Ok, this work requires a few more disclaimers than usual.

First: Not intending to steal anything from Hasbro, Devil's Due or anyone else, I'm not making any money and this is just a creative outlet for me.  The title belongs to Bad Religion, it just seemed to fit, so apologies to them too!

Second: Any resemblance to any actual politician, situation or illegal action is purely coincidental and likely they only see it as a result of their own guilty conscience.

Third: To my readers. This is my creative outlet for the current situation in our country. If you drink kool-aid, you will not like this story, and I highly suggest you skip it. If you laughed at that statement because you know what I meant, read on. If you were confused by that and/or are indignant, go back to watching Fox News. Don't worry, this is all just an unpleasant dream, keep drinking that kool-aid and all will be well. Flame if you want, but last I checked, I still retain my right to free speech and press. Use the review system, not the Patriot Act to show your displeasure with my writing.

O o o o o o o o o o o o o o O

Being a part of America's elite anti-terrorism force wasn't easy on most days, but lately it had been even more difficult than usual. It seemed that with the current situation in the Middle East, they were not getting any room to breathe whatsoever. It wasn't any easier that they had been gone public with the operation.

Hawk and Duke had fought against going public with the team and what they did, but forces higher than them were convinced that the American public would feel safer if they knew the Joes were out there protecting them.

And protect them they did. A week wasn't going by without some new threat. Sometimes it was a minor annoyance, but they all needed attention. The media was all over the situation, having this squad of misfits who hadn't existed two years prior, were now the saviors of everyday America.

Duke was ready to have a breakdown, between the near constant military assaults, he also had to deal with the rapidly expanding egos of his team. They weren't famed for their modesty prior to this, but with the fan clubs that had sprung up in the wake of them going public, it was near impossible to deal with some of them. Flint and Lady Jaye were on the rocks, Shipwreck was useless except for publicity functions and he didn't want to know what the guys in the motor pool were doing with their new found fame.

Scarlett and Cover Girl had both become more withdrawn to avoid the media, though for vastly different reasons. Scarlett hated the attention on her and the focus on her being a woman; an impediment to her credibility. Cover Girl was hiding because she left the modeling world for a reason and they seemed determined to drag her back into it. She was constantly sought after because she was the only Joe with a very public life before enlisting. She was tired of the attitudes of the media and just was still burnt-out on that whole segment of society.

Duke again cursed the officials that made the final call to publicize the team, but then settled into the work at hand. He couldn't figure out why Cobra was quite so busy. The United States was engaged in a war in the Middle East, but the stunts they had been pulling lately seemed to be almost diversionary in nature and he wanted to find out what they were really up to.

He looked over the map of the states, dotted with multi-colored pushpins, trying to discern a pattern. There were pins for confirmed activity, for suspected activity, successfully defeated and places where the snakes had gotten the jump on them.

It was like someone had dipped a toothbrush in paint and sprayed it onto the map. There was no rhyme or reason for any of it. They hit some big cities, but inexplicably, they were also hitting incredibly small towns that seemed to have no purpose but to scare people. Many times they received intelligence to be able to thwart the attack, so all they had to do was pose for the newspaper pictures, but he was sure there was some over-reaching reason for this pattern.

A knock on his door roused him from his concentration. Flint poked his head in, "Got a report on a suspicious white substance at the statehouse in Virginia, who do you want to send."

Duke groaned, "Why are they requesting us? That's a job for USAMRIID or the CDC¹. There's nothing we can accomplish really."

Flint shrugged, "They want us to interview some of the people and be there to reassure the citizens." Duke just groaned. They were a military Special Forces unit, and now they were holding politicians hands because they got scared by chalk dust. Flint read his expression and said sympathetically, "I agree, Top. This is starting to get ridiculous."

"How do they expect us to stop the root of the problem if they keep us running around the rest of the country to pose for the newspaper?" Duke clenched his fist in frustration.

"Scarlett's been riding that pretty hard, right?"

"Yeah. Anything to avoid going into the field."

Flint laughed, "I cannot believe that Scarlett is actually avoiding the field."

"She's really bugged by the publicity and the rumors around her. There's been all sorts of rumors flying about her and her history," Duke reminded Flint. "She doesn't like that kind of attention. Says it makes her job harder."

"It makes all our jobs harder," Flint remarked dryly. He tactfully ignored the fact that many of the current stories involved speculations regarding her relationship with his friend.

Duke sighed, "I know. I'll talk to Hawk about trying to get something done. We can't go on like this." He sighed again, "Send Lifeline and Jaye. It's her turn to deal with the media."

Flint's jaw tightened perceptibly when Duke mentioned his on-again, off-again girlfriend. He didn't like the way she had easily adjusted to their new role and felt like she was slipping away from him, back to her old life, while she felt he was getting too much attention from his fan club and he was enjoying it too much. "Fine," he said tautly. He closed the door to Duke's office and made his way to the quarters Lady Jaye shared with Scarlett.

He knocked at the door and Scarlett answered. He arched his brow at her. "Since when do you wear glasses?" She looked surprised and guiltily removed them. Unlike Jaye who seemed to be thriving under the situation, Scarlett seemed to be trying to turn into a librarian. Her uniform, which used to be a hit with the men on the team, had been replaced with a much more conservative black t-shirt and camo pants. And now she wore a pair of ugly military issue glasses that male soldiers had nicknamed "birth control glasses", because you couldn't get laid while wearing them.

"Eyestrain. I've got a lot of things I'm reading through," she said defensively. "What do you want?" She eyed him appraisingly; Jaye wasn't happy with him right now.

"Relax, Red. I'm just passing along a message that Jaye has an assignment. She and Doc need to leave for Virginia ASAP."

Scarlett's eyebrow's furrowed, "What's going on?"

"Hand-holding in Virginia statehouse, white powder found." His voice reflected the annoyance he voiced to Duke earlier and Scarlett of course picked up and nodded sympathetically.

"I'll tell her." Flint nodded and she shut the door. She quickly went to her reports, to add in this newest feint by Cobra.

She wasn't sure if it was all Cobra behind these acts, if they were working in concert with another group, or just taking advantage of the paranoia and any bad occurrence they heard about. Something just wasn't right, but she couldn't figure out what it was. She called absently to Jaye, "Flint stopped by," Jaye's head immediately popped out of her room, "He said to tell you that you have an assignment."

She sighed with disappointment, "He didn't even want to talk?"

"Why would he? You two have been at each others' throats at every opportunity lately it seems." She looked at her friend with annoyance, "You need to have a long talk with him, when you're not running off to some assignment or another."

"When does that happen anymore?" Lady Jaye said bitterly as she returned to her room to change into her Class As. "They have us running around at the slightest whimper of fear," she called through her door.

Despite her ease with her current job, this wasn't why she went into the military. Flint refused to accept her explanation that she was just playing the part and seemed to be convinced that she wanted out and so to pay her back was spending entirely too much attention to his fan club. My God, the man had an honest-to-God fan club! She shuddered to think of the fifteen year-old girls mooning over his picture. "He's old enough to be their father," she muttered angrily as she buttoned her blouse.

"What was that?" Scarlett's voice wafted through the wood.

"Nothing. Just talking to myself." She emerged from her room, looking polished and professional. "You sure you don't want to take over?" Jaye batted her eyes at her roommate.

"No way Jose!" She shook her head for extra emphasis. "I'm counter-intelligence, remember?" She tapped the maps and reports, "This is what I'm supposed to be doing."

"You seem to be the only one actually getting to do her job. Sleeping with the CO has its benefits." Jaye regretted her words the moment they were out of her mouth. Scarlett had paled and shot her a murderous glare. It was things like her relationship with Duke that the media had been exploiting. They were all saying she had slept her way to where she was, totally ignoring her skills and only looking at her body and her relationship with Duke. It used to be that they could tease each other about such things, but that no longer was the case.

"I'm sorry, Shana, I didn't mean it like that." The apology was weak, but Scarlett nodded tersely and after a few moments of silence, Jaye walked out of their quarters to find out the details on her assignment.

¹USAMRIID stands for US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the CDC is the Centers for Disease Control.