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Bill searched the face of the man before him, but saw only tiny traces of the Serpentor he knew. Which was only to be expected. The genetic makeup of this Serpentor had only a few similarities to the other's. Even his attitude was different. He was stern, proud even, but not arrogant.

They called him 'My Lord' but he wasn't quite regal. And his title was Prime Minister, not Emperor, or King.

Serpentor for his part studied Billy just as carefully. From what he'd been told, this young man and his friends came from a world without Cobra-La. But it had a G.I. Joe and a Cobra all the same.

And then there was the girl. Serpentor frowned slightly when he thought of her. "I did what?"

"To be fair sir," Billy said, "That Serpentor was far more...colonial-minded. He was deliberately engineered to be a conqueror. And from what I've learned since, none of the people he was cloned from were probably used to having anyone say no to them."

*****

"This is Cobra Commander?" Lifeline asked incredulously.

"The world will be mine!" his patient declared. He scowled at Lifeline. "Tell them nothing Scalpel."

Lifeline frowned at Scarlet. "Scalpel?"

"Cobra's head medic." she sighed. "Not exactly big on the bedside manner from what I've heard.

"You're not exactly seeing him at his best." she continued, as Cobra Commander lapsed back into his semi-catatonic state. "Before this final breakdown, which to be honest I still don't quite trust, he was like a combination of Sun Tzu, and Machiavelli."

"He'd have had to be." Lifeline said confidently. "If he managed to beat Serpentor not once, but twice."

*****

"Good!" Zartan said, as Ana dodged his attack and at the same time lashed out with one of her own. "You're quite skilled. But then, with two Arashikage masters as your tutors, plus the genetic makeup of who knows how many warriors, I'd expect nothing less."

Zartan, Shipwreck and Ana had been left at the Watergate while Billy and Scarlet were off playing diplomat. The leader of the Dreadknocks had found himself faced with the choice of stewing in his own juices, or blowing off some steam. He'd chosen the latter.

"Don't forget to fight dirty." he grinned at the kid. "Lots of bad guys won't." Mostly he was distracting himself from two heavy bits of news he'd learned recently. One, that in this world, he was dead. The other, that he, his siblings, and the Dreadknocks had sided with Destro's faction. Of course he'd probably be just as appalled if they'd joined Cobra-La's forces. And all because Destro paid them.

The Dreadknocks were about bucking law and authority. Of course they were also about getting rich, but that was mostly just making crime pay. He was utterly certain (in fact they'd proven it) that on his own Earth, he'd never have stayed with an army bent on enslaving and/or destroying the human race.

*****

Serpentor had left orders that he didn't want to be disturbed while he spoke with Kessler, so when his phone buzzed, he knew it must be important.

He answered, listened, and then hung up. He looked at Billy levelly, then scowled. "Your friend Marsh has escaped."

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William Kessler

June 2017

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