Closed Ultramarine

Discussion in 'Role Playing Games' started by Lee, Jan 13, 2018.

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  1. Lee

    Lee Agent

    Messages:
    69
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Detective
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Color #:
    006699
    Content Warning:
    • This thread's content is intended for mature audiences. Readers' discretion is advised.
    This thread is for story-telling only.

    We're doing the 3/7 rule: 3 days to inform, 7 days to move on.
    Normal RP rules apply.

    (More info to be given in Neutral Grounds chat.)

    The Story So Far:
    Kidman/Flag/Joe --> You can follow their story from here:
    Restoration: Part One | The Elusive Carmen Sandiego
    Flag/Chase --> Had another journal here:
    Remembrance | The Elusive Carmen Sandiego
    (More to come, but the premise of this is 2 years after Kamchatka (in Seraphim and Cadence) the archive can be found below.)
    Seraphim: http://www.theseventhstarprojects.com/Seraphim.html
    Cadence: Cadence
     
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  2. Carmen

    Carmen Queen of Crime

    Messages:
    37
    Color #:
    c00000
    Introduction


    February, Lake Baikal, Southern Siberia.


    Miles of indigo sprawled in thick transparent layers towards distant mountains. Baikal is the world’s oldest inland lake, with crystalline waters and rumors of monster sightings tumbling further back than any other famous loch. The ice was most dense in February, paving a slippery path into the heart of this haunting wasteland.

    The hum of a V8 engine broke frigid silence. Studded snow treads carried a ruby Bentley Continental GT Coupe and its driver across the lake’s surface. Performing active duty, on-screen GPS indicated destination reached just as ETA hit zero. In a sea of solid azure, the car eased to a stop.

    When the door released, black patent leather boots pierced into frozen water. Her resonating steps--like the ticking of Newton’s cradle--assimilated through tiny air pockets in the glacial floor.

    A few yards from her vehicle, Carmen inspected her surroundings. She disliked uncertainty but preferred a level of intrigue, and this situation was an outstanding example of the thin fine line.

    Nothing moved in this gelid state except for a steel grey seal basking in rare winter sun. For eons, the scenery must have been like this; every year, every winter. Long before humans discovered her, and hopefully long after, the inland sea would remain stubbornly unchanged. Baikal seals found their way here long ago and evolved into the only true freshwater seal species on earth. Females would haul out during winter to raise pups while males may stay below the surface all season.

    From the seal’s breathing hole protruded two lanky arms that pushed up a skinny man in tight thermal diving suit. It was black with two yellow stripes, characteristic of the organisation he worked for, which in certain cases would prefer the stripes to be called gold despite lacking that particular value. The man wobbled onto the ice before hobbling with his fins closer to driver and car.

    “Margaret Daye?” he asked as soon as his mask was removed and a mustache too large for his face fluffed out unceremoniously.

    And you are The Seal,” she offered a handshake that was briskly taken.

    “I couldn’t get too close to him,” her contact revealed a water-sealed package with a micro-SD card, “you got an adapter for that? I have one, but it’s my last one, so it’ll cost you.”

    I’m fine,” she made no change in expression. Gloved fingers removed the package from his hand. Once she was satisfied with its condition, the card snapped into a thin tablet. “Continue, please.

    “It’s his movements for the last 7 days,” the informant spoke as pictures flashed on her screen, “actually six days, one of those days, he disappeared, but we got him back. Point is, looks like he’s close. I don’t know if your man’s got people he’s tight with but I sure don’t know about them. Only way I could track him was to go back through logs, man’s got a drinking habit not common around--”

    Of course,” she interrupted, “single malt.

    “Eh, yeah,” there was a pause, “he went for a weird label, hard to find, easy tell, if you know what I mean.”

    I don’t,” that was all the confirmation she needed, “How often did you observe him while tracing his steps?

    “Maybe once, twice, I don’t get too close, can’t let a guy know he’s being trailed, right?”

    How did he look?

    “I don’t know, tall, got a beard…” he stopped when her reaction didn’t seem entertained by his description.

    Never mind,” it was time this conversation ended. With luck she won’t need to know the answer to that question. After tapping on her device she removed the micro-SD card and put it away, “Your money is transferred, I’ll need you to keep an eye on him.

    “We meeting back here?”

    No,” she headed to the car, “I’ll be in touch.

    The Seal said something else but it seemed irrelevant. For the past two weeks she had hoped the inclination to believe Chase Devineaux was sniffing around her latest project was due to overactive paranoia. Yet there was no conceivable way he would know she was behind this, not unless something specifically tipped him off. She took a long breath to calm herself before she analysed too much. Perhaps if she returned to the basics and leave herself out of the equation. What would ACME’s Director of Operations be doing in Southern Siberia in February? Certainly there are better places to trophy hunt.

    Starting up the Bentley Continental, she ran its ice tyres to full speed. In the distance, a group of travellers were getting an early start touring the frozen lake, it was best she left before more arrived. Two more seconds revealed that the sun’s light-bending mirage against the lake’s surface may have misrepresented her original perception.

    Over near-frictionless indigo ice, a black Audi RS7 was fast flying towards her.
     
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  3. Chase

    Chase Director

    Messages:
    612
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Director of Operations
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Color #:
    536373
    Someone was tracking him. Thousands of miles inside middle-of-nowhere Southern Siberia, and some random nobody was tracking him. Chase Devineaux never took kindly to being followed, but he needed to see where this was going. When he discovered a tail, he shut all communications and instinctively made himself dark until he realized the game might be more complicated than he thought. To get the detail back on him, Chase returned to the same bar and regularly ordered Hibiki 17, Japanese Single Malt. That was enough to get him noticed.

    Now he was tracking the tracker and it was taking him off-road and on-ice, to one of the oldest lakes on earth.

    He squinted when a glint of red caught his eyes. A Bentley Continental -- the brand was known to test out their weatherproof engines on frozen ice -- so why not this god-forsaken winter?

    ...Because not even Bentley would test here.

    He turned. The car was traveling from the direction he was heading, according to the node he planted on his unknown tail. Calculations led to formulations in Devineaux’s head and when the results came out, he had more questions than answers.

    He cursed, but like a cold spike, his thoughts shattered when the Continental came closer.

    Hooked by unseen chains, the cars passed one another and drifted on the ice in full circle. Driver eyed driver, and once both came to a complete stop, tension was denser than the ice below.

    The Bentley made first move. She twisted her wheels and sped in the opposite direction.

    Don’t follow her, Chase’s logic was sensible, but his foot was already on the gas.
     
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  4. Carmen

    Carmen Queen of Crime

    Messages:
    37
    Color #:
    c00000
    The Bentley was an extraordinary car. Birthed from machines that safely transported European elites along cliff-side corniches, the Continental was a marvel of post-war engineering. After all, it was one of the first vehicles to feature rearview mirrors.

    In such mirror, Carmen watched the Audi. Over the lake’s surface it glided like a frictionless shadow. Her escape was nearby, and while she could maneuver well enough, her original plan placed him squarely at risk.

    After a long breath, the humanitarian side of Carmen gave in and she stopped the car.
     
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  5. Chase

    Chase Director

    Messages:
    612
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Director of Operations
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Color #:
    536373
    [Co-Writen with Carmen]

    When Chase saw the Bentley slow, he considered it a trap. Then when nothing came from it, he considered it highly anti-climatic.

    Although evidence told him the driver of the red car came in contact with someone that was tailing him, he had no physical proof the two events were related. But his instincts made the connection, and he believed his gut.

    Exiting the car, he walked a few steps forward to show his sincerity. She could still buck and run -- something she’s been know to do -- but he was willing to bet on large expanses of frozen ice that her getaway from this particular situation would be theatrical, maybe even dangerous. That was why, according to his calculations, she’s getting ready to convince him to back off several meters. She would reason with him, dangle answers here and there, and then eventually appeal to his sense of honor. Chase knew this, and he knew it would work too; because she wasn’t his target today. As unlikely as it was, this meeting was coincidental.

    After sufficient rumination, he watched her remove herself from the ruby vessel and study him from the rim of her lashes. There was surprise in her expression, briefly, and he wondered what she saw.

    You sent the tail,” Chase made the first statement -- plain, elegantly accusatory.

    Her body language shifted to something he had rarely seen, sympathy? Affinity? Whatever it was, she had put down her guard and melted his instantaneously.

    Chase, listen to me,” she spoke with emphasis, “you need to leave, right now.
     
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  6. Narrator

    Narrator Agent

    Messages:
    13
    Gender:
    Female
    [The following was written and edited by multiple people.]


    A train of Russian military trucks in gray and white cammo drove along the natural trails of Lake Baikal. Three semi-trailers and two vans moved from snow onto ice. Inside was a multinational crew of scientists, mostly. Their leader sat in the lead semi.

    Crystal blue eyes under a navy blue hoodie followed tire tracks on the ice. That’s funny, intel said no one was around. Then she spotted figures in the distance. If one of them was Carmen Sandiego, this was about to get complicated.

    The blonde tried not to think about it.

    “Slow down,” she said to her driver, then she dialed her phone, holding the device between the fingers of a gray wool glove.

    The man on the line wasn’t happy with her report. When lookout teams said they saw strange activity on the lake, they detected machinery not people. He was probably upset about the seal’s habitats, but she can’t help that.



    Leave?” Chase recuperated his accusatory tone just in time to detect the hum of engines. When he turned back to Carmen, her eyes directed him to the trucks.

    Are they yours?” she asked the exact question on his mind.

    No,” he shook his head, “but looks like rangers, so between the two of us, you need to run.

    And leave you here?

    Yes, go,” Devineaux reached to his pocket for his communicator.

    When his hands moved, she irrationally thought he was retrieving handcuffs. Her initial reaction quelled when he produced the ACME device, but she took a step back anyway.

    Go!” Chase commanded, “They’re probably marine biologists, I got this.

    Something felt wrong, but in this instant, she had no reason to doubt her former partner. The situation was spiralling and she preferred to escape now than confront something without proper information. Nodding agreement, she turned to her Continental and drove away. She’ll rendezvous with her exit craft, docked only a few miles ahead.

    Chase Devineaux briefly ruminated the way she walked off. This was one of those rare moments where she listened to him and he regretted that more friendly words weren’t exchanged.

    Thanks for doing this, Chase,” under his breath, he jokingly compensated for the gratitude he’ll never hear “Thanks for taking on these suspicious trucks while I make my escape.



    By the time the trucks got closer, there was only one figure and one car. The leader of the group could see through her binoculars exactly who it was. She bit her lower lip.

    “It’s Chase Devineaux,” She voiced into her phone and signaled her driver to stop, “I think Carmen’s on to us, we have to abort.”

    “Is he alone?” the voice on the line more demanded than asked, “Bring him to me!”


    Staying cool -- granted, he was standing on ice -- Chase hit record on his communicator and walked casually towards the semi-trailer leading the pack.

    I have a permit,” he shouted, “just scouting the area.


    Speaking through a loudspeaker, the blonde was nervous, “Stay where you are, Mr. Devineaux.”


    Chase stopped, he knew that voice, or at least the voice knew him.


    “Keep your hands up!” she dictated in a stronger tone.


    No, Chase thought, you don’t get to call me by name and then boss me around. But before he could counter with a witty retort, the frozen ground rumbled.

    With a thunderous clap, a large machine rose from the lake behind him. While Chase couldn’t pinpoint what it was exactly, it looked like a giant, black… flying snake. He hated snakes, but who was he to complain when one came to his aid.

    Taking his cue, ACME’s Director of Operations dashed into his car and hit the accelerator. Driving past the trucks, he tried to see who was behind the voice, but couldn’t quite make out anyone in particular. Then Devineaux turned on the Audi’s GPS cameras towards the flying machine behind him. If he couldn’t figure out what it was now, he may later.


    The blonde’s heart beat fast when she saw that machine. Nicknamed the MAMBA (Modular AMphiBious Aircraft), it was VILE’s latest beast. She had seen it a few times, but this time was completely different than the rest.

    Suddenly, she heard her driver prepping his gun.

    “No,” she ordered, “We’re heading back.”

    “We’re going to get the black car?” Obviously he seemed disappointed.

    “We,” she repeated, “Are. Heading. Back.”

    Reluctantly, the team started their engines and retraced the way they came.


    Roughly one hundred meters above the lake’s frozen surface, Carmen watched the scene below with unease. Visible logos on the trucks coincided with a Russian PMSC (private military and security company). They were equivalent to rangers, the detective was right.

    Once the Russian transports moved out, the MAMBA ignored them. Under command, its captain followed the black Audi and performed a surface scan to make sure nothing hostile was in its path.


    When Devineaux realized who might be flying that thing, he laughed to himself. All this activity, and she was only here to test her latest toy. That’s why she stopped her car where she did. Any closer and he could have been swallowed into the lake when that machine broke through ice. This was eventful, she had his back afterall.

    Opening the sunroof, he raised his hand to signal a casual thank-you.


    Inside the first section of the MAMBA’s chain, VILE’s leader saw Chase’s wave and smiled quietly. He seemed cheerful, this was a good sign.

    Let’s head out,” she nodded to her crew, “we’ll have to make do with whatever data we collected.

    “Directly back to Shore-One?” the captain used Stone Harbor’s codename.

    Not yet,” Carmen scrolled on her screen a series of artworks, “First a stop in Abu Dhabi.


    As the flying snake pulled up, Chase Devineaux closed his sunroof and steered his car towards the nearest exit.

    Renee,” he voice-called his assistant, “I just recorded audio, can you get it analyzed and report back to me, classified?

    She affirmed and he ended the conversation. Not far away, he could see the trucks drive up a trail further into the national park. Clearly they weren’t leaving, but what were they up to?
     
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  7. Flag

    Flag V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    31
    Gender:
    Male
    Color #:
    808080
    [ This and the next post are a collaboration between Flag and Carmen. They vaguely relate to events from Cadence (linked above) ]
    ---

    ACT I


    Considering the last time that he was in a plane, the flight from England to Abu Dhabi was almost a pleasant experience.

    Almost.

    He had spent the last 7 hours next to an infant that felt much the same as he did about flying, but was a whole lot more vocal about it. Since sleeping wasn’t an option, he played with his phone - noting the pre-heist “test” and “hello?” messages that Neb had sent his way to be left unanswered.

    The girl had been persistent in convincing him to keep in contact with her and he eventually allowed her to take his phone to find the number that would call it. He never bothered to look these up himself and it was very likely that it would be useless in about a week.

    Flag was not good with phones. Despite having figured out how to use even the most complicated of smartphones (and VILE’s certainly were that), he had difficulty not dropping them, frying them, or otherwise destroying the devices; a sign of an active life.

    One would not think that “acquiring” books would be a physically demanding business, but when the clients usually reached him through underground channels, a lot of hard work was often involved - as latest heist indicated.

    It was ironic that the young VILE member had hired him to do just that when he was on sabbatical. It was also fortuitous in that she made him pay attention to his phone again.

    Some time back, he had an acquaintance set up a system that alerted him to certain internet activities; rare book listings and events, in specific. There were a ton of these alerts hidden on his phone, but one stuck out in particular - an art auction in the United Arab Emirates.

    It had nothing to do with literature. In fact, he couldn’t even fathom why this event would ever ping on his radar - which made it more than a little intriguing. It also produced a reason to get off of Stone Harbor.

    The new Louvre in Abu Dhabi was a strange building. From the air, at night, it looked like someone caught the sun with a extremely thick net and pinned it to several floating altars that were not able to properly hold it. The perfect disk also had a extreme visual texture that made him want to rip it up and off the water like a scab.

    In the daytime and on ground level, it was different. The great dome sitting on the museum proper looked very much like what a few of his more informed VILE cohorts jokingly accused him of having driven to Earth.

    Really?

    Shaking his head, he let out a small “heh” and readjusted the jacket of his rental suit before going inside.


    Three decades ago, Jean Nouvel created the Oriental ornamentation of the kinetic sunshade façade at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The woman that now stood under his latest creation was a toddler then, too little to comprehend and too young to remember what she had seen. But as she paused by the steps between galleries, watching rays of sunlight kiss a shallow pool below, she felt nostalgia crawling under her skin.

    Here among sun-dried sands on Saadiyat Island, the architect’s theme was refined in the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi. Aluminum lines high above form octagrams and other mathematical order, casting hard shadow against stark white. Dressed in black with clean solid lines, she stood in contrast to the rain of light.

    Carmen walked away from the steps, but that edging familiarity still shaded her thoughts. Glancing up, she followed a ray down to the crowd; and spotted the recognizable sway of silver hiding glimpses of sunset.

    She waited until she was certain that he noticed her. Then with a nod, she turned, leading him towards the Grand Vestibule.


    The Grand Vestibule was bright in comparison to the shade of the halls outside, but it was no less an homage to humanity’s place in the universe.

    At the heart of the room, embedded in the polished white floor, five different types of marble formed a compass that pinpointed where among one hundred and six names the museum stood. The Emirates map, outlined in bronze, was surrounded by glass meridians that reached up and guided the eye to a skylight window observing the faux night beyond.

    One planet, one moon, one sun...

    Flag found that he didn't like that the imagery forced his thoughts to conjure up the base outlines for spells and compare how they'd be different back home. Any thought of home was difficult to handle, but these reminiscences seemed to push themselves to the forefront of his mind more and more as of late.

    For now, he saw through them and fixed his eyes on the black-clad radiance that lured him from the mindless crowd in the hall. He had been given a program upon his initial entrance and, in jest, held it up for her to see. "Here for the auction?"


    The suited man was precisely whom she believed him to be. Observing him scrutinize the floor’s inlaid lines brought her enviable curiosity. She wondered about the vastness he had encountered and how small the efforts of this museum must seem, uniting the world as one—ideas limited to those who know only one world.

    When he finally looked to her, she saw them both in iconic positions: aberrant and terrestrial, man and woman, sharing the same space but standing on opposite ends of a compass set in stone.

    Then he spoke and reminded her of the present. His tone of voice was satisfactory, particularly in jest. Carmen smiled and closed the gap between them.

    "There’s a piece by Ismail Shammout I wanted to see in person," Black-ribboned Atelier Versace tapped across the marble star as she took his hand, "Come, it’s on preview in one of the galleries."

    A few steps later, she squeezed his palm consciously as to check if he was corporeal. Then she lowered her voice in reflection, "But I think you knew that already."
     
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  8. Flag

    Flag V.I.L.E. Agent

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    Gender:
    Male
    Color #:
    808080
    What he knew, was the name she dropped, but from where?

    Following her lead - her right hand clasped in his left, smooth against his calloused fingers and branded palm - he remembered the name and consequently the reasoning behind the alert that started this strange trip.

    A question had been stirring in Flag for years now, but he had no idea how to translate it into words; how to ask it without imposing an answer. To allow the queried to respond naturally and honestly...

    He never saw A Farewell With a Promise by Ismail Shammout in person, but it had caused the death of a phone when it crossed his path digitally. The automatic alert was set on its replacement and aimed to notify two.

    As they entered the smaller gallery the tapping of her heels synchronized with beating of his heart and he staggered, accidently letting go of her hand. No matter, they had arrived.

    The two and half foot wide oil painting was lovingly crafted with short, expertly placed, brush strokes that depicted two nude figures standing at a small table. They had their arms around each other, but there was nothing sexual about this piece. They were despairing for he was leaving for war and she wearing his promise to return on her breast; a small golden pendant that had - on the phone - bore a resemblance to an item once precious to Flag.

    But, she was the one that left...

    His slitted eyes shifted his head sideways to observe his companion quietly as she inspected the painting.


    Works from Ismail Shammout famously depicted the struggles of a people expelled. In comparison to his murals of emotive crowds and longing landscapes, "A Farewell with a Promise" was a smaller piece painted in 1979. Primarily subdued and calming, lines flowed as fragrances surrounding a couple in rare intimacy. Roses representing divine love bloom in a glass vase resting atop a plate with an apple and an orange. Beyond physical suffering, war often rendered memories of a parted beloved so desperately intangible. Under closed eyes, the painted man remembers, with all his senses.

    She decided that she liked it. A proxy will be placing bids in her place this evening, and yet another proxy will put it on loan to a collective of museums under ICOM. Works like this should remain in the public eye.

    Carmen’s lips unconsciously relaxed as she focused, and when she felt herself observed, she smiled without shifting stance. "Interesting, isn’t it?" A contralto undertone permeated the silence, "Ideas worth cherishing are sometimes the hardest to hold."

    Turning to the man next to her, she recalled he had earlier staggered. Brightly-lit museums are notorious for draining energy. Did he seem slightly paler? Concern arched on her brows and Carmen inquired, "Are you well?"


    Flag had nodded at her statement on the painting, but stopped when she asked about his well being.

    He cast his eyes back at the painting, humored mildly by her study of it. Hopeful even that she may - or may not - have related to it on a personal level like he had. This dichotomy of wishes, that had held province on his thoughts for some time, was finally overthrown by a need for desistance.

    "I suspect I know the reason that you've been aloof."

    He took a deep breath and turned so that his attention was visibly on her. "After Russia, but before the monks, we shared... a moment. I need to know what it meant to you."


    Carmen gave a soft, corresponding inhalation.

    Her lips parted to form the phrase ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’—the instinct to deny anything that fell beyond concrete reality flared quickly. But if she declared that sentence, she would be lying.

    While in thought, her focus faltered from his radiating attention and latched once again upon art. The same colors and lines seemed different in the wake of his words. For a moment she felt the image, perhaps by empathy, through the perception of the man next to her. The sorcerer revealed to her the cause of his quests at the monastery. Yet retrospectively, between Kamchatka and the Riesling vineyards, he held her.

    Naturally, she exhaled.

    "I can’t yet fathom that moment," Honesty floated lighter than rebuff and her vision rose from painting to listener, "I had hoped it would make sense in time. Is that impractical?"


    "Impractical?" Flag shook his head, somehow managing to look relieved and disappointed at the same time. "No. It was a strange happening without a frame of reference..."

    He stopped and mulled over whether he should provide that context or not - finally deciding that of course he should. She hadn't formed It herself and that simple fact was all he needed to have his answers.

    "I believe that the method in which we arrived in the vineyard had, somehow, overlaid one of my memories on your consciousness." His eyes wandered to her shadow on the floor. "I never intended to share that."

    Almost under his breath, he continued. "It was the worst day of my life."


    Relating to his confession, she took a step closer and adjusted the lapels of his suit from notch to roll. If what she had seen was part of his memory, then she was honored to share that insight. But as she consciously recollected her own vision, she found herself not concurring with his sense of sorrow. Instead she felt resolution, and hope.

    "The look on your face was wrenching," she spoke delicately in a tone that flowed from the strange memory, her eyes still tracing the rim of his jacket, "Could it have been so bad, the day your daughter was born?"

    A moment of stillness followed, then she briskly looked up. "Thank you, for providing context. I should have consulted you sooner, but…" yet another step forward and she leaned to kiss his right cheek, "you’re braver than I am."


    Her hands were distracting and his breaths shortened while they were on him. Out of reflex he went on to answer "I lost..." to her first question when he choked on his words at her second.

    His face. She had seen his face! She knew about his daughter. She... She...

    Was pulling away.

    His hand shot out and caught hers before distance prevented it. "Ta..." he started with his wife's name, but when she turned he saw Carmen's face and cut himself off again, respecting a woman whom he owed an unpayable debt.

    "No." his voice faltered and he pulled her into an embrace, resting the side of his head against the side of hers. "You're wrong. I'm not brave."


    The surprise that initially flashed in her eyes subdued quickly in his hold. Following suit, her arms rose to catch his shoulders. His denial seemed even more inaccurate now, how was this hushed confession not brave?

    In the silence, she considered his thoughts and his words. She could not claim to understand everything he sought, but it seemed he found something today. Carmen hoped this was the beginning of a larger revelation, because in the two years since events in Kamchatka, her dreams occasionally played antagonist to logic. Involuntarily, she sank her head into bend of his neck.

    Crowds arriving with a later tour began to fill the small gallery. If they stood in Paris, she may have remained longer, but they were in Abu Dhabi and convoluted laws existed against public display of affection.

    “I have the MAMBA resting in the Gulf,” with a dulcet whisper, she took a step towards the exit, “Do you need a ride back to Stone Harbor?”


    Thoughts of the recent flight immediately popped into his mind and he released her, confident that she wouldn't vanish on him. "Yes. Thank you."

    Before the crowd made it impossible, they left. The auction continued without incident, unbeknownst to the Louvre Abu Dhabi that not only one, but two internationally renowned thieves slipped in and out of its grand entrance.

     
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  9. Narrator

    Narrator Agent

    Messages:
    13
    Gender:
    Female
    [This post was co-written]

    Nowhere, Siberia... Maybe


    "Can you keep a secret?"

    Those words played repeatedly in the blonde’s ears as she brought her teams back to regroup.

    "Sometimes, doing the right thing requires a lot of patience... and sometimes, I feel like patience is all I have."

    The woman, in her early 20s, pulled off the hood she wore and took brisk even steps across the garage where the cammo-painted trucks parked. For the last 8 months she focused on training, convinced herself that her choices were good, and even gave up her old habits to become someone new. She had major second thoughts today.

    Walking at the same pace, she passed through concrete lined hallways full of cubic rooms until she reached the largest one. Inside was a white room filled with Scandinavian plywood furniture. An old man sat in a black leather Eames chair with his back towards her. In front of them both was a column fireplace.

    “She was onto us,” the blonde shrugged when she entered, “I couldn’t take that risk.”

    “Are we thieves or humanitarians?” the old man jeered at the flames, “We know we can’t be both, don’t we?”

    “We’re thieves,” she replied, “but--”

    “Then we take!” he slammed his fist with a thud.

    The blonde wasn’t fazed, “International law enforcement was there.”

    “ONE man!” the chair spun around and a pair of foggy eyes with pinpoint pupils stared back at her, “And the one man that could have given us leverage!”

    Terrified for a moment, the younger thief collected herself. She didn’t like what he was implying. Using anyone as leverage was flat out wrong.

    “You wanted to be better, don’t you?” the old man continued, his breath mixed with tobacco and ash, “Smarter, stronger?”

    She couldn’t answer. Sitting there, the blond felt her mentor’s burning stare.

    “It’ll be fine, vennen,” he laughed after a long silence, using the term of endearment almost sarcastically, “When you couldn’t get the detective, I caught a spy!”
     
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  10. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    122
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Currently named Neb Ulyss
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F

    Neb welcomed the cloak of night that fell over the Stone, for in its darkness she could no longer see the ever present gray that shrouded it.

    She had chosen to take roost in the same gutted cupola that she had during her last swing; a large round attic ringed with windows that no one could see in from below. When the sun shone through them it was glorious, but as it almost never did, she’d covered up a good many of the windows with insulation to keep warm in the winter.

    The last time she'd stayed here this was little more than a place to hide, but this time she'd made an obvious attempt at home furnishing. Much like her apartment in San Francisco, the Dome was decorated in castoff retro fashion, furnished with well-worn pieces she’s managed to haul up several flights of stairs, and besotted with collected kitsch. Interlaced amongst it had been her laboratory, but the only obvious sign of it remaining was a not-so-elegant mass of metal and wires with a few LED strips added for aesthetic purposes.

    Some time ago the woman had fashioned teleporter pads out of a hybrid of ACME C5 tech and what she’d remembered of Flag’s method. For a while there had only been two; one here and one at her apartment to easily travel between them, but recently she had built a third, far far away.

    Neb paused her packing to get a drink from her tiny refrigerator.

    Six weeks ago she’d fallen asleep with Flag in her hospital room, and when she awoke, he was gone. It was the first time they’d been out of contact for months. She hadn’t thought of it much at first, or rather, hadn’t let herself. There was a book to decipher and plans to make, her quest forever running against the clock. But eventually her concerns over the Silver-haired man crept in, until she could no longer ignore that she’d made a critical error.

    Against her wishes, she was going to have to move.

    Now that move was almost complete, and Neb was exhausted. “Want food,” she whined at the tin-plated ceiling. She shot a glance at the box of granola bars she’d been subsisting on and grimaced. “Want real food.”

    They were serving tacos in the mess hall tonight, but that meant going Outside. "Stupid Outside" she muttered, but the memory of tasty taco goodness called to her and suddenly all she wanted was tacos. "Damn it."

    Neb glanced at the glowing digital clock over her mattress. Ten PM. No one would be out. She pulled on a windbreaker and an oversized wool hat, then descended the stairs.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2018
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  11. Carmen

    Carmen Queen of Crime

    Messages:
    37
    Color #:
    c00000
    In the six hours between Abu Dhabi and these gray UK shores, Carmen had done surprisingly little. She presided over collected information and reviewed schedules sent from her controller at Headquarters. Her next plans for the organization rescinded thoughts on Russian trucks and purchased paintings. Some order must first be restored to long neglected chaos. Occasionally, she looked towards Flag. When she could put more of her questions into words, she’ll have to systematically consult him.

    It was nighttime when they descended into Stone Harbour. Data gathered from roughly one week in Lake Baikal were immediately transferred to servers. The MAMBA was docked and inspected, to be thoroughly cleaned and maintained before its next flight. Days under frigid waters resulted in some damage to cloaking membranes but few other notable defects. Any other report could wait until morning.

    By twenty-two hundred hours local time, VILE’s ringleader was stepping out of a warm bath. Quickly gathering her hair into a bun, she dressed in silk and reviewed the week’s events on her tablet. Incidentally, the SD card from her Siberian tracker was still inserted and an image of Chase Devineaux loaded automatically. Behind the man and his structured beard, a light-haired woman sat in a corner booth among what looked like anglers. The figure reminded her of how lost an acquaintance may be at this hour.

    Carmen exhaled and turned off the screen. In the darkness of her quarters, she spotted someone walking below. It was a girl that called herself Neb, one of Vic’s, and perhaps subsequently Flag’s trainee. Although she doubted Neb still needed guidance, she sensed a missing wholeness in the VILE member’s demeanor.

    Throwing a coat over her shoulders and slipping into an easy pair of white Converse, she glided silently down carpeted steps and began to shadow a new curiosity.
     
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  12. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    122
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Currently named Neb Ulyss
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    Please still be there, please still be there, Neb thought as she hurried along. The mess hall was open 24 hours to cater to those henchmen whose work could only be done under the cover of darkness, but that didn’t mean the supply of hot dinner would last the night. This time, however, she was in luck.

    “Yessss” she breathed as dumped on far too much cheese at the taco bar. Then she turned to leave, but she was too hungry to wait any longer and took a spot in the corner.

    Man, I’m going to miss this place, she thought as her eyes drifted across the hall.
     
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  13. Carmen

    Carmen Queen of Crime

    Messages:
    37
    Color #:
    c00000
    When Carmen entered VILE’s mess hall, a superintendent came to her. Maple Landon worked the night shift here. She was one of Vincent Fumigalli’s hired team of engineers, but she found higher calling in the kitchen. Naturally a night owl, she liked the lowkey environment of serving midnight eats instead of dealing with the mealtime rush. It also gave her time to spend on video calls with her sister in Australia.

    “It’s been a while,” Maple’s smile pushed into her warm green eyes, “would you like the usual scrambled eggs?”

    “No thank you,” Carmen replied softly, a sudden sense of familiarity let her mirror the woman’s smile. She then hinted to Neb’s back as cheese piled onto a plate, “What is she having?”

    “Tacos,” Maple nodded, “would you like that? Soft shell, tomato sauce, roasted chicken?”

    The thief agreed, “Yes please, I’ll be right over there.”

    Walking up to Neb, Carmen’s eyes momentarily followed hers across the hall before settling back down.

    “Hello,” in the serenity, she greeted, “May I sit here?”
     
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  14. Kid Kidman

    Kid Kidman V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    122
    Gender:
    Female
    Occupation:
    Currently named Neb Ulyss
    Location:
    Here and there
    Color #:
    323E4F
    The smaller woman’s gaze had lingered on the exact wrong end of the room a few seconds too long, allowing the sneaker-clad master thief to appear in front of her unnoticed.

    Jesus mother of-, what are you doing here?!” Neb started as her taco jumped out of her hand, then caught herself. “Wait... Of course you would be here. This is your base,” she ended, mortified.

    Awkward seconds followed as she scrambled to regain her bearings, then recalled Carmen’s original question and nodded. “I’m sorry, I... just wasn’t expecting to see you,” she said in apology, praying that the emotion behind that statement was hidden from view.


    A politely receptive expression displayed at Neb’s series of reactions. That gesture was endearing to her, and Carmen smiled kindly.


    “I doubt many expect me anywhere,” the thief replied, sat down and crossed her legs, “Flag picked me up, in fact; from Abu Dhabi. We landed a few hours… ago…”

    The gray knit headwear was rather distracting, and Carmen paused. She studied the woman’s expressive eyes and the scars that marked her face. Despite their cause, these lines formed a look signature to Neb, and the observer drew a fond conclusion that she could not imagine seeing this face without them.

    “May I remove your hat?” She wanted a better view of her shy audience.


    Neb stiffened at the mention of Flag and she quickly averted her eyes. So that’s where he was. ...They were together. “Oh,” she said quietly. Then Carmen’s second question landed and she cringed inwardly.

    “I, uh…”

    She couldn’t say no; she owed this woman too much, but she couldn’t help but recall when ACME’s director had removed something similar. “Yeah.”

    With thankful affirmation, Carmen lifted the mess of knit from strands of short pallid hair. This gave her time to evaluate that singular ‘oh’ and the slight chill surrounding it. She had sent Neb to train under Flag, what transpired?

    “A heist ended with you injured,” she opened, “How are you now?”

    Neb’s cheeks burned as what remained of her brittle, thinning hair was revealed, and she kept her eyes on her food. “It’s not too bad,” she said as she tested her arm. “It’s still stiff and hurts a bit, but I can do most things with it now.”

    The small woman paused, then added softly. “Thank you for my treatment.”


    Carmen focused on Neb’s restrained movements, and after she listened, lifted a hand to feel the arm for herself. Her lips curved receptively in response to the expression of gratitude, but she remained in thought. For measure, another few weeks under care may be needed.

    For a few minutes she didn’t say anything more, uncertain what to do. This was not expected. None of this was expected, and she struggled to keep her distance, but the urge to connect with her long lost ally was strong.


    “So…. How are you?”

    The follow-up question triggered a raise of brows. Indeed, how was she? Was she well, since Kamchatka, was she still recovering from something long triggered, or was she simply in undecided limbo?

    Carmen respired a long silent breath as she touched Neb’s wrist absently. “I’m better today,” she concluded. “In my latest activities report, you cancelled your upcoming checkups.” She recalled what she saw while reviewing documents enroute to Stone Harbour.

    “Why?”


    The physical contact startled her, having been so long denied it, and Neb momentarily lost her train of thought. Then she swore inwardly. She’d wanted to keep those checkups open and then simply not show, but in Carmen’s absence the odds of anyone checking them were close to nil, and she felt she owed her fellow healers some courtesy.

    That had come back to bite her.

    “I….” she replied almost soundlessly. “...did something stupid, and now I have to hide. .”

    She looked up at Carmen with a regretful smile. “Thank you for everything you’ve given me. You’ve saved my life over and over again. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again, but I’m glad I did, so I could properly thank you and say goodbye.”


    Turning her head at a slight angle, the thief listened with empathy. If anyone knew about errors and escape…

    Maple arrived to deliver the tacos and VILE’s leader nodded to her with thanks. After that brief distraction, she leaned forward.

    Neb’s tone was revealing. She was grateful in part, fearful in part, but overall cornered into believing that her options were constricted. Carmen knew this was a turning point, that neither Neb nor herself would be blameless if the healer was left to her own defenses.


    “Alright,” a compassionate acknowledgement preceded her next words, “Precisely whom are you hiding from?”

    Neb bit her lip hard as her heart sped up and she half focused her gaze at a nearby chair leg. She wanted to end the conversation and get on with her evacuation, but at the last possible moment the only person she could fully entrust her secrets to had materialized before her. It was too much to resist.

    “What do you do…" she began, "When you find you’ve become attached to the worst possible person for you?”

    The ‘worst possible person for you’ scale was difficult to establish, but despite, more than a few identities materialized in Carmen’s head. Of course she detached from anyone whose bond to her felt taxing, but she enjoyed affinity in general.

    “What is this about?” The thief inquired promptly, “Who are you attached to?”

    Neb’s face flushed bright red, and she tugged nervously at her collar to release the heat building up under her coat.

    “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble," she mumbled at the table, "especially not him. He needs this place. You’re the only person he seems to like. I don’t want to take that away from him...”


    Sweat began to drip down the side of her neck and she finally unzipped her coat, revealing more of her accumulated damage. “It’s just, he’s my blind spot. I can’t have that going on.”

    Lightly, she breathes, “I can’t tell you what you must do, because I don’t know the entire story.” Carmen stood to help Neb remove her coat, “I also don’t know how you’ll survive out there.”

    “What I can offer you…,” she glanced at the scars as she pulled the windbreaker off and took a seat in the adjacent chair, “is a listening ear, and some form of protection.”

    A brief pause cut her thoughts, as if her words once belonged to someone else.

    “If you need anything, come to me,” this statement was definitive, “but I can’t help you from yourself, so remember to share.”


    Neb felt tears sting at the corners of her eyes. She’d had this dream before, but it had always proven to be just that. The master thief generally resisted close companionship, something made clear to the girl by how VILE’s structure had changed from the centralized community she’d grown up in, to a loose, transient alliance it was now.

    Carmen's offer didn't make sense to her in that light, but she had little choice. Her boss was right. Without steady access to healthcare, the girl's gamble would probably fail. She stared at the woman across from her, a ghost suddenly so close, so real. Neb reached out to confirm, but stopped short, uncertain where the boundary lay between them.

    “Are...you sure you’re okay with that?” she asked, her voice wavering between hope and fear.

    A glint in the leader’s eyes preceded her signature self-congratulatory smile. Catching Neb’s reach in her palm, she quickly placed another hand to enclose it.

    “I hope you’re not questioning me,” she spoke with mocked seriousness, and then continued, “I’ll be in the observation deck tomorrow morning, meet me there.”

    She didn’t remember moving, but when reality reached Neb again she found herself in Carmen’s arms. Silent tears of gratitude stained the woman’s signature coat. She had wished for a moment like this, and maybe after so many years of holding herself up, it was time to try to trust again. "I'll be there," her promise was clear.

    [This post was co-written with @Carmen]
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2018
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  15. Chase

    Chase Director

    Messages:
    612
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Director of Operations
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Color #:
    536373
    ACME HQ, San Francisco, CA

    Accolade’s 21st floor had one of the best views in San Francisco—that perfect height between the city’s towers and its iconic rooftops. Chase Devineaux arrived from an early flight, landing in ACME’s Airfield and shuttled his way to the main compound. He wanted the day off and maybe a slow afternoon catching up on sleep, but a member of the Board was coincidentally in town and wanted to meet him as soon as humanly possible.

    Pacing to his office, Devineaux didn’t notice San Francisco's sweeping skylines or spectacular golden sunrise, but he did nod to Board Secretary Gunther Metzger, who coincidentally sneezed. The trumpeting noise surprised Renee, Chase’s trusty assistant. She dropped her reports and wasn’t able to warn him before he opened the door.

    Standing behind the director’s desk with an iced tumbler in hand was former political lawyer and ACME’s current CEO, Barbara Rosen. When he entered, she put the glass down.

    “Why were you in Siberia?” Rosen’s deep piercing tone delivered a loaded question.

    I was on vacation,” Chase gave a rehearsed reply then took an opposite seat. They’ve been through similar sessions before—she’d ask the questions, he’d answer casually, then she’d shoot him with something he should have disclosed or known, but didn’t.

    Rosen said nothing and took a seat in the director’s usual Herman Miller.

    Devineaux narrowed his eyes.

    An uncomfortable pause stretched until the employee opened his mouth.

    “I need you to go back there,” Rosen interrupted, “One of our sister ‘espionage’ organizations is missing a spy.”

    And what makes you think this has something to do with me?

    She looked grim, Chase thought, but not the sort of lowered glare that came from being ACME’s top decision-maker. It was more as if she was trying to say as little as possible.

    “His last transmission had pictures of you,” her words were carved from granite, “a black car, a red car, and--”

    Right,” Devineaux nodded, “I get it.

    He was going back to Siberia.

    Barbara Rosen lifted her glass and twisted her wrist to stir the ice within. This was her agreement.

    Is that all?” Chase took her empty glass and placed it on a side table. This was, after all, still his office.

    The older woman shrugged effortlessly and stood up to leave, “Do something with that beard.”
     
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  16. Chase

    Chase Director

    Messages:
    612
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Director of Operations
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Color #:
    536373
    An hour later…

    Give me some good news, Renee,” Chase Devineaux sat in his office chair while Renee Grovesnor handed him closed case files that needed his signature.

    “Mrs. Rosen did say she won’t negotiate with the kidnappers in a memo to the board,” natural curiosity prevailed, “so why would she have you go back to Siberia?”

    Official and unofficial,” Chase answered, “two different sorts of negotiations… two different sorts of repercussions.

    “Well…,” the assistant sat down in a guest chair and stared at him blinkless for a moment.

    You have something in mind?” he picked up his pen, pausing it mid-air.

    “You told me to run that voice recording, from Lake Baikal?”

    Chase nodded.

    “It doesn’t have a specific match from our databases…”

    But?

    “But,” Renee pulled her chair closer, “I remember very few people ever calling you Mr. Devineaux, that way. So I thought I’d check the old files from Venice, and Kamchatka, when we did that joint operations?”

    It’s not Carmen Sandiego,” Devineaux interrupted, “don’t waste your time.

    “It’s not,” she replied affirmatively, “the voice belongs to a VILE associate with the alias Patty Larceny.”

    Chase considered the possibility of Patty joining an environmentalist group and leaned back into his chair. “Christ,” he chuckled lightly, “is this all I’m dealing with?

    “I suggest you send someone else to handle this situation,” Renee proffered, “Clearly, it’s soft negotiations and your time is better spent on the Lopé National Park issue in Gabon.”

    No, it’s fine,” a shrug later, Chase was back to signing papers, “I’m going to close this thing with Larceny and wrap up the spy’s release. I was there, should be me.

    The woman smiled and gandered through her boss’s timetable.

    Her Imagination,” she spoke the name of Chase’s boat, “You have people resealing her deck midweek should I reschedule?”

    Keep it,” he insisted, “I’ll be back by then.
     
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  17. Flag

    Flag V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    31
    Gender:
    Male
    Color #:
    808080
    The floor of the Mamba was not carpeted, but it did have a nice, corrugated rubber runway that Flag could see stretch out into infinity from his vantage point. It was a good choice in flooring for an amphibious vessel.

    Rolling onto his back, he noted the ceiling was smooth in comparison, but also textured. He had no mental comment on this and he pulled his feet from the chair he had abandoned in his slumber. Sitting up he pondered on the events that lead him to this state.

    He had left the museum with Carmen, boarded this behemoth of a mobile base, and together they sat to wait out the trip in the company of the submersibles crew. She had work to oversee and had pulled out a tablet, while the fact that he had been awake for 48 or more hours had finally caught up with him.

    Surprisingly, he slept well. For the first time in a long while, he subconsciously acknowledged that there was no chance that his rest would be disrupted. He was safe, even if uncomfortable. Snoozing half-on/half-off a chair had not been the best of ideas.

    Shedding the coat of his now stolen suit and unbuttoning the constricting top buttons on his shirt, he left the segmented machine and entered the islands subterranean level. This was the work home of VILE's scientists - whom he didn't know, but had some appreciation for. It was also a bit of a maze to exit and he had gotten lost a few times before making it to the surface.

    Flag found himself on a familiar boardwalk and oriented himself on it so as to arrive at the theater central to the islands secret crime organization. He paused briefly at a small wrought iron table positioned under a street lamp and cracked a rare smile at a memory it brought. Before he could remember that night in detail, he caught wind of the fact that he was not alone in the light of the early morning.
     
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  18. Acton Roux

    Acton Roux V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    17
    Gender:
    Male
    Color #:
    403050
    [Co-post: Acton/Flag]

    The doctor had left his laboratory, locking its large doors with an iron clad bolt. Each early morning he would take the side alley from his workshop past the back of the theater until he reached another small road that took him to the living quarters and his apartment. Yet today, with heightened activity from the incoming MAMBA, much of the staff were busy preparing to impress the Indomitable Carmen Sandiego. The alleys were cluttered with boxes heading to and from VILE's newest flying machine.

    So it was that Dr Acton Roux took a different turn and spotted Flag upon the boardwalk. The observed curiously paused at a street lamp. Acton suddenly recalled something he read as part of his study into this man after Kamchatka. Thus, as Flag turned to his direction, the masked doctor ducked as if expecting an attack.

    When nothing happened, he smoothed out his sleeves and nodded sheepishly, "I... thought you wielded lightning," under his muffled masked, he made a nervous chuckle, "good morning, you have returned, no?"


    Flag found himself surprised by the man's surprise and had leaned back a little in reaction. He then settled in kind before raising an eyebrow at the doctor's first question. Instead of answering it, however, he moved on to address the second. "I seem to have. It looks like Stone Harbor."

    After a moment of silence the Sivoan nodded a brief "thank you for your help a few weeks back" and stepped forward to continue his trek to the theater.


    Acton Roux stood still for some moments before he decided it was quite all right to follow his superior officer. Even though the atmosphere in VILE has no true ranking, the Frenchman by habit was keen to keep himself from overstepping bounds.

    Walking in shuffling feet next to the suited man, he made a comment, "Were you at a ball?" Parties were rare, the last he recalled VILE members speaking of was one in Venice, some Blue Moons ago.


    "Auction." He glanced at the doctor. "It was in a museum."

    "A oui," the masked muttered, but then he became curious very quickly, "With..." he paused to wonder why he was so curious but it was too late to change his question, "...The Lady?"

    A softness added itself to Flag’s normally neutral expression before dissolving into faint concern. "Yeah."

    Acton took many seconds to read Flag's reaction. Then it occurred to him that he had spoken a few too many words, and then remained silent for too long. "Yes... oui," he added softly.

     
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  19. Joe Kerr

    Joe Kerr V.I.L.E. Agent

    Messages:
    114
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    VILE Agent, Part-Time Security Consultant
    Location:
    Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
    Color #:
    8a2be2
    [Co-post between Joe Kerr, Flag, and Acton]

    Joseph walked awkwardly up to the duo; he hadn’t meant to eavesdrop but he had heard a familiar french accent and decided to investigate. He had just turned the corner when he had come upon the good doctor and the silver-haired enigma in the dying throes of their conversation.

    “Ahem, good morning gentlemen. Sorry to interrupt.”

    “Doctor,” he turned to address Roux with a smile, “always good to see you. Thank you again for treating Neb. I trust you’ve been well?”


    “Oui, that was my pleasure,” the doctor returned Joe's happy greeting. The respectable jester was an astounding chemist as well, and all feelings are mutual, “I have been good, it is nice to see you also.”

    He did give an acknowledgement from behind his mask, but he remained quiet for the duration.


    Turning to Flag, his smile faded slightly as he nodded more in respect than amiability. “Flag.”
    For a brief moment, some unspoken conversation seemed to occur as Joseph looked up into the Sivoan’s eyes silently and respectfully, without challenge or anger.

    “How is she?”


    To that question, Acton tensed involuntarily. (to be added only if it makes the sense)

    This question again. Flag greeted Joe with a nod before pausing to consider which "she" the jester meant. The last that he had seen the man, he was on the verge of fighting with him in the hospital room of a female cohort on the mend. However, that had been several weeks ago and the jester had more of a chance to visit her since he himself had left the island. This suggested that he meant their leader, whom he had returned to the island with the previous evening.

    Guessing was preposterous. The answer to both possible references was the same and he repeated the words he had uttered to a certain detective years ago. "She's fine."


    “She always is, somehow. Though with how close she plays her cards, you have to wonder sometimes…”

    Mr Kerr was right, the masked doctor considered, her resourcefulness gave her strength, but she was often opaque and difficult to read.

    "She has yet to complete her mid-year check-up," Acton spoke up without prelude. In the seconds that ticked after, Dr Roux wondered if the 'she' on his mind was the same 'she' in the minds of his peers. "I mean to say Carmen," he decided to clarify, "Carmen's medical files have not been updated since last year."


     
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  20. Carmen

    Carmen Queen of Crime

    Messages:
    37
    Color #:
    c00000
    "Are you in charge of that, Acton?" With the North Wind, her voice glided down before her footsteps. Carmen woke approximately forty-five minutes ago, slightly later than she had hoped. With both hands in their respective coat pockets, her brisk pace slowed as the thief approached her comrades.

    First, she greeted the masked man. "Last I checked, you were not,” her voice softened and she politely nodded, “but I appreciate the sentiment."

    With Joe Kerr, she leaned in to kiss his left cheek and then his right, "I hope you're well, Mr Kerr, we need to catch up."

    For the last man was a casually stated "Hello," as she scrutinized him slightly and then smiled without reservation, "I take it that you haven't showered since we landed?"
     
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