Archived Paradigm Shift

Narrator

Fledgling
[Philo]

"Can't help but think 'dat somethin' went wrong, eh Carrot Top?" Philo said from the doorway, his hands buried in a white towel placing new black spots on otherwise unso iled white fabric. "I mean...dis is Carmen we're talkin' about. It's not so often when you deal wit' Carmen dat something went wrong, but, you can't look at dat an' think that. Well...Gee, gosh, shucky-darns..."

Philo was taking a risk here. He was only a mechanic, and probably not authorized to see the video he was looking at over Ivy's shoulder. What's more, while his probation days were over he DID have a criminal record and he WAS one of Carmen's original henchmen. This could have put him back behind bars in a heartbeat. Still, Philo somehow knew he wasn't stepping on toes, just reliving old glories. Besides, if he were to accidentally let slip some sort of, admittedly outdated, info on Carmen's modus opperendi, he was sure no gumshoe would object.
 

Acton Roux

V.I.L.E.
Color #
351c75
[parsehtml]<div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">An unknown location near the Mediterranean Sea</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">Cooling gusts of midnight wind made small whistling noises when they hit the beaked mask of Doctor Acton Roux. No sooner had he given the boat to Flag did he receive an urgent message from his friends in VILE. Two henchmen hired to film the outcome of ACME's once dominating tower were arrested by authorities in Tunis. Together, the men would meet Acton, and given passage across the sea.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">In the chance that these two men were followed, they must move individually out of Europe without making contact with any VILE safe houses for the duration of three weeks.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">Good luck has brought Acton time with them, as he secured their transport through his own Mediterranean contacts. Now, he was standing with the two henchmen at a heavily repaired dock on the banks of a busy city, listening to their conversation as they prepared to board a speedboat.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;Did you hear about the ACME plane crash?&rdquo; said quietly the one called Saleh, &ldquo;the driver saw it on TV, Vic and two more of ours was probably on it.&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;Speculation,&rdquo; whispered the other, &ldquo;but we still must worry.&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;What you mean?&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;You saw what they did to the tower, Saleh, they can do worse.&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;What did they do to the tower?&rdquo; Dr. Roux&rsquo;s curiosity emerged and he interrupted their talk.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;Obliterated it,&rdquo; Saleh spoke, &ldquo;we had the video, but that was confiscated. Aftermath swallowed Carmen&rsquo;s motorcycle.&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">The doctor&rsquo;s eyes behind his mask widened and he asked, &ldquo;<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Where</span> is Carmen then?&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">His question was met with silence and thoughtful glances. Both men were well trained to say nothing.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;Tell me,&rdquo; Acton enforced, &ldquo;Neither of you can aid her now. I must.&rdquo;</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">The Moroccan named Saleh was fighting an internal dilemma. Finding that his best option may be to trust the strange Plague Doctor, he opened his mouth.</span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;"><br /></span></div> <div><span style="color: #666699;">&ldquo;Last that I know she is with my sister.&rdquo;</span></div> </div> <div><br /></div> [/parsehtml]
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
[parsehtml]<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: navy;"><span style="color: #008080;">Ivy gasped when she heard Philo's voice behind her. </span><br /> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><br /> <span style="color: navy;"></span></p> <hr /> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: #000000; font-size: xx-small;"><span style="color: navy;">Philo said:</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: navy;">"Can't help but think 'dat somethin' went wrong, eh Carrot Top? I mean...dis is Carmen we're talkin' about. It's not so often when you deal wit' Carmen dat something went wrong, but, you can't look at dat an' think that. Well...Gee, gosh, shucky-darns..."</span></p> <hr /> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: #008080;"><br /> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: #008080;">"Philo, you saw that tape. It was ACME, destroying our own tower. What am I supposed to do with this?" She looked down at the now blank communicator screen, and the mess of papers on the floor. <br /> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: #008080;"><br /> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="color: #008080;">Ivy thought she should have been afraid that someone had seen her, but for some reason having another head in the room made her feel less alone. Theories ran through her mind from Carmen being part of this to ACME having something terrible to hide. "Carmen would have never blown up the tower&hellip; did she ever say anything to you&hellip; about her time at ACME?"</span></p> [/parsehtml]
 

Narrator

Fledgling
[Philo]
Philo shook his head. "Neh." then he paused, and tilted his head slightly up to the ceiling. "Well...dere was dis one thing...maybe jus' about any time Vic brought it up..she'd say it...it's eh, Latin....Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus. My ma used to day dat too. Shame I don't know any Latin."

Philo moved around Ivy to face her his head tilted down and to the side as he spoke. "Yeh know...one thing about Carmen is dat she always took things for what they honestly were. She didn't make no delusions about nothin'. She was a detective, and she was a GOOD detective, at least as far as you guys keep sayin'. She became a crook, an' she was a GREAT crook, dat much I know fer sure. So deh rest of us henchmen were always wonderin' what coulda come between Carmen and ACME to make her quit if she was deh Carmen we knew, who always took absolute pride in every monument she lifted. Dat's one way teh look at it. Deh other is to think dat maybe somewhere...she made a mistake. Dat's why I said it jus' now..."

Philo dug into the pocket of his jumpsuit and tossed Ivy a set of keys linked to a globe-shaped keychain. "By deh way, I really came by becayse yeh're bike is ready. I take back some o' what I said about Japanese engines. If you make an engine dat tiny an' plastic, couldn't hurt to put four of 'em in a tandem."

*False in one thing, False in All.
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
Ivy half smiled as Philo talked about Carmen.


"Yeh know...one thing about Carmen is dat she always took things for what they honestly were. She didn't make no delusions about nothin'. She was a detective, and she was a GOOD detective, at least as far as you guys keep sayin'. She became a crook, an' she was a GREAT crook, dat much I know fer sure. So deh rest of us henchmen were always wonderin' what coulda come between Carmen and ACME to make her quit if she was deh Carmen we knew, who always took absolute pride in every monument she lifted. Dat's one way teh look at it. Deh other is to think dat maybe somewhere...she made a mistake. Dat's why I said it jus' now…"


She always believed the mechanic to be one of the most misunderstood personalities in the agency. After coming clean from his life of crime, people saw the rough grease monkey exterior as a sort of stop sign, but he did care for his mother enough to leave thieving and always seemed to show a high level of morality… even if Philo himself might not admit to it.

There was also something he had that no one in ACME did, first hand experience with Carmen Sandiego as a thief. There was more Ivy had to ask, but she needed to speak to Chase and Eugene first. She owed them at least that.



By deh way, I really came by becayse yeh're bike is ready. I take back some o' what I said about Japanese engines. If you make an engine dat tiny an' plastic, couldn't hurt to put four of 'em in a tandem."


The redhead grinned as she grabbed the keys. She had almost forgotten about the Kawasaki, and the enhancements he spoke about practically made her mouth water. "Thanks. Glad I didn't drive to campus."

Copying the video onto her communicator Ivy repacked the envelope as best she could and slid it back into the locker. "See you in the garage, Philo."
 

Chase

Director
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
6 A.M. San Francisco

Chase Devineaux woke to the sound of the radio. Mornings were a time to contemplate, but a news segment on troops leaving Afghanistan was a monotonous trumpet to his muted ears. Eventually, his eyes adjusted to the iron sunrise and focused on the navy face of the timepiece next to his phone.

Last night, like every press conference, Chase had been nervous from the moment Tanya began her briefing. It took concentration, but if the world only knew how fast his heart was beating, or that the raising of his hand was a technique to calm himself, Devineaux imagined his credibility not withstanding.

As the show ended, he was ushered by ACME’s Public Relations to a black limousine, where three members representing the ACME board sat in waiting. One of them handed him a Patek Philippe Nautilus, the same one he lost years ago during Blue Moon Masquerade. The watch bore its original “CDR” engraving while its old strap was replaced with tan calfskin that felt tactile against the tip of his fingers.

“Hailey Weller had that on her when she was rescued,” said Secretary Gunther Metzger, “Carmen gave it to her, to give to ‘Piano Man’… And yes, congratulations on the Tower’s quiet demise.” The tone seemingly sliced through the air and centered at Chase’s throat. He made a mental note to have the Nautilus taken apart by an expert as soon as possible.

In the present, as he half-studied the sodium light fastened to the ceiling of his bedroom, he remembered cold sweat from his hands staining the tan watchstrap a darker brown. He pocketed the timepiece, but in hindsight, he didn’t need to.

“We’ve decided to change your position,” the smoky voice of Barbara Rosen clouded over his doubts, “Director of Operations, we want you to oversee more than field agents, we’ll need you to… do more.”

It sounded unlike any offer he had heard before.

“A new office building will be constructed one lot over, and on the spot of the former tower, we’re placing a park for agents and the like.”

Chase nodded without protest.

“And about the leaked video…”

On this, Devineaux interrupted, “I’d like to take care of it.”

“We don’t think it’s proper—“

“With all due respect, you had your chance to clean that up,” Chase stood his ground with a poignant statement, “but you’ve promoted me, you’ll have to let me do my job. One at a time.”

He remembered seeing Mrs. Rosen smile and noting that she was congratulating him on his brief speech. But in retrospect, that grin looked more self-honorary.

Shaking away memories of the night before, Chase sat up and glanced again at his clock: 6:15 AM. Time was ticking. Bearing in mind the pressure now placed on him, the newly appointed Director of Operations left a message for one of ACME’s most 'loved' Technology Specialists.

“Masters—Meet me at my locker, 73, @800hrs—Devineaux.”
 

Narrator

Fledgling
[Chip Masters]
(co-post with Chase)


Chip groaned as he read the text message on his communicator. Locking it back into clock mode, he left the office to find Winston nearby. “I’ve got a meeting in two hours, Winston,” he informed the young intern. “At that time, control is yours. Don’t abuse it.” After getting confirmation from the youngster, Chip walked over into the basement’s restroom to check out his appearance. Staring into the mirror, he noticed white roots showing up in his dodger-blue hair. “I need to take care of that,” he muttered to himself as he went back to his office to grab his jacket before heading off to the locker room. He silently walked over to the locker he was told to go to and leaned against it, waiting.

--

At 7:55 AM, Chase arrived at the locker and waved briefly to the specialist.

"Have a seat, Chip," he motioned to the benches between the lockers, "How have you been, holding the fort?"


---

“It’s been a minefield in here,” Chip said. “We’ve been dealing with debris in the server room, someone’s been using our network for illicit purposes, and there are loads of calls asking about how to operate the old 3270s.” He took a deep breath. “But I assume you didn’t call me here to get a performance report about the department.”

--

Devineaux opened his locker and momentarily stared at the torn parcel that fell to the floor. A note from Sammy Regard told him she was the last person to see this package in tact; and just under it were papers -- the reports he requested from Ivy Monaghan. One tampered delivery, two suspects. But that wasn't the focus. Putting everything back into his locker, Chase pulled out a pink and sea-foam-green envelope with a drawn red heart filled in with marker.

"This," he started by handing Chip the love letter, "was found at Eartha's temporary apartment in Luxembourg, where she was stationed while our tower was stolen."


---

Chip looked over the envelope. “Good lord,” he said softly as he looked it over. “She must be one hopeless romantic...” He opened it slowly and pulled out the letter inside. After giving it a quick look, he began to mutter. “Dear lord, this is almost illegible...” After reading it a few times, he looked up to Chase. “This is disgusting,” he said. “I would have been better off not knowing that she has some weird stalkerish crush on me. I may have to skip town for a couple of days...”

--

"That's not a primary," Devineaux interrupted, "Eartha was involved, a part of a whole, for the theft of ACME tower." The Marine captain drew a long breath, "This isn't about personal feelings, but we need a distraction. And this... it's practically a free ticket." Chase straddled the low bench so he was facing Masters for what he was about to say.

"Chip," he said, "you're going to infiltrate VILE."
 

Carmen

Queen of Crime
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
850000
(In collaboration with Doctor Acton Roux.)


Tunisia



Renowned but infamously private, the internationally-wanted criminal naturally found comfort in transition. She stayed but one short evening with Saleh's family. Anticipating authorities in the area to be wary, she also never fully unpacked her bag.

Early the following dawn, Lesi's husband arrived home in a taxi from Tunis, where he worked. The driver stopped for tea, honouring a nomadic tradition; and as he did, their current guest studied his car behind a pair of turquoise-lenses sunglasses designed for desert light conditions.

It was a 5-door Peugeot 206 hatchback, likely a ‘02 or ‘03 model, painted in bright canary yellow consistent with 4-wheel charters in the area. Labelled a Supermini, this particular fruit off the Peugeot tree sported a meagre 1.0 Litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine that, the thief estimated, would produce less than 80 horsepower and a top speed of no more than 100 Kilometres per hour. However, for what it lacked in strength, it boosted with fuel efficiency. That manual transmission would give her nearly 20 Kilometres per Litre or over 45 Miles per Gallon, providing she remembered her engines correctly. As she performed calculations in her head, she heard footsteps and glanced up to meet the smile of the taxi's owner.

"Vous aimez?" the driver asked with an unrelenting grin if she liked the car.

"Na'am," she returned his French with a ‘yes' and an introduction in the Maghreb Arabic dialect, "Sbakhir, ismi Karen."

"Ismi Hichem," he gave his name, Hichem, and then asked where she was going, "Ween mechi?"

"Djerba," she replied and pointed eastward.

The driver shook his head and spoke quickly in response. Carmen attempted to catch all his words, surmising that he wished not to drive so far yet again after such a long distance from Tunis. Mildly frustrated, she returned to French, a language more comfortable to her for negotiation.

"Combien cela vaut-il," she asked directly how much he wanted for the trip, "en Euros?"

The driver paused for thought, and Carmen noted her surroundings while he did, the sun was fully up, letting cooler winds lead in warm air. Finally, the man offered, "100 Euros."

"Cent cinquante euros, et je vais conduire," she countered with 150 Euros, if he'll let her drive.

Studying her with curious eyes, Hichem agreed reluctantly. He unlocked the car, handed her the keys and helped with her bag as she took the reins.

During the 200-kilometre, three-hour drive that may have taken four hours, she engaged in light conversation with Hichem. He avoided anything political, but was encouraging when she asked about sightseeing.

Carmen chose the city of Djerba because of its reputation as one of Tunisia's most famous tourist destinations and, more importantly, its large airport. The number of cars visibly increased as the desert road merged into paved highways, but somewhere closer to the coast; the thief sensed that she was being pursued.

A black Mercedes SUV trailed her, two vehicles behind.

To test her theory, she took a small exit towards a seaside road rather than heading straight to Djerba. When the SUV followed, its fate was sealed.

"Prépare-toi," the driver calmly told her passenger to stay sharp. Seconds later, she sped up the Peugeot 206 and wove along beachfront traffic. It felt, familiarly, like the seaside city of Monte Carlo. Behind her, the Mercedes also sped up, its V8 engine easily cancelling distance. M-Class, she thought, and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth as she conjured another plan.

Quickly veering into the city, Carmen knew the Peugeot's petite size was the only advantage she had against the larger SUV. Streets here were still wide, close to the highway, with plenty of room to kick up sand. Again, this was the black car's game; its wheels provided good traction.

"Fontaine!" Hichem screamed, warning her of an upcoming roundabout.

Carmen yanked the emergency brake and sharply turned the steering wheel, drifting the supermini 90-degrees and nicking the edges off an earthen fountain. Then she slid into a narrow alley, nearly uprooting an incense stall.

"Pardon..." she apologised in hushed, melodic French.

As the driver of the yellow taxi focused on losing the M-Class, it disappeared from her rear-view mirror, unable to follow her into the winding paths of Djerba. Not slowing down, Carmen asked her (now very excitable) passenger if there was a place she could exchange cars.

Hichem did not answer, deep in either thought or panic; yet he yelled again as the Black Mercedes appeared perpendicularly in front of them. The cabin door of the M-Class opened and out stepped a man in a Venetian mask identifiable with plague doctors. His hands raised, showing empty black gloves high above his hat.

VILE's leader recognised him, and the brakes of the old Peugeot protested with a stridulous shrill as it arduously countered the car's speed. Successfully, the 206 stopped just two feet in front of the masked man.

"Ne pas sortir," she collectedly told the taxi's owner to stay in the car as she pocketed his keys.

Slowly, Carmen exited the yellow cab.

The French doctor stood between the hood of the taxi and the side of the black Mercedes. Acton Roux, the man forever bound to a raven's mask, was recommended by VILE's panel of experts due to his extraordinary skills. The highest authority in the organisation and this particular employee were never meant to meet, making this occasion very conspicuous.


"Mademoiselle...," covered by the beak, a dry voice produced muffled, interjected words, "I am Acton Roux. I crossed paths with Saleh, after he was detained in Tunis."

She took a step closer to him, and paused.

"It is not safe here," nervousness in his speech extended beyond his birdlike shield, "We must leave, now."

Carmen allowed seconds to crawl past before responding.

"Please remove your mask, Acton," a respectful thread laced her austerity.


The doctor hesitated as if she had requested he placed his head against a revolver.

"Mais," he carefully spoke, "my contract with VILE allows me to..."


"I'm sure endangering me in a speeding vehicle voids your contract," She was apathetic.

Without further objection, Acton carefully unstrapped his mask. First to dislodge was the beak, and with additional force, his goggles followed. The doctor squinted briefly at the bright sunlight, but then his eyes fixed at the tall woman. Without his mask to filter the light, her skin seemingly glowed, that affect heightened with the fresh scent of sea air.

With little apprehension, Carmen studied the face of Doctor Acton Roux. A man of no more than 35 looked back at her with dark brown eyes that projected sincerity. Quickly, she categorised his features; the shape of his nose, his brows, the distance between his eyes and (for this, she took off his hat) coffee-coloured hair.

Once satisfied, she gave the man back his headpiece and walked to retrieve her bag from the taxicab. Hichem, now calmer, came out of the car to help her.

"I owe the taxi some fare," Carmen informed Doctor Roux as she placed her pack in the trunk of the black Mercedes M-Class. Hichem began to say something, but the lady hushed him, "I think five-hundred Euros," she estimated, "for the trouble, and repair."


The Doctor agreed, and then the air became still as if something was expected of him.

"Certainly you've brought cash, Acton," Carmen commented, already inside the Mercedes, buckling her safety belt.

"A oui," now understanding, Acton Roux produced the requested fee from a canvas medicine bag. He then bid farewell to the taxi driver and entered the SUV.

"I'd like to thank you," she began as soon as the doctor buckled in, "but you'll have to tell me why I needed your help?"

Acton held his breath before speaking, "Allor, you have not heard about the plane crash?"

Carmen reciprocated with a quiet narrowing of her eyes.

"No," her words softened, "What plane crash?"
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
808080
(This is a joint post between Ti-Jean and Flag. All parties approved)
--

Location: Paris, France

Ti-Jean's office at his company was very basic compared to what most would think. While the walls weren't bare, they only held Ti-Jean's favourite all time pieces, such as the Marilyn Monroe dress. He also had the essentials: a desk with a phone and computer on it and a comfortable seating arrangement for three. The office was missing someone however: Ti-Jean.

Fortunately, the phone that was on the desk was one that Ti-Jean designed himself. It was programmed to allow certain phone numbers to be re-routed to his cell phone.

It was at his studio located in his home where Ti-Jean picked up his iPhone via an Bluetooth device.

"Salut? Ti-Jean Thibodaux qui parle." he said while he marked some purple material with chalk, creating an outline.

"Hello Sieur. I think it's time we met."

Thibodaux made an audible smirk at the comment coming from the VILE Agent. He put down the chalk into a container that was on his workspace.

"What do I owe the honour of this event?"

"Just the usual company stuff." There was a pause. "The news here is limited. How are things looking for us?"

"Monsieur Flag, there has to be another reason than la même chose que d'ahbitude." Ti-Jean replied as he got up from his workplace and walked over to another desk, where his phone lay. "As for les nouvelles, I have nothing to report than what you know. Remember, I might know where VILE stands with the public eyes, but what La Femme Rouge has planned, I have no knowledge of."

"Of course there's more, but I've had this phone for too long. As for our employer... she's gone silent."

"It's the public news I need."

Ti-Jean took his phone and began searching for a particular application.

"Well then, the only thing I can tell you that the public thinks VILE est terrible." he said before smiling and pressing opening the application.

"Also, there was a plane crash and Vic The Slick was on board. I know nothing more than that on that situation."

"We aren't... wait. Vic's plane crashed?" Another long pause, "with the girl in it?"

"Non. Little Hailey was on a different plane." There was a short pause from the fashion designer as he typed something into the phone.

"So, what is the other reason you wish to meet?"

"I can finally buy us into that book expedition"

"Oh? You finally found a seller?"

"No. Wrong book. I'm talking about the one that Rob has.

Unfortunately we're going to need ot follow the rules for a bit."

"Of course," Ti-Jean said and smiled, "We shall have, how you say in America, a fun time."

He closed the application on his phone.

"There should be a limo waiting outside of your house shortly. It will lead you to the airport. We will plan out actions at my studio."

"Good. See you soon." With that, he disconnected.

* * *
The following day another limousine deposited a rather travel-worn figure wearing torn jeans and a hoodie in front of Ti-Jean's oversized house. This would have seemed odd to any regular observer had the resident king of couture not released a grunge line a few months back.

Flag was oblivious to any of the social rules he might have been breaking and he didn't care. He was too tired.

Rather than have to deal with a doorman, there was a intercom by the front door. Flag poked the button on it and waited impatiently for the individual on the other end to answer and let him in.

"Allo? Residence De Ti-Jean Thibodaux" came a crackly, young feminine voice over the intercom.

"Tell the master of the house that his plane's back." was his short reply.

The gate opened without a response.

In his studio, Ti-Jean was working when a young woman in a clean cut pair of jeans and a camel sweater had entered.

"Monsieur Thibodaux, your guest has arrived."

Ti-Jean nodded and dropped what he was doing and began to climb up the stairs.

Flag was found in the foyer with his hood still covering his head, staring distantly at a wall painting that he didn’t see. When he heard the designer and his assistant arrived, he turned his attention to them but otherwise remained silent.

"Merci Odette, you can go back to your post."

The camel sweater clad assistant nodded to Ti-Jean, gave a genuine smile to Flag and left without another word. Ti-Jean was dressed in - what he defined as - standard work clothes. He had a striped pink and white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of dark wash blue jeans, and he had a pair of black rectangular spectacles that did nothing to hide his hazel eyes.

The fashion designer took out his hand,

"Monsieur Flag, it is a great pleasure that I welcome you to my home."

Flag leaned forward and shook the designer's hand - a form of greeting that the Sivoan found fascinating since so much philosophy was placed on the simple action. Shake to gently and you were considered a weak-willed individual, shake to hard and you're aggressive. Flag's handshakes leaned more toward the latter out of a personal choice to intimidate where he could. For Ti-Jean however, his handshake was a little more friendly.

"Thanks for arranging this on such short notice."

Not wanting to waste time, the sorcerer held up his phone for the
designer to see.

"This device needs to go."

"C'est mon plasir." replied Ti-Jean before beckoning his guest to come to a nearby study. Once they had entered the study, he closed the door behind them. His voice dropped to a loud whisper.

"This room is safe to talk in, no one is going to disturb us. "

He moved to the desk that was at the end of the room, opened a drawer and took out a phone.

"This Motorola RAZR will be your new device. I have a special background app designed by moi that prevents ACME from tracing our calls and data. Also, whenever someone gets a new phone within VILE, the numbers already update. Just a little convenient feature I added. "

He came back to Flag and handed him the phone.

"So, where is our target for the book?"

Flags stared at the phone in slight disdain. It had similarities to the device he just got rid of, but enough differences to bewilder
him. He would have to play with it for quite a while before he'd properly understand its features.

"It's in Maryland." He paused as he thumbed through the apps list that he somehow managed to pull up. Is there a tutorial on here somewhere?"

From his jean pocket, he withdrew a booklet and handed it to Flag.

"This should give you the basics. Got a phone number for me?"

Flag took the manual and placed both it and its associated device into his bag, which he then placed this on one of the rooms spare desks.

"Just one for Robert's assistant. We're just going to have to make the arrangements through him."
 

E. Mayhew

Inspector
[Cowritten: Chase/Eleanor]

Red Tape was, Eleanor Mayhem had decided a long time ago, the scourge of the earth. It was a fact few people would ever have tried to challenge her on, but given the last few days, given the amount of paperwork unloaded on the newly appointed Inspector, she'd decided that there was something worse than simple red tape.

Red Tape when you don't have a desk.

The video of her pleading with fellow ACME agents to help save the career of Chase Devineaux had been released to the agency at large 5 days ago, and had been released to the news stations not long after that, though not by her hand. As promised in the video, after releasing the video she'd gathered her nerve, taken her letter of resignation in hand and marched herself to the Sheraton Seaside where the board of directors had started meeting after the tower was gone. Walking past the secretary she'd busted into the boardroom... and found them all watching her video. On channel 5.

By the letter of what she'd wanted everything had turned out better than she'd been hoping. Chase was not only kept on but promoted to Director of Operations. Eleanor still had a job. She hadn't even been demoted, but more handed a mountain of paperwork to take care of and talked around instead of to before being shoveled out the door.

The boardroom, however anger inducing, was nothing compared to when she finally realized the full effect of having her video released to the public. Her mother had called 5 minutes after she'd left the hotel, crying of reporters and people pretending to be ACME calling to ask questions. It took Eleanor 15 minutes just to get her mother to hand the phone over to her father so she could tell him to go to Aunt Mildred's where things would be quiet.

That was all 5 days ago - and Eleanor had been digging herself out from under her mountain of paperwork since, experiencing 10 hour days sitting at her borrowed table in the hidden lounge somewhere on the fourth floor in the back of Portwood Hall. It was a large space with wide bay windows opening towards the sea but the glaring sun in the afternoon tended to make it less comfortable to the ACME Agents in Training who used spaces like this for an afternoon nap.

Checking her watch and rubbing her eyes as she hit hour four of paperwork for the day Eleanor took a long sip off her mug of tea and gave a stretch, her movements hardly even drawing attention to the three students working at their own tables.

After the meeting with Chip Masters and laying out exactly what the Specialist was expected to do, Chase Devineaux spent his lunch hour outside of compounds. He drove to Ocean Beach and had grilled Atlantic salmon at a local restaurant just above the Golden Gate Park Visitor's Center.

Winter in San Francisco reminded him of his childhood in Maine where the weather was mostly cold and damp. He used to stare out at the ocean like it was a formidable enemy. He couldn’t fight it, and it wouldn’t fight him, but he wanted to conquer it because it was the only challenge his boyish mind could fathom; Dad was in Europe, and to get there, you have to cross the ocean. During the few summers of his young life when his father was in the States, they took trips to the west coast, a few times to San Francisco. Chase had fond memories of this city. Here was a different ocean; the Pacific, always warm, always blue, and unlike the frigid Atlantic in Maine, it swallowed the golden sun. It wasn’t until he started working in San Francisco did he realize the Pacific Ocean's deceptive mood swings. No matter how nice the west coast summers, winters were wet and miserable.

When he returned to ACME complex, his first goal was to find Eleanor Mayhem and finally talk about this ruckus of a video. After considering the amount of work she was given, and the lack of desks at the academy, Chase guessed that she was hiding either at the Library or at Portwood Hall’s fourth floor. He picked Portwood Hall because it featured a small canteen, and Eleanor couldn't smuggle her precious chai into the library.

Through the glass windows from the hallway, Devineaux spotted the Inspector and three younger agents in the lounge. Opening the door, he got the response he wanted: all eyes directed to him, expecting orders.

“You, you, and you,” he pointed to the agents not involved in the upcoming conversation, “get out.”

They gathered their things like tired sailors.

“Move it!” he opened the door wider. They jolted to a start, and as they rushed out he commanded, “Come back in exactly 25 minutes.”

There was a prompt ‘Yes sir’ in response, but Chase didn't hear it when he shut the door.

“Right, sorry to barge in,” he apologized, “How are you holding up? Can’t have been an easy week.”


Eleanor gave a soft laugh under her breath as Chase commanded the eager ACME agents to be out of the room, her eyes moving back down to the paper under her hand as she finished her business and signed off on it before placing it into a pile on the right side of the table without any notable increase in speed due to Chase’s presence.

“Oh, its just another week in paradise. If I were any more spoiled I might have to start and wonder why they’re paying me to do this.” she replied with an obvious note of sarcasm, though a lack of venom behind the statement considering the amount of times she’d had to sign her name in the last few days. “Though, I’ll be honest, I don’t think you’re too sorry about barging around anywhere, Mister Director of Operations. Not after the last few days.”

Giving a short nod to acknowledge E's dripping sarcasm, Chase Devineaux walked to the inspector's 'desk'. Midway, he grabbed a chair, swung it 180 degrees, and straddled it.

"Let me play this out," he said with his arms on the chair's top rail, "you overhear a private conversation between two superior officers... how did that lead to the video airing on IBN?"


There was a pause, a beat of silence as she looked at him over her glasses, an eyebrow raising for a moment.

“Well, I was trying to hold out for Barbara Walters but she wouldn’t bite so my choices were limited.” she replied, her hands taking a similar position on her table as his did on top of his chair. “Or, put another way, I discovered that the head of a company that I’ve worked for and protected was going to take out all its mistakes on one man, and I believed it was wrong. I used the information I had to fix this problem, which is what I do best. There were... repercussions I hadn’t expected but, given what happened, it could have been much worse.”

"If this was what you do best," he suggested with condescension, like he usually does when an agent didn't perform to expectations and gave him an unwarranted excuse, "there shouldn't be repercussions."

“I thought better of ACME than to have someone from within release video to the press.” she shot back. “Then again I thought better of the board of directors... goes to show where my faith’s been getting me lately.”

"Faith? Only shows you weren't thinking."

“Says the man whose job not only got saved by my ‘lack of thought’ but who got himself promoted due to it.”.

"No, E, you made a mistake," he laid it out, "You don't get to use my promotion against me."

Eleanor’s eyebrow raised again at his tone, displaying a sense of disbelief at his words. “It was NOT a mistake.”

"So the leak to IBN was good?"

“No! It--”

"You're an inspector, Eleanor! Videos get leaked, you should have known that."

“What happened was worth it.”

He breathed, and tapped his shoe slowly against the lacquered floor.

"You went against protocol," he started, "I wish you hadn't, but you did. The board requesting my resignation wasn't something you could have changed, or should have tried to change."

He couldn't tell her that the Board approved his plan to deal with ACME Tower by enlisting the aid of Intelligence Forces conveniently near Tunisia. Chase was confident that if the Tower was his last performance, he had no regrets. Eleanor Mayhem's video helped expose a weakness in the ACME structure that even members of the Board were unable to deny, but to Chase Devineaux, she had betrayed his trust. Her tenacity was always mixed with irrationality, but now, it was even more clear she made decisions with her heart.


“Protocol doesn’t hold water when its working against the people it's supposed to be protecting.” Her tone had turned sharp. “The board wasn’t doing what it was because it was the right thing to do, it was doing it because it was easy. Because at the end of the day it's easier to blame one man than for an entire company to man up, grow a pair and tell the world that, collectively, it messed up.”

He lowered his voice, "So you went ahead and told the world for them."

“I told ACME.”

"Risking your career?"

“It was what I had to give - If it had been enough on its own do you think I’d have asked 1200 people to do the same?”

"You had no right to bring anybody into this," his tone, though seething, was still stable, "you created confusion, and once leaked, that caused a frenzy."

“Alright, what would YOU have done if you were in my place? If the Board of Directors decided that instead of taking responsibility for its actions that Chief Weller was going to be fired? Just to make an example of him?”

"Theoretical questions won't help your logic."

“Answer it!” Eleanor’s hand slammed down onto the table.

Chase Devineaux straightened in his chair, showing contempt to her action.

"Respecting his decisions," he replied steadily, "I'd leave it up to Chief Weller."


“I don’t abandon people like that.”

"People need to make their own choices."

“And if it were me? Or Nevon? Or Ivy?”

"What do you mean?"

“I mean no one should be forced to make that decision.”

"That's your problem," he needed to point out this flaw in her thought-process, "You can't be objective, you can't let things be -- exactly why you're not--" he stopped because the expression on her face instantly changed.

There was a pause. It didn’t matter that he’d stopped, in Eleanor’s mind she’d heard the sentence finish with unspoken words. “Why I’m not special ops.”

Chase remained silent. He didn't mean 'special ops' directly but he spent too long gauging her reaction, nothing he could say now would help.

Her eyes lowered for a moment, her body taking in a deep breath as if recovering from a slap in the face. In all the years she’d worked for ACME, with Chase, she’d called his eyes ‘steel doors’. He hid behind them, he kept himself safe behind them, he faced the world looking like nothing could touch him. Of everything she admired about him she admired those steel doors - because her eyes were nothing like his. As they raised from the floor back to his her blue eyes were windows, letting him see right through. Eleanor was hurt - her failure to become an operative was a scar that never truly healed.

There was a long silence as she just looked at him, the anger and hurt wanting to manifest itself in so many words, words that would slice him down where he stood, make him crawl out of the room broken, beaten. She wanted to tear down those steel doors and make him feel as much a failure as she did.

“We both know that I wasn’t cut out for special ops.” A bitter note hung on her words, “I should have known the moment I figured out that I’d have to change just to get past you. But I did it. I thought, if I could just get better I could be the best of the best, I could be just like Chase.”

Quietly, Devineaux exhaled. Don't say anything*, he thought to himself,
you'll end up pushing her.

Pressing her palms to the table she slowly rose from her seat. “I lost 60 pounds, packed on 25 pounds of muscle, changed my hair, my face, my accent, my clothes, my name, all because I believed that it would make me better, that being special ops would make me better. I should have realized it the moment that Chief told me that he wanted me to trail you around Europe just because he was tired of being left out of the loop. The moment the Cayman came into the garage with scrapes up and down its sides I should have second guessed. After I got rejected, after I got my runner up prize and settled for Inspector, I still kept thinking I could do it. I’d prove you wrong, I’d become the best. Even when you disappeared three days during a media storm I didn’t see it. Its pretty damn funny that in the end it was protecting you that made me realize what my problem is, why I’ll never cut it.”

You had nothing to prove, he wanted to say, but her accusing tone suppressed any verbal rebuttal from him. Chase's knuckles felt tight, without him realizing, his hands had gripped taut against the chair's back.

"Because I’m not here to do ACME’s dirty work, to be its dirty little secret. I’m not willing to turn a blind eye and just say ‘The ends justify the means’. Because I’m the woman that threw her career on a grenade for a man who doesn’t give her a second glance, and did so without thought or remorse. I always will be. And, you know? Sometimes, I wish you were actually the man you make yourself to be."

Devineaux lowered his head at that statement, intensifying his gaze on the speaker.

"I can give everything I have, change everything I am but I don’t make the cut because I could never make the kind of sacrifices supposedly required of me. Because they leave you empty. And in the end, you're just a shell with a million-dollar smile and a shiny suit--"

Before her sentence wrapped, Chase Devineaux firmly surged from his seat to a standing position.

“I think you’re done,” his low voice dismissed harshly.


Even if she wasn't done, Eleanor made her point. This was no longer about a misplaced video, it was about a misplaced ideal. She was right to wish he was a better man, because for all that he was, the only thing in Chase's arsenal was a diversion into work. He removed a thin mobile drive from his pocket and placed it on her table.

“Copies of security footage from the tower,” his tone cooled with authority, “Up to the point the security room got fried. Yours to process.”

Then he left, reaching the exit just as the three younger agents returned. Each gave a sign of respect when they saw him. It was decent timing, and he walked past them, letting the door swing shut.


She watched as Chase walked away before turning her head downward, closing her eyes, breathing deep, trying to calm herself down. Eleanor could hear the students entering finally, feel their glances at her direction but stood still and remained frozen until she heard a soft tapping from the table beneath her.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Eyes opened to locate its source, finding cold tears falling onto the exposed documents she’d left out. At last Eleanor gave a heavy sigh and gathered up the papers scattered across the table with a practiced hand. She added the hard drive to the pile and placed the lot of it into a briefcase before she stood up fully, taking a moment to square her shoulders and wipe her eyes, and then removed herself from the room without a second glance to the others inside.
 

Lee

ACME
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
006699
Lee Jordan was looking for someone. Driving along, he would slow down to get a good look at what he thought might be this person, but something would always turn.

Not tall enough, not thin enough, or hair the wrong colour.

He saw a brunette, average height, walking lazily out of a small alley. This could be her. So he rolled his black Corvette beside the woman. When he stopped, she looked at him with a smirk that he didn't return. In the dark, it was hard to tell.

"Nice car," she commented with the kind of accent that filled the streets of Southern California.

"Let me see your eyes," he said.

She moved in and leaned by his open window. "You got some kinda fetish?" she laughed with a cigarette in her mouth, "I can get contacts."

Lee didn't care for eye colour, but he needed to visualise something in them. Under the street lamps, he could see her eyes weren't what he was looking for. Shaking his head, he waved her off and drove away.

The distraction he hoped for wasn't going to come easy. He wasn't just looking for someone to help pass time, he needed it perfect. He didn't think he was too strict either. He'd resigned himself to let the rules go a little. She didn't have to be 5'10" she could be 5'8" as long as everything else was near right.

But he'd taken too long finding her, the sun was already inching up the horizon, and he was hoping for a meeting with Chase Devineaux. Lee took a southern highway back to San Francisco. While driving longer roads, he chewed on a toothpick to keep himself awake.

It's been barely a week since his long months of trailing Eartha Brute in Luxembourg came to a screeching halt and ACME Tower got swiped from its base. When he was just used for information, it didn't bother him so much, the fact that Carmen still somehow taunted him. But now she was everywhere, the entire world wanted a piece of her. All over again, Lee's mind was consumed.

By the time he got back to base, his eyes looking for a parking spot, saw a tall woman with auburn hair walking fast away from Portwood Hall. He tried to remember where he saw her last, and then the ACME video to save Chase's job came back to mind. He must have seen her on cases before too, but never bothered to notice. Eleanor Mayhem was probably real close to Devineaux, he'll have to think about that some more later.

Lee Parked the Corvette behind the library and looked at his watch, wondering if it was too late in the day to get an word with ACME's new Director of Ops.
 

Acton Roux

V.I.L.E.
Color #
351c75
(This is a collaboration with Carmen, please enjoy.)

In a black SUV heading towards the airport in Djerba, Tunisia, Acton Roux watched through his visors at the renowned Queen of Crime; who looked unmoved by the news he had offered. He could only imagine what thoughts swam in her mind, while her body only breathed. What exquisite control she held, he thought, over how others may perceive her.


Few, trifle things in life irked Carmen more than when situations force her into a corner. Stationed in the Mercedes with Doctor Acton Roux to her right and an unnamed driver in front qualified as such an event.

She took Acton’s derivative report of the plane crash with a pragmatic grain of salt, as it seemed purposefully vague. Yet, if Vincent Fumigalli did lose his life on this, she must indemnify his mother. The time to emotionally address loss would have to wait until she could systematically sort this out, but remorse was hard to supress and she felt restless.

An idea occurred to the doctor that she was quiet due to unfamiliar company. To win her trust, he would have to try much harder.


J'ai un avion,” he began to tell her that he had a plane, but the sharp turn of her head mercilessly halted his tongue.

You’re taking me to the airport,” she apprised with a sternness that was difficult to refute, “Then we’re parting ways.

Mais—

Pas de mais. Ne penses-tu pas que tu as fait assez?

Acton’s pride sank with injury from her words. He knew he had broken a cardinal rule, yet until this point, he thought his actions were justifiable. Her piercing eyes were not vengeful, but they conveyed in clarity that he was wrong.

Relinquishing to the fact that this meeting with Carmen Sandiego would add no progress to his research, the doctor remained compliant. While he remunerated how he may remain in good favour, he noticed a bandage dressed over her left wrist and hand.

“Were you injured?”

The contusion and slight laceration to the palm of her left hand resulted from abrasion against the stones of the watchtower. It bothered her little now under the tight cloth, and she shrugged off his muffled question, “Ce n'est pas grave.

The doctor studied what he could see, and decided that someone with obvious experience in medical first aid wrapped the wound. If this person was the leader herself, he needed not pry.


Thus, he did no prying for the duration of the car ride; and took his limitations as he could, only visually examining her until they reached the airport.

I need you to do something for me,” he recalled her surprising him with an instruction as she disembarked, “Three weeks from today, be at Palazzo Medici Riccardi after midnight, a contact will wait on the bench at a corner between two ‘kneeling windows’,” he took out a book and recorded her instructions, “And Acton,” she paused to grant him a spontaneous smile, “do keep your mask on.

She shut the car door, and Doctor Roux watched her disappear into a crowd of travellers.
 

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