One of the people who was most heavily offended at the idea of a “kinder, gentler snake nation” was Frank Detweiler. For years a loyal agent of VIPER, Detweiler’s ambitions took him to positions of greater power, wealth, and influence as the years wore on. He finally gained control of VIPER’s prestigious Washington, D.C. Nest in 1982, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him. By 1990 he had wiggled his way into control of eight major Nests in Washington, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Detweiler was now one of the key players in VIPER.
But pride goeth before a fall. Detweiler’s operations taxed the Nest’s resources to the limit. He sent his men on too many dangerous operations in too short a time; to replace the men he lost on raids, he took in more men than he could adequately screen, and his Nests became riddled with moles. He also made superhumans his lieutenants, for he thought the sight of the VIPER Commander standing tall and proud next to men of wonder elevated his status. His favorite superhuman was Cottonmouth, who could talk a great game and who was (at least in his own mind) one of VIPER’s greatest military leaders.
In 1990, Detweiler finally decided to make his move. He launched an invasion of Washington, D.C., hoping to seize the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court in one bold stroke. But the authorities were alerted to the operation; not only did they foil it, they made a well-prepared counterstrike. They captured most of Detweiler’s attacking force before it could even threaten its targets, then they invaded Detweiler’s Nests.
The authorities tried to access Serpentine, but only a handful of people knew the control codes. Detweiler wouldn’t talk. Cottonmouth, the other person who knew the access codes, sang like a canary. Feeling pressured and threatened at the prospect of a long prison sentence, Cottonmouth agreed to cooperate with the authorities in every way possible. Using the information he provided, PRIMUS and other government agencies launched a massive raid against over fifty Nests. Overnight, VIPER was wiped out on the East Coast and in the mid-western United States. Cottonmouth also turned state’s evidence at trial and implicated some of the backers of VIPER who lurked behind the scenes, including a prominent businessman and a politician. The United States government even indicted one of the Thirty Founders.
VIPER was on the verge of unraveling (though it did manage to have Cottonmouth killed). Nests unhooked themselves from the Serpentine Network and completely divorced themselves from the chain of command. The Thirty Founders (a name that was no longer appropriate, for many of its members were the heirs of the original Founders and their hands had not been touched by the Lantern) panicked. VIPER devoted many of its resources during the next two years to replacing its infrastructure in the United States, and lost the chance to seize control of the nations which arose after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc —a loss now considered the greatest “missed opportunity” in VIPER history.