Closed Ultramarine

Color #
6a99a6
Using his scope to try identify the men, his equipment registered the big one as Norwegian Marine Biologist Gunnar Maelstrom. Then a blue light flashed across his radius. He ignored the first one, but when a few more appeared, he had to pause. Giant glowing butterflies started to land near him.

Shoo!” Nevon whispered and blew on their wings, but they didn’t seem to mind, “Go away, butterflies.

Then suddenly someone touched his shoulder.

What do you see, Mr Blair?” Carmen’s voice was so calm he didn’t feel surprised. It was as if she’d been here all along.

Gunnar Maelstrom,” Nevon reported, “and… Captain Meiru, in red… Where are we?” Nevon hoped she knew more.

We’re at the heart of the temple,” the thief explained, “At the very top is the ‘womb’, where the god of the temple resides. Down there,” she indicated to the floor where Maelstrom stood, “is where religious leaders once meditated. Lower still are levels for temple visitors.

You came from above?” Blair was curious, “Did you find anything?

The top chamber, yes,” she divulged in whisper, “you won’t believe it. There’s a sort of master console in the form of an ancient throne--

She was interrupted. Down in the chamber, Maelstrom was preaching louder, his arms more animated than before.

At ground level, the air was warmer, even hot this far into the temple. Natural conduits transported heat from deep thermal vents to counter cooler temperatures above, creating a sort of microbiome.

The sweat-drenched Norwegian removed his coat as he spoke to his men. Something metallic glinted between his shoulder blades and down his back. Nevon thought it looked like a kind of back brace, but as he watched the man talk, he had another question.

Do you think... he’s convinced Captain Meiru is you?” Blair asked, unsure of what he was watching.

He knows that’s not me,” she assured and touched his backpack to divert attention, “Nevon, do you have something that activates photoreceptors?

You mean like a flashbang? Yes.

And something that can multiply your voice?

Also yes,” he paused, “Do you want me to use them?

I do,” Carmen glanced down at the people below, “This needs to happen quickly, here’s the plan…
 
[Cowritten: Nevon & GMs]

The precarious situation that which Captain Meiru Basra found herself was not at all foreign. Born in Pakistan and raised partially in the United Kingdom, she had seen her share of conflict. Enlisting with the RAF, she made it to the rank of Group Captain, but family issues in Pakistan required her to first return home. Unrest in Peshawar took the life of her second sister and left one of her nephews unable to walk.

While weighing her decision to work as a commercial pilot, a friend suggested that a private contractor was looking for pilots with military experience to fly test aircrafts. The company she applied to was ‘Gavcorp Aeronautics’ and the beasts she was allowed to fly whetted her appetite for more. Eventually, she was given access to Carmen Sandiego and her organization, and it wasn’t until she was assigned to pilot the head of the fabled MAMBA that she finally felt complete.

The reason she was in a red coat and pretending to be her boss at this point in time, was part of a decoy protocol she was assigned in case of emergency. Not all missions required decoys, but at least one was always prepared. She could not exactly recall how she got so far into the temple, but temperatures were lower and she wore the coat over her tactical clothes to keep warm. She discovered that Ultralett had found two of her friends and offered herself in exchange for them. She told them she was Carmen Sandiego, and they believed her.

She knew she only looked the part, and thought that once Maelstrom saw her, she’d be done. But when she was in front of the Norwegian, he had a gleam in his eyes that turned something wicked. Eerily, he played along with her secret, and Meiru Basra realized she might be in over her head.

Her saving grace came in the form of a little silver canister.

While the madman was distracted, a flashbang grenade launched from one of the doors and landed in the middle of the chamber. It went off with a loud ‘pop!’ followed by another canister, and then another.

While she struggled out of the way, a hand reached out for her. She recognized him as the ACME Scout and gladly took his lead.

From her perspective, she could see the Norwegian and some of his of Ultralett heading away in the other direction. She spied the blue light on his metal spine contraption disappear behind pillars.

The ACME agent guided her out into the halls and helped her outrun the men that came after them. When they were safe, and with a moment to breathe, she gave him a hug.

“Bloody brilliant way to clear a room!” She praised in an excited whisper, “Are you alone?”

Carmen’s with me,” Nevon replied after he pulled out his gasmask, “or she was.

“ ‘Was’?” she looked worried, “What do you mean?”

She told me to take you back to the MAMBA, she’ll take care of Gunnar Maelstrom.

Captain Meiru sighed. Both her palms went to her knees and she took a moment to catch her breath.

“OK, Nevon, right?” She asked and he answered with a double-nod, “Since you’re part of VILE now, I’m going to give you the rules. One--Carmen’s word is law, and Two--Unless Carmen tells you to leave her. Did you get that alright?”

Nevon thought about it for a few seconds, “Yes, I think so.

Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he gripped his utility launcher, took a hold of Captain Meiru’s wrist and started guiding her further down the hallway.

“Were you listening?” The pilot resisted when she saw he was going the wrong way.

We’re going back for Carmen,” Nevon replied, “I know where she is, follow me!
 

Chase

Director
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
[Cowritten: Patty/Chase/Ivy/Deric]

Meanwhile, near the temple gates...

The Valkyrie had a list of things she was afraid of but usually ignored. Things like water slides, FOMO, and bugs that lay eggs in human skin.

Somehow, she found herself near the entrance of the temple complex, under one of its arched alley ways. She had no idea having chunks of her memory gone like this was scarier than water slides.

One second she was standing next to a bunch of people, and the next she was on her back somewhere dark. In her ear was a ringing white noise that grew louder. Pretty soon, it started to sound like a battle.

Thinking back, did she have a fight with somebody about some kind of shooting sounds?

Slowly, she got up and made her way towards the temple gates.


* * *​

Devineaux raced along with his team down the open corridor towards the temple. As they got closer, he spotted a woman at the doorway, a hazy light glimmered against her flaxen hair.

Immediately his mind flashed to the winter in Kamchatka and the villain there. Everything, despite how impossible, began to make sense with each passing breath. Melana Lancaster was working with Gunnar Maelstrom.

A tunnel in his vision blocked out any other thought.

“It’s Lancaster,” he indicated to Commander Monaghan, but didn’t wait to hear her reply, “Stay with the group,” his next words were to the youngest VILE in the team, but in his head, it sounded like he spoke to everyone.


“Wait what?” Ivy turned from her rifle’s scope to Chase only to see him already a few meters away. “How the -- is he so fast?”

“Who?” Deric said, turning around to see Chase sprinting away. “Oh googly moogly.”

Still recovering from a little vertigo after that weird teleporting experience, Patty was glad to see the ACME team found all the submarine’s survivors alive and well. She found it strange that Chase Devineaux would be running up to her with such speed, and as he got closer, she started to see that maybe he wanted to get close enough to shoot her.

Panicked, the Valkyrie grabbed a jester’s smoke bomb and threw it on the ground. The gas hissed, spewing clouds of opaque dust into the air.
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
[Continued from above]

The sight of Patty standing in the doorway had left the Jester in a quandary; Was she here as friend or foe? Was this the right place to confront her and get answers?

Joseph moved to look Patty in the eyes but was preempted by Chase yelling something about a Lancaster and then running towards her.

“Devineaux, wait!”

At the sight of Patty using his signature gag bomb, Joseph’s hands reflectively tightened around the crowbar; the growing cloud of smoke around him a reflection of the dread within. Eyes closed, he counted down a well-memorised number of seconds whilst getting into a ready stance.

With her STUN Suit compensating, Ivy’s vision switched to thermal. The detective called out, but failed to distract her Director.

“Okay, everybody,” she told the group, “One of us is already missing,” she counted only three survivors from the submarine, “So stay inside the courtyard until I figure out what’s going on with Chase. Storm, you’re in charge.”

Temporarily blinded by smoke, Devineaux relied on his hearing and managed to single out the sound of one runner against the group that arrived with him. Honing in to the sound, Chase followed her until the smoke cleared and they were standing in a stone-lined courtyard.

The instant his counting stopped, the Jester’s eyes snapped open to reveal the dissipating smoke; without warning, he surged into the temple, his steps laboured yet determined, as he hoped that for once, his intuition would be wrong.

In the cloister were series of intricately carved statues. If he wasn’t so focused on his target, he might have noticed that the art styles were more Indo-Iranian than Hindu but without certain iconic symbolism—no towering crowns, or the distinct lack of horses.

Knowing Melana Lancaster as someone liable to narrate her appearances, the detective wondered why she was so silent now. Under the influence of excessive nitrogen, memories blurred slightly in his mind, “Were you in Siberia?” He became accusatory, “Was that you?”

Siberia? He was either talking about last winter’s case in Kamchatka, or he’s starting to lose his mind. Ivy figured it was the the latter, because the blonde was significantly smaller than what she remembered about Melana Lancaster.

Before long, the woman mistaken for Lancaster couldn’t help but respond, “We already had this conversation!

Her voice was higher, possibly due to panic. From its trajectory, he estimated her location and moved towards it in a wide circle. He caught a glimpse of her nose peering in the opposite direction. From the shadows, he gripped her shoulder with his left hand while locking his right elbow over her neck in a choke-hold.

Almost immediately, both her feet lifted against one statue to push him into another. A stone arm jabbed against his side and Chase released his grip.

Once freed, the woman cartwheeled away from him, one hand for balance while the other unsheathed a utility knife.

Running up to the courtyard entrance, the Jester caught sight of the two figures in the distance; Between laboured breaths, he observed the woman flip away from the man, his eyes widening at the unmistakable glint of a blade in her hand.

“Stop it, both of you!

Not your fight, Clown!” Chase yelled to Joe and gave the blonde an opening for escape.
 

Patty

Valkyrie
Known Aliases
Patt, Patts, Petite, Amber Cecelia Argos, Valkyrie
Color #
8d8844
[Continued from above]

The Valkyrie decided against using the knife for now and moved back, making a quick b-line to climb up the roofing. Light on her feet, she could move faster than him up here.

As the fight proceeded to the next level, the Jester followed warily, muttering a silent prayer for all involved.

As she climbed, she temporarily lost track of him. Only to see him appear in front of her. While his feet weren’t yet steady on the roof, she threw herself into a circular kick to throw him off. But Chase was much faster than she anticipated. He caught her ankle mid-air and twisted her back in the opposite direction.

To correct her trajectory and land safely, she had to roll. When she recovered from it, he was almost right over her. In that instant, she saw fire in his eyes, and was terrified for the first time in a very long time. She reached for her blade but he knocked it from her hand. The knife slid to teeter at the edge the roof.

This wasn’t a small temple, and that was about five stories worth of height she had to climb. Ivy gritted her teeth. Whatever Chase was on, it was scary, and she did find herself thankful that he wasn’t after her.

Desperate, she kicked at his legs until she was free and made a dash for her weapon. It only took him one bound or two before he reached her. Avoiding his grasp, she slid, using the slope of the roof to get away from him. But then she slipped too far too fast. She stopped herself by grabbing on to some stone tiles at the edge of the curved roof.

“PATTY!!!”
Operating on reflex, the Jester flung the crowbar towards Chase whilst running towards him.


Devineaux caught the spinning crowbar and paused briefly, did he say ‘Patty’?

Okay that’s enough!” Ivy edged closer, keeping her feet steady on the roof tiles while she aimed her rifle, “Chase! It’s a non-threat!

Ivy,” he looked to her but first found the barrel of her weapon.

Give it!” The commander opened her palm.

With unease, Chase gave her the crowbar. “Wait--” his eyes darted back to Patty and Joe.

Giving no heed to the ACMEs, Joseph dived toward the edge, just managing to grab a hold of Patty as her grip started to give way.

“Hold on, Patts.”

She was surprised to have someone grab her hand, and more surprised to see the friendly VILE jester. Patty thought she heard him earlier, but didn't think he would catch up to them.

He looked beat up too, from the crash, and she stared awhile at the bruising on the arm that grabbed hers up to the fresh contusions on his face.

Joe's grip lingered long enough for the blonde to latch onto a foothold and pull herself up. When she realized she was safe, she hugged him tightly.

"What the-- Joe!" She was happy to see him, "You're alive!"

Too buzzed on adrenaline to speak, the Jester opted to simply reciprocate the hug and tightly embraced the blonde.

After a few moments, he pulled back slightly to look her in the eyes and whisper, “Don’t fall again, Patts.”


Patty,” Ivy reminded her mentor, “As in Larceny, if I had to guess,” while she spoke, she took the sidearm Deric gave Chase away from the Director’s possession.

Right,” Devineaux nodded, seemingly unfocused.

Walking on the safer tiles of the roof, Patty left Joe's side for a minute to rush at Chase.

"The heck was that??" She pushed him, small compensation for what he put her through, but she instantly felt bad. She brought him here.

Hey, watch it!” Ivy barred the blonde from further contact, “He’s not okay.

The Valkyrie backed off. In a fleeting moment of guilt, she considered… if he had killed her, it might have even been fair.
 

Neb

Elf on the Shelf
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
[Co-Written Neb/Patty]

After so much kicking and punching and so little oxygen, Neb was finally starting to slow, but she still had enough in her follow the others on their laborious climb up the roof. Once there, the scene before her managed to make even less sense than it had from the ground. There were a million questions to ask, and they all tried to make themselves heard as she came upon the new arrival.

“Patty? Patty? PATTY! PAtty!!?,” Neb asked incredulously of the blonde as she waved her hands around. “How did-, when-, where did-!?”

“Holy fudge,” she responded with a winded breath, but the excitement showed through, “it’s Kitty.”

Neb’s voice switched on scenes of happier moments, and the Valkyrie forgot where she was. The ankle that Chase twisted in their fight throbbed a bit less as she followed the ACME agents and Joe off the high temple roofing and hobbled slanted towards her friend.

She squealed and put her arms around the other woman. They were both a little taller, but the hug still felt the same.

What seemed a million years ago they’d been two strange little kids running around a highlands safehouse, eating ice cream and sneaking into places they didn’t belong. Her name was Kid Kidman then, a name Patty had essentially made up for her, and Patty herself was Amber. Eventually Kidman would become Kitty, a nickname Carmen picked up in later years in the grey-haired girl’s first life.

Patty after a few years went to college while Neb remained at the base to be homeschooled. They drifted apart, and then Neb drifted from VILE entirely, changing her name to Nebakanezer Ullyss in the process. The last they’d heard of each other was ages ago, making this moment all the more improbable.

“Amber!!” Neb cried as she squeezed her old friend. “Swear on me mum, what the hell are you doing here? Why was Chase trying to kill you?”

Nothing like a best friend saying your name, the blonde remembered how fast they got along... and then her other questions sank in.

Making the equivalent of an 'ugh' on her face, the Valkyrie groaned, "I messed up bad," she confessed, "I joined Ultralett."

Neb let go of her as she latched onto the name. “What...what do you mean, you joined Ultralett?,” she said as she took a step backward. “You joined up with Maelstrom?"

“Listen, I said I messed up, it was a mistake...”

“This isn’t a mistake, this is- You sold us out!” she shouted with a pointed finger. “Why?

The blonde's eyes fell downwards to Carmen's bracelet on Neb's wrist and she paused.

"I don't expect you to understand, you're still with her," she bit her lower lip, "but don't act like you're surprised she drives people away."

“She left me too,” Neb struck back without thinking, “Twice! But I didn’t throw her and everyone else to the wolves!”

"Maybe you should have, you’d feel better."

“What the f*ck is wrong with you? People f*king died, Amber!”

"I didn't kill anybody!" she defended.

“You let him on us at Harbin! That blood is on your hands. Carmen almost died. They almost died,” Neb shouted as she gestured wildly at the people behind her. “I almost died! Is that all cool with you now? We’re your f*cking family!”

"We're still family," she emphasized a fact she didn't think she'd ever publicly defend, "If I hadn't intervened, Harbin would have been a massacre! I--"

Her eyes averted to Chase, Joe, and Roux standing not so far behind, "Wait, where's Flag?"

Neb was about to retort when the question hit her. “Flag? FLAG? Where did he, he was just here! No, no I just got him back--” She said frantically, then started to run.

"Kitty, wait!" the blonde darted and tackled her friend to the ground, "Wait a minute! Carmen disappeared too, we were all talking and the next thing I knew, she was gone."

She let Neb go for a minute, "Then I woke up there," she pointed to the temple square.

"We're going to find them, ok?" she got up and offered Neb a hand, "We're going to find everybody."

The only slightly smaller VILE looked up at her, tears filling her eyes.

“You did this. You did this!” She protested as she went to push her friend away, then squeezed her close instead. “D-don’t ever do it again!”

Touched, Patty tucked her head into Neb's collar, "Dude, I'm so glad you're here."
 
Color #
351c75
[Co-written: Roux/Joe, overlaps the above conversation]

While drama unfolded in the most interesting fashion, the French Doctor was wary. He had seen psychosis prior, but the precision in which the ACME director appropriated his pursuit was unusual. Acton Roux knew the young woman was Patty. He had met her in Harbin, and was thus convinced to switch identities with Chase Devineaux in order to pull off part of a now disintegrating plan.

While 'Valkryie' and her 'Shadow' friend became re-acquainted, Acton approached Joe Kerr to assess if his companion was still functional after the exertion.

"You are all right, mon ami?"


The Jester was fully cognizant of the fact that he wouldn’t be able to hide any injuries from the Doctor’s highly trained gaze; despite that, he opted to try and make light of his condition, if only to ease Roux’s worries a little.

“I’ll manage. What about you?.”


The doctor nodded. "It may seem unbelievable, but I am experiencing much more pain than I have had, ever, in many years." He lifted the wrist he believed to be torn or fractured. Over the journey, it had swelled a slight, and Director Devineaux's necktie proved useful.

At that statement, Joseph felt a pang of pity for the good doctor; for obvious reasons, Acton was usually kept off the front lines. This time though, he was getting a full baptism of fire.

"But you have the concussion prior," he had suspected after the crash, "I will be sure to tell Carmen of your bravery, saving Mme. Patricia."

Joseph replied in a soft voice, his eyes subconsciously glancing towards Patty and Neb, “Was it really bravery, or was it merely foolishness?”

“You are having the regrets, already?”

The Jester turned to solemnly look the doctor in the eyes.
“We were so close to losing her, Acton, and nothing I did helped; it was only by the barest sliver of luck that I got to her before....”

His words tailed off as he overheard Neb call Patty ‘Amber’.
Amber? Another alias?
Further rumination was broken off by the Frenchman’s reply.


"...She is a fighter, and a lucky one to have a friend like you nearby,” he considered, "How did she get here, you think? Was she associated with the guns we heard earlier?"

Joseph shook his head slowly.
“I don’t know what to think, Acton. I’ve seen a side to her that I didn’t know existed, and right now, I can’t tell if the Patty with us is genuine, or if it’s just another mask;”

Pausing to admire the architecture around him; Joseph’s eyes surreptitiously scanned his surroundings for more skeletons.
“Seems to be the theme of this place, making you question the reality before you.”

Offering a small but genuine smile, the jester turned back to his friend.
“What about you? What are your thoughts on the matter? ”


The Frenchman hesitated to speak of his affliction. He was not used to injuries for a reason. This haunted temple hindered his natural state, and it was clearly playing with the minds of his peers.

“I am, in short, terrified.”

He paused and then continued, “Patricia and Chase Devineaux met me in Harbin. Under urgency, they convinced me to give my mask and cloak to the detective. We switched places, and he was sent to protect Carmen from Gunnar Maelstrom.”

Neb’s voice temporarily delayed his words;


"That blood is on your hands. Carmen almost died. They almost died,” Neb shouted.
“I see the threat was very real,” Roux commented.

‘It still is’ The Jester thought silently as they observed the increasingly heated conversation in front.

“Tell me Doctor, would you consider breaking your oath if it meant you could save Carmen?”


The question sent a pain up Acton's wrist.

"My oath is for her, my friend," he lightly touched his injury while speaking, "The answer must be yes," he paused again, “and you?”


The Jester’s reply was forestalled as he caught Patty’s fleeting gaze; time seemed to slow as blue eyes met amber, and then as suddenly as it began, it ended.

Joseph released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.
“I wish I knew, Acton, I--”

Suddenly, Neb yelled something about Flag and attempted to run off, only to get tackled by Patty.


"Wait a minute! Carmen disappeared too, we were all talking and the next thing I knew, she was gone."
A flash of worry danced across Joseph’s eyes as he jerked his head towards Roux.

The doctor returned the jester’s glance with gravity.
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
Color #
808080
At first Flag had followed the voices, but somewhere along the line, the focus switched and he was once again noting blue luminaries; a color he associated with Carmen's sound despite the hues that she actively wore.

He stopped to wonder on that just as a bright white light evaporated the shadows, save for the one cast by the wall to his left.

There was no sound associated with that, but it was soon followed by loud, frustrated vocalizations. The familiar sounds of his prior captors. It would seem as though that light was not their doing.

An order was barked and the voices faded, moving off in a direction away from him. He looked/listened for the cool blue again, but was unable to find it. For the time being, he was completely alone in in the silence.

Following the wall to the source of the temporary white out, he found himself coming through a lesser entrance to a massive hall. Carvings of snakes and rabbits adorned the pillars that supported the upper levels of the grand hall - another familiarity from another time and place.

It wasn't the only one either. The temperature here were comparable to the summer heat of his prison the day before, but because it was freezing outside this grand hall, he was hesitant to remove his coat. In that way, it reminded him of the underground levels in Kamchatka.

As Flag stepped toward the room's center, the voices returned. He was about to chase after them but instinct made him to stop.

Something about them was wrong.
 
Color #
6a99a6
Nevon made his way up to where he was, near the roof of the central chamber of the temple. Carmen told him there was a throne room on top of this place, and he thought he could find a way up to it as easily as she found the way down to him.

“What are we looking for?” Captain Meiru Basra asked. She had to crouch down because the ceiling was so low.

Nevon looked down through the same opening he used to spy on Maelstrom and Ultralett just a few minutes ago, before he was distracted by the blue butterflies.

I don’t get it,” he mumbled, “How did she find me?

“Carmen found you here?” Meiru looked down at the dust and footprints on the stone path in front of her.

I was here, yeah,” Nevon explained, “She told me she came from above, that there was a throne room, and she was leading Gunnar Maelstrom there.

“But we’re inside the roof?”

We are, and there’s another room on top of us. We need to find out how to get there.

The pilot looked around more, and then something peculiar caught her attention.

“Hey agent,” She nudged Nevon, “Put your shoe down here, let me see your tracks.”

Nevon did as he was asked and put his foot in the dirt where Captain Meiru also placed hers. In the gray, there were only two sets of prints, not three.

“None of these prints are Carmen’s,” Basra put her palms in the air.

That’s impossible, she was here, Captain Meiru,” Nevon scratched his head, “She told me the plan and everything!

“I’m not doubting you,” she put a hand on her hip, “but you either imagined her, or something came through here and wiped any trail.”

Nev turned the flashlight to the walls while the pilot talked. Roots of vines hugged tightly to heavy blocks.

While he was focused on the roof, Meiru looked to the temple heart below. She stood down there among at least fifteen men. Now the room was empty.

A figure in black appeared at one of the doors. Meiru recognized Flag, one of the missing from Harbin. But before she could call out to the man below, Nevon tapped her excitedly. He’d found something.

The butterflies!” Nevon turned to her suddenly, “They came with her, I think we need to follow them!

Meiru squinted to look at the insects in the distance, “I think those are moths. But wait,” she pointed to the floor below, “Flag is down there, if he’s survived the submarine crash, it’s possible the others are with him.”

Chase Devineaux too?” Nevon paused.

“What do you want to do, agent?”

Blair thought for a few seconds, then he shook his head, “They’ll be okay down there, we cleared out. Carmen’s alone with Maelstrom, we have to go up.
 

Eugene

Airfield Staff
Known Aliases
Euge, Earl Jr.
Color #
003366
[Cowritten: Eugene/Chase]

Limited by the sheer bulk of the ASP and the railgun clumsily slung to one side, Euge slowly scaled his way to the roof, pausing only briefly as a combat knife bounced off his helmet before tumbling into the abyss below him.

Pulling himself to the roof despite the protests of his left shoulder met him with the sight of the Commander holding Chase at gunpoint, her other hand open expectantly for the crowbar in his grasp.

The tension released in a heartbeat as Euge recognized the change in his fishing buddies’ posture; the set of his jaw as he reconsidered immediate threats. Stepping closer, Euge softened his stance to mirror. Chase wouldn’t dart off like that on a whim; something else was at play. Was it a case of mistaken identity? A brief moment of confusion had swept over his face at the name ‘Patty’. “Who did you see?” Euge intoned.

"Lancaster," Devineaux replied, and at the thought of the name, he saw flashes of Menlana in the thick of the fog, "I swear it... nothing's right about this place."

He watched impartial as the blonde and the gray haired girl hugged. Then threw a question back at the ASP.

"You feel it?"

Turning his back to the loose group, Euge focused his thoughts on their journey thus far. While it was possible Chase had suffered a concussion from the violent wreck he had been in, that wouldn’t explain his group shooting at shadows. “Yes. This doesn’t feel like nitrogen narcosis. It’s like there’s something else at play, something pressing at the back of my mind.

All of that made sense. This wasn't just something that came from Nitrogen levels. Just like how the TUNA entered later, and the strange fact that Eugene's ASP wouldn't have fit in that ship. As he thought about it, Chase's sight snapped to his friend.

"She contacted you?" His question was almost accusatory, "You came on the VILE ship."

She had two confirmed casualties at Harbin. Imagine my surprise when I call your communicator and it’s her voice at the other end of the line instead of you or Renee.

"Christ," Devineaux exhaled, so deaths did happen. "I was trapped in Gunnar Maelstrom's Kerala Zoo, for 48 hours. The man's a timebomb."

Motioning he would take up rear point of the team, Euge and Chase trailed slightly behind as the odd group trekked towards the temple. “So how do we handle him? I’m getting the impression he’s not the type to come quietly.

Chase looked towards the two girls. Game theory started to form in his head.

Right now with VILE, we’re working towards a Nash Equilibrium,” he spoke slowly to be as concise as possible through this mild narcosis, “Cooperating in a non-cooperative environment with the notion that we know exactly what they want. But down the chain, we’re aiming for their leader,” he referred to Barbara Rosen’s orders.

Ultralett disbanding benefits them, not us,” he hated what he was about to say, “To reach Pareto Optimality, Maelstrom has to stay alive, and under our control.

His already low voice fell a note lower, “He’s our bargaining chip,” Devineaux nodded towards the blonde, “against that wildcard.

Euge was silent.

Chase felt a disapproving stare on him, although he couldn’t tell what was truly behind the ASP’s helm. A mechanical arm pushed an ACME communicator his way and Devineaux took it. Clearly, they were going to have a talk later.
 

Carmen

Queen of Crime
Color #
850000
[Co-written by many authors, edited accordingly. This post backtracks sightly.]

Some time ago, back at the heart of the Devalaya...

While chaos flashed around him, Gunnar Maelstrom saw a silhouette he instantly recognized. She stood, as if waiting for him, but remained just out of reach. He signaled his co-captain, a tall German named Kraus, and an Azeri idealist called Emil to follow with him.

The feminine shadow led them up to the ceiling, past winding steps that became smaller as they ascended.

At the top was a surprisingly large hall. Gold gleamed from wall to wall. Painted pillars supported interlocking blocks of basalt held in place by gem-encrusted capstones.

The mirrored floors were smooth black marble. Following a path of snakeskin tiles interlaced with ebony and gold brought his eyes to the woman he pursued. He saw her in a dress, simple but timeless, its length draped over her body as if made with infinite golden links.

In Grecian sandals, her crossed legs extended to the stepped platform that elevated a crystalline throne. Lacquered nails draped upon each armrest. He could not see her eyes because they were closed, but he could still feel them watching him. Through the fog, he thought he saw her smile, and took it as an invitation.

Kraus cautiously trailed behind their boss while Emil strode with moderate insolence.

As the Professor stepped closer, the woman awoke. Light in the room painted her irises kaleidoscopic. In peripheral vision, the gold that lit the chamber began to dim. Temperatures cooled. The illusionary garment she wore shifted to a modern graphene-black. Sandals turned into tactical boots.

She rose to stand, calm but not entirely steady. By this time all that surrounded them were stone, and her main audience appeared amused.

Cavernous condensation overhead fell to the floor, interjecting the pause with melodic drips.

“Have you been here all this time, my dear?” Maelstrom scoffed with a heavy exhale. Lowering to tap his knuckle against the floor, he tested for hidden chambers but found nothing, “What did you do with the gold?”

He waited for her to speak, but she remained infuriatingly silent.

“Who is she?” Quietly, Kraus asked the Azeri next to him.

“Carmen Sandiego,” Emil confidently whispered back. He had seen her in a video feed, back at the zoo, when the deal was made. She was captivating enough on screen, but as the young man picked at an itch on his chin, he decided that she was even better looking in person.

The woman’s eyes lowered to the stone chair. They flickered momentarily with conflict, and Gunnar Maelstrom translated her subtlety as jealousy. That throne was not something she would easily give up.

“Why are you alone, Carmen?” He stepped closer. Hungry eyes outlined her shape, and for the moment, he mused; “Wasn’t I right, all along? You had a thirst for this, maybe even more than I,” he paused for an ode to nostalgia, “But if you had joined me instead of stolen from me, min kjære, you’d be free. Now, you’re trapped like some holy figurehead awaiting the pyre.”

Again, silence.

“Look at us! Back in the battlefield!” he grinned before speaking the next phrase slowly, “My, my, how you have grown.”

Not a sound came from her. This testing of patience only gave him fuel. He had waited a long time to be so close, but all his meticulous plans for this moment were pushed from his mind by the singular desire to prolong it. For the first time, this woman was tangible.

He moved closer, stopping at arm’s length when her eyes rose to his.

Gunnar,” she reasoned, “There’s still time to leave this place.

The audacity! It made him smirk. The way she spoke his first name showed strategy. She wanted his undivided attention to deliver the warning. There was still time, she said, but time was the one resource he had over her.

Jeg har savnet deg,” he whispered. It was true, he had missed her. So much of what he built was to keep her fate intertwined with his. But while she was still playing the good girl, he was no longer a believer.

“Step aside,” The Norwegian’s seriousness lowered his voice.

She stood her ground, “I don’t think I can do that on good conscience.

“Conscience?” he held a cruel grin, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten who you are.”

Very slightly, her head tilted, “I am no longer nineteen, Doctor.

Those words shot crisp reality into his cloud of nostalgia. She was still nineteen to him. Her youth and brilliance won her a place in his heart. He wanted to guide her personally. He wanted, more than anything, to mold her. Taking a step back, he could see more clearly that she had come into her own. And that between then and now, he had no part to play in her ascent. A darkness covered his eyes.

“Your charades,” his muscles tensed, “it must be so easy for you.” A quick arm lunged to grab her. But she foresaw his advance and caught his trajectory.

You’re wrong,” Carmen contradicted and pushed him into the chair, “It is never easy.

Once his back struck the arch, the Norwegian could not move. Serpentine energies rose from behind and seemed to wrap around his body and mind. There was no way to understand what was happening, except to ask. The answers he received were mesmerizing. He began to see things… as far as his desires could take him.

Disembodied voices spoke to his greed. He asked for gems and they provided. The room around him glittered. He wanted more and the temple opened before his eyes the sixteen vaults far under his feet. Layers of gold were buried with seawater, and he sought for endless ways to free the drowned treasury.

Was passiert mit ihm?” Kraus demanded in German, befuddled, “What’s happens?”

“She’s won, the bet,” Emil’s mouth was wide open. “Winner takes all,” he quoted.

It doesn’t matter,” Carmen interjected. In a calmer voice, she attempted to explain, “he’s not leaving that chair,” but fell short of executing the right words to relay how she had set this trap. In a breath, she moved on to the matter at hand, “Can one of you operate the Orca?

Kraus nodded, reluctantly, “She is my ship.”

Then gather the rest of your team and—

“No, wait, it matters!” The younger man suddenly became the thief’s unlikely champion, “The Professor agreed to a deal,” he told the German, and then returned to the woman, “you have won this deal.”

Gunnar Maelstrom reacted from his throne with a muted shout that developed into laughter.

Carmen felt a rush of air, but nothing touched her. Kraus and Emil, on the other hand, were not so lucky. Both dropped to their knees. Emil called to her for help, a glaze of asphyxiation coated his eyes as he struggled for breath. Reactively, the thief placed a palm on his chest.

That’s enough,” she spoke upon contact, and within seconds, both men inhaled frantically. The temple followed her wishes. She wanted to ensnare one and protect the others, so it pulled the man in the chair deeper until he was silent.

Kraus’s bloodshot eyes stared back at her in terror while Emil gathered himself to stand. She took their hands. Thick vines, large as tree trunks, covered the throne room’s perimeter. They became animated, shutting off previous openings and leaving one exit.

Come,” prompted the lead.

Both men let her guide them. When they passed through the door, sentient plants made one final twist, closing off access to the throne.

“That is you?” Emil asked Carmen in the dark some distance away, “you are the one to move the trees... over there?” a glow moth flew in front of him and he became distracted, exclaiming something almost childlike.

“She controls the temple,” the taller man declared what he observed, “she put the Professor in that chair so she can take his mind.” Then he looked to the woman, “I am right?”

She neither affirmed nor denied, but shook her head to reflect that he was not entirely wrong.

I don’t know if you’re right,” she elaborated, “but yes, what happened in there was by design. The throne is intrinsic to the temple. It provides whatever its occupant desires.

“Then he desired to kill us,” Kraus rubbed his neck, “How did you stop him?”

I apologise, I haven’t figured out the mechanics,” she professed, “Earlier, I wanted peace and then light. I received both respectively, but indirectly.

“Indirectly?”

Peace was achieved by transporting me from one location to another, and light came in the form of the glowing wings.

“Ah,” the man listening watched an insect fly by, “Then you have given the Professor some of this power.”

In exchange for time,” her pace slowed, “I know what it’s like in that chair, and I had hoped…” she paused to recount how quickly the throne quelled her self-proclaimed nemesis, “I had hoped that once I commanded the temple to show Gunnar its treasures, his greed would keep him there, just long enough.

“Long enough for you to win?”

Long enough,” she corrected, “that we may achieve peaceful resolution without senseless violence.

The German stopped walking, inhaled and looked her over.

“I am Kapitän Jurgen Kraus,” he introduced himself, “When you are ready, come to the Orca,” his accent was thicker, “Sammeln Sie Ihren Preis, Chefin.” He referred to her as ‘boss’ and indicated her victory.

She nodded to accept.

In that case, Jurgen, would you take the Orca to dock near Negombo, Sri Lanka?

It was an unusual request, but he had served much stranger masters. The captain agreed before shaking hands. He understood they would split paths here.

Emil, playing with the moth, began to half-rap an Azeri tune about butterflies.

“Emil! Let’s go,” Jurgen Kraus called to his crewmember, but something stalled his words. In seconds, he keeled and stumbled to the ground.

The younger man stopped his song, “Is he dead?”

Carmen knelt beside the German and exhaled in relief, confirming signs that he was not dead.

“This place is strange,” Emil’s lazy gaze followed the moth as it flew away. “Oh, yes, the Plague Doctor!” he tapped her arm. His eyes were wide, as if he had made an important discovery, “He’s a spy!”

Before she could respond, the Azeri rolled and slumped against stone. Carmen checked his pulse. It was strong, like Kraus’s. The prior asphyxiation may have caused this loss of consciousness, but she suspected something else.

Momentarily, she closed her eyes. While she sought answers from the temple in a series of focused thoughts, an electronic beep caught her attention. It was a chime all too familiar—an ACME communicator.
 
Known Aliases
Patt, Patts, Petite, Amber Cecelia Argos, Valkyrie
Color #
8d8844
[Cowritten by Patty & Neb]

Somewhere else, inside the temple, closer to the entrance...

Patty walked into the temple with Neb. The teams scattered around her, some of them talking to one another while others were silent. She looked towards the redhead called Commander Ivy Monaghan for a time, wondering what it would have been like to be a young detective and get your law enforcement career set by the time you were in your early 20s. What kind of people her parents had to be to raise someone so fierce and confident. Who were her heroes? Naturally, she followed Ivy’s eyes to ACME’s Director of Operations and that partially answered her question.

Neb was half in a haze herself, still piecing together the sudden flood of, frankly, incredulous events. “Wait, what do you mean Carmen disappeared?”

“We were all near the MAMBA,” she turned back to Neb, remembering what she had to share, “then I got in a fight with that ACME Agent Nevon, about something stupid… and then I think I heard Carmen say ‘stop’, before I woke up at the gates.”

Neb had no idea what to make of that. She looked at the bracelet Carmen had given her. She was alive, which meant the others that had disappeared probably were too, but the heartbeat she felt was very fast. Was she with Maelstrom? Who even was Maelstrom?

“Hey… What kind of danger is Maelstrom to Carmen? Like, does he just want the temple, or…?” She trailed off uncomfortably.


"He wants her," the blonde filled in the blanks, "And not like how a guy wants a girl for a life partner" she elaborated, "He thinks he owns her."

"Why the hell would he think that? Or is this the standard "gotta catch Carmen thing?"

"I don't think there's anything standard about it," Patty thought about what to say, "He blames her for stealing his life from under him and made it hers, so everything she is, belongs to him.

"The thing is, he's got this idea of her that doesn't match with reality," she pursed her lips the way she usually does when she was worried about something, "When reality hits, I hope he doesn't do anything I’ll regret."


"Wait, hold some phones. She stole his life?"

"You know, our banner organization," Patty smiled briefly, "All the foundation was his, then she put him in jail, and took over."

Neb stopped short. She'd never thought hard about how Carmen had come to build such a vast empire in such a short time. She'd always just chalked up to the magic of Carmen, and just like that, some of that magic was gone.

"That doesn't sound like Carmen," she protested. "I mean, that's cheating! Isn't is? Or is stealing a empire of stealing the correct way to do that?"


"Are you kidding? That’s so baller!" the blonde wished she was that cutthroat, "Carmen was nineteen, she wanted change. She could never do what she does now, or protect who she needs to, if she was still under the law."

"Well yeah, I'm all for secret thief empires, but to take one from someone else... Unless he was a dangerous thief that needed to go down..."

She recalled the laundry list of violence in Maelstrom's criminal file and nodded her head solemnly.

"Okay yeah, probably better Carmen has it. But that means he does have a semi-legitimate claim on VILE. Is that why you joined him?"


"No, I joined him because I thought I'd learn something... and I did. I learned a lot."

"I'm almost afraid to ask what, but I will."

The valkyrie inhaled a long breath, "I learned that Carmen... is amazing." She laughed and tapped her friend's shoulder, "But you probably already knew that."

"Yeah..." Neb replied with more sadness in her voice than intended. "So you guys are good now?"

Sensing the sadness in her friend's tone, the blonde paused a bit, "I hope so. We met up but I think I only made her more upset. She really deserves better."

Neb patted Amber's arm but her gaze drifted elsewhere. "And you're not mad at her anymore?"

Patty shook her head, "I was never mad at her in the first place… I was mad at mysel--” She turned to Neb, but no one was there.

“Neb?” the blonde looked around her. The sun was hot and the trailer park sign creaked from its own weight. Someone’s rooster barometer hit their TV antennae with an annoying tang-tok-tang-tang-tok.

Oh no… the girl swallowed. She was back in Alabama.
 

Status Updates

Is working on setting up a mini arcade in the secret basement room at ACME headquarters.
is enjoying what's left of the brownies she made late last night to celebrate the Cleveland Browns beating the Denver Broncos. :)
Finish her Christmas shopping just in a nick of time.

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