understand nuts and bolts, but can’t see that nuts and bolts are useless unless they’re being used to build a giant magnet that attracts all the gold in the world.”

I tapped my machete against my leg.

“I am weary,” he hissed. “Weary of shackling myself to the concerns of lesser men.”

I closed my eyes and tightened my grip on the machete handle.

I heard him stand. “Captain Loring,” he said. “There’s a bar down the road that has very good nachos. Would you care to join me for a beer? I believe they will have the Chiefs-Cowboys game on.”

I set down my machete. “It would be an honor, Commander.”

The Commander was right. The nachos were first-rate.