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

Joe Kerr

VILE Trickster
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Joey, Joseph,
Color #
8a2be2
As the darkness gave way to light, Joseph did a double take at the sight before him and wished he had not regained consciousness.

He had always known, or at least guessed, that in his chosen line of work, odds were that he’d be staring down the barrel of a gun. Never in his wildest dreams however, did he think that it would be the young woman before him doing the honours.

Across from him stood Patty Larceny, revolver in hand, poised to end his life with a quick pull of the trigger; behind her, a small group of henchmen also poised to shoot on the off chance she missed a point blank shot.

Ignoring everything and everyone else, Joseph looked straight into Patty’s eyes; her once bright baby blues, so full of life and mischief, now filled only with a mixture of regret and frustration.

A tense silence prevailed for an endless minute, then, almost as if rehearsed, the pair addressed each other with the same exact word

“Why?

It would have been downright comical had the situation been different.

After a few more tense moments, Joseph broke the silence.

“Ladies first.”

Despite herself, Patty smiled wryly for a split second before returning to her solemn face.

“Why did you come, Joey? Why? Even after I went out of my way to give you the warning!”

At the mention of said warning, Joseph’s eyes narrowed as the memory began to replay out of its own volition.
---

True to Joseph’s prediction, Maelstrom had been the one to ‘reach out’ and request a meeting. Sadly, it had come at the expense of another life; Deric Storm was a long time friend of the family and had served as liaison between them and the Irish Mob.

His lifeless body had been discovered down by the docks a little before sunrise, his throat bearing the signature marks of a garrotting. It was Lee who had discovered the taunting note, tucked safely in the left breast pocket of Deric’s trademark green jacket.

The message itself was simple and concise, detailing the time and location for a meeting, with the addendum that Joseph be brought to the meeting.

When Devineaux had shown the card to Joseph, his attention had instantly been focused not on the message, but on the three seemingly innocuous symbols in the bottom right corner. To the average observer, these were nothing more than scribbles, but Joseph instantly recognized them for what they truly were - a very specific code.

The code was a shorthand that Joseph himself had helped create; it had been conceived as a useful means of covert communication between the top members of La Famiglia Rossi. The first two symbols of any such message always pointed to the identity of the sender; the third would always be one of several predetermined symbols, each with its own individual meaning ranging from ‘friend’ to ‘do not trust’ and ‘abort mission’.

What worried Joseph wasn’t that the message seemed to be from Patty, it was that the third symbol on this card was the Famiglia’s universal symbol for ‘danger’; it was only used in the most dire of situations and was a clear warning to abort any mission and lay low.


---

Ignoring the gun before him, Joseph shook his head.

“I had to, Patty, you know that.”

“NO, you could have just stayed away, ignored all this and lived your life.”

“And do what? Live with the never-ending regrets and ‘what ifs’? You know me well enough to know that if there was even one chance in a million that I could do something to save you and Carmen, I would take it.”

“You fool...you stupid, stupid fool…”

Joseph was taken aback by as Patty started to cry; in all the time he had known her, Patty Larceny NEVER cried. Tentatively, he reached forward and cupped her hands, gently prying the gun from her hands and dropping it to the floor. Then, slowly and tenderly, he pulled her hair out of her eyes and used his hands to slowly wipe her tears.

“Patty...what’s going on? Why are you helping Maelstrom?”

“I...have to...for her...for us…”

“Her? You mean Carmen? She wouldn’t want you to do this for her.”

The blonde shook her head.

“No, not Carmen.”

“Then...who? Who could be worth all of this?”

The young woman released a few more sobs before replying in a soft, unsure tone.

“Amber...my...our daughter.”

Patty looked up into Joseph’s eyes after her admission and was met with incredulity.

“Wha...when?”

Joseph’s mind suddenly flashed back to two years ago, December 25th. It had been a night that marked many firsts for them; their first Christmas together as a couple, the first time they openly kissed in front of the Famiglia, the first time they had gotten drunk together, and the first time they had consummated their relationship.

Patty leaned her head into Joseph’s shoulder.

“I found out just after Valentine’s, when I realized I was late. I…”

Her voice tapered off for a moment as she paused before continuing in a tone mixed with shame and self-loathing.

“...I wasn’t ready to be a mother yet; I was scared, and like a coward I ran. I confided in Carmen and she sent me away to Europe on special assignment so that I could give birth in privacy; that was why I vanished for over a year. I was originally going to give Amber up for adoption after weaning her for the first couple of months. I'm ashamed to admit that I was even thinking about keeping all of this from you; You must think I'm a horrible person.”

Joseph hugged Patty tightly, whispering comfort to her as the henchmen looked on impassively.

“Patty..I could never hate you. Admittedly, I’m scared out of my wits about being a father, but I wouldn’t leave you over this, and I certainly don’t think any less of you. I would have stood by you whatever you decided, and I still will.”

Patty tearfully looked back up at Joseph’s loving gaze; slowly their faces moved towards each other before they embraced in a searing kiss filled with all the love both could muster.

For that moment, time seemed to stand still for the couple as they poured out their hearts; eventually, the need for air won out.

“How does she look like?”

Through her now drying tears, Patty finally cracked a smile; a tinge of the old spark slowly returning to her baby blues.

“She’s the most beautiful little girl, with my eyes and your smile. I wish you could meet her, only…”

“Only...?”

Patty hesitated as her look turned simultaneously sombre and pensive.

“...Maelstrom has her.”

“What?!”

Patty saw the anger flashing in his eyes and hugged him for all she was worth.

“Joey, don’t be rash, please! For Amber’s sake. Maelstrom made me help him in exchange for her life...and for yours. I made him swear to leave you alive and return Amber to us unharmed once he got what he wanted.”

Before Joseph could tell her that Maelstrom wasn’t to be trusted, the door opened and the devil himself walked in.

“Well...well...isn’t this a touching reunion? I trust Ms Larceny has filled you in on little agreement.”

Joseph gingerly picked Patty up whilst glaring furiously at the Scandinavian psychopath.

“However, Mr Kerrigan, I do believe a renegotiation of those terms is in order, wouldn’t you say?”

Maelstrom snapped his hands and a couple more henchmen walked in; one carrying a baby Joseph assumed was Amber and the other dragging a tied up Carmen along. Both were placed beside the mad man.

“Amber!!!” Patty shrieked as she ran over to her daughter, ignorant of the henchmen poised to gun her down. Thankfully, Maelstrom, for whatever reason, waved them off and allowed mother and child to be reunited.

“You see Mr Kerrigan, this is what is going to happen. You will first tell me what I wish to know and then I will give you something you want in return; I believe it is as you Americans like to say ‘you wash my back and I’ll wash yours’.”

Joseph almost growled out his reply, “What do you wish to know?”

A malevolent laugh filled the air.

“You should really learn to be more polite to your superiors. But, I’m a benevolent man, so I’ll let that slide.” To illustrate his point, Maelstrom gestured with this right hand in the air, purposefully ignoring the looks of hatred Patty was giving him.

“Now then, I know the ‘Famiglia’ has information on every organization and mine is no exception. I am also aware that the safe deposit box with the information pertaining to my interests is in a certain bank in Switzerland and requires two signatures to access. I already have one of them, I just need yours. You have thirty seconds before my men and I get impatient; be warned, some of them have, what do you call it, the ‘itchy trigger fingers’.”

Joseph sighed as the authorisation form was placed in front of him, Adrianna’s signature already neatly penned in. With a flourish, he grabbed the pen and added in his signature beside hers before slamming the pen down and pushing the offending form away.

“Thank you Mr Kerrigan, although I do find it intriguing that you are not the least bit surprised that I already have Contessa Covrenzi’s cooperation.”

“I am many things, but I am no fool, Maelstrom. As you are well aware, it is my job to know where all the blackmail information is stored and whose signatures are required to access what. I already guessed that you wanted the information we had on you and would require my signature for it. The fact that there has been no mention of any attack on any of Adrianna’s person or properties further confirmed to me what I had already suspected, that she was already in your pockets, or vice-versa.”

“Bravo. Your reputation precedes you Mr Kerrigan. Humor me, explain how you came to originally came to realize that your Contessa was working for me.”

“Simple. Whilst I was in that hospital bed I had a lot of time to think; and I realized two things about your attack on the mansion and orphanage. First, Patty hadn’t been around recently enough to know the updated layouts, and yet, based on all the bodies,”

Joseph paused to catch his composure.

“You and your men managed to catch everyone by surprise. That meant there was someone else associated with us who was giving you the updated information; someone who knew about the mansion but couldn’t actually enter it with you for some reason, someone who perhaps couldn’t allow herself to be seen associating with a rumoured crime family.”

Maelstrom simply smiled smugly.
“And secondly?”

“Secondly, I realized you would need lots of money to pull off this operation, and I was well-aware that your operations in Europe haven’t been going to well lately. That meant you had someone bankrolling you. Adrianna Covrenzi fit all the criteria.”

Joseph was rewarded with slow, sarcastic clapping from his adversary.

“Most amusing; I believe I could use the services of a good jester.”

The reply was immediate and snarky, “Not interested.”

“Too bad. Oh well,” Without warning, Maelstrom’s tone turned deadly and he whipped out his gun.

“Now onto business ja? This is what is going to happen. You are going to slowly pick up that gun on the floor, and then you are going to kill one of these two women; whichever you kill, I will let the other one go. So who will it be, the woman you love?”

Maelstrom paused and used the barrel of his gun to caress a disgusted Patty before switching his attention to Carmen.

“Or the woman you owe your life and loyalty to? You have one minute to decide, and no funny business or my men will just kill all of you together. I don’t really care either way.”

Joseph looked back and forth slowly between the two, well actually now three, most important women in his life

“Mr Kerr,” for the first time since entering the room, the Matriarch of the Red Family opened her mouth to speak, "Thank you for your years of loyal service and friendship; see that you do not trouble yourself with my well-being. Due to present circumstances, I hereby release you from the oath you sore to me. Please, just save your...family”

Despite the situation, Patty found herself blushing at the term ‘family’; the her from as little as three years ago would have scoffed at the idea of aprons and white picket fences, yet right now, Patty found herself strangely willing to accept that, if only for Amber’s sake.

Joseph took in the sight of Patty cradling their daughter with a grace befitting the most experienced mothers and allowed himself a small smile; when their eyes met, she gave him the subtlest of head shakes to indicate her position on the matter.

“You have 15 seconds, Mr Kerr.” Maelstrom’s taunting voice ruining the oddly tender moment.

Taking a deep breath, Joseph tilted his head down and began to tremble, not with fear but laughter. Slowly, it bubbled to the surface till it became a room engulfing cackle, catching everyone by surprise.

Maelstrom smirked at Patty’s worried gaze, “It appears as your lover is beside himself with madness. What a pity.”

Choosing to ignore her captor, she cradled Amber closer to her and whispered softly, willing her voice to breakthrough Joseph’s seeming insanity, “Joey…”

Joseph slowed his laughter before looking back up at a befuddled Maelstrom.

“My apologies. I couldn’t help but find this whole situation humorous.”

Maelstrom was unamused, “Pray tell, Mr Kerrigan, what about this situation amuses you so? Need I remind you that you have run out of time?”

In reply, Joseph let out a smile that sent chills down Maelstrom’s spine.

“What I find funny is the fact that you actually think you’re the one in control, Dr Maelstrom. Observe…”

Without preamble, Joseph swiftly turned to face the majority of the henchmen and loudly recited a phrase from memory.

“La contessa manda i suoi saluti; Le maree si sono trasformate.”

At that statement, the entire room seemed to freeze, then without warning, every henchmen turned their guns towards Maelstrom.

“What is this? Do you forget who you’re working for?”

The henchmen remained impassive, guns trained on their now former leader.

“The problem with you, Dr Maelstrom, is that you are not only arrogant but also utterly devoid of honor.”

Joseph’s calm but commanding voice drew Maelstrom’s attention back to him. Ignoring Maelstrom’s desperate attempt to hold his gun closer to Patty, Joseph held up three fingers with his left hand.

“For instance, I knew that this ‘choice’ you presented me was a lie from the beginning. You need Carmen dead for your plan and had I chose to spare her, you would still have put a bullet through her head just the same.”

One finger was retracted back leaving just two extended, “You did the same thing with your deal with Patty when you allowed your henchman attempt to hunt me down and kill me back at the mansion.”

Only the index finger was now left extended, “Most importantly, you broke your deal with Adrianna. If you recall, I told you that the lack of attacks on the Contessa were further confirmation of her betrayal to me; what I had failed to mention was that the primary confirmation was given by Adrianna herself.

“You see, whilst I was waiting for you to send your inevitable calling card, I made several key calls; one of which was to the lovely Contessa herself. During said correspondence, I informed her about Vic’s death at your hands; words fail to describe the sheer level of fury she had expressed that day. She was rather fond of Vincent, if you get my drift.”

Maelstrom froze at the revelation that Vic had been Adrianna’s lover; the implications filling him with dread.

“Too bad that Adrianna’s the one paying the henchmen’s summary; guns-for-hire tend to stay loyal to whoever has the cash, you see.”

The crazed scientist scanned the room in a futile attempt to find a henchmen loyal to him instead of Adrianna.

“The Contessa was kind enough to teach me that little fail safe phrase for getting your crew to turn against you. She also helped to retrieve that package you so wanted; as we speak, it has probably already been distributed to the relevant European authorities.”

“Impossible, that requires two signatures and you were cooped up in the hospital.”

“Ah, I lied.” Joseph bit his lip to prevent himself from laughing at Maelstrom’s stupefied expression.

“Did you honestly think La Famiglia Rossi would trust someone like Adrianna with highly valued sensitive information? We let Adrianna think she was helping us obtain safe deposit boxes around Europe for the express purpose of storing key information packets.

In truth, every single box she aided us in getting was used for decoy packets. The real information packets were stored elsewhere; I retrieved the one on you a few days ago and passed it over to those agents that were with me. As we speak, European authorities are preparing to dismantle your empire.”


Maelstrom’s face was now contorted in absolute rage as he moved to turn the gun on Joseph, only to get cut off by a shot to his left knee. Toppling over in anguish, Maelstrom looked up in surprise as Joseph cocked the revolver again and shot out his other knee.

“Ironic really; you tried to destroy our family but instead it is your empire that will end today.”

Joseph walked over slowly and instructed a henchman to free Carmen whilst Patty was shepherded to safety at his side.

“I could just kill now since Carmen released me from my oath…” Joseph paused and looked over to a worried Patty, giving her a tender smile before focusing back on Maelstrom. “But lucky for you; I’m not a killer.”

Joseph kicked Maelstrom’s gun away and leaned over the fallen psychopath; his voice grew cold and vicious.

“Make no mistake about it though, if you ever hurt my family again, I will do everything in my power to make your life a living hell”

Switching his tone to a lighter one, Joseph addressed the nautical nutcase one last time, “You have two choices Dr Maelstrom. One, you surrender yourself to my two agent friends and get locked up in a nice little maximum security prison.

Second, you could decline this generous offer in which case we toss your sorry behind to the Irish Mob to deal with; the O’Grady’s are eager to enact revenge for Paddy as I recall. Can't promise they'll leave you intact though...”

As Maelstrom swore and cursed, the door opened to admit a bearded man in a blue and white middle eastern outfit, replete with turban and sandals. Joseph squinted as he took in the new arrival, only to have his eyes widen in shock as he recognized the eyes looking back at him.

“Devineaux? What are you wearing?”

“Kerr, time to go.”

“What?” Joseph turned to find the rest of the room’s occupants had disappeared. He turned back to see Chase waiting at the doorway.

“You coming?”

Confused, Joseph hurried through the doorway after the strangely attired agent. On the other side, Joseph found himself in what he supposed was a twisted parody of a desert; black sand and ominous blood red skies greeted him with a view straight out of a postcard from hell.

As he took in his new surroundings, Joseph had just one thought in mind,
‘Goodbye frying pan, hello roaring inferno…’
 

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
Neb rested in the arms of the smoke-haired woman. She’d never felt this safe, this loved before, but then again, she had. Recently. Her memory of Carmen holding her on the MAMBA came back. It was so similar that she had to make note of it.

“You’re so much like her,” she said hazily to the smoke-haired woman as she gestured in the direction of the single moving light below them.

The smoke-haired woman nodded approvingly as she followed Neb’s gaze. “I’m happy you found someone like me in your world.”

Neb furrowed her brow as a thought occurred. “Was I...looking for you? In her? You’re not her, right?”

“No, dear. We’re two different people.”

Neb’s memory of Carmen began to falter. Every vision now seemed to have the ghost of the smoke-haired woman overlaid upon her. All this time it hadn’t been Carmen that she’d longed for, but a combination of both women; seeing one while expecting the other. Slowly she peeled the two apart, only to find she didn’t really know either one of them.

“But then, if you’re you, who is she?”

The smoke-haired woman seemed to sense Neb’s growing distress and gently ran her fingers through her hair. “She isn’t who you thought, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know her at all. Go ahead, think back. Remove your wants and your thoughts from your memories and see only her.”

Neb bit her lip and closed her eyes to replay what she knew, from both this life and the last. There was little in this one; she’d taken care to avoid Carmen for fear of getting attached, but what was there was now painfully precious. “Oh Carmen, I’m so sorry…”

“No judgement. Just think.”

The girl sniffed back her tears and thought further back, into her past life. Carmen hadn’t abandoned her, Carmen hadn’t just handed her off. There had been bigger things in play that she still didn’t fully understand and had honestly never sought to understand. Even when she was aiding her boss, it was her sense of a mother she was really trying to save.

As if able to read the girl’s spiraling guilt, the smoke-haired woman sought her attention. “That’s not what I’m asking you to look at. Tell me, if I were to ask you who Carmen is, what would you say?”

Neb looked up at her, teary-eyed. “I-I would….” Now she really thought, again taking care to keep the two entities separate, and after a few moments she answered. “Carmen is the smartest, wisest person I know. She’s strong but she’s gentle, and she seems to be able to take care of everyone. She’s super responsible and just tries to carry us all and protect us all. And she likes to stay happy. She likes to hide and run around. And she’s brave and funny and knows lots of stuff.”

As she spoke she could feel herself getting younger and younger, past the hardened, jaded version of herself to the all-too-innocent adult-child she’d been when she’d first heard of Carmen. “And is super strong and can speak a million languages and…”

The light below stopped moving.

“Carmen?”

The years returned in a rush and she was an adult once again. “I’m sorry, but have to get to her. Can you get me out of here?”

“I’m afraid not,” The smoke-haired woman answered. “But maybe he can.”

Suddenly a man appeared from nowhere, at once oiled and buff, yet somehow also dressed in 19th century clothing. “Chase? What are you doing here?”

“Hey… good, you can see me,” he said, “I have a way out, take my hand.”

It made about as much sense as anything else, but Neb looked back at the smoke-haired woman for assurance.

The woman nodded. “Go with him. He will help you on the journey ahead.”

“But...are you coming too?”

The woman laughed, the sound filling Neb’s soul with the chime of a thousand tiny bells. “I have, am, and always will be wherever you are, but perhaps you need a more visual representation.”

With that the smoke-haired woman embraced her fully and Neb suddenly found herself floating in a sea of stars. Slowly the night sky contracted around her, pressed against her, through her. Chase became visible again as it sank into her skin, and then, only she and he remained.

Neb looked at her hands in wonder, still glowing faintly with a splash of stars. “I feel her…” She murmured, then looked up at Chase. “Okay, lets go.”
 

Eugene

Airfield Staff
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Euge, Earl Jr.
Color #
003366
Instinct told Euge to fight, that his life was on the line, and the voice of hard drilled and honed instinct was not to be denied now. Euge quickly backpedaled as he raised his pistol, firing several rounds even before being in any position to aim. His attacker took advantage of the confined space, vaulting over the desk and connecting with Euge, forcing his firing arm wide. The two slammed against the wall, the pistol spilling out of Euge’s right hand as his left found his attacker’s throat. A knee found his attacker’s groin, loosening his grip on Euge’s throat for a heartbeat. It was all the opening Euge needed to roll his attacker to the side, dislocating a shoulder with a satisfying crack in the process. A stray fist found its way to Euge’s nose, causing him to stagger backwards slightly.

Somehow his adversary had found the dropped pistol, forcing Euge to duck as the muzzle swept his direction. Stepping inside of his grasp, Euge forced the hand holding the pistol up as his combat knife slipped into his other hand. Pinning his attacker against the wall, Euge hammered the blade repeatedly into the man’s side. Eventually forcing the man to the ground, Euge wasted no time planting the blade into his attacker’s neck.

Panting from the weight of the situation and adrenaline still coursing through him, Euge leaned against the wall to steady himself. Timing a slow blink with a steadying breath, Euge flicked his eyes towards the discarded sidearm before picking it up and checking its condition.

I fired at least six rounds, yet this magazine is full…

His pulse quickened at the sound of a knock at the door, and Euge slammed the magazine home, moving to cover inside the swing of the door.

Two men entered, both attired in similar long grey jackets, and Euge wasted no time. “Hands up. Stay facing the wall and walk slowly towards it.” Keeping the pistol steady on the interlopers, Euge kicked the door shut behind him. “Both of you, turn around slowly.” As they did so, Euge met both their gazes and a name spilled uncomprehendingly from his mouth. “...Chase?

Euge dropped the pistol to a low ready as memories began to dimly illuminate. A cancelled fishing trip, a mysterious call, an ultimatum from a madman. Euge looked to the fresh body in the room. Gunnar Maelstrom. He was able to put a name to the face.

Could you kindly explain what’s going on?

"That's... not bad," Devineaux glanced down at the body and gestured slightly towards it. "I take it you know you're hallucinating. We're here to lead you into that guy's head, so we can attack him there."
 
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Nevon

ACME
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
6a99a6
“Is it weird at Alexander Pushkin was killed at 37, same as Chase?” Nevon said to Zack. They were looking over some timelines. Zack held a tablet that was acting like a virtual board. The links with red strings that the boys used to play with as younger sleuths became something they were now drawing as detectives. In front of Nevon was a computer with a database of Chase Devineaux’s old files.

Did you just google that?

“After our meeting, I did,” Blair took out his phone and looked over the notes he made in an app.

Chase’s cryptic last words bothered him, and since no one was really looking into it, he thought he’d do some research. And then true to the buddy-system, Zack got in on it too.

Two weeks after they heard that audio, the teams were divided on different levels of work. Mikal and Eugene were in Moscow, and Ivy was going to join her husband there later. For now, Zack and Nevon were following the ‘Pushkin’ lead to Pushkinskiye Gory, Russia, where the poet was buried.

We should go visit Svyatogorsky Monastery today and see what we can find,” the Monaghan brother suggested, “better get it done early in case we want to check back.

Nev agreed and they both grabbed their backpacks and headed out.

“How does it feel to be part of Mikal’s family?” Blair looked at his friend.

Zack shrugged. “You know I never thought we were missing out, but having a big family is a huge difference. Ivy’s even learned some Israeli to communicate. Big props for Mikal.

“Wow, he got her to do something off her bucket list,” Nev chuckled when he said that.

Not that I haven’t tried,” Monaghan laughed along, “but I’m her brother, she needed some other push.

It was a bit of a hike to the monastery grounds and the grave of Alexander Pushkin. The site was a white outdoor monument with a short fence around it.

Nevon had the feeling he was being watched, but he couldn’t see anyone else.

“Hey, you think we’re being followed?” Nev asked.

What are you looking for, Blair?” The voice that spoke wasn’t Zack’s, and then when Nevon turned to look for its source, he saw Chase walking towards him. There was blood on his shirt where he’d probably been shot. Next to him was another man, shorter and shadowy.

Nev looked back to his friend and saw nobody with him.

“I’m really freaked out right now,” he said, “How are you alive?”

Chase reached out and Nevon put his arms over his face as protection, but then he only felt a grip on his shoulder.

You’re hallucinating, buddy,” that calm voice made so much sense. Nevon looked again. There wasn’t any blood on Chase’s shirt, and the detective remembered that he was still at the temple.

“Oh man, I tripped,” Nev said, “Captain Meiru and me, we were going to go help Carmen, she went to see Maelstrom," he paused, "It’s… Wow, it's good to see you survived the crash, sir.”

Thanks, and both women are fine,” Chase reassured, “Right now I need you to focus, and come with me.

Nevon nodded. He blinked, and then he was in a different sort of dream...
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
Hustling up a half-story to the master bedroom, she did her usual knock-and-open without waiting for a reply.

“Mr. Collins, I’ve got som—Oh—you’re not dressed.” She turned around to give him some privacy. It was weird enough being around this place like she knew things, but walking in on her supposed friend’s fiancé was next-step awkward.

Seriously, why?” she heard him mutter. Is that an American accent?

She stayed quiet.

Monaghan,” he called her in a very Chase-like way.

“Yes,” she wasn’t sure how else to respond, with her back still to him, “So I think Gunnar Maelstrom has Nadia, and it feels like I’ve been through this kind of scenario before but--”

Who’s Nadia?

“Carmen,” she answered before she could fully think, “Wait, Chase?” Ivy turned around and blinked. He now had clothes on but she suddenly smelled incense and sandalwood. “Why am I smelling ‘spa’?”

You’re hallucinating,” he explained in two words, but she wasn’t sure she believed him.

“Why would I hallucinate you smelling like a spa day?” That was followed by an awkward silence that the man thankfully didn’t seem to notice.

I mean all this,” when he gestured to the room around her, it got darker until objects disappeared from view.

“I knew it!” Ivy snapped her fingers, “I didn’t fall into some kind of parallel universe.”

No, but Maelstrom has us trapped. We’ll need to—

“I’m ----ing in,” she interrupted him, “just lead!”
 

Carmen

Queen of Crime
AMA
findcarmen.com
Color #
850000
[Partly co-written: Chase/Carmen]

Back in the stillness of the temple, Carmen contemplated. Warmth lingered on her sigh, and she smiled briefly--an ode to follies.

Translucent vapors formed as she exhaled. Temperatures had dropped since she was last aware. This cold fog followed her from the throne room. The Professor’s influence must be either growing, or he was becoming more focused.

This worried her, significantly more than she would consciously acknowledge.

Silent wings moved in slow rhythm around her. It was now obvious to the observer that these were not creatures that evolved to glow in the temple’s pitch darkness. They were entities that became visible for the purpose of guiding her towards a goal.

She was also becoming more aware that this goal may not be hers, but their own.

When she was seated on throne, she recalled seeing much more than she could readily comprehend. The temple turned her questions into answers, and she felt the draw would be particularly strong for someone with obsessive tendencies. That was why she put Gunnar Maelstrom in the chair. Now, of course, he had used that position against her.

She needed to release her friends. Certainly, the temple knew what she wanted… Why hasn’t it complied?

What point was it in relaying her to Acton? The more direct route would be to dethrone the madman.

As if understanding her frustration, the moths reacted.

Silently, a winged atlas perched upon the bridge of Chase’s nose, covering both his eyes. Within the next breath, she saw what he saw. A dark desert stretched beneath fiery skies. Black sands at the detective’s feet sparkled under light as if he stood upon a field of red stars. The drumming of his heart followed and she heeded its rhythm.

I’m in your pocket,” she thought the words, “of all the places.

Where else would you be?

His response was unexpected, but welcomed.

Do you think you could keep him distracted, for me?

While you get him off the controls? How?

You’ll be my proxy.

Several beats passed.

Is that hesitation?

Just making sure I’m ready,” he said and her vision followed his eyes to surrounding team members. Immediately, she felt marginal regret that she would not stand with them.

You’re in good hands,” she commented at the sight.

I know,” her proxy affirmed, “go do what you need, we have this.

Tell them, that when they wake, I’ll be waiting.

Keep safe.

Her vision faded and the woman stood alone. In frigid silence, an encroaching fog swallowed her exhaled mist. She must now leave another slumbering friend, and head once again to the throne room. History had quite a habit...
 

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    Eugene Eugene: Sounds interesting. Are you going to go see them?
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