Closed Ultramarine

Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#61
Co-written by Joe/'Roux'

Maelstrom’s Hideout

Undisclosed Location



“Arrgh!”

Joseph Kerr let out a groan as his eyes took a moment to adjust to the darkness of his cell.


Wait, cell?



Shaking his head to clear out any remaining grogginess, Joseph let out another groan which echoed around him, just like his previous.



Apparently a cell with metal walls and ceiling. Oh joy.


Taking a moment to take in the unfamiliar surroundings, the jester observed four small bars in what apparently was the door of the cell; through those bars, air and a miniscule amount of light were filtering in, but the majority of the room was still clothed in darkness.


Joseph was able to make out that the ceiling was low, with just enough room for a person of average height to stand, and that the rest of the ‘room’ was bare, save for what looked to be a metal bucket in one corner.

“Not even a sink? Somebody apparently has never heard of personal hygiene,” the disgruntled Jester complained aloud, only to regret it when his words echoed loudly through the room.

In his attempt to cover his ears, Joseph made a second unwelcome discovery, he was handcuffed. As he experimented with the cold steel binding his wrists together, faint memories began to trickle into his consciousness; waking up on a plane, someone mentioning a zoo, a familiar voice apologizing, a sudden stinging sensation, and then everything fading to black.

Gently moving his arms, he felt along the back of his neck and located the point where something had previously pricked him; it was a small wound, a syringe of sorts, perhaps.


Amidst his musings, Joseph realized that he’d been lying on a pillow and had a blanket on him. Carefully, he began to examine the blanket and pillow. Expecting cheap polyester variants, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the pillow was soft cotton, whilst the blanket was woven from high quality fleece; an unusual luxury that he was grateful for.

Reverently, Joseph continued to inspect the blanket and noticed a familiar scent coming from it.


That smells like...baby powder with a hint of...citrus? Starts with a bit of a bite and then end on a note of sweet; Why does it seem...oddly familiar?



Delving into his memories, the jester tried to place where he had previously encountered the alluring fragrance, only to open his eyes with a start when he realized the answer.

Patty

***

The first time he had noticed the scent was when he stood next to her as they took turns to bark orders and direct preparations for the move to Stone Harbour. He had not had a chance to ask about it then, for obvious reasons.


Then he had discovered what it was quite by accident; they’d had a secret valentine game and unbeknownst to him, they had drawn each others names. Her room was practically bathed in the fragrance when he’d snuck in to place her present, a pair of glittering stilettos and a single rose, on her dresser.

Looking around, he found its source, a small, ornate bottle, sitting innocently on the dresser, its contents engraved in cursive lettering on is surface - ‘Oranges with Amber & Vetiver’.

Each time since then, he had observed that when she was in the room, that same fragrance would accompany her; Even in Kamchatka, she had worn that scent, and it had filled the Raven, calming its occupants as they prepared to embark on their mission.

He had gone to her room when she was rumoured missing, hoping she had left a letter or some sort of clue; the bottle was no longer on the dresser, but the faint whispers of the scent still lingered in the air, taunting him.

Then at last, he had been assaulted by that scent in Harbin once again, when they...when they kissed.

The scent had filled his senses as he took in the feel of her soft lips on his; his instincts overruled by the flood of emotions that simple action had unleashed. Then, just when he was ready to reciprocate, she had pulled away.

He had watched, helpless, as she used his own weapon against him.

She had been the one who captured him.


***


A whirlwind of emotions swirled around inside Joseph, bringing with it a storm of questions;


Was everything just a game to her?


Was the Patty he knew only a facade?

If not, why did she turn against him, against their family?



On that memory of the rest of VILE also being at Harbin, Joe swore under his breath;



Did Patty capture them also?


The sound of the cuffs falling from his wrists rung in the cell; like an alarm waking him out of his thoughts.


This was another thing that didn’t add up; Patty was well aware that he, like most VILE specialists, were adept at breaking out of handcuffs, so why did she still use them?

Joseph shook his head as he stretched his arms and legs; he was literally and figuratively in the dark, and he didn’t like it.

***

After that talk with the doctor, Chase was slightly more confident with the impending operation. On his agenda was a visit to the second wing, and another VILE member.

The stables area once held animals of the Genus Equus. Sectioned off into large stalls, each were now changed to fit metal containers fashioned into cells. Of course there would be cells, Devineaux thought, the Norwegian was a madman.

Opening the blinds to let more light in, he approached the one occupied cell.

None of the keys he had fit this lock, and Devineaux raised a brow behind that mask. She didn't give him every key?

***

Hearing the jingle of keys in the door, the jester turned toward the entrance and squinted to make out the figure at the bars.

“Acton?”

***

"C'est moi," he spoke in reply, "How are you doing?"

He wasn't sure what the doctor called his jester friend, but he was liable to make do.

***

Joseph raised an eyebrow and replied in a harsh whisper.

“I’m stuck in a cell, what do you think? No wait, better question, why aren’t you in one? You managed to escape?”

***

He paused for a few seconds. Recalling what he knew of the situation, he couldn't betray Patty's confidence.

"I cannot say more," his heavy exhale somewhat perceivable through the distorted voice, "Are there other questions you wish to ask?"

***

Roux’s reply only served to raise more questions. The jester desperately wanted answers, but he knew from experience not to push. Instead, he chose a different tact.

“Ok Acton, what can you tell me? Is Carmen alright?”


***

"Carmen escaped," he signaled with a nod, "and I can tell you that you're being held prisoner by Gunnar Maelstrom."

***

Gunnar Maelstrom

At the mention of the name, the jester’s blood ran cold.

He had never had the displeasure of meeting Maelstrom in person, but he was well acquainted with the man’s infamous reputation. His, was not a name to be uttered carelessly; its mere mention a harbinger of ill tidings and anguish.


Thankfully, Carmen seemed to have escaped for now.

Looking at the masked figure on the other side of the door, Joe whispered back, clearly agitated.


“And what of Patty?”

***

"She brought you here, monsieur," the mask replied, solemnly.

***

Joseph narrowed his eyes at the odd address.

“I figured that part out. But have you seen her since? Or is that classified too?”


***

"She is well, she told me where your cell was," before he could say anything else, the sound of engines alerted him.

Outside, he could see a train of cars coming up the hill towards the facility. That must be Maelstrom, right on cue.

"I will be in touch," he tapped the container twice, "I am needed." With that, he turned and left the area.
 
Color #
403050
#62
Leaving the stables, Chase Devineaux in the mask of Doctor Acton Roux marched to the labs.

Between the wings were iron cages with rusted, corrugated bars. The tropical air held a sickly scent -- a mixture of decay and fetid puddles from recent rain. This area was closed off by trees, but he still perceived distant seagulls calling over breaking waves.

Looking towards the skyline, he noted a dominating communications tower. It was stalky at the base, but stretched tall towards the top, painted in red and white. Round relay dishes, thin fish bone structures along with a parabolic satellite antenna suggested microwave, radio and possibly a satellite link. The building under that structure, however, was a miniature fortress with four men guarding all sides of the structure and two switching rounds on its roof. Anything going in and out of that comms tower must be tightly monitored.

As he returned indoors and into the makeshift labs, his eyes took a few seconds to adjust. Concrete beams supported an arched metal ceiling with broken windows. Plants had started to weave in from the outside, but this seemed to help more than hinder. Roots were somehow holding the roof together high above their heads.

Two men unlatched a steel door and pulled out the pale VILE agent. They glared at the masked doctor and one grinned as if reminded of something funny. In the center of the area, someone placed lighting in a circle, and a strange looking chair. When they propped Flag front-first onto this chair, Chase understood the nature of its oddity. This simple wooden seat was meant to expose the back, and ensure limbs were out of the way. Ironically, it may have once been used to cure back pain.

Outside, the sound of diesel engines ceased, followed some seconds later by the thud of a door and the voice of Gunnar Maelstrom.

Good day for a little spinal tapping, don’t you think, Doctor?” By the time he ended that greeting, he was so close, Devineaux could smell his breath. Two additional thugs entered with him and took their positions near supporting pillars.

Stepping back, Chase gripped the device he was carrying tighter, and moved towards the patient. The Norwegian was doing the same.

Of all the freaks she hires,” in a circle he walked around to Flag’s face, “I have the weirdest two in this room. This one can shoot lightning from his hands and that other one needs a plague mask to function.

Patty had distorted some truths, Devineaux noted as he cleared Flag’s spine for measurement. Scars on the man’s back revealed a lifetime of punishment -- whether or not self-inflicted. Among them, three bullet wounds thrust the sounds of a fired Mauser C96 into Chase’s memory. He looked down at his hand, and in his gloved palm, a vision of the Prussian ‘Red 9’ appeared and faded.

Blaming anxiety, he shook his head.

Without any x-ray, he would have to double check his own calculations before placing the spine at risk. As he did so, he could sense Flag coming-to.

He needs more anesthesia.

No he doesn’t, Plague, that thing won’t attach if there isn’t movement,” while that reasoning was unbelievable, the command was swift, “Do it, and quickly!

As Devineaux marked vertebrae with a sterile surgical marker, his peripheral vision caught Maelstrom studying Flag’s palm.

She was looking at this hand, what does this tattoo mean?

The man behind the plague mask did not answer.

Maybe he was training her, what did you say he was to her? Is he a mentor?” something in the madman’s voice suggested agitation, “I taught her things, you know. I taught her everything.

Did you want to prove that in Harbin?” Believing his calculations to be correct, Chase detached the first section of the device and brought it to the patient’s second Thoracic vertebrae, just above the shoulder blades. It came to life upon touching skin, and with the sound of hydraulic suction, found its place. What seemed painless, must not have been.

Flag groaned and balled his fists, removing that tattoo from Maelstrom’s view. The marine biologist crackled a laugh that echoed once around the chamber.

Proof is when I get that snake-plane she flies around,” he answered indirectly, “I think he’s waking… faster, Plague!

He did not move faster, this was a matter of accuracy, not speed. Fitting consequent sections was a matter of adjustment and addition. Chase could see each segment grip at the spine, taunting skin as it did so, but he saw no visible incision. The Norwegian was silent in kneeling, studying the VILE agent. There was a sneer of disgust, barely discernible.

Have you heard of the vaults in Padmanabhaswamy Temple?” Maelstrom asked, looking straight at Flag’s gritted teeth.

Is that where we are,” Devineaux knew the site, “the southern coast of Kerala?

Here, the Norwegian stood, and regarded the masked doctor.

Chase ignored his close scrutiny, placing the last section of the device onto vertebrae T7. Once attached, the segments sank further into the skin, connecting themselves through something unseen. Two red sparks flickered from the top and lowest nodes, then the body it rested on seemed to relax.

You’re a weird sort of doctor aren’t you?” Maelstrom somehow found his deduction of their location amusing.

The masked man stood to face his questioner. His hand tensed, ready to grip the hidden kris at his side. Devineaux considered how easily he could end this. The biologist was steps away. But as his mind played out the impossible scenario of tackling each of the armed four thugs while ensuring the safety of those imprisoned, he eased.

A weird sort of doctor,” looking down at the spine cage, the Norwegian grinned at its modifications, “it really won’t make a difference, upper or lower spine.” He tapped the metal device, “But I like your style… putting it up here, he looks like a diamond back!

There was an unnecessarily prolonged silence, then a sudden order.

Take him away,” he yelled at two of the thugs, “And you, Plague, clean up!
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
Color #
808080
#63
The floor of the enclosure was much like anywhere else in the abandoned zoo; overrun by plants and dirty. Counterintuitively, this didn’t weaken the structure. It didn’t strengthen it either. Instead, it gave the impression of desolate timelessness.

As Flag inhaled the dust against his face and opened his eyes, he expected to see a pair of dainty utility boots before a friendly gloved hand - belonging to a brunette human woman - brushed his hair out of his face and offer comfort. Instead he was greeted with a cold floor, a cold wall, and a strange awareness that someone was watching him from the vicinity of his feet.

He tucked his arms in and placed his palms on the ground to lift himself up, only to learn that the feeling of fingers dug deep into his back was not dreamt. With a lament he was down again, his fists clenched by his head and even more dust in his lungs.

Coughing was worse.

As the fit subsided, he figured out how to lay on his side and folded in just enough to see who was sharing his air. When he saw the familiar beaked mask of Acton Roux, he remembered a glimpse of the man in snow before sparks across his vision took the sight away. It had returned with the blur of a man’s face that did not match with the doctor’s disembodied mechanical voice.

Flag glared daggers at him, unsure exactly why he was angry as he could only grasp at unorganized fragments of experience. One such fragment was the humbling vision of red-dressed surprise dropping out of sight while the world turned away from her.

Biting back any emotion, the Sivoan posed the grackle-faced man a question. A long moment went by between them and Flag realized that he had not asked in a language that he would understand. Frustration bit at his words as he repeated himself, this time in english. “Did she get away?”



Turning quietly to the imprisoned, the plague mask made a quiet nod, and then pulled a gloved finger over his beak to indicate someone was listening.

From the left came a thug with thick, heavy hands. The man dragged his boots against the cement floor as he paced in front of the cage. The thug's name, as far as Chase could tell, was Wick.


"Hanging around for this one to get up?" He banged on the cage without looking into it, "And wot? Wait 'til he finds out you're the one that gutted ‘is back?"

Acton said nothing.

"Gotta piss," Wick began walking down the hall and into the cover of darkness outside, "don't you do anything stupid."

With the man far off, Acton nodded again and whispered through the distorting mask, "She got away, you bought her time."

Unrolling a small envelope with white pills, he added, "I can offer painkillers, but we have few other options, how are you feeling?"



Flag visibly relaxed at the news that Carmen avoided abduction and settled, compressing the muscles in his back unconsciously as he did so. He straightened out in a shot and swore under his breath as he remembered why he had initially chosen the odd position on the floor to address the man.

“I was going to decline, but I think I will take a couple of those.” The Sivoan took the time he needed to will himself into sitting up. Another long moment passed and Flag realized they were distanced by the locked steel cage of the enclosure. As he bemoaned the effort of standing, he gestured over his shoulder and asked the doctor. “What is this?”



"It's... a tool," he wasn't sure how to explain, "to keep you from electrocuting them." He gestured by opening and closing his hands, what he observed the seconds before that fight ended.

"There was nothing I could do," Acton eyed the guard in the distance, "they would have killed you, so I told them I needed you alive. This was their condition."

The doctor exhaled, "What do you remember?"



“Enough.” Flag looked annoyed but simply nodded as he took the pills dry. He remembered the fight in the snow with more clarity as the minutes passed and, frankly, would have done something similar if he were in their assailant’s position. He glanced down at the doctors shoes, remembering them in the same blur as the man in blue and understood their positioning now. The doctor has been the one that put the trap on him.

“I suppose I should thank you.” He said, rubbing his bruised jaw. “I’m not sure I would have gotten out of there in time.”



There was a pause, even with Flag's lighting arcs, the fight was heavily unfair.

"You can thank me again once you're... uncaged," He whispered, nodding his head sideways, hinting to the approaching thug, "You're foolish to have fought them," he said louder in a French accent so Wick could hear, but his hands drew symbols on the sandy ground: a message to Carmen, two minutes, risk interception, how?



Flag looked at the message, then down at himself as he confirmed that his phone had been stolen. He found that he was shirtless and commented on it ironically in his native tongue - loudly enough to incidentally play to the false conversation being had for the guards benefit. This gave the Sivoan an idea and he tapped on the bridge of his nose before nodding a question at the doctor.


Roux nodded, affirmatively, the mask was how they would communicate. Of course he didn’t need to mention that he had linked the headwear to his own ACME Communicator.


“Repeat after me.” Flag mouthed more than whispered before showcasing a louder, almost sneering, tone that matched the slow pronunciation that he was offering. Mixed in the few chosen words was a slight mispronunciation of the region they, and the temple, were in - pulled from what he remembered hearing around the pain he had felt in the labs.


Behind the mask, Acton did what he was told, and began transmitting within the estimated time range that his watch indicated. But even though he thought he was hitting the right accents in this strange VILE code, he saw disapproval on the brows of his ‘guide’.


Flag shook his head and tried repeating the words slower and more clearly, growing irritated that he could not relay them in a way that would allow the doctor to understand what he was pronouncing wrong. Namely the word addressing their major problem. The doctor’s accent kept leading the man to say the name of a certain type of pickled pepper.

After another round, he gave up and brought his gaze to the dust message at the doctors feet. “No visuals?”



With a heavy notion, Chase decided he would have to remove this plague mask and let Flag speak into it. Taking his hands to the back and undoing latches of leather, he revealed his identity in complete silence. Folding the mask slightly, he pushed it beak-first between the bars.


Flag blinked at the imposter in disbelief several times before bringing his hand up pinch between his eyes, grumbling “this is the worst dream ever” under his breath. Of course it wasn’t one. By the logic that the pain of a felt pinch meant reality, he was as awake as one could possibly be. Recalling that time was of the essence, he dropped his hand and snatched the beaked helm from the director.

Perhaps because of who had just previously worn it, the mask was entirely uncomfortable and Flag was thankful that his ordeal with it would be over as soon as his message was. Repeating himself clearly, he hoped that his revelation in Abu Dhabi would ring true; that she would understand his words.

The Sivoan practically ripped the mask off when he was done with it, but instead of handing it over immediately, he held onto it. “This better not be yours.”



Chase frowned and tried to draw on the sand. Unable to convey anything, he whispered, "It belongs to Acton Roux, he's safe."

"Wot you going on about back there?" Wick turned around craning his neck to try see over crates blocking his vision.

Devineaux opened a palm in front of the cage and hinted that it was of great importance he got the mask back.


Flag shoved the mask back through the bars, appeased only by the fact that the ACME director’s admission seemed to indicate that he was working with his fellow henchman - as opposed to secretly being. Not saying a word as Chase reapplied his disguise, he pointed to the message in the dust so that it could be erased.

Wick returned to the scene he had hoped for; a flustered grackle of a man and the caged cat that was angry with him.
 

Vic

Confidence Man
Color #
008000
#64
[Cowritten by Carmen & Vic]


In the lull of stratospheric flight, two tail sections of the MAMBA disengaged. Both would independently return to Stone Harbour. Without time to change modules, the head remained fitted with an apartment suite, while following it was communications, services and cargo, plus two empty holds.

Sitting with Vincent Fumigalli, Carmen maintained contact with Renee Grovesnor through Chase’s device. While neither teams spoke directly, periodic pings were necessary to trust building. She was, after all, in possession of a rare piece of hardware.

During a quiet hour, Chase Devineaux’s phone buzzed suddenly and began playing audio. It was set to automatically receive and record this call by its owner. Carmen needed to only to listen.

A series of mysterious sounds in the voice of ACME’s Director flowed through. At first, the worldly thief thought it was Bavarian, and then accented Austrian when she began to hear a word that reminded her of the ‘pimento’. Unsuccessful at relaying the full message, that voice was cut.

“Hello?” Carmen attempted to speak back, but this was clearly a one-way signal.

Soon, another voice in much clearer syllables began to report similar information. Flag’s intonations, strained and husked, told her that he was with Chase, they were safe. The target of Maelstrom’s attack was the MAMBA, and alien speech referenced something that reminded his listener of treasure vaults.

Both voices, in their own way, reassured her and the thief breathed calmer.


“What was that?” Vic scratched his head. As far as he could tell, both voices were the same man. The speech was a bit distorted and even though Vic didn’t know at this point that the voices were filtered through a microphone in Roux’s mask, he thought it reminded him of someone covering their head to talk.

“A clue,” Carmen nodded, “Vic, how many AUVs can we send out, earliest, if we were to call on them?”

“I can get some ground teams to prep sonars,” Vic still looked confused. The conman knew his way around, but when the boss honed in on something, she nearly always understood strange messages before he could decipher them. “What language was that?”

“You didn’t catch it?” Carmen turned to her screen and began looking for friends with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, “It was Austrian.”

“Eh?” Vic looked at her, worried. Was it code that he never knew about? He spent time in Austria securing a safe house and even though he couldn’t speak the language he’d know it if he heard it, “Carmen… that wasn’t Austrian.”

She paused to consider, but made no reply to the topic of languages.

“AUVs, Vincent,” she continued, “See if you can find a samples collector as well, I need reports as soon as--”


While she was talking, Vic put a hand on her screen to distract her.

Carmen’s eyes snapped to his, “Yes?”

“You should sleep,” Fumigalli’s gaze was serious for the first time in a long time, “we got people taking care of this.”

Vic watched her think, a vision many VILE agents got to see because she was always thinking more than talking. He waited for some kind of witty response about having already slept enough or a translated phrase from dead authors he would never read. But to his surprise, there was nothing of the sort. She nodded, stood up and left. A simmer of pride shot up in Vic’s smile and he gandered down the corridor to make sure she went the bedroom direction. She’d be back in a few hours, he figured, but that silence was golden, it was her way of saying he was right.
 
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#65
Co-written by Patty/Joe

Outside was dark by now, but it was still humid. Over the sounds of crickets and night animals, Maelstrom’s Valkyrie walked through the facilities and into the old stables. She saw a guard standing by and told him to leave. At her order, he walked out and waited instead by the bigger door.

“Hey Joe,” she smiled half way, putting a plate of yellow curry and naan under the door, “Wasn’t sure if you liked Indian, but it’s all we got.”

***

The sound of the familiar vibrato stirred the jester from his thoughts.

Moving over to the door, he picked up the proffered plate but soon switched his attention to his captor.


“Patty? Did you come to gloat?”

Despite his best efforts to maintain an even tone, his voice still carried traces of the hurt and confusion the continued to swirl inside.


***

At those words, she shrugged a little, “You think I have anything to gloat about?”

Pulling a crate near the cell with her boot, she sat on it so she could see Joe better.

***

The jester poked at his food, trying to quell the anger within him.

“For starters, you fooled me; got me locked up.”


***

“I’m starting to think this is just the tip of a really long list,” again she gave another half-smile. Then while she watched him poke at his food, she asked quietly, “Why did you let me kiss you?”

***

“Why did you let me kiss you?”


The daggers sunk in, drawing tears in place of blood.


I guess I really am a fool...

His plate slammed unceremoniously on the floor; his appetite all but forgotten.

“I thought you were better than this, than Maelstrom!”

***

“It’s nothing Carmen hasn’t done to you,” Patty argued, “I just compressed it in less time, like pulling off a bandaid”

***

Stunned by the amount of venom in her voice at the word ‘Carmen’, Joseph took a moment before responding.

“Carmen’s not like that.”

***

Hearing that excuse, she retorted, “Sure, Joe… You’re here, she’s not. She disappeared on you and she’s not at all heartless.”

The blonde exhaled before continuing, “Listen, I don’t want things to go south either, but she’s done things too, and hasn’t cared… You think she’s out there now thinking about you, or do you think she’d trying to figure out how to save herself from all this embarrassment?”

***

Despite himself, Joseph felt a growing amount of sadness and concern for the woman he once proudly called a friend and maybe something more.

This isn’t right. The Patty I know would never doubt Carmen. This has to be about more than just Russia...

“She cares. She cares more than you realize. You weren’t there...you didn’t know...didn’t see how vulnerable she looked when we talked...about you.”

***

There was a pause, “How could you even know that? ‘Vulnerable’?”

***

Joseph noted, for the first time, the coldness in her gaze; it took everything within him not to look away.

What happened to you, Patts? Why are you so bitter?

“It was the first time I’d ever seen uncertainty in her eyes. More importantly, I know how hard it is for someone like her to share her honest feelings.”

***

Putting her elbows on her legs, Patty leaned in, “So how?”

***

Releasing a breath he didn’t realize he was holding, the jester replied softly.

“Because...I’m just like her...an orphan”

***

That fact didn’t surprise her as much as she thought it might, “But you’re sweet Joe, kind of innocent, she’s… you know.”

***

Joseph shook his head.

“I may be ‘sweet’, but truth is, I’m also distant in my own way. Think about it, no one at VILE, possibly save for Carmine, really knows me; my greatest fears, my deepest dreams and desires, my past...few people have ever truly seen behind my mask.

You see, as an orphan, one doesn’t dare to form any real connections because those connections may never last; your fellow orphans might be adopted at any time; here today, gone tomorrow, and never to be seen again. There are some that return, but not by choice; those ones never come back the same, can’t come back the same, always just a shell of the kid they once were.”

Almost like you are now...

“I got lucky, I guess? I was adopted by a man whom I would later come to know was the gentleman thief, Willy Kerrigan.

He took me under his wing, taught me many lessons; one of the most important of which was was to love life and value it. And the other, well...in his own words...

“The real fool isn’t the one painted on the mask, it’s the man who refuses to take the mask off.”

Joseph paused to dry his tears.

“But with Carmen, it feels like she uses her missions as her mask; she’s so used to running away...lately she seems to want to change that but I...I don’t know if she ever had anyone to teach her how.”

***

Patty listened to Joe quietly, and while she felt he was right, her heart had hardened some time ago, “Maybe it’s too late for her. She should have learned when she had the chance.”

Then she quickly changed her tone in the next breath, “I have a new mentor, Joe. Sucks for the old team, but I do.”

The Valkyrie stood and adjusted herself, “And I’m sorry too, for everything before this conversation, and after it,” she did feel bad, for what was to come, “I have to go,” her words were flat.

“Good night.”

***

“You’re better than this!”

The retort died in his mouth as he watched the blonde’s retreating figure.

In silence, the jester sat down and picked up the plate, attempting to salvage what little of the meal was left.

The curry was now cold; the room, even more so.

You’re wearing a mask too, it’s the only thing that makes sense; the blanket, the perfume, the cuffs...you’re still in there somewhere...I know you are...come home Patts...come home.
 

Neb

Elf on the Shelf
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
#66
[Co-written Neb/Vic/Carmen]

To her surprise, Neb slept like a brick. This was usually not so, but it seemed even her nightmares were too tired to assert themselves. Eventually the bottle of beer she’s shared with Ara made itself known and she woke to use the restroom. The events of the night before drifted into her mind, and by the time she was done she was too disturbed to go back to sleep.

Neb pressed her head against the tiny bathroom mirror and sighed. Might as well go do my job.

She put her ear against the door that separated her from Carmen. Nothing.

Unsatisfied, she snuck a peek inside.

Okay good, she’s actually sleeping, Neb thought as she closed the door. Then she checked the radio clock. There was still time to kill and she didn’t relish doing it alone, so she pulled on a sweatshirt and went for a wander.


***

Like most nights when he worked, Vincent Fumigalli was counting sheep. Except this time it wasn’t bouncing imaginary sheep, it was all the sheep VILE had at Harbin. Scanning through video surveillance some of his contacts got for him, he tried to figure out how they were attacked and where the attackers took the missing.

A few hours ago, Carmen also gave Vic some information on a possible ping in Kerala, India. But the thing with an ACME GPS signal is that they’re hard to pick up and even harder to decrypt if you didn’t have the right tools. Still, that last message was good news and Vic had his people do what they need to do to get Carmen what she wanted.

He leaned back into his chair and stretched his arms and legs out, then he saw a half shadow at his door.

“Ey kiddo,” he greeted, “there’s ice cream on-board if you want a snack.”


***

Neb poked her head in the door. She’d become as distant to Vic as she had to most people in VILE in the past few years, but she was now as hungry for comradery as she was for the offered desert.

“Did you sleep at all?” she asked as she opened the door to the mini fridge across the way.


***

“Slept all day!” Vic yawned. “You? Carmen?”

***

There was something sublimely ironic about eating ice cream after escaping an ice festival, and Neb cherished that little bit of light as she settled into a nearby chair.

“Carmen’s asleep. I got some sleep in, somehow,” she said as she unwrapped her snack. Then she leaned back and closed her eyes. “Any idea what the f**k just happened?”


***

“Been asking myself that too,” Vic sounded serious, “I got sources trying to look into how Gunnar Maelstrom got out of jail and we didn’t know. He was there for Carmen, can tell you that, precise points of attack.“ He hands her a file on the Norwegian.

“Anywho, you did good, Kiddo. Saved one of ours too. How’s it feeling being Carmen’s shadow?“


***

The question passed over Neb’s head at first, left to hang as she poured over the file on the table.

“Jesus Christ…” she breathed as she read down the list of offenses, then sat back heavily in her chair.

“Honestly, being Carmen’s shadow is surreal. I don’t know any other way to describe it. First that she’d want one, and second, I thought that was your job?”


***

“I don’t shadow her,” Vic laughed in his usual way, “I help run the operations. Shadow’s a concept she’s been wanting to try with someone, but hasn’t ever gotten to it… I guess she picked you, sounds good if you ask me.”

He paused, “She’s been different, since Venice… Tunisia... Then Kamchatka… Thought I saw a bit of the old her in Harbin, but now…” Vic trailed off, gesturing to the head of the MAMBA, “If she’s hurting, she’s not sharing.”

The Italian-American typed on the screen when he saw something pop up, but sighed, “We’re going to Hawaii, did she tell you? To meet up with ACMEs. Their director might be trapped with Maelstrom too, ‘cause somehow his phone ends up in your coat. You don’t remember how it got in?”


***

Neb sat up. “ACME? When did this happen? I didn’t have anything in my…”

She trailed off. Something had fallen out of her coat when she’d reversed it, but she hadn’t the time to note what it was. “How the hell? I was with VILE people all night.”


***

“I donno, Kiddo,” Vic pulled something up on his screen, “but it’s Devineaux…”

The video played and Vic gave the headphones for Neb to listen to the audio. “We’re trying to track him, that watch he holds up… but looks like we’re not gonna get anything without ACME technology.”


***

The shadow watched it once, then rewound it and watched it again yet didn’t know what to make of it. “What was Chase doing there? How did everyone know exactly where we’d be? Maelstrom’s people were coming right at us-”

Neb stopped short as Flag and Roux entered her recollection. “Did-?”

Did they check in?

She couldn’t get the words out. It was too early, surely. “Did anyone figure out how we were tracked? And what’s Ultralett?”


***

Ultralett is an environmental activist organization,” Vic replied, “all I know is what you know from that video, Gunnar Maelstrom’s behind it.”

He twitched his leg a little, “I hate to say it, but I think it could’ve been an inside job. Only other person outside of VILE that knew we’d be there was a tracker Carmen hired,” Vic shrugged, “He never showed up to meet her. Someone got him, or he ratted. Don’t know for sure. Only know we got two KIA and three MIA: Joe, Roux, Flag.”


***

The hum of exhaust fans and engines dimmed to nothing as blood rushed into her ears, and Neb stared at the wall until the sound of plastic crumpling in her clenched fist brought her back.

“They can still check in,” she stated quietly as she tossed the cup in the trash. “Who was Carmen tracking?”


***

Vic nodded about the checking in. “She won’t say who she’s tracking,” he shrugged, “just that a contact didn’t show up.”

He noticed the bracelet that Carmen was experimenting with nearly a year earlier around Neb’s wrist. “That bracelet,” he pointed out, “it came after Kam, kinda neat.” He double tapped the gem and it pulsed. “Sometimes it works, sends you her heart beat.” Vic shrugged again, “seems kinda fast for sleep, maybe she’s up?”


***

Neb looked at the gem and frowned. “Or it could be a nightmare.”

She fiddled with the gem absently, her eyes moving from the file to the trash, and back to the bracelet again. “What do you mean, she’s changed?
Is there something you think I should be watching for?”

***

"Yes, Vincent," VILE's leader stood at the edge of the doorway, "explain how I've changed."

Nearly six hours after she fell asleep, Carmen's eyes opened. The timer next to her pillow was seconds away from a chime, and she quelled it before it rang. Once she was ready, she clipped her hair up and, in a simple wrapped dress, slipped into sandals woven with water hyacinth fibers. It was in these casual circumstances that she came to Fumigalli's temporary office.


***

Vic tried to back track on his words but got tongue-tied. He thought back in the days VILE was starting out. They had laughs, doing whatever they wanted, and she was this pretty young thing. Her hazel eyes had rings of colors from blue to bronze and depending on what she wore they were sometimes more gold and sometimes more green. Behind those eyes was this unquenchable passion that everyone felt when they met her.

A decade later, and ‘pretty’ grew into something heartbreakingly beautiful. The passion in her gold irises is still there, but Vic could swear they’re doused with some kind of worry. Or experience turned wit into wisdom? Then again, maybe back then, there wasn’t as much to live for.

“I was joshing around with Kiddo,” he shrugged, apologetic, “you had a good sleep?”


***

“I did,” her response held no emotion.

***

Neb began to drum her fingers on Maelstrom’s open file in thought.

***

Turning her attention to Neb, and the open folder, Carmen's expression softened, “Join me for breakfast, in thirty minutes?”
 
Last edited:

Carmen

Queen of Crime
Color #
c00000
#67
[Co-written Carmen/Neb]

Thirty minutes later…

This section of the amphibious craft was fitted with chairs that resembled private jet seating. When they left Stone Harbour, in these chairs where her ‘knights’. When they landed in Harbin, these men disembarked. Now, none of them were with her.

In one of the recliners, Carmen sat contemplating before a fold-out table and an untouched plate of quinoa salad.


***

Truth be told, Neb was still full of ice cream and not much inclined to eat, but she got herself a bowl of fruit to be polite and encouraging. The location at the table they’d settled at wasn’t lost on Neb, yet again she chose not to acknowledge it and kept her focus on the woman in front of her instead.

“When I was younger, I used to toss around this silly idea of a hotline between ourselves and ACME, like the US and Russia had during the cold war. It’s beginning to make more sense as of late...,” she said gently to rouse Carmen from her trance.


***

Circles, she was drawing them with her mind, the moment she recognized Gunnar Maelstrom and when things began to click into place. Neb’s voice drew an imaginary line from those circles and, like the thin anchoring string to a helium balloon, pulled her thoughts back to the present.

“Hello,” her lips curved slightly upwards in greeting, then she soundlessly laughed at Neb’s suggestion. “I’ve always thought things were better when we weren’t talking,” by that she meant ACME and VILE, “but these are different times.”

She looked down at the salad and with a stainless steel fork, pushed the grains from the short cylinder that they formed onto the porcelain.

“We had contact,” she gave good news with a soft breath, “I heard two voices, though Chase’s phone, one was his and I’m certain the other was Flag’s.”


***

“Flag?” Neb stood up from her chair abruptly, then sat back down in awkward silence, her face glowing red. “He's okay?”

***

Noting the reaction, a cool hand touched Neb’s wrist.

“They’re fine,” she reassured, “they sound tired, but they gave me enough hints to start unraveling what Maelstrom is after.”

The thief leaned back into her chair.

“I have a plan… a series of plans, that I need to lay out,” a brisk nod followed, “I think you know who we’re dealing with, and I want to give you a choice.”

She moved forward, resting her elbows on the folding table “I’d like you to stay with Vic for the duration of this ‘heist’,” her tone was honest, “But I would understand, if you prefer not to.”


***

Neb pushed through the confused relief and the many other questions she had to make sense of what her boss was saying.

“Heist?” she asked, then zeroed in. “But, why would I stay behind? Was I not supposed to follow you everywhere?”


***

“Yes,” she agreed, and then elaborated, “but we can’t be playing ‘Carmen-says’ when it’s this dangerous.”

***

Neb chuckled despite herself. Finding humor in the darkness was essential to survival, something she’d learned that from Joe. The smile faded away and she met Carmen’s eyes.

“I appreciate the concern, I really do,” she said as she reached for the woman's hand. “But it’s better to die without regret than live with it. I’m coming.”


***

Carmen nodded approval, but said nothing further.

***

In the quiet, Neb again thought about their destination. ACME had been honorable in Kamchatka even in light of the tower heist, or perhaps, because of it, but the shadow was reluctant to expose her boss to any further risk of ambush.

“I understand you want to give them back this communicator, but must we actually meet with ACME? Surely we could leave it in a secure location?”


***

"And remain pleasantly detached while we know ACME's missing Director was clearly in Harbin?" she returned the inquiry with a question.

Rising, she moved closer; her hands adjusted Neb's shoulders and consequent posture, "And we won't be meeting 'ACME'," the lead elaborated, "We'll be meeting Chase Devineaux’s 'fishing buddy,' Eugene Grovington."
 

Eugene

Airfield Staff
Known Aliases
Euge, Earl Jr.
Color #
003366
#68
[Co-written by Eugene/Eleanor/Carmen/Neb]


Honolulu, Oahu

The Mustang seemed to give an extra shudder as Euge slowed to turn into the drive of Cigar-Cigar, mirroring his own uncertainty towards this meeting. There was still opportunity to excise himself from this situation; loop around back to the airport and fly best speed back to San Francisco. Yet he plunged on ahead, the growl of the engine confirming any reluctance he felt in the vehicle was all in his head.

Six hours en-route to Hawaii were consumed by managing the aircraft and constant communication with Renee, who had confirmed Chase’s tracker had settled somewhere in India. This left Euge’s only time for reflection to be packed into the short drive from the airport to the cigar shop.

Euge’s movements cemented his decision with little conscious thought, instead occupying himself with a quick scan of the parking lot. A few local vehicles, coupled with a rental Jeep, accompanied his own forest green Mustang. Certainly nothing conspicuous here. Sweeping his sunglasses off, Euge proceeded inside.

The cool air spilling from the AC inside the shop was seasoned with the scent of unburnt tobacco oozing from the humidors, beckoning Euge to pause at nearly every case to examine labels. The only other occupant of the shop besides staff was concluding their business at the register. Satisfied he had arrived first, the pilot busied himself with his secondary errand of finding a suitable new smoke for his uncle.


***

Remaining in the mustang for a moment as she watched Eugene make his way into the smoke shop Eleanor quietly sipped on a starbucks tea latte and pulled a small unmarked black smartphone out, casually typing a text message with her right thumb before hiding it again in a discrete pocket along the side of her vest. The jacket of her suit was thrown in the back seat at the moment, leaving her in a vest and blouse, which were looking a bit wrinkled given how much time she’d spent over the last 16 hours traveling.

Aside from a few heavy sighs about not being properly packed for a case like this, and that she should have known better when it came to Chase Devineaux, the six hour trip from San Francisco had been mostly quiet on Eleanor’s end, surprisingly so in fact. She’d heard Chase’s recording moments after she’d buckled herself into what would traditionally be considered the flight attendant’s seats in the Boeing 777 while the plane rose in altitude and by the time it was safe to unbuckle herself Eleanor had already taken to her bags to take out her secured tablet and start working. Clearances were needed to extend the range on Chase’s GPS trackers and she’d needed to work quietly, without raising suspicion, passing on word to Renee so she could keep track of the Director’s whereabouts. She’d made a point to secure her own whereabouts with her home office as well, claiming that she was staying in San Francisco on personal time for a few extra days to catch up with old friends, which Chicago’s Chief Begay hadn’t bothered to question.

Pulling her communicator from her pants pocket she checked the time and for any last minute messages from Renee before opening the car door and moving to leaning against the car… just in time to watch an orange corvette arrive.


***

Arriving in a Daytona Sunrise Orange Corvette, VILE’s leader approached the unassuming cigar shop. In the two-seater was only her and her shadow. It felt unnecessary to bring more, but Carmen also understood circumstances were appropriate.

Turning into the enclosed parking area of the cigar shop aptly named ‘Cigar-Cigar-Etc.,’ she noted first the forest green Mustang, then she counted the amount of cars in the vicinity. The weather was cooler, and recent rain showed that all cars, saved for the Ford, had been there for some time.

“Stay in the car,” she whispered.
Neb was not especially keen to do so, but there was a time to run and a time to wait. Today was the latter.

VILE's lead didn’t bother parking in a slot, there was someone standing by the green Mustang. In a casual cotton dress for Hawaii’s 80-degrees-Fahrenheit and a pair of white Converse, she exited the vehicle. Moving caramel-colored sunglasses up to rest on the head, she adjusted her ponytail slightly, then breathed a sigh upon observation of the person.

This wasn’t Eugene Grovington, but there was certainly a familiarity.

“Miss… Wayward,” she questioned without the upward intonation to signify a proper inquiry. They had met, exactly twice, but appearances informed her something significant occurred between then and now, “Are you joining us?’


***

There was a small smile that appeared on Eleanor’s lips as she heard her false name being used again. It had been a while since she’d heard it, though its use didn’t sting as badly as it did two years ago.

“...Eleanor Mayhew, Miss Sandiego.” she said, as if introducing herself for a first time, despite their having met on a few occasions, both of which had been during her time in Special Ops. For what small amount of time she’d been in it. “I’d hate to be left out of a party like this… hope you don’t mind my tagging along.”

Carefully her hand extended to shake, her other still holding the paper starbucks cup.


***

The handshake was received in kind, followed by an affirming nod and curve of a smile.

“Eleanor, of course,” She recalled the first name incidentally spoken through a communicator during the negotiations process of a train heist. Moving forward, her voice distilled to unusual seriousness, “Have you been able to assert his location?”


***

E nodded in return and motioned towards the smoke shop with her head, turning to walk towards it slowly as they talked. “The most recent transmission places him on the southern tip of India... “ she answered and took another sip of her drink, as if they were merely discussing the weather. “So far visual satellite footage isn’t giving much about the area yet… we only got the information a little bit ago. He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d only transmit for 20 minutes…”

***

Listening intently, the thief followed her situational comrade towards the shop. Scents of tobacco and sweetened smoke permeated even before the door opened. Once inside, she noted the figure of Eugene Grovington and a proprietor behind displays of neatly aligned rolls.

Walking up casually to the pilot and without introducing herself, Carmen acknowledged him.

“I received another transmission,” she softly revealed with both agents in earshot, “Maelstrom may be after a vault of treasures underwater…” she looked towards Eleanor, “and with the information you have on Chase’s ping, I believe we’re looking at somewhere in the Laccadive Sea.”


***

A stirring of the chilled air, coupled with a tone from an electric chime signalled Euge others had joined him in the smoke shop. Without looking, he supposed they could simply be other patrons, but the hushed tones drawing close left that possibility very remote.

Euge sensed the two figures draw up behind him at the case of thin Cubans, and the same voice that sounded so foreign emerging from his communicator confirmed its presence by speaking once more. He didn’t react, at least not immediately; instead leaning down slightly to examine a label on one of the cigars. Her statement made sense, given the limited information they were running on, and the same hint of stress present when they first spoke still faintly colored her tone. Mentally steeling himself, Euge drew his attention away from the glass case and turned towards the women, crossing his arms and leaning back against the counter. “Do we trust your source? Or did this information appear out of the same thin air as the directors’ communicator?”


***

The woman to whom the question was directed paused. This was the first time they had truly met 'in person' and in his words, she immediately saw the reasons why Eugene Grovington may be a certain someone's trusted 'buddy'.

"Thank you for coming all this way, Mr. Grovington," she reset the tone of the conversation. Then removing Chase's device from her pocket, she handed it to Eugene. The item's exterior was thoroughly cleaned, and it was wrapped in a white handkerchief, free of any fingerprints.


Euge’s gaze shifted momentarily to the linen wrapped device before returning to her face.

"Both my sources came from here, you may play the messages again if you'd like, our mutual friend may benefit," She let him take the phone from her before continuing, "He was using a VILE code, in the audio recording, one of my men is trapped with him. I would understand if you'd like to take this information and form a rescue team of your own..."

A momentary power on of the phone confirmed the identity of its owner, and caused Euge’s skeptical gaze to soften by a minuscule fraction. While the ACME sanctioned way would likely result in a plodding and bureaucratic rescue, here he was presented with an opportunity for a swift and, dare he say, mutually beneficial recovery. “You already have something in motion.” It wasn’t a question.

The softness in his skeptical stance, she noted, was due to familiarity. It was indeed Chase Devineaux's phone and now all evidence proved the fact.

"I do," she touched his wrist with sincerity, "I have a transport vessel docked nearby, it's open to both of you."

With a slight hint of mischief, she looked to both Eleanor and Eugene, "I don't suppose you’ve prepared for an underwater expedition?"
 

Patty

Valkyrie
Known Aliases
Patt, Patts, Petite, Amber Cecelia Argos, Valkyrie
Color #
8d8844
#69
[Co-Written by Patty/Maelstrom]
[Poster's note: 'Amber Argos' is Patty Larceny's birth name, revealed back in Act I.]


"A woman, she can hide her identity and her feelings very well, but she cannot hide who she is." --Walter Taut, Architect, ACME's Accolade

‘Amber Argos’... she didn’t really mind that name so much now that Chase used it, and partially, she wondered why. She didn’t hate the way he called her Amber, admitting to herself, she might have even liked it. Then again, how crazy was it that she’d be in this place? So far, her list of crimes grew from pick-pocketing and vandalism to assault and kidnapping. After disenchantment with VILE, she jumped ship to learn from Maelstrom, and now she was working with ACME’s Director.

With Carmen, Patty had always felt naive, and young. VILE’s leader was this amazing, invulnerable woman that taught without actually teaching. She had a way of sheltering anyone in need. She preserved life. She knew how to bring her teams together, but she was vague with the concept of possessions. Like water, she wove around thoughts and ideas, taking them far with her, and always moving forward. Not everyone could catch up.

Doctor Gunnar Maelstrom was someone Patty saw as a mentor. He taught lessons directly to her and gave the sort of feedback that she felt was constructive at the time. What he granted her was the structure she needed to understand how the world worked. He didn’t protect her from anything, but she hated that fact too. She was on her own most of the time, commanding her tiny little army of whatever thugs he saw fit to give her. If she failed, he wouldn’t bail her out.

Then there was Chase Devineaux. She could have left him to the thugs in Moscow, but then she wouldn’t have as much fuel to undermine Gunnar Maelstrom. That decision and exchanging plans with Chase made her see why he was ACME’s leader. He didn’t get to his position by default, he got it because someone with enough insight saw something in him. When he talked he had this charisma, and even though he didn’t show much emotion one way or another, she felt he understood. He was a man that gave chances, and something about him was warm… like he was used to keeping people informed, and by that, they felt safe.

It was misty in this place in the morning, and still hot no matter how much rain poured overnight. Meeting her mentor after he had completely lost Carmen’s scent, she tensed a little not knowing what mood he was in. But by the time she opened that door into his den, she was back to her usual frown.

Can we hurry so I can go do rounds?” She was impatient to get this day started.

Gunnar Maelstrom sat behind a large wooden desk, on a big chair that looked like it was hauled here from some Indo-Saracenic palace. He was gritting his teeth over reports from the communications tower. Beside them were papers with scribbled marks from an old fountain pen dipped in Indian ink.

Having Plague do the operation was smart,” he complimented, but he could tell she didn’t care, “You said he can’t function without that mask?

He needs it to breathe as far as I know,” the blonde didn’t budge, “Or he can’t handle light, leave him alone.

He’s a strange kind of doctor,” Maelstrom repeated what he said in the lab, “modified that spine trap instead of following instructions.

But he still followed through.

He did, he did,” a bent smile was on the Norwegian’s face, “but you can tell him I’m not sharing anything until I figure him out.

Fair enough.

There was a cup of tea on Maelstrom’s table in a dainty floral pattern because it was the only dishware readily available when they arrived. When he lifted it up to drink the contents, she thought it was ironic. Someone had to find this funny.

Now this... ACME Director of Operations,” the man said as soon as he swallowed his tea, “Carmen Sandiego’s former partner, was he?

So you googled his name,” Patty crossed her arms.

Tell me, are they still in touch?

No,” that was the truth, but she knew that a lot about Carmen went unsaid. She was standing right next to VILE’s leader during that Blue Moon in Venice. Patty was too naive then, but by the end of it, she remembered feeling something happened that was beyond her understanding.

Given his high-and-mighty position...” the Norwegian’s English was British, and when he thought out loud, it sounded almost Shakespearean, “Di-rec-tor of Operations… remind me again how you managed to nab him in Moscow?

Here, she carefully recounted her story again, “Your men spooked him off, I caught up with him, brought him back handcuffed and delivered him to you in Harbin, that’s not enough?

It’s enough,” he made a shrugging frown, “Did you get to ask what was he doing in Siberia?

You have him in the silo,” Patty gestured convincingly, “why don’t you go ask him?

I don’t like that ACME is on our tail,” picking up his bowie knife, Maelstrom spun its edge slowly into the Indian mahogany table, “Especially one that knows her… I’m starting to think that we don’t need this bargain.

Paranoia, really?” she nearly cut him off, “You told me if I brought him in, you wouldn’t touch him.

I said that I might not touch him, in case ACME comes knocking,” he reasoned, “but I think they’re not coming.

Patty gave a cold glare.

You think this indecisiveness was why she slipped away so fast in Harbin?” The blonde knew she caused that miss, and it gave her a little pride. She shouldn’t have reminded him of the event, but sometimes her tongue was faster than her logic. The man with the knife paused, as if he detected that breach, and her blue eyes darted to his notes to avoid eye contact.

Maelstrom put his dagger down, barring the papers she looked at and chuckled, “I should have brought a crossbow!” His words sounded like jest but the Valkyrie knew he was dead serious. This didn’t surprise her. Nothing the marine biologist said surprised her anymore.

Because this is beyond vengeance,” Patty spoke blandly, repeating words she heard before to collect her train of thought, “Your downfall, her rise, about time things get switched. Blah, blah, blah.

Are you be going somewhere with this unnecessary mockery, Valkyrie?

Yeah,” she nodded slowly, leaning her arms on the surface of his table, “You’re lucky Plague Doctor didn’t let you kill Flag, and your only success in the entire thing dangles on the fact that I got the Jester and the Detective. If this messes up again, it’s completely on you.

A staring contest ensued and Patty won this time. Maelstrom looked down at his own desk and began to laugh, crackling mildly, “Such a bold liten Valkyrie… You still have a lot to learn. Remember why you switched teachers.

Patty knew that tone, he was up to one of his many ‘trust exercises’. She was hoping she could hold off longer, but after he lost Carmen and the MAMBA, his plans were set back indefinitely. He was more than a little irritated, and from the way he was playing with that dagger, there was something else he wasn’t telling her.

The Valkyrie moved from his desk, “Whatever, can I go now?” she kept that tone of impatience.

Go!” he dismissed her, “I need a some entertainment...
 

Neb

Elf on the Shelf
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
#70
Three months ago she’d existed on the outskirts of VILE. Three months later she was riding in a shiny orange sports car beside her enigmatic leader. But there wasn’t any room to enjoy that. She was tense but wary to show it. She wanted to keep a good face, a calm stance. Things were stressful enough. She was quiet the ride to the cigar shop. Words were distracting and she wanted to focus, to think lightly, letting her brain breathe.

There was an experience in being alone with Carmen as she drove. It was such a mundane task, driving, but when Carmen did it, it felt like watching an astronaut maneuver a spaceship. Neb had little doubt this effect would differ from one car to the next. It was her movements that did it. It made the dress she wore all the more unusual. An astronaut in a dress and converse, flying behind enemy lines.

She hadn’t wanted to be left in the car because she felt she should be doing more. What, she wasn’t sure. The ACMEs trying to arrest her seemed almost comically impolite, but someone else coming up behind her was more worrisome. She’d kept low and out of sight regardless.

Now Neb rested in a quiet corner of the MAMBA, and with no one to keep a face, she let out a long sigh in her solitude, then checked her phone for the time again. Her current wallpaper looked back, the selfie from the night before. She hadn’t the heart to change it.

Neb felt her shoulder. The arrow she’d taken for Joe and removed by Roux was almost a memory in her skin, knitted back faster than natural by the torc she wore. Bran was a million miles away. Time had skipped by in fantastical leaps, yet as she waited for a plan, she found it doing anything but.
 
#71
Elsewhere, in ACME’s Accolade Tower…

Renee Grovesnor, Personal Assistant to ACME’s Director of Operations typed on her keyboard to log information sent by team Pacific. That was her internal code for Carmen Sandiego, Eugene Grovington, and Eleanor Mathew. There was something familiar about the way Carmen relayed information. She was an ACME agent once, so it really shouldn’t surprise the assistant, but it still gave her pause that she was working with the enemy.

Pacific was working hard to find the location of an under-ocean cavern, and while Renee had no knowledge of what that meant, she could see that VILE had hundreds of smaller unattached units that they were able to rely on for these operations.

The phone rang, an incoming call from CEO Barbara Rosen and the Assistant froze for a few seconds. She cleared her throat and then answered.

“Mr. Devineaux’s office, this is Renee Grovesnor,” her reply was as cheerful as possible.

“Where is he, Renee?”

“I’m… not sure I know--” Zut! She thought she prepared for this.

“I was notified this morning that The Seal returned safely to his people,” Rosen sounded strangely patient, “And I have to wonder why Chase, after completing this so quickly, disappears off the grid?”

“I’m not at liberty--”

“Grovesnor, do you like your job?”

“Mrs. Rosen, I love my job, and I’m doing it right now.”

“Eugene Grovington took a plane loaded with company equipment and left, didn’t he?”

“Yes…”

“What is happening, Renee?”

“Madam CEO…” the assistant sighed in confession, “I need to send you a video.”

“Send it,” Rosen’s voice sounded both angry and bored at the same time, and Grovesnor wondered if that was a new thing, “And Grovesnor, until I get this thing sorted, you are temporarily reassigned to Ivy Monaghan.”

“The Commander?” Renee asked a reactionary question, but quickly changed her tone, “Yes, of course.”

“Whatever you have, with Chase, with this illegal team you’re working with, every piece of confidential paper you've shredded, Renee, make sure you brief Monaghan.”


[Credit to Chase, Carmen and Ivy for this post]
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
Color #
808080
#72
[Cowritten Patty/Chase/Flag]

Getting started on her ‘rounds’, Patty drove straight past her first stop. Rushing up to the labs on the hill, she walked in and saw Wick guarding Roux and Flag.

“Get out!” She yelled, “I need to beat somebody up!” The thug made some noise, then ran to the end of the hall and exited.

The Plague Doctor was on the bench, she could tell from his clothes that he had cleaned up some from the night before. And as far as she could see, Flag was in his cell either asleep or waking from her declaration.


“He knows,” the mask said, quietly hinting to Flag’s cage, “I had to tell him.” Using the labs as his location for the night, Devineaux stayed around to check on the VILE agent in case there were complications.

It didn’t matter who knew what, the Valkyrie grabbed the masked man by the collar and pulled him towards a pillar.

“You need to get to the silo,” the Valkyrie whispered, “Maelstrom has suspicions.”


“What?” His singular question was barely audible from behind the mask.

“He wants to talk to ‘Chase’ and I don’t know what he’ll do if he finds out,” she wasn’t sure what Maelstrom would do to her, not necessarily to the disguised Acton Roux, “Can you help, please?”

Without much dispute, the man in the plague mask removed himself from her grip and walked out inconspicuously towards the silo.

The hushed scuffle had awoken the walking Tesla coil and he was watching her through the cage door, half awake, with an eyebrow raised. "This your idea?" He made a vague gesture that encompassed more than the director's disguise.

Patty turned to glance at Flag and the cell he was in, "Enough of it," she answered with a shrug. Although they were both in VILE, these were the first three words she ever said directly to him.

Flag narrowed his eyes at her as he worked to place her in the events he had witnessed and the frustration of it showed on his face. As potential connections came to mind he rubbed his forehead and huffed. "You're either terrible at planning or something went really wrong," he stood up and crossed his arms, "which still means your still terrible at planning."

"Says the man half debilitated in a cage," the former VILE gave a little smirk, "But I guess you're willingly here too." She didn't have anything against Flag at this point, but she did know more about the situation and she had the right to feed him whatever she wanted. Patty decided to stay with the truth. "I had Chase and Acton switch places, he wasn't supposed to tell you, but looks like he did."

Considering past events, the phrase “He knows more about her than any of us” made more sense knowing ACME's director said it, but it provided a timeframe to her plan that exposed its flaws. Flag shook his head and pointed down the hallway with his thumb. "You arranged that before the ice festival - Before we were ambushed." He approached the bars and leveled his gaze at her. "Did you plan that as well?"

"I had a role in it, but I didn't plan it," she admitted, "I wanted to block it."

She looked towards where Chase disappeared and continued, "I thought if I gave her a chance, she'd somehow capture Maelstrom," she shook her head, "but then she ran instead. Hope you're not too disappointed that she left you,"


A sarcastic "ha!" escaped him and he looked at her feet in disbelief. "She wouldn't have if I didn't push her down the slope."

The Sivoan shook his head again and hooked his thumbs in his pockets before bringing his sunset gaze back to her face. The girl would never know how lucky she was that he couldn’t reach through the grid of the cage door. "With all the knowledge you had at your disposal, you thought that was the best course of action? I’m not buying it.” He sneered down at her, “No. You set us up and panicked, didn’t you?”


"That thing on your back must be hindering your brain too," she derided then went back to his previous point, "Looks like you saved her life, though, not that you'd hear a 'thank you' from her anytime soon." Patty stepped away from the cell and shrugged, "Aren't you at least a little surprised you're still alive?"

One furrowed brow traveled wayward at her comment regarding the gratitude of VILE's doyenne, indicating heavily that this was not his experience with her. Flag then rolled his eyes at her other statement. He knew why he lived.

Turning away, he paced the enclosure like so many animals had before--intentionally angling himself so that the girl could see the effects of her actions on him. "If this thing is affecting my ability to think, that's on you."


With Flag's back turned to her, the Valkyrie's eyes turned from surprise to disgust and then settled on thinking about what he just said to her. Sending Chase to Carmen's location was supposed to have brought in Maelstrom and freed the blonde from her engagements with the Norwegian. Truth was that she didn't care if anyone was injured, but her plea to Roux that important people could die wasn't all empty. She did want to avoid violence, but by not being thorough, that's exactly what she was encouraging.

From Flag's spine were thin trails of blood running half way down the side of his back where he slept overnight. The areas where that device attached were red with irritation and parts had green and yellow bruising. She bit her lower lip.

"Okay," her words were quiet.

Then Patty went to a locker to take out clothes that the thugs removed from Flag. She put that on the nearby bench and picked up some surgical cloth that were near where 'Roux' had left them.

"I can... help clean that." She offered gingerly, unsure of her words, but she was already holding up the white cloth.


Her quiet statement caught his attention and he turned to see her walk away momentarily. The sensation of this action caught up with him as she returned, notably without his bag. Despite having slept, it seemed that some level of exhaustion was still with him. "Fine," he muttered, moving to sit on the floor.

Taking the cloth and dipping it in mild rubbing alcohol, she cleaned his wounds through the bars. She never had interaction with Flag in VILE, but something about the fact that they were in the same family still echoed.

"You could stand with this, but can you walk, run?" She asked as rusted red came off on the white cotton, "Chase is on his way to get Acton, maybe we can find a window, I can grab Joe and get us a ride out but we'll have to be fast."


"Sounds like you thought hard on that one," he grumbled sarcastically, a hint of dry humor to his voice. "But, even stupid plans work sometimes. I'll move if I have to."

Dragging one last line to clean the blood from Flag's back, Patty didn't say anything at his sarcasm. She walked back to the bench, threw away the stained cloth, and handed him his clothes. "If we're running, it's happening tonight."

That spine device looked more permanent than she thought and she only felt bad for him as she began to walk away. She got to the door that Wick went through and yelled at him to go back inside. He was snacking, but once he saw her, dropped his Indian pastry and returned to his post.
 

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I am excited for the secret Santa.
How is it already mid-December?
is very intrigued by the this "Name the Nation" guessing game, now that knows the correct answer is a nation in Africa. ;)

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