Closed Ultramarine

Vic

Confidence Man
Color #
008000
#73
All the while, in the MAMBA...

Vic was busy. He’d been busy before, but he’d never been busier than today.

Underwater, somewhere in the Laccadive Sea, was a giant temple that would fit the layout of ancient temples known by some experts as the Devalaya.

Solving this mystery had to be completed in parts. Part one was to figure out exactly what Maelstrom wanted. With his location revealed, and the mention of a temple in southern Kerala, half their battle was done. A team at Stone Harbour was gathering information on recent thefts and robberies that might fit the bill.

Part two was to figure out where this thing he wanted might be. In India, experts from universities rounded data that they’d gathered over the past years and sent them to a central company that specialized in oceanic excavations. This company outsourced to a team of ‘lore readers’ in Jaipur. A bunch of college kids wrote an app that could search and translate Sanskirt texts. That algorithm was adapted on the fly to scan resources from ancient texts spanning a few other languages. Whatever the computer picked up were looked over again by students of archeology.

Then there was there underwater sonar readings. Mapping out specific parts of the ocean floor took time. Luckily, the Indian Ocean had existing maps, and all they had to do was narrow down plausible search areas.

Part three was reasonable deductions. They ignored the fact that Maelstrom wanted the MAMBA for deep water excavations, because he wanted it for exploration first, not excavation. They also looked into information that Maelstrom would have had access to and found evidence why he might believe the vault was in waters over 4,000 meters. Debris of ‘treasure’ were photographed up to 10,000 feet below. Some claimed to have found statues of Gods and Nagas, or giant snakes, that acted like sign posts to where that temple and its vaults might be. To that, they had to consider deep ocean currents and underwater river flows.

The breakthrough came almost 12 hours into the search, that maybe the temple was now a seamount. It was only about 2,000 meters deep at base, but its top was 900 meters below the water. Sediment samplers found some consistency with absolutely everything else in the area, but minute traces of gold also spewed from its base. It was located more east than sites they believed Maelstrom may have been looking at, because it was part of a heavily used commercial fishing route between India and Sri Lanka.

Once they had some facts to the myths and were able to link Maelstrom’s behavior with all that, everything started coming together.

It was tense, but when all the files were ready for presentation to Carmen, Vic was practically holding his breath. She took another hour to glean through all of them and then requested additional information in points where he’d overlooked. More info, more gleaning, about five or six rounds of that, and the boss made the final call.

It was time to reel in that lunatic Marine Biologist.
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
#74
Kanadali Eden Self Compassion and Focused Mindfulness Restorative Silent Retreat, Los Angeles, California


It’s been about a week since Commander Ivy Monaghan took a leave from her busy schedule to reconnect with her inner self. Here, at the Kanadali Eden Self Compassion and Focused Mindfulness Restorative Silent Retreat in Los Angeles, she was learning to time her breathing and eat her cereal with purpose. While she’s been here before, adjusting to life in the slow lane did need time. She didn’t feel calm until day three, but now that she was heading towards ‘zen’, she barely recognized the emergency buzzing of her phone.

“Hello?” She didn’t have time to see who it was, tapping answer as soon as she got to the device.

“Commander Monaghan, this is Renee Grovesnor, Chase Devinaux’s PA,” the voice greeted urgently as soon as Ivy answered, “Barbara Rosen is also on the line, you are being assigned a case.”

Barbara Rosen? The commander couldn’t think of a reason ACME’s CEO would be calling her through Chase’s assistant unless something happened… to Chase.

“...This is Ivy Monaghan,” she confirmed.

“Miss Monaghan,” Rosen’s voice had static, making her tone sound more gravely, “The Director of Operations has requested a twenty-five-day field investigation period and usage of ACME equipment. This request is denied,” there was pressure on the word ‘denied’, “But since his message was conveniently unanswerable, I need you to go deliver the reply to him in person.”

“I’m not sure I follow?”

“Renee will fill you in, she’s been reassigned to you until Devineaux’s back at ACME Compounds,” Rosen continued with emphasis, “Fully back, at compounds”

Ivy considered, the position of director gave Chase the ability to do field cases within his capacity, why would this one be different?

“His last contact verified he was in captivity with a VILE agent,” Rosen referred to the translated Flag transmission given through Carmen Sandiego to Renee for the sake of transparency, “Two ACME employees, Eugene Grovington and Eleanor Mayhew have taken upon themselves to steal company property, and rendezvous with VILE’s leader.”

Oh, that’s why, Ivy nodded to herself, Rosen was always touchy about VILE’s leader.

“We have Chase’s location, and I need you to head there as soon as possible.”

“You want me to put an end to this unofficial joint operation?” The Redhead asked.

“No,” the pause in Rosen’s voice was not something Ivy had heard before, “I want you to back them up. Bring two of our own, keep it quiet, and get everyone home.”

“Wow...,” Ivy reacted to the unusual order without thinking, “I mean, yes, of course.”

“And Monaghan,” now the tone shifted to a more familiar Barbara Rosen, “I don’t care how you do it, but I want you to arrest Carmen Sandiego.”

“Bring in all of VILE?”

“Only her, Ivy, it’s been long overdue.”
 

Chase

Director
Known Aliases
Boss (situational)
Color #
536373
#75
[Co-written: Chase/Acton Roux]

After that encounter with the Valkyrie, Chase Devineaux in the plague doctor mask marched to the silo.

Hearing the keys, Acton Roux, in the suit as ACME’s Director, rose from the cool cement floor. “Ha, I am glad to see you, my friend,” he anxiously voiced as soon as he saw the gleam of that familiar beak.

Chase opened the door.

“I have been positively, positively stir crazy in here by myself!”

“Hold on,” Devineaux spoke, “Patty thinks we have a problem.”

Acton studied the other’s voice for he could not see his face, “Our cover is blown?”

“Not yet,” he motioned to the sack that once covered the doctor’s face, “Put that back on your head and--”

The noise of engines flared again and Devineaux looked down from the silo to see several men going into the stables where Joe Kerr was locked. As much as he could see, he counted four.

While it wouldn’t have taken any sort of detective to deduct that the men had ill intent, Devineaux’s senses were already heightened from Patty’s delivery of troublesome intelligence. Maelstrom was suspicious. Given the night prior, there was one thing in particular that might have aroused that notion. The message he and Flag sent was intercepted. While he was confident the code would not be cracked, the fact that something went out at all was revealing.

He made a snap decision.

“Play along,” he told the Frenchman. Acting as if the disguised Roux was his prisoner, Chase dragged him from the silo down to the rest of the large animals enclosure and towards the stables.

The four thugs turned out to be three men and one woman. As Devineaux entered the area behind them, he observed the woman about to unlock Kerr’s metal container.

“There must be some kind of confusion here,” the man behind the bird mask spoke, pulling ‘the Detective’ slightly forward, “It was this prisoner the boss wanted.”
 

Joe Kerr

VILE Trickster
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#76
[Co-written: Chase/Acton Roux/Joe Kerr/Maelstrom]

From his position by the door, Joseph continued to observe the proceeding, silently evaluating each participant; his attention was particularly focused on one individual.

Previously, the jester had been too agitated to pick up on the tells, but on hindsight they were obvious; the individual in the mask had replicated Roux’s look and voice, but had been unable to reproduce Acton’s unique speech pattern, replete with all its French idiosyncrasies and formalities.

Briefly, Joseph contemplated exposing the imposter but prudence urged him to wait and observe.


***

They all looked at each other, the woman at the locks paused, and there was a few seconds of eyeing back and forth before someone spoke.

“No, quite sure he said the stables,” one man, probably the most proficient with English among them, decided to answer.

I was given different instructions.

“From the Valkyrie?”

From the man himself.

***

Joseph silently raised an eyebrow.

If Patty was indeed Maelstrom’s protege, then she was most likely the aforementioned Valkyrie; ironic, since it appeared that her ultimate allegiance would decide their fate.

At this point, he wasn’t quite sure what that would be.


***

Again they all looked at each other.

Maybe he wanted both,” Devineaux continued, “Where are you taking yours?

The pause ensued but they eventually caved, "Offices, underground, the Professor wants to make an example." The English speaker hinted to the cuffed detective, "you can bring that one there too."

"Of course," the plague mask agreed.

Three men opened Joe's cell, and finding him uncuffed, grabbed an extra pair of ties for his wrists.

To this, Chase could do little but watch and follow as they forced Joe Kerr into one jeep and he entered another, with the disguised doctor. The English speaking thug drove for him while the woman took the wheel of the other vehicle.

How long have you worked for your boss?” The man in the mask asked the driver. Chase connected with people to gather information, and this was an opportunity to understand why someone would work for a madman.

“The Professor? A year, quite enough,” he replied in an accent even Chase had trouble pegging, so he relied on watching the man’s behavior. He looked Turkish, but the Indian sun had turned him more tan, and his accent felt off.

One year with Gunnar Maelstrom is enough?

“Who is Gunnar Maelstrom?” The driver’s eyes told the detective that he never knew this name.

Never mind,” Chase took note and changed his question, “You have plans to go elsewhere?

“I plan to go back to UK,” he nodded, “Maybe get another degree, after this expedition.”

There are other expeditions?

“We do things, for the environment, you know Ultralett?” There was passion in his voice that Devineaux immediately associated with cult idealists, “We explore and we take things we find, we stop people from being bad.”

Where are you from?

“Azerbaijan,” he smiled a toothy grin, and from the health of his teeth, Chase could tell that the young man was from a wealthy family. Azerbaijan was no joke when it came to the economic divide.

You have family that deal in oil?” That was an assumption, but the Azeri made a favorable nod.

“It’s oil, we own hotels, but what?” His tone was almost mimicking Gunnar Maelstrom, “World’s ocean hold life, quite, much life, we need to explore it and help preserve.” He stopped to look at the plague mask and chuckled at it, “You have to feel the same, if you’re here with us. What do I call you?”

Plague,” Devineaux replied, “that’s the consensus.

“I’m Emil,” he introduced himself.

The conversation ended as they reached the offices, but it left Chase with the impression that Gunnar Maelstrom was running something much deeper than thieving under the umbrella of activism.

***

Once they arrived at the 'office' where Chase had a meeting with Maelstrom and Patty yesterday, a hallway behind that room led to an area where old boxes and a few cache of dusted machinery parts were stored.

It stank down here. The musty air was sharp, punctured with chemicals. As they walked, the stench began to smell more strongly of household bleach. Yellow stained tiles, once white, lined the walls and floor. The doors in this area were painted teal, like an old hospital.

A maroon dentist chair rested at the center of a dimly lit room, it looked like part of the original decor. Chase surmised that this was once a clinic for staff, faded names of nurses who signed to take out supplies from the closet still clung to the board.


***

Joseph took in his surroundings, noting the faint remnants of Formaldehyde and Chlorine in the air. There was an unsettling, almost unearthly quality about the former dental clinic, and it took the jester all his resolve not to be rattled; he would not give Maelstrom that satisfaction.

Turning around, he locked eyes with one of his four escorts.


Immediately, Emil and the three people he was with, began pushing Kerr towards the chair.

“Sit,” Emil told the jester, “or we make you.”

Raising an eyebrow, Joseph struck back with the only weapon he had on hand, his wit.

I know you’re new to this, but shouldn’t my lawyer be present for the meeting?

Without warning, the jester was floored by a vicious right hook. Wiping the blood from his lip, he looked up just in time to dodge the incoming follow-up.

Emil--” Chase in the guise of Acton Roux attempted to calm the situation when the remaining men took to the grounded Kerr. One grabbed the jester’s legs while the other moved to secure his upper torso.

Wait!” Devineaux interrupted by physically placing himself between the attackers, but the one at Joe’s head became suddenly agitated. A hand threw up to push the plague mask, but as Chase moved away before impact, his actions were mistaken as retaliation.

The man threw a follow up punch. It hit Emil and he fell back into the other thug before that man could secure Joe’s legs.

Seeing the man at his feet caught unawares, Joseph seized the opportunity to strike with a double axe-handle. With his wrists still bound, the jester attempted to lock a sleeper hold on the one called Emil, only to be distracted by the yelling of the female guard. Turning back, Joseph found himself flung back onto the ground, staring at a fast incoming boot.

Knowing that this had escalated, Devineaux entered into mitigation mode, before yet another boot hit the VILE agent’s jaw, Chase deflected it. He then moved back, raising both hands to show he meant no harm, but even Emil now had the wrong message. The three men came for him in succession and he dodged them swiftly in the confides of that small clinic.

The teal door suddenly swung open and two tall guards preceded Gunnar Maelstrom and a smaller man carrying a laptop.

Once he saw the situation in the room, he shook his head, “Oh Plague, you had to go and do it.

The standoff remained, with the masked man at its center. Two thugs dragged Joe Kerr and ‘Chase Devineaux’ aside.

Go check on Wick and see if the other one’s still there,” The Norwegian commanded a lackey that had yet to enter the room, “and you!” He pushed the one with the laptop forward, “set it up in this room, do it now!

I’m not here to fight,” the mask spoke.

Neither am I, Plague,” Maelstrom’s words hinted malice, “but let’s not pretend we’re all that sarcastic.” He stepped into the circle, his guards flanking him, “I’m told if your mask is off, you die. Let’s find out if that’s true.

“The signal’s in,” the man on the laptop confirmed, “it’s Carmen Sandiego.”

Let her through,” the leader closed in on the plague doctor, “I want her to see this.

Under the mask, Devineaux gauged his enemies. Six in the room ready to pounce, and the seventh pointing the laptop camera in Maelstrom’s direction.

Raising his hands again to the level of his shoulders, slightly higher than before, he remained still. But adrenaline pulsated. When one of Maelstrom’s guards came to grab him, Devineaux used his weight to push the man aside. This was going to be a fight after all.

Hold him down,” the Norwegian ordered, “HOLD HIM!
 
#77
[Co-written by Vic/Carmen/Maelstrom]


En-route to Kerala, India.

Hours after that meeting in Hawaii, ACME and VILE was working as one team. A section of the MAMBA became dedicated stowage for the law agency’s equipment. Because ACME was technically not given permission by their uppers, a decision was made that both Eugene Grovington and Eleanor Mayhew would be treated as ‘partners’ for the time being.

With the Devalaya in scope, the priority now was making Maelstrom act before he could think.

In a different section of the MAMBA, Carmen was getting dressed in what Vic could only describe as the ‘full trademark. He’d seen it plenty of times, but it always stunned him how she’d transform from the Carmen he knew to International Thief Carmen Sandiego, most wanted woman in the world.

Early in the days of their little grifting group, it was Adrianna Covrenzi who said Carmen had an aura. While Vic couldn’t understand it then, he started to see that this ‘aura’ wasn’t just that she was good at leading or that she was smart as a whip, but she knew how to be a symbol. As the emblem, she wasn’t as free as people might think. Eyes everywhere judged her every move, from the grunts that worshiped her, to the envies that wanted to be her, and the kooks that saw her as a prize. Being a symbol was a dangerous game because from the get-go she’s dehumanized. If she didn’t live up to expectations, she could be dethroned from the inside. And when enemies attacked from the outside, they always gun for the Queen. In this gilded cage, everything was hers, at the same time that none of it was.

But in this light, and in that red trench coat, Vic understood why nobody could tell. She seemed completely untouchable. Like a statue.



For nearly one full hour, Carmen was quiet while the world undulated around her. She was partially meditating, collecting thoughts on where she wanted to guide this upcoming conversation. When the signal was ready and the team put the camera on her, the thief remained without a smile. In front of her was a black mirror, her own vignette stared back in cold civility, awaiting reception from the infamous Gunnar Maelstrom.

Within seconds the screen flickered to life, and although the first scene to greet her was surprising, she hid behind a veil of indifference.

“You’ve been busy, Doctor Maelstrom,” she greeted evenly.



“Hold him down, HOLD HIM!” The Norwegian commanded his people to grab the masked doctor, his Scandinavian accent showing through that received pronunciation he faked so well. When it was done, he raked back strands of ruffled platinum hair that highlighted a thinning hairline.

“Carmen Sandiego…” he returned her greeting with melodic intonation, “Well, look at you…,” he grinned, “You’ve found me, and now we’re talking, such a shame you’re not here in person.”

Pushing the camera closer to the masked man, he laughed.

“But look who else is here,” from what the Valkyrie told him, removing the mask should be a sight, “You’re just in time for a little unmasking!”


She waited a beat before speaking, reacting too quickly would only fuel him. His claws reached for Acton’s mask, and while she had seen the Frenchman’s face before, something about this situation felt entirely wrong.

“That won’t be necessary, Doctor,” she stopped him, “I have what you want.”



Skeptically, the Norwegian’s expression froze, and his glance snapped to the monitor.

“And what is it that I want?”


There was magnetism in his stare, something strangely primal and intimidating, but the thief maintained eye contact.

“An underwater temple.”



Releasing his grip from Acton’s throat, Gunnar Maelstrom stepped in front of the screen, removing the man with the plague mask from Carmen’s view. He studied her stony features through that monitor before speaking.

“Impossible,” he declared in a doubtful tone that hinted of elation, “You cannot have found it.”


“It’s much shallower than you previously believed,” the thief revealed, “You were seeking debris, I was looking for source.” Then she applied pressure, “I’m on my way to the site right now.”


Maelstrom listened, and his smile stiffened.

“Of course you are, you’d want it too,” he reasoned, “Did you call me to gloat, or to watch me go mad with murder? Shall I start... with Plague?” He returned a step and gripped Acton’s bird beak, “Or should I begin with one of these?”


The camera panned to two figures, Joseph Kerr and a suited Chase Devineaux, whose face was covered. Flag was not among them.

“You’re exhibiting sarcasm, I find that enlightening,” before the screen, Carmen’s calm demeanor crafted a knowing smile, but underneath the protection of her gloves; her hands were ice.



The marine biologist brought the screen back to his face and only stared at her, trying to read what seemed illegible.


“Let’s play a game,” she interrupted, her subdued voice had a spirited undertone, “I’ll provide you with the coordinates to the Davalaya.”


This intrigued him, and his manner shifted to something slightly more accepting. He was right, afterall, something existed beneath the waves.

“Are you proposing a race?”


She sent him supporting imagery from the latest sonar scans without detailing exact locations.

“The structure lends itself to exploration,” patiently, she awaited his confirmation.



“There’s a rumored Kallara guarded by snakes,” he spoke as he studied the temple layout. It was uncanny to what his own research revealed. The towering structure in the middle should hold up to ten vaults, or kallaras, all of them with offerings from eons of worshipers. The largest of these ‘kallara’ could hold treasure worth trillions in today’s measurements, “Whoever finds it, opens it?”


“Winner takes all,” she sighed a purposeful breath, “but in exchange for the Davalaya’s location, I want all your prisoners.”


He gave a pause, but then accepted. There was no question as to why she included the ACME prisoner as well, she had no true sense of allegiance. People were all people, and that must be a confusing place to exercise her self-appointed moral compass.

“A live exchange” he nodded, “I’ll bring them with me in a sub, you can tow it away when I’m satisfied.”


“I’ll need them unharmed, in all courtesy, then you may have the coordinates.” She was adamant that this was priority.


“Alive and unharmed,” Gunnar Maelstrom returned her seriousness, “as you like it.”


Carmen leaned back slightly in her chair, “Then we meet out on the Laccadive Sea, neutral location, you have five hours.”


There was a moment of dead air as the Norwegian stayed fixed on the woman’s face.

“I knew a little girl once,” he raised his brows and came closer to the monitor, “she was trapped in a place that wasn’t hers,” he wasn’t smiling at this memory, “I saw something in her, and I brought her out of that doldrum,” at the word ‘out’ he pulled his palm into a fist. His voice then became more melodical as he spoke, “I wasn’t wrong, she did become… everything I dreamed,” disappointment flashed at the corners of his mouth, “She’s only trapped somewhere else.”


She held his gaze but gave no reply. Whatever he believed happened, as far as she was willing to allude, existed only in his imagination.


“If I win,” his face ticked slightly, once, as if he wanted to grin but held back, “I’ll be wanting more than excavation rights.”

Silence permeated and the thief’s golden eyes flickered no emotion, “I’m not naïve, Doctor.

The Norwegian nodded firmly, “Then it’s a duel.”


Here, audiovisual transmission ended, but both parties remain linked for data transfer.

Turning back slowly, the Professor clapped his hands, “Round them up, the one in the labs too, change of plans!”

As soldiers hoisted the man in the mask up to his feet, Maelstrom gripped his shoulder and spoke lowly, “She saved your life, Plague.”
 

Eugene

Airfield Staff
Known Aliases
Euge, Earl Jr.
Color #
003366
#78
[Co-written Eugene/Carmen]

The MAMBA was a bizarre blend of the familiar and the alien to Euge, where the combination of the comforting thrum of turbines contrasted against the utterly foreign shape of the craft. It all came together to have a disconcerting effect on Euge, who heaved a sigh as he entered the cargo bay securing the intermodal container he had requested loaded for this venture. The cargo bay was an island of familiarity, just so long as he didn’t look out the tiny portal windows, with its thin drab plastic wall panels protecting the sensitive internals of the craft. Inside, the nondescript shipping container lashed in the center of the compartment held the latest iteration of ACME’s ASP, coupled with a harness and system which would allow him to don and doff the armor unassisted. Euge had also taken the opportunity to grab other assorted gear from the 777, meaning various drones, sticky cameras, wall penetrating radar modules, riot armor, and other potentially useful equipment had been shoved unceremoniously into the container.

Making sure the access hatch to the cargo bay was securely closed behind him, Euge set to unpacking the container. With the rest of the equipment sprawled across the cargo bay in neat piles, he now had unobstructed access to the ASP. Pulling the container door mostly closed gave the illusion of privacy as he quickly stripped and changed into the skin contact layer. Unpowered, the base layer resembled an overly cold and slimy wetsuit bristling with electrical connections, and Euge suppressed a shudder as he pulled it on. Carefully folding his shirt and vest, he waited for the system to finish its self tests before venturing out. Moving about the MAMBA would be difficult in full kit, so this layer would suffice for now.



Moving down the MAMBA's weaving corridor, Carmen walked towards the section that held ACME's equipment. While inventory was already created for these items, she wanted to see for herself. The mission was upon them, and she was nothing if she didn't know what technology was at her disposal.

Opening the hydraulic doors, she was greeted with an array of items and a man in a wetsuit.

"I apologise," she unsuccessfully hid a smile, "am I interrupting?"


“Not at all. I was just doing some preparatory work.” Euge offered as a base explanation. He cast an eye on her iconic choice of wardrobe, left over from her challenge to their opponent, but declined to comment.

Entering the area, she looked at the 'elephant' in the room. It was a large piece of machinery, well worn and repaired in some aspects. It reminded her of a small combat helicopter that saw its share of firefights but hasn't yet given up because its brand new paint job dictated that it was still useful.

"I imagine her to be a lot lighter than she seems in action?"


Turning back towards the object of conversation, Euge allowed himself a small smile. “In a way. The power assist lets it achieve some unreal feats.” He paused for a beat; “It’s archaic, in a sense. Almost a throwback to medieval plate.”

He was right, there was something tantalisingly medieval with this futuristic machine, and she ventured to ask, "May I climb in?"

Her request drew hesitation from Euge as he considered. Given he was already technically AWOL with ACME equipment, he wasn’t too concerned with moralizing about a quick demonstration. However, there was serious concern on his part about allowing an untrained person to play with the ASP. How would he explain if the infamous criminal was maimed or killed using the powered armor? But he wasn’t dealing with an unchecked child; she doubtlessly had the capability to at least understand the limitations of the equipment. “You’ll want to remove your coat so it doesn’t snag.” he offered as his consent.

Unbelting and unbuttoning her trench coat, Carmen slipped from her heels to stand barefoot. The action took seconds and she then took Eugene's hand as support to climb upon his shoulders and carefully ascended into the gaping mouth of the ASP. She gave a passive gasp once inside. It was akin to being within the cockpit of a fighter jet. Every functioning button seemed necessary, and each component strategically placed. Ventilation lined areas where nothing else should fit.

"I thought it would be more like a mini sub," she expressed, "but clearly, she's a different monster."

“It’s like nothing else on earth.” he agreed. “But the real capabilities aren’t apparent until you put the helmet on.” Euge said, removing the helm from its dedicated storage cradle.

Satisfied, she smiled briefly and carefully maneuvered her way to the edge.

Following his actions, she studied the helmet and noted how well it must fit him, "Is each system fitted to its operator?"


“Quite. I spent about a month getting this system built up around me, not counting the minor tuning needed afterwards.” He watched as she continued to examine the armor. “It’s ended up as a very exclusive club.”

Taking Eugene's offered hand, she climbed out and, leveraging his muscles, stepped safely onto the floor.

"Thank you for this," she nodded as they were once again at eye level, "I needed the distraction."

Tracing the helmet in his hand, she tapped the end of a curve gently, "Well designed, this isn't just carbon fibre?"


“Carbon fiber, kevlar, and some ceramics I can’t pronounce.” Spinning the helmet in his hands, he offered the helmet to her for further examination. “Try it. I think you’ll like it.”

Accepting his invitation, she tried on the armor. Immediately she sensed it wasn't meant to fit her, but it felt light upon her crown. Inside were displays informing its wearer of aspects otherwise unseen in the surrounding. She was marginally overwhelmed, but smiled, “Fascinating.”

For the moment, orange text consistently informed her network connected was required. Carmen removed the helm and gave it back to the man for which it was calibrated.

"At next opportunity," she spoke with a core of genuinity despite the fact that 'next time' seemed unlikely, "I'll share with you my urban exploration goggles."


Exhaling lightly, she turned once again to look at ACME's gear, "This will be quite the fishing trip, don't you think?"

“That,” Euge trailed as he replaced the helmet upon its shelf, “will depend very much on the bait.”
 
#79
[Co-written: Eleanor/Carmen]

Despite how small the MAMBA’s on board shower water supply was Eleanor had be relieved just for a minute of hot water and a quick wash to feel a bit more alive. Finishing, she leaned a hand against the shower stall to let herself rinse and encourage the water to hit the back of her neck before turning off the faucet and starting to dress. She’d left her hair unwashed to save on time and water, though it was starting to curl a little as the water that had reached her head encouraged it to do so. As she stood and dried herself off Eleanor noted a small collection of clothes that stood by, of all different sizes and designs, ready to cater to whoever needed to use the facilities. In the end though she simply traded her unmentionables for the spare ‘day off’ set she’d brought in her bag for an expected 24 hour trip, and a plain cotton workshirt from the collection in the stall to add to her vest and work pants.

A soft whistle announced her exit from the shower as she patted her head with a smaller towel with her other hand holding her leather overnight bag, immediately noticing the presence of another sitting at the desk, hard at work
.

Moving to a small couch nearby and placing her bag down Eleanor yawned a little. “There’s still a few minutes of water if you need to freshen up…” she said softly.

"I'll do that closer to destination," she smiled politely, "Thank you, Miss Mayhew."

With a digital stylus, she hinted towards the mattress, "If you need sleep, by all means, I've no need for the bed." Then she tapped her table lightly, "as long as you don't mind me working here, Vic has use of the monitors in the communications segment."


There was an immediate instinct to decline the offer, as she was currently working alongside ACME’s opposition, even if their mission had caused them to work together for the moment. But as she reached for the arm of the couch and felt herself starting to slump into the cushions she realized that maybe what she needed was a little… rest.

“I don’t mind at all…” Eleanor answered with a nod. “It’s kind of you to offer.” Carefully she stood and stretched, her fingertips almost able to touch the ceiling. Unable to help herself her eyes glanced over at the desk, catching sight of the tablets. “Huh...anything new on your end?”


"He's not in his suit," she spoke casually over another play-through of Chase Devineaux's first video, "do you recognise it?" She asked because she found it familiar, to a particular French designer.

Moving closer to Carmen’s seat Eleanor’s eyes narrowed as she looked at his outfit. “...No, that’s not one of his. He doesn’t wear black, it washes him out. And the cut’s wrong… too long and narrow.” She paused, her hand going to the back of Carmen’s chair to hold on as she leaned in again and shook her head before stepping back. “Think he’s undercover…?”

"I don't know," Carmen replied slowly, "but it's an inconsistency I wanted to verify."

Exhaling, her thoughts turned to topographic maps of the sea floor. "We'll reach destination in approximately three hours..." Looking back up to the ACME agent, she added, "You may nap, I don't suppose you'll need much time to don your field equipment." She remembered that accountability for missing field computers back in the day, but that was nothing compared to what Eugene loaded into the haul earlier.


Eleanor nodded, picking up the bag again and moving it to the side of the bed. “Not this time…” she answered, taking a seat on the bed, facing away from the other woman for a moment as she removed her shoes again with care, making them ready to put on quickly later. “That's something I miss about working on your cases. At least with your capers its rarely life or death, there’s enough time to drink some tea and pack a proper bag…” The smile on her lips could be heard in her voice before dropping as she pondered what they were up against. “...too bad no one suggested that format to Maelstrom I suppose…”

Carmen agreed with a light nod, and then turned slightly to the ACME agent, "Considering the roster that this case elicited," She inquired, "You’ve read up on Doctor Maelstrom?"

Eleanor nodded in return. “I won’t lie. I had a passing knowledge in the Doctor’s case before, but I might have taken the time to read up on him on the way over.” she answered, leaning a knee up on the bed and turning herself towards Carmen properly. “Was he this bad before, or do you think he’s just gotten worse with age?”

VILE's leader returned Eleanor's glance. "He was always this bad," she listlessly shrugged, "but I'm certain that age has thinned the line between his thoughts and actions."

She paused, not all files of Maelstrom are easily accessible. And not everyone may link to ACME's satellites without the CEO's key, "I imagine the reason you have such easy access to ACME's networks without Rosen's approval is also the reason you were first introduced to me as 'Melissa Wayward'?"

There was a heavy silence from Eleanor for a moment as she clearly pondered what to say, how much to say, what she even wanted to say. “Something like that…” she answered, a hand going to her knee. “When we met I was in Special Ops, but I’ve since been… promoted to Inspector. My clearance remained relatively the same…” It wasn’t a lie, she did have clearance to do what she’d done. She may have taken certain steps to assure certain reports were sent to Renee instead of Rosen, but those were nothing to be concerned about.

"Is this due to indecisive superiors, or your own decisions?"

“What, becoming Inspector?” Another pause. “...it’s complicated…”

An empathetic curve graced Carmen's lips, "I had my own set of complications as well."

“If ACME was anything like this generation’s administration I wouldn’t be surprised…” Eleanor grumbled, before pausing, looking at Carmen a long moment before finally speaking again. In retrospect she’d tell herself that she hadn’t meant to ask, but it had been something she’d wanted to know for a long time. “...would you mind if I ask how… I mean… why… why did you leave ACME?”

The woman at her desk acknowledged Eleanor, "Is it not written in the annals of ACME's history?" A softer expression followed that sarcasm, "I came to a point where I can either bend the law while staying under it, or remain true to myself and publicly denounce everything. I chose the latter."

Gesturing to the Inspector, she tilted her head slightly, "And if you don't mind my asking, why will you leave ACME?"


A part of Eleanor wanted to shrug off that question - in fact her initial instinct was to snub her nose at such a thought, but very quickly she stopped herself, pondering the words more seriously. Her face was suddenly even easier to read as her eyes looked down to the patterned blanket a moment. “I… want to help people. It’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid, and ACME, despite everything that I dislike about it, is still the biggest and best law enforcement agency in the world… so I guess... “

Her eyes rose back to Carmen. “It would be if I can no longer protect people through ACME.”


Considering Eleanor's body language in weight with her words, Carmen smiled, "Then, Inspector Mayhew, I hope that never happens"
 

Ivy

Commander
Known Aliases
Iv', Ives
Color #
008080
#81
ACT III


ACME Detective Provisional Branch, Colombo, Sri Lanka

ACME Commander Ivy Monaghan scanned the area. Calm blue oceans border the small bay and the Sri Lankan ship that would be towing ACME’s Trans-Undersea Navigational Aquacraft to deeper waters.

It had been approximately twenty hours since she got that call from CEO Barbara Rosen, and her orders of business was to summon Deric Storm and Nevon Blair to join her. Deric Storm had signed the SOUL contract and was fitted to a STUN suit, so she knew he was dependable. Nevon Blair rose from humble accountant to one of ACME’s best mathematical modelers in the field, and since this case was about estimating the unknown, it was up his alley.

Both men were nearby, getting ready in their own way.

“We’re heading into the TUNA in an hour,” she gave her usual serious but friendly greeting, “Are you both ready?”


***

Deric had only half heard Ivy's question. He was still dealing with a little bit of jet lag from their sudden departure from San Francisco. He took another sip of his coffee, trying to jump start his weary body and jumbled brain.

Just when he seemed to start getting back to normal, ACME found a way to toss everything on its head. Now, it seemed they were working with VILE again.

Last time THAT happened was a couple years ago in Russia. Coincidentally, that seemed to be the last time things were going well for the Nebraskan. He had been part of the strike team that worked with VILE to storm (no pun intended) the fortress at Torun Zamok to stop a madman in possession of a weaponized C-5 system. The force had included both members of his current team, along with a few other agents, including his girlfriend at the time. The mission had been a success, but things had changed, both personally and professionally. A couple weeks after they got back to San Francisco, he had proposed to his girlfriend, Calina Corranos, who tearfully accepted.

Everything was going so well; naturally, that wouldn't last.

Calina slowly started becoming more secretive, but Deric had assumed it had something to do with work. About four months later, Deric woke up to find his fiancee gone and the engagement ring he'd given her on the dresser without a note or anything. He had gotten nowhere when he tried to find her through ACME. All his requests for information about a possible assignment she might had been on had been shot down at the highest levels. Even some favors he called in from his undercover days had come up empty; the woman had seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth.

The next eight months had been spent volunteering for just about every assignment that would get him out of San Francisco for a couple weeks. Anything to keep from going home to an empty apartment every night. He had been heading at warp speed towards a major burnout and, thankfully, some his old teammates had staged an intervention.

Dr. Sidney Freeman, one of ACME's chief psychiatrists had recommended (actually, almost demanded) a transfer to a teaching post at the Academy. Deric had been named mentor to a group of trainees who flourished under his tutelage. It re-ignited a passion that Deric hadn't felt since joining ACME. Deric regained much of his former personality, while also working some other cases as well. About four months, Deric had finally stopped wearing the discarded ring on a chain around his neck.

Two weeks ago, Deric had gotten back to San Francisco from a case dealing with the Field Museum in Chicago. Someone had actually tried to steal Sue, the museum's famous tyrannosaurus skeleton. Working as an instructor at the Academy had allowed Deric to hone his own skills.

He had been home doing some of his laundry when he received the message from Ivy, informing him of his placement on the team heading to Sri Lanka. The briefing meeting with himself, Ivy, and, surprisingly to the farmboy, Nevon Blair had been brief. The team members had each received a packet with the information on the particulars of the case before hopping on the plane.

He had spent the first couple hours of the flight perusing the packet of information. It contained the mission parameters regarding both Chase Devineaux and Carmen Sandiego. ‘El jefe has sure stirred up a hornets’ nest this time if the Evil Queen is so deadset on us dragging him home,’ he had thought at the time. The fact that Barbara Rosen has been so adamant about bringing both Chase and Carmen only back to HQ had raised a red flag in the back of Deric’s mind. He had heard a rumor that a couple years ago, Rosen had been the one behind the attempted removal of Chase. The memory of the board’s very public failure had brought a smile to his face.

He spent more time going over the intelligence ACME had on the other major party in this whole situation... Gunnar Maelstrom. The man had a chilling reputation. Known for his mood swings whose fury and suddenness matched his name, the agency considered him as much of a threat as the leader of VILE, who had actually apprehended the man when she was under ACME’s employ.

Early in his ACME career, Deric had captured an associate of Maelstrom’s known as Bilge, real name Hermann Retzlaff. Remembering the fear in Bilge’s eyes when Deric mentioned Maelstrom’s name, coupled with what he had read in the dossier, there was only one conclusion Deric could come to, paraphrasing a line from one of his favorite movies:

Maelstrom was a certified genius AND an authentic wacko.


‘Yeah, this is going to go well,’ Deric sarcastically thought for the sixth time since leaving San Francisco.

Turning to face Ivy, Deric glibly responded, "Aye-aye, cap'n," flashing a mock salute to the redhead with one hand while holding the duffel containing his gear and STUN suit with the other.

"Seriously, though," he continued, taking a more serious tone, "something about this mission stinks, Red. Rosen's holding back on us."


***

Nevon Blair spent the past year or so travelling around Asia. After Kamchatka, he started learning Japanese from a girl he met in St. Louis. She was there on holiday with her parents, and Nevon was on a mandatory rest period. He came back to San Francisco about three months back to finish his detective training, with a focus on mathematics.

When he first started out as an ACME accountant, he had no idea how much he would like field work. But now that many of his friends have gone this way and that, Nev was beginning to realize what mattered most in life. He had passion for calculations and trying to solve a crime using formulas instead of deduction alone. In a few months, his thesis on formulation of criminal behavior was going to be finished and judged by ACME’s panel.

For now, he was staring at the ocean and sky. Even though there was hardly a cloud around, the weather forecast said a lot of rain could be on its way.

He was about to say something when the Commander’s voice asked if he was ready, but he listened to Deric Storm’s assessment. He was right, though Nevon knew next to nothing about Barbara Rosen, this did seem really weird.

“Maybe Rosen doesn’t have all the information either,” Blair chimed in, “We’re told to back up the Director, Mr. G, and Miss Mayhew, but we haven’t even spoken to them yet.”



***

“We won’t know until we get there. Devineaux, Grovington and Mayhew wouldn’t be risking their own lives without good reason,” Ivy paused to think about the names, within ACME itself, loyalties were fractionalized. Eleanor chose to save Chase’s career over her own, and Eugene had always been more of a lone wolf than a team player. “We’ll need to get as much information from them as possible when we rendezvous. As for now, the orders from HQ are clear and I intend to stick to them.”

It wasn’t surprising that Rosen’s words were still on the mind of both Deric and Nevon. Bringing back the ACME detectives was a mission in itself, but dealing with an external threat while trying to capture the woman who’s eluded the company for almost a decade? That was asking for magic.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a low, almost inaudible hum as the water near the docks rumbled. The ACME TUNA rose with a calculated steady motion. It was small, and originally made to track down other submarines that were often used by cartels and criminal organisations that transported contraband. While the TUNA did not have any weapons itself, but what it lacked in size or artillery it made up in speed and durability. Without glass, it depended on exterior cameras and sensors for navigation. And when fully sealed, it resembled a chiseled white arrowhead… one that could withstand several direct ballistic hits while keeping the six to eight occupants secure.

“Seems we’re always the guinea pigs for new company toys. Buckle up.”
 

Joe Kerr

VILE Trickster
Known Aliases
Joe Kerr
Color #
8a2be2
#82
Near Kerala, India...

Body and pride equally bruised, Joseph offered no resistance as he was yanked to his feet and led away. Silently allowing the guards to shove him forwards, the jester contemplated what he’d just witnessed in Maelstrom’s ‘office’.


The Norwegian’s actions had made it apparent that Patty had fed him a lie about Roux; a daring gamble to protect the man in the iron mask.

Adding together what he had observed, the jester started to paint a portrait of the imposter:

This person was comfortable with subterfuge and well-versed in combat. He also had to be someone with a similar build to Acton and decently adept at French. Most importantly, the imposter was familiar with Joseph himself, and someone that Patty could trust implicitly; that left a very limited pool of individuals to choose from.


In Joseph’s mind, the shadowy figure took the form of one particular person; the conclusion seemed almost audacious, and yet, no other solution would fit the puzzle...the imposter was...Chase Devineaux.

***


The fact that Chase was involved did not trouble the jester so much as the reason for his involvement. What was his purpose? Did Patty mean for him to act as saboteur at her behest or was he the bait to drag ACME into the fray; Or was she secretly playing both sides for another purpose?

This shrewd, manipulative side of the young woman felt both foreign yet familiar to Joseph, yet another piece of the growing enigma that was Patty Larceny.

***

Mutely looking out the jeep, the jester forced himself to refocus his thoughts back to the focal point of the conversation; Carmen challenging Maelstrom.

It had been refreshing to see the boss donning her signature costume; it was a clear sign to any VILE member that the game was on. The racing bet was unusual for Carmen but Joseph had learnt to never doubt her when she was ‘playing chess’; it always amused him that so many challengers had failed because they never realized she was always playing in three dimensions to their one.

Case in point, while Joseph would bet money that Maelstrom did not intend to keep his word, he was confident that Carmen not only expected it but had already factored it into multiple scenarios and contingencies. It was just another reason she would always be superior to Maelstrom.

Despite this assurance, Joseph knew the madman was not to be taken lightly. While his unrestrained arrogance and greed would guarantee his downfall, Maelstrom was exactly the type of foe capable of turning it into a Pyrrhic victory.

***

Amidst his musings, Joseph heard the word ‘submarine’ mentioned and his expression turned grim.

The Red Queen and the Mad King would soon descend upon Davalaya with their armies in tow; the battlelines have been drawn save for one player, the Amber Maiden; is she friend or foe, or another contender to the throne?

Only time would tell.
 

Neb

The one she keeps in the closet
Known Aliases
Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) Ullyss (formerly Kid Kidman), Kitty, Seryy Pripyat
Color #
323E4F
#83
Back on the MAMBA...

It was a perfect disguise, Neb had to admit. The bright red coat and hat was almost a person in itself. Seen from a distance, almost anyone wearing it was undoubtedly Carmen Sandiego. The real one could stand beside you and you’d never know. Anyone who equated the woman in red with the woman that led had been successfully distracted.

As Neb had been.

A short week had changed that. The red had taken on a new meaning, one less innocent. This was a construct of defense, worn when defense was needed.

The shadow leaned against a doorway out of shot, one foot up and resting against the frame. She didn’t know what good her presence here did, but a memory had rattled to the surface. Carmen once told her she was her lucky charm. Perhaps her simply being here helped. Or not. The woman seemed on an island of her own by the time the transmission began

Neb promptly left the room then, for what she’d seen in the background was too much to maintain the silence necessary. For a few seconds she paced outside until she steeled, then returned for her first good look at Dr. Gunnar Maelstrom.

He was everything Carmen was not, his grotesqueness exaggerated against her sheen. He was as repulsive as he was hypnotic, his movements as fluid as clumps of slime dripping upon rocks, his eyes alight with the madness of a revenant.

Very little of her attention was left for the conversation as she studied the scene. Flag was not there, and Chase looked… She couldn’t place what was wrong with Chase. She couldn’t see him well, but he was not how she remembered. And Joe… She averted her gaze to keep her place.

This was Carmen’s domain for now. A statue, a priestess, a holy relic facing down a force of evil as it tried to seep through this 17” portal. It pressed its face up close, trying to untangle her with words in lieu of hands.

And then the screen went dark. Neb blinked and rubbed her lip, only now aware of the dent she’d bitten into it.
 

Flag

V.I.L.E.
Color #
808080
#84
[Co-written Flag/Patty]

As soon as Maelstrom’s Valkyrie left Flag at the labs, she went to the garage. Mechanics fixed up old trucks here, and they were used for minor labors like carting equipment and sometimes people.

She filled one to a full tank. Diesel gas was smelly and gross, especially because she had to use a homemade pump to push flammable liquid from one rusty metal barrel into another rusty metal barrel. In these parts of rural India, you made do with what you have.

Two little girls with brownish sunburned hair stared at her with wide eyes as she did this task. When she looked at them, they ran away giggling, then they would come back to check her out. Patty didn’t mind it, she felt out of place to begin with.

By the time she returned to the abandoned zoo, there were people scurrying. Emil came to talk to Wick at the labs, about a conversation Maelstrom had with some actress in red. Of course Carmen would find them, Patty cursed in her mind, and of course she’d make contact now, just before they could safely escape.

When both men saw her, they stood up straighter and reported that The Professor wanted all four prisoners in the sub. When she asked why there were now four prisoners instead of three, they told her Plague fought for his friends. Again, Patty cursed in her mind, she had only been gone for thirty minutes!


She would find Flag glaring at Emil, who had unknowingly interrupted the staring contest that he had going with Wick before dragging the guard into a hushed conversation somewhat down the hall. Their secrets were a mystery until they opened up about them to the blond, who looked flustered to hear it.

Flag flicked his eyes toward her at the word "red." He knew just as well as she that this wasn't some 'actress' that contacted the girl's latest boss and the information weighed on his features. While the men continued to brief her about the surprising amount of VILE hostages, he nodded an offer to punch them out if she provided him the opportunity.


The Valkyrie came to Flag’s cage but instead of a nod, she shook her head, “Carmen negotiated your release,” she told him, “in exchange for something he really wants.”

Wick and Emil both readied to take the prisoner.

“Grab him,” she told the boys, “Let’s head to the sub.”


Flag's lips formed a thin line as he clenched his teeth and processed her words. He then turned to focus on Wick as he unlocked the enclosure door. For the briefest moment he readied himself to tackle the man anyway, but was assured against the notion by the weapon that Emil leveled in his direction.

Another assurance was issued, seconds later, when they pulled out ties for his wrists. As Flag allowed his arms to be bound behind him, he cast his gaze toward Patty. He watched her with a complicated expression until Wick put a hand on his back and shoved him down the hall.


Having already secured the truck Patty wanted to run anyway. Maelstrom would be busy with this, too busy to try hunt for her. But if this ends with her current mentor surviving, the Valkyrie won’t be able to find peace.

So she did exactly what any good student would do if they knew their leader had violent tendencies, follow along until a better opportunity arises.

“Don’t hurt him,” she instructed the two men as they got into the jeep, “he’s merchandise now.”
 

Status Updates

Sometimes we are so focused on the treasure we are seeking, that we fail to see the one right in front of us
Joe Kerr wrote on Patty's profile.
Is it weird that when someone said "things that glitter" my first thought was you?
At times, when we're so focused on 'who' we are, we forget 'where' we are.

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