Closed Ultramarine

Vic

Confidence Man
Color #
008000
#37
"Sure thing!" Vic gave Carmen a quick hug. "Good to see ya again, Kiddo!" He said to Neb and gave her a quick hug too, "We'll get you all set."

"So this thing..." he lifted the plans up, "did you want to look through it?"
 

Carmen

Queen of Crime
Color #
850000
#38
"It's been a while since we've done anything together," ignoring Vic's question momentarily, Carmen stepped towards the middle of the room, speaking to everyone there, "This year, we're sponsoring a team of Italian ice-sculptors for entry into the Harbin Ice Festival, and I thought..."

Catching the eyes of her adopted family, from goggles to sunset, VILE's ringleader gave a soundless laugh.

"I thought we could use a little party."
 

Vic

Confidence Man
Color #
008000
#39
"And here's the plan!" Vic announced right after her, and passed around paper that had itineraries from breakfast on ice to festival tours and staying alternating nights in an ice hotel.

"No heist, no pesky detectives, just us enjoying some R&R!"
 

Chase

Director
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
#40
[Co-written by Chase/Patty]

Sheremetyevo International Airport, Moscow, Russia
3:45 PM Local Time


In the busiest airport in the country, Chase Devineaux landed and entered through one of the North terminals. After a lengthy talk with the employers of the spy known as “The Seal,” he was guaranteed a spot on the negotiations table with an environmentalist pact that called themselves “Ultralett,” Norwegian for Ultralight. Normally Devineaux might wonder why, but he stopped thinking about the naming conventions of special interest groups a long time ago.

As he left the airport, he started looking for the appointed driver. Someone holding a card with his name would take him to the predetermined hotel where he would check in under scrutiny and then someone would pick him up to take him to the negotiations location. Chase had done this before, enough to know the steps.

His phone rang, an unknown number.

Devineaux,” he answered, eyes still scanning the area.

If you have a Bluetooth earphone hook it up,” the voice was female, and impatient. From the sound of it, she must be watching him.

Right,” he replied and put a wireless earphone into his right ear, pocketing his phone into his jacket, “I’m doing that, and you’re going to tell me who you are.

Later,” she interjected, “the man holding that sign with your name, don’t go to him. Head the other direction, towards the restrooms.

Chase paused, “Miss Larceny, I’m not playing games.” He had been replaying her voice from the recording enough to recognize it.

Neither am I.

Exhaling, Devineaux walked towards the airport restrooms, “Do I go in?

No, just turn the corner so they can’t see you.

He did.

I’m next to the phones, by the window.

Chase looked around for those signature Russian phone booths and spotted her, an unassuming braided blond with tight jeans and a black sweater. She looked the part. Their eyes never met, but she started moving.

Follow me,” she said over the phone and then hung up.

He made his way through the crowd to her, “Are you intercepting this negotiation? A man’s life is on the line.

There won’t be any negotiations,” she whispered harshly, “The guys waiting for you are taking you straight to Gunnar Maelstrom. Once that happens, I can’t help you.

The name was familiar, but Devineaux would have to search through the ACME network before concluding anything. The way she said the name, though, did not sound good.

Patty’s alternating boots led him to the airport parking lot.

Get in,” she said as they got to a dark gray Skoda.

You’ll need to give me something,” he stood still, “Because I would be really stupid to let you take me to a second location.

Patty sighed, “What do you want?

Your name,” he countered, “You know mine, tell me yours.

After a lengthy few seconds, she replied with weight in her voice, “Amber Argos.

Chase brought out his communicator, “Middle name?

Amber Cecilia Argos,” she elaborated, “Happy?” Patty entered the car first.

Doing a quick search through an international database, he found a ‘missing persons’ report that was retracted. In the remarks section was simply the word ‘Runaway’. The picture was a black and white frowning girl, resembling the one in the vehicle. Nodding to show satisfaction, he entered the passenger side.

Why are we meeting under these circumstances, Amber?” Chase asked.

She rolled her eyes at the mention of her other name, but decided she need to let that go, “Gunnar Maelstrom, when that name finally rings a bell, maybe you’ll get it.” Patty made a turn out of the airport, “The men sent to pick you up are his thugs. After I drop you off, I’m going to have to go back and blame them for losing you.

Because…” Chase deducted, “you’re Gunnar Maelstrom?

No! Oh my God!” She intonated in low frustration, “Can you not joke around?

Then tell me,” Devineaux nodded, “What do you want from me, Amber?

I want your help,” she admitted, “I need out, the right way. And as far as I can see, it means keeping you alive.

Good to know.

And I have a plan,” she added as Chase read the signs pointing towards a military airport near Moscow, “If you trust me on this, I have to get you on a plane to Harbin.

He was silent, processing that information.

What? The ice festival?
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#41
[Co-written by Carmen/Joe]

Dusk, Later that day...

The natural underground cavern that became docking station to the MAMBA was cool and airy. It was large enough to cover the entire snake, but not in one full connected length. The elongated chambers were sectioned so individual segments of the craft can be maintained. Once ready, each craft would enter the water before linking in formation.

For now, they were receiving the full treatment before venturing into Harbin. Engineers hovered around the amphibious craft, within the next few days, she must be airborne.

Carmen stood over a modest wooden desk, five vials of oil displayed before her. Two were frozen solid. Natural and synthetic lubricants, the result of an overnight test, were being judged before further field application. She had informed Neb earlier that she would be overseeing the maintenance of the MAMBA before dinner, and in the meanwhile, she had informed Joe Kerr to meet her down here for a long-overdue conversation.

Removing a glove from her right hand, she picked up one of the frozen vials and the oil quickly melted with her body heat.


"Number nineteen," she nodded and a nearby technician jotted this into her notes.

***

Descending the stone staircase that led into the underground cavern, Joseph Kerr paused for a moment to admire the beauty of the MAMBA, albeit in its separated form. Each segment was fully capable of functioning on its own and was in its own way a unique masterpiece of engineering.

However when fully assembled, the complete beast far and away surpassed its individual components in every way possible; combining the strengths of each of its members whilst eschewing their shortcomings, the leviathan-esque super-craft, the brain-child of one Carmen Sandiego, was power, grace, beauty and speed all rolled into one; the epitome of perfection.

It was also, as Joseph also noted with some humour, in many ways a perfect representation of VILE as an organisation.


Each agent of VILE was, for the most part, a master thief in their own right and an expert in their chosen field of specialty; chemistry, medicine, mythology, archaeology, the list just went on. And yet, the whole was clearly greater than the sum of its parts; as a unified team they were able to accomplish far more together than apart, and with Carmen at the helm, there was seemingly no limit to what they could achieve.

However, VILE would only be formidable for as long as they were able to function together; a single individual operating differently from the rest could easily undermine the whole. Likewise, the MAMBA could not afford a single, malfunctioning segment; hence, the intense maintenance on each of the individual crafts which would comprise its whole.

Joseph walked across the various sections, briefly smiling when he spotted the one he’d been previously tasked with field testing, before finally coming upon his captain, engrossed in stringent testing of potential lubricants.

“Good evening Carmen, might I suggest using a blend instead of a single strain? It would be most fitting for the MAMBA.”

***

The leader glanced up with a positive nod at the suggestion. Then she turned to the technician and excused her.

“We haven’t spoken for some time, Mr Kerr,“ her voice echoed slightly in the limestone caves, “How have you been?“


“Technically we did speak to each other this morning,” he replied with somewhat forced mirth. “I’ve been as well as I could be, I guess, given the circumstances and all.”

Briefly he glanced to the work table and its surrounding area.

“What about you? It seems that you’re always buried in your work. Ever hear of a vacation?”


“I was on vacation,“ she smiled briskly in light reply, “Art in Abu Dhabi.“

She noted his prior forced mirth, and hinted towards the docked vessels.

“Walk with me, please,” Her invitation preceded a question, “You had a heist recently, along with some colleagues... Tell me of it?”


***

The jester was fairly certain that Carmen already knew of the details; nothing in VILE ever escaped her attention. Not knowing whether to interpret this as a test or simply as genuine concern, he decided to humour her with an abridged but truthful version of the truth as they walked toward the crafts.

“Neb, Flag and myself went to Wales to steal some old books from a castle; you’d have to ask Neb or Flag for details on which ones. We thought we had everything planned and scouted, but we were still taken by surprise; there were secrets and traps not accounted for within the blueprints, and worse yet, a castle custodian with a ‘killer punishment’ for anyone who crossed him.”

Joseph allowed himself a wry smile at his pun, however, the smile disappeared almost as quickly as it came. A brief moment of silence reigned before Joseph abruptly stopped walking, removed his mask, and turned to face Carmen directly.

***

His authenticity warranted attention, and the thief stopped to heed her companion.

***

“Truth be told, we were lucky to escape with our lives. We were foolish...I was foolish. I should have known better than to break your rules; the moment they told me it was personal property we were after, I should have called the whole thing off, but I didn’t.”

Turning his mask over in his hand, he looked down to see the lifeless visage seemingly mocking him with its smile.

“I should have been more prepared, more ready for anything; but I took it for-granted that it would be a regular retrieval. I wasn’t prepared enough, didn’t have enough backup plans...wasn’t ready to deal with the hostile response.”

***

There were two others on this heist, the blame on only one seemed unbalanced. Logic told her to stop him, but as leader, she wanted to hear more.

***

Clenching his fists tightly, he looked up to face Carmen again, his voice laced with equal parts resolve and regret.

“I’m the reason Neb got hurt; I was the senior agent on the team and I failed them...failed you. No amount of apologies will ever make it right, but, I sincerely apologise for my failure, and I...I completely understand if you no longer require my services.”

As he said the last few words, the jester bowed in respect and apology to his employer, role-model and, he hoped, friend.

***

"Is that self-doubt in your tone?" she voiced her observation. Since the day she met him, Carmen felt Joseph Kerr's intellect was nestled in his boldness. The mask he wore seemed lacking in purpose now, more than ever.

"What are you thinking, Joe?"

(continued in part 2)
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#42
(continued from part 1)

Letting out a huff, the jester stood straight again and let a melancholy expression colour his face.

“Do you recall that when we first met, one of the things we found kinship over was our common belief in non-lethal means?”


She nodded kindly, remembering the moment, “And now?”

“I still keep to that belief, but with the way things have been turning out, I have to wonder, is our stance getting outdated? Is it doing us more harm than good?”

***

There were times in her life that she pondered the same thing, but instead of interrupting, she allowed him to continue.

***

The jester began to elaborate his point, his voice getting unintentionally louder and more agitated with each passing moment.

“The game has changed, more players have entered, and they seem to be changing the rules. ACME might be happy to continue to play by our non-lethal rules but other law enforcement agencies are only too happy to shoot first, ask questions later. And the other factions on our side of the law? They have no honour and no scruples; spilling blood for them is like sipping water.”

Stopping to catch his breath, Joseph continued in a softer tone.

“I am afraid, Carmen. I am so afraid that our methods won’t be enough to protect those we care about, to protect who and what we love. Look at Neb; she got injured because I was too concerned about not harming the owner of the castle, who, I might add, was more than happy to rain arrows down on us.”


A few stray tears started to stream down his cheeks as he looked straight at Carmen.

“I don’t know if I could ever forgive myself if one day we lost one of our family because I kept sticking to this stance...because I was too cowardly to take one life in order to preserve another;

***

His words resonated, and the thief inhaled audibly.

“Saving a life is always braver than taking it,” she intonated ‘always’, “And I’m sure you’re aware of the billions that go into non-lethal weapons for law enforcement.” The fact remained that fatalities were lower, for good reason. But Carmen felt that the man before her had other reasons to feel unsettled.

“Where is this coming from, Joseph Kerr?” She tilted her head slightly as if to see him from a different angle, “Why are you so afraid?”

“Back in Wales, when things were going wrong and we at risk of dying, it wasn’t the risk of dying that got to me, it was how helpless I felt. Helpless to save anyone, helpless to do anything to try and protect the people I care about.”

He paused to catch his composure before continuing.

“VILE is the only family I have left. I can’t bear the thought of losing you guys, but yet, I feel so helpless to stop that from happening, like there’s nothing I can do to protect anyone, like my gags are just mere child’s play, not worth a penny when it comes to an actual battlefield.”

“We almost lost you in Russia, I almost lost Neb in Wales, and now Patty is missing. I’m afraid I’m losing the people I care about, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

***

Taking a step forward, Carmen studied Joe in his dark wool sweater, and the way he swayed the mask in his hand as he passionately spoke. She felt compassion. There were times she wondered if this was truly a family, or merely a group of selfish individuals gathered together for solidarity and the occasional grifting. Some time ago, the events in Kamchatka changed her perspective; but instead of sharing this new-found point of view, she turned inward. Perhaps now was the time to reveal her thoughts.

She took the mask from his hand and absently flipped it around in hers, appreciating the craftsmanship.

Turning towards the parked sections of the MAMBA she seemingly avoided his concerns, “I’ve been much too busy with this project, I’ve forgotten something I wanted to propose a long time ago,” she began to walk again, “Follow me.”

In an area next to the docking station, a silvery lab was under renovations. Construction workers were cleaning windows and sealing corners with high-grade silicone.

“Your dedication to these ‘gags’, Joe, save lives,” her reasoning was calm, “Your creations functioned well at Torun Zamok, and I think we need to take that to a higher level,” She continued, “I was hoping you might want to use this lab to further your repertoire; namely, safer weapons and better defense.”

With a breath and a willful half-smile, she returned to his worries, “I can’t guarantee that you’ll never feel helpless, Joseph Kerr,” those words were weighted in truth, “I also can’t guarantee you’ll never lose a family member.”

Giving his mask back to him by placing it over his heart, she paused, “But we can both do our best, can’t we?”

***

Joseph watched silently as she returned his mask, her words replaying in his mind. In awe, he glanced back at her, taking in the full weight of her offer.

“You’d trust me with all this? Even after my previous failures, you’d still trust me with the safety of our family? With...with your life?”

Naturally, she nodded, “Failure is only evident in the lack of trying.”

“I’m overwhelmed, and truly honoured. Thank you,” he flashed her a warm, genuine smile and then enveloped her in an even warmer hug.

Surprised at the hug at first, her initial stiffness warmed into an open smile. “Thank you, Joe,” there was emphasis on the word ‘you.’

Stepping back, he wiped away the last of the stray tears and looked once again at his mask; its formerly taunting smile now seemed to radiate with hope.

“You’re right. I can’t change the past, and I have no guarantees about the future, but I can do my best in the here and now to ensure that we, all of us, have a future to look forward to.”

Pausing, he turned back to Carmen, eyes full of resolve set over a heartfelt smile.

“To that end, I, Joseph Kerr, gratefully accept the task that you’ve laid before me.”


***

VILE’s leader smiled and took a long breath as her eyes glanced about the facilities.

“There’s something else,” she began, “You were here when I was not, do you recall your last conversation with Patty?”

“Unfortunately, no. I saw that Russia affected her more than she let on, but between Vegas and Wales, I never got the chance to follow up on that. Come to think of it, I’ve probably been gone just as much as you have.”

Falling silent, the thief signed lightly, "That's all right, we've all been rather busy." Carmen quietly decided that she should confess now than wait until later. "I haven't had contact with her for months," a determined nod followed, "but I'm hoping to change things, starting with this research facility"

Taking a step towards the door, she wrapped her coat closer around her waist, "Get acquainted with your new lab, Mr Kerr. Report to me if you need anything."

Then she smiled, "And thank you, for taking this on."
 

Neb

Elf on the Shelf
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
#43
[Cowritten: Kidman/Carmen/Acton Roux]

The next week was spent in a relative haze of disbelief and transition for Carmen’s new shadow. The extraordinarily private master thief had requested that the woman move into her apartment, because of course she did.

By now Neb had given up trying to make sense of the changes in her life. A decision had been made, however hastily, over a plate of tacos and now she was on for the ride.

But that didn’t fully quell her concerns.

A crotchety warning given during an uncomfortable plane trip lost to time played at the edge of her mind, and the silver haired specter continued to drift around the premises with no resolution in sight. She was back with her fellows, but the discussion with Joe had reminded her of just how much separated them.

With her mind on uneven ground, Neb made the move to Carmen’s apartment as low key as possible; transferring her belongings via relocated teleporter pad and leaving behind whatever didn’t fit for some future hermit. By the end of the week her new living space had been set up, but she had yet to live in it.

The trip to Harbin would come first.


***

Every section of the MAMBA utilizes 150 to 170 square meters of space. Manufactured from scratch, features included modules that were interchangeable for different functions. At its most basic, one segment can seat up to 35 people comfortably or carry 230 kilograms (approximately 500,000 pounds) of active cargo. At its most extravagant, the MAMBA’s prestigious head could be converted into a two-bedroom apartment with office, conference room and 1.5 baths; with enough room for a handful of staff.

This was the current setting for the journey to Harbin. Carmen wanted to work, and the full office would give her some time to look over plans. The 10-hour flight was a night flight, and they were expected to arrive at Harbin by morning. She would have a few hours to rest then before meeting up with Vincent Fumigalli and his Italian artists.

Once aboard the plane, Carmen threw her white down parka into the side closet and traded her boots for a pair of slippers. She sat on the bed first and laid out a stack of papers and a tablet that folded out into a screen and controllable surface.

Beyond, she could hear Neb making her way into the room. The thief looked up. Hopefully the hydraulic doors won’t disorient too much.


***

Take off for a night flight was always thrilling, especially when there were clouds to climb out of, and Neb spent the ascent where she always did, in the cockpit, watching a flaming sun set into the cloud floor.

She would have stayed for the afterglow, the dusk, the slow reveal of tiny stars, the lot of it if there wasn’t somewhere else she felt she was supposed to be. Still she hesitated, uncertain of why, until air turbulence jostled her into movement.

Eventually she found the door to Carmen’s apartment, drew a quick breath and typed in the key code she’d been given. The door swung wide, but before Neb could properly greet her boss, the apparent luxury of the space derailed her.

“This is a plane?” she asked in astonishment.


***

The thief smiled, indicating towards the nearby sofa, “Have a seat, please.”

She had finished, at the same moment, a text message to Acton Roux to come meet her in 10 minutes. They would need to speak of his role as ‘nutritionist’ and how that may be masking his more eager talents.

“Did you place all your things in the room next door?” she inquired.


***

Neb fought the urge to wander around the mini hotel room and sat down. “Room? Oh! I forgot I actually have a room in this thing. This is so weird… I’ll have to go get my bag out of the cargo bay.”

***

“I’ll have it brought there,” Carmen moved to her bedside table and pressed a button, “You can unpack later.”

Another moment of swiping through her screens, and VILE’s leader looked back at her employee.

“Do you still have that bracelet?”


***

“Yeah!” Neb snapped out of her stupor and held up her arm. “Aye, still here. Usually have it in my sleeve, you know, so it doesn’t get caught on things.”

***

Doctor Acton Roux received the Red Lady’s text message and immediately removed himself from the seat he sat upon. The MAMBA was both a private jet and a moving base, and he found it marvelous. He looked at his companions, all members of VILE that shared the same space but sectioned into varying invisible spheres. Some were reading, others pondering, but all were silent.

Acton moved towards his commander’s apartment. As he stood before her door, he could already sense her presence. From the design of the path, the panels of light emitting diodes and the perfume that permeated effortlessly through the breather of his mask.

He raised his hand to knock, but paused at the sound of voices. Acton knew better than to remain where he was. But he was not without curiosity. There were foldable seats attached to the wall nearby for waiting staff, and he sat in one. Then he turned up the volume amplifier of his mask, and exhaled when he could hear her voice, clear as spring water.


***

“Good,” her lips curved into a smile, “lift your arm up, please.”

Propping herself against pillows and headboard, she crossed her legs and placed the surface closer.

“I have another one,” she lifted her hand to show a moonstone pinky ring, “when I touch mine, yours glow; watch.”


***

The teardrop on her bracelet band flickered blue, and even though she was the last person that should say it, “What witchcraft is this?” slipped from Neb’s lips.

***

Carmen smiled at those words, “Isn’t it, Kit?” A minor distraction appeared on her tablet and she swiped to affirm action.

“Resonating crystals,” she explained, “I’d like to say it’s magic but for now, it works because you’re connected to the MAMBA’s internal WiFi.”


***

Nothing else Carmen said to the girl registered past the seemingly innocuous nickname, and her eyes widened as the unspooling of time suddenly ground to a halt. “What...did you call me?”

***

The thief’s glance snapped to her companion’s as she retraced her words.

“Did I call you an odd nickname?” She raised her brows, “I apologize.”


***

Neb slowly sat back but kept her eyes on the woman in front of her, her thoughts slow and deliberate. After what seemed an eternity, she played her card. “Master?”

***

Once, and many times, Carmen found herself remembering certain things that were seemingly impossible. The answer she received from Flag gave her some understanding of what may have happened, but she thought she was mostly alone.

“They’re fading,” she finally spoke, “The memories. They come and go, at times more vivid than others.”


***

A tear slipped down Kidman’s face, then another as her grayed-out perception of Carmen began to gain colour, until a quiet stream steadily trickled over her cheeks.

“I have them, all of them. I’ve been alone with them for years, until I found Flag several months ago,” she said softly, her expression shifting from a fleeting glow to a gently bit lip after she mentioned his name.


***

Carmen placed her palms on Kidman’s cheeks to quell the tears.

“Is that why you’ve been so strange?” At these words, she moved, letting her follower climb onto the mattress, “It’s about Flag?”

The thief rarely dealt with internal conflict, even less had she given time to these disconnected visions. Since the moment she began experiencing the residuum of these parallels, she understood they were quite directly linked to the man; but any further rumination invariably resulted in fatigue.


***

Neb realized her expression had betrayed her once again, but found less reason to be concerned about it. Instead she sat down and closed her eyes, letting the conflagration of emotion surrounding the man pour into his name as she breathed it out in confirmation.

Then she looked over the flying bedroom to gain her thoughts, slowly bringing her gaze around until Carmen was just outside it. “You were out with him last week. Are you two...close?”


***

The question seemed irrelevant. To VILE’s leader, perceived relationships and truths were two very different things. She thought to immediately point out that fact and question if closeness mattered.

But that would be heartless.

“We’re closer,” her words were gentle, “Now, more than then, I suppose.” She breathed and leaned back into the pillows, indicating openness. “But leave that out, please. He clearly concerns you, tell me why.”


***

This wasn’t what Neb wanted to hear, for more reasons she was not comfortable admitting to, but she maintained course.

“I don’t know what you remember, but…” she started, pausing momentarily to consider how best to approach this. “Flag got pretty desperate about trying to get back to his wife, so he asked me for help. He….”

The girl dropped off. It hurt to divulge information that could put the silver-haired man’s happiness at risk, but her alliance with Carmen outmatched her alliance with him.

“He took it a bit far,” she finished with a sigh.


(Continues next post)
 
Color #
351c75
#44
[Cowritten: Kidman/Carmen/Acton Roux]


This was not specifically new information. The fact that her silver-haired friend had certain tendencies played a role in her decision to bar his involvement in some parts of VILE. But over the years, he had proven himself dependable, and trustworthy enough for her to willfully disregard past actions. But has the past returned?

“Was it a ritual?” her inquiry rose from the cusps of those fading memories. Mentally, she made note to refer to them as ‘reliquiae’ because she needed definition, and Latin was sensible.


***

“You do remember!” Her face brightened temporarily, then faded.

“But yeah... He brought me to an abandoned building without saying why and then didn’t tell me what he wanted from me the ritual it already started. He nearly killed me in the process,” she confessed, her last words almost a mumble


***

“Kill you--?” The last time Carmen spoke of Kidman to Flag was in the capacity that he would train her. Yet as she considered, another thought came to mind and she asked, “Did it have something to do with diamonds?”


***

Neb raised her brows shot up.

“You know about it?” She asked with surprise. “It was one diamond, not sure where he got it from, but he said it was a link to one that had all his powers at home. This time around he said he made a necklace out of it for you-”

She stopped short as she tripped over the same ghosts of jealousy that had come after her in Indiana, but she pushed them away. That diamond was a stupid thing to be jealous of. Its existence was bad for everyone.

“Don’t ever let him have it back. So long as he doesn’t have it, we should be safe,” she said, then paused again with uncertainty. “But then again... Flag isn’t one to give up easy. He told me he thinks his wife is here now, and that could lead him to use me for something else.”


***

“I do have the jewelry,” she gave affirmation. The gift, she thought, signified a shared story between the thief and her arguably machiavellian friend. Something to amend for past misdeeds and a reminder that, while he was not her ideal VILE associate, he would do his best.

“Do you think the rituals are done,” her words broke through ruminating silence, “that he won’t seek them any longer?”



***

“If I was certain of that, I wouldn’t have tried to hide from him.” she said sadly. “Aside from maybe you, Flag doesn’t seem to like anyone, yet he’s been helping me with my immortality thing. At first it was awesome-” The glow momentarily returned “-but then I realized...Flag doesn’t help unless there’s something in it for him.”

***

“And you don’t believe this ‘something’ is good?”

***

“It could go either way... Much of what Flag does for me is good. When I’m around him, I feel good, I feel normal, strong, and I care about him a lot, but... then I remember what he’s capable of, and I smack myself for putting myself in danger.”

***

A nod from the leader indicated agreement. While she had never feared Flag directly, her stance on his trustworthiness have shifted in varying degrees.

“And…,” she wanted to address something else, “You said ‘immortality’?”


***

Neb’s face fell. I can’t believe I told yet another person. She sighed. At least it was Carmen this time.

“I don’t know if you figured it out from my med docs, but I don’t really have a lot of time left,” the girl said sadly as she slowly pulled off today’s choice of wig to reveal the grey mess it hid. “I need more time, for lots of reasons, so I’m going to build a thing that’ll let me heal myself.”


***

Almost indolently, she began to comb her fingers through Neb’s hair. The tips of her digits felt scarring along the scalp, but she found it no less fascinating.

“Grey is beautiful,” she smiled and kissed the girl’s forehead, then her palm lowered to tap lightly at Kidman’s cheek, “What do you need, to build this ‘thing’?”


***

Neb still startled from physical contact but had begun to so less and less, and now she found herself gently leaning in. “It’s in those books I stole off Bran-,” she added a degree of anger to his name, “-but I still haven’t figured out how to translate the directions into an actual thing.”

***

Listening, she nodded with confidence, “Share them with me.”

***

The girl found tears welling up again as Carmen fully stepped past the veil, and she couldn’t stop herself from embracing the woman with all her heart. She knew now why she had been so nervous to see her. She had been called to see a friend who had become a stranger, and found the stranger to be more a friend than she’d ever hoped to have.

Rosen’s words rose again, but she didn’t care to heed them. If they’d really ever mattered to her, she would have left VILE long ago.

“It’s such a relief, a relief to have someone I can talk to who knows it all, that I don’t have to worry about. I feel like….some part of me can rest.”


***

For some time after the embrace, Carmen let her companion lean against her shoulder.

“Then rest,” she smiled, certain that things were now moving in a better direction. In a softer tone, she ended, “You’ve given me much to think about.”

Once she ascertained that her current ‘roomate’ was asleep, Carmen rose quietly. Her wrapped dress clung under the weight of Neb’s torpor, and she carefully maneuvered until the fabric was freed.

They were at cruising altitude, and lingering thoughts in the thief’s mind rendered her both fatigued and famished.

She opened her apartment door to an awaiting figure.

“Acton?” her query was also apparent in her expression, “How long have you been waiting out here?”


***

Doctor Roux stood up when he saw the door opened. “I have not been here long,” he glanced around for the correct words, “You... summoned me?”


***

“I did,” Carmen nearly forgot this meeting, “Would you like a drink, something to eat?” She motioned for him to follow her, despite his answer.

***

“I will have something,” he shadowed her footsteps, “we are speaking of my role as nutritionist?”

***

“We are,” she teased lightly, turning to pinch the curve of his beak, “I’m considering the termination of your employment, Acton.”

***

He was quiet, “a oui?” That playfulness was unanticipated, but he coveted it.

***

“You’re a chemist as well?” the thief continued as she opened the door to a private meeting room, “And from the data I’ve discovered, quite the healer.”

***

Acton remained curious and entered the meeting room. “I am happy to serve in any way,” he noted behind his mask and picked a seat as the door closed behind him.

***

“Of course, we’ll get to that soon,” Carmen smiled, sat opposite of her timid employee, and crossed her legs, “But first, I need you to detail everything about Adrianna’s last heist.”

***

Behind his large obscured goggles, the plague doctor blinked.

***

“I mean it, Acton,” VILE’s leader insisted, “Everything.”


***
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#45
Joseph Kerr sat silently by one of the Mamba’s viewing windows, taking inventory of his thoughts. The conversation with Carmen had taken a great weight off of him but in its place were two smaller, but no less poignant, burdens.

The first was a positive one, an onus on him to improve both his own and VILE’s repertoire of weapons and defensive tools. Inspired by his employer’s vote of confidence, Joseph had already started to compile a list of ideas and future projects to work on; those would have to wait, however, till after their little jaunt in Harbin.


"I haven't had contact with her for months,"


Carmen’s admission had triggered the second burden, shaped it and gave it form.

Intelligence was a highly prized form of commodity in their ‘industry’, and VILE’s leader always made it her business to be in the know. For her to admit not knowing something took great humility and the jester respected her for it; but it also brought him great concern.


For Patty to go so far off the grid, it implied that it was either highly intentional or that she was highly incapacitated, possibly even dead; both options were equally disconcerting.


Her eyes


Briefly, Joseph recalled the last encounter he had shared with Patty; he had known something was off from the moment he looked at her.


Her smile didn’t reach her eyes.


Regrettably, he had not acted immediately on his suspicions, opting instead to give her a few more days before confronting her. He had failed to foresee his involvement being required in Vegas, and he certainly had not counted on her pulling, well, a Carmen, on them...on him.

Looking out the viewing window and taking in the scenery, he whispered quietly to no one in particular.

“Where are you, Patty?”
 

Vic

Confidence Man
Color #
008000
#46
Vic “The Slick” Fumigalli waited until his feet were both firmly on Harbin before throwing his hands into the air and shouting, “We’re here!”

The ride in the MAMBA was swag, smooth and easy all the way from VILE HQ to the cold river ways of this Chinese Island. The craft landed out in international waters, a yacht came to pick them all up, and the MAMBA sank beneath the waves like the serpent that she is.

“Welcome to Harbin!” Vic shouted, getting off at the docks while attendants were busy with bags. He took out about $50 worth of local money and put it into the hand of somebody in charge. Then leaning in and cupping his hand, he whispered, “Make sure everybody’s taken cared of, ah?”

From the docks, it was a short ride to the hotel, where everyone would split up faster than Vic could say “Let’s gamble!”

Soon after they landed, they met up with the Italian team, eager to win this year’s medal with their ice sculptures. Vic was proud, even without having done any of the sculpting himself. They were an Italian Alpine team from the north, near the border with Switzerland. They started with local sculptures and festivals, and are now one of the few teams to compete outside of Italy.

Later in the day, they were all going to meet up, Sponsor and Sponsored, with a nice big dinner party. As soon as Vic said the fair was their playground, the group dispersed.

“See everybody back here at eight!” he shouted out. Hopefully, his herd would find their way back.
 

Chase

Director
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
#47
The Doctor, The Detective, and The Damsel...

[Co-Written: Patty/Chase/Acton Roux]


Patty Larceny was in Harbin for the first time in her life. The ice festival was an event that started in the sixties but didn’t gain traction until social media made it popular. Want to know what your Instagram buddies are up to this winter? Where did they get a picture of that kitsch ice palace? It’s probably Harbin.

To blend in, she wore a dark brown coat with fur-lined hood. Her black tight jeans were 2 layers of woven thermal protection in a movable mesh so it was easy to do a full split in them. A pair of coffee-tan ear muffs pressed against her blond hair. Used for communication with her mentor, Gunnar Maelstrom, for the moment, they were turned off. She didn’t need interference.

Somehow, she managed to convince Chase Devineaux to join her cause. He was arriving on a separate plane, and he was supposed to meet her here. Maelstrom was furious the negotiations didn’t take place. This was the second time ACME’s Director of Operations slipped through the Biologist’s leathery fingers. Patty was relieved, but she didn’t know how long she could keep this charade, or the one she’s going to be building starting right now.

Chase had spotted her first, because by the time she saw him, he was already making a path to her. He was smooth.

Patty led him to a quieter corner.

Carmen is here, VILE arrived earlier” she revealed, “The Seal gave her up, he’s meeting her to relay information about Kamchatka.

Dennis Holtz,” Chase confirmed The Seal’s name, “I’m not counting on him being useful.

But you’ll save him?

Did my part, local police is looking for him. They’ll take him to a precinct. His people should get the contact then, that’s his ticket out.

Have you reported back to ACME?

I have one job, get Holtz back, then I’m on my own time.

We’re going to need all the time you’ve got,” Patty nodded. Now for the next part, she bit her lower lip and inhaled, “Chase, how well do you know Acton Roux? Because you’re going to have to be very convincing.

I know his type enough,” he replied, “but you start first, let me study his words and we’ll see how well I do.




After landing in Harbin, Dr Acton Roux followed Vincent Fumigalli and the group for a small tour of things. When much of VILE dispersed, he stood still, not quite knowing that to do.

He took a long walk around the grounds, watching children play. He wondered what life would have been like had he acquired children. Then as he passed by a group of humans and their pets, he wondered why he had never gotten an animal companion. Perhaps the life of a researcher was meant to be solitary.

Suddenly, as he entered a path towards the edges of the island, he heard footsteps behind him.


Dr. Roux?” Patty greeted him when they were far enough away from the main fair, “Can we talk?


Miss Larceny,” he shook his head in disbelief, “You are here to see Carmen? Things are all well now, oui?


It’s good to see you,” she smiled, “I can’t see Carmen… it’s a little complicated.


Mais... qu'est-ce que tu veux dire?” his voice was softer, “You are loved, there should never be complications in that.


Chase Devineaux walked up, pausing next to the blonde.


Acton’s eyes widened, but it would be unseeable behind his goggles. “Patty, have you joined ACME?


I’m not ACME, Dr. Roux,” Chase used his most convincing tone, “I’m here on a friendly capacity. Your former colleague finds herself working for a madman. And from what she tells me, things are about to get bad for your team.


He sounded confident, and the American arrogance in which he conveyed knowledge made Acton slightly envious of ACME’s Director. It is no wonder he commanded such respect. His voice still rang out to the doctor as he heard it in the halls of Torun Zamok. To be in this man’s position, even for one day, must be the dream of many.

How can I trust everything is true?” Dr Roux questioned.


Amber?” Devineaux looked towards the young lady.


Do you remember Adrianna ever talking about Gunnar Maelstrom?” Patty asked bluntly.


Her again… Acton was beginning to believe he would never be free of the Contessa. Yet sadly, he did hear of this Gunnar Maelstrom and it certainly was through the pristine white teeth of Adrianna Covrenzi herself.

Oui,” he nodded. He barely had time to catch the name ‘Amber.’


I’m stuck with Maelstrom,” she admitted with a fur-lined shrug, “I can’t leave yet, I need to make this right. The only way to do it is from the inside, and only if I have both of you with me.


She has a plan,” Chase added, “a good one.


Dr Roux stood eye-to-eye with ACME’s Operations Director. Who was this man, to think he could change the fate of so many? What could he possibly wish from this involvement, surely it was not to simply save VILE?


More people can die, Acton!” Patty spoke honestly, “Really important people! You need to help me.


He thought, for many seconds. Her earnest request and the demeanour in which the ACME revealed himself. This was no trap, but even if it was, Acton was not one to back away from a plea.

Tell me what you need of me.
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#48
[Co-written by Patty/Joe]

Harbin, China
Harbin Ice Festival

“Ah, this brings back memories,” Joseph Kerr said aloud to no one in particular. The last time he had been surrounded by this much ice was back in the Antarctic HQ.

Back in simpler, happier times.

A peal of laughter from some nearby tourists snapped the jester out of his ruminations. Shaking his head, he looked around, remembering the reason they were here. Vic had gone out of his way to plan this for all of them; Joseph owed it to him, and to the rest, to not be a party-pooper.

Resolving to forget his worries and enjoy himself, Joseph took a deep breath and wandered into the frozen labyrinth. Brilliantly carved ice sculptures, lit up by colourful LEDs, lined every path of this winter wonderland; frigid effigies of creatures both real and fictional delighted guests at every turn, and interspaced between those, intricately carved models of famous buildings from around the world.

Joseph smiled a genuine smile as he observed the patrons around him take in the sights; families celebrating at every corner, children marvelling with pure innocence and joy whilst parents capture the moment via their device of choice, couples posing for selfies in front of the statues (especially the ones of an anthropomorphic cartoon feline and her friends), and groups of teens having a laugh at every turn.

The jester also observed, with much humour, that many of said groups wore matching winter outfits; it was not unusual here to find a family all clad in the same colours or couples wearing matching winter outfits.

Joseph himself was wearing a simple maroon winter jacket over white pants and black boots. He also wore a simpler version of his usual mask, in a show of solidarity with Acton, who as far as Joseph knew, was never without his.

Thinking of Acton also reminded Joseph about his family, VILE; The group of thieves were somewhere around but their presence had been obscured by the sea of people that continued to flow through the maze. The continual assault of the rainbow lights around them also made it hard to spot the usually colourful bunch.

Patting the small sling bag which contained a limited assortment of his usual repertoire, Joseph scanned the crowds, trying to look for the green monstrosity he was certain Vic was attired in.

Glancing around, he froze abruptly at the sight of a familiar blonde.


Is that who I think it is?

Blinking a few times, he looked up again to see a different blonde where the first had stood.

Shaking his head, Joseph decided to attribute the odd incident to wishful thinking. Resuming his quest for Vic, he froze again when the same figure resurfaced in his line of sight.

Before he could ponder this validity of this hallucination, he heard it, clear as day. It was her voice, calling his name; that unmistakable voice that could cut through the clamour of the crowd as though it was a silent room, that voice that was equal parts charm and mischief, sweet and sassy; that voice that had once echoed through the halls of VILE, filling it with laughter and cheer.

It was official, Patty Larceny was here.


***

Patty Larceny didn't need that much time to find her target, but she needed time to collect herself. She was given orders to take a VILE member alive, because he may have the codes to the Mamba. Distinctively, she remembered Joe flew one section. Gunnar Maelstrom made her choose who to take, and she thought it was better that she took care of Joe than if some thug beat him up.

When she found Joe, she called out to him, and then she started walking away.

She let him follow her for a few minutes, leading him through the grounds and into the Russian Art Exhibition Hall. Today, a group wedding was happening elsewhere on the island, and the hall was temporarily closed for cleaning.

"We can talk in here," she said when he got closer. Then she took his arm and pulled him inside, giving him a quick hug, "Good to see you, Joe."


***

A myriad of emotions were running through the jester’s head as he began to register that the young woman in his arms was real.

Relief, concern, joy, hope, fear, anger and regret all battled for control, and each one brought with it its own myriad of questions.

Finally, Joseph settled for the one question that encapsulated it all.

“Where the hell have you been, Patts?”


***

With dance-like movements, she took a few steps backwards. In the empty exhibition hall, large windows streamed in lights from outside. The white snow and technicolor LEDs made the place look like a fancy nightclub, without the noise.

“I’ve been around,” her smile was shallow, “How have you been, Joseph Kerr, have you been working on new toys?”


***

Behind his mask, the jester frowned at her question.

“You never call me by my full name. Something’s definitely up with you. What’s going on?”


***

“Of course something’s up!” there was a soft chuckle, “I haven’t been around for a few months, did you notice?”

She gave him a short apologetic shrug, “How’s Carmen?”


***

Given her coy attitude, Joseph was unsure if Patty was really accusing him of not caring enough to have reached out earlier, or if there was some other hidden meaning to her words. He decided to answer based on the former.

“She’s fine, but you’re obviously not; you haven’t been since Russia. And yes, I noticed.”

Moving closer towards the young blonde, he carried on in earnest.

“I’m sorry if you’re upset that I didn’t confront you about it; believe me when I tell you that not a day has gone by that I haven’t regretted that.”

Kindly offering an open hand, he continued.

“But I’m here now, and I’m willing to listen, if you’re willing to talk”


***

She listened to his words, and slowly nodded, “I do want to talk, that’s why we’re here. I guess…”

But that wasn’t why they were here, and she soften her voice to ask, “Can I see your mask?”


***

Despite certain reservations about their situation, Joseph smiled softly behind his mask; he had always had a soft spot for the VILE princess, and her request brought back memories of a more carefree time between the two.

“For you, anytime.”

With a graceful flourish, he removed his mask and passed it to her.

“Now that I’ve taken mine off, will you take off yours?”


***

Patty accepted the disguise with a smile and tossed the object playfully around.

“I wasn’t trying to be secretive, I just needed time to think…” she spun Drama in between her palms, “it’s not like I wanted to cut her out, or cut VILE out, but I don’t think I can go back,” the pain in her voice was authentic, “Deserters don’t rejoin VILE, do they?”


***

Looking her dead in the eyes, Joseph countered with resolve.

“You know that’s not true. We’ve all been waiting for you to come back; no one thinks of you as a deserter.”

Softening his tone, Joseph resumed his soft smile.

“Why won’t you come back? Is it the same reason you went off the grid? Are you in some sort of trouble? We can help you...if you let us.”


***

“Trouble...” she threw the mask up and caught it again, “Oh Joe… you’re just, really, really sweet.”

A bell rang low and outside those floor-to-ceiling windows, the sky lit up with fireworks. The blonde erased distance between her and the jester, and then closed her eyes before gently pressing her lips on his.

“This isn’t personal,” she said when she pulled away, her irises glimmered with lights beyond.

In quick succession, she put his mask over her face, and unlocked the compression on a sleeping-gas bead she swiped from his cache. The seal of air filters clicked over an empty smile just as a cloud of soporific hissed around them, “And I’m sorry.”


***

Stunned by the kiss, it took Joseph a few moments before he could process the cloud of knock-out gas surrounding them and leading him into an unwanted slumber.

As he hit the floor, he gazed up at her masked face, the etched smile highlighted by the glow of the fireworks continuing overhead, he used the last of his strength to utter one word before letting the darkness engulf him.

“Patricia...”
 

Status Updates

Wonders how secret this room actually is if anyone can just walk in.
Neb
Is breaking into secret basement room at ACME headquarters to play mini arcade.
Is working on setting up a mini arcade in the secret basement room at ACME headquarters.

New Journals

Lobby
Help Users
  • No one is chatting at the moment.
    Chase : Chase has posted a new reply in the thread "[11 Questions] Body of Water".
    Top