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Cobra Tamer

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A young man, probably in his late 20s, stepped into a sporting goods store. He was tall, and had dark, silky brown hair. Dressed in only the finest clothes, anyone could tell he was well off. Wearing dark clothes and dark sunglasses, he looked a little out of place in a shopping mall. But he was used to feeling out of place. He was a secret agent, and always had to dress like that. Though he looked out of place, it was worth it for his job.
He knew exactly why he was here, and exactly what he needed to get, but he knew he would overspend and splurge a little (or a lot) if necessary. And it was ALWAYS necessary. He took off his sunglasses and started to walk around. Shopping amazed him, the sales, the ads, everything. He couldn’t get enough of it. It sent him an adrenaline rush, kind of the way a mission did. This upcoming mission was just trying to expose a fraud company or something, but it was just as exciting as a high-end chase. He was always excited for new missions, but this one was different. This mission would be different; he could feel it in his bones. This time would be special. He didn’t know how. But he knew it.




_________________________________________


“Um yeah, and this black hoodie. That’ll be it,” he said, with a hint of excitement in his eye. Shopping always fascinated him-so much to buy, so much to look at, so much to enjoy, and so little time. Perhaps he had bought too much this time. It was only a three-day trip, if they were lucky. And he had gone about a hundred over budget. Not too bad, he thought to himself. Last time it was worse. Last time he had brought so many random things on the mission, the head actually had to ask him to turn around and put one of his bags back at home. Well, I’m getting better, he thought. I’ve got to prepare. He smiled at the cashier, turned around, slipped on his sunglasses, and scurried out of the store.



______________________________________



On the day of the mission, he walked up to into the building where they were supposed to meet. He smiled at his fellow secret agents who were there, the ones he’d seen around and his friends, yet there was one woman he had never seen before. She was wearing dark, round, expensive sunglasses and had red hair in a ponytail. He knew the sunglasses were expensive because he had been admiring just that pair in the store the other day. She was dressed in dark jeans and a black hoodie, similar to his own. But why was she here? Could she be lost? To start out, women didn’t go on these kinds of journeys. They were scary, dangerous, and difficult. But there was something about her that intrigued him, a way that she stood that made her seem distant and mysterious, but yet want to talk to her and know her story. He turned and stuck out his hand.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Eric. What’s your name and why are you here? Are you lost or something?”

She gave him a cheesy smile.

“No, I’m not lost, I’m here for the same reason as you, although we’re not allowed to say it till we get into the van.” She gave him a fake smile. “I don’t like giving my name to complete strangers who seem somewhat strange, but I suppose I’ll let it slide this once. You can call me Cobra.”

“Cobra?” He laughed. “What kind of name is-“

She stared at him with a death stare.

“Fine, Cobra. Whatever. Just on the mission, try and stay safe. It’s a scary world out there.”

“I can take care of myself just fine, Eric. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the van is here and I am planning on getting on it.”

Cobra quickly walked to the van, with Eric not far behind.



___________________________________________



The second Eric stepped into the van; he knew the only seat left was next to the snake lady. What kind of name is Cobra? He thought again as he skimmed the seats to make sure there wasn’t an open one next to someone, anyone, else. He wasn’t exactly the most popular guy at the job, due to slight attitude problems. He usually ended up sitting alone. But this time, couldn’t anyone offer up a seat. It was a six-hour drive! He sighed and plopped down next to snake lady.
“It’s Cobra,” he heard a voice next him say, recognizing it immediately as snake lady’s.
“What?” He said.
“It’s Cobra. Not snake lady, not annoying girl, not hey you. I’ll call you Eric, not dude with the attitude problem. And you call me Cobra.”
Can she read minds? Eric wondered. How does she know I call her that? And what’s with the attitude? I don’t have an attitude problem, she does!
“I just wanted to make sure you knew that, because you seem like the kind of person to forget people’s names, seeing you don’t have any friends.”
Eric glared and fought a strong urge not to punch her.
“Buckle up,” she said. “We’re in for a long ride.”


_____________________________________________

The ride went without either of them exchanging a single word. As they pulled up to the first rest stop, everyone scampered out fairly quickly. Cobra slid by Eric and began to step out when she turned around and stepped hard on his foot.
“Ow!” He said, relatively quietly as to not bring attention to himself. “What was-“
“Oops,” she said. She placed a hand on her heart. “My bad.” She flounced off the van with a glint in her eye, head held high.


_____________________________________________


Eric caught up with her at the vending machine.

“What’s your problem?” he asked. “Why are you so against me?”

“Well, you have an attitude problem.” She looked him over. “And a spending one, too, for the price of that hoodie. And those jeans. And those sunglasses. I mean, I like the occasional indulgence just as much as the next person, but there’s a limit.”

“But WHY?” Eric asked, desperate for an answer.
Cobra pursed her lips. “I dunno. You were first. You came up to me first. And, well, I guess I’m just not a nice person.” She punched in the number and a bag of pretzels fell down. She bent to pick them up.
“What?” she asked as she straightened up.
“You know Cobra,” he said. “I’m going to figure you out. There’s something behind those hidden eyes of yours, I know it. And I’m going to find out what that thing is.”
“Good luck with that,” she said sarcastically. “You won’t find anything, because with me, what you see is what you get. And if what you get isn’t what you want, go discover someone else’s inner soul.” She opened her bag of pretzels and stuck one in her mouth.
“I want to make a deal with you,” Eric said. “If I can discover that you’re not who you say you are, a mean, distant person with the name Cobra, you take me on a shopping trip and buy me anything I want.”
“Fine, whatever. But you won’t find anything.”
“Perfect. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the van is about to leave and I am planning on getting on it.” He shoved the pretzel in his mouth and sprinted back to the van. But unfortunately for him, it was already pulling out and going on its way. He looked around for someone, but the only person left was Cobra, who was quickly walking up behind him.
“W-what just happened?” she asked, with a look of almost, but not quite, fear on her face.
“Well, I think we just got stranded in the middle of nowhere. It’s not looking good.”

_____________________________________________
After many, many calls to fellow secret agents, people that were on and off the mission, it was confirmed they could get someone there to take them to the hotel, but it would be a couple hours before that could happen. Eric shut his phone, sat down on the curb, and sighed.

“Why do you always do that?” Cobra asked in an irritated voice. She sat down next to him.

“What?” Eric said.

“That exasperated sigh. Like this is the most horrible, boring, annoying thing in the world. And then I wonder, why? You’re a secret agent; you must have been through much worse. Or maybe you’re the kind of secret agent that just stands there and doesn’t do much. You seem like one of those to me.”

“You know what?” Eric said. “Why don’t we just be quiet for a little bit.”

That lasted about ten seconds.

“Listen, I’m sorry, but I can’t enjoy quiet with your eyes glaring at me, like they want to drill a hole in my skull.” Eric said.

“Maybe they do,” she said. “But no, you wish I was staring at you. I’m looking at that deformed tree behind you.”

“Where?” he turned around. “That’s not deformed. That’s just a regular tree.”

Cobra smiled.

“Made you look.”

“Okay, enough. You were so trying to kill me with your eyes.”

“My eyes are not capable of killing. My finger is another story.”

“What? How?”

“Like I would tell you.”

Eric shook his head.

“This is nonsense. Take off your glasses and show me you weren’t killing me with your eyes.”

“Fine, whatever. We’re in the middle of nowhere, ” Cobra said, and slid off her glasses.

Eric stared at her. It was weird, he had never noticed anyone’s eyes before. Maybe because everyone he worked with wore sunglasses all the time. But Cobra’s eyes were worth noticing. They were like a Cobra’s, emerald green with flecks of gold in them. Or maybe they weren’t like a Cobra’s eyes. Who knows.

“Your eyes-“ he stammered.

“Yes?” she said.

“They’re very pretty.” He finished.

“Thanks, but, if you’re trying to flirt with me, don’t even try. I don’t date people like you.”

“People like me?” Eric asked.

“You know, the ones with problems. Spending problems, attitude problems. I want to be a girlfriend, not a therapist.”

“I get it. And I don’t want to date a jerk. So….can we be friends at least?”

“No. I’m not friends with people I hate, or with people who hate me.”

“So, do you have any friends?” Eric asked.

She fake slapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey!” he exclaimed. “Your fake slap is harder than you think!”

“That’s what you get. And I have a ton of friends, for your information. There’s,” she thought about it for a moment. “Well of course there’s….no, well what about…” she paused, looked down, and slid her sunglasses back on. “Okay, I may not be the most popular girl at this job, but I move around a lot. And you don’t seem to be Mr. Popular either. You had to sit next to the new girl on the ride.”

“Well that’s just because,” he paused. “Okay, I can’t come up with a good excuse. I have attitude problems, you said it yourself. Listen, it’s getting late, and you look tired. Take a rest. I promise I’ll wake you up if the car comes. You can lay on me if you want.”

“I’ll be waking up every half hour just in case. And yeah right, like I’d ever willingly lie on you. ” She walked over and lay down on a bench. “Good night!” he called to her.

“Um, thanks,” she said. “Don’t fall asleep. This can’t happen again.”

He laughed. “Thanks for your undying trust in me!”

“Anytime!” She laughed. “Good night!”

A couple minutes later, he looked over at her. She was fast asleep. He walked over and stroked her hair. She looked so innocent, sleeping there. There must be something behind her hard outer core, there must be. She turned, but stayed asleep. Eric sat at her feet and waited for the car to come to pick them up.


_____________________________________________


The car came about an hour later. When Eric saw it coming, he quickly shook Cobra awake.

“It’s here,” he whispered into her ear.

Her hand reached out and squeezed his shoulder. Hard.

“Thank you,” she hissed. “But just because we talked a little doesn’t mean we’re suddenly best friends. So in the car, don’t sit next to me. For both of our sakes.” She stood up and started to quickly walk to the car, with Eric not far behind.

_________________________________________


The car was a nice one, but it didn’t matter. Cobra sat in the front seat while Eric sat in the back. The ride was quiet for about an hour, until Eric realized he couldn’t take it any longer. He leaned so he was talking into her ear.
“Listen, Cobra, I just want to be friends. Is that so much to ask?”
“Yes. I’m not a friendly person. Now lean back, you’re spitting in my ear.”

What attitude problems. Eric thought to himself. He sighed and leaned back. Wait a second, he thought.
Suddenly, he knew exactly what to do.

_________________________________________


They arrived at the hotel around 2 am. The head of the mission rushed out to greet them.

“I am so, so sorry! You have no idea how sorry I am. Really. We were running late, I just didn’t think-“

“Don’t worry about it,” Cobra said with a smile. She gave his shoulder a squeeze. “We’re here now, aren’t we? Now, where’s my room? I am exhausted and I need to unpack.”

“Okay, funny story,” `the mission head started to say with a mix of anxiety and fear in his voice.

“Why am I getting the feeling this won’t be funny at all?” Eric asked.

“Um, because it’s not, really.” He said

Even behind her sunglasses, Eric could tell Cobra was throwing daggers at him with her eyes.

“So, you see, I never made a room reservation for Cobra. I just assumed that three guys could sleep in a room together or something.”

“So what are you saying?” Cobra asked.

“Well, since everyone’s sleeping now, this means you two will have to share a room. Just for tonight probably.”

Cobra stared at him for a few seconds before saying anything.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I have to agree,” Eric said. “I’m usually good about this stuff but really?”

“Come on, we’re all mature adults here. You can do this.” The mission head said. Now, You’re on room 109, which is just down the hall to the right. Come on. You were stranded with each other. You’ll get through this. Wake up’s 5 am, so you better get to bed quick. Don’t worry about unpacking; you’ll have time tomorrow. Good night.” He handed them each a key, walked down the hall, turned left, and disappeared.

“Well,” Eric said. “Listen, I’m just as annoyed at this as you are. But it’s just one night. A couple hours, actually. Come on, I’ll race you there. There is no way you can run in those boots.”

“Nice try, but you need more than a race to become my friend. And I can run in these boots.”

Eric smiled. “Prove it.”

Cobra started running down the hall, and Eric sprinted up behind her and continued sprinting. But somehow, Cobra managed to sprint all the way to room 109 and beat Eric. She tapped the door and smiled.

“I won.”


_________________________________________

As they lay in bed, Eric felt the emptiness that surrounded them.
“Hey, so, you want to talk?” he asked. “I know there’s something behind that stern expression that’s plastered on your face all the time.”

“Listen Eric, for what will hopefully be the last time, no there’s not. Besides, I’m not going stay at this job long. I’m looking for a better one. My talents will be wasted here, exposing companies and what not. I can do better. I’m not looking to make friends. I’m not really sorry, but I’ll say so anyways. Sorry.”

Time to put my plan in action Eric thought.

“Do you do anything on your spare time? You know, other than annoy the heck out of people?” he asked.

“What kind of insult is that? You want to hear an insult? Your Face!”

“Um, what?” Eric asked.

“Exactly. I win again. And yes, I hurt people and get away with it on my spare time.”

Eric honestly couldn’t tell if she was joking.

“Listen, I have to go to sleep and so do you. Good night.”

“Night.” Eric whispered.

_________________________________________


When they arrived at the warehouse, they were given exact instructions on what to do.

“Eric, Cobra,” the mission head said. “You two will stay in the front room and watch out for anyone. You’re our strongest links. Everyone else, follow me.”

Eric and Cobra entered the dark room they were assigned to.

“Well this is-“ Eric started.

“Dark? Scary?” Cobra said. “Yes. But we must do as we were assigned. As long as we just keep calm it’ll all be okay.”

“You know what? That’s actually kind of nice. Now I KNOW there’s a nice side to you.”

“You wish. Come on, stay focused.”

And they did. They watched and nothing went wrong. NO one came in, there was no problems.

“Okay,” Cobra said. “There’s a beeping in my ear. We can go.”

_________________________________________


They were out of the warehouse when Eric realized he had left his sunglasses inside.

“I’ll just be a second,” he said. “I need to get my sunglasses.”

“Forget it,” Cobra warned him. “It’s too dangerous.”
“No! You know how hard those were to get? I was on a waiting list for two years!”
“Forget the sunglasses!”
But he couldn’t. And of course, the second he stepped back in to get them, three giant men stepped out.
“What do we have here?” One of them asked.
“Someone trying to expose us, it looks like.” Another said.
“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” the third one finished.
Cobra and Eric stared in horror as the first one pulled out a gun, the second one a knife, and the third started pounding his fist.
“How you wanna die, son?” the first one asked. “Or we’ll choose for you.”
“Ummm….” Eric started to say.
“Too late, we chose knife.” The second one said, and started approaching him. The blade glinted in the small amount of light that was let in through the crack in the door.
The man started to lift the knife, when he suddenly leapt up in pain.
“Ow!” he screeched. “What was that?”
The other two followed suit.
“Something hit me!” the first one exclaimed.
Out of the corner of his eye, Eric caught a glimpse of Cobra pushing a finger to the back of their necks. They all fell down in unison.
“Run!” Cobra yelled to Eric.
And they did. As fast as their feet would take them.

_________________________________________


When they arrived at their hotel room, it was late at night. Everyone had heard the story of Cobra’s heroic endeavors. When they got back to their room, Eric could not have been more grateful to Cobra.
“You saved my life,” he kept saying. “I owe the world to you. By the way, what will happen to those guys?”
“Oh, no, I just knocked them out for a bit. They’ll come to soon enough. And yes, maybe I did save your life. But isn’t that what life is about? Helping each other out? I helped you, so hopefully you’ll go and help someone else.” Then, she started to cry.
“What? What is it? Was it something I said?” Eric put his hand on her shoulder, then leaned in and hugged her.
“I’ve-I’ve just had a hard time, my whole life actually. I was made fun of in school for my real name. And meeting you, you were reminded me of a boy who used to torment me. That’s why I’ve been so awful to you. I’m sorry, I’m a good person. Really, I am. I want to help the world. I just-“ She descended into sobs.
“You still can!” Eric said. “Go help kids in like, Africa or something.”
“That’s it, that’s my dream. I want to help children in Africa. But, oh I don’t know.”
“Then do that. You weren’t planning on staying here anyways. Do what you want, and make yourself happy. And helping others while you’re at it is good too. By the way, what’s your real name? I’m dying to know.”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes,” he said. “I really do.”
“Zinc,” She laughed through her tears, “What a lousy name. It’s something on the periodic table. My parents were chemists. It’s the worst name, I know. I always got made fun of for it. There’s no good nickname for Zinc. My parents would be crushed if I changed my name, so when I transferred schools in 10th grade I started to go by Cobra. I’m sorry. You don’t want to hear this”
“No,” he said. “I think Zinc’s an awesome, unique name.”
“You really think?”
“Zinc is you. It’s who you are. And hey, you could always call yourself Zee. Or Zinny.” They both laughed. “Zinc, I think you have to do what’s right for you. And I think you know what that is. Follow your dreams, even if they take you to Africa. Just know that I’ll miss you.”
Cobra crawled into bed.
“And Cobra?” he said. “When you go there, take off your glasses. You have beautiful eyes.”

_________________________________________


After they get back the next day, at the final meeting of the mission, Cobra stood up and announced her departure.

“I’m really sad to be leaving all of you,” she said. “I wish I could’ve gotten to know you better. But a very special, awesome person showed me that dreams are just as important as reality. So I’m leaving to pursue my dreams of helping children in Africa. Thank you to everyone for making my time here so amazing, my only mission here very memorable.”

She walked around and hugged everyone, saving Eric for last, lingering with him.
“I’ll miss you,” she said. Tears started to well up in her eyes, but she wiped them away with the back of her hand. “I’m going to give you some advice now, okay? Try and stay safe. Don’t do anything stupid without me. It’s a scary world out there. And the idea of your death is too frightening for me.”
She started to walk away, then turned her head. “Oh, and Eric,” she said. “You won. But I’m going to have to do a rain check on that shopping day.”



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