Caution Advised
This thread may include adult content including violence, strong language or nudity, readers' discretion is advised.

Patty

Valkyrie
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Patt, Patts, Petite, Amber Cecelia Argos, Valkyrie
Color #
8d8844
The trailer park had one rocks-covered road that branched off to dirt plots. Patches of hardy crabgrass clung to life in nutrient-poor beige soil. A Confederate flag swung between two birch trees in front of an avocado green RV. It belonged to Mr. Tucker, a quiet 40-something large man who worked night shifts as a guard at the nearby Piggly Wiggly. Down the road was a unit with sun-baked toys left out all over its tiny yard. This one was the home of Mrs. Vaughn and her four kids. None of them ever had shoes the right size for their feet. She remembered seeing them at the back picking Cheetos off the dirt because one of them had opened the bag wrong and all the puffs popped out.

At the opposite side was where she lived.

Strings of Christmas lights from at least 5 years ago draped over thin metal tubes that support a gray tarp awning. She remembered when that tarp used to be blue and was the mat that she played on as a child. The mobile home was standard tan with a red (now pink) line running along the middle. It was supported on low stilts made of cement blocks and had a wooden porch jutting under an old steel door that never closed properly. The blonde looked at her former home, and was embarrassed.

“Amber-Cee!” Her mother’s voice startled her, “AMBER!” Chills crawled down her spine, she hoped it would stop, but it didn’t. “Amber, you get in here!”

Slowly, she made her way to the door. She was in her old clothes, faded short jeans and a pink and white polka dot shirt with ruffles at the sleeves. Her hair was in pigtails and a Katy Perry pin was on her shoulder.

“You done it now,” snapped her father. He had been sitting in his outdoor smoking chair. It was a plastic lawn lounger with rusted legs made for temporary use. She remembered when he went to jail for four years and that chair was empty. She had been naive to miss him then, she knew that now.

Inside, the smell of burned plastic and rotting plywood stung her nostrils. Her mother was seething… pieces of paper in her hand.

“What the **?” Her mother yelled, “What the ** is this, Amber?”

It was an emancipation manual. She downloaded it off the internet hoping to get the legal advice to be declared as an adult. It was stupid to print it out and leave it in her school bag knowing her mom often went through her things looking for cash.

“You’re **** FOURTEEN!” her mother’s eyes, yellowed from years of one addiction or another, glared down at her like dragons, “The **** you gonna do with emancipation?”

The 14-year-old started making money a few hours after school helping her administrator with data entry. But because Alabama laws required permission from her parents, her mother knew exactly when and how much she was paid.

The fight escalated. Hurtful words were said, and bruises were inflicted. It wasn’t the first time, but it would be the last.

Amber found herself pushed out of the house. As she landed on her back, she saw that younger version of her begging to be let inside.

“I want to be with you, mama,” her own pleading younger voice was painful to hear again, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to leave, I don’t. Please! Let me back in!” Everything said was true, although they sounded like lies now.

The scenes played out for her in third person.

That night, young Amber slept on the lawn chair. She remembered thinking about the $326.82 she managed to hide in a little box behind her mattress. She would run away. The next morning, she discovered that her mother had found the money. All that’s left was $1.82.

Still determined to leave, little Amber packed her bags for school. But instead of going to class, she walked to the nearest truck stop. There was some kind of activity, people were coming in and out all dressed in a gray uniform. She figured they were part of a show passing by. The license plates were from Florida. That wasn’t very far, but she was going to take any distance she could get.

One semi was half opened and the girl decided to hide in it while no one was looking. Inside was a red motorcycle, the shiniest thing she’d ever seen. White letters on it read ‘Ducati’.
 

Neb

The VILEiest VILE to ever VILE a VILE
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
“You’re mad at-” Neb started her response, but suddenly no one was there. The hallway she stood in was the same, yet not quite. It seemed more organic, decayed, and besotted with tiny glowing plants, with both ends leading into darkness.

“Guys?” she called out, but only her echo responded.

I must have gotten teleported like the others, she thought as she turned on her flashlight and let the beam wander across long forgotten carvings in the rough hewn walls. But where am I?

As she walked it grew darker still, and gradually the edifices faded back into the rock as the flora spread out, until the space resembled underground tunnel.

Moments passed accompanied only by the sound of her footsteps, and she shivered as the damp chill that hung in the air sank into her bones. Neb sniffed a little and pointed her flashlight into the void ahead.

“There has to be a way out of here,” she murmured, but the further she went, the more there seemed to be. Doubling back only succeeded in draining the batteries in her flashlight.

Then it died.

Walls of black washed against her. She panicked.

“No no no, not now!” she shouted at it as shook her broken torch. The tunnel illuminated slightly. The girl paused, and it went dark again.

“Huh?” A puff of dim blue mist appeared and dissipated in time to her voice. Neb realized her condensated breath was being lit by something nearby and she turned in circles to find it, then continued on. The light followed, providing faints bursts of respite with every exhale as the cold air caused her nose to drip.

Neb took off her glove to retrieve a tissue, then stopped in shock.

“What...what is this?” she stammered as she held up a luminescent hand in disbelief. Then she ripped off her other glove. Both hands glowed a dim, soothing azure with brighter lines etched along her skin. She pushed up her sleeves to find they continued up her arms, and when she held the handle of her broken torch to her face, pale blue reflected back on the black metal.

“Not good, not good,” Neb babbled as she tried to cover herself, but her gloves were suddenly missing and her sleeves failed to return to their original length. There was nothing to cover her face with. She was exposed.

Immediately she felt eyes upon her, heard noises that scratched at the back of her mind, sensed movement in shadows that were far too close. They reached out to her as she increased her pace. Somewhere a door slammed shut. The air changed, and the menace retreated to the edges, waiting. Silence returned.

Then, footsteps from the void ahead; slow, steady, with a familiar gentle clink in time to soles on tile. Her hair set on end. A figure formed in the distance, and she recoiled from the whisper of a smile that couldn’t be seen.

Zdraviya zhelayu, Seryy,” crooned a low, gravelly voice.

Neb’s chest squeezed tight and needles raced through her skin. She didn’t know who it was, she didn’t need to. With the whole of her being, she just knew needed to get away. She ran blindly into the darkness, scouring the walls until she found a crevice to squeeze into.

The voice followed her.

“Why do you bother to run? In this place so few can find, I found you.”

The footsteps stopped. Neb exhaled. Then she felt a breath by her ear.

“I always find you.”

Get away from me!” The girl screamed and clawed her way out the wall, then took off down the tunnel. The ground was harder now, colder, the cave bigger, her legs weaker. When she looked behind she found she’d left a trail of glowing footprints. Her shoes were gone.

The voice called to her from down the hall.

“Is this how you plan to spend your life, Seryy? Always running? Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you curious?”

The figure was now close enough for her to make out a stern, middle-aged man with glasses, short, messy, salt and pepper hair and a war-worn face. A lab coat half covered a modest suit and tie. She didn’t recognize him, yet she did, and as he came closer the faint scent of cigarettes and disinfectant drifted in beside muffled voices and a half-tuned radio.

Oh yes, you'll learn
That though you were away from me
My heart had kept you locked inside

And you were near

Only a thin nightgown protected her now, and as he approached, she realized just how much taller he was, how much smaller she was.

When you return
I'll never ever let you go
Our flame will burn

As though you'd never gone
“Look at yourself. Don’t you want to know what you are? What you’re capable of?”

He reached for her.

“I will show you.”

With a strangled scream she fell backwards, then scrambled to her feet and fled into the tunnel beyond.

For an eternity she ran, her lungs burning and limbs freezing. Her head was so cold that she reached up to cover it with her hands, only to find short, soft stubble. The scars on her wrists and ankles were fresh and painful. Tears ran down her face, blurring what little vision she had, and several times she fell against the jagged stone. Still she ran, but no matter how far she went, it didn’t seem enough, until a tall, familiar silhouette came into view.

Neb’s heart flooded with relief.

“Flag? Oh thank god, Flag, thank god you’re here,” she cried as she crushed herself against the man’s chest. “What happened to you? Did the temple teleport you here?”

The man stared at her blankly, then a smile crept at the corner of his lips. He put his hands on her shoulders. “Well, this is interesting. You refuse to comply with him, yet you give yourself to a beloved so much like him?”

“Beloved? You’re not my- Flag, what are you talking about?”

“Do not lie to me. No one knows you better than I do,” Flag replied in a voice not entirely his own. “Or are you lying to yourself?”

The girl stared at him in wide-eyed terror as the shape of Flag’s face warped and aged. Glasses formed over his fiery eyes that dulled to grey, but the hard glint within them remained the same.

“Was that the problem, Seryy?” he asked as he dug his fingers into her shoulders, his voice and appearance shifting and blending with the man she loved. “I was not beautiful enough for you? Then I’ll hire him to bring you under control. I’m sure he has a price. Then you’ll finally have his full attention.”

Get out of him! Get away!” Neb screamed as she mashed her hands against his face. The man growled as he released her shoulders to restrain her wrists, but within that fraction of a second she was gone.

Her body screamed in agony with every footfall, cold sweat dripping down her body as the narrow, twisted tunnel ahead began to incline. It was harder to gain traction on the slick, obsidian floors, and every time she slipped backwards, shadows pulled away from the walls, grasping at her with restraints. The tunnel made another sharp turn and she slammed into the wall. The ground came at her fast, but a strong hand grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her into an alcove instead.

“Shhh…..” the hand’s owner whispered as another pressed against her lips.

In the darkness she could make out Carmen’s all-assuring face. The woman moved in front of her to obscure the mouth of their hiding place.

“B-but he’ll see you!” Begged the girl crumpled in the corner.

Carmen glanced over her shoulder and smiled gently. “So long as you stay behind me, he can’t find you.”

Footsteps fell on the path below and Neb cautiously peeked past her in their direction. Not only were her footprints still visible, their outlines had grown sloppier and splotches filling in between. She looked down at where she knelt and saw a pool of liquid around her knees, growing larger as light dripped from her hands and face.

A scream rose in her throat, but she held her breath.

Just beyond them the man with glasses had stopped. For a moment he studied the last remaining drops of luminescence on the floor, then sighed.

“Is this how it will be, Seryy?” he asked aloud as he removed a small bottle from his lab coat pocket and pierced the latex cap with a syringe. Slowly he drew the liquid up and tapped the bubbles out from the tip. “I’d hoped we were past this.”

He looked straight at her.

Carmen was gone.

Neb scrambled to her feet, gasping and crying as she fell out past the man in glasses.

“Carmen where are you?” She screamed hysterically as she clawed her way up the narrow hill, light continuing to drip from her limbs. “I-I can’t run any more, I can’t-”

“Here Kitty, you’ll be safe here.”

Carmen appeared again, and the girl dove behind her. “Where did you go? How could you leave me there?” she asked angrily.

The woman seemed unperturbed. “Water and bridges, Kitty,” she said mildly and gently patted her shoulder. “What matters is that I’m here now, yes?”

Neb leaned against her hand, then put her head against her chest. “I-I’m sorry, I, I, he’s I’m-”

“Everything will be fine, I assure you. I’m putting you in Flag’s care. I trust you’ll be safe with him.”

Neb jerked her head up. “Wait, no, you can’t-”

But once again Carmen was gone, and in her absence the silver-haired man advanced, dagger drawn.

“I'm sure I can find an appropriate task for her,” he replied with a twitch of a smile.

Neb’s stomach turned and she vomited light between gasping breaths. “Bastard,” she spat out as she feebly went for his knife, but he knocked her aside with a laugh. Her head met the wall and she tumbled down the other side of the incline into a ravine.

“Come here, Kitty. I’ll keep you safe.”

Neb stared up at her in a daze.

“You don’t trust me?” Carmen asked as she gently lifted the girl to her feet.

Neb simply stood, tears streaming down her face.

The woman reached out and caressed her face. “Poor little thing, you must be so scared-”

“Stop teasing me!” the girl screamed suddenly.

Carmen stepped back, pain etched deep in her eyes, and as Neb watched, the woman unraveled in age until a dark-haired child stared back, as fearful and lonely as she.

“Carmen, I...”

Neb reached out to her, but in another lit breath the girl disappeared. The one that remained cried in the dark.

Footsteps echoed through the open chamber she had fallen into. She backed away until her back hit a wall.

“Are you finished?” The man with glasses asked as he came upon her, needle in hand. To his left the silver-haired man emerged, and together they tread through puddles of illuminated azure to stand on either side of her, cutting off her escape.

“Your power is singular, Seryy. It must not be wasted. The sooner you accept this, the easier what remains of your life will be.”

The girl’s rapid, shallow breaths brought her little oxygen. She pressed herself against the wall, but still her frozen muscles still twitched with the urge to run.

The man’s face darkened. “Or do I need to cut off your feet?”

Cut off your feet

Neb’s eyes opened wide as the far-too-familiar threat reverberated in her skull. He’d always said that when she ran, threatened to take away that last means of escape. Suddenly memories surrounding his voice flashed before her, too fast to see. The room unfolded in garish panels of white as the tunnels reformed into the nightmare she’d lived most of her life. Cold tile floors below, buzzing fluorescent lights above, counters that loomed over her. Shadows gained white coats and fuzzy faces, their hands filled with clipboards and restraints.

The man with glasses came into sharper focus as the stinging scent of rubbing alcohol and acetone rose from the dimming pools on the floor. Lab animals cried in the distance. She was scratched and bleeding, a broken restraint still dangling from her wrist.

“Put it down on the table, Seryy,” he commanded quietly.

Empty bottles of rubbing alcohol and acetone lay everywhere, opened and thrown against a locked door so their contents may leak beneath it. Upon the door was a picture of a crossed out cigarette. In her hand, a smouldering butt.

“Put it down, or I will cut off your feet.”

She took a breath, then looked into his eyes as she let it fall, only able to savour the briefest spark of fear before the embers hit the floor. The room erupted in flame, and the girl smiled as it consumed everything she hated.

Warm. Finally warm, she thought as she pulled the smoke into her lungs. With one last smile she closed her eyes and gave herself to the fire.
 
Last edited:

Joe Kerr

VILE Trickster
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Joey, Joseph,
Color #
8a2be2
Joseph had been caught unprepared for the sudden flash of light that pulsed through the temple and blinded him, almost as if someone had put a camera in his face and taken a picture.

---

It took his eyes a few moments to adjust to brightness but when his surroundings finally came back into focus, Joseph found himself in a small, nondescript room. Apart from his chair and the relatively worn down table before him, there were two other generic-looking chairs and little else in the room.

Standard issue interrogation room, oh joy…

Reflexively, Joseph glanced down at his wrist and was relieved to find a distinct lack of handcuffs.

Further rumination was interrupted by the wooden door slamming open and the unceremonious entrance of two individuals. The first was a younger man with brown hair in a blue shirt and navy vest; his eyes spoke of contempt and he carried himself with over-confidence.

The second man was an older individual, dressed in a grey suit. He carried himself with poise and calm, years of experience having made him a master at schooling his expressions. Shutting the door behind him, the elder man gave a respectful nod towards Joseph as the duo took their seats opposite the Jester.

Joseph offered the men a small smirk and then turned his attention exclusively toward the grey one.

“Devineaux, to what do I owe the pleasure of a meeting with Ness’s protege?”

“Joseph,”

A brief but congenial staredown was interrupted by Chase’s young partner slamming a brown folder on the table.

“Joey Kerrigan, age 33, born in New York city, ….”

Joseph immediately tuned out the ranting of the younger, dumber, cop and continued in his conversation with his familiar rival.

“Cut the games Devineaux, why am I here?”

The younger agent was indignant at being ignored and made it known.
“Hey! You look at me when I’m talking to you, clown!”

Joseph’s response was to continue to ignore the hothead and continue focusing on Devineaux.

“No cuffs means no arrest. You’re just digging for info you’re assuming I have. Am I getting warm?”

The barest ghost of a smile graced the Grey One’s lips.

“Since when are you not in the know?”

Joseph raised his eyebrows, “Touche.”

The younger agent was continuing his tirade and was getting angrier by the minute, much to the amusement of the other gentlemen in the room.

“Why is the upstart here?”

Devineaux shrugged non-committedly. “Training”

Joseph laughed. “Boy does he need it”.

“HEY! I’m right here you know!”

Finally, Chase turned to address his younger counterpart.

“Jordan, that’s enough. Please step outside and observe through the viewing room.”

“Wha..what?”

Jordan wanted to protest but the stoic look from his mentor silenced him. Defeated, the young agent pushed his chair back and trudged out the door, leaving the open file on the table.

“Harsh Devineaux.”

“He’ll learn.”

“Eh.”

Both men took a minute to get comfortable before the exchange began in earnest.

“I assume we’re off the record?”

In lieu of a reply, Chase slowly picked up the file and started spreading out its contents, starting his story in a calm, measured tone.

“La Famiglia Rossi, the reigning organized crime family in all of America, and some would say, the world. It’s said that they rule over all the other families with an iron fist, yet strangely without ever resorting to the threat of violence and bloodshed. In some circles they’re almost revered as a myth, a boogeyman figure for the mafias of the world; but we both know they are very, very real.”

The last statement was poignantly directed at Joseph who merely smiled in amusement. Devineaux meanwhile retrieved a stack of black and white photographs from the file and started to push them one by one in front of Joseph; with each photo came a name and a short profile.

The first was of an older gentleman in a striped suit and fedora. His greasy moustache and smile seemingly jumping out from the photo.


Vincenzo ‘Vic the Slick’ Fumigali

“Respected businessman and entrepreneur by day, proxy leader and public face of the family by night. The boss’s right hand man; he runs the day to day operations, opening various businesses to serve as fronts for them. All decisions are rumoured to go through him.”

The next was of a younger, frowning man with long grey hair and a dress shirt.


Flag (no last name)

“Mysterious individual who serves as the enforcer for La Famiglia Rossi; extremely loyal to the boss. The most likely of the family to resort to violence, his stare alone is an effectively deterrent for most enemies. No known background.”


Third was a beautiful young woman with fair hair.

Patty Larceny

“The belle of the family. Do not be deceived by her looks, she is a seasoned grifter and master of disguise. She is rumoured to have been a key player in many of the operations and scams the family has pulled on its enemies.”


The next few photos followed quickly.

Sarah Nade

“Works as a teacher in St Francis orphanage. Rumoured to be Fumigali’s partner in more than one way. Known to be a talented musician who also sometimes performs at various events.”


Kenny “Ken. U” Believitt

“Rumoured conspiracy theorist. Despite his eccentricities he is highly skilled at data management and cryptography. It is said that he is the one who helps manage the data and communications network for the the family.


Eartha Brute

“Serves as a nanny and physical therapist in St Francis Orphanage. Much stronger than appearance. Potential other enforcer for the family.”


Kidman? Neb?

“One of the first orphans in the St Francis orphanage and the first to graduate from high school. Upon her graduation, she is rumoured to have gone straight into the ‘family business’”


The last photo was only a silhouette of a woman.


Carmen Sandiego (no recent photo available)

“Rumoured matriarch and true leader of La Famiglia Rossi. A reclusive socialite who inherited her father’s mansion, turning it into the St Francis Orphanage and school for the underprivileged. Rumoured IQ of over 200 and living definition of femme fatale.”


Chase paused and then sat back before continuing.

“And then there’s you, Joseph ‘Joey’ Kerrigan. The rumoured ‘other’ right hand of Carmen’s. You’re a fixer and a ‘mechanic’ for the family, managing some of their more well-known fronts - like a certain restaurant with a speakeasy in the back.”

Joseph smirked at the inflection on ‘mechanic’ before replying.

“As you so specifically mentioned, all rumours.”

“Every good rumour has a ring of truth about it.”

“Like the one about you being partial to a good bottle of scotch?”

The quiet staredown resumed for a few minutes; the players going back and forth on their mental chessboard, plotting the optimal next move.

It would be Joseph who broke the stalemate with a small gambit.
“Hypothetically, if I were part of this mysterious organization you mentioned that hypothetically has all this knowledge, how might I be able to assist you?”

“Hypothetically, I would ask you to tell me about the inner workings of the family”

“Hypothetically, I would decline and call Galese”

“Hypothetically, we’d both regret that.”

Joseph gave a non-committal hum in reply as the quiet pause returned.

This time, it was the Senior Agent who made the first move. Standing up from his chair, he calmly strolled toward the door, pulled out a key from his sleeve, and locked it. Under Joseph’s watchful eye, Chase nonchalantly tossed the key onto the table and delivered his offer.
“Off the record, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t investigate these ‘rumours’ more closely?”

Having ‘sparred’ with Chase on several prior occasions, Joseph immediately recognized the instant that Agent had slipped on his signature poker face. Making a show of stretching his arms and hands, Joseph gave a few ‘“tut”s for good measure before leaning back in a relaxed pose.

“I’ll do you one better Devineaux, I’ll give you two good reasons.”

Joseph paused to gauge the non-reaction to his statement before continuing.

“Firstly,” he extended his thumb as if keeping count.
“Let’s say, hypothetically, that this Famiglia actually exists, it would actually be in your best interests to let this organisation continue to prosper. I mean, think about it, they are hypothetically keeping all the other criminal organisations in check whilst not shedding a single drop of blood; that gives you lot an easier and safer job to do. That’s kinda a win-win scenario for all parties concerned , isn’t it?”

As Joseph predicted, the Agent before him remained stone-faced.

“Secondly,” Joseph extended his index figure to update the count.
“To continue from point one, if, hypothetically, this ruling entity is removed from power, there would be a very...”

Joseph slowed down to emphasize the next word.
“...VERY, bloody war for the throne. No telling how much collateral damage this battle would accrue; properties lost, families torn asunder, cities crumbling into chaos and anarchy, and so, so many innocent lives callously snuffed out…”

Like a master storyteller, Joseph tailed off, letting the silence bring home the weight of the aforementioned situation.

After a calculating minute had passed, Joseph moved in for the kill.
“Bonus reason…”

Without warning, he suddenly slammed his hands on table and leaned forward at Chase, staring him straight in the eyes.
“...you owe us, Devineaux! Need I remind you who it was that served Capone to you on a plate?”

Chase narrowed his eyes.
“Blackmail is a federal offence.”

In response, Joseph leaned back and let out a hearty laugh.
“You wound me, Devineaux. I was just stating that a man of your honour would never repay a favour with enmity.”

A few more terse moments passed before Chase pulled out a small envelope of photos from his breast pocket. With a swift flourish, where there once was a key now sat a brown package on the table.

His curiosity peaked, Joseph opened the packet to find three photographs, each with a name on the back; Jenny Diver, Lucy Brown, Lotte Lenya.
Each photograph showed the dead body of a young woman; one had been given concrete shoes, another had been gutted open like a fish, and the third showed signs of garrotting.

Joseph looked up at the sound of Devineaux’s voice.
“They were discovered, one a week, starting last month. Whoever did it, left clues pointing towards La Famiglia Rossi. ‘Hothead’ out there wanted to pursue the matter and investigate you lot; I intervened.”

Taking the meaningful pause as his cue, Joseph leaned back and delivered a calm, confident, statement; his tone making it clear that he expected the agent before him to know better.
“Contrary to their name, the Red Family doesn’t kill.”

“I know.” the response was short and terse; for the next few moments, the absence of words spoke volumes.

Eventually, as both a formality and an olive branch, Chase offered a simple reprieve.
"I’m doing what I can to look into this...delicately...but the higher-ups are getting impatient. Perhaps you have other avenues available that I don’t.”

Nodding, Joseph replaced the photos into the envelope and slipped the package into his sleeves. Standing up, Joseph walked to the door as Devineaux unlocked it.

He was unsurprised when, in the guise of opening the door, the Agent leaned in briefly to whisper, “Now, we’re even.”

“Don’t let the door hit you on your way out, Joey” Chase punctuated the statement with a frown.

Joseph’s only reply was his echoing laughter as he walked into the brightly lit corridor before a white light engulfed him.
 

Narrator

Fledgling
This ancient place of worship, called the Devalaya by its explorers, was part of a large city that may have supported up to half a million inhabitants. What happened between its last inhabitable days and this point in time remains a mystery but, from what little evidence could be found among its empty alleyways and tempered halls, it would seem life never quite left.

Atop a throne at is heart, in a chamber called the ‘womb’, a man contemplated his predicament. Here was a seat reserved for the gods, but he was confined to it inexplicably.

Why would he be granted so much power if he was not a god?

And so the marine biologist regressed into his own mind, deep into his own dreams. Each day-night cycle was barely a second in real-time. In a process that seemed like months, he began to understand how to overcome this disability.

In the first month of his extended dream, he heard that his second-in-command Jurgen Kraus and that Azeri, Emil, was about to betray him. He ordered them hanged, but someone more powerful thwarted his efforts. That slight was something he aimed to rectify.

Within the next 30 days in his dream world, he found a way to make time relatively stop. Tapping into the energies of those in the area, he pulled each of them into their own vicious dreams. Now that he wasn’t trapped alone, he selectively moved into their visions, playing the roles of villains in some, while others have not even begun to dream. Every time he did go into their minds he would ask one question to anyone who listened:

“Where is Carmen?”

Few of them answered, and for a while he could not find her.

Even the gray-suited detective they called her former partner had nothing to say on the matter.
 

Acton Roux

V.I.L.E.
Color #
351c75
Acton Roux fought with his mind for some time. A notion told him he must be sleeping, yet a will to survive attempted to stay awake. He often found himself here, between worlds, or halfway from one state of mind to another. But this time, things were quite different.

His peers were asleep, he could see them all on the ground. And soon, despite earnest protest, his vision also began to change.

Illusions paved a path before him. A man stood at the end of this road, handsome and tall, a formidable symbol of righteousness. He faced Acton, but looked far beyond him. Following his gaze, the doctor looked down the path in the opposite direction and saw a woman in red. The open coat that draped over her shoulders flowed with unfelt wind. At her feet were white Converse sneakers, unlaced.

Walk with me,” she smiled and began to close the distance. How someone may walk so quickly with unlaced shoes was beyond his understanding. Distinctively, the way she moved and her speech pattern was a Carmen pulled directly from the vestiges of his memory. She was not real. He only saw her because he thought of her.

This revelation resulted in the woman’s image fading and he once again focused on the handsome man. Here was likely a representation of Chase Devineaux, someone the doctor admired for his steadfast honesty. His location at the end of a path indicated Acton’s own desire to reach the same point, to live without the burden of lies.

But nothing of Chase Devineaux that may have been in his memory appeared before Acton, and in that same moment, he also noted that he may not be alone in his visions.

Questions in a voice he did not recognise asked about his detective days. It asked what he was doing in Siberia, and inquired (in no less-than-explicit details) about his relationship with the woman in Converse.

The voice could not find its answers for Acton’s mind was truly void of such things. And in frustration, the interrogator left him.

Of course, Acton understood after a few seconds of remuneration, this was a case of mistaken identity. To the owner of that strange voice, he was still in disguise as ACME's Diretor of Operations.
 
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Farmboy, Calamity, Stormblood
Color #
006600
Deric had a weird feeling about this. This temple was definitely screwing with their minds, he surmised, it had to be. First, there had been the nagging feeling that something had been following them. Then, Deric still had no idea what had caused some of the members of their group to snap and lash out against other members of their party like El Jefe had or the surrounding area like Ivy did. And now, as they approached the central temple, it felt more and more like his brain was being wrapped in cotton. It was getting harder to keep his focus on the current task.

As their motley crew reached the temple entrance, Deric saw the ex-VILE agent known as Patty Larceny seemingly falter in her steps.

“What’s wr-“ Deric began to ask before a sudden flash enveloped his vision. When he reopened his eyes, Deric no longer saw Patty; in fact, he didn’t see anyone. Hell, Deric didn’t even see the temple; all he saw was the living room of his apartment… back in San Francisco.

“The hell…” Deric thought aloud as he surveyed his surroundings. Everything seemed to be exactly as he last remembered it, minus the layer of dust over… well, everything. As he passed his television, Deric noticed his reflection. He still held his STUN rifle, but his STUN suit and goggles had been replaced by a grey t-shirt and blue jeans. It was, in fact, the same outfit he had worn the day he had left on this current assignment.

“Weird,” Deric remarked. His attention was grabbed by a melody appearing suddenly from his kitchen. Deric couldn’t place the song, yet it sounded strangely familiar. He stepped into the kitchen to find the source of the music…

Only to find himself in the living room of his grandparents’ farmhouse. Deric also noticed that the STUN rifle he had carried was now gone. The melody Deric had heard in his apartment was still playing, except now it sounded less ethereal and more like it was coming from a record player. He headed towards the record player when he caught his reflection and saw his attire had also changed again. Now, he was wearing a green flannel shirt over a white t-shirt, which was what he had worn the last time he had been back to the farm.

‘Really weird,’ Deric thought as he continued to the record player. It was covered in a layer of dust as well as unplugged, so that wasn’t where the music was coming from. Deric proceeded to check the rest of the rooms in the house, which fortunately didn’t lead him to another new location. Unfortunately, he was unable to find the source of the music or his grandparents even though he could see their cars parked in the driveway.

“Great googly-moogly,” Deric swore once he made his way back to the living room. “What the hell’s going on here?”

Well...” a new, yet familiar, voice rang out, nearly making Deric jump in surprise. “Sounds like you’ve got a bit of a problem here, bubba.” Deric turned around to see the source of the voice.

The other speaker... was himself. Seated in the easychair with his feet propped up on the coffee table, was another Deric Storm. Not as Deric himself was currently dressed but clad in a dark grey or black suit with a white dress shirt, sans tie. His double looked like he had raided Director Devineaux’s wardrobe.

Now Deric was really confused...

“Feet off the table,” was the only thing Deric could say as he sat down on the couch. His double smirked but complied. Deric just stared at the other Deric, trying to wrap his brain around this development.

“That settles it...” Deric said, running his hands through his hair, “I’ve officially gone round the bend.”

Not quite,” his doppleganger replied, a shadow of a smirk on his face. “At least, not yet anyway. This seemed like as good a time as any to have a little chat. There’s something about this place that’s allowing us to converse like this.

“Wait, wait, wait...” Deric said, holding up a hand, “you’re telling me that this isn’t real?”

Real...” his ‘twin’ said, bringing his hand to his chin thoughtfully. Rising from the easychair, the ‘twin’ proceeded to circle around Deric, eyeing the ACME agent with a smirk on his face. “‘Real’ is so subjective. All ‘real’ is is what this,” he tapped Deric’s right temple, “deciphers the stimulus it receives to be.

Deric couldn’t help but roll his eyes.

“Seriously?” Deric chided his double. “You’re paraphrasing The Matrix???”

The other Deric just shrugged his shoulders in reply.

“All right Faux-pheus, who are you supposed to be, then?” Deric asked.

I’m you, obviously,” the double replied, “or, at least a part of you.

“Well,” Deric said, gesturing at the other Deric, “what do you want?”

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it,” the other Deric said. “You’re the one who’s nearing the bend as you said.

“I’m fine,” Deric retorted sharply.

I’m sure that’s what you’ve been telling everyone,” the double said with a smirk, running his finger along a bookcase, picking up dust. “I’m sure you’ll believe it one day.

Deric glared at his doppelganger severely, which went ignored. “Let’s face it,” ‘Deric’ continued, “your life has gone to hell the last couple years and we both know why…” The double finshed with a gesture at where he previously sat.

Suddenly, in the easychair appeared a form Deric hadn’t seen in two years but had occupied his thoughts every day since. The chair’s new occupant was clad in hip hugging jeans, a shirt hugging all the right curves, and a well-worn leather jacket. What really stood out was what Deric had first noticed about her… her smile. Warm…playful…sultry…and a little dangerous. It was a smile that could stop traffic; it had stopped him on multiple occasions.

Calina Corranos now sat in his grandparents’ living room. Suddenly, Deric could hear lyrics to the music that had been playing this entire time.

I'll never smile again
Until I smile at you
I'll never laugh again
What good would it do?
For tears would fill my eyes
My heart would realize
That our romance is through


Deric shook his head once and the lyrics fell away.

“She’s not real is she?” Deric asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

His double chuckled. “Let’s be real, did you really think it was going to last?” Deric’s head whipped up at the accusation.

The double smirked at him, “C’mon farmboy. Everyone leaves you at some point… usually, because of you.

“Wha-wha-wha,” Deric stammered. He was suddenly in nothing but empty blackness.

”You’re a loose cannon” Deric heard his commanding officer say, “You’re insubordinate. You think you know better. Who do you think you are?

You’re reckless and irresponsible.” he heard Ivy’s feisty tone. “We can’t trust you out in the field to not do something crazy and stupid.

You were no leader,” Deric heard the voice of the woman who was his conscience and confidant at the Academy.

We only followed you because we felt sorry for you,” he heard his good friend and Academy roommate chide him.

You are a danger to yourself and others,” Deric couldn’t quite place the voice, Jordan perhaps.... “Your temper is out of control.

The speed and direction of the voices had come was causing Deric to turn in circles to try and get his bearings. The sudden silence was offputting.

You don’t belong with them or us,” a new female voice emerged from the blackness. “Is there a place you actually do belong?” It took the detective a moment to realize it was Carmen’s voice he was hearing.

Did you really think I could love you?” he heard Cali’s voice snap, her accent making the words cut even deeper. “You’re an immature, overgrown child.

He reached trying to get closer to the voices to try and prove they were wrong. All he could do was fall to his knees under the weight of his sorrow. The only sound he got in reply was the footsteps of his double.

Face it farmboy,” ‘Deric’ said, a self satisfied smirk on his face. “For all the bravado and wiseass remarks, you’re just a sad little boy trying to replace mommy and daddy.

You should have actually eaten that bullet last year,” Deric heard his double say before tossing something at him before disappearing back into the void.

The next thing he knew, Deric was looking down at the handgun he held in his hand at the lowest point he reached the last couple years laying in his lap, gleaming in an unseen light.
 
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Chase

Director
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
Images of snakes lined the wall of the temple. While he had no debilitating phobia of slithering creatures, Devineaux preferred not to deal with them. He was also selectively less fearful of pythons than unidentified mid-length brown snakes… like Mambas. His thoughts wandered back to a few days ago, when the MAMBA came to his aid in Siberia; and how, hours prior, it wanted to save the yellow submarine. For the decisions his former partner must make in life, he did not envy her. Some contradicting part of him was even proud of her, annoying as it was.

Chase walked, holding the wall to keep his balance. A warm breeze kissed his cheeks and he looked up towards blinding light. Sails, dyed crimson, cut across sun and sea, heading towards his location.

Taking a step forward, he found his sandaled feet pressed against saffron sands.

“Here she comes…,” an older man, half in armor, approached from the left. He wasn’t speaking English, but was easily understood, “Ready yourself, Koresh.”

He felt ready, and somewhat defiant of his guide. What would a Mut'tazilite Ifriqiyan know of a prince’s readiness?

“I will not need you to speak for me,” he instructed to the sage, “we will see who she is, and what she truly wants.”

“She said so in her letter to your father. She’s here to see crown prince, her father has passed and she needs to marry. You have read it a hundred times!”

“What kind of woman speaks to my father and not to me?”

“The kind that knows proper state affairs,” the older man shrugged, “Your fathers were allies, if she was only born a man, she may outrank you.”

“Trust me on this Hortorus,” his suspicion was no secret, “this is strange behavior.”

“Because you are ever so experienced with women?” The Mu'tazilite jabbed, “We all remember the garden feast.”

Koresh narrowed his eyes and huffed at his advisor.

From the camp behind them, a stableman signaled, referencing his shortened title, “Valiad, the horses are ready.”

On the way, Koresh considered his tactics. He wanted to first clarify to this woman that he was pursuing others. Additionally, he had no intent to wed so quickly for political gain. His focus was to expand the empire laterally while his father was still alive.



At the docks in front of the boat, an ornate litter carried by twelve men awaited him. He dismounted the steed and must stand in the heat as courtiers, whose entire careers were specific to this very task, gathered into formation.

The nature of both their statuses required sufficient pomp when it came to introductions. Announcers dragged on his full Babylonian title while hers, slightly shorter, was embellished with words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘noble’ in several forms.

When the curtains parted, not everything of the woman could immediately be seen. She wore a veil as per traditions of the peninsular. But noting the wrinkled edges of her asymmetrical eyes, he realized the adjectives to her name were precipitously exaggerated. Raising a brow, he turned to the sage nearby. The man from Ifriqiya was expressionless. Finding no sympathy in his advisor, Koresh placed attention back to his guest.

She greeted him kindly, but something about her mannerism didn’t match her status. Was she perhaps some sort of decoy?

Despite how much this unsettled him, the host decided that he should remain polite. He bowed and then squared his shoulders.

“With great pleasure, Ca—”

Before he could continue with receiving her then rejecting her, a loud horn signaled an approaching rider.

Taking steps towards the sound, Koresh gestured to a servant to bring his horse.

“The tower, Valiad!” The arriving messenger announced, “The tower is gone!”

“What do you mean, gone?”

“Disappeared, Valiad.”

His brows furrowed with disbelief, “...from Babylon?”
 

Carmen

Queen of Crime
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
850000
Four notes make the signature tune of a crime mitigation enterprise. Following the slowed melody led Carmen to its Director of Operations. As soon as she was conscious of him, the chimes faded to silence.

Chase Devineaux leaned against a pillar, in the clothes of Doctor Acton Roux. Of course, ‘the Plague Doctor,’ as Emil had said, ‘was a spy.’ Saturniids gathered about him, revealing enough details in otherwise pitched darkness. The man, who certainly earned the sobriquet of ACME’s ‘poster boy’ had shaved since she last saw him in Siberia. While she had many questions for him, she understood resolutions with such a force were often few and far in between.

But perhaps there was something he could do for her, under the circumstances.

Removing the goddess statuette from her belt, she parted Chase’s vest and placed the idol wrapped in linen into his left breast pocket. Among anyone here, he was the best candidate to champion this ivory figurine to the proper scholarly institutes.

As she was leaving, he unconsciously held her wrist. She returned the touch on his arm and as quickly as he caught her, he released her.

Not far from Chase was Ivy Monaghan. Light from her tactical suit displayed deep blue, preserving battery while she slept. Curiosity brought the thief to the commander’s wrist console. On it was an indicator of each ACME unit’s location. Bright blips showed all agents were in good health, but they were also hauntingly stationary.

A few steps from the redhead was Deric Storm. She had first observed this intrepid agent in Kamchatka. How ACME must trust him, then, if he was here as Ivy’s support. The way his head rested seemed uncomfortable, and Carmen moved his shoulder to better lean against the stone wall.

At the opposite side was Eugene Grovington in the ASP. His mechanical suit kept him fixed in a kneeling position. Approaching, she heard sporadic snoring and noted his armor may be restricting breaths. She unfastened latches that protested with a hiss, and placed the helmet on the floor. His snoring ceased.

Next, she found Neb huddled near Patty. Carmen smiled reactively and knelt to check both girls. The grey one had tears in her eyes, and the thief removed her gloves to wipe them. Where their skin touched left a fleeting trail of luminescence across Neb’s cheeks. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was an effect of her Shadow’s recent treatments.

Patty’s teeth grinded tightly in her sleep. Amber Argos was a runaway discovered during an early heist. Carmen became attached to the teenager’s wit, but as schooling and other events diverged their time, the two grew apart. With apologetic sympathy, she caressed the blonde’s jaws until they relaxed.

Joseph Kerr slumbered at the next pillar. He looked well despite the crash, and she observed only minor injuries. Joe’s brows were furrowed as if deep in thought. She was grateful for their last conversation, but she had to wonder if this experience may test his tolerance to remain non-lethal.

Feeling eyes upon her, she turned to meet Acton Roux’s fixed gaze. Fleetingly, she gasped. The Frenchman was asleep and his breathing seemed normal, but his irises were exposed and his pupils dilated in the dim light. The grey suit he wore was clearly Chase Devineaux’s, they must have switched wardrobes for a reason. Her hand traced the silk tie that supported Acton’s injured arm.

A large Attacus Atlas perched upon her fingers, then it flew away in the direction she came. She understood she would find no answers here, and must head back to the temple’s heart.
 

Nevon

ACME
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
6a99a6
Nevon suddenly saw a door in front of him. When he opened it and entered, there was Zack Monaghan in their shared dorm room playing PUBG on the PC.

“Hey man, where’ve you been?” Zack threw him a controller, “Log into your game and help me with this group. They keep sniping me from the treelines.”

“I was…” Nevon was about to explain the mission he was on and how he temporarily got teamed up with Carmen Sandiego, but for some reason, he couldn’t put any words to it. Then the memories of that temple disappeared completely.

A few minutes into the game, both Nevon and Zack were finishing up looting an abandoned building.

“So how is it to be married?” Zack asked with a smirk.

“It’s cool,” Nevon chuckled, “it’s not like there’s a manual or anything. I’m learning as I go.” Then he paused to think about what he just said. How did he know that, he got married?

“Man, this Christmas is going to be quiet on campus,” Zack sighed and paused the game, “You’ll be away on your honeymoon and my sister’s going to Prague.”

“Ivy’s going to Prague on holiday?” Nevon wondered about his buddy’s sad tone, but wasn’t sure if he should ask.

“She’s on the hunt, you know that,” Zack shrugged, “with Carmen Sandiego.”

“You mean for Carmen Sandiego?”

“No dude,” Zack seemed confused that Nevon was confused, “for Melana Lancaster.”

As soon as Zack said that name, Nevon started to remember what happened.

A knock sounded from the door and Ivy poked her head in.

“Quick briefing, guys, CEO’s office.” Her hair looked sharper and shorter than Nev remembered.

Both agents grabbed their backpacks and headed out.

ACME compound was bustling with activity this time of year. As Nevon walked towards Accolade, he could see everyone staying busy. Lee Jordan and Deric Storm were looking over a new delivery of motorcycles near the parking entrance. Tanya was walking with a group of reporters, she smiled and waved to Zack, who waved back. Younger agents were rushing to class.

At the center of the campus was a dark gray pillar, surrounded by a plot of well maintained grass. Both Nevon and Zack stopped at the square column. There was no plaque, but the flowers and candles around it spoke enough. It was erected to commemorate the fallen, after the fall of ACME’s best. It was a wound nobody quite got over.

“I wish he was at my wedding,” Nevon was somber.

“Bet he would have hated it, Bro,” Zack joked and both shared a chuckle. They both knew Chase Devineaux would have disapproved of Nev’s fiancée on some level.

”Wish he was at mine too,” Ivy joined them at the monument.

Zack playfully shrugged, “I think he would have hated yours more.” There was a pause for thought and then both Ivy and Nevon started to laugh.

“Let’s go,” the commander nudged, “We’ll be late.”
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
Ivy walked, listening to her sensors to see if the area was clear. Then a bright white fog flashed over her glasses, and suddenly she was in San Francisco, standing in Chase Devineaux’s office. But it didn’t look like Chase’s office. From the corner stereo, the Platters crooned her favorite song, ‘Sentimental Journey’. There were some plants clinging to life on top of driftwood shelves, there was a giant picture of San Francisco signed by Zack Monaghan, and a teal Adidas yoga mat rolled up in the sunny corner—Wait a minute.

“Commander Monaghan?” Renee Grovesnor opened the door with a bright smile.

Holy -- is this my office? After a few seconds of awkward silence, she replied, “Uh… yes?”

“Barbara Rosen is here,” the secretary announced

Rosen walked in. Blue-gray eyes behind a pair of glasses studied the room before settling down on a chair and, without words, asked Renee to leave the two of them alone.

“Hi,” Monaghan greeted, “Is there anything I can do for you, Mrs. Rosen?”

The ACME CEO pushed her lips together while her stare sent chills into Ivy.

“A few hours ago, 4:15 a.m. local time in Argentina, a presidential candidate was abducted,” she briefed, “Our friends in Maryland said the local contact asked for you by name.”

“Because we’re all... friends?” Yes, she was completely confused.

“Focus, Monaghan,” Rosen reminded, “This is a matter of national security. Nadia Álvarez’s father is an American citizen. Obviously, we’re backing her campaign.”

“We?”

“Our private sectors.”

“Oh,” Ivy had to accept her boss’s words, even though it only raised more questions.

“She was making an appearance in a neighborhood just outside of Buenos Aires...” Barbara Rosen continued, “Someone hijacked her campaign car,” but as Ivy listened, the words sounded like a narration and the scenes changed around her. “...You’ll be meeting the contact as soon as you land in Argentina.”

Argentina, the last time she was in that country was to plot out a small operation for the International Crimes Division. As she thought about the country, she found herself suddenly there.

Ivy was now at an airport. A group of men in suits waited for her. One of them, in a pilot uniform, winked at her as she walked by and she gave her typical ‘back off’ scowl.

She was here to join a task force, so they were saying, and the men led her to a car.

The man inside smiled and greeted in a voice half familiar to her, “I hope the flight hasn’t been too much of a rush. I understand you ACMEs are usually busy.”

This guy is either MI6 or…, she slowed when he saw him, Chase Devineaux with a British accent?

“I’m David Collins,” he introduced himself.

No you’re not… You’re Chase Devineaux. She squinted slightly as thoughts about him started to build. I looked up to you when I started at ACME. You’ve been my mentor for the past five years. You gave me my favorite dog. You went on a date with my landlord Becca Simmons and she let me have a free month. Have I ever thanked you?

“And you’re Ivy Monaghan?”

Oh no, Ivy’s eyes glinted disappointment, you don’t even know me!

He only stared blankly at her.

Realizing he was waiting for an actual response, Ivy cleared her throat.

“Yes, I am. I’m sorry this thing has me a little…” she pointed to her head and made a woosh sound, “Were you the one that asked for me through NSA, or…?”

“Nadia did,” he answered, “she managed to send a text message to her campaign manager, Tanya Erzin.”

What? Well, at least Tanya is still the same person.

“A text, while she was captured?”

The man nodded, “Yes, I was told you two go some time back, when she studied in San Francisco?”

“Tanya?”

“Nadia.”

Think, Ives, staring into Chase’s—no—David’s eyes, she almost heard that in his ‘mentor’ voice, when did you meet a Nadia?

“I… haven’t seen her for some time,” she figured she’d try this route, “Do you have a recent picture? I’d like to see how she is now.”

He looked at her with those familiar furrowed brows over his silver irises and slowly produced his phone. Notifications showed ‘Breaking News’ from CNN to Slate about the disappearance of Nadia Álvarez. He handed her the device and indicated wordlessly that she should pick one.

She did.

And then she dropped the phone.

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry,” she picked it up again and dusted it off.

Video feed from the BBC featured a beautiful woman in the midst of a crowd, shaking hands, receiving flowers, and holding babies. The smile on her face was somehow both genuine and brave, a glow of defiance in her eyes despite the political climate.

Ivy knew this woman, but not as Nadia Álvarez. In her former world, this was Carmen Sandiego.

Her vision whirled into a tunnel.

The detective gasped.

“Are you alright?” Not-Chase-Devineaux looked her over and she realized some time had passed, it was dawning and the car was moving. Well, things haven’t changed. She was still in this crazy place.

“Did I pass out?” She deduced, to explain the time gap.

“No, you were quiet,” he seemed worried, not necessarily about her but maybe her abilities, “It’s quite a long drive. I apologise for the relocation, but it’s best we get you acquainted with the team immediately.”

Ivy looked straight ahead at the road. Did that temple drop her off in a parallel universe, or was this some kind of lucid dream? She picked up her own phone and checked the news. But even if it was, what choice did she have? Carmen’s smile in these snapshots left her wondering if this was the international thief's true destiny.

“Let’s do it, Chase,” she spoke with conviction and tied her hair into a ponytail, “Let’s go save Nadia.”

As she looked on with determination, she could see the gentleman eying her curiously.

“I’m... David.”
 

Eugene

Airfield Staff
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Euge, Earl Jr.
Color #
003366
There was a comfort to the dreamless, floating sleep, and Euge wouldn’t have minded hitting a figurative snooze button to stay in this state. As quickly as that thought took hold, it was replaced by another one; a small but shrill corner of his mind screaming something was wrong. Euge grabbed onto that thought like a drowning man clinging a lifeline, and laboriously pulled himself back to consciousness.

The first sense that came back to him was smell. It was a pungent metallic scent, backdropped with melting plastic and raw jet fuel. Next to come flooding back was orientation, touch, taste, and hearing, as his mind rebelled at having to process so many sensations at once. He was upside down, or sideways, or some orientation that was not natural. The five point harness was cutting into his chest, making every breath a painful labor. His ears were overcome with a ringing, but he could almost make out the sound of small arms beyond. The only thing he could taste was the sharp metallic tang of blood.

Wrenching his eyes open took another great deal of effort, greeting him with a sight of carnage. He was roughly upside down in a partially caved in helicopter cockpit. The world outside the blown out windshield was a hazy muted grey, refusing to come into focus until he blinked the sweat and grime from his vision. Looking to his right, Euge was startled to find that seat empty; the harness unbuckled as if it had never been occupied at all.

The details are all wrong.

Even the pain seemed momentarily detached before his next breath bought it surging back. With his only thought still screaming of escape, Euge began pawing at the harness clasp, dimly noting how his left arm wasn’t responding properly. His right hand found purchase after the fifth attempt, and the sudden release sent fresh waves of pain through his body as he collapsed onto the floor. An attempt to stand was bought to an abrupt halt.

Oh yeah, both my legs were broken.

Were?

The surreal pain surged back yet again, forcing Euge to take a shuddering breath through gritted teeth. Eventually managing to gather his wits, he began dragging himself free of the demolished vehicle at a painfully slow pace. The forward exits were blocked, forcing him to crawl the entire length of the cargo compartment to the aft ramp. Where his memories distinctly burned with the picture of dead bodies still strapped in, he was now seeing only empty seats.

Dragging himself into a shallow alleyway, Euge leaned himself into a corner before performing an awkward one handed press check on his sidearm. He could hear the noise of nearby conflict and his eyes darted back and forth as his heart hammered in his chest. He was alone.
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
808080
( Co-written with Carmen and Maelstrom. )

Her light source led Carmen to the chamber that once housed meditating monks. Its arches supported by elaborately carved pillars. Serpents for the Naga, and rabbits for the moon, interlinked by icons of renewal. Rays of light danced from above, refracted from no visible sources.

At its center was Flag. Her otherworldly friend laid in supine position. With head turned slightly to the left and chin tucked into the collar of a dark jacket, he was surprisingly peaceful. Yet he seemed pale, and instinctively as she neared him, she reached to check his pulse. There was a breath, a reaction to her touch, and Carmen briskly smiled. Concluding that his very nature may help defy the temple’s spell, she ventured to wake him.

***

The smell was misplaced but familiar - like paper mixed with spices, sand, and heat. The nostalgia of it was overwhelming and Flag had to grip the gold-on-glass railing to keep himself from falling.

He took several deep breaths before opening his eyes and staring down the hollow center of the many circular levels below him. Story after story of shelves containing tomes stretched downward and he allowed himself the briefest comfort in the familiar site before he caught his breath in the realization that it was all wrong. Looking up, he was greeted with the inversion of the same sight. He was in the library.

He was home.

"What--?" He stepped backward into a striped woman wearing the uniform of Solilian knowledge keeper. "Why am I here?"

The librarian blinked at him and shrugged as if her answering his question was only a courtesy of her position. "You were overdue."

Tears of frustration stung his eyes as he recalled numerous adventures being cut short by his infernal tie to the spire of learning. "No! Send me back! I need more time!"

The librarian, shorter now and with impossibly long pink hair, looked up at him sadly and shook her head. "That's not how that works."

Flag clenched his fists and took a menacing step toward her. The girl was wrong. He broke this spell. He killed its power source. "No. I... I-"

"Died?"

The darkness in that single note overwhelmed his senses with the taste of blood and he doubled over, clutching his sides as the structure around him disintegrated into the void that uttered the word. The tendrils that he was impaled upon prevented him from falling with it.

Two bright green orbs hovered in space above him. They showered him with loathing as the aether around them shimmered and condensed, gradually taking on a woman’s shape. He tried to look away as the translucent shape of his daughter knelt beside him, but he was unable to move.

“I know you did. I was there.” Her pale form solidified to enhance the look of sheer disgust on her face. She stood and placed a foot on his shoulder, sending him sprawling on his back. “You should stay that way.”

Pain shot through his spine and he recalled why, confusing his vision. She was right, he should be dead, but it didn’t feel that way… though what would death feel like?

“Instead, you went and sought out my mother.”

Flag rolled to his side to pick himself up. “I won’t let you take her from me again,” he growled through clenched teeth.

A new voice, somehow both brighter and harsher than that of his daughter’s caliginosity, addressed him. “Oh I won’t take her away from you. I’ll take you from her.”

“Flag?”

As he opened his eyes, he expected to see a pair of dainty utility boots on the ground before him. This time he was not disappointed. “Ta’nia?” He rolled to get a better look at the owner of the feminine footwear and found hazel springs where cerulean pools should be. Smiling sleepily he sat up and reached up to place his palm on her cheek. “You brilliant thing, you -- you figured out my message.”

“And you took quite a gamble,” clasping his hand, she nodded at his words as if recalling the alien syllables that she deciphered, “You couldn’t have known if I would understand anything.”

"I had some suspicion. Since the painting." He blinked heavily in disbelief as a corner of his mouth twitched upward. "That feels like it was ages ago."

"It may have been," she mirrored his smile, "But we're alright now. I have Maelstrom trapped, his men are agreeable. Help me wake the others and let's leave while we can."

Flag simply nodded in acknowledgement as he slipped his hand from hers and used it to prop himself up on his elbows. He suppressed the urge to flinch as pain flared between his shoulders and, with a sigh, he worked towards the next step in standing.

Within that flash of pain revealed the networks of an inhuman body. Through organs, under muscles and over bones, the psyche of a marine biologist sought for an exploitable weakness. In alien lungs, air vibrating with natural symphony traversed to alveoli-like structures and efficiently traded molecules ready for exhale.

A glowing moth landed to the right of his sternum and brought Carmen’s attention to his coat. Flag watched her silently recount something in her mind, observing the bloodstains as if she had seen them before. He knew what she was remembering.

"Are you injured?" the question was delayed as she searched his body for damage.

"It's nothing that can't be managed." Flag lied casually.

"That’s enough breathing," another voice in his head whispered so far away he could barely register it.

Their being in this temple may have been her doing, but the thing on his back was not. He wanted to assure her of that before she learned the extent of what happened. As he sought the words for this, he stalled. At the same time, he could feel his skin gradually tightening. A singular “heh” evaporated, from which he could not recover.

Her nails tapped upon something metallic against his upper back, but his faltering prevented further questions. She shared, for a moment, his fading gaze as a long sigh flowed from his lips.

Her eyes widened, she had seen this only moments before, "Gunnar,"--a directed accusation--“Stop!”

Requesting mercy was futile, and she instead placed a hand over her companion’s heart. Despite no signs of respiration, the organ pulsed.

"Stay," she commanded, "stay with me."

Any muscle spasm that may have trembled from lack of oxygen calmed in the lull. His head fell to rest against hers, and she knew there was nothing she could do for him here. Laying him back where she found him, Carmen bounded through the decrepit halls. Aquamarine wings trailed her heels. Despite wanting to evade confrontation, she would have to go back and fight the monster.
 

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  • Chase Chase:
    Event shots are small fry though. This kid is like a big fish in a small pond (not that he's cocky). But when he comes work for me, he'll be among 10 others who sometime work 12-hour shoots and stay up until 5 AM editing shots for clients.
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  • Chase Chase:
    Evening, Storm.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    My gut instinct so far is saying to take Kid on. The status quo may be comfortable, but I think it would ultimately do more harm than good.
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  • Chase Chase:
    I'm definitely taking this kid.
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  • Chase Chase:
    Not sure if I owe my friend a courtesy call, though.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    I'd say have Friend talk to the kid first, so he understands kid's ambitions, than you two have your courtesy call.
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  • Chase Chase:
    I know this friend's going to be disappointed I didn't tell him the minute I saw this kid come interview. That said, though, maybe it's a decent test of 'friendship'.
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  • Chase Chase:
    Would probably be a lot easier if the window of his condo doesn't point directly to the window of my apartment...
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    Yes, it's always disappointing to lose talent, but I don't think it's grounds for ending a friendship.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    ...
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  • Chase Chase:
    Yeah, turns out Berlin is still a small town.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    Right...
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    What I was getting at was if I begrudged every team lead who poached talent from me, I would have lost friends quick.
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  • Chase Chase:
    True, and this kid came to me, I didn't poach him. Ethically, we're solid.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    Either way, when you give Friend the courtesy call, recommend he talk to Kid to understand Kid's ambitions.
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  • Chase Chase:
    Probably the best angle for now, thanks for that.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    It's what I'm here for, when I'm not showing you night vision ocular injections.
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  • Chase Chase:
    How did your interview go with the station?
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    Fairly good, but I ultimately didn't get it.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    They didn't specify they were looking for a head broadcast engineer, whereas I was approaching it like a junior position.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    However, he did give me a few referrals. Even said at one point "You definitely talk the talk"
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    My lack of paper certifications is holding be back some as well.
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  • Eugene Eugene:
    Time for me to hit the sack. Catch you later @Chase, @Deric Storm.
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  • Chase Chase:
    Night Euge, have a great sleep
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  • Chase Chase:
    Talking the talk is half the battle
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    Chase Chase: Talking the talk is half the battle
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