Aude Lang Syne

Type: Free-form site-wide Role Playing Game Rating: PG-13
Continued from: Hiatus

Story movers and shakers (If I missed anybody, tell me, ah?):


Vic the Slick
Sarah Nade
Patty Larceny
Joe Kerr
Dr. Roux


Chase Devineaux
Ivy Monaghan
Lee Jordan
Eugene (EarlJr) Grovington
Deric Storm
Dr. Sophie (Scarlet) Conrad

2 Vic-the-Slick

Location: VILE Hideout Unit AM1953

This place was an old theater, something that hosted almost 900 people at once in positions that let every pair of eyes see the entire stage. Vincent Fumigalli sat at the edge of the orchestra box, waiting. Behind him was the spot where the band played, mostly hidden from the audience. Nothing was there now but streaks of rotting wood and bubble gum graffiti, but if you stare at it hard enough, you could almost hear the music.

Vic remembered how it all started when she, Carmen, eased in the idea. It was so out there, but so easy how she put it; taking ACME tower right from under their noses. It was a bold plan that took sixteen months worth of work and gave a nice shiny moment of glory. That whole experience was still going, like this ghost of a band box he's sitting by, he could still hear the music.

Even when he was stuck in the jungle with the ACME detectives in a plan concocted by their head honcho, Chase Devineaux, he was sure things were going to turn out fine. He attempted escape a few times and almost got Sarah arrested too, but at one point, ACME just stopped following him. They were done.
Vic didn't get time to be confused, Patty called Sarah almost right after to tell her that ACME just hit three of their safe houses and a command unit in Prague. They were going to have to evacuate the main base right away. The emergency plan was in effect.

"Carmen safe?" Vic asked then.

Patty went dead silent, "You mean she's not with you?"

That conversation set the tone for the past year. VILE went into survival mode with Sarah and Vic seeing half the operation and Patty, and Joe keeping the bases going. Eartha and the Kidman girl got bigger roles than either probably expected, and even Contessa hovered around helping when she was needed.

It had also been Vic's job to leave breadcrumbs that Carmen might pick up. He went back to the places she used to choose for meetings, looked up names she used to hide under, even tried looking for clues that she might have left for him. Twelve months and thirty countries later, still nothing.

VILE was now regrouping officially since the emergency plan went live. Vic sent coded messages, notes, letters, things that weren't so traceable. If they knew their codes, they'd be here. He was looking forward to meeting everybody face to face again, but he wasn't looking forward to telling them he's found squat.

3 Kidman

Kidman wanted a cigarette. She didn’t smoke and hadn’t started, but she still wanted something other than the toothpick she was chewing on. She no longer wore her uniform; no one listened to her when she was wearing it, but the hat remained. The hat would always remain.

Carmen had sent a message requesting to see her over a year ago, but Carmen never came.

Kidman’s first reaction had been to fall even further into despair, but found there was no further to go. Despite her dissent, she realized that she too had been waiting on the hope that Carmen would come and somehow fix everything. Now that luxury was gone and her sense of urgency had continued to grow .

“They’re coming for us, Master, I can feel it, but no one believes me. Oh if only you were here...”

But she couldn’t wait for Carmen’s divine intervention any longer. Something had had to be done now.

‘You gave me something to live for, and I’ll be damned if I let them take it away from me, from you, from all of us. We have to get out of here, and I’m going to empty this base, somehow... somehow...'

She knew she couldn’t do it on her own. No one was listening to her as it was, but if she could convince just one other person, someone more charismatic, more likable, more persuasive...

So she had gone to Joe.

Approaching him had been surprisingly easy. Joe was one of the few people she felt comfortable around. Still, desperation and stress had burnt away what remnants of sociability she had, and could only pray he understood when she abruptly told him;

“We have to leave. Everyone, everything needs to leave here now. Please make them leave, Joe. They won’t listen to me. They’ll listen to you. You have a cat.”

“For once I agree, we do need to leave. Patty and I will coordinate the evacuation effort but we’ll need all the help we can get. Could you please do me a favour? Take Mickey here with you,” Joe paused to gesture at said henchman on his right, “and go to the hangars. Gather all the pilots and get every plane we have fully fueled and prepped to fly at a moment’s notice.  We’ll need them all. Oh, and if anyone questions you, Mickey will back you up.”

She remembered how stunned she’d been. He agreed? Just like that? There wasn’t a moment to waste wondering, but the words came without her knowledge.

“What.... why do you believe me now?”

“Like they say in comedy, ‘Timing is everything’” the Jester replied cryptically before leaving her to her task.

She had watched him go with rising suspicion. ‘You know something, don’t you?’

She found out soon enough. At first it had made her sick, but something new formed in its wake. She had their attention, and grunt or no, she was going to use it.

‘I won’t let fear stop me this time. It’s late, but maybe I can still stem the tide.’ 

She had a plan.

Despite their lead on evacuation, Kidman had an expendable amount left behind. “It has to look like we got out by a hair, that we were panicked and sloppy. I need at least two transports left behind, one a flying  craft.”

She hastily packed a suitcase as one would in a rush, and within it left a laptop with a slightly outdated VILE encryption. Deep within she placed the dummy files, lists of safe houses, bases, and business fronts that would have to be sacrificed.

Choosing what to put on it had been one of the hardest parts, but an offering had to be made to the vengeful god, and she would rather they choose exactly what would be given. 

“We’ll still take the hit, but it’s a controlled hit. ACME isn’t the only one that can pull a controlled demolition. We’ll blow up our own god-damned tower.”

She had handed that off to those who knew the structure better (Patty, Joe, all yous guys). There was something even harder that she went on to do alone; the packing and moving of Carmen’s things. At times it hurt more than she could stand and outright exhausted her, but of all things, Master’s work had to be preserved.

Then came the waiting. The dummy suitcase was left in the cargo hold of the flying craft to be left behind; some unfortunate agent who put their luggage on the wrong flight. Now ACME had to find it, crack it, and take the bait. The only way to know if they did was to see what fell next.

A few months and results came in; ACME was following the path VILE had chosen for it, taking everything VILE had needed to leave, and everything they had wanted ACME to take. It was a perfect opportunity for trojan horses.

Despite this victory, Kidman’s health declined. She had wanted to bond with the others but feared her emotions would cripple her, and so had kept herself away, keeping vigil from afar as she carefully tended to her plans. A quiet envy of Joe had lingered on.

Now she sat in the back of the theatre, unsure of if or how to talk to anyone else, least of all Vic. There was nothing worse than being a proven prophet of doom. She stared at the ornate ceiling overhead, the same few words filtering through her mind unbidden.

‘I warned you. I warned you all.’

She hadn’t wanted to be right. Even now she couldn’t believe how right she had been, and it crushed her. Every base that fell, every person taken, every bit lost fell on her as a personal loss, even those given.

‘We should never have had to give anything to begin with. This is all punishment for the tower heist, something I failed to stop. Now look what they did to your creation. No doubt they are waiting for us to fall upon ourselves in a bid for power. That is not who we are.’’

Through the year her love for VILE grew as she watched them move as one, a loyal organic mass as Master had made it.


A sharp pain twisted in her heart.

It had been two years since she had seen her. Worry exchanged hands with anger constantly. The only relief she had was the sense that Carmen was still alive.

‘I’ll send you another bottle. You’ll find it, I know.’

Carmen had to be alive. She just had to be.

4 Joe_Kerr

“It’s been a wild ride, eh Carmine?”

The feline’s only response was a long, low, contented purr. Joe laughed at the calm demeanor of the cat as he continued to stroke her soft auburn fur. The jester was wearing his trademark jester’s mask but had swapped the rest of his usual costume for something more befitting his current destination - an old 1940s style pinstripe gangster suit complete with fedora and black gloves; the only difference being that his pinstripes (and matching tie) were purple rather than white.

As Joe approached the back door of the old theatre, Carmine instinctively leapt from his arms and started to chase a mouse she had spotted. Joe observed the cat’s antics and fondly recalled the events that had transpired to bring them to this point in the age old game of cat and mouse.

The weather had cleared considerably in Antarctica that day and as hoped for, a private jet did land at HQ. Somehow though, Joe had known that it wasn’t going to be Carmen. It might have been intuition, it might have been Carmine’s lack of response, it might have even been the hint of glitter on the wings of the plane but Joe knew this plane did not herald the long awaited return of VILE’s Queen.

All things aside though, Patty Larceny’s return had been a welcome one. Joe knew enough about Patty to know that the child prodigy was not to be taken lightly. Beneath her blonde top lurked a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue, both of which she wasn’t afraid to use; It had been those qualities that had made Patty the perfect ally in running VILE HQ in Carmen’s absence.

Patty hadn’t been the only ally either. Kidman had turned out to be a surprising asset, especially after the news of ACME hitting three of VILE’s safe houses. That bad news had tempered the festivities that had been going on after Sarah had contacted HQ with news that Vic was alive and mostly well.

“We have to leave. Everyone, everything needs to leave here now. Please make them leave, Joe. They won’t listen to me. They’ll listen to you. You have a cat.”

Kidman hadn’t known it at the time but Patty had just finished a rather grim conversation with Vic and Sarah; the resulting consensus of which had been to do exactly what Kidman had proposed - evacuate the Antarctic Base.

What had followed next was a whirlwind of activity as everyone pitched in to evacuate the base; even Kidman had been assigned a role by Joe.

Somewhere in the hustle and bustle Kidman had surprised Joe and Patty with a brilliant idea about leaving a decoy laptop for ACME to find. Whilst Patty had taken the task of deciding what should be in the laptop, Joe had taken it upon himself to coordinate the financial arrangements with Lee Galese so that even with VILE’s ‘sabbatical’, its employees and the charities that it funded would not suffer.

Despite Patty’s objections, Joe had also made sure that he was thelast to leave VILE HQ. He had wanted to say a last goodbye and run a quick check on the compound to make sure no one remained. After checking that everyone was gone and that the decoy was in place, Joe had left on a plane with the Caymen, Carmine and a year’s supply of cat food.

Joe didn’t know how it happened, but somehow, someway, over the past few months they had managed to not just survive in Carmen’s absence but regroup and get stronger than ever. 

The jester was broken out of his reverie by the sound of a displeased Carmine - apparently the mouse had gotten away; how fitting. Joe turned towards the old stage door and signaled Carmine to join him. It was time for the party to begin.

5 Sarah-Nade

From the back of the stage the fire exit opened with a loud squeal of rusted joints, the light from outside framing the figure who entered, the smoke of her cigarette wafting up towards the rafters as she walked in with a slow but confident pace, black leather boots echoing into the abandoned space.  Letting the door close behind her gray eyes took in the rotting theatre, half admiring the space despite its flaws, half checking who was there before taking a final drag from her cig, letting the red cinders reach down to the filter.  

Sarah Nade had arrived.   

The past 12 months had seen a slight change in Sarah, the off again on again teacher now taking a full time leadership role in VILE, a position she’d never seen herself in in her wildest dreams.  Say what you would about VILE and their tactics but until ACME’s retaliation her work had always had a sort of carefree feeling to it - she’d lost track of how many times she’d been arrested or in how many countries she’d run from the law; the notion of it all used to make her laugh.  Despite VILE’s keen planning, a year of seeing the sleeping giant known as ACME awaken had humbled Sarah, forcing her instinctively brash nature to curb itself.  

Her business with VILE was now more than making money or simply finding the next heist - there was an entire network of henchmen, informants and business partners to consider.  The group was running on a skeleton crew as of the moment, all non essential personnel told to go home, that they’d be called when they were needed.   Whether their fall was controlled or not ACME had managed to shut down a number of VILE’s legitimate business fronts, killing a large percentage of stable reliable income used to run the day to day.  While there had been light contact as she’d helped manage the organization most of her year had been spent alone.

Sarah pulled a silver container from her pocket, flipping open its top and tossing her dying cigarette into it and then closing the airtight top as she blew her last lungful of smoke upwards.  Spotting Vic by the orchestra pit she couldn’t help but smile.  

“Yo Vic.” she called out, a smile spreading on her lips as she walked down the stage’s side stairs and came to stand in front of him, extending a hand to shake.  “Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?”

6 Vic-the-Slick ((Ima writing people in as they requested.))

"Speak for yer self, rock star!" Vic gave Sarah a hug for her hand shake, "You did great, I saw, we're not bumped at all in funding this month."
The sound of wheels braking made Vic look up, "Sounds like Tessa, ah?"

Soon, a man dressed in a uniform entered with a tablet tucked in his arms.

"I'm sorry I'm late," he said, "I must apologize, the Countess is playing golf in Cuba and will not be able to join."

"What else is new?" Vic said, "She keeps sending her butler." This wasn't the first time, and won't be the last, but every time Vic wanted a meeting with Contessa, she's always managed to dodge it.

"I... am a valet," the man corrected as if Vic just insulted his mother, "for the last time, sir, I am certainly NOT her butler." 

While that was going on, Vic noticed Joe making his way into the theater. Knowing Patty was having her exams in France, the meeting has enough members.
"Alright!" Vic started, "Kidman, if you're hiding you can come out now."

"Y'all know, this year's been good, we've... lost some things, but we're managing it. So I wanted t' call us here to make this place our new ops center. It's in a nice spot on the map, abandoned town, no one's gonna notice. Once we get this goin' we're gonna need to step up our bit against Devineaux."

"Then... there's this other thing," he didn't like talking about the boss in past tense but he mustered the courage, "So last we'd heard was that she left Saleh's sister's adobe at dawn," He didn't have to mention her name, everybody here was expecting him to report on this, "That's the last anybody's seen o' her. But as y'all know Saleh said he told that masked doctor, what's his name? I talked to him on the phone, but he said he hadn't seen her... dead end, ah?"

Vic looked around, "Anybody got anything?"

(We can start making short convo posts here, we got 2 things t' talk about: Keeping ACME busy 'n' Carmen.)

7 Joe_Kerr

"As a matter of fact, I do have something for you Vic," Joe chuckled as he pulled out a small box from his coat pocket.

The box was wrapped in dark green wrapping paper and a silver bow. 

"Consider it an early Christmas present. Should come in handy if ACME ever somehow gets lucky and corners you again."

As Joe handed the box to Vic, he couldn't help but glance up at box number five to see if a certain illusive figure was watching from the shadows. Carmine seemed to read his thoughts because she too stared up at box number five from where she had chosen to rest and started meowing.

"Oh, and I do believe the masked Doctor's name is Roux," Joe added after handing Vic the box.

"I haven't had much of a chance to talk to him myself but from what I heard, the boss seemed to have departed from him in one of her more determined moods. I'm guessing that means she doesn't want to be found, which could explain why no one's seen hide or tail of her."

8 Flag

((This is assumed to take place some time after this journal entry (which primarily existed to let everyone know OOC what Flag's been up to since the last RP. This post itself is current)) (2nd edition note: journal currently missing)

[[New Orleans, Louisiana , United States]]

If there was something to be said about diamonds, it was that people are absolutely absurd when it comes to them. For example, Mr. Fitzpatrick had been complacent when his house was broken into, almost even helpful when he thought that the thief was going after mundane things like silverware and electronics. However, when he realized that his precious Crescent Diamond was the intruder's desired prize, he had launched a failed attempt at an attack and wound up impaled on his own decor.

Had Flag known that the billionaire was so willing to throw his life away, he would have taken special consideration to make sure that his last hours were not wasted. Instead he found himself pacing the length of an outdoor mall, waiting for someone to ask him for a handout.

He had been at it for hours, though nobody could tell anything was amiss. There was a "goth" shop in the mall, so his appearance was attributed to that. The only comments he received had been by the stores visitors and were mainly oriented on how he got his hair "that color." He had enough people offer up suggestions in the past, so he simply regurgitated their answers. It seemed to work.

His thoughts were dominated by the necklace in his pocket. This was the third precious gemstone that he had stolen and he was getting frustrated. What he was trying to do wasn't that difficult or complex, so there was no reason that the other two should have shattered like they did.

To their credit, they did last longer than anything manufactured - a fact which caused him to wonder if the fault lay in the state of his previous charity cases. If he were lucky, he'd be able to find out tonight.

Flag paused in his thoughts long enough to realize that it had been hours since he had last eaten and he was ravenous. To cure this, he turned around and nearly plowed into a slightly disheveled man in nice shoes. Before Flag could comment the man started with his spiel.

"Excuse me sir, I am out of work and I have a wife and kid to feed. Could you perhaps spare a dollar so I can help get back on my feet?"

The sorcerer smiled his most sincere smile and gestured towards the parking lot, pleased that his patience paid off once again.

"Of course, but my cash is in the car. Walk with me and I'll get it for you." 

9 Chase


(Before we go on further into this RP, I thought I'd start doing some imagery. This was more a manipulation than an actual painting, but it serves as a nice setting for VILE's theater.)

10 Vic-the-Slick (Niiiice theater painting, Chase! You did me proud.)

Vic took Joe's gift and looked through the contents with a big smile on his face.

"You sure know how to start a party, Joe!" Fumigalli laughed, "Thanks heaps!"

Thinking about this doctor again, Vic snapped his fingers.

"Y'know," he looked at Joe Kerr, "Ima have you and Kidman go find this Doc Roux guy," the polyester-clad conman instructed, "See if you can't bring him 'ere for a little chat. It's been a year, let's refresh his memory, ah?"

(VILE members, add something, ah? Else meeting's adjourned!)
11 Kidman (Sorry, mates. Kept busy with the coming armageddon here, so this has to be short. Power could leave at any time. Might be gone a while if it does.) (revision note: post dates are missing, but my guess is this may have been written during hurricane Sandy)

Kidman pulled herself up and shuffled over to the rest of the group. There were a million things to say to Vic, all screaming in her head, but when she went to speak, the only words she could find were;

"I'm glad you're alive."
12 Joe_Kerr

Joe smiled at Kidman's earnest admission. It was a simple statement but it spoke volumes about what everybody had been feeling over the past year.

Turning back to Vic, a thought occurred to Joe.

"Vic, not that I'm not down for trying to track down someone who isn't the boss, but uh, what do we do about ACME? They're dumb but not that dumb. The contents on the laptop we left them would have only kept them busy for so long."

13 Vic-the-Slick/Contessa

Vic made a face at the mention of ACME. Things were fun for a while, but with that Devineaux in charge, it was getting harder to play right. When Chief of ACME was on the VILE cases, the game was light, educational even. But with the tower stolen and the media reaction swaying to the "good guys" Vic had to wonder if all this was worth destroying ACME's stupid C-5 machine.

"There isn't much we can do, is there?" Contessa's voice replied to the jester from the iPad her valet was carrying, "unless we plan another distraction now."

"You got ideas, Joe?" Vic asked, "We still got that hotshot's car, maybe we can use it for something."

14 Joe_Kerr

Joe walked onto the stage for dramatic effect before replying.

"As a matter of fact, I have several ideas for your perusal, ladies and gentlemen. As Contessa Adriana has so kindly pointed out, we should plan another distraction. However, what good is a distraction if it only serves to delay the inevitable? The distraction is only useful if it occupies the distractee so that the distractor may accomplish something notable without being noticed."

"I propose therefore that this," Joe paused to gesture at the abandoned theatre around them, "be that profitable thing which we accomplish. I propose that we renovate this place and reopen this theatre as a legitimate business front."

Pausing to survey his audience, Joe continued.

"Think about it my friends. Vic here has proposed that we make this our new ops base. While I do agree that we need a new ops  base and that this place is ideal, it won't remain that way for long should we continue to meet here. It will only be a matter of weeks before someone starts wondering why oddly dressed folk are coming in and out of a seemingly abandoned theatre. Once that happens, it won't be long till word reaches ACME and they raid this place. Also, it is also probably a safe bet that ACME will want to continue keeping their eyes on notable VILE members."

Joe smiled broadly behind his mask as he continued his little speech.

"This is where our advantage lies. Up till now, Contessa Adriana, at least to ACME's knowledge, has nothing to do with VILE. Therefore, if said wealthy and bored Contessa decides on a whim to buy up this property, renovate and reopen it, no red flags would be raised. Sarah is also a legitimately certified music teacher, at least so I heard, so she could conceivably be hired by the Contessa to help run the place."

"With the theatre, on paper at least, being a legitimate business venture, ACME also won't be able to just shut it down on a whim. That buys us some leeway and safety against the rising ACME Horde. The increased activity of the ops base can be easily disguised as renovation work, shareholder's meetings and even rehearsals for various acts. Of course, that does mean we will have to put on actual shows and stuff but that can be taken care of later."

"As far as the Caymen goes, we can use it to run a distraction to buy time for Lee Galese to file the required paperwork and obtain the rights and license to this place. Once we have that, ACME can't legally take it from us as long as we're not using it for anything illegal, and last time I heard, shareholder's meetings weren't illegal" 

Joe paused to catch his breath and observe Carmine stretch herself out.

"With regards to the distraction that Contessa Adriana suggested, one of us can use the Caymen to lure Chase Devineaux into a meeting. If it make it a noted VILE member or at least someone he recognizes, we can pretty much guarantee he'll bring some troops along on an operation to either capture or tail us - ergo the distraction. Even better we can pull a bluff during the meeting and misdirect ACME to focus on a non-existent VILE op. We could also use the meeting to pick Chase Devineaux's brains - if he has any."

Pausing a final time to get off the stage and address his fellow counterparts on even footing, Joe finished with a dramatic touch by taking off his fedora in grandiose fashion.

"So fellow VILE alumni, what say ye?"

15 Vic-the-Slick

Vic listened until Joe Kerr was finished with his speech. Some of the ideas were good, but others, like having Contessa invest in an old theater, was going to take too much fiddling.

"Can't have Tessa linked to us," Vic commented, "We'll just have to go with some anonymous investor revamping a theater. I dunno what it takes to run a stage here, so anybody wants that job, it's theirs."

Vic's phone suddenly beeped with an incoming message:

"It's been one year," said the texter, "I say she's dead. Let's read the will and call it Armageddon. Everybody wants a slice."

Vic frowned a big one, and replied back with the words, "Gimme & Sarh til Jan."

He waited and the answer came, "You have two weeks. I'm just doing my job."

"It's that other lawyer of ours," he said to specifically Sarah Nade and Contessa, "If we can't get proof Carmen's alive in two weeks, he's declaring her gone and dividing things up." With some thought, he went on, "She wouldn't want us to linger, but under the circumstances, it's all we got."

16 Contessa

 Vic-the-Slick said: 

"We'll just have to go with some anonymous investor revamping a theater. I dunno what it takes to run a stage here, so anybody wants that job, it's theirs."

"Run a theatre? Well I don't mind that at all… and I do love being anonymous. It's how I got past my second marriage after all."

Vic-the-Slick said: 

 "We'll just have to go with some anonymous investor revamping a theater. I dunno what it takes to run a stage here, so anybody  "It's that other lawyer of ours," he said to specifically Sarah Nade and Contessa, "If we can't get proof Carmen's alive in two weeks, he's declaring her gone and dividing things up." With some thought, he went on, "She wouldn't want us to linger, but under the circumstances, it's all we got."

The news seemed to put everyone in a grimmer mood. "Two weeks to prove that Carmen is alive? Seems we need all hands on deck. I'd vouch for Joe to lead the task of finding information from ACME. He seems to have a way of avoiding capture."

An incoming signal caused Contessa's image to blur in static.

"I apologize, there is a meeting I really must attend. If worst comes to worst in regards to this 'will reading' matter, then I think I may have need of Sarah Nade's camouflaging abilities..."

17 Lee-Jordan

Long Beach, CA

Early morning, at the mouth of the Los Angeles river, a man sat on a park bench watching seagulls feed from garbage ships. Not far behind him, a young man with dark hair and a pigskin jacket exited a grim Chevrolet Corvette. Lee Jordan lit a cigarette, hollowed his cheeks to suck in the smoke, and made his way to the seated figure.

"Put that thing out," the man said as soon as Lee sat down, "have some respect."

The informant flicked his cigarette to the sand and buried it with the heel of his boot.

"Give me some more time," Jordan appealed, his eyes looking to the ocean, "She can't hide forever, she's alone. She'll have to send a message out some time."

"You had plenty of time," the man replied, his mild, scratched voice was melodically intoned. It was calm, and Lee hated the slow, drawn-out syllables. He knew he wouldn't like the next part, "Eight months, that's enough time."

"I'm !@#$% close," was nearly said through gritted teeth as Lee Jordan felt his chances slithering away, "You said you'd let me deal with her."

"Don't be a fool," the figure snapped without anger, "I wanted her gone, but you're wasting my resources."

"You need me," Jordan protested, "If you don't get rid of her now, she'll !@#$ up everything."

"She won't."

Lee stopped, confused at his employer's answer.

"What--? You mean you have her?" He asked as if recovering from a hit.

"I won't be needing you anymore," the man made eye contact as he spoke, "This is the last time we're going to have a conversation."

"No!" Lee Jordan slammed his hand on the park bench, convinced that he was being played, "You told me I could--"

Two body guards in civilian clothing grabbed the informant and threw him from the bench to the sandy grass below. Lee fought them, but they were trained, and he found himself locked by wrists and collar.

The man on the bench shifted slowly to a more relaxed posture, "Get the !@#$ out of here."

The thugs pushed Lee towards his car, and stood threateningly like eight feet human doors. 

Jordan dusted himself off, and angrily entered his Corvette. Tires screeched as the enraged driver forced his car to leave the area as fast as possible. Lee was heading back to San Francisco to do what he should have done eight months ago...

18 Chase


(ACME, when you enter this RP, you'll be writing in this format: Tell us what you've done for the past year, and then end your post with what you're doing now (whether or not you're in this party.))

December 12, 20126:43 PMLobby, Accolade (ACME Tower II)

Glasses made crystalline clangs against each other in between bursts of atmospheric laughter. The first annual ACME Winter Ceremony was under way and, as Chase Devineaux calculated, about fifty percent of ACME's finest had arrived. He figured the remainder were either on their way, or were hiding from him.

Located in the lobby of the new ACME Tower, better known to its German architect as "Accolade", the Ceremony was created to wrap up the year and honor those who have worked to make the agency successful. Among the recognized will be Inspector Eleanor Mayhem, for having decoded the evidence left by the Tower's disappearance, giving ACME the lead on VILE locations; Ivy Monaghan, who led the Antarctica leg of Operation Brimstone; and Gunnar Svensson for a key role in exposing VILE safe houses in Scandinavia.

"How long until you start?" Chase asked the Master of Ceremony, Ivanna Tam, a young woman and minor celebrity in San Francisco. She had a good roster of small achievements like hosting the city's sixth most popular morning radio session, co-starring in a Tuesday afternoon talk show, and occasionally reporting on the weather as "Guest Weather Girl" for Channel 7. Among her feats was also graduating ACME's preliminary field training in 2006 with (then) Instructor Devineaux.

"They're setting up the rest of the sequences," Ivanna replied holding a small stack of cards, "It's only 6:45."

"Right, when you announce the awards... if an agent doesn't look like they have anything to say, just skip the speech," Devineaux suggested, "Try to finish at nine instead of ten."

The MC laughed, "Okay… you're not directing this too, are you? There are event organizers with scripts that I have to follow."

"No, sorry," he apologized, "I'll just… be around."

Chase never liked ceremonies, or events that involved guiding press around a site. But as he stood at the center of Accolade's 'ceiling-less' lobby, he let his eyes travel up beyond the pillars of spotlights to the spirals high above. It looked to ACME's Director of Operations like the silent core of a giant, steel... fig tree. The German wanted this tower to have a calming, powerful effect, and for the moment, it was working as intended.

Returning to his own eye level, Chase picked up a glass of champagne from a passing tray and started looking for faces he recognized.

19 DetectiveAwesome

The past year almost went by too fast for Daniel Ainsworth. ACME was in shambles when the original tower was stolen by Carmen Sandiego, and then there was a plane crash with his best buddy Nevon on board and crazy stuff happening all around. Things got even more intense when he was asked to go with Unit Commander Ivy Monaghan to raid V.I.L.E. Headquarters. They spent six months preparing, and it was probably the most intense operation he'd ever been on. It wasn't like the V.I.L.E. cases where Ken U Belivit would throw them random clues or Sarah Nade would punch him in the face. For those months it felt like ACME and V.I.L.E. were really at war. 

That's why Danny was pretty psyched to see the new Accolade lobby. It was like, a bit of closure… the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Sure the year had been mostly successful, but now that V.I.L.E. didn't seem like much of a threat and Carmen hadn't been seen for ages, maybe things would start brightening up.  

The structure looked organic, and with the new surrounding park it was a pretty cool mix of greenery and steel. It made him almost happy that they lost the old tower. Speaking about 'almost-happy', Dan could see Chase Devineaux looking very leader-like at the end of the room. If anyone should be celebrating tonight it would be their Director of Operations, on paper and in the media everything he did this past year seemed to go down smoothly, with a dash of James Bond charisma for good measure. Then why did he look more like he was on trial rather than at a gala ball? 

"Champagne?" A waiter interrupted Dan's amateur psycho-analysis. 

"Uh, yeah… thanks. Thanks there, buddy." He replied, taking a glass of champagne. Yeah, it's probably all of this formality getting to everyone. Dan thought. If I had to make a speech, I'd be nervous too. 

20 Constance

When Constance first joined ACME, she had been a seventeen year old high school graduate who enthusiastically set out to explore the world and to make a difference. Now, nearing twenty, she learned that it takes more than just motivation to change the world but also sacrifice, training, and teamwork. Since coming to San Francisco, she had indeed developed immensely as a person.
One highlight of the past year had been earning her EMT-basic certificate. The process had been long and the experiences had been new and difficult. Being an EMT wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed, but Connie felt as though it was an important step in her career at ACME. Her time spent as an EMT hadn’t been very eventful. In the TV shows, EMTs have opportunities to save lives everyday. In reality, Connie found that those opportunities were few and far between, but, when a single life was saved, it made the guts, gore, and other rather unpleasant aspects of the profession dim in comparison.

Returning to ACME and UCSF classes for the fall semester, Connie had continued her pursuit of the elusive doctorate degree in medicine. She, determining to take an optimistic view on the matter, had completed the arithmetic to find that she only needed to spend seven more years in school before she earned the prestigious M.D. title...

Since she was, after all, an ACME employee, Constance also had taken classes in basic training. The classes focused on the roots of becoming an ACME agent; things like throwing people around, kicking in doors, and sneaking about. While this wasn’t exactly Connie’s forte, she understood it might have some importance down the road in her career. Besides, everyone needs to kick in a door once in his or her life, right?

It was now the evening of the ACME Winter Ceremony, and Constance just recently arrived at the lobby of the new tower. Earlier that evening, she had been afraid she would end up being late to the ceremony as she had spent nearly an hour debating what dress to wear to the event. The difficult choice was between a black, loose, ankle length dress and a tighter, knee length, ice blue spaghetti strap dress which had a rather lovely ruffle on one side. After much thought, Connie decided the blue dress would be more fitting for a dark winter’s evening as it would lighten the chilly mood.

As Constance explored the enormous lobby, she found that the many unfamiliar faces made her feel nervous for some reason. This was her first formal ACME ‘party’, and the racket of thunderous voices brought on a slight headache. Brushing a golden lock of curls from her face, Connie headed over to the refreshment area where she found a glass containing some sort of non-alcoholic beverage. Since the festivities weren’t starting for a while, she, keeping an eye out for friends and other interesting individuals, decided to brave another turn around the room.

21 Joe_Kerr

Vic-the-Slick said: 

"It's that other lawyer of ours," he said to specifically Sarah Nade and Contessa, "If we can't get proof Carmen's alive in two weeks, he's declaring her gone and dividing things up." With some thought, he went on, "She wouldn't want us to linger, but under the circumstances, it's all we got."

The grim mood in the theatre at that moment would have made a funeral seem jolly. Joe knew that if Carmen were declared dead, Armageddon wouldn't even begin to describe the chaos that would occur.  

All traces of his jolly demeanor gone, Joe turned to look Vic in the eye.

"He may be our only shot at finding her"

22 Rose_Thorn

Abby had graduated from the basic training course where she felt she had learned a great deal too much about some of her co-workers and very little about her actual job. She always had an uncanny knack for knowing things before they were actually taught to her. Trial and error had always been her way.

During that time she also ended all her classes that she was taking through ACME, realizing how ridiculous it was to spend more of her life wasting away in classrooms when she had already spent 17 years doing the same. Besides, what was the point of gaining yet another degree that would profit her little? She wouldn’t even earn the title of doctorate.  Her Navy skills would be enough for anything ACME chose to send her way - which, in fact, had been very little.

Two other factors played an important part in Abby’s decision to quit school. One being her best friend, Connie. The girl had always been there for Abby as she gallivanted around the world, and now it was her wish to finally be always available while Connie worked overtime, obtaining her doctorate in Medicine.

The other factor was that she wished to volunteer time at the girls’ shelter in San Francisco. Though the shelter’s mission was noble, at times it seemed forgotten.  The place, the people, and the general feeling in that place hit home, and Abby promised herself that she would make certain that the mission was not lost in the confusion of everything else.


December 12, 2012

Abby knew she shouldn’t have told Connie she’d go to the ACME’s Winter Ceremony. She had known it the moment she had said she would.

At 6:01 PM, she had hurried out of the girls’ shelter on, what seemed, the other side of town after spending the whole afternoon there. Then there was the rush hour traffic. Many times she was tempted to turn aside and eat a quiet meal while the traffic calmed down, but she prevailed and finally arrived at the dorms half an hour later.

It took a quick look to see that no one was particularly around, and then a sprint through the eerily quiet dorms to reach her room, all the while internally grumbling all the reasons why she didn’t want to go. As soon as she charged into her room, it was a rush to blindly snatch up the few necessary items and enter the hallway as fast as possible.  

She was a finished product, dressed in a floor length, straight, aqua colored dress with quarter length sleeves and a v-cut neck. Her dark hair was all curled and up in a loose bun with a few wisps framing her face. Even that simple hairdo had brought much misery. When she was younger she did all that was in her power to get the semi-natural curls out of her hair. Now it took all her power to make her hair curly.

In her hands she held a purse and a pair of black shoes with two inch heels.  She hopped a few steps as she tried to latch one of the shoes to her foot. Another thought came to Abby, and she took the shoe off her foot and started running to her car.

“I swear, Connie. I will be there.”

Abby did make it to the new tower, out of breath, and with only few minutes to spare, but still fully together. She entered the lobby feeling highly satisfied with her accomplishment. Glancing at her reflection in a mirror to the side, she felt a slight sting of sadness. Perhaps she should not have worn a dress and a necklace that held memories.
Awakening herself from the memories and thoughts that paraded around in her mind, she entered the main area and felt immediately swamped by the crowd of unfamiliar faces.

The two inches added to her usual height gave her a slight raise above many of the heads, but still she could not see Connie. A slight problem she continually had with the shorter friend. Shoot, the whole point of my coming, and she doesn’t even know I’m here..

As Abby surveyed her surroundings, a hand popped up into her vision and began waving at someone in her direction. At first she did not know for certain that the owner of said hand was trying to get her attention, but soon it as obvious when the man started to make his way in her direction. She could not place the face anywhere inside her mind.

“Shoot!”, Abby muttered under her breath as she realized that the man must be one of those guys. Those guys were the few who had developed a ‘thing’ for her despite all the pins and needles she had taken the trouble of placing in a large radius around her. Well, confrontation better now than later. She stood right where she was, awaiting the intruding enemy.

“Double shoot”. Something reminded her that she had promised Constance that she would avoid any unpleasant interactions to the uttermost of her power. Slipping through the crowd, she found a space to stand in the shadows of one corner behind a few obstructions. There she was practically invisible from surveying eyes, but still held a commanding view of where the main events would take place. Overall a very safe place to keep her promises.

23 Sarah-Nade

Joe_Kerr said: 

"He may be our only shot at finding her"

Throwing a passing glance to Vic and the Contessa, or more specifically her video screen, Sarah gave a slight cough to clear her throat, hands in the pockets of her leather jacket. 

"You'd think with the way that shark was going on Carmen had never disappeared just like this before..." she muttered softly, pulling out another cigarette and bringing it to her lips before pulling out the lighter.  She waited to finish lighting up and taking the first inhale before finally speaking, directed at Joe but loud enough for everyone to hear. 

"Going to ACME right now?  Not the best of ideas.  Need I remind you that He is the reason we're in this mess in the first place?  If Carmen wants to be found she'll be found and no one, not you, not him, not I are going to be able to find her a second before then."

She took another deep draw from the cig, holding the smoke for a moment before releasing it.

24 Gunnar

Gunnar's year in review:

Gunnar turns 23.
Gunnar graduates from ACME Academy with an International Relations degree, and transfers back to ACME’s Stockholm branch.
Gunnar resumes his track & field career, making his debut in the Diamond League circuit.

Gunnar's suitGudrun's dress

*Persons in photos do not represent character depictions. Only the attire.

The Swedish couple entered the lobby, hand-in-hand, at exactly 18:58. They lingered just inside the entrance for a moment, admiring the new building’s interior. The male half sported a brand new, proper black suit, excepting the tie in blatant disregard. His female counterpart wore a wide-necked, draping, royal blue cocktail dress--short sleeves fluttered; its shape narrowed briefly at her midriff by a wide black belt. Her left hand also exhibited a platinum ring of no insignificance, representing Gunnar’s devotion--and half his savings.

Though Gunnar had never before set foot inside the new tower, his fiancée was the solo guest of the pair. He declared his and her name to the concierge, and she hugged her partner with energy to reinforce her status to the man. Once checked with the list--at 7:00 PM--they were encouraged to proceed further into the lobby.

Gunnar maintained his foremost attention on his girl, but checked about the room for familiar faces. He pursed his lips, hoping ACME’s crew had not changed too much since his departure. Gudrun contentedly leaned into her boyfriend’s side and smiled at whoever walked by.

25 EarlJr

It had been an exciting year since ACME's first tower was lost and a hectic one for Euge.  While his side jobs had been mostly co-opted shortly after the inciting incident, his workload hadn't decreased any.  The loss of the C-5 transport system had increased ACME's reliance upon air travel, a fact severely hampered by having only one field available for full time use.  The situation had been compounded when SFO restricted flights into and out of ACME's field to a narrow east-west corridor. 

Any time not spent in front of a class was spent with airport operations trying to find a compromise, with a brief ACME field trip in April as the only break.  A workable solution was finally delivered in mid June, leaving Euge just enough time to travel cross country for a solid month of much needed recurrency training.  By the time the fall semester started, he was stiff, sore, dirty and didn't want to do much else but sleep for a week.

There was no stopping the inevitable though, and the new semester saw ACME rebuild and restructure itself, symbolized by the exterior completion of Accolade.  As a treat to the ACME board and a subtle show of force, ACME was holding a winter gala/ball/shindig/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.  Euge normally enjoyed a formal party, but the events of ACME's Italy masquerade had soured him to the idea of social events hosted by the company.  Somehow though, his date had convinced him this one would be different.

Pausing outside the lobby of Accolade to adjust his yellow tie in the reflection of the treated glass, Euge took the opportunity to glance through the window at the events unfolding inside.  The crowd was still small, with only a few familiar faces apparent in the midst of the spotlights, glass and steel.  Satisfied with his overview, he ran his ID past the badge reader, which chirped happily in reply.  Stepping inside, Euge took in the ambiance of the completed lobby for the first time. 

"I hate architects," Euge thought to himself, "I hate them to death."

26 Ivy

Ivy Monaghan had never respected Carmen Sandiego more.

The woman was able to run in six inch heels... and it was taking Ivy everything she learned in balance training to look acceptably ladylike in hers. Brushing a segment of hair out of her eyes, she made her way to the Winter Ceremony. ACME's pavilion was bathed in gold light, contrasting the bay's smokey waters. 

As she got to the entrance Ivy thought about the year of training, planning and paperwork that brought the Accolade building to life. At least the entire twelve months didn't pass without personal pursuits, she finally bought that apartment in San Francisco, was promoted to Unit Commander and met new people. Her date tonight was an unorthodox choice. He was a trucker. Rough around the edges, liked his guns, and all-in-all the kind of guy Chase Devineaux warned her about ending up with if she didn't learn to make long term decisions. But when it came down to the facts, he was a dependable man who somehow managed to stand up to the very worst of her temper.

A few faces passed in the crowd and ACME's latest unit commander nodded to the ones she recognized. Then Monaghan spotted her escort. Well, he cleans up nicely. She wondered if this being their first official date was a good idea. He enjoyed a good party, but most things that dealt with ACME made him skittish.

Closing in behind him, Ivy lightly tapped his shoulder. "Hey trucker."

"You know I hate being called that." Eugene Grovington grunted a reply.

27 Joe_Kerr

Sarah-Nade said: 
"Going to ACME right now?  Not the best of ideas.  Need I remind you that He is the reason we're in this mess in the first place?  If Carmen wants to be found she'll be found and no one, not you, not him, not I are going to be able to find her a second before then."

Joe thought long and hard before replying. On one hand, he knew that Sarah had a point; the boss would not be found unless she wanted to be found. On the other hand, VILE had spent close to a year looking for leads on the boss only to turn up nothing; maybe a change of perspective was in order.

Joe looked purposefully into the eyes of each of his comrades (or in Contessa's case, the screen) before tipping his fedora in Carmenesque fashion.

"Like the lawyer said, we have 2 weeks to find proof that the boss is still allergic to death."

Joe paused to gaze at the theatre whilst subtly signalling Carmine.

"I'll do what I think I have to do and you guys do likewise. We'll meet back here before the two weeks are up and hopefully we won't be discussing how to split the inheritance."

On cue, Carmine jumped into Joe arms and he turned towards the stage door.

"And now if you'll excuse me, like the cat said, 'exit, stage right'"

28 Nevon

Nevon Blair came to the party early to do his own version of surveying. Accolade was something most agents in San Francisco saw constructed from the ground up, but Nev couldn't imagine how it was going to look inside. In his own corner, the rookie watched Chase Devineaux contemplating something, then swiftly taking a glass of champagne from a waiter with a tray and entered the crowd. Blair copied that gesture, practicing a bit before he went out to the party to look for a walking tray too.

While he was still practicing the moves to pick up a moving glass, Nevon saw Rose Thorn come in. He knew her because they spent a semester together as partners in Detective Deric Storm's class. Then he saw that kid, Jerry Wozniak from second division waving at her. Something in Blair's head calculated catastrophe, so he went over to Jerry to help Abby buy time.

"Hey man," Nevon pulled Wozniak aside, "did you see the chocolate fountain?"

"Hello Agent," the tech replied in an awkward and nervous way, "when did you come back from Warsaw?"

"Where?" Nev figured this guy had him mistaken for some higher ranking agent, and it was probably because of how swanky he took that drink from the passing waiter. He played along, "You heard nothing, you hear me?"

"Okay," Wozniak twitched, "did you say there was a chocolate fountain?"

"All the way over there," Nev pointed in the opposite direction that Abby went to hide.

"Thanks sir!" Jerry walked away and disappeared.

Blair gave himself a nod and took a sip of champagne, that was the first time he was ever called a sir.

Nev looked back at Rose and saw that she was looking at him too, so he grabbed another glass of champagne and went over to her.

"I don't really drink but I hold it incase someone wants a toast," he tells Abby as he gave her the flute, "I saw Gunnar with Gudrun coming in, and I think that's Danny over there, want to go say hi?"

29 Bran_ap_Brychan

(This journal post contains information as to Bran’s activities during the past year. (journal currently missing)    

A black, customized Triumph Daytona 675r pulled to a halt in a dark alley just beyond the lively campus of ACME. The bike’s rider was clad in the colors of night and wore a closed helmet. As he threw himself off the motorcycle, the rider removed his headgear and revealed the face of welsh multi-billionaire, Bran ap Brychan.

After taking a moment to secure his bike and then gain his bearings, Bran started off in the direction of Accolade which rose from its surrounding park like a symbol of shining hope to the world. Carefully staying in the  few shadows which sparingly littered the area around the tower, he quickly closed the expanse between him and his destination. As he reached the tower, Bran stealthily slipped through a familiar rear entrance into the ground floor of Accolade.

Upon entering the building, Bran found himself in a hallway where the only light source flooded from under a small door opposite to him. Striding towards the door, he shed his black leather jacket, revealing a dark grey blazer under which he wore a white collared shirt. Draping a blue and black striped scarf around his neck, Bran silently pushed through the door and entered into the main lobby of Accolade where the roar of hundreds of voices met his ears. He had arrived at the ACME Winter Ceremony.

30 Kidman

Kidman remained silent as the others debated VILE’s new course. Her mind wasn’t in it. What they were planning was essential; buying time. They had to buy time until Carmen came back. VILE had to continue to exist. It had to.

Her mind was into why.

A year in dark corners had forced her further inward. The duty of warning VILE of impending doom was lifted from her as it became obvious, allowing her more energy to look further in. Carmen wouldn’t have made such a careless mistake, surely. Maybe the C5 had been such an annoyance that she sought to put ACME in its place by using it against them. It was possible. Was is possible?

Kidman pulled at the faded memory of her meeting with Carmen two years past.

No, it didn’t fit.

Carmen had been solemn, almost... reluctant? She could have just been tired, but still, it was obvious she was aware of the weight of this choice, a weight she had continued to accept for a year. So then why?

Carmen had stated she wanted the C5 gone, so Kidman had gone with the assumption that this had been the goal for months. Then something else turned up. Someone from the salvaging crew had mentioned that Carmen had removed a rather large cache of paper files the night of the heist. Not all of them; just a very specific set, in that they were distinctly missing when the crews arrived.

Those files, what were they? Did she want what they held, or did she simply want to destroy them? Was it part of the original plan or something spontaneous?

But even then, Carmen could have simply stolen the files and destroyed the C5, but she destroyed the whole building.

Kidman paused her thoughts to correct herself.

Carmen had
taken the tower. ACME had destroyed it. Still...had it been necessary to touch the thing at all when so much at stake?

If Carmen had knowingly risked it all, possibly even lost it all for something, there had to be a reason that was dreadfully important, and that led to the biggest question of all.

‘Did you succeed? And if not, is it left to us to finish what you began?’

The missing files could be the key.

‘You may be missing, but there is someone else here that was in the tower that night...’

Kidman curled her fingers around Carmen’s pen, now strung on a necklace under her jacket. It had become a talisman of sorts, but in reverse. She sent her strength back to its owner, her thoughts, her ‘bottles in the sea’. Every night she told the pen what she knew, this thing that had once touched Carmen’s hand, then touched hers once all was lost. A placekeeper in the void.

Until she returned

“Vic... I heard Ma- ...Carmen took some paper files that night. You were there. Do you know what they were?”

31 Vic-the-Slick

Vic turned to Kidman and felt a little bad for her, holding Carmen's pen like it was the end o' the world. That pen, Carmen had with her for a couple weeks before the tower was stolen. She gave it Eartha when she dropped by Eartha's apartment in Luxembourg. Then when Earth' left base, she gave the pen to Vic, who passed it on to Kidman to hold until Carmen came back.

That was a whole year ago.

"I dunno, Kid," Vic took a deep breath, "Sorry. Last I heard was the trucks went past Egypt, with the files. Even the guys unloading the files didn't know what Carmen wanted them for."

32 Kidman

Kidman was crestfallen.

Vic didn't know, and if Vic didn't know, Flag wouldn't know, and if neither knew, the no one knew. Except the source.

But go to ACME? Go to ACME...?

For years her sleep had been filled with nightmarish scenarios of the day they met. Sometimes they met at a heist, sometimes they met on the street, and sometimes, rarely, she was in the ACME building itself. When she was, she was there to rescue Carmen.

The only reason she would go there.

Years ago the idea of facing ACME, especially Ivy, or more recently "Him", was not even a possibility. But those were the days when she still feared for what what might happen to her, when Carmen was there to protect her. Now she was gone, and the revelations surrounding the files had tilted her mindset.

This was bigger than her, and it had to be seen through. ACME was the only way.

Her body was stiff with fear, and when she spoke her voice seemed so very far away, but still she found herself running after the man in the mask.

"Joe, wait."

33 E_Mayhem

Winter Ball Gown

Standing outside the new building Eleanor Mayhem's nose wrinkled as eyes took in the sight before her.  The building, its frame bathed in golden light, was supposed to be a subtle reminder of the old ACME Tower which itself had a naturally golden tone about it.  She'd seen this building in the daytime; anyone who worked on site couldn't help but view it as the went about their days in the temporary offices set up in the Training Academy and gold would not be the shade she used to describe the new structure.  It was more a cold blue - a strict contrast from the original building on this site.  Dressing it up with cells over spotlights wouldn't change it, only please people for the night. 

The last year had seen little progress or development in the life of Inspector Eleanor Mayhem.  After the events in which the tower was lost and her overexposure in the news she'd almost made an effort to disappear within ACME, the new position allowing her to hide behind towering piles of paperwork or in her laptop.  She'd moved from the dorms on site, finding her own apartment just above a tiny tea shop she'd grown to love locally.  It would be hard to say there was a  distinct change of her day to day demeanor but she lacked a certain fire she'd had, seeming a bit less excited about work. 

As she entered the tower, thanking the people who congratulated her on being one of the three to receive the award this whole media circus was for eyes looked for a figure she was not supposed to be here with... not that she didn't want to.  The year had seen the start of a lot of new things and for Eleanor her new thing was Lee Jordan.  They'd started simple enough - two people who just liked a beer after a long day of dealing with ACME - but now things had progressed quite far.  This was, of course, a fact that ACME would frown upon were anyone to know about it.  The Explosive Expert and the Farmboy were fine but the Inspector and the Informant?  Preposterous! 

Sighing she looked at a small golden watch on her wrist, reaching near blind to grab a flute of champagne from a nearby waiter and taking a sip.  'I swear to God, Lee.' she thought to herself, 'if you're leaving me alone to this thing you're not 'sleeping over' again until the Cubs win the World Series.' 

34 Joe_Kerr


Kidman said: 

"Joe, wait."

Joe sat in the back of a VILE operated cab with Carmine on his lap. He chuckled as he observed his other passenger, Kidman, struggling to glue on her mask of tragedy. Joe hadn't planned for her to tag along but he had found it nigh impossible to deny her when she asked. 

Granted, her company in this 'venture' had increased the number of complications ten-fold but then again he was going to be dealing with ACME and its director of operations, so complications were a given. 

Pulling out a disposable cell-phone he had obtained for just such an occasion, he dialed a collect call to an all too familiar location in the bay area.

"Good evening, may I speak with Chase Devineaux please?"

35 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan reached San Francisco late in the evening, the drive from Long Beach took him almost 7 hours. When he drove into the city, he could see lights bathing ACME's new Accolade like a giant beacon of mankind's achievements and all those things that come with glittery skyscrapers and truckloads of ego.

All he could think about was how close he had been. Back in April, he was contacted by an old friend he knew in jail. Somebody wanted to talk to him. Lee played along, and found himself meeting this old guy in a tweed suit. He was given documents to see, and pictures to identify. At the end of that meeting they understood each other. These guys were looking for Carmen Sandiego, and Jordan would get everything he needed to find her.

Lee took this more seriously than he'd ever taken anything. Over the next few months, he tried to pick up her patterns. She was infiltrating his employer's properties and collecting information, but he could never predict exactly where she was. On occasion, he would intercept messages that read with very little sense, but one word would come up repeatedly: Raphael. 

He knew it was a code, maybe the name of some robot in her little project. His gut told him she was communicating with a sidekick, and this sidekick was a genius. Every time he intercepted a message, Lee would set up trackers for the reply. None ever came, but then Carmen would move to the next location as if she had an overhead satellite telling her exactly where to go. And Lee wouldn't know where she went until it was too late.

When there were less places for her to run, Lee Jordan closed in, and Carmen stopped sending electronic messages altogether. He was waiting for one more blip from her, because he had no other way to verify her location, but now that it looks like his employers had her, Jordan was out of options.

He went back to what he had, that name.

Stopping by Eleanor Mayhem's apartment, Lee opened the door and entered, throwing his jacket down on her couch. The tux he rented was here, hanging on a hook that used to hold a picture of some goldfish, and his laptop was still on the coffee table.

Lee grabbed his computer and did a quick search through the files he acquired. Because he was part of Operation Brimstone, Lee had access to a few necessary information from the theft of ACME Tower 1. But when he tried to read the list of items taken from the tower, he wasn't allowed. Desperate, he looked for E's laptop. 

After a half an hour of looking, Mayhem's Inspector status gave him more information, but still nothing on the files Carmen took. But then he thought about searching randomly for a Raphael. 

Nothing but some boring information on locations like San Raphael in France and a few VILE files where things with similar names got stolen. What caught Lee's attention were transcripts from old sound clips recently digitalised from tapes.

One section read: 

S2112: [inaudible] He's going to kill them!

S1303: Who?

S2112: San Raphael!

Curious, Jordan searched for the clip file and played it. It was the recording of an urgent distress call on a band formerly used to test agent-to-command-centre communications. What he found next coursed raw adrenaline through his veins. The agent labeled "S2112" had the voice of Carmen Sandiego.

Lee Jordan was out of time. He quickly covered his tracks and put everything back where he found them, then haphazardly put on his tuxedo and rushed to the ACME compound. When he got there, a little sweaty, he spotted Eleanor Mayhem looking a little angry.

E_Mayhem said: 
Sighing she looked at a small golden watch on her wrist, reaching near blind to grab a flute of champagne from a nearby waiter and taking a sip.  'I swear to God, Lee.' she thought to herself, 'if you're leaving me alone to this thing you're not 'sleeping over' again until the Cubs win the World Series.' 

"I'm not late!" he said, giving her a breathless kiss on the cheek, then he stopped a waiter and grabbed two drinks, one for him and a new one for E. But when he saw Chase Devineaux at the party, he took a step away from the Inspector before anyone else noticed his entrance.

He was here to support Eleanor on her acknowledgment, but Jordan's head was reeling with what he heard… "San Raphael"..., and he wasn't sure what to do with it.

36 Kidman

Kidman was grateful that Joe had let her come, because she would have gone alone if she had to. The company was appreciated, and Joe always made her feel a little less lost. She knew he probably thought her crazy, but she was past the point of caring. No, that wasn’t true. She cared deeply. She cared for Carmen’s mission more.

And her own safety. Joe was risking his freedom, but to Kidman, she was risking her life. It was essential that she remain hidden. She could not be known.

Originally she had planned on wearing a traditional tragedy mask to compliment Joe's comedy one, but they all seemed too garish, so she had went with a simple white one. It was nearly impassive, but held a sense of sadness, at least to her. She had shaved her head and bandaged up her hands and arms to hide her scars. Her grey clothes and head wrap were loose fitting and bulky enough to hide her shape, and as an extra precaution she had carefully covered the eyeholes of the mask with thin gauze to further conceal her eyes. It wasn't until the last minute that it occurred to her that the mask might be taken from her. It wasn’t really what she wanted to do, but gluing it on was the only way.

“He shouldn’t be able to get it off, though. It would be terrible if he did. If he tries to take it off by force, maybe it will take enough skin to render me unrecognizable. I don’t think he would try. Do you think he would try?” Kidman asked nervously as she tested the mask’s bond.

37 Joe_Kerr (OOC: The following mentions and descriptions of Renee have been approved by the author of Chase)

It was a night to remember. All of ACME’s crime enforcement division was gathered in Accolade, the new ACME Tower, for a party like no other. Tonight was a night of celebration, both of the past and of the future. However, there was one particular ACME employee in Accolade who was not taking part in the festivities.

Whilst her peers were downstairs sipping Champagne, socializing and paying homage to future ACME legends, Renee St Clair was behind her new desk sipping black coffee from her thermos; not that she minded.

With an hourglass figure that most women would die for, and a fair but slightly freckled complexion, Renee could have given any girl in ACME a run for her money; instead, she preferred to tie her chestnut hair up in a ponytail and hide her sparkling brown eyes behind a pair of rimless glasses. She also preferred business suits to evening gowns and a sensible pair of black pumps over fancy glittering footwear.

Renee’s best asset however was her ability to multi-task. The woman could juggle three phone calls at once whilst typing out ninety words per minute and brewing a mean cup of coffee. It was such an ability, coupled with her loyalty to ACME, that made her the perfect candidate to be personal secretary to ACME’s Director of Operations.

Said secretary was at this very moment sorting through emails and catching up on some backlog when the fateful phone call came through.

Being the secretary of the ACME Director of Operations, Renee was used to fielding calls at odd hours and always answered with utmost tact; after all, you never knew who was on the other end of the phone.

“Good evening, Chase Devineaux’s office. This is his secretary speaking. How may I help you?”

“Good evening, I’d like to speak with Chase Devineaux please.”

38 DetectiveAwesome

Dan could have sworn he saw Lee Jordan give Eleanor Mayhem a peck on the cheek. He also saw that Mr. G and Ivy Monaghan were looking mighty cozy when they walked in. It was probably the festive party atmosphere that was bringing people together. 

Maybe it was time he thought about finding a girl and getting serious too. It was hard... He'd only really liked two women in his entire life and they were completely different. There was that kinda-snobby girl, Gabby form Harrods and that other super nice southern girl Lacy Boone that he met in Venice. 

Dan's thoughts were interrupted when he saw Gunnar and a pretty girl who was toying with an engagement ring on her finger. 

"Hey Gunnar!" Dan yelled. "Good to see you back in San Francisco!"

39 Chase

Connie_Girl said: 
As Constance explored the enormous lobby, she found that the many unfamiliar faces made her feel nervous for some reason. This was her first formal ACME ‘party’, and the racket of thunderous voices brought on a slight headache. Brushing a golden lock of curls from her face, Connie headed over to the refreshment area where she found a glass containing some sort of non-alcoholic beverage. Since the festivities weren’t starting for a while, she, keeping an eye out for friends and other interesting individuals, decided to brave another turn around the room.

The Director of Operations was decently happy with the party atmosphere now that drinks were being thoroughly passed around and a live band added music. In addition to the night's champagne, an open bar also served light drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages. Chase headed to it, because he needed water.

A young ACME trainee stood in the area, looking around as if she didn't know anyone, then she walked into the party, and somehow found her way back to the bar again. Devineaux thought she might need help.

"It's a round lobby," he mentioned as he approached her, "It's easy to get lost." Trying to remember her face and name, he concluded he might have seen her kicking down doors in one of the courses. There were only two other trainees in that session, and they were both male.

Carrie, Candace, Cornelia... "Constance," He recalled, "I'm Chase Devineaux." Now what was her last name?

 40 Joe_Kerr

 Joe_Kerr said: “Good evening, I’d like to speak with Chase Devineaux please.”

Renee was intrigued by the voice on the other end of the line. Most official calls from various government departments would start with the caller identifying himself and his rank and department; this one did not sound official in the least.

However, years of experience in ACME had taught Renee never to dismiss any call, no matter how shady.

Calmly, Renee continued to conversation in her most professional manner.

"I'm sorry. Mr Devineaux is at an important function right now and cannot be disturbed. Could I take a message for him instead?"

"Why thank you. Yes you can. You see, I'm an...old acquaintance of Chase's. I've found His Caymen and wish to return it."

At the mention of THE Caymen, alarm bells rang in Renee's head. However, to her credit, she didn't even bat an eyelid before continuing.

"Will there be anything else sir? Would it be possible to have your name and contact details?"

Joe had to admit that he was impressed with the calm of the secretary. Suppressing a laugh, he carried on in his usual whimsical tone.

"Please tell Chase that if he wishes to collect his beloved Porsche, he is to practice, practice, practice...then find a harsh room on 1312 at 1412. You got all that?"

"Yes sir, will there be anything else?"

"Tell Chase that I will be having a companion with me, but it's not a robot or alligator this time."

On cue, Carmine let out a loud meow that was heard cleanly across the line.

Joe let out a small laugh before ending the conversation.

"Chase will know who I am...and don't bother tracking this call. Goodbye."

Renee put down the phone and stared at the conversation she had faithfully transcribed on her notepad. Consequences be damned, she had to notify Chase immediately.

She paused to look at her attire.

"M****!" she swore to herself in French. It was times like these where she wished she hadn't been so practical and had worn something that would have fit in more with the party downstairs.

Back in the cab, Joe had looked at the soon to be disposed of phone and hoped Chase would be able to decipher the clue.

It was then that he noticed Kidman had been trying to ask him something.

"Sorry Kid, you say something?"

(OOC: If anyone can solve Joe's clue as to where and when Chase is supposed to meet him, comment on my profile. First correct guess gets 20 points either to yourself or a person of your choosing.)

(From Chase: Pas de jurons en français ! And it's Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium, December 13, 2:12 PM -- I'm assuming EST. Give me the 20 points, I'll pass it around.)

41 Constance

Chase said: "It's a round lobby," he mentioned as he approached her, "It's easy to get lost." Trying to remember her face and name, he concluded he might have seen her kicking down doors in one of the courses. There were only two other trainees in that session, and they were both male.

Carrie, Candace, Cornelia... "Constance," He recalled, "I'm Chase Devineaux." Now what was her last name?

Chase Devineaux... Constance was slightly startled when the Director of Operations addressed her, but she managed to shake any surprise from her face and gave a large, welcoming grin.
“It’s wonderful to meet you! You can call me Connie, Connie Kitlyn”. The Director of Operations appeared about the same as he did in the newspapers and on TV, although Constance would have sworn he was a bit taller in person -- which was intimidating to say the least. Not that feeling short was a new sensation. Throughout her life, Connie had always felt she was, without fail, predictably the smallest person in the room.

Nervously fiddling with a lock of  hair which kept drifting down across her face, Connie continued. “How is your evening going?”.

42 DericStorm


“Great googly….”

That was the only thing Deric could come up with as he walked into the lobby of the new ACME Tower, dubbed ‘Accolade.’ Driving into the ACME campus every day for the past year since the old tower (and all its memories) had been ripped from them, it was nice to see the constant progress of their new home. Seeing the somewhat finished product, though, was still breathtaking.

In his opinion, this whole shindig was the culmination of a year of major change, not all of it good in the farmboy’s opinion. To say it had been an “interesting” year would be an understatement. At this time last year, Deric thought he would be out of a job due to what happened at the press conference when the original ACME Tower was stolen.

Thankfully, he had been chosen to be on the team that rescued Chief Weller’s granddaughter and the success of that mission had stayed his firing. The rest of the year seemed to be a blur: the botched “extradition”, meeting Cali’s family (which still gave him the cold sweats at times thinking about it), being suspended from field work and temporarily assigned to the Academy and then getting reinstated back to the field. If not for the beautiful woman next to him, Deric probably would have lost his marbles.

Cali wears a long green dress with her blonde hair up in a bun. She looks at the tower with a big smile, this was worth all the fuss that everyone went through. It looked so much better than the old tower, even if the academy staff she works with don’t like its shadow on their smaller buildings so much.

She sees Ivy, Eugene, Daniel Ainsworth, and Eleanor Mayhem near the front, and can see many familiar faces inside. Cali’s left hand picked up her dress while her right held on to Deric.

Lee Jordan is here, Menino” she smiled and whispered into his ear, “you will behave?”

“Sim, querida” Deric sighed in his girlfriend's native tongue and squeezing her hand gently. His dislike of the ACME informant was not exactly a state secret. However, striking him for a second time in front of a large gathering in less than a year would DEFINITELY be the end of his ACME career. “Eu acho que ele poderia ser ocupado na mesma,” he said, noticing the informant currently in conversation with Eleanor Mayhem of all people.

“Isso é bizarro,” Cali commented when she saw the party had many couples she did not remember seeing together before, “It must be holiday spirit.”

“Or really bad taste in men,” Deric joked.

“ACME men are great,” she laughed at his joke, “get me a glass of champagne? Then let’s go in, talk with Ivy.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Deric said as he looked for a waiter. He happened to see a young woman approaching the podium. “Looks like the party’s about to kick off anyway, darlin.’”

43 Gunnar

DetectiveAwesome said: 
"Hey Gunnar!" Dan yelled. "Good to see you back in San Francisco!" 

Gunnar reflexively swiveled his head about to find the speaker, and Gudrun stood up from reclining against her boyfriend.

“Hej hej... Danny,” How has it stood with you?” Gunnar saluted. He turned momentarily to whisper something to his fiancée, and she chuckled and smiled cheerfully at Danny. Gunnar proceeded to introduce his partner. “This is Gudrun, my girlfriend.”

Gudrun stepped forward, brushed her hair back, and offered her hand for Gunnar's fellow detective to shake. “Hallo.”

44 Kidman

"Sorry Kid, you say something?"

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were on the phone...” Kidman said as she readjusted her mask. She didn’t like the way it felt on her face. It was even more constricting than her scars, but it was necessary. If she was ever identified…

A flash of something cut in the corner of her mind and she shivered. After all these years she still didn’t know what it was, but it fueled her fear of something worse than death.

‘And I’m walking right into it.’

For the hundredth time that night she felt the urge to panic and hide in the plane’s lavatory. Kidman dug her nails into her seat.

‘I could just not come out. No one is making me do this. I don’t have to go through with this.’

But as the tide dragged her back to sea, a new wave would push her back towards land. It was not familiar, but was becoming more so at an alarming rate, a roll of fear, hot and colourful, intense with urgency. It wasn’t hers. Her feelings were cold and damp, but this had the sting of lemons and the fire of pepper.

Kidman tugged at her pen.

‘Master… I must be crazy, but is that you? I feel this is you. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s getting so loud.’

“What is Chase like? I’ve only seen his picture.”

45 Rose_Thorn

 Perhaps Abby had underestimated the power of the smile and nod of greeting that she had sent Nevon’s way when she saw he had detained and then sent the unwanted stranger a different direction. He had then gone out of his way to find her in her hideaway and had strategically brought a glass of champagne along. Overall, he was in her good graces right now. 

Nevon said: "I don't really drink but I hold it in case someone wants a toast," he tells Abby as he gave her the flute.

Abby politely accepted the glass of champagne and took a sip. She didn’t like the taste. In fact, She had never like any alcoholic beverages.

"I saw Gunnar with Gudrun coming in, and I think that's Danny over there, want to go say hi?"

Danny who? She was confused for a moment till she realized who he must be referring to. Though, she had never met Daniel Ainsworth, she had heard a great deal about him and had seen him from a distance once or twice. Quite inevitable when they both lived in the same dorm and he was Nevon’s friend.

“Why not?” She walked beside Nevon as they crossed the room toward Daniel Ainsworth.  “Thank you for the intervention, Mr. Blair.  The timing was perfect. ” She removed her gaze from the rest of the room and looked at him before continuing in a good-natured tone,  “I can’t imagine what sort of bait you put out that caused him to overcome his infatuation so quickly.”

46 DetectiveAwesome

SwedishFish said: Gudrun stepped forward, brushed her hair back, and offered her hand for Gunnar's fellow detective to shake. “Hallo.”

"Hello Gudrun. Pleasure to meet you." Danny replied. "You know we wouldn't be here if Gunnar didn't find those safe houses. He's a real ACME hero."

Turning to Gunnar he whispered, "You nervous about the speech, man?"

It was then that Daniel saw Nevon and Abby heading their way. He never remembered seeing them talk before, but Nevon sure did look swanky in that tux... almost like Chase. This ceremony was turning out to be a real reunion.

47 Chase

Connie said: “It’s wonderful to meet you! You can call me Connie, Connie Kitlyn”.

Constance Kitlyn was a petite young woman with intelligence behind her eyes, both of which Chase could tell were studying him. A former recruiter once said that the first fifteen seconds usually revealed more about a person than the next fifteen years. Through Connie's nervousness, Devineaux saw signs of an optimist -- and briefly, he wondered if staying on the bright side of things was to compensate for other events in her life.

Connie said: Nervously fiddling with a lock of hair which kept drifting down across her face, Connie continued. “How is your evening going?”.

"It might be going just a little better than yours," he smiled, giving a hint to her fiddling. Then he noticed Nevon and Dan not far off, along with Abby Thorn and Gunnar Svesson, two agents he had met roughly one year ago.

"Isn't that your sister?" Chase vaguely remembered seeing Abby and Connie together, and made the assumption that they were related.

On stage, Master of Cermeony Ivana Tam walked up to the podium and waited for her cue. The party was about to start.


Renée quickly dialed the numbers assigned to Chase Devineaux. She had only a few ways to reach him when he wasn't physically at the office, one was his communicator unit, two was to parse the call through ACME's Command Center, and the third way, as Mikal Darsha once highlighted to her over a cup of Turkish Coffee, was to use his cell phone. Chase was a very private man, but an extremely stable one. He hadn't changed his cell phone number in over 10 years.

The phone rang, without answer. Then the secretary remembered why, Accolade had a no-cell-phone policy to ensure security. She would have to go to the party to deliver this message herself.

48 Constance

 Chase said: "Isn't that your sister?" Chase vaguely remembered seeing Abby and Connie together, and made the assumption that they were related.

Constance turned in the direction Chase was facing. Just across the room she could see her friend along with a rather handsome man who was decked out in a tuxedo. A slight wave of relief swept over her as she saw that Abby had indeed arrived in one piece and that she was thankfully engaged in what appeared to be a pleasant conversation.

“Oh! Abby is here. That’s good to see. I was afraid she wouldn’t come”. Turning back to face the Director of Operations, Constance carelessly gestured towards her friend. “She isn’t actually my sister, but we’ve known each other for a very long time. We are dear friends”.

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a lady make her way onto the stage. “It looks like the ceremony might be starting soon. What are you looking forward to the most this evening?”

49 DrRoux

Doctor Acton Roux, now on his way to see Vincent Fumigalli, had been perhaps the most devious member of VILE for the entire year that had passed. From the moment he met Carmen Sandiego in Tunisia with the intent, oui intent, to save her from the authorities, he soon came to the realisation that this beautiful woman was (as many have all said) a force of nature.

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

Her words meant everything to him, and faithfully, Acton complied. In one week and a fortnight, he arrived in Florence at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi. The only person there, aside from wandering lovers, was an unassuming old woman with a blue Orenburg shaw over her head. In her arms were a bushel of bright red roses, freshly cut and still drenched in their evening dew, wrapped in a tarp of golden reeds.

As soon as he approached the area, she came to him, the doctor could sense her height was taller than he had perceived. Like the rain, she pressed upon his chest a rose along with a white cotton envelope. He touched the items, and part of her gloved hand, and she was gone.

With nothing left from the meeting now, Acton opened the envelope to read a handwritten note in idyllic cursive.


I must inform you, with regrets, that your employment with us is terminated. Your actions three weeks ago were irrational and a breach of the trust you have pledged.
Your compliance and the respectful manner in which you will present this notice to your superiors is expected.


And thus was the imperative in which Acton Roux had failed to follow. He kept the letter to himself. As days grew into weeks, and months... and it became apparent in VILE that Carmen had not returned, Doctor Roux disregarded her order completely and deemed himself still in her service.

50 Joe_Kerr

Kidman said: “What is Chase like? I’ve only seen his picture.”

"Honestly I don't really know, Kid. I've never actually met the guy yet. If his car is any indication of his personality, he's probably a squeaky-clean boy-scout kinda guy. If I recall correctly, I heard that he was the boss's old partner whilst she was still ACME's star agent. For the boss to trust him or work with him well, that does kinda say something about his character."

Joe neglected to tell Kidman that he hoped that his assessment of Chase was accurate. The last thing they needed was for Chase to pull a 'Lee Jordan' on them.

51 Nevon

Abby said:  “Why not?” She walked beside Nevon as they crossed the room toward Daniel Ainsworth.  “Thank you for the intervention, Mr. Blair.  The timing was perfect. ” She removed her gaze from the rest of the room and looked at him before continuing in a good-natured tone,  “I can’t imagine what sort of bait you put out that caused him to overcome his infatuation so quickly.”

"You're welcome Miss Thorn!" Nevon joked, "Kids from second division are weird like that," he laughed and decided not to tell her he made a silly reference to the Chocolate Fountain, "But if he ever bothers you again, you can just point somewhere and run away when he turns around. They're distracted easily."

When they got to Dan, Nev resisted the urge to chest-bump his buddy in public, especially when Chase Devineaux wasn't far behind them. Blair could see his undesignated mentor talking to Abby's friend, Connie Kitlyn.

"Hey man, cool tux," he said to Ainsworth, then smiled for both Gunnar and his girl. "I'm Nevon," he introduced himself to Gunnar's date, "how long are you guys staying in San Francisco? We should go to that steak place again!"

52 Gunnar

Gudrun tapped Gunnar’s shoulder and looked at him with contained excitement showing in her eyes. She began to mouth the words to a song, nodding her head in a gesture that said, Come on! Gunnar was suddenly aware of what was going on. The traditional holiday melody, “Sankta Lucia”, was being sung a capella by two very tall blondes--musicians featured with the live ensemble--gracefully robed in white and standing at the center of the room. Their Scandinavian tongue he recognized to be Norwegian, but the song was virtually the same, no matter.  It was by now Saint Lucia Day in Europe--how appropriate. Gunnar was enraptured.

“I'm Nevon," he introduced himself to Gunnar's date, "how long are you guys staying in San Francisco? We should go to that steak place again!"

The girl was first to react. “I’m Gudrun,” she replied, shaking Nevon’s hand. “We’ve came to San Francisco for Gunnar’s award.”

Gunnar nodded absent-mindedly, his attention held hostage in a sentimental state; concentrating on the familiar lyrics instead of their company. Gudrun squeezed his arm, and Gunnar reluctantly returned to the conversation. “We are here for only a short time. I must bring her back to her home by midnight.” He paused, realizing that Abby was also with them. “We could eat at the steak restaurant, maybe.” Time to be deflective.

53 Ivy

 Eugene Grovington: 
You know I hate being called that." Eugene Grovington grunted a reply.

Ivy tried to suppress a chuckle. "How about I let you call me 'Ives'... and then we can call it even."

The nickname brought up memories of her time as a junior detective. Even while employed as an academy instructor Ivy Monaghan was known for being lenient, if not slightly hot headed. As Unit Commander however, she knew something entirely different was expected of her. There was more on the line than the education of a few cadets, she was not only leading the charge against VILE, but all of this was being watched. ACME's board, the Director of Operations and a media trend enthralled with the company's latest technological breakthroughs were all waiting to see if the S.T.U.N. project was going to sink or swim. Going back to fieldwork was made easier only because of the familiar faces on Alpha Team, but even that was bittersweet. It was necessary to distance herself from friends to prevent accusations of favoritism. 

The pilot, on the other hand... wasn't officially under her command. 

Ivy's attention was suddenly pulled away when she heard a familiar voice yell "I'm not late!" She turned to see Lee Jordan just as he was handing a drink to Eleanor Mayhem. The ACME informant paused, then suspiciously acquired a paler complexion as he saw Chase Devineaux at the bar. Lee trained with her in Alpha for months. During the course of the year, Ivy had honestly expected him to screw up or betray them, but aside from some unruly remarks about how his female teammates looked in S.T.U.N. suits -- a fact she quickly rectified -- Jordan had performed well... even excelling in certain respects. 

♫ Svart senker natten seg i stall og stuer ♫

Two angelic voices sounded, starting softly before flooding the room in melody. The young women wore white robes, and beckoned everyone inside. It seemed the presentation was about to begin. 

54 Sophie

Doctor Sophie Conrad stood among a small group of physicians from the ACME Medical Center, gently balancing a flute of champagne between her painted fingers as her features illuminated in mutual merriment. Her hair had been carefully spun into a bun that rested on the back of her neck and the jet-black drape of her asymmetrical dress shimmered under the lights as her body shifted. Part of her left arm was covered by the white-coloured silk that formed a contrasting kimono-sleeve and her right arm was bare except for a golden cuff around its wrist.

The contingent had strolled over from the Medical Center and arrived at the expansive main lobby of the Accolade tower at precisely twelve minutes after seven o’clock. They had kept to themselves, seizing the rare opportunity to regale each other with tales of their exploits in the past months, the reprise of life milestones naturally progressing to an energetic discussion of patient events, private and public policies, and diagnostic opinions – subjects that maintained the exclusivity of the group.

In the month of April, she had accepted a new post within the investigative agency that removed her from the Emergency Department and the direct care of members of the public. Although initially hesitant, the arrangement had worked out serendipitously, granting her the opportunity to return to laboratory work – an aspect she had enjoyed since her adolescent years but had had little opportunity to explore after her years in Harvard. She had bought an apartment in the summer and, in September, had begun the fall quarter of the Tetrad Program at the UCSF. Her schedule had been intense since but Wednesdays were always rather leisurely; after a morning meeting, she was quite free to spend the rest of the day as she pleased. Today, she had spent it in readiness for the inaugural Winter Ceremony.

As the group she was in the company of expanded and contracted, her vantage point of the lobby space shifted in the pirouette of movements and Sophie observed the ACME agents arrive in turn. She recognised the majority of them – if not from having taught them in selected Basic First Aid classes, then from having audited their personal folders with the Academy administrators during external survey events and/or to ensure that their certifications were up-to-date in preparation for their assignments. Some faces, as of the shy Constance Kitlyn and the eager Gunnar Svensson, she considered with no insignificant sensation of pride…

55 Rose_Thorn

Abby had never met Gudrun in person, but the moment she saw the cheerful, bright young woman next to Gunnar, she knew exactly who it was. A soft smile flitted over her face when she saw the ring on Gudrun’s hand. He finally did it!

She politely sent a “Good evening, Svensson” towards Gunnar before turning almost eagerly towards Gudrun. “Hello, Gudrun!”
Extending her hand out, she continued, “I hope you’re enjoying yourself this evening.”

56 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said: "Honestly I don't really know, Kid. I've never actually met the guy yet. If his car is any indication of his personality, he's probably a squeaky-clean boy-scout kinda guy. If I recall correctly, I heard that he was the boss's old partner whilst she was still ACME's star agent. For the boss to trust him or work with him well, that does kinda say something about his character."

Kidman fell quiet as Chase’s file photo flickered in her mind.

She quickly pushed it away.

Those eyes… cold, dead iron…

Why would such a person care to help? Perhaps he already knew what had happened to Carmen and was glad. Perhaps he had a hand in it.


And really, what could she do, or Joe, or any of VILE do? They had formed under Carmen’s umbrella, there to serve her intent. What good had they been for her this past year? What were they good for now? All they could do it watch the clock run out, possibly abandoned long before. Had it been worth it to fight? If Carmen was gone…


What good had she been to her?

That stinging question always remained, laced hot beneath the steady wear of worry for her beloved master and binding her resolve when the icy flashes of terror sought to drag her away. She had never...truly...

‘Master...the things I could have done for you, the things I should have told you...but I was scared and really, I didn’t think it mattered. You were happy and eternal and I indulged on your hospitality. Before reality came. Before the nightmares. You’re so human now, so far away. I never got to know you, to be something truly of use, and now it may be too late....’

Tears blurred her vision. Her mask kept her from wiping them away, yet she was thankful to have that cold, hard barrier there. She didn’t want Joe to know. She didn’t want to know herself.

‘Focus. Just focus on this. Do as you’ve been sent to do, and let the rest fall as it may. You owe her that much.’

57 Joe_Kerr

Kidman said: Tears blurred her vision. Her mask kept her from wiping them away, yet she was thankful to have that cold, hard barrier there. She didn’t want Joe to know. She didn’t want to know herself.

Joe was broken out of his thoughts by muffled sniffles. He turned to look at Kidman and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder; as if reading his thoughts, Carmine let out a sympathetic meow to complete the effect.

"I don't pretend to have all the answers or know what exactly is troubling you kid. But just so you know, if you're worried about the boss, you're not alone. I'm worried too and I'll wager that the others feel the same. But you know the boss, she wouldn't advocate feeling sorry for yourself or feeling guilty;she'd want us to learn from what's past, take action in the present and look forward to the future."

At that moment, the cab pulled up to the private hangar and air strip where their jet was awaiting.

"Come Kid, our jet awaits."

As Joe held the cab door open for Kidman, he stared at the awaiting jet and briefly wondered what Chase Devineaux was up to at that moment.

58 Chase

The party was at its peak, with agents and their plus-ones enjoying the firm's first celebration in its iconic new building. Even though most tend to gravitate towards their own peers, people looked like they were having a nice evening.

Connie wrote: Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a lady make her way onto the stage. “It looks like the ceremony might be starting soon.”

That being true, Chase Devineaux decided to walk Connie towards her friends.

Connie said: “What are you looking forward to the most this evening?”

He laughed, then replied, "All of it, really." A part of him meant that. This night was something he looked forward to, and it signified decent closure for ACME since the theft of Tower I.

Ahead, Chase could see a small crowd of young agents. Gunnar Svensson, a Swedish student that will remain in Devineaux's mind as having the biggest personal conflict this year, was now happily holding his long-time flame. Nevon Blair, once dubbed the permanent rookie, was now moving up in the field as one of ACME's best spotters. Daniel Ainsworth, an agent who once thought he could get by on a sports scholarship was now working closely with Bran Ap Brychan as a technician in ACME Labs. Then there was Abby Thorn, a former Navy sniper with the sort of skills that easily found their place in this agency. 

Somewhere to his left was Ivy Monaghan in a golden-yellow dress. Near her was a gentleman, obviously her date, with a matching yellow tie. It took Chase another second before he pegged that man as Eugene Grovington in a suit. Must be last-minute, Chase thought.

Not too far from the couple was Eleanor Mayhem, almost purposefully not looking in his direction, and Lee Jordan, engaged in a conversation with some informants near the entrance.

Making their way from the entrance was Deric Storm and predictably, Cali Corranos. The two met sometime during Deric's service in San Francisco, and even with what Devineaux assumed to be a few rough patches, managed to stay together this year. Calina's strong military influence showed with the way she walked. Always exact, and to the right of her escort. Both were increasingly active in ACME's affairs as agents and instructors, with Deric's time at the academy showing good results on new recruits.

Further to the right was Doctor Sophie Conrad among her friends from the Medical Center. Somewhat solidifying the saying that only doctors could understand one another. As an agent, Chase always had a doctor presiding over his wellbeing. That usually meant a signature that excused him from the unnecessary mid-year checkups. But since Dr. Masek retired earlier this year, Chase had to rely on another friend to sign those papers. While asking Sophie to be his doctor originally meant a free ride, the Director of Operations soon found that it was anything but. She was an attentive doctor that took her job seriously, requesting that they meet every Wednesday morning as a conditional exchange for only one formal medical checkup annually.

Walking past Sophie Conrad was Bran Ap Brychan, ACME's current inventor. Over this past year he made progress with the STUN suits and a few other toys. Items and manuals that were found in the bunker would have made little progress without Bran's help, and for that, Chase was grateful.

Chase Devineaux barely had time to greet anybody else before one of the organizers signalled that the show was about to start. The band finished their session and slowly dispersed.

"I'm needed," he excused himself to Connie Kitlyn and the small crowd of agents, "If you want to hear the broadcast in a different language, listen through your communicators... Sorry to cut this so short." Leaving them with that, he walked past Ivy and tapped her once to remind her that she was next.

The Master of Ceremony, Ivana Tam, began with a thank you and a small introduction of the Winter Ceremony. This was a group of people who worked together, often side by side, and so Ivana made the atmosphere lighter by comparing it to a glorified staff party.

Chase smiled as he soon entered the stage. The director gave a brief year in review of ACME and its future outlook. He threw around a few numbers, and with a nod toward Bran, talked about the technology that brought some of the world's most advanced crime syndicates to its knees. Last, he summed with a fun fact on how the round lobby could amplify noise without amplification. Then to illustrate, he moved the microphone to the side and introduced Commander Monaghan. To stage right, the MC handed him the first medal of the evening.

59 Ivy

When she was growing up in San Francisco, Ivy's father used to drive her and Zack to Glen Canyon Park during the summer. He'd let them run--usually without much supervision--through the rocky terrain and surrounding forests. Liam Monaghan's only clause was that his children must come back with scrapes, grass stains or at least evidence that they had done something productive that day... the more tired and beat up they looked, the better chances they had of getting ice cream on the way home. So it became somewhat ingrained into Ivy's subconscious that days should never be wasted, and hard work had its rewards. Tonight, her team was being rewarded for all the scrapes they had endured over the year. 

A tap on her shoulder jolted Ivy back to the party. She turned to see Chase Devineaux making his way through the crowd.

"That's my cue." The redhead whispered to her date, adjusting his tie slightly before pausing. She tilted her head and smiled to hide her inward nervousness, then followed the director

Ivy waited at side-stage for her turn. She then accepted the medal on behalf of ACME's Alpha Team, a group consisting of Calina Corranos, Deric Storm, Nevon Blair, Daniel Ainsworth, Samyle Fleur Regard, Tanya Erzin and the many agents, informants and other company personnel who placed themselves in harm's way for the operation's success. Finishing her short acceptance speech, Ivy found a way back into her former position in the crowd. She exhaled. Her part in the formalities were over, and now it was time to really celebrate. 

60 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said:

"Come Kid, our jet awaits."

Being in the air always made Kidman happy, and tonight was no exception. The minute the wheels left the tarmac, she was free. She felt the wind in her hair, her face, tugging away at her clothes, despite the fact that she was completely enclosed.

It felt like home.

‘I’m leaving home to help save it.’ She thought as she looked out the window, letting her eyes rest upon the scattered pinpricks of light in the darkness below.

Kidman had never been outside of VILE, not since the day she wandered in, seven, eight years ago? How long was it really?

She didn’t know.

Kidman looked over at Joe. She regarded him as her closest friend, but she really knew little about him. That was how things were in VILE, but at the moment the two were moving outside it. This was a different space. Kidman knew what possessed her to do something this foolhardy, but Joe..

“We’re the only ones crazy enough to do this, and I’m already just crazy, so why you too?”

She paused before adding one more question, one she had never gotten an answer to over a year ago. She had let it drop in the ensuing chaos, but now that they were hurtling into the great unknown together, it occurred to her to ask again;

“Why do you wear your mask?”

61 Flag

Somewhere on E. Airline highway, just off of Interstate 10 in Louisiana, there is a run-down and family-owned gas station that serves soda pop in the type of old fashioned bottles that leaves one suspicious of their shelf life. They also happen to sell the best smelling hot wings ever.

It was very early in the morning (the sun not set to rise for another couple of hours) and the smell of the days first batch of chicken from a couple of streets over made Flag all too aware of the fact that he hadn't eaten in nearly a day. He also hadn't slept, which now had him planning a breakfast of fried farm bird and coffee. Though unhealthy, it was better than what he just fed the Louisiana wildlife.

He rinsed off his bolt cutters and cleaver before throwing the rest of the hobo he met yesterday into the swampy waters of the bayou. Overall, cleanup was easy as last nights ritual left the vagabond little more than a dried hunk of meat. 

The conjuration had started off well, giving Flag the hope that finally had all he needed to go home, but things started going downhill as the diamond took on a red color from the blood it absorbed. Once the amulet gained a metaphorical sense of awareness,  it became greedy and gorged on whatever life force it could consume before exploding.

The biggest disappointment regarding the diamond was in how hard it had been to locate and aquire. With the death count reached in containing the expensive charm, Flag had been almost certain that it would be the diamond that succeeded where the others had failed. Now he had to consider following the handful of leads he received when he first started this quest.

One such lead that stood out was from his former accomplice, Ti-Jean. A private VILE member who was a king of couture when he wasn't being a gadget wizard. According to him, a place called Christie's in New York was going be be putting up a rare, internally flawless, natural diamond up for auction in a few days.

With the body cleanly disposed of, Flag made his way up the embankment and towards his car. While pondering the best way to attend the auction, he put his tools in the trunk and removed his personal effects from the back seat. He then put the car in neutral and gave it a hard push into the swamp, where it too would benefit a number of fish.

Shortly afterward, he was on the phone. As the highways  name indicated, there was an airport not to far away. If he could walk there in time, he might be able to be in the Big Apple by the days end.

62 Joe_Kerr

Kidman said:

“We’re the only ones crazy enough to do this, and I’m already just crazy, so why you too?”

She paused before adding one more question, one she had never gotten an answer to over a year ago. She had let it drop in the ensuing chaos, but now that they were hurtling into the great unknown together, it occurred to her to ask again;

“Why do you wear your mask?”

 Joe smiled and sipped his flute of Champagne before answering.

"Crazy, I've always believed, is a matter of perspective. What is unreasonable and insane to one man may be perfectly rational to another. As for why I have chosen to pursue this particular course of action, I believe that I am doing what the boss would do given the situation. She has never been one to shy away from taking necessary risks if it meant doing what she felt needed to be accomplished. Now that the situation involves saving her or at least everything she's worked for, how could I, as her friend and loyal subordinate, do anything less than take the same type of risks she would take in such a situation?"

Joe paused and took another sip before continuing.

"That, and I have really been meaning to return the Cayman. I don't make it a habit of borrowing personal property for too long. The Cayman joke ran its course long ago and were it not for the chaos of the past year, the car would have been returned sooner. Guess in that way, Chase can only blame himself for me keeping the car longer. Hyuck hyuck!"

Joe was about to turn his attention to other matters when Carmine's earnest meow reminded him of Kidman's other question. He turned to face Kidman and took off his mask, holding it in his right hand.

"With regards to my mask, there are many reasons I wear this. On one hand, this mask serves as protection and distraction. There is a gas mask feature of sorts built into my mask; this keeps me immune to the effects of my own 'gags'. The mask also protects my real identity, enabling me to use my real identity as a disguise to blend into a crowd. 

By protecting my identity, I also protect my friends and loved ones who are not involved in my chosen profession. Make no mistake, we make plenty of enemies in our line of work, some more ruthless than others; such would not hesitate to retaliate against my innocent friends and loved ones if they knew who I was behind the mask.

The mask, as part of the Jester's costume, serves as a distraction for my foes, making them underestimate me or simply drawing their attention away from what's really important - sort of like misdirection in a magic act.

Of course, the mask also prevents others from reading my facial expressions and thoughts; a handy thing when dealing with others who might not be so honour-bound."

Joe then turned the mask around in his hand so that it smiled at him.

"On the other hand, I guess you could say that this mask is as much a part of me as my own hands. You see, there's an unwritten rule, a tradition of sorts in any performing art; the performer, when he's on stage, takes on a different persona from his own. Often times, the persona in question is larger than life because its what the audience is paying to see. It can be the persona of the character one is portraying in a script of simply the persona of what one wishes the audience to see him as.

In essence, every performer wears a mask of sorts when performing. Its a mask of professionalism in their work; a mask that hide their true emotions and feelings and instead portrays to the audience a larger than life character. Yet the most interesting part, and the part they don't tell anyone, is that the 'mask' is an extension of the actor; it is a part the performer that he only is able to let free on stage; a part that otherwise would remain hidden, bound by social convention, emotional restraint and practicality.

I am no different. I am, in my view, a performer. My chosen act is the carefully orchastrated heist and my stage is the world. My audience is the public, the police and anyone else involved. When I 'perform' I wear my mask to portray the larger than life jolly thieving jester that people expect to see pull these crazy heists off. Yet, the mask is also a side of me; my sense of humour unrestrained if you will.


Joe paused to spin the mask around with a flourish before donning it again, " why I wear the mask."

63 E_Mayhem [Joint post - first Chase, then Eleanor]

With Ivy leaving the stage, the MC briefed the crowd on available declassified information of Ivy's exploits with Alpha team. This was mostly limited to the numbers of VILE's bases raided by ACME so far.

Then she turned her attention to another key member of the team,
Inspector Eleanor Mayhem.  Eleanor dissected the original evidence left by VILE as well as reviewed security footage that led to the first set of raids.

Ivana handed Chase a velvet box as E. Mayhem arrived on stage.
Devineaux thought about how he met Eleanor several years back. She was a Detective then, and her ambition led to a position as Special Agent in the field, but unlike other agents at her level, she lacked authentic respect for the system that held ACME together. Mayhem was guided purely by her emotions, and while that fiery drive made her do bold things, the board found them too reactionary to be rewarded...

And yet the man whose career she took action for was now Director of Operations. If Chase could go back and replay his last long conversation with E, he would have started with a simple thank you. He might have added too that she played an underlying part in his own growth as a leader. But that was a year ago, and this distance between them seem to only grow with time. Anything that would have been healed with an 'I was wrong, I'm sorry,' at least for this Director, faded beneath layers of ice.

"Inspector," Chase gave an affirming nod as she approached.

"Director," Eleanor nodded back as she took the stage, hardly letting her eyes linger on him as she put down her lifted skirt once she finished taking the wood stage steps and turned to the microphone with a neutral smile.  "Chief Weller, Esteemed Board and all of ACME's finest..."

Obligation.  There was something sort of sad about thinking of the acceptance as an obligation but there it was.  While there was some validity to the award, sure, there was an underlying sense of this being the board of directors trying to smooth things over from the last year.  Make things look hunky dory.  The fact that she was receiving the award alone and not with the group she'd worked directly with was a great tip off to her theory and if she didn't believe it before one look at Barbara Rosen, the board's most venomous member and the smile on her face was enough to confirm it.

It was, she thought, a decent speech.  Well practiced, though not to the point of sounding hoaky or fake.  It covered most bases, taking just an extra moment to give a shout out to the C-5 department, once her second most disliked department, who she'd become much more friendly with since the former computer engineers who'd run the world's most sophisticated travel system was now reduced to little more than ACME's travel agency, before finishing; just long enough to be considered proper, just short enough to make sure no one got bored. 

Finishing with a final 'thank you' she turned to Chase, accepting her medal with a blanket politeness to a rousing applause before making her way back down from the stage, careful of her dress before being handed back her champagne flute by one of the C-5 engineers.  As they started to announce the next award recipient she shot Lee a look, her urge to crawl out of the crowd and into a pint of Sam Adams Octoberfest never more clear on her face. 

64 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan watched Eleanor's speech with interest, he had to, he was studying how people like her get along so well with the rest of the company. This year had been great for him. He's got more field work than he ever wanted to log, and all under Chase Devineaux.

Working with this Director of Operations, even as far down as a class C Informant, Lee was learning more than he thought he would. This came from Chase's level of expertise, and how listening to him meant a job done right. After so many things going wrong for Jordan, this level of respect for Chase grew out of experience more than plain idolisation. 
Watching the man on stage reminded Lee that if anyone could find Carmen Sandiego, Lee hated to admit, it had to be Chase Devineaux.

Lee walked outside to get better reception for his phone, and started to work on forwarding what he had been gathering while working with the man in the tweed suit. To make sure the messages to Chase were anonymous, Lee Jordan used a series of proxies that he'd used effectively before. Every informant needs his own network, and Lee was building a strong one.

He knew E's speech was going to be exactly 2 minutes, and before his clock ran to that mark, he walked back inside to meet her eyes signalling escape and ice cold beer. That was his job. So he casually pointed a thumb towards his parked Corvette outside to show that she can meet him there after she dodges a few prying people.

65 Chase

As soon as Eleanor Mayhem walked off, Ivana Tam began a series of honorary awards for agents world wide that played a large role in securing opposition hideouts. First up was a young woman, Nina West, for her job on uncovering Canadian routes used by VILE's henchmen. Then a series of agents from large networks in Brazil, South Africa, Mainland China, Australia, and the European Union received medals for their work.

Last up was Scandinavia, and a young agent named Gunnar Svensson. When Ivana handed Chase the box, her heel hooked on a wire under the podium and she nearly dropped the medal. Devineaux caught it, giving the MC a chance to make a quiet comment, thanking the fact that this stage was lined with velvet so she didn't just slip off. Because of Accolade's round lobby and sound directional design, the audience heard it and laughed lightly.

"Svensson," Chase greeted with a handshake as the Swede arrived.

66 Gunnar

“Good evening, Svensson.”

Gunnar cringed under Abby’s glance as she greeted him, and nodded nervously. “Good evening, Abby.” He withdrew a sheet of paper from one of his suit pockets. Abby had written out a speech for him, to aid in his English. He grasped the paper tightly, as if all was lost if someone were to snatch it.

He was also incredibly anxious, not sure how Abby would react to only now finding out that he had committed himself to his long-time ‘not-girlfriend’. He was saved--whether it be from his own conscience, or the reality of whatever verbal punishment was to come--as the Master of Ceremonies announced his name and requested his presence on the stage. He patted his fiancée gently on her back endearingly, gaining a bit of confidence, before stepping up on to the stage.

"Svensson," Chase greeted with a handshake as the Swede arrived.

The young Swede grimaced and delicately laid the speech in front of him, stuttered a shy greeting to the crowd, and searched for a point in the room to focus on in order to distract from the audience he had to ‘acknowledge’. He decided to gaze in the direction of the band, since he reasoned they would not be much concerned with what he had to say. He scanned one last time over the document--surprised, and almost uttering the words to a personally addressed note that he had not previously noticed.

He lost what little sense of calm he still had in him as his face flushed, and with a wipe of his brow and a greater lack of composure, he forcefully commenced his speech.

“When you run alone on a country road in middle-of-nowhere, you can never see that you can actually accomplish. There is none to compare yourself with, no record to beat, no finish line to cross. It is only when you choose to put yourself out on that track, then you can truly see what you are made of.

“If we do what is required from us, we shall finally see those who deserve recognition. I can not take full credit for the actions I performed which give me this recognition. The people who helped me become who I am deserve everything. Thanks to these persons with my career. My accomplishments were not possible without they.

“First, my superior, Annelien--she is not here in San Francisco. Also, thanks to Deric Storm--my operation-training instructor. Mostly, to my good friend, Abby--who has written much of this speech, thanks so much. And all else to my best, dearest girl in the world, Gudrun. Jag älskar dig.”

Gunnar gulped, then clumsily picked up his speaking guide and more-or-less rushed off the stage.

(Thanks to Rose for actually writing out Gunnar’s speech!)

67 Narrator (Macy Gartner is an NPC created by Tanya for reporter purposes, she's written here by Mikal.)

The MC wrapped up the awards and gave another round of thanks. Then, in a few sentences, she announced that the award part of the party was over. Everyone was free to enjoy the rest of the evening, and press, along with interested parties, were invited to a position near the stage where Accolade's Architect Walter Taut would begin the tour.
Macy Gartner, a gutsy reporter working for IBN (International Broadcasting Network), immediately took her position. Her biggest assignment this year was to follow the ACME story. What began as a sensational "Sixteen-storey building disappeared into thin air" headline turned into a layered tale on how a multinational law enforcement agency rose against adversity.

At its head was almost a mythical figure: a charismatic, handsome man with the kind of attractive, winning smile that people craved. In one way or another viewers gravitated to him. This was an angle that Gartner liked best for her stories, and because more people watched IBN than other networks, this was how most of the world saw ACME's Director of Operations.

Privately, no one knew anything about him. Aside from minor rumours that were untested, nothing was known about this man outside of his profession. A little mystery spun a long way, and now, even those manning the news desk wanted to know just who was Chase Devineaux. This is why quiet press-invited events like the Winter Ceremony were so important to reporters.

Macy stood in front, waiting for the two men who were going to show reporters around ACME's new Accolade; German architect Walter Taut, and Director of Operations Chase Devineaux. She looked around, seeing rivals Ronda Graham, Timothy Welts, and Catalina Quita. Vultures, she thought, all of them.

68 Patty-Larceny

Somewhere in Europe

Patty Larceny rushed from the airport, grabbing a cab to the nearest city then renting a bike to take all the way up to the abandoned theater. 
It's been a while since Patty had been in this part of Europe, especially so close to farms she could smell the cows. Gross. 

The last time she was in this country, she was going through the other half of her college. Now that she's working towards the rest of her degree in France, and VILE was being attacked by ACME left and right, she had been keeping a low profile.

Low, but not completely gone.

Patty did her best to keep both her studies and her role in this organisation going in the right direction. When she wasn't in school, Patts relayed messages from one VILE location to another. She even worked on a little secret mission to help deliver a certain musical instrument somewhere important.

All this hadn't dimmed the smile on the blonde's face as she raced on her yellow and red standard 2-wheel bike down the road. Though there was a huge scare somewhere during June where she was sure Carmen would never come back. She spent almost a third of her summer bursting into tears whenever someone mentioned 'Carmen'. It stopped when she didn't have time to cry anymore. All of VILE was working, and Patts had help to make it thrive.

When she got to her destination, she was surprised to see people already working on the theatre. Some kind of reconstruction was going on. Throwing her bike to the side, the blonde made her way into the building to see who else was around.

69 E_Mayhem

E kept Lee's look for a moment, giving a very slight nod before turning her back completely to him, facing towards the stage as if listening politely as her hand moved to her back, stretching fingers outward, signalling she'd be with him in five minutes.  Afterall, Lee could move more quietly among the crowds while she would have a harder time of it due to higher profile and all that.  Listening to Gunnar's speech she sipped her champagne quietly, waiting until he'd finished before excusing herself from the group she was next to, saying she needed to 'powder her nose' and making a beeline for the back of the groups towards the bathrooms, placing her empty flute on a serving tray.  With all eyes on the next speaker she walked calmly past the bathrooms and out the nearest and most quiet side door, giving a nod to the guard who gave one back. 

The heels she wore were a bit narrower than usual, making her pace a bit slower than she would have had it during a normal 'escape' but there was very little need to think of it as a black corvette pulled up beside her once she was far enough away from the building to not be seen easily and the window rolled itself down and Lee Jordan's sly grin could be seen as she carefully climbed in.  She paid special care for the skirt, making sure it was in before closing the door.

Waiting until the car drove off property she leaned over and placed a kiss on his cheek before she started to undo the pins in her hair. 

70 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan spent time periodically checking his phone on the upload status. Gigabytes of high quality sound files, video footages, and images all in obscured randomness.  Jordan's brain wasn't able to piece these things together, but he hoped Chase's might.

He started the car and drove up to the exit where Eleanor was waiting. He liked the way she looked. A Lot. The access she had as Inspector wasn't something Lee had planned to use, it only came naturally. But Jordan wasn't worried about how long he could keep this up, as long as her need to push her boss away gave Lee this sweet deal, he was good for it.

"So where to?" he said after she came in, gave him a kiss, and started undoing her hair, "everything's pretty much closing soon, if you don't have anything in mind, why not Ocean Beach?"

He waited for her to think out the answer, driving slow and checking his phone to keep his proxies monitored.

71 Zack December 12 2012


Starbucks across the street from ACME


It had been a very long year for the younger of the Monaghan Siblings.

For more than half the year, Zackary had been in school, attending Harvard and finishing his double major in Linguistics and Computer Science with honours. The rest of the year had been dedicating to  heavily studying Parkour and attempting to get some more physical training in an art of combat so that if he was ever in the field again, he would be able to defend himself probably.

“If” being the key word.

He had taken a leave of absence for schooling and personal reason earlier that year, and did not really keep in too much contact.  When something important happened, like the last ACME Tower’s unfortunate demise, he attempted to help, but wasn’t able to get there on time.  That happened every time, and

As of right now, Zackary Monaghan felt out of place and useless for going back to ACME.

 He wasn’t at the party… not yet anyway.

Zack was sitting at a table by the window at Starbucks, sipping a Pumpkin Spice Latté and hearing the two baristas on duty named Debbie and Nancy yap on how some person named Alma stole Debbie’s sweater.  Where he was located,  he had a  clear view of the ACME Lobby. Sure. He couldn’t see what was going on in there, but he knew exactly what was happening.  It was the ACME Winter Award Ceremony, and had been cordially invited to go there by no other than  his sister, Ivy.

He had dressed for the occasion, wearing a sports jacket combo.   His phone was out, in his hand, staring at the invitation from Ivy:

Lil'Bro, I know we haven't gotten to talk much since you've been off training. I really hope you can make it to the Winter Ceremony. It would mean a lot to me. – Ivy

He breathed deeply, got up and walked out of Starbucks, tossing his now empty beverage container in the trash.  He darted across the empty street and quietly let himself into the ACME Party, hoping that no one would notice his entrance.

By the time he got in, the ceremony was just about to start.   He stayed for all of the speeches, and once the MC announced the party was about to begin, he grabbed a drink off from a waitress passing by and began to mingle, trying to find Ivy.

72 E_Mayhem

"Sounds great." E sighed softly, removing the last hairpin and putting them into her tiny matching purse before pulling out her blackberry and checking for any last minute work related messages, slipping off her 3 inch heels.  Her hand reached to the window, rolling it down and letting the wind rush against her as she looked at the rear view mirror, the new ACME tower Accolade still in the distance as they left.  She gave a stretch and raked her hands through her hair, shaking loose the hairspray that still held some of her hair in place before looking over to Lee and smiling. 

"Thanks for getting me out of there... I, uh, I've never really been one for the big events like that..." she grumbled, then looked back to the tower in the rear view which was just now leaving her line of sight, though the spotlights they used to light it still lit up the night sky.  "I mean there was still the tour but if you've seen inside one modern designed soulless building you've been in them all.  They can dress it up however they like, that thing can't touch the design of the original tower."

Realizing that she'd sounded a bit negative she smirked and looked over to Lee.  "You look good... I don't know if I got the chance to tell you.  Who'd have thought you'd clean up this nice, huh?"

73 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said: That..."

Joe paused to spin the mask around with a flourish before donning it again, " why I wear the mask."

Kidman looked at Joe, somewhat overwhelmed. She hadn’t expected him to answer at all. It was a lot to digest, and a good deal of it was temporarily lost to her, so she fiddled with the grey scarf that covered her head and shoulders in embarrassed silence.

“You have a kind face. I like it.” She said at last, seizing upon the first thing that had stood out to her. She had never seen Joe’s face before now. He was handsome, she decided, with kind, yet weary eyes. The eyes of someone who had seen a lot.

“Master is lucky to have you, and I’m glad you’re here. Usually… usually I’m not too good with happy people, but you seem to be…”

Kidman found herself at a loss to describe it.

“Like you have a lot of anchors in a lot of places that makes you steady, so that you can be happy without being stupid-”

She caught herself. ‘Is that what I think? Happiness is stupid?’

“I mean that, everyone before, all happy about the tower, and they forgot reality, but you were…”

Kidman paused.

“I can’t grasp what you are.”

Her voice was a little lower, a little older.

She ran her fingers along the edge of her mask, noting the cool, smooth, impersonal barrier she wore. Or rather, wore her. She had no real connection with the thing like Joe did. His was a proxy, an object to project through. Hers was a wall. Kidman gazed out the window at the thin rivulets of rain that laced across, falling mesmerized by them until she realized she had become thirsty. She reached for a glass, then stopped and touched her glued mask in dismay.

“Oh cor… I didn’t quite think this through, did I?”

74 Joe_Kerr

Joe let out a small chuckle as he observed Kidman's antics. Briefly he wondered what was it about the girl that made him open up to her. Had it been anyone else, he probably wouldn't have answered so directly. 

True, he had grown rather fond of her and started treating her like a niece; but was that all?

He wondered if the dreams he'd been having recently had made him more sentimental. No, those weren't just dreams, they were memories. Memories that had slowly been returning for some reason; memories of her...

Joe broke out of his trace through sheer willpower. 

I can't afford to be distracted right now, not when Carmen, nay, the world as we know it is at stake. 

Clearing his head, Joe turned his attention to Kidman and pulled out a small vial out of his pocket. 

"I need to confess. When I figured that you were going to try to glue the mask on, I switched your superglue with my tricky glue when you weren't looking. The tricky glue isn't as strong as the superglue so you won't need a strong solvent to get rid of it. The liquid in this vial will dissolve the tricky glue easily without having any toxic effect. It shouldn't harm the mask either."

Joe casually tossed the vial to Kidman before turning back to the window of the jet.

75 Suhara

Suhara Nakamura attended the first annual Winter Ceremony at ACME's new Accolade with much pride. To see all the new young faces remind him that life moved in motion. Nearly thirty years ago, when Nakamura began to pick and train young agents, he never imagined to have a hand in producing such wonderful human beings. ACME was brimming with talent. Even Barbara Rosen, the board's most decisive member, looked like she was enjoying the atmosphere. 

As soon as the MC announced that the awards section was over, Suhara knew it was time to leave. He grabbed his cane and stood up, when a cold hand touched his arm.

"I'm leaving too," Barbara Rosen informed, "How are you heading back?"

"Barbara-san," Suhara smiled, "My apartment isn't far."

Without another word, Rosen led him to her car where a driver awaited. As the board member and retired agent entered the back seat, Barbara proceeded to tell this driver to go in circles while they talked.

"You are nervous, Barbara?" the Japanese voiced his observation, "On a night like this?"

"Do you remember how we got here?" a distant, placid tone in Rosen's statement evoked an instant memory for Suhara.

A board meeting, so long ago, when a younger Nakamura was given the task of recruiting new agents for a radical program funded by multiple parties. Barbara Rosen presided as the project's lawyer. It was her job then to find loopholes. Several agents were secured from military branches worldwide, but due to availability, agents within the United States were preferred.

This venture eventually created four highly talented agents, each with their own title. San Michael, the leader; followed by San Gabriel, San Raphael, and San Uriel. The 'saints', given absolution to perform sensitive tasks, answered to a Global Operations Director (GOD) that comprised of confidential members of the Board.

Every three years, ACME replaced their saints, and it was the job of Suhara Nakamura to find suitable candidates.

As the program gained momentum, the Directors became bolder. At one point, Suhara was told to find younger recruits that would be groomed. Rosen, while initially against the idea, facilitated by finding private orphanages that secretly partnered with the agency. Years of research led to many failed attempts, and one crowning achievement. 

A young girl, discovered walking the streets of San Francisco alone, was immediately flagged by recruiters as she entered the system. Nakamura, the first to interview her, became very interested when her caretakers revealed her unusual physical flexibility. She fell one night from the top bunk of a bed and twisted her ankle 120 degrees. The girl then corrected her limb and climbed back to bed with seemingly no pain.

A decision was made to develop her, among others, in the form of "special classes". 

Observant, quiet, and unable to communicate in English, she was taught the art of infiltration before she understood words. Trainers remarked it may have caused significant confusion, and the girl didn't learn to speak until nearly two years later. 

Then in her teens, they welcomed her to the academy; and by early adulthood, she proved worthy of a position among the 7th generation of Saints -- as San Uriel -- the team's key infiltration and the only member to come directly from within the agency. 

Seven was the last set of saints. For over two decades, this program gave ACME its indisputable edge and provided much needed funding for innovations such as the C-5 transporter. As the era ended, big changes happened. The Saints program evolved into Special Operations where agents still work on covert missions under a promising young Field Director, Carmen Sandiego and her league appeared as the agency's new adversary, and former executives resigned out of guilt, catapulting both Barbara Rosen and Everard Weller into the ACME Board of Directors. Suhara was given the option, but he humbly refused, choosing to remain more a consultant than an active controller.

"Yes," Nakamura answered, "I remember very well."

"Then you know why I'm nervous," Barbara sounded like she wanted something done immediately but lacked the resources, "thirty years of work, twenty-one lives in the program, and a misstep ruined it."

Suhara acknowledged with a moment of silence, then he turned to look at Accolade in the car's rearview mirror, "Justice, sooner or later, must unveil all that is corrupted."
Rosen took a cold breath the way she often did before every difficult decision.

"I don't want anything unveiled," the former lawyer admitted, "We buried so much."

"Why are you thinking about this now?"

"Because she took the files before we could destroy the tower, Suhara, and now she has gone quiet. What do you think she's doing?"

"I do not think that she is the one we must watch."

Rosen looked at Suhara. Initially puzzled by his words, she soon understood his direction.

"Have your driver drop me off at home, Barbara-san," Nakamura ended, "We should speak more on a less tiring night."

The former lawyer agreed and followed through. She didn't want to bring the topic up again, after all these years, but here at ACME's peak… one can't help but wonder how things could be going so well. 

76 Chase

With the party winding down, Chase Devineaux walked to find Walter Taut. The next leg of the night would be a press tour of Accolade's first functioning floors. He could make out Zack, Ivy and Eugene, Deric and Cali, then Nevon, Dan, and their group, as well as Sophie in the crowd behind reporters awaiting the presentation.

As he met the architect, a fast-moving trajectory in the form of a woman caught his peripheral vision. Chase turned to find Renee purposefully marching past party guests.
"Director," she said, "I'm sorry, I couldn't reach you. I believe this message is urgent." She handed him a note on pad paper with an embossed ACME logo. 
Chase deciphered the message as he read it.

"And Mr. Masters called, he said that your digital storage is reaching its limit," the assistant continued, "Should I go back to check at the office?"

"No," the Director of Operations replied, "Go to command and tell them to make an official call to Carnegie Hall. I'll need passive patrol at the Stern Auditorium on December 13, from round 1300 to 1500 hrs."

Renee stood firm, looking at her boss cautiously.

"Sir," she noted with respect, "It's 1:00 AM in New York."

Devineaux nodded, "And it's 9:00 PM here. Pass my instruction along, then go home and get some sleep, Renee. Good night." While speaking, he folded the note to a crisp edge and pocketed it. 

"Lovely girl," Architect Walter Taut commented quietly.

"My assistant. Something came up," Chase gave his usual line, and the kind expression on Taut's face assured that he had heard something like this before.

"I will take care of the tour," Walter said proudly, "You go. Man muss das Eisen schmieden, solange es heiß ist."

"Besten Dank," replied the Director as he headed out of the building. 

Near the entrance, he retrieved his coat and cellphone. The communicator's notice window showed a missed call from his personal assistant, and several messages of incoming files to his digital box.

Immediately, he contacted Mikal in the Intelligence department, "My box is being flooded," he said, "more files are still coming in, I need you to trace them for me."

The Israeli understood, telling Chase that the large amount of incoming files were already flagged for observation, but they were being met by layers of nonsense. All he could say now was that Techs detected no attached virus.

"Keep me posted," Devineaux disconnected as he entered his temporary office. 

Located among older buildings in the academy section of ACME compounds, the space was clean, but permeated with the scent of age. Sun-faded wall papers, hardened old book shelves, and wooden file cabinets surround a sheet-metal desk of coated steel. Unlocking his computer, he opened the first set of files as he took a seat. The leather swivel chair groaned in protest. With his eyes reading incoming contents on the high-density liquid crystal monitor, the Director of Operations unfastened his cuff links and loosened his bow tie in preparation for the foreseeable long night ahead. 

77 Rose_Thorn

Rose_Thorn said:
She politely sent a “Good evening, Svensson” towards Gunnar before turning almost eagerly towards Gudrun. “Hello, Gudrun!”
Extending her hand out, she continued, “I hope you’re enjoying yourself this evening.”

“Hallo,” the young lady answered, quickly clasping hands with this latest acquaintance before observing, “You know my name.”

 Abby had not known what to expect in the greeting, but the warmth was delightfully strange.

“Of course!”  She took a step back. “I’m sorry for not properly introducing myself.  I am Abigail Thorn.”   

Gudrun’s eyes widened and she grasped the other woman’s hand with increasing vigor. She recognized the name as belonging to one who had conversed with her over the phone at a previous time. “Abigail Thorn! You’re Gunnar’s friend who ringed me! It’s great to meet you now.”

Abby gave a fleeting glance Gunnar’s way. Inwardly she wished he hadn’t been there. In a previous conversation he had been so upset at her for calling Gudrun, she recalled.

“Yes, I am Gunnar’s...friend...” Another look rather pointedly in Gunnar’s direction. “...Who called you.” She finished with a cheerful smile.  Her attention was brought back to the shiny ring on Gudrun’s finger. “I think congratulations are in order.”

Gudrun followed her gaze and smiled humbly, then splendidly. “Yes, thank you.” She relinquished her hold in their handshake and followed with a brief, one-armed side hug of Abby. “I’m very glad to see you. You’re a kind girl,” she complimented following.

The hug and then the compliment took Abby by great surprise. The sad thing was that she couldn’t remember the last time someone gave her a genuine compliment just for being who she was. Scratch that, genuine compliments? What were they?

“I’m glad to finally meet you, too, Gudrun. I wish you and Gunnar the best.”  

During the latter part of their conversation, Gunnar had made his way up to the stage. Now he took his place.  As soon as she saw that all were preoccupied with the main event, she slowly made her way towards the door, figuring that the moment the speeches were ended, she could safely escape, having done her duty. Home was sounding pretty nice.

Turning around, she was stopped abruptly. There was Connie standing behind her. No...she would just have to appear now.

“Are you enjoying yourself?” She whispered as she went to stand beside her friend.

78 Nevon

With the party ending, Nevon saw people splitting into two groups: Leaving, and Touring. Blair could see Chase Devineaux's secretary giving him a message, and the Director rushing out like he's Batman. Then Nev began to imagine Chase with an "ACME Mobile"… like a bat mobile except it would have its own C-5 unit, lasers, and runs on green energy… By the time he finished his thought, his friends were already in conversations of their own.

"Uhm… Guys, I'm going to stay for the Accolade tour," he announced to his friends, "If you're heading out, I'll see you guys around. Keep in touch, I want steak soon."

79 Lee-Jordan

Even before all his messages were sent, ACME was pinging back, trying to trace him. Lee at least had this part covered. This network was how he could anonymously send Eleanor's "plea for Devineaux" video to IBN last year. It was a good prank, funny for Lee, and funny how people change after you get to know them.

Eleanor Said: "Thanks for getting me out of there... I, uh, I've never really been one for the big events like that..." she grumbled, "I mean there was still the tour but if you've seen inside one modern designed soulless building you've been in them all.  They can dress it up however they like, that thing can't touch the design of the original tower."

While files were transferring, Jordan almost heard her say "…you've seen one Chase, you've seen them all. Chase can dress up however he like, but he's not the same Chase Devineaux."

Lee had to look back at E for a few seconds to understand her.

Eleanor Said: "You look good... I don't know if I got the chance to tell you.  Who'd have thought you'd clean up this nice, huh?"

"I do it for you!" he said with a smirk, "Let me see that fancy award they gave you."

He drove, turning into Ocean Beach at the sign.

80 Bran_ap_Brychan

While the speakers addressed the people who filled the lobby of Accolade, Bran used the time to observe the gathering. It was a large party. Many faces belonging to countless agents and students were unknown to him. Some faces were familiar. All appeared to be enjoying themselves. And they should be. ACME deserved this.
As the MC finished with her closing statements, Bran quickly scanned the crowd for his promising lab assistant, Daniel Ainsworth. Tonight a party raged throughout the ACME campus. Tomorrow all would be quiet and Bran would return to his secret work beneath the depths of the earth. For this he required Daniel. The labs under Accolade were old and dusty. Throughout the past year, Bran and Daniel, along with others, had tackled the enormous project of cleaning, sorting, and, all in all, creating, in the discovered bunker, a new lab worthy of ACME and it’s accomplishments.
Come morning, Bran and his assistant would rise with the sun, or rather before it, and continue with their efforts. As a reward for Daniel’s hard work throughout the year, Bran planned to finish their work early and explore the maze of caves which snaked below the ACME campus.

Upon spotting the familiar face, Bran strode across the room to where Daniel stood, waited until he appeared free from conversation, and then addressed his assistant.

“Good evening, Mr. Ainsworth. I hope you’re enjoying the... umm... gathering”.

81 DetectiveAwesome

Dan always liked how Mr. Bran Brychanson was so formal. He had learned a lot from working with the Welshman, and over the year they had spent a majority of time relocating the most important aspects of the labs into a newly discovered bunker which stood under the former ACME building. The ACME Tech boys had dubbed it 'The Batcave' because when it was first discovered, it simply looked like a network of natural caves with flooded areas that rose with the tide waters of the bay. Other parts were obviously man-made, and this was where Bran had set up a base to catalog what ACME technology the found and start a base of operations for new work... like the S.T.U.N. suits and his biodegradable car. 

"Hey, Mr. Bran. Yeah, it's been nice to catch up with all the agents. Have you met everyone?" Dan proceeded to introduce his superior to the ACME detectives in the vicinity. As he did so, Daniel's stomach began to growl and he saw people leaving for the tour. 

"Hey I know we should all get to work early tomorrow, but Gunnar here is only in town for a few nights. Why don't we all head to that steak place Nevon mentioned? I can text him to meet us there after the tour." 

[Note: Everyone includes any ACMEs mentioned in this post or anyone talking to ACMEs mentioned in this post... let's get steak night on, peeps!]

82 Sophie

The Winter Ceremony had flowed in a punctilious manner following its commencement. Taking cue from the MC, the physicians from ACME Medical had broken off their conversations with grandiose promises to reunite at a later time and Sophie Conrad had meandered towards the centre of the lobby space to gain a closer look at the agents who were to be acclaimed.

Gunnar Svensson was a young agent whom she had met under rather humorous circumstances, when she had chanced upon him sneaking out for a night run. Since then, he had become an occasional jogging partner and she had introduced him to routes that brought them along the Embarcadero and around the Presidio parkland. She had seen him enter the festivities with a cheerful-looking partner and could only make an educated guess on her identity, presuming that the chance for introduction would present itself eventually.

The speeches made by the Director and his agents were all succinct, representative of the personalities through which they were delivered and Sophie appreciated the lack of dawdling. One other thing she appreciated was the little polenta circles filled with fig and red onion relish, topped with goat cheese – something that had piqued her curiosity when she had read the menu of canapés that the Ritz Carlton would serve for the evening –, in addition to the champagne that would ensure the media be coaxed into the most amiable of moods. That was quite necessary for the latter portion of the event…

As the festivities mellowed, the call for a preview tour of the first five floors of the Accolade tower was made and a stream of media representatives and ACME members alike ambled towards the elevators. Navy-blue hard hats were distributed systematically and Sophie turned hers around in her hands to visually inspect it. She had only agreed to join the tour that morning, after leaving her weekly meeting with the Director of Operations, and had arranged her hair in its simple manner in anticipation of having to wear protective equipment. The ACME logo was emblazoned across the front of the thermoplastic shell of the hat, and its silver print glimmered under the lights.

The message that it was a token of appreciation for all to take home following the tour was relayed and Sophie put on the protective headwear with a smile, acknowledging its role as a very strategic reminder of the organisation that made this evening possible. She observed Chase Devineaux depart without comment, a ripple in the crowd. Their weekly meetings had been her idea, an insistence she made in part to prove that she would not be bullied by his position into doing anything she felt unjustified. These meetings had began awkwardly, with the Director demonstrating that he could solve a Rubrik’s cube in 1.45 minutes and was willing to do it in an endless loop for a whole hour. Gradually, they had arrived at an unspoken agreement – perhaps, even a friendship of sorts. Their meetings were now conversations and she noticed that he no longer touched the cube that was still prominently displayed on his file-covered desk.

The group was brought up to the third level where the tour was to begin and a man with smiling eyes and salt-and-pepper hair stepped forward to introduce himself as Walter Taut, the esteemed architect of Accolade. Sophie identified his accent as German and listened with mild interest as he detailed the safety specifications of the tower and its interior layout. She ran her fingers lightly along the painted walls. It was still slightly powdery. The pile of the carpet was still thick beneath her heels and she knew that they had been laid out only at the last moment, just before the Winter Ceremony and in readiness for those who would be in this tour.

As she was led from the lobby area, she cast a fleeting look back at the line of steel doors that stood tall like guards over the area. Out of the fourteen elevator shafts, there was a particular one that she had a hand in suggesting: When the plans for Accolade were revealed, it was highlighted that its height might impede certain helicopters from reaching the helipad on the roof of the Medical Center. Thus, a dedicated elevator was included into the core of the Accolade, to serve as a direct and private access for incoming patients and medical personnel that would land on the helipad of the Accolade – should a direct landing at the Medical Center prove impossible. It was an addition that Sophie had particular gratitude for.

83 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said: 

"I need to confess. When I figured that you were going to try to glue the mask on, I switched your superglue with my tricky glue when you weren't looking. The tricky glue isn't as strong as the superglue so you won't need a strong solvent to get rid of it. The liquid in this vial will dissolve the tricky glue easily without having any toxic effect. It shouldn't harm the mask either."

Joe casually tossed the vial to Kidman before turning back to the window of the jet.

“My hero” Kidman murmured with a grateful smile and applied the contents of the vial to her mask.

Joe’s gesture made her feel strangely nostalgic, and the hum of the engines pulled at it further.

Perhaps her memories hadn’t been as wonderful as she saw them now, but it didn’t matter. She was happy to see them again, so long buried after the world turned, sun-drenched childhood visions that defied the often cloudy nature of the York highlands. The camaraderie amongst a band of mysterious outcasts, led by the one no one could touch, had sustained what otherwise would have been a tragedy, giving her a name and a place before she realized she was missing. Joe’s foresight reminded her now of her original protectors, and she felt their memories with her.

The mask finally released from her face and fell into her bandaged hands.

“It’s funny,” Kidman said as she gazed thoughtfully at the plastic shell in her lap, “You’d think if I was serious about protecting my identity, I would have worn this always, even at home, but I never felt I needed it…amongst friends. I suppose that is how I lived so well under her banner.”

She took a long drink of water, only now realizing how thirsty she was, then looked at the empty vial and her reflection within it.

“Your solvent is symbolic, if you think about it. I might have withered away under my mask if VILE hadn’t been there. We're like family. I hope the ACMEs love Mother as we do...but I fear they won’t.”

She held up the mask with a look of regret, then pulled out a knife and began to saw off the bottom half. “I really hate to do this, but I can’t manage if I don’t. You wouldn’t happen to have any white face paint, would you?”

84 Joe_Kerr

Joe briefly wondered if he should tell Kidman that the miracle solvent in the vial had really been nothing more than water with a dash of vinegar added; his tricky glue was never really invented to act like glue, only to mimic it in the short run so that Joe could pull a prank on a victim. 

Joe shook his head and decided not to spoil Kidman's fun. The girl, contrary to what she preached, was a little ball of sunshine that never failed to cheer him up. Her referring to Carmen as 'mother' amused him to no end; since he treated Kidman as a niece, he wondered if that made him Carmen's brother? Laughing to himself at how the boss would have reacted to these whimsical thoughts, Joe turned his attention to Kidman's other request.

"Sorry Kid, I'm a clown, not a jester...wait that didn't come out right. I mean I'm a jester, not a clown; hence, I don't have a use for white face paint. Don't worry though, I know a place where we're going where you can get what you need. Until then, you might want to get some shut eye. We're both gonna need it."

Turning to the window of the jet, the thoughts that Joe had tried to push away; thoughts that Kidman's talk of family had reawakened, resurfaced full force. With his mind filled with cloudy memories of her, he hoped he would be able to take his own advice and get some measure of rest during the flight.

85 Narrator

The tour of Accolade consisted of five floors, the main lobby, upper lobby, dining and recreation facilities on floor 1, and meetings and conference facilities on floors 2 and 3.

German Architect Walter Taut began by explaining his ideas. He saw a tower that looked natural, like ribbons, intertwining to the sky. He introduced clear quake-reduction designs; the core of the building were solid concrete beams, while nearly every other inch of steel and glass that made up the tower was elastic. Built with high tensile steel to bend and flex, the structure retained stability as the ground below violently moved.

The physical tour begins on the highest functioning floor, floors 3 and then 2. The new Meetings and Conference center contained four "halls" that could be divided into 12 smaller rooms. All of them with floor-to-ceiling windows and Cisco Systems conference modules.

On floor 1 was the recreation area, a small game room, and a large dining hall. Walter Taut spoke of how the interior architect planned out the banquet space to allow heat from cooking a valid escape so inside temperatures remain constant. The cafeteria had allocations for food stations in a well-lit center area while stainless steel tables and chairs lined the hall from the entrance to the windows. The semicircle would seat up to 330 persons on normal capacity, and 400 on full capacity.

Macy Gartner noticed a blank wall with electric plugs spaced evenly apart.

"Are those for LCD Screens?" one female reporter asked before Gartner could. Catalina Quita, Macy thought, such a scene stealer.

"Vending machines!" jovially replied the Architect, "The American agents, they wanted one place with all the vending machines they can have."

The tour moved down to the Upper Lobby, a mezzanine area where a bridging structure to ACME's Medial Center would link the two buildings. Walter did not go into details as walkway's function was obvious. It ensured safe, weatherproof passage from one spot to another.

Here, the lights dimmed and the crowd is treated to a 3D presentation of Accolade's building process, made possible by high lumen 3-dimensional projectors situated about the round area. The Lower Lobby, where the party has since ended, acted as a dark backdrop. Smoke filled the floor below, and lights projected the story of ACME Enterprises from its humble beginnings as a private academy.

What the spectators didn't know was that engineers had to adjust the projection 5 feet higher than originally intended. Apparently, someone had left a pristine black grand piano at the center of the Lower Lobby.

(This officially ends the Accolade tour portion of the Winter Ceremony, you can all go home. Thanks ACME!)

86 Bran_ap_Brychan

DetectiveAwesome said: 

"Hey I know we should all get to work early tomorrow, but Gunnar here is only in town for a few nights. Why don't we all head to that steak place Nevon mentioned? I can text him to meet us there after the tour."

“Steak sounds tantalizing, even at this hour...”.

Throughout his career, Bran made it a priority to become acquainted with his employees or, in this case, his colleagues. Not only did this inspire loyalty in those around him but it also gave Bran insight into who he could trust in times of difficulty and turmoil.

“Yes, steak will do. But in the meantime, I will take a turn about this room. Quite fascinating, the decorations.... Do call when you have decided on a time”.

With a nod, Bran started around the room, taking in every slightest detail of the ongoing but diminishing party. Keeping an eye out for any signal from Daniel as to when he and his friends would be ready for the evening meal of steak, Bran straightened the collar of his shirt and continued walking. Steak night. This would surely be a new cultural experience.

87 Constance

As the speeches were given, Constance had found a handy place to wait and listen. She felt sorry for poor Gunnar as he, last of all, had made his way to the stage. She had a terrible phobia of anything involving standing in front of crowds and trying to utter words from quivering lips. The day she gave her valedictorian speech in high school still caused her to shiver a little when it was recalled. But Gunnar carried himself well and left the stage after what seemed to be only a few seconds to Connie.

Looking down, Constance brushed a few bothersome wrinkles from her blue dress. As she straightened, her eyes came to rest on Abby who was just then approaching.

Rose_Thorn said: “Are you enjoying yourself?” She whispered as she went to stand beside her friend.

“I really am”. A large, dimpled smile spread across Connie’s face as she greeted her friend with a dainty hug. “It’s so awesome that you made it here tonight”. Taking a step back, she observed Abby more closely. “You’re looking quite lovely!”

88 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said: "Sorry Kid, I'm a clown, not a jester...wait that didn't come out right. I mean I'm a jester, not a clown; hence, I don't have a use for white face paint. Don't worry though, I know a place where we're going where you can get what you need. Until then, you might want to get some shut eye. We're both gonna need it."

Joe was right. There was still a length of time ahead and she hadn’t slept well the night before, but how could one sleep with what lay beyond?

Kidman leaned against the window and gazed at the growing dawn. The drone of the engines hummed in her head, so soothing… Old memories awoke, of the wind in her face, the stretch of green below. She breathed it in as she drifted off to sleep....

“Don’t get so close to the door, kid.”

The girl moved back reluctantly. She was never close enough to the wind.

“Where are we going?”


Kidman looked out again. The air had gotten stiller and a thin red haze seemed to dim the sky. The sound of the helicopter grew louder and more abrasive to her ears and a sense of ill ease grew.

“I think there’s a storm coming, Rocc.”

“We have to get the signal, kid.”

The landscape below shifted and warped into mountains, to something that looked the surface of a distant planet, dark and red and tumultuous.

“I have to get the signal through, Kidman.”

Kidman felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to find Carmen standing there, dressed in traditional red. She looked pale and worn, but stubborn.

“I have your pen,” the girl answered automatically, the thing suddenly in her hand with stunning clarity.

Suddenly the helicopter pitched and Kidman hit the wall next to the open door. Beyond it the ocean rushed up to meet them with a blast of cold air.


Kidman more felt her voice than heard, and looked down to see a ship. She was above it, on it. Urgency flooded her. Carmen flashed ahead, nothing more than a blur. Kidman tried to call her name, but no sound came. Her legs moved, but terribly and she shifted from one point to the next without cause.


Suddenly her attention turned to the coast, flanked by mountains of snow and firs, but the land itself was tropical below a blood orange sky. There was a white building on a hill; no, it was gone, for a second replaced by the ACME tower, crumbling in decay. A flash of light ignited from a top corner and it was gone, leaving a deep, black hole.

Kidman realized she was gripping a cold, wet steel handrail that stung with reality against her palms. Where was Carmen? Surely she had seen this? She had to know-

A flash of light burst over her head, and then another.

Carmen was above her, on a higher deck, looking at the sky with ragged despair. She was saying something Kidman couldn’t hear. Blood crept across the red metal deck at her feet.

“Carmen! What is this?”

The woman looked at her, a look of confusion and terror cut through the rain.

“The signal! I have to send the signal!”

“What? How?”

“The signal! To Chase!”

The boat rolled in the violent sea, dousing Kidman was with freezing spray, and she clung to the rail as the deck tilted to the water. 

Another burst of light seared the sky. 

She tried to call out to Carmen again, but something stole her voice. She could swear she was screaming but nothing came. Carmen’s voice dissolved into a pressing flash of red, a cold, stinging hand punching her chest into nausea.

“To Chase! To Chase!”

Her hands slipped and she hit the water. Cold sliced through her, and then she felt nothing. The vision of Carmen’s desperation blurred as the air thickened with darkness but her fear stayed on, pushing, urging, pleading;

“Get to Chase.”


Kidman bolted forward. She was in the jet once again.

The girl rubbed her face in consternation. Another chance for sleep robbed.

“I should have known better than to fall asleep now, but is it too much to ask for a break from all this for a few hours?”

89 Chase

The time was almost midnight when Sophie Conrad stepped out from the light that haloed the ACME Medical Center, balancing the dress she had worn to the Winter Ceremony - now hidden under a protective cover - on her left arm. The gold cuff and the chandelier earrings that she had worn to the evening’s event were still in place but her attire was now occupational - a tailored sateen shirt and a pair of black trousers. A buttoned peacoat kept her warm for the short walk and her heels were quiet as she traversed the ACME parkland to get to the Academy parking lot where her car was located. The headquarters had emptied out quickly, with most of the agents and employees enthusiastically proceeding on to a slew of varied after-party arrangements and it was as she was remotely unlocking her vehicle that she spotted the silver Toyota Camry, still neatly parked in its designated space.

[Garbled, Russian Accented English] MA------M--DAY-MAYDAY THIS---------SS----ENGA-SALENGA EIGHT----FO---SIX-FIV---S-VEN M----------IS IS SALENGA KODIA------340---DEGREES MAG------TANCE-538-KIL------TERS WE------ ----- ---------- -----ARDED MAYDAY THIS ---------- GA WE ARE BEING BOARDED SA--------IS A RUSS---------FE----RATION HANDYMAX--------CARRIER OVER

[Female Voice, Calmer but Breathless] "Cap--ain, bo---- ochi aer---ok ---ka"

[Captain releases radio button]

Chase Devineaux hit his glass trackpad and listened to the message again. For three hours now, he had been systematically decoding the load of messages he received this evening. Most of them were high resolution images and encrypted text leading him to what seem to be random coordinates. But this file, the 'earliest' of them, sent on 12 April, 2012, was completely out of the pattern.

"Cap--ain, bo---- ochi aer---ok ---ka"

There, again… Chase hit rewind. Now with his tuxedo jacket draped on the noisy leather chair and accessories of the formal wear about his desk, he loosened his collar and exhaled. That calm voice, speaking Russian sounded like it belonged to someone he knew.

But it made… no sense. While he could guess that "Kodia" could mean Kodiak, an Alaskan island, and the ship, Salenga, was a Russian Federation Handymax Bulk Carrier, this part of the message seemed more important.

"bo---- ochi aer---ok ---ka"

Again, he replayed.

“Is this what you do when you're not solving Rubik's cubes, Director?” The statement was amiable and rhetoric, even as the physician placed an unopened bottle of water onto the desk and nudged it towards the man.

Looking up, Chase took a solid second before he registered the speaker, "Sophie... What are you still doing here?" He accepted the water, "Thanks."

As he did this, the Mayday transmission ended, and he quickly repeated that last phrase again.

"What is that?" Sophie queried with a motion towards the audio signature on the display before him as she took a seat in the chair opposite the Director.

Chase's face was paler against the screen's achromatic glow, more certain now that the voice was familiar, "I'm trying to figure out what this woman is saying..."   Once more, he played it.

"Cap--ain, bo---- ochi aer---ok ---ka"

Sophie considered the Director thoughtfully and then turned her attention to the recording, "It's not in English."

"Yeah, not English..." Chase looped the audio.

"It sounds Asian..." There was a pause as she allowed the message to repeat itself. "Chinois? Japonais?” She frowned in deliberation. “Have you tried listening from that point of view?"

Devineaux raised his brows. All this time, he had been sure the female voice spoke a Russian dialect...

"Right," he exhaled, "Maybe."

Sophie smiled, but very slightly. She sensed that her audience with the Director was at its end. "You should take a moment to rest,” she advised as she stood up. “It might clarify certain things."

"All of ACME was rather splendid tonight," she took a moment to touch his hand and draw his attention back to her words. "You should be proud of yourself, Chase." As she made to leave his office, she turned her head back briefly, "You won’t try to stay up too early, would you?"

Chase nodded, acknowledging Sophie's suggestion to rest and her compliment on the night with a half smile. Her momentary touch -- warm -- reminded him of how long he had been up.

"Thanks, Sophie," he said in her direction, then back to the monitor, he voiced, "I'll see you next week."

He played the message again, and in that instant, the seemingly Russian words began to sound like a very particular accent of Japanese.

Once, auld lang syne, acting on Suhara's suggestion, Chase spent time in Osaka, Japan. As a result, the dialect he picked up was Osaka Ben. It was something that amused the other agents, one especially; because to her, Chase Devineaux spoke like a Japanese farm boy.

Now, "bo---- ochi aer---ok ---ka" sounded like the common phrase "bochi-bochi kaero-ka," or, "It's about time we head home."

The entire message, Chase hesitated to conclude, was meant for him. It was recorded in April, why was it not relayed?

At about the same time this revelation surfaced, the remaining files began to make sense. They were hinting to a little-known program that existed before Chase became ACME's Field Director… but the rest of these files, and more on how to uncover everything, would have been in ACME's former tower.

For a few more hours, Devineaux attempted to decode what he had, and by 3:00 AM, 6 hours after he first sat down; he had enough reasons to wake Commander Ivy Monaghan.

"Ivy-- Clown with Cayman resurfaced, wants to meet in NYC, Carnegie Hall, December 13, 1412 hrs. I need you as backup, a plane for the car, and you can pick the pilot. --Devineaux"

(You guessed it! This was a co-post. Thanks for reading.)

90 Joe_Kerr

Out of the corner of his eye, Joe observed Kidman's sleepless antics. He wasn't faring much better either. It was at times like this that he really envied Carmine. The feline had jumped on a seat and fallen right asleep the moment she boarded the jet. As if to rub it in his face, Carmine let out a long, satisfied purr as she slept.

Joe chuckled and tried to close his eyes again.

Once again he found himself standing beside her. They were hiding behind a corner and observing the latest victim of their prank; the elderly man never suspected a thing as he squeezed out his minty green toothpaste. As he brushed his teeth however, he quickly discovered that someone had switched out his minty green toothpaste with tongue searing wasabi paste.

The blood curdling yell was the signal for the pranking duo to flee their annoyed parent and seek out refuge either in their tree house or somewhere in the attic; the longer they could stay hidden, the better their chances of escaping with a mild tongue lashing later on.

As Joe turned to run, he noticed his companion faltering in her steps, not so much out of fear but of something else, fatigue maybe, even pain. Then suddenly she fell to the ground with a sickening thud. 

Joe closed his eyes and when he opened them he was standing beside a hospital bed. His companion, once full of life, now lay still as as corpse, hooked up to various machines like one of Dr Frankenstein's creations. 

Joe awoke with a start as the jet started to land. He glanced around to see the Kidman was still stirring about and Carmine had somehow found her way into his lap and was giving him a thoughtful meow.

The pilot called out to Joe, informing him that they had arrived at Teterboro Airport, where the soon to be liberated Porsche Cayman was waiting for them. Joe in turn, called out to his masked cohort. 

"Kidman, wake up. We're here. Time to go take the car on one last drive around town." 

91 EarlJr

The awards concluded, Euge watched as the crowd thinned and Ivy made her way through the crowd back to him.  Her usual grace was complicated by the six inch heels she wore tonight.  It was subtle, something one wouldn't notice unless they were observing her like Euge was.  Chuckling slightly to himself, he stepped forward and offered his arm for her to steady herself on, which she took with a smile and a sigh.  "I needed to remind myself why I don't wear heels."

"If they're bothering you that much, I could always carry you around for the tour," Euge smirked at her.  Any further banter was cut short by the announcement of the architects' tour.  "Do we want to stay for the presentation, or have the rest of the evening to ourselves?"

Euge had always been a light sleeper, and when the communicator on the nightstand began buzzing with a text alert, he found it impossible to ignore.  Opening his eyes, he found his vision half-obscured by red hair.  Smiling to himself, he removed his arm from around the redhead and felt blindly behind him for the offending device.  Finding a good purchase on the communicator, Euge bought it to eye level.  It took several re-reads and a glance at the spider-webbed crack in the back casing of the device before he comprehended he held Ivy's communicator. 

"What the hell Chase," Euge mumbled to himself, "it's 0300.  Couldn't this have waited until regular hours?"

Putting the device back down, Euge committed himself to the delicate task of waking Ivy after only 20 minutes of sleep.

92 Ivy

Ivy Monaghan was awoken by a distant clang and the smell of smoke... wait, of roasted coffee. Rising up from what she realized wasn't her own bed she looked for Eugene Grovington, who was nowhere to be found. Her bare feet tiptoed out of the bedroom, and pass a wooden bookcase holding old photographs and a few dusty awards. It was colder in the kitchen, and she hugged the white oxford shirt around her to keep warm. 

"Up before the sun?" Ivy asked upon seeing the Pilot scrambling eggs on a cast iron pan.

"Thought I'd wake you the easy way. I tried twice earlier. The first time you just rolled over and the second time you hit me." Euge replied, tossing her the ACME communicator with one hand.

She caught the device, and saw that the screen displayed a prominent new message from the Director of Operations, with a received time set at 3:02. 

Chase Said:
"Ivy-- Clown with Cayman resurfaced, wants to meet in NYC, Carnegie Hall, December 13, 1412 hrs. I need you as backup--"

Ivy was on the case when Joe Kerr stole Chase's Porsche Cayman, an event that still left a bitter taste in her mouth. V.I.L.E.'s Jester had some nerve flaunting his crime to ACME... and she had a score to settle. The Unit Commander quickly crunched numbers in her head. Considering a seven hour flight time and factoring in traffic in both San Francisco and New York, she should start mission preparations at 4:00 am, be ready to go at 5:00... and-- she paused at the last part. 

a plane for the car, and you can pick the pilot. --Devineaux"

"Euge?" Ivy looked up from the communicator. 

Eugene grunted something that signified he had heard her.

"Take a girl for a ride?"

"...I'd suggest the Lockheed, fits an ACME SUV with room for the Cayman." He replied as he divided the scrambled eggs over two plates of smoked Alaskan salmon on toas"...and I figured we could sleep in shifts on the way."

# # #

ACME Airfield, Alameda Island California

All agents on Alpha team regularly trained at the ACME airfield, which gave Ivy Monaghan easy access to her locker. She changed into a slate colored fitted shirt and low rise jeans, hiding her badge, compact utility launcher and holster behind a dark brown lamb leather jacket. It was cold and wet in New York this time of year, so the Commander also made sure to wear traction boots and warm fingerless gloves. Their 'ride', the L-100-30 was an impressive aircraft used mainly for shipping large items. It had an extra 6 feet in the fuselage section, comfortable seating and a glass cockpit. With luck, they wouldn't run into any bad weather on the way. 

"All set, big guy?" Ivy greeted Euge upon boarding the plane. "Our 'Fearless Leader' just turned into the airfield."

Chase Devineaux arrived in his usual ACME “uniform”, a crisp white shirt and grey suit, minus the tie. He looked slightly less sleep-deprived than Ivy expected, considering that he must have pulled an all-nighter at the office. 

After the usual greetings, the Director of Operations pulled up a few files on Joe Kerr and V.I.L.E. henchmen associated with him. They didn’t really need a brief, but it was standard procedure and ACME was all about procedure. Ivy filled in the details on their flight path and the arrangements for transportation in New York. 

“I’ll be in the bunk bed.” The redhead announced, aware that her first coffee’s effect was wearing off. “Remember to keep your seatbelts on. This is a non-smoking, non-whining, non-service flight. Enjoy your time in the cockpit.” 

93 Kidman

Joe_Kerr said: 
The pilot called out to Joe, informing him that they had arrived at Teterboro Airport, where the soon to be liberated Porsche Cayman was waiting for them. Joe in turn, called out to his masked cohort. 

"Kidman, wake up. We're here. Time to go take the car on one last drive around town." 

Kidman was not fully awake, but she followed anyway.

This was typical now.

The dreams seemed to cling to her at varying points of the day, like a television left on in the background, and she would sink into them just a bit. Then they would mysteriously leave. The pattern had come on so slowly that she hadn’t noticed how much further in she went in when the cloud came.

‘The toll of stress,’ she thought idly as they drove in.

But her melancholy faded back as they entered New York City. Kidman had never seen a city before, only pictures, and she stared at the passing scenery with growing awe. Its scale was overwhelming, and she was both enthralled and besieged with the onslaught of honking horns and flashing billboards. So many people, so many colours and sounds.

Yet part of her wasn’t there.

The visions of her dream echoed behind her eyes, and sleep lay upon her like a heavy blanket.

Kidman pushed it away.

‘Not now.’

She fiddled with the pen around her neck. It felt so alive in her hands.

The world wavered.

She was on the boat, on a plane, in a hotel. Faces and places flickered into view while emotions glanced over her like falling stars. She heard sounds, words whispered in her ears but she couldn’t claim them. Carmen’s voice rose over the rest, calling her. She was saying something…something…

“Hey Kid, we’re here.”

Kidman shook her head and followed Joe out of the car. The city was even more daunting than before, and Joe had to lead her lest she stall in the middle of the street.

94 Joe_Kerr

Throughout its illustrious lifetime, Carnegie hall has played host to thousands of musicians and artistes; Among these fabled maestros were legends of various genres of music and performance, multi-time Grammy award winners and the creme de la creme of the musical world. Yet in all these years, Carnegie hall has perhaps never had quite as unusual a sight as the one now found on centre stage in the Stern Auditorium.

Joe Kerr was pacing about the legendary stage in his jester's suit, the very same one he had worn a year ago to the day when he purloined a certain Porsche. Accompanying him in an equally nervous state was Kidman, who was dressed in accordance to the alias that she had insisted Joe use for her: Ghost.

As the jester glanced around the darkened auditorium, he briefly recalled the journey to Carnegie Hall. He had had to make a couple of stops, one for gas and the other at a local costume shop for Kidman's face paint. The duo had then driven the Cayman across Manhattan before Joe went about getting the Cayman to its final resting place, at least until Chase redeemed it. Finally the intrepid duo then crossed through Central Park and sneaked into Carnegie Hall, making use of the guard's lunch break to slip in undetected. 

Joe's only regret so far was not being able to bring Carmine along for the ride. He had decided that Carmine would be safer in the temporary care of his favourite henchman, Mickey, rather than in ACME's cold clutches. He also figured that he owed Carnegie Hall enough respect not to bring any pets in, although Carmine was more friend than pet.

Surveying the scene of the soon to occur meeting, Joe continuously replayed in his head various openings for his game of mental chess with Chase Devineaux. Joe knew only Carmen could beat Chase at this game but he wasn't looking for the win; a stalemate would more than suffice.

As he observed Kidman, Joe recalled her words from the plane. She had harped on about family and ultimately that was what it was all about. Two households both alike in dignity, bonded forever by the complex relationship between the leaders of said hosueholds. Now, the fate of both houses lay entwined with the fate of the the Matriarch of the latter house.

Joe twirled his jester's staff nervously as he awaited the arrival of the lord of said former house. He hoped he would have the eloquency of Shakespeare, if not Puck, in order to enlighten Chase about their current situation - the fate of everything depended on it.

95 Suhara

The morning rose in San Francisco like a kiss in the cold. It gathered its energy slowly at first, still drowsy from the night's slumber, then it gained momentum as warmth spread with every vein and capillary through to the very heart of the city.

Suhara Nakamura tended his 35-year-old Sugi bonsai tree. The Osaka-born Japanese American had many miniaturised trees, but this one; with its draping branches and long flowing leaves, was unusual. While his other specimens grew stout, this particular Cedar had a mind of its own.

Reflecting on last night's conversation with Barbara Rosen, Nakamura could see why she might be afraid. But unlike Rosen, the Japanese saw much more than one mistake that transpired before the program's collapse. It began as arrogance that grew into unchecked power. 

At the centre of it were two very different personalities.

During the last generation of saints, San Michael was selected from a pool of men whose profiles ranged in the narrow field of Military Special Operations. His performance, maturity, and experience placed him in high regard. He was an understanding team leader, willing to hear everything before making a decision.

On the opposite end was another man, San Raphael. Wild, volatile, austere and spontaneous, he saw every mission a game of opportunity. He tested his leader's patience consistently. But above all his qualities, San Raphael was a concise and brutal man whose aptitude was to carry out orders, by all means.

The two other saints, San Uriel and San Gabriel, were often caught in the middle, but San Michael always had a firm grip on his team. Intelligent, worldly adventurers, all of them. Suhara recalled the Lead once revealing his thoughts while completing a puzzle.

"This thing reminds me to focus," Michael explained as he twisted the last blocks into place, "and when I'm calm so is my team."

Psychological profiling of operatives resulted from 30 years of study, and on some level, the agency still hired agents based on assumptions, a bet; on what they would become.

A whistling teapot woke Nakamura from his thoughts. His custom blend of the seven rare teas of China was ready for brewing. It was the perfect time to clear his mind.

96 Chase

Devineaux promised himself sleep by 3:30 AM, but he missed the mark. He did manage to nap on the office sofa some time between that and 4:15 AM where the alarm on this phone beeped. A few minutes later, after a cold shower and brief assessment of current files, he drove to the ACME airfield. 

He was alert, anxious about getting clarification on the incomings he received yesterday evening. The information running through his mind was beginning to redundantly settle on the abolished ACME Saints program, and he was desperate for a new angle. As soon as the plane reached cruise altitude, Chase Devineaux opened his laptop. 

"I need you to listen to something," he explained, barely, "It's a mayday, sent April 12, this year." The message was a disjointed, garbled array of guttural Russian accented English that ended with a nearly indistinct Japanese 'code', "I can't get Mikal to make it any clearer," he added, "but tell me what you think... Russian Carrier... somewhere off Alaska?"

[Garbled, Russian Accented English] MA------M--DAY-MAYDAY THIS---------SS----ENGA-SALENGA 8-------6-5-7 M----------IS IS SALENGA KODIA------340---DEGREES MAG------TANCE-538-KIL------TERS WE------ ----- ---------- -----ARDED MAYDAY THIS ---------- GA WE ARE BEING BOARDED SA--------IS A RUSS---------FE----RATION HANDYMAX--------CARRIER OVER MAY--------M-----------AY---

[Female Voice, Calmer but Breathless] "Cap--ain, o--c- bo-hi --a-e--rok ---a."


The combination of four whining turboprops and operating on a minimum of sleep made the recording nearly inaudible to Euge, who set the autopilot and reclined his seat slightly before playing the recording again.  After the fourth replay and some scribbled notes, Euge handed the communicator back to Chase before pulling an old chart out of his flight bag.  The bearings he could decipher placed this vessel right in the middle of the typical shipping lanes; no surprise there, but no new information either.  “When did you say this was received again?”

"April 12," Devineaux checked his phone briskly for a calendar, "Uh... Thursday."

“Right,” Euge mumbled to himself.  “Let’s check the Kodiak news archives.  If this really was near there, the paper will at least have something in the Coast Guard blotter.”

"I searched missing ships," Chase said as he typed into the database key words for news surrounding Kodiak in April, "Salinga, a Russian Federation Cargo Ship reached its destination -- Hakodate seaport on October 15 -- Two weeks after it was scheduled to arrive."

“Sounds like it could be our mystery ship,” Euge mused.

"There isn't much here," Chase paused at the screen of text, "but this might be the reason why nothing was relayed." He flipped the monitor for the pilot to see:

April 12 - Two shot dead at Coast Guard's Kodiak communications station "Two Coast Guard members were fatally shot Thursday at a communications station on Kodiak Island in what officials said appeared to be a double homicide. They said they have yet to identify a suspect.... commanding officer of the Coast Guard base on Kodiak, said the shootings likely occurred sometime between 7 and 8 a.m., soon after the two victims arrived for work inside one of the communication station buildings..."

“I don’t believe it,” Euge muttered as he looked at the times given in the article.  The time frames given for the Kodiak incident and the mystery mayday lined up too perfectly to be coincidental.  “Someone apparently didn’t want to be discovered.”

"Too coincidental?" Devineaux spoke in a lower tone to his screen, "Either that or this was very carefully planned... Still no lead on the killings as of November..."
For the next hour or so, the copilot was silent. He navigated through the files sent to him recently and categorized them with archived information. One name did repeatedly show up in one form or another: San Raphael.

"It's second shift," Euge pointed to the dashboard clock, "your turn."

"Thanks," Chase snapped shut his computer and placed it into the briefcase, "So," he commented casually, "you and Ivy."

“Yep,” Euge replied, eyes still firmly fixed on the instruments.

A subtle nod exchanged, Devineaux headed to the bunk for a few hours void of thinking.
He was still reeling with the need to understand everything, but he risked fatigue if he stayed up longer. Passing Ivy on the way to the bunk, he gave her a tap on the shoulder. 

"Can you latch the briefcase?"

Ivy answered with a quick, "Sure" and secured the Samsonite near the cockpit.

Devineaux lifted himself to the small stretch of 'bed' and as he adjusted his head to a bean-filled burlap pillow, felt his feet hanging over the bunk. This was as comfortable as being low level merchandise. He strapped himself in a decent position and put the suit jacket over his head to keep the sun away.

Two hours and ten minutes later, Chase woke with warm sunlight directly in his eyes. Sitting up, he thought for several seconds before finally removing himself from the bed and retrieving the jacket from the floor. From a pocket, he retrieved a case and expelled two caffeinated menthol tablets that he quickly popped into his mouth.

Before the night she stole ACME tower, Carmen Sandiego took a sacred object from many churches and locations bearing the name "Notre Dame," the one thing that was yet to be returned was "L'ange à l'aile brisée," or "The Angel with a Broken Wing", a bronze statue by Alfred Laliberté, stolen in November 2011 from the Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery in Montreal, Canada.

Was that ever a clue?

Chase saved the thought for later and walked up to the front, "Your turn, Euge," he said.

The pilot acknowledged with a single nod, "And this seat's yours," he told Ivy as he left.

Ivy stretched her arms. It was the first time in a  few hours that she got to stand, and she made the most of it. She tilted her head from side to side until her neck popped softly, then took Eugene’s pilot seat, double checking the controls one more time. 

“Euge told me about the Mayday message... so...,” Ivy paused, not sure how to phrase her next question, “You don’t usually focus on two cases at the same time, what does this have to do with you?” 

Chase turned to Ivy briefly to assess her question, "You remember I speak Osaka-ben, right?" 

“To ensure accurate amounts of wasabi on your Hakozushi? Sure...”

Meanwhile, he turned on the communicator, "Tell me you recognize the voice at the end of this file."

[Female Voice, Calmer but Breathless] "Cap--ain, o--c- bo-hi --a-e--rok ---a."

Ivy paused for a moment. The audio quality was degraded, the voice speaking a language she couldn’t even perceive... but then she had heard that voice speaking many languages she couldn’t perceive... “Carmen.” She replied, definitively. 

"She said 'Captain, it's about time we head home'," Chase translated, "I think it was meant for me... and probably ties to the tower having been teleported to Tunisia... but it's a Mayday message sent in April. I have eight months of missing pieces, and I think I need to start with the files she took from Tower I."

“You mean to explain why she’s been so quiet?” 

"What if she wasn't just quiet?" Chase suggested, "Why do you think the clown would suddenly contact me one year after he's stolen the car?"

Ivy bit her lower lip, “He wants something.”

"Bad enough to risk a meeting," Devineaux confirmed, "He could have left the car anywhere for us to find."

“Then he wants us there to deliver a message.”

"Guess we'll know soon."

97 Flag (Co-post with Chase)

[New York]

An elevator door let out a small ding as it pulled back to allow a handful of uncomfortable people into the metal and glass pod beyond its threshold.

On even a normal day Flag had problems with high-society functions. They were overly public, crowded, and to top it off, he had to wear a suit. Despite all of this, things felt as though they were falling into place for him.

He sometimes wondered if his subtle success was because of his departure from VILE's happenings after the tower stint. The last he checked on the syndicate, the Earth idiom "running around like a chicken without a head" came to mind.

His inability to understand why they were so panicked caused him to split off again. It was true that they had lost a few bases to ACME raids, but they had only lost a few grunts and buildings. What was the big deal?

His mind flashed to the last time he checked up on Carmen (the chicken's actual head) and frowned. While she was doing alright, she was being extremely cautious. The manner in which she conveyed this to him suggested that he be weary as well... but of what exactly?

At first he suspected the detective agency, but the message came after their bases had been raided, so that didn't make sense. Why warn him retroactively?

A new set of doors dinged their greeting as the elevator came to a stop and Flag was forced out onto the top floor of the tower, where the auctions were being held. Almost immediately his thoughts shifted to the task at hand and made his way among the throngs of people inspecting the items for sale.

In a display case, a diamond gleamed with refracted light. Cut from the finest water-worn stone of an alluvial deposit in Africa, it was everything a natural diamond should be; strong, transparent, and with few eye-visible inclusions. Most of all, it was alive.

From the moment that he stepped off the elevator, he heard the precious gemstone calling to him, taunting him from its glass case amongst the crowd. Up close, he could tell it was by far older than any other diamond he had possessed on this planet. This observation, however, was apparently lost on many of the guests at the auction house and he overheard many complaints about its crafters poor choice in cut.

Flag didn't care about its man-inflicted imperfections. Thanks to Ti-Jean - who pointed them out from the brochure - he had made arrangements to get it recut into the shapes he thought would work best for him.

However, seeing it in person, the sorcerer almost regretted the plans to reshape it. There was so much story to the diamond as it was and any alteration seemed akin to throwing away the pages of a book.

It couldn't be helped though. He could sense that this diamond was special; that it was the trans-dimensional twin to the one in the amulet he had left behind so long ago. It would need to be shaped into the powerful talisman it was meant to be.

A soft chime played, indicating the beginning of the auction and Flag didn't have to wait long. The diamond was third on the auction block.

A short, round man with horn-rimmed glasses put in the first bid.

Mimicking the actions he observed in the previous rounds, Flag nodded his head to acknowledge his bid. Without missing a beat, the bespectacled man upped the bid and before Flag knew it, he was in an all-out bidders brawl.

The sorcerer glared at the man from across the crowd, silently promising his opponent that he would chop him up and throw him in a dumpster if he continued. Unfortunately the man was on the phone with someone and remained oblivious to Flag's intimidations.

A sinking feeling took hold within the Sivoan as the price continued to escalate. According to Flag's correspondences with Ti-Jean the diamond - with it's rough cuts and awkward size - would not exceed $4 million. As the price soared past Flag's $5 million limit, he found himself lying to win. This tactic did little more than increase the amount his opponent would pay for his lost prize.

Against his will, he ceased bidding and allowed the man in the glasses (still on the phone) to place the final bid. As the next auction began, his opponent left to meet with the auctioneers in a private office. Uninterested in the other wares for sale, Flag followed him.

The man continued to talk into his phone and when the diamond was brought out to him for confirmation and shipment, he quickly signed the papers.

"Would you like us to ship--" The attendant asked, but was quickly interrupted.

"I will take it now," said the man in a flustered American accent, "Do you want me to sign anything else?"

"No sir."

And he was off, like a scurrying hamster, to a limousine that was parked outside of the building.

Flag had hung back as the man officiated his purchase, but had no trouble catching up to him. When he opened the door to catch his ride, the sorcerer grabbed his opponent's head and shoved the man into the elongated car. He dove in afterward and shut the door so that whatever happened next was not in the public view.

((I hinted that Flag had planned on trying to catch a flight to New York in my previous post. This post assumes he did. I could have posted a travel sequence for him, but with everyone else's pretty posts on similar topics, it would have been to bland to bother. ^_^;))
((Collaborative post with CJ. All things approved))

98 Ivy

After landing at Teterboro Airport, Chase Devineaux, Eugene Grovington and Ivy Monaghan took on the task of getting to Carnegie Hall. They had brought with them a standard black ACME SUV, which was cleared to transport criminal suspects. Taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan, the agents finally arrived at 881 Seventh Avenue, 23 minutes ahead of schedule. 

Carnegie Hall in the daytime was--for lack of a better word--haunting. It was empty, with light streaming in from antique wooden windows. The muffled sound of a practicing violinist could be heard from an unknown area, and stone hallways amplified the reverberating echo of their footsteps. 

“Stern Auditorium.” Ivy signaled to a pair of large, ornate doors. 

She unzipped her jacket for mobility. Then, taking a short assessment of the area, concluded a rough entry strategy.

“Euge. I’ll need you outside at the exit.” Knowing that Chase did not carry a weapon and was probably the one person Joe Kerr would be expecting she turned to the Director, “and you’re behind me.”  

Pushing the double doors open, Ivy realized how incredibly high the ceilings were. It was also relatively dark compared to the hallway, and her eyes needed a moment to adjust to the light. In the middle of the stage were two masked figures, a single spotlight creating shadows much too tall for them. The smaller of the pair had an extremely delicate frame and gray shawl. The other, who Ivy concluded was Joe Kerr, was a slim man who wore a purple jester’s costume. His mask and attire obviously chosen to hide any distinguishable features. 

After a moment of silence as the two very different teams sized one another up, Ivy began the introduction, “I’m Unit Commander Ivy Monaghan.” Turning to her superior she continued, “This is ACME’s Director of Operations Chase Devineaux.” 

99 Rose_Thorn

Connie_Girl said
“I really am”. A large, dimpled smile spread across Connie’s face as she greeted her friend with a dainty hug. “It’s so awesome that you made it here tonight”. Taking a step back, she observed Abby more closely. “You’re looking quite lovely!"

Abby looked down at herself with a rather critical eye. At times she couldn’t see what Connie saw. Actually, most of the time that was the case. She always wondered what it was like looking through Connie’s eyes. Was everything a brighter color? Everything more beautiful? Whatever it was, Abby wished that she could see the world in such a way.

“Thank you, Connie. You look beautiful yourself.”  There was no way to outdo Connie in the compliment field, either.  “I am glad you are enjoying the evening. It will make up for both of us. I’m just leaving, in fact.”

“It is getting a little late. I will probably head back to the dorms soon too”.  Constance glanced with a tint of disappointment at a nearby clock. “And there wasn’t even any dancing...”.

Thank goodness for that. “Yes, the clock is just about to strike 9 o’clock, and this person must be away for who knows what is likely to happen next. Do you want to walk out with me, or are you going to linger a little longer?”
All around Constance people were filing out from the lobby and into the cold night outside. “Sure. I don’t think I need to hang out here anymore. The party is all  but over.”

Turning, She and Rose made their way towards the main entrance of Accolade and exited the building together. As the cool evening air met them, Connie pulled a shawl, which she had wore that night, closer to her body. The campus was still lively even as the hour became later.

“Do you think we will be able to get any rest tonight with all the people about?”

Abby glanced around at all the strangers before looping her arm through Connie’s.  “Highly doubtful, but then, who does get any sleep these days? Certainly not I.”

100 Kidman

 Ivy said:    After a moment of silence as the two very different teams sized one another up, Ivy began the introduction, “I’m Unit Commander Ivy Monaghan.” Turning to her superior she continued, “This is ACME’s Director of Operations Chase Devineaux.” 

Kidman had been pacing in tiny circles when the door opened, and stopped dead at the sound of it. Two figures came in.

‘Two…? Then who is-?’

 “I’m Unit Commander Ivy Monaghan.This is ACME’s Director of Operations Chase Devineaux.” 

 “Ivy?” The girl whispered with a gasp of horror, and she stumbled backward under a wave of pure fear.

 She knew that name. She knew that name well.

 Thousands of stories and pictures flashed behind her eyes as the woman came towards her, a childhood nightmare come to life, and in that moment, all else was forgotten.

 “Oh no, no, nonono, not you!” she cried out as she prepared to run further, but even in her blind panic she couldn’t leave Joe behind and came back to frantically pull on his arm.“Joe, Joe, run, we have to get out of here!”

101 Joe_Kerr

Joe was not surprised that Chase had brought backup, in fact, he had all but expected it. He was surprised however, that the back up was none other than the newly promoted Ivy, one of the three who had chased him across two states a year ago when he stole the Cayman.

Deciding that it would be the polite thing to do to return the introduction, Joe gave a theatrical bow.

"Good afternoon. My name is Joe Kerr, VILE's jester extraordinaire at your service," 

"And this," Joe gestured to Kidman, "is my comrade, Ghost"

The contrast in lighting between the stage and the aisles made it difficult for Joe to see the ACME duo clearly. He squinted to get a better view as they slowly came closer.

"Let us cut to the chase, no pun intended." Forcing himself to stifle his chuckle, Joe continued.

"You want the Cayman, we want your help. Do we have an accord?"

102 DetectiveAwesome

The idea started innocently at ACME's favorite steak place. 

Gunnar was showing his new fiancée the sights in San Francisco, and so Nevon suggested steak. It was natural that Dan would try to pull as many detectives as he could, and so the group ended up consisting of Daniel, Nevon, Gunnar, Gudrun, and Bran. A few detectives joined in later in the night, making for a large table of ACME personnel.

Bran, seemingly happy with the way the night was going and decided to pay for dinner. To celebrate Nevon reminded Dan that they had some fireworks recently acquired from a case in Meh-hi-co, and that there would be no better night to set them off. So being the guys that they were, Daniel, Nevon, Bran and Gunnar--BraNevDanNer or BraDanNevGun (they hadn't agreed which was the standard)--decided they were going to put on a show. Dan's first idea was to use the ACME airfield but the thought of Mr. G shooting him in the face wasn't a pleasant one. Then someone suggested setting them off the top of Accolade... but no one wanted to climb 53 flights of stairs, and if they stole a helicopter to land on the roof, Mr. G would still probably shoot him in the face later. 

Nevon then said they should do it from the dorms. It was a tall enough building with fireproof roofing, and everyone would think the fireworks was just part of the Accolade celebration. So there they were, Nevon, Daniel and Gunnar on the roof with Gudrun being ‘entertained’ by Bran’s commentary on a bench at the dorm's lawn. 

While not a completely coordinated display, the show of rockets, gerbs and miltishot barrages was good enough to fill the sky with colors for about 7 minutes. Within that time, the noise and lights had gathered a decent crowd in the dorm compound. The fireworks looked particularly good reflecting off Accolade's glass and the bay's dark waters, and by the end of the show more detectives appeared out of the woodwork to continue the party on the lawn. 

"That was awesome!" Dan yelled as they headed down the side of the dorms. Speaking to Nevon and Gunnar he continued, "You know, Bran and I have to do some bunker cataloging tomorrow morning. It's still a bit crazy down there, but we should all go. You'll need to get there early for decontamination though." 

103 Bran_ap_Brychan    

Bran sat in the consuming darkness. He hadn’t slept that night. He hadn’t slept the night before. He was waiting. For what no one could tell, but, when it finally arrived, when the time came, he would know. He would have to know. The shaking sound of an alarm woke Bran from his trance. As soon as the first wave of ringing hit his ears, he swung himself out of his chair and slapped the switch to silence the alarm. Pitch darkness filled Bran’s penthouse, and no sound came from the streets of San Francisco below. The hour was 4:30, thirty minutes to the appointed time to meet Daniel Ainsworth along with his friends who had been at “Steak Night” the previous day.

Straightening himself, Bran carefully made his way to the lavatory which was found in a chamber opposite the room from him. Emerging fifteen minutes later, he wore a dark, forest green, collared shirt along with a pair of soot colored jeans. As he headed towards the exit of his penthouse, he snatched up a coat and a large backpack. Pausing in the doorway, Bran looked around the penthouse. When satisfied that he hadn’t forgotten anything of importance, he turned and entered a nearby elevator which lowered him to the garage floor of the building. Opting for his familiar sport bike, Bran left the condominium and set his course for the campus of ACME where he arrived ten minutes later.

The area was quiet. Most ACME agents and students were still fast asleep in their beds. As he entered Accolade by the same door which he had used the night before, Bran made his way to the back of the building where the stairs were located. Descending to the basement floor, he entered a medium sized room in which a few tables and chairs were scattered. Here Bran placed his backpack in a corner, found a comfortable chair, and then glanced at his watch. It read 4:55.  

104 Flag (Co-post with Chase) ---

Guns clicked as armed men pointed their weapons to the intruder. The mousy American, sensing a pause from his attacker, rushed away to sit next to his employer, keeping the package securely under his coat.

"Flag," proclaimed  the rasped voice of the man in a tweed suit, "is it?"

While he might have been expecting guns, Flag had not expected to hear his own name. This surprise caused him to cease his pursuit of the lacky with the diamond and instead focus his attention on the man with the cane sitting across the limousine from him.

"Have a seat."

Flag stared at the man as he complied and sank into the cushioned bench at the back of the stretched vehicle. The sorcerer was very careful with the information that he gave out, so when he couldn't recognize the man that identified him by the only name he never told anyone outside of VILE, he became weary.  

"Who are you?"

"Consider me a friend, someone very interested in why you are here"

Flag nodded his head towards the case that the frail underling was trying to protect.

"Is this for your employer?"

The Sivoan had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing, but still managed to let a grin escape. "Oh... no. Most definitely not."

"A pity. We were hoping to lure her out with it."

Flag narrowed his eyes at the man in tweed, knowing now which of his bosses had been referenced. Slowly, he shook his head. "I doubt that she would be interested in something so poorly presented."

"You surely must know that a gem like this is incredibly rare. Internally flawless diamonds may only come about once in a lifetime."

Flag couldn't feign ignorance. The fact that he had pursued it like he had gave that away for him.

"Wouldn't Carmen be interested in something like this?"

He lied. "Probably not."

"Not even if it were to be used as a weapon against her organization?"


The man in the tweed suit stared at his visitor. "If she didn't send you, why do you want this diamond?"

"That's personal. What do you mean by 'weapon?'"

"She stole the ACME tower because it was a weapon, did she not?"

Flag stared in silence at the man, trying to figure out what he was getting on about.

"I'll take your silence as confirmation. What if I told you she's been lying to you?"

"I'd tell you that I didn't care." Flag nodded towards the case again. "I'll buy that off of you."

The man in the suit paused, as though he were trying to hide his annoyance with his guest. "How about this.  I actually do need to run some tests with this gem, but if you're 'good', I'll give it to you when I'm done."

"If I'm good?"

"Yes. Tell me where Carmen is and it's yours."

Flag sighed in frustration and stated "nobody knows where Carmen is," like he always did when someone - friend or foe - requested that information.

"But you do know how to get in contact with her, correct?"

"Are you asking me to relay a message?

"No. I want to arrange a meeting."

"She won't meet with just anyone."

"I am quite aware of this fact, which is why she would be meeting with you."

Flag had to pause as the situation became clear to him. He had walked into a trap with only one way out. "Sure... Why not?"

"It's settled then. You will receive  the diamond after the meeting. Until then you're staying with us."

105 Gunnar

Gunnar moaned at the tone from his phone, announcing that the time was 04:10. He had set this alarm to wake him up with sufficient time to put on his track clothes, eat toasted waffles (drowned in maple syrup), brush teeth, apply his blue skully, and run to headquarters.

He felt exhausted from last night, having done the best he could manage in striving to please Gudrun at Steak Night, though she continually insisted that she was perfectly fine without his extra provisions. He kicked off the single sheet and rolled out of bed. It had been unusual for such little insulation to be required on a late autumn slumber only two years ago. Now he was afraid that he might become accustomed to this milder San Francisco climate. He missed the snow, after all.

After completing this rare, extra-early morning itinerary, “Mr. Lundgren” sneaked out his door and pedalled his feet down the stairs to get his legs warmed up. Gunnar’s girl was in a separate suite, and he hoped his job this morning would be finished before she decided to come by his room. Walking swiftly through the lobby, he nervously peeked at the drowsy receptionist, hoping not to incite any curious reactions.

A roughly three-mile run on a dreary sunless morning took him to his destination. He meandered outside Accolade, thinking hard about life issues he had yet to resolve, hardly noticing that his ACME buddies, Nevon and Danny, were arrived. Eventually noting their presence, he greeted them with a tepid “Hej hej.”

106 E_Mayhem

A lucid dream is any dream in which one is aware that one is dreaming.  In a lucid dream, the dreamer may be able to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream or be able to manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment.

She was back in the elevator.  How many nights had she dreamed of it?  It wasn't just any elevator, specifically it was the old ACME Tower east elevator, the one with the fake wood paneling and the square buttons.  Eleanor noted to herself that there were dreams she'd had that weren't like this.  Like the one last week about winning the Nobel peace prize in Snowboarding or when she woke to her thumb to her ear and her pinky to her mouth trying to answer her hand like a phone?  Those were weird, sure, but they were at least normal dreams.  These weren't normal.

Like usual, there was a dinging as the floors passed before the elevator slowed and the doors started to open.  On some nights they'd open back to a cold alleyway in Russia, sometimes to a hospital with a ghostly woman that spoke in a heavy French accent, some nights she was back on the 11th floor of the old ACME Building, standing just down the hall from a familiar office, watching as a woman slipped out of the door and walked away.  It wasn't always the same woman - the image changed from time to time.  One night it would be a blonde with short curls and a possessive smirk and others it would be a woman with long dark locks and a long stride.  Some nights she'd be in the cabin of a boat with a steak dinner on the table under a bouquet of purple irises in a glass vase.

Tonight though the doors opened back into the desert, the elevator facing a collection of motor homes arranged like a little town or even their own little kingdom, a large colorful canvas circus tent set up in the middle.  Though there were no sounds of people the fact that there was nothing else to see drew her out of the elevator which seemed to disappear into the sands when she turned back to look at it.  Figures.  Taking steps towards the big top she paused as she saw a snake slither in front of her.  Shrugging she stepped over it, continuing to walk, taking a glance behind her to see that it was following her, moving just a little faster than her, coming up beside her as she continued to walk.  Eleanor's step slowed and she looked down at the snake who looked back up at her.

"...If you were going to bite me you'd have done it already." she said softly, more to herself than to the snake and reached a hand down, letting it slither up her palm and wrap itself around her arm before she continued to move.

The pair finally reached the tent and, stepping inside its open flaps she felt a knot form in her stomach, her pulse increasing just a little and the snake moving itself upward to her shoulder.  There was nothing that she could see to fear - only a couple picnic table, some washers and dryers, a BBQ pit.  "Hello?" Eleanor called out.  "Anyone here?  Olly olly oxen free!"

Turning the corner behind a wall of crates and boxes she froze as she saw a large puddle of fresh blood seeped into the hardened sand, other traces of it sprayed across the back of the crates hiding it.  Quickly she stepped back, watching it turn from the dark red shade darker and darker still until it was completely pitch black and, starting to bubble out of the ground started to gain an iridescent shine to it.  The substance started to grow and spread, Eleanor jumping up and away from it as it started to coat the white ground and forced her back to the picnic table until she'd jumped on top of it, letting the familiar black iridescent gunk coat the ground beneath her.  She watched in horror as the substance seemed to rise higher, her attention completely taken until she felt a sting against her throat. 

Looking down she watched the snake slither down her leg as she reached for her throat, feeling where it had bitten her.  Speechless she stumbled and fell off the table, landing on her back, her last vision being watching the snake look at her from on top of the table. 

Eyes opened as Eleanor woke covered in sweat, her hand going to her throat as she breathed deeply.  It look a moment for her to realize where she was - back in her apartment, sleeping in her bed, her boyfriend staring at her.  Wait what?  She turned her head towards the other pillow, looking to Lee Jordan with a blank stare before offering a small apologetic smile. 

"I'm sorry... did I wake you up?"

107 DetectiveAwesome


Daniel was glad to see that Nevon and Gunnar had made it on time. Even though Bran never spoke of it, Danny thought he seemed like the kind of guy who hated tardiness. 

"This way to the Batcave!" He said, taking the two agents down a stairwell that then led to a medium sized room with tables and seating. He saw Bran, already waiting for them and noted a backpack in the corner. 

"Morning Mr. Brychanson." Dan greeted. Then turned to his friends, "There are parts of the bunker that's still a bit... er, dangerous. You'll need to get some of this spelunking equipment on. Also, watch out for the water and the bats. Once we get to the man-made parts, Mr. Brychanson can show you some of the things we've found."

Dan made sure to secure his harness and helmet before checking the other agents one more time. The Bunker once had a working elevator, but it had long since gone out of order due to water damage. There was a new one being ordered, but like everything at ACME it was constantly taking 'another two weeks'. The easiest way down was right off the side of an underground rock wall. The agents would then have to avoid a small stream of water that rose with the tide before they got to the concrete area. With massively high ceilings lit by flood lights this space was to become ACME's Technology labs.


At the moment, several tables and computers laid strew about. Some electrical work was still being installed, and large wooden crates became makeshift walls, but it was the beginnings of something amazing. 

What was most notable were prototype versions of the S.T.U.N. suits, and a spider-like ACME drone that crawled to and fro, gathering information to be cataloged.


To the back was even older technology, things that were buried for years inside the bunker itself. The original black body armor that inspired the S.T.U.N. suits was found here. While the black suits seemed designed to give the wearer extra strength and protection, it was powered by something Bran and Daniel couldn't understand. Bran eventually suggested that the power component should just be replaced with modern fuel cells, and that seemed to solve the problem. 

Another object of note was the prototype C-5 machine. This was probably ACME's most famous invention throughout its years as a company, and Daniel was excited that Nevon and Gunnar would get to see a piece of history. 

108 Nevon

Nevon Blair followed his friends down into the depths of this scary place underneath ACME's new park. He thought it was exciting at first, but he really didn't expect it to smell so much like under grounds.

"Guys, I forgot to tell you, I'm afraid of dark underground things," he said while they were descending, but his friends seem to think it was just a joke. So Nev laughed with them.

When his feet were on solid, horizontal rocks again, the place didn't look so bad. Blair stuck close to his friends, though. No need to wander off and be the first to get eaten by some sea monster living in the cracks.

"Man, how old is this place?" Nevon looked at marks on the walls, maybe where someone once hung electrical wires, "This is like being on a tour of some historical site, I'm expecting to see--AGHSTWHATHEF---ANACONDA!!"

Nev tripped on a wire and thought it was a really thin anaconda.

109 Bran_ap_Brychan

The descent to the dark caverns below Accolade was uneventful. Bran had taken the trip many times. Since coming to ACME, he had been put in charge of the cleanup of the discovered bunker as well as an evaluation of the technology found in it. This job pleased him. Creating something immense and fantastic from the remnants of what was once certainly a great lab gave Bran a satisfaction that he hadn’t felt since... years before.

As his boots hit the rock solid floor of the cave, Bran unattached the scaling cable from his harness and turned and walked with the others down a short passageway which lead to a large cave. The cold damp rock walls of the bunker sparkled slightly as Bran’s flashlight shed a stream of light slowly revealing their way. Eventually lights would be set up along the passageway. A blast door would be added to where it joined the main section of the bunker. Overtime, many improvements would be made.

Inside the large room of the bunker, a grand modification was taking place. Most technology had been categorized. The task at hand was creating a lab from a cave which was still dark and dirty. Large amounts of a special concrete solution were being poured in sections of the room to produce platforms which would hold the many computers, bits of technology, and prototypes. As the bunker was still top secret, the process was painfully slow but steady.
From numerous points about the cave, small tunnels snaked into the darkness. These dark and often damp tunnels traveled and branched below the campus of ACME and its surrounding area. While most of the tunnels were unexplored, some were thought to lead down to the nearby bay. One particular tunnel ran a few hundred feet from the main cave before it dead ended into a medium sized chamber. This chamber, fondly known as the Inner Sanctum, was the home of ACME’s C-5 machine.

Heading towards that tunnel, Bran called over his shoulder to the other. “Work must come before play. There are a few boxes left to be sorted and inventoried in the Inner Sanctum”. In reply, Bran heard a quick scuffling sound and
someone mentioning something about an anaconda.

“Please, do be careful around those wires...”.

110 Lee-Jordan

E_Mayhem said: 
"I'm sorry... did I wake you up?"

Lee hardly moved when he heard Mayhem's question. He was up long, making sure ACME's tech geeks hadn't traced the files back to him. He had hoped that if Chase found out the files were originally sent by Carmen, he would call off this stupid search for their forwarder. 

The problem in this little game he was playing was the fact that Chase would have to be monitored too. Lee had to know which files were accessed and what Devineaux figured out. He remembered the last signal he got from Carmen, late October. Before she went on complete radio silence. No contact, no evidence, no progress… no sense.

When he came back in to get some shuteye, his girl started moving around, mumbling something like "if you were going to bite me, you'd do it already." So he got curious. Maybe he should have shook her up sooner, but he didn't, being the kind of guy who lived off information. Then when she yelled out the name of some "Olly" he was amused. In her own panic, she woke herself.

"Bad dream?" He asked eventually. 

Jordan thrived on nightmares. Between existences, when he didn't belong to either VILE or ACME, he moved around circles, helping people get back at their enemies in the worst ways possible. He was good at it too, but other than some money, that never gave him what he wanted. He should probably figure out soon if what he wanted was with ACME, because once he finished off this little act, he didn't have other plans.

Lee then got out of the bed, put a cigarette in his mouth, then fumbled around for a shirt. 

"You want one?" He offered the cigarette even though he knew she'd say no, "Or we can go outside. You look like you need a little air."

111 Chase

Isaac Stern once said that music enhances a hall, except at Carnegie Hall. Here, with its grand design and engineered specifications, the auditorium occasionally boosted more credit to the performances that graced its stage than the performer themselves. This was one of those instances.

As Ivy's introduction triggered the ashened female into a quivering panic, and the madcap refuted her urge to run, Chase watched, listened, and weighed Joe Kerr's next words.

Joe_Kerr said: "Let us cut to the chase, no pun intended." Forcing himself to stifle his chuckle, Joe continued, "You want the Cayman, we want your help. Do we have an accord?"

An audible fear in Kerr's voice betrayed the masked expression. Uncertainty, apprehension, something overwhelmingly beyond the flamboyant jester outfit and its livid linings. This clown was sweating, not from the heat of the limelight, and not from the car theft charges that would fall on him. 

"You want my help," Devineaux repeated to show he was listening. 

The cloaked woman, short and visibly shaken, wasn't how Chase remembered seeing V.I.L.E. Henchmen. If Carmen wanted this to be an act, she picked her two best... but that wasn't probable. What's more believable would be the pair acting on their own.

"What? Did she get angry?" He taunted, "She tells you to bring the car back or you're fired?"

112 Kidman

Joe wouldn’t move, and if he didn’t, she couldn’t, either.

She saw Ivy’s hand reach for something and she pulled back behind Joe for a second, then stopped herself as her knee-jerk reaction cleared. She couldn’t use him as a shield. She wouldn’t.

‘He’s so brave.’
she thought as she clung to his arm.

Kidman edged herself back beside him, desperately grateful he was there, then ashamed of herself as he began to speak.

“....we want your help.”

The fiery shadow in her head lurched, and she remembered why she was here.


But when she heard Chase’s voice she felt a new kind of fear scrape across the back of her mind. She managed to tear her eyes away from Ivy’s silhouette to the far more imposing one behind her and she pressed closer to Joe with a shiver.

113 Joe_Kerr

Joe wasn’t surprised that Chase had responded with a taunt; from what he had heard, Chase and Carmen used to go back and forth like this all the time. However, he wasn’t Carmen and they didn’t have time for that.

Repressing the urgency in his voice, Joe answered Chase after a moment of consideration.

“The boss doesn’t know about the car, but she is why we’re here. We need your help in a matter concerning her, and I assure you it is in the best interests of both ACME and VILE that you hear us out.”

Glancing at what he could make out of Ivy, he added.

“and I would appreciate it if you’d keep away all weapons and restraining devices of any sort. I’d like to keep this civil, if you don’t mind.”

114 Chase

Before coming to this meeting, Chase had divergent ideas that were formed by the barrage of information he received on the night of Accolade's preview. They were messages, signals, sent from what seemed like a single source from April 12 until October 28, 2012. 

One shining hypothesis was vengeance; Carmen had stolen ACME Tower I, and was now slowly dissolving it from the inside. She had warned her minions of the onslaught that ACME would unleash against their numbers, and most of the headquarters ransacked were empty as a result. Her resources now low, but her goals still strong, she would then rekindle funds and relationships. This peace treaty presented in the form of a stolen Porsche Cayman might be deemed a fitting lure.

But the clown's mention of needing aid in a matter "concerning her" supported another theory. The disjointed, faint tone he heard at the end of that Russian ship's distress message told Devineaux that she was trying to reach him, whether or not injurious. What are the odds that things spun so far out of control that the only way to contact him now... were two sorry employees and a 2.7-Liters bargaining chip?

That conclusion agitated him.

"We're civil," he seared, "Now talk."

115 Kidman

Liquid fire spread from Kidman’s subconscious, slowly pushing out all other thought as the Grey Man considered her partner’s plea. She fell ever sicker as the growing swell pressed her up against the walls of her mind, until at last she ran out of room and was pushed through the glass.

“Master, Master is gone! She, she never came home, she never came home!”

Chase's eyes locked on the fanatic speaker, but he said nothing.

Kidman suddenly realized she was on her own, that that terrible man was staring her down from beyond the veil of light, but the crush pushed her on.

‘The signal to Chase, the signal to Chase!’

“Master, I mean, I mean Carmen, Carmen never came back after the tower. She’s gone, and she never contacted us, not for a year, and, and she, the tower, she shouldn’t have taken it, I tried to stop her, but there had to be a reason, she had to have known the fallout, she had to have! There had to be a reason, but something went wrong, I know it, I know it!”

From his vantage, Devineaux visualized the events that might have played between the moment ACME Tower disintegrated, to the scene in front of him now at Carnegie Hall.

'She's gone,' his own logic repeated, 'for a year', from her own ragtag circle of trust. Rage gripped him, but he focused on doubt. After seconds of stillness he turned from the woman to the jester and gave a concise, singular laugh.


Kidman grasped desperately at the sand slipping through her fingers.

“Please, please, you have to! You’re the only one who would know why! I don’t know what I can do to convince you, but, but if you could have just seen her face the night she told me-”

"That's enough," Chase concluded.

116 Joe_Kerr

“No. There’s more.”

Joe had half expected Kidman to be the wildcard in the negotiation and so far she hadn’t disappointed. However, she was fast losing Chase and he had to step in before the negotiations went south.

“Her lawyers want to declare her dead in less than two weeks unless we can produce proof of the contrary. From what I’ve heard Chase, you’re a clever guy. I shouldn’t have to tell you the magnitude of the disaster that would befall all of us should Carmen’s lawyers get their way.”

“And if you have trouble believing that Carmen has been missing for a year, think back. You pulled one heck of a stunt, blowing up your own tower and letting the press frame her. Have you ever known her to sit back and not give you some sort of rebuttal after something like that?”

Joe allowed himself a small moment of levity before resuming his serious tone.

“What we are asking is simple. We need your help to find Carmen or at least proof that she’s alive. As a gesture of peace and goodwill, you can have your Cayman back, no strings attached.”

Ivy listened as the discussion went from Chase to Joe Kerr. If Carmen Sandiego really was missing--that is, if the Jester was telling the truth--then this went far deeper than some stolen sports car.

“Okay, you’ve made your point.” She started, “Step off the stage so we can see eye to eye.”

Joe chuckled at Ivy’s unintentional pun and couldn’t help answering back.

“My dear lady, from what I can tell, I’m a good head shorter than you. I wouldn’t be able to see eye-to-eye with you unless I wore my stilts. Besides, wouldn’t it be more expedient for you to come up into the light?

“Cute.” Ivy gave a slight indignant huff. She didn’t like being told what to do, but they needed to reach a conclusion, and she wouldn’t let pride stop her from taking the first step. The Commander walked onto the stage, ducking slightly to keep the theatre lights out of her eyes.  

Chase Devineaux followed, somewhat flanking, entering the stage so Ivy's position, his and that of the two VILE henchmen formed a triangle.

As the duo walked onto the stage, the greater illumination allowed Joe a better look at them. Chase looked mostly like the few pictures he had seen of him; military haircut, no-nonsense expression, practical and functional clothing lacking somewhat in the ‘pizzazz’ department.

There was something however about Ivy that struck Joe as familiar. Unlike Kidman, he hadn’t seen any video or picture of ACME’s poster girl beforehand so the sense of deja vu was both puzzling and unsettling. The flaming red hair and equally fiery gaze, the slender frame that belied her strength and power, and that poise...why was it all so familiar?

(OOC: if you haven't guessed, this is a joint post by Chase, Ivy, and Joe. Hope you enjoyed)

117 Chase

As a tense silence fell on the platform, Chase adjusted his cuffs then pulled up his communicator to an audio file Mikal's team decoded early this morning. If this situation had taken place ten years earlier, an agitated Devineaux would have withheld information until no one was left standing. But in this case, his role as leader was to pursue solutions, and he was done testing the grounds.

"If you need proof for the lawyers," he spoke with a composed breath, "I have a message from her dated October 28:"

A clear recording began with thunderous sounds of deep bass and splitting echoes, then whistling winds and a static-like noise rose and fell, joined by sea birds crying loudly. Among them, Chase picked out the echoing call of at least one Gyr Falcon.

"Uria*--ironically," spoke a contralto female voice when the screams faded, "Did you recognise it? I think it was a five, five-point-five? It's sunrise, but I missed afternoon tea by a peher.**"

"I don't know if she's still alive," the Director admitted, and began transferring the file to a miniature solid-state drive, "But I want to find out."

He handed Joe the rectangular card, an iridescent ACME stamp sharply verified its origin. At the same time, he gave Ivy a nod. He hoped she would have figured by now what their options were, and took his signal as acknowledgment.

"…Have Fumigalli or somebody take me to the files she removed from Tower I," Devineaux didn't know for sure if any of those files would reveal more, but it was a start, "We'll need to keep one of you as contingency. Decide, then you can tell me where the car is."

*Uria -- a type of northern seabird **Peher -- a unit of time measurement formerly used for "guard duty" -- 3 hours of watch ((Carmen wrote this clue -- If you can decipher it, there may be points.))

118 Kidman

 Chase said: 
"If you need proof for the lawyers," he spoke with a composed breath, "I have a message from her dated October 28:"
"I don't know if she's still alive," the Director admitted, and began transferring the file to a miniature solid-state drive, "But I want to find out."
"…Have Fumigalli or somebody take me to the files she removed from Tower I," Devineaux didn't know for sure if any of those files would reveal more, but it was a start, "We'll need to keep one of you as contingency. Decide, then you can tell me where the car is."

 For the first time she could see Ivy and Chase clearly, and suddenly they were far too big and real for her now. Their presence overwhelmed her, and she would have panicked if not caught by Carmen’s voice.

....Master.... She’s alive!” She gasped as her heart surged with relief, but it quickly twisted into despair as Chase continued to speak.

‘He doesn’t know? He doesn’t have the files? Then nobody knows? The whole reason I came here was...was...’

And then the last words hit her.

“ of us?”

She clutched Joe’s arm as reality fractured, and she looked to him for a translation she could comprehend.

Joe silently glanced at the SD card in his hand and wondered if it would be enough to keep the lawyers at bay. What worried him even more was that Chase Devineaux himself was worried. Joe knew that Chase knew more than he was letting on at the moment, and for him to be worried was a real bad sign in regards to Carmen’s well-being.

As the jester pondered his thoughts, he was interrupted by Kidman tugging on his arm. He could tell she was scared.

“Relax. He needs one of us to stay in his custody to guarantee that the other one will return and keep our end of the bargain. He doesn’t get the concept of honour amongst thieves.”

Joe would have removed his mask to give Kidman a warm smile but the two ACME agents flanking him ruled out that possibility. Instead, he used as warm a voice as he could muster to add on his personal explanation.

“Look, I don’t understand it all either, but from what I can read off Chase, he feels that Carmen may be in danger. If so, it is more important that whoever is causing this trouble for the boss doesn’t know about ACME and VILE working together. We need the element of surprise. One of us staying with Chase will allow him to make it look like business as usual for ACME and VILE.”

Pausing to glance at the ACME duo, he whispered to her.

“It’s your choice who stays and goes. I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to.”

“My choice...”

What sort of a choice was it? Betray her dearest friend or submit herself to her dearest nightmare? But the answer was already fairly well made. No matter how desperate she was to run, she couldn’t do it at someone else’s expense, and she was sure that agreement or not, Chase would never let Joe go after the theft of his beloved car.

She was also in no shape to get back to VILE on her own. She had never left before, and knew not how to return, not without kicking up much unnecessary dust. Even if she could, it was hopeless. Vic didn’t know what the files were, so neither could return to free the other.

But over that, beyond that, she felt fated with the task.

‘The signal...’ echoed in her mind, along with words she had carried for years.

"I haven't given you anything I wouldn't want for myself."

‘She bought me time so I might live. Now I must return the favour.’

She gently took Joe’s hand in hers as she fell into a state of grace.

“...take care of us, Joe...”

Joe nodded before turning to Chase.

“Ghost will stay with you. Do not mistreat her. I trust you to remain a perfect gentleman.”

Pulling out a small white piece of paper, he handed it to the ACME Director of Operations.

“This piece of paper contains the address where your car is. You’ll know the place when you see it. It’s the safest place I could think of for the car to be.”

(Note to Chase: The paper reads Pier 76 at West 38th Street & 12th Avenue)

Pausing to jump off the stage, Joe turned around to give one last look at the three individuals looking at him. He looked with regret to Kidman before turning to Chase and Ivy and giving one last theatrical bow.

“I’ll have Vic send you a message to organize our next meeting. Until then, I must take my leave. Till we meet again.”

“Goodbye, Joe...” Kidman whispered as she watched him go, and with him, her last ray of sun.

119 Flag

Flag had been in a hostage situation before and while this descriptor did not actually apply to the situation in the limousine, it was about equally uncomfortable. This primarily had to do with the fact that someone had been watching him intently from the moment that he made contact with the group within it.

This someone happened to remind him of a hampster.

Hampster had given Mr. Cane (what he mentally named the Tweed wearing ringleader of the group)  his prize from the auction  so that it could be inspected by it's rightful owner. As if to taunt the sorcerer, he twisted and turned it in his hand while talking to someone over the phone about a demonstration of some sort.

The flaunting of his lost diamond annoyed him more than it should have and to take his mind off of it Flag reached for his phone, which finally caught Mr. Cane's attention. 

"Hold on," he told the person on the phone as he moves it away from his head. "Who are you calling?"

"Nobody. I'm bored." Flag said as waved the portable device at the man in Tweed, knowing Full well that he had struck a chord with his simple action. 

Mr. Cane furrowed his brow and returned to his previous conversation.

It was a petty move, but Flag felt slightly vindicated in lording his own prize over the other man. Apparently this was going to be  the nature of their relationship; each wanted something the other had, but wouldn't share until they were done with their respective properties. He was okay with this.

Flag directed his own attention to his phone and notes that waving it around as he did apparently opened a book tracking site that he had subscribed to. There he was greeted with a top ten favorites list that he used to keep record of books he's read and liked, or intended to read. Boredom drove him to rearrange this list.

He deleted "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" from the first two slots. They were fun reads, but because he reserved these spots for recommended books he hadn't yet read, they had to go. In their place he submitted "Time Machine" and "The Scarlet Letter." In the third spot sat " The Method of Archimedes," a representation of a book he was very much not done with (nor would be for some time), while the fourth spot listed "The Dig," a book he found on the ground at a restaurant and never actually finished.

Starting with the fifth spot were the books he actually considered his favorites. There sat "Alice in Wonderland," which he moved to spot 6 and replaced with "The Art of War." Spot 7, held "The Wizard of Oz." 8 and 9 listed "Don Quixote" and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," while "Ender's Game" sat as his least favorite in his favorites list.

With that done, he glanced at the time in the top, right-hand, corner. Only 4 minutes had gone by.

"Joy." Flag said under his breath.

"What?" inquired the Hampster.

"Nothing." Flag growled back, mentally reaffirming his unspoken threat from the auction.

"You two cut it out," said the man in Tweed as he hung up his phone, "We're almost at the airport."

120 Ivy

Ivy Monaghan watched as the negotiation concluded and the two members of V.I.L.E. bid each other farewell. There was an unspoken bravery between Joe Kerr and the one he called 'Ghost'. It was admirable, and she remembered seeing an example of that resolve in Carmen Sandiego.  

When Joe started to leave Ivy stopped him. 

"We'll find her." She said softly, unsure if she meant it for him or simply to reassure herself.

Chase Devineaux watched with apathy as the jester left, but he took a quick turn to Ivy when she spoke. He was reminded of how much exposure his commander had with the woman in question, and how much this chapter's successful resolution would mean for her.

"I'm going to make a call to ACME NYC, have them fetch the car from the impound lot in Manhattan and take it to us at the airport," He told Ivy, then as he dialed, looked downward to the remaining VILE employee, "Process her? The mask, that pen... I'll make arrangements in San Francisco."

At the end of that sentence, Chase put the phone to his ear and began taking strides towards Eugene Grovington at the door.

Ivy acknowledged the request from Chase, pulling out a pair of zip-tie plastic restraints. Noting how scared ‘ghost’ was when they first met, she tried to keep her tone as unintimidating as possible. 

“I’m sorry for this, but we’ll need you to wear these until we reach the plane. If you have any personal artifacts, you’ll also need to hand them over to me.”  

121 Kidman

Ivy said: 
"We'll find her." She said softly, unsure if she meant it for him or simply to reassure herself.

"Process her? The mask, that pen... I'll make arrangements in San Francisco."

Ivy acknowledged the request from Chase, pulling out a pair of zip-tie plastic restraints. Noting how scared ‘ghost’ was when they first met, she tried to keep her tone as unintimidating as possible. 

“I’m sorry for this, but we’ll need you to wear these until we reach the plane. If you have any personal artifacts, you’ll also need to hand them over to me.”   

It was all happening so fast. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. She had assumed that Joe has gotten some sort of amnesty. Why else would he have agreed to meet in public?

But that had been her fault.

She continued to gaze absently at the last spot she saw Joe. Was he really gone? Was she really still here, alone, with ACME? No, not just ACME, but the two she feared most? Kidman felt herself drain away into the floor, even as fear churned in what remained. Carnegie Hall had seemed so warm and beautiful before, but the moment Joe left, the beauty went with it. It could have transformed into an abandoned warehouse on the dock and she wouldn’t have noticed the difference.

"We'll find her." Kidman heard Ivy say through her altered space.

She looked at the woman’s face with muted surprise.

‘She...meant that. I could feel it.’

The words were an unexpected comfort and she curled around it for warmth. Years of bedtime stories eased around the red-haired woman, but the man...

The man was cold as stone.

‘She was your partner! How can you be so cruel?’

Had they been wrong? He said he wanted the missing files, but now she wasn’t so sure as to why. Maybe he wanted to find her to exact his own revenge. The thought didn’t fit right to her, but she was no longer as confident of her instincts.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this.

Kidman watched him leave, tuning in and out of his words as her world greyed until she heard “pen” and “mask”.

Immediately her hands went to her face and chest to protect her treasures.

“I, I can’t. I can give you my knife. It’s wrapped in string and a rubber band, but not the pen. It’s all I have left of her. When I hold it, I can feel...she’s still alive....”

She trailed into silence, then solemnly took the chain with the pen from around her neck. Tears welled in her eyes as she studied it one last time.

“Please... take care of Master for me. I carried her as far as I could go...” Kidman said softly as she placed the pen in Ivy’s hand, her fingers lingering upon the smooth black beacon a moment longer before letting go.

Then both hands quickly returned to the mask, pressing the hard plastic into her skin to be sure the second application of glue still held.

Long ago, she woke in a field, battered, scarred, and without memory of who she was. She wandered until she stumbled upon a VILE training facility, where she was treated, fed, and eventually named. She lived a happy life, for a while.

But time passed, and the long, empty shadow behind her became too large to ignore. Kidman began to question her missing memory, her grey hair, and scars. She found she could do things others couldn’t, and the more she prodded the shadow for answers, the more clearly it impressed on her that terrible things loomed within. Uncertain of where the danger lay or how to protect against it, she hid.

She hid for many years, and could have for many more.

VILE had allowed her a life without record, and so long as it remained that way, she reasoned, she would be safe. The easy way out.

Now she fought to keep a surge of terror at bay as she stared at the plastic restraints in Ivy’s hand. The idea of them scared her in a way she couldn’t comprehend. It was one of many things that did.

She touched the mask sorrowfully.

“I... I’ve glued it on.”

 122 Gunnar

With his harnesses fastened and carabiners jingling, Gunnar felt ill-prepared for today’s venture. He had probably not chosen the proper clothes for it. Besides, he had never appreciated caving. As a child, it was frightening to him, and he had fastened himself to his father’s arm on the one experience, afraid that they might encounter a bear so deep in the earth. Now, he only hated how tight the fit was, as he was considerably taller and was not suited for clambering in through small tunnels.

Also, when Ainsworth mentioned the bats, he hesitated briefly. The descent was easily negotiated, however, and once the harnesses were detached from the rappelling lines, the way was even simpler.

He emerged from the tunnel into the illuminated greater chamber after splashing through the currently-shallow pool of water, and was pleased to find that the walls were much farther apart and the ceiling much higher. The first object the Swede noticed was the evil-looking thing scuttering about the room, collecting data of whatever sort it was capable of gathering. The machine intrigued Gunnar, and he wondered just how complex its programming must be. Lain about the room, hundreds of wooden crates with stencil-painted labels characterized the area with the true bunker feel of the cave, and Gunnar felt more inspired to take part in the impending lifting and cataloging of the documents and materials.

Subconsciously, the young man’s tension was relieved as his mind had failed to register the presence of bears. His heart rate skyrocketed not long after, though, as Nevon shouted in alarm just behind him.

123 Nevon

Nevon Blair dusted himself off after his close encounter with a wire that looked a lot like a black snake. He laughed, going right back to studying the cave.
"Sorry about that," he told Bran. Steak night broke the ice for this group last night and Nev was more comfortable with people he shared food with. 

The first thing he noticed was how high the ceiling really was. At some parts, it could probably fit a whole 2 storey house in here with room to spare. His eyes went from item to item, but he really liked the steam-punk thing in a big alcove. 

"What's this?" Nevon pointed to a giant machine that looked to him like some rusted science apparatus. "This would look SO cool as a focal piece," then Blair saw the sticky-note that said something like 'prototype C-5 machine' on the metallic barrel. "Hey guys!" Nev pointed as he prepared to make a joke, "I'm not an expert, but I think it's missing some kind of piece here to make it a functional time machine."

124 DetectiveAwesome

"Missing a what?" Dan joked, "Nev I think you're thinking about something else entirely... the chronoskimmer is just a myth--"

For a moment, Daniel Ainsworth looked at the prototype C-5 Machine and realized something was wrong. Back when he still needed extra credit to pass his classes, Dan used to help clean out the dust bits from under the former C-5 at ACME Tower I. He remembered that there was a huge chunk in the middle, but forgot what they called it. Part of the laser-something that made things disappear? He and Bran Brychanson were so busy making sure everything was preserved they didn't think to catalog if anything was missing. 

"Hey man, you might be right..." Daniel replied to Nevon. 

He ran back to one of the computerized file drawers, almost tripping on the Spider Drone on his way. The file drawer required a special ACME Technology Labs card and his fingerprints to open, but this was because it held some of the lab's most important documents. Inside was a large book with the blueprints of the modern-day C-5. The part that was gone was the DECOIL, or Discharge Excited Catalytic Oxygen Iodine Laser

"Guys, the DECOIL is missing... it's the laser that fuels the C-5. It should be on this model." Examining the edges of the prototype C-5 machine Dan could see that it was recently removed. There were definitely newer scratches above old patina on the metal. But if it was taken a year ago or a week ago, there was no way to tell. "That's really weird. The whole C-5 machine is designed to use the DECOIL. Without it, it's like a gun without bullets. There's no reason for them to be separated... and who else could have taken it from the labs except us? That thing weighs a ton!"

He turned to Bran Brychanson who usually knew what to do in these kinds of situations. 

125 Narrator

Auld Lang Syne Thus Far


We are now 2 days into Auld Lang Syne's timeline, which means it's time for a recap. Note: This only includes plot moving elements.

One year from the last RP (Paradigm Shift) This is where we are. At the site where ACME's former Tower I stood, a secret underground bunker was found. It is said to contain old ACME technology. A park was quickly put up over the bunker, and a new tower called 'Accolade' was built next to it. 

Who is San Raphael?

Lee Jordan was working for 'a man in tweed' to find and kill Carmen Sandiego. Failing to deliver on time, Lee resorted to using Chase Devineaux. By forwarding all of the information he had, including some that he stole from Inspector Eleanor Mayhem's laptop he hoped that Chase could find Carmen. In doing so he Lee found information on a dangerous former agent in ACME named San Raphael. 

According to Suhara, Carmen was part of the 'ACME Saints Program.' It's believed she is Saint Uriel, a group of four highly trained agents given absolution for their missions. They answered only to the Global Operations Director (GOD) who were members of the ACME board at the time. There are four Saints identified as San Gabriel, San Uriel, San Micheal and San Raphael. This program was terminated before Carmen was sent to the ACME detectives program. 

Flag has agreed to work with the 'Man in Tweed', possibly to help find and take down Carmen in exchange for the diamond he desperately wants. In a journal post, it is revealed that the 'Man in Tweed' also tried to hire Eugene Grovington during his time away from ACME.

What's happening with V.I.L.E.

V.I.L.E. under the combined leadership of Vic the Slick and Sarah Nade are currently regrouping at an abandoned theater. Carmen has been missing for over a year and they need definitive proof that she is alive or her lawyers are going to divide her assets.

Dr. Roux was fired from V.I.L.E. but as Carmen went missing soon after, he has told no one and stayed in the organization.

Flag, in search of a way home has been working on something that involves human blood and a rare naturally flawless diamond. He traced this back to the 'Man in Tweed' which he now calls 'Mr. Cane'. 

Joe Kerr and Kidman did not see eye to eye with the rest of V.I.L.E., and planned a secret meeting with Chase Devineaux to find proof that Carmen is alive in exchange for Chase's stolen Porsche Cayman. 

What's happening with ACME

ACME held a Winter Ceremony in which agents were commended for their work throughout the year.

The underground bunker (discovered after Tower I was stolen) is slowly being converted to ACME's Technology Labs, under the supervision of Bran Brychanson and his promising assistant Daniel Ainsworth. They detailed that the original S.T.U.N. suit blueprints as well as C-5 prototypes were found there. The day after the Winter Ceremony Gunnar Svensson and Nevon Blair, visited the bunker to find that a C-5 prototype was missing a very important piece. The DECOIL (Discharge Excited Catalytic Oxygen Iodine Laser) which fuels the C-5 system. They concluded that it was stolen but do not know when this could have happened. 

Chase Devineaux, Ivy Monaghan and Eugene Grovington flew to New York to meet Joe Kerr and Kidman. During the plane ride, Chase played a recording of Salinga (a Russian Cargo Ship) being boarded, this is also linked with two coast guards at a Kodiak Communications Station being killed. Carmen's voice was identified at the end of the message.

At the meeting, Chase gave Joe Kerr a file that Lee Jordan sent him, which contained Carmen's voice. This was proof V.I.L.E. may need to prevent Carmen from being declared 'missing' for over a year. In exchange, ACME has taken Kidman into custody. 

126 Bran_ap_Brychan

Bran observed closely as Daniel looked through the files on the C-5. Coming to the same conclusion, that the DECOIL was indeed missing, Bran quickly ran any possible explanations through his mind. Did someone at the agency move it? Did Daniel or he misplace it? But all hypotheses had a catch, a slight fact which would debunk them.

Without a word, Bran turned and strode over to an old rotary phone which served as a communication device in the bunker since cell phone reception was poor. Spinning the dial, he entered a familiar number and waited. After a few dull rings sounded, the other line was picked up and a
man’s voice answered in greeting.

“Chase, we have a slight issue which may prove to be... problematic”.

127 Kidman (Inspired by Flag, edited by Chase)

Twelve hours had passed, but the girl on the floor didn’t notice. She had left long before.

It hadn’t been for lack of trying.

She could still hear Chase’s watch ticking away, somewhere on the edge of her mind.




The first cut had been the loss of her pen. The restraints were the second.

‘Stay calm, stay calm. It’s just a pen, it’s just plastic. It’s just plastic, it’s just plastic...’

But a persistent fear remained, and every time she felt them move on her wrists, panic flared anew.

They had silently flanked her through the building, then spoke above her as they waited for their car. Third cut.

Something cold, hard shades of black and white began to push back against the mental heartburn of Carmen’s nightmares. An ancient shadow. Being led, being bound, being handled, being ill. Kidman had been too nervous to eat much the hours before. Now she was growing faint.




She glanced over at Chase. Was his watch really that loud?

‘It’s only plastic, it’s only a pen, it’s only plastic, only temporary, only until the plane, the plane...’

No words were spoken to her as the car arrived, and they forcefully guided her into its dark interior, hands bound.

‘Temporary, temporary, temporary, temporary’

The doors closed. Locked.

‘Temporary, temporary, temporary, temporary

They had gotten stuck in traffic.

‘Temporary, temporary, temporary, temporary’
she thought as calmly as she could, but she was already tugging at the restraints.

They arrived at the airport after an age. More words spoken over her head. More cold, sideways glances in her direction. Cargo and nothing more. She barely perceived any of it past the restraints.

Want them off, want them off, take them off!’

Panic trickled past her defenses and she began to shake, fearful that at any moment she would start screaming. Somehow, somehow she had lasted long enough to get on the plane.

The restraints were removed, and Kidman nearly cried with relief.

It appeared that even in such a dire situation, a plane was a safe place. Her place. The cargo hold was her place, and she clung to its familiarity for dear life. Only after they were in the air did she notice that she shared the space with Chase and his car.

She was trapped, with him.

Kidman pressed herself against the wall.

At times, the man shot her a glare and she folded back further. Her heart pounded against a tightened chest.

‘What is he going to do to me? What are they going to do to me? I don’t want to be here alone with him, I don’t want to be alone!’

Her mind treaded into static as nausea rolled over her until the hum of the engines eased her back into coherent thought. Then she was forced to remember why she was here.

‘For Carmen, for Carmen, for Carmen.... ‘
She thought with as much strength as she could muster. ‘I’m here for Master.’
Kidman stole a glance at him. Chase was on his phone


He had laughed.

‘He doesn’t care. No, he wants the files. He wants the files, why? To find her, no, find her himself. We’re giving him the final pieces. I’m giving him the finally pieces. What if you don’t want to be found, Master? What if it’s all just in my head? What have I done?’

She squeezed her knees to her chest, and dug her nails into her arms to stop the tremours as they came. Panic rose in waves. Kidman grit her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut against it, but there was nothing to distract her, no one to speak to, nowhere to hide.

Eternity passed with every second,

And the man of stone said nothing.

The flight had lasted seven hours.
25,200 endless seconds. Each one had taken a little more.

Kidman tipped back and forth into a muted sleep, never fully on either side. She was running through snow, running, running. Stark black trees whipped past. It was silent. Overhead the sky was dirty white with just a halo of red. The fire and heat felt blunted now, muffled. She was running away, then running towards...something, someone.

There was a figure in the distance, but her knowledge of who it was shifted.

Carmen, Chase, Joe. Some names she didn’t know, some she remembered from long ago. At times she seemed to gain some ground, but they were always too far away to see.

Carmen’s voice whispered in the wind, but nothing came through.

She ran until she was no longer running. She never really woke, not when the plane landed, not in the car, not through the ACME grounds, but she had shadows of memories through the white. Being moved, being cold, a stinging light around her wrists. There was a brief, clear picture of the new tower, an angry sentinel against the night sky. She felt it swear vengeance upon her before she fell in again.

The only other moment that stood out was the threshold of the holding cell. If she could, she would have screamed and ran.

The room terrified her until they turned out the light.

Kidman was still as she fell to the mattress. Dawn slowly pulled the darkness away through a tiny window, but she barely perceived it. All that remained were whispers of nightmares.

And the sound of footsteps coming down the hall.

128 Joe_Kerr [note: the following takes place on 14th Dec, 0725 hrs]

The peaceful calm of the morning was broken by the sound of a speeding black cab charging down the road. Within the cab, a certain jester sat in quiet contemplation.

After leaving Carnegie Hall, and Kidman in ACME's self-righteous clutches, Joe had dashed across Central Park and whistled down a taxi; for once, Joe was grateful that New York taxi drivers never let anything faze them. It was during that ride to Teterboro airport that the cabbie took a shortcut through an old ghetto neighbourhood, the neighbourhood in New York that Joe Kerr once grew up in.

When Joe saw where they were driving through, the memories instantly returned.

He recalled how she had always been by his side when they pulled pranks together on unsuspecting adults. She always used to say that the pranks were harmless and meant to make people remember to laugh and enjoy life. With her vibrant red hair, bright eyes and infectious laugh, she was the epitome of someone enjoying life.
Then the incident happened. After pulling a prank on their father, Joe had started to run for safety only to stop and turn around to see her faint.

He had thought it was a joke she was playing but she didn't wake up no matter how much he cried and shouted her name. He remembered looking at her through tear stained eyes as she lay lifeless in a hospital bed three days later; the unending tone of the flat lining monitor echoing through her ward as he yelled her name trying in vain to get her to open her eyes.


That's who Ivy had reminded Joe of back in Carnegie Hall. She was the spitting image of Evelyn albeit a few years older. Evelyn probably would have looked like Ivy had she lived to see her 18th birthday and the days beyond that. Joe wondered if this revelation would influence future encounters with ACME and its new unit commander.

The deluge of memories and thoughts threatened to overwhelm Joe and probably would have had it not been for Carmine snapping Joe out of his thoughts. Joe was grateful for his feline friend, whether she knew it or not, her timing had always been impeccable. As Carmine moved around in his lap, Joe fished out the SD card Chase had given him; the ACME logo on the device stood out as a haunting reminder of the desperation of the current situation, and how it had driven Joe to seek help from an unlikely source.

As the black cab pulled up to the abandoned, or rather, once abandoned theatre, Joe took a deep breath and exited the cab with Carmine. He didn't know how Vic was going to react but it was time to find out. 

129 Ivy

[Chase Devineaux, Eugene Grovington and Ivy Monaghan have returned to San Francisco at approximately 9.30 p.m on December 13th, 2012. Kid Kidman has been booked into a temporary holding cell at ACME Compound for the night. This event takes place early the next day. The following is a collaborative post between Ivy Monaghan, Deric Storm and Nace Bilby]

December 14, 2012 6:25 a.m.

Ivy Monaghan hated guns. 

Anyone who knew her, knew that she hated them. During the year's evaluation, her scores had all come back exemplary, that is... except for marksmanship. Times were changing, and the Commander understood that if she wanted to continue on the path of fieldwork she needed to get over her apprehensions. For the past few months, she resolved to practice twice a week at the ACME shooting range in an attempt to get comfortable with her Sig P226 service pistol. Failing to show major improvement she decided it was time to swallow her pride and ask for help, even if it meant starting from scratch. 

ACME's current shooting range was located at the Academy Campus, several blocks from Accolade Tower. The outdoor area was well equipped, but unpopular this time of year. It was a cold day for San Francisco standards, and Ivy could see clouds of condensation forming from her breaths as she approached the stations.

Standing near the end of the field were two men. She recognized one as her friend Deric Storm, and the man standing next to him as Nace Bilby, the SAS sniper. 

"Hey." She greeted, "Didn't start without me, did you?"

“I got a few rounds in.” Nace said, “Namely to get some practice for myself.” 

He stood there at the range, his jacket over his gray sweater, a pistol strapped to his leg in a leg holster, also a SIG P-226. Two reasons he carried the weapon today, one was because he needed to keep his own skills sharp and the other was that was the weapon he was teaching Ivy to use.

He smiled as Ivy approached and said, “Right, let me explain how this is going to work. First we’re going to go over the mechanics of drawing and firing a pistol before we start shooting targets at 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 meters distance.” 

“First part of the lesson is drawing and aiming the pistol.” Nace said as he stood, feet slightly spread apart, hands crossed over his belt buckle, “Remember with shooting slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Concentrate on getting the motions smooth and comfortable and speed will come.”

Just as Nace spoke his right hand reached over to the pistol on his right thigh, engaged the catch holding the pistol in the holster. He drew it swiftly, his left hand grasping his right hand and aimed at a target five meters away. Firing three rounds he put three rounds, clustered close together at the center of the target’s torso (a human silhouette target). 

Nace put the pistol on safe before putting it back into the holster. “Now, in your case we’ll work on just drawing and dry firing at the 1 meter target to the left of the one I just shot. Try to draw your weapon and aim down your sights a few times, I’ll watch your technique and give you some pointers.” 

“Just remember, Red,” Deric joked, “the muzzle goes towards your target.”

"You really shouldn't taunt a woman with a loaded gun, Deric." Ivy smirked. 

“What can I say? I like to live dangerously.”

She quickly wrapped her hair back in a short ponytail, and put on a pair of pale amber ballistics glasses. As instructed the ACME agent removed the ammunition out of her own service weapon before turning the safety off. Ivy breathed in. She mirrored Nace's stance, pulling the pistol out and aiming in a fluid motion. In another heartbeat she pulled the trigger, hearing the sharp snap of the firing pin mechanism. It could have been the pressure of being put on the spot, but for some reason the action seemed slightly easier than when she practiced alone.

“I see you’ve graduated to an even higher order of wit, Deric.” Nace sarcastically remarked at Deric’s remark. Deric bowed in response to the sarcastic praise.
“Good form, Ivy.” Nace remarked as he watched Ivy draw her weapon, “Just remember slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”

There were three magazines, with five rounds apiece, on the table in front of the 1 meter target. After Nace watched Ivy’s practice with the draw and dry firing of her weapon he said, “Good, now it’s time we add the element of live ammunition. On the table there are three magazines, with five rounds apiece just to get you familiar. Take one of the three magazines in front of the 1 meter target and practice your draw and fire on that target and I’ll see what your results look like from there.” 

“Like this, Ivy,” Deric said, now serious, as he demonstrated his form, putting all five shots in a tight grouping on his own target.

Nace examined the target, five rounds clustered around the center of mass of the target. “Solid grouping, Deric.”

“Ivy, don’t worry too much about speed. Worry about accuracy and consistently placing your rounds in a tight pattern.” Nace directed as he waited for Ivy to start her own shooting. 

Ivy nodded, and loaded the P226. She repeated the action of drawing her pistol, then aimed and fired. At one meter, it wasn't too difficult to gage the trajectory. The first shot landed well, barely off the target's center. But then she felt it. 

Holding the warm weapon in her hand triggered something deep within her mind. She brushed it off as a mild annoyance, but as she fired again it grew. The next shot was high.

The one after that, even worse. At each instance, the thunder of gunfire caused her to lose more focus. Hoping to shrug it off, Ivy rolled her shoulders back and tried to compose herself, but by this time she could feel her own heart pounding in--what was it?--anger? fear?

This had happened to her before, sometimes worse than others. Her hands trembled, and she immediately placed the pistol on the table, stepping away from it.   

"F***, I'm sorry." She whispered. 'And great...' Ivy thought as she saw the faces of the two men with her, 'Deric and Nace think I'm psycho'

Nace watched Ivy’s first shot hit barely off center of the target’s center. He watched as subsequent shots go higher and off target. He watched Ivy immediately put the pistol on the table, the slide cocked to the rear as it had fired its last round. 

“Ivy, are you alright?” Nace said, heading over to her. He checked the weapon, ensuring there were no rounds in the chamber. 

“Don’t worry about it, Ivy,” Deric said, noticing her hands trembling slightly, “nobody’s Annie Oakley their first time firing.” As much as he was trying to be comforting, he could tell that Ivy was still shaken up.

"I'll be-- I'm fine." Ivy replied. Suck it up, and try again. She reprimanded herself. Growing up in the world of competitive martial arts, Monaghan wasn't a stranger to physical setbacks. Her problems were usually easy to solve, more hard work, more practice and eventually things fell into place. But right now, she was having a difficult time just trying to breathe. Seeing that her hand was still shaking, Ivy prompted herself to draw it into a tight fist before trying to relax it again.

"Listen, I need to take a rain check." 

“Okay,” Deric said, sensing the redhead’s frustration, “we’ll be here when you’re ready.”

“I understand.” Nace said, also noticing Ivy seemed rather shaken up, “Is everything alright?” Nace asked. 

A sudden rumble stopped any further conversation. San Francisco was known for its earthquakes, but this one felt different. For such a small tremor they could hear a massive burst in the distance, as if a building was knocked down. It was within the minute that their ACME communicators began to ring.

[URGENT. ALL ACME PERSONNEL. Report your status immediately to command. ]

This was followed quickly by another message. 

[ACTIVE FIELD AGENTS and MEDICAL PERSONNEL: Emergency team required at Nob Hill, 1221 Jones Street.] 

“Uh, I don’t think that was a quake,” Deric said, now himself a little shaken. “Let’s roll.”

“Right.” Nace replied, immediately grabbing up the magazines and ammo and other ancillary kit, stuffing it into a bag and reaching for a large medical kit he had also brought with him. As a rule he always brought emergency medical supplies to firing ranges, one never knew if that would come in handy after all.

130 Chase

On the morning of December 14, Chase Devineaux left his apartment early and headed to ACME labs. There, he obtained a solvent known among agents as 'GluGone', a homemade mixture invented by a motherly lab technician when some agents displayed allergies to the standard removers. When he found it, he also took a small first aid kit from his office and headed down to the holding cells where he left a distraught VILE agent the night before. 

"Morning," he greeted as he shut the door. The sandwich he had a custodian fetch for the detainee last night was still in its place, untouched. Chase pulled a folding chair from one corner of the room, and took a seat next to the form that was sprawled on ACME's 3-inch 'extra-comfy' floor mattress.

Kidman barely noticed the screech of the chair as it was pulled across concrete. She hadn’t noticed the chair before. She didn’t notice much. Nothing was processing now. 

"Get up," he nudged, "let's get this mask off you," Devineaux shook the bottle of nontoxic adhesive remover and took a cotton pad out of the first aid kit.

But the only response he received was the whispered sound of shallow breath. She wasn’t trying to resist. She still wasn’t sure the man was actually there. 

He breathed. The girl had been in and out, he noted, since she came into custody, "Sit," he urged, "let's go."

Kidman’s eye’s refocused. There was definitely someone talking to her. “Who...where am I?”

Chase took a moment, unsure if he should answer.

"You're in a holding cell," he eventually replied, "ACME Headquarters. You don't remember coming here?"

The room slowly assembled itself around her and she finally grasped who the man above her was. “Chase!” She gasped and tried to move away, then found she hadn’t the strength. Panic wrestled with exhaustion, but exhaustion quickly won.  . “I...I remember Joe, and the stage, and you took my pen, and then it just... You didn’t care...”

Devineaux chuckled briefly at 'didn't care'. "How's that mask?" he inquired, "Comfortable?"

Kidman’s hand moved to her face. ‘Thank god, it’s still there.’ “No, but I need it... Thank you for letting me keep it...”

"I can't let you keep it." He said as nicely as he could, then realized his deeper voice might have sounded rough and tried again, "It's protocol..." He showed her the bottle from ACME labs, a concoction of primarily coconut oil.  "So, this will remove the glue... and you can get your mask back before you leave."

Suddenly Kidman was wide awake, and what little strength she had she used to pull away into a corner.

“No, no no, you can’t! You’ve let me have it this long, why not just let me? P-please, if I’m ever documented, I’ll lose everything. I’m willing to do this for her, but please, please don’t make me!”

VILE had always been unbelievably volatile, and this was a good example. "Nobody's documenting you," he explained, "I don't need the extra paperwork. I just need to take the mask for now. You can have it back, and no one else has to see your face if you don't want them to."

The girl’s body sagged against the wall. She knew she couldn’t win this, and she was so very tired. Kidman looked up at the door’s window.“But... what about that? People can look in.”

"They won't see much, it's brighter outside," he reasoned, "Come on, sit up, won't take long."

“Won’t take long....” she murmured as she pulled her shawl back and allowed her life’s work to be undone. She wondered what he’d think of what he found beneath. 

"Right," he said under a tired breath as he put the balm to the cotton pad and started applying it against the glue. Not wanting silence, he decided on questions, "Why do you call her 'Master'?" 

The touch of the balm on her face sent off another spasm of fear and she carefully edged around it. "She...she's a master at so much, and she really is, of all of us." Kidman hesitated. "And for me, someone to belong to."

"You belong to her?" The bond was letting go easily. "That's new."

"I don't think she knows I feel this way. It doesn't really matter if she does. I've lived as long as I have, as well as I have because of her. I owe her my life." She paused. "That is why I am here."

Chase let the solvent settle. "You think being here will save her life?"

"Being here hadn’t been part of the plan... But she's in danger, I know it. “ Kidman replied with sudden conviction. “I know I sound crazy. I, I feel that I am, but something dragged me here. I've never been outside of VILE. This is...perhaps the most terrifying thing I've ever done, but it won't let me rest. The nightmares...the same ones, all the time..."

She shivered.

"They don't feel like other dreams, like mine. They feel...outside me."

The Director pulled on the mask lightly, and it surrendered without protest. "Nightmares... like the ones you had on the plane?"

Beneath was a face full of worries and oddly placed scars, but otherwise no real reason for her to hide her features. Chase looked back at the mask. Its mouth section was sawed off, indicating she had planned to keep this cover on for as long as needed. Amused, he put it on top of the medical kit.


Kidman winced as the mask lifted away. She felt naked without it now, but the urge to care was slipping from her. She gazed at it atop the medical kit, a lost life. The only way now was forward and she sighed, just a little bit older.

"So that came through, did it...? I've been told I'm restless in my sleep. Sometimes I don't think I'm even sleeping, just picking up another signal that is overriding mine."

Usually he wouldn't bother, but this morning, Devineaux felt he was breaking some kind of wall. It was past six, but he could hold off breakfast a while longer. 
"What sort of signals?" He asked as he handed the girl a cloth to wipe her face from the remaining solution, then relaxed in the chair.


She hadn’t noticed the word when she spoke it, but hearing it said back jarred the nightmares back to life. She closed her eyes and rubbed her newly freed face against her palms.

“Sometimes they start as mine, but I always know when they turn. Everything becomes red and heavy. It’s always out on the ocean, on a boat or a ship. I can see Master, or sometimes I am her. She’s tired, scared, like time is running out, something is coming. I can’t always tell what she’s saying, but it’s feels like, ‘"Get the signal to Chase... about San Raphael, San Raphael.”

While he listened, a short wave rumbled through ACME compounds. In San Francisco, small earthquakes were commonplace, and this one was no different, so Chase effectively ignored it in favor of the speaking henchwoman.

The visions began to weigh on her and she started the long, tedious process of pushing them away.“What is San Raphael? It always burns when she says it.”

Chase heard the name reiterated more than once these past few days. From what he knew, it wasn't good news. The ACME program associated with that label dispersed because one or two individuals executed a lot of people. Still, his insights on why VILE's leader seemed to be digging her own grave would have to come from retracing her steps.

"San Raphael was a bad man," Devineaux was certain of that, despite being unsure of nearly everything else, "It's important we find your boss, because this is starting to sound like ACME's business, and I don't like where it might be heading."

At this time, his communicator beeped, but he ignored it.

Kidman just stared at him, stunned, as ice flooded her veins. Then she pulled herself closer. “What...what do you mean? San Raphael is a...real thing? A real person?”

The visions exploded behind her eyes with shockwave force. ‘Then it was all true.’

“She’s....she’s really in danger! Then what is the ship? What are the lights? What was the blood on the deck? What else do you know? You know more, don’t you?”

"Hold it," he set the panicking figure back into her bed, "Relax!"

Again, the communicator beeped, and again it was ignored.

When she was calmer, he let go of her shoulders, "I don't know anything beyond this... Christ! Don't... do that."

Kidman swallowed hard and bit her lip. She felt like she was on fire.  ‘He’s lying, of course he knows more. Or...does he? Am... I the signal...?’

“Mr. Chase, sir... I don’t know how much you believe me. I don’t believe me, but I’ve been carrying this for months. I can tell you, she’s gone because of San Raphael. She’s been trying to tell you. Something happened on a ship, somewhere cold, around the second wave of raids. The files, if they are about this man, follow that path. It’s him. I’d place my life on it.”

The most unsettling thing to the current Director of Operations was the phrase 'she's gone because of San Raphael'. This was a figure rooted in ACME's past, why should it resurface now? He exhaled.

"I'm assuming she didn't tell you any of this in person?"

“...No, sir. But... I was the first to know about the tower.  One of only a few. It was almost three years ago. Her face that night... She knew she was doing something dangerous, and when I asked if she wanted the C-5, she seemed...almost angry. She wanted it gone. I would have asked more, but I was so scared at the time."

Kidman wrung her thin grey shawl in her hands and looked at the floor.

“..Why do you care now? You didn't yesterday..”

The sharp, mirthless laugh from the day before still shook her, but the nightmares took no heed. Kidman grit her teeth. ‘It’s the only way.’  She raised her head and looked Chase straight in the eyes.

"Do you care that she’s missing? Or do you just want it finished?"

This one isn't trained, Devineaux thought while looking back at her. Other henchmen would have jumped to the conclusion by now that he, just like the rest of ACME, would benefit instantly from VILE's dispersion.

"If I wanted anything finished, it would have ended a long time ago." His lowered tone was at least sincere, but he had his own doubts. This really should have ended a very long time ago.

Kidman continued to stare at him. "Then why haven't you?"

Before it became apparent that he didn't have an answer, his set-to-silent cell phone loudly rang, indicating a call from someone important.

"Devineaux," he answered.

"Where the hell are you?" a furious female voice blared, "Where?!" Chase had never heard ACME's Vice President Barbara Rosen so angry over the phone.

"I'm at the compounds," he answered hesitantly, "Why?"

"Where in the compounds?"

"Holding cells..."

"Stay," she commanded, "Don't move from there, don't call anybody, don't answer your phone, do you understand me?"


"Wait until I get there," she sounded less urgent, but Chase couldn't tell if it was relief or just exasperation, "You just won life's goddamned lottery."

131 Vic-the-Slick

Joe_Kerr said: [note: the following takes place on 14th Dec, 0725 hrs]

As the black cab pulled up to the abandoned, or rather, once abandoned theatre, Joe took a deep breath and exited the cab with Carmine. He didn't know how Vic was going to react but it was time to find out. 

The theatre was getting reworked, slowly but surely. Vic already got a bunch of VILE henchmen pretending like they're contractors. It's been a few days since Fumigalli's seen Joe or Kidman, but he was sure they were okay. Not everyone cared to admit, but they were all curious on what Devineaux had to say about all this. Vic only hoped that an agitated Chase didn't out right arrested the two of them.

That Roux Doctor came around and verified that he last heard from Carmen in Tunisia, back in December. But Patty had another note that showed Boss contacted the Twins sometime in January. This bought Vic a little bit more time, but the lawyers weren't so happy. More than anything, those lawyers were hungry doing their jobs. Vic knew VILE's leader specifically had a system in place that would protect everyone in it.

It worked like this… in the event of her disappearance, whether or not she was legally dead, 12 months after her last known communication, all of VILE must disband. Its members would be given equal shares in the amount of heists hours and years in service. Then ten percent of everyone's payout had to go to charity. Carmen wasn't a fan of take-overs or passing down inheritances, and she set this up so even if someone overthrew her, the money would go to the people who deserved it most. The salesman remembered back when she first drafted this rule and he and the others agreed to it because it stood to benefit all of them. But today, Fumigalli realized it benefitted Carmen the least. For all she's doing, she wanted nothing; and when she's gone like this, no one could help her.

Vic looked up from his law papers to see Joe coming into the theater looking like a lion just bit off his left arm. Two went, and one came back? 

"Whadda heck happened t' Kidman?" Vic asked in his half-panicked voice.

132 Constance

Constance had been jogging, as she usually did Friday mornings. Ever since she was small, an uncontrollable urge to run and glide in the wind had set itself upon her. These activities, like few other things in life, conveyed a feeling of truly being free. Throughout high school, this led her to pursue many sports such as soccer and softball. She never did understand how people could spend hours and days without taking time to exercise in some way. How could they ignore the urge to sprint as fast as possible while letting their hair flow peacefully in the always enchanting wind? How could they ignore the urge to leave all cares at their desks and explore the outdoors in the form of a wonderful, refreshing jog?

This particular morning was lovely. The blue sky overhead promised a day free from rain. The slightly chilly morning air pricked at Constance’s face. Anticipating the cold, she had taken a light jacket with her, but, after a mile or so into her run, she found that it was not needed and had tied it around her waist.  Having run about 2 miles, she came to a pause at a light and waited for the traffic to clear. Nearby, a small brown bird perched on a leafless limb of a Flowering Pear. As Connie watched, the bird happily chirped its tune which seemed to float through the sky, cheering the world it touched.

Suddenly the music stopped, and the bird left its branch in a hasty flutter. A deep rumbling was felt throughout the ground. All life seemed to freeze as it continued. Milliseconds later a loud cracking sound shot through the air from a hill just to Connie’s right. Turning, she could see a cloud of dust and smoke rising in the sky. She stood frightened for a few quick seconds, unable to move and unsure of what to do. Was it an earthquake? A terrorist attack? Were people hurt? A new found wave of determination swept over her and she momentarily forced her fear to subside. Flipping out her cell phone, she, with shaking hands, dialed 911 and headed towards the dreaded cloud of debris at a fast sprint.

133 Joe_Kerr

Vic-the-Slick said: "Whadda heck happened t' Kidman?" Vic asked in his half-panicked voice.

"Long story," came the succinct reply from the jester. 

Before Vic could press further, Joe pulled out the SD card and handed it to his polyester clad comrade.

"You might want to listen to what's on this first. It was enough to get Chase Devineaux genuinely worried, and we both know what that means."

134 Kidman

Kidman had registered something in the man’s eyes before the phone rang, but before she could zero in on it she was distracted by the angry voice on the phone. It hadn’t been her intent to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to in such quiet, confined space.

“Mr. Chase... Are you okay?” She asked, then paused a moment. “Why don’t they know where you are? Isn’t this where you are supposed to be?”

135 Vic-the-Slick

Joe_Kerr said: "You might want to listen to what's on this first. It was enough to get Chase Devineaux genuinely worried, and we both know what that means."

Vincent Fumigalli was a careful man who liked to do things exactly the way he liked to do them. The polyester suit was something he stuck to. He hated changing routines, and one of the things that he loved so much about being in VILE was its predictability. They had fun, and this beautiful, ambitious woman kept them going.

Vic opened a computer and plugged in the card. He heard static and some birds, then Carmen's voice…

"Urias--ironically," her speech was clear as day, "Did you recognise it? I think it was a five, five-point-five? It's sunrise, but I missed afternoon tea by a peher."

He didn't understand it, but he didn't need to. It was her voice, and it was dated October 28.

"Why would Devineaux give us a golden ticket like this?" He asked Joe, "What does the guy want?"

The jester paused to turn around and take in the renovation work going on around him while he considered the best way to answer Vic's queries; Joe also made a quick note to talk with Vic about security measures for the place after they settled the more pressing issue at hand. 

Turning to Vic, Joe answered slowly and methodically.

"I don't pretend to know how Devineaux's mind works; I'm not Carmen. However, what I do know, from reading him and by his own admission, is that he knows more than he's letting on and what he does know has got him genuinely worried."

Joe turned to look at the computer before continuing.

"This golden ticket, as you put it, came with a price. Firstly, I had to trade the Cayman for it." At this point Joe turned back to Vic and added "Also, he's kept Kidman in his custody for insurance."

Seeing the questioning look in Vic's eyes, Joe went on to answer the unasked question.

"The insurance is to ensure that we keep the second part of the agreement. You see, Devineaux wants us, more specifically you, to lead him to where Carmen hid the files she stole from ACME tower. He probably figures that there is something in there that will point us to why the boss has been AWOL for so long. Funny thing is, for once I think he's right."

137 Gunnar [14 December, 06.50 Pacific Time]

Miss Nygård sat on the brink of the circular fountain in Huntington Park, looking towards the dual towers at the face of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. The landmark building looked frosty on this early December morning. Her own face was somewhat frosty, but she warmed it up with a sip of her morning’s coffee as the steam from her drink was briefly and pleasantly caught under the brim of her brown riding cap.

No one was about at this time in the morning, and only a few cars passed by to disrupt the still morning. The fountain was near silent as well, with only a drizzle of water exiting its spouts above and in the cast figures of men, dolphins, and tortoises. The young woman was alone, her blue jeans and vermilion sweater jacket contrasting with the stolid concrete and soaked grass.

She would be leaving San Francisco soon, and today seemed as a good day to relax before her long flights home. She looked to her right at the playground and entertained the thought of using the swingset--entertained it so well that she actually got up and walked over to the sandy area, installed herself in one of the flexible seats, and gently rocked herself back and forth as she finished her French vanilla coffee.

The sky brightened very suddenly as a harsh, transient breeze blew against her, and Miss Nygård halted her swinging and glanced down the road. Not two blocks down, the top of an apartment building was instantaneously blown apart as a massive wave of light unfurled and then flared through the littered sky, melting the gray morning. A concussive sound followed and stung her ears, and she reflexively moved her hands to cup them. In doing so, she fell off the swing seat backwards, losing her hat and her breath.

A shadow fell over the area in moments, expanding with the cloud of debris. The girl rolled off her back and mushed for speed as an intact knife burrowed into the sand nearby. She was focused only on getting as far away as possible.

Her brain realizing little pain, her right leg eventually collapsed despite her want to keep kicking, several large shards of glass splintered into the back of the knee. She fell forward and clawed the ground, done. All she could do now was remain face-down and cover her neck, and pray nothing more would happen.

138 Flag (Written with Input from Chase) ---

The temperature in the cabin of the plane had dropped noticeably, finally drawing the attention of it's occupants to the fact that they were finally nearing their destination. Olga, one of Mr. Cane's hired henchmen, had further pointed this out by swiping her hand across a window and pulling off a layer of frost that had settled there. 

The small Petropavlosvk-Kamchatsky airport was facing an usual winter full of record temperature drops and volcano-crazed tourists. Flag was surprised to see it so busy, but was thankful for the heat that the crowds generated as well. It was here that Flag learned that the man in tweed had been recruiting certain talents in New York.

Out of a total of three new recruits (himself included), only one of them had been prepared for the impossibly cold temperatures outside. As such, Flag and Randall (another mercenary) had to purchase appropriate clothing from one of the many services the airport offered. From there they were walked out onto the tarmac, where they boarded a helicopter that would take them to their final destination.

It was only as they landed that Flag figured out that the "castle" the others referenced was a retrofitted prison fort on a cliff. In his eyes, it somehow seemed even colder than the Arctic weather outside it. Thankfully this assessment was wrong.

They landed on a rooftop helipad and ran to an elevator door nearby. As it descended the temperature increased and by the time they hit the upper basement levels, they had all but stripped down to two layers of clothing.

It was at this point that Mr. Cane explained that the mountain range they were visiting was volcanic and that the fort was heated naturally by this. He also explained that while he preferred to stay in the fort proper, the extreme cold outside had pushed operations into the basement levels instead.

He had left the new recruits to the hamster, who showed them to the temporary barracks where they would be staying. The sudden separation from his prize caused a level of apprehension to stir with Flag, but Olga inadvertently assured him that they would reunite with the man in Tweed as she asked when they would be meeting with him to obtain their orders.

For now, all he could do was wait.

139 Chase

Kidman said: “Mr. Chase... Are you okay?” She asked, then paused a moment. “Why don’t they know where you are? Isn’t this where you are supposed to be?”

Questions… this captive was full of them. But even if he wanted to answer, he didn't know enough of the situation. Barbara Rosen's heels soon announced her arrival as they rushed towards the holding cells.

"I need to go," Chase told Kidman, and left to greet the board member outside. He opened the door as she approached. 

With a sudden voiceless exhalation, Barbara held his head in both her hands and shook it briskly.

"Thank God," she settled.

Quickly, Rosen continued, "I have ACME Command on this. All ACME employee and relatives must be processed at the medical center."

"What happened?"

"It looked like a malfunctioned C-5 corridor released shockwaves, destroying your Nob Hill apartment. But that's not possible is it? We don't have a working portal device anymore," her tone leaned towards a suspect, and Chase picked this up.

"I wouldn't pin this on VILE."

"Maybe not directly, but we all know her behavior so far hasn't shown much of the contrary."

Chase exhaled.

"Keep a low profile, no public meetings until you figure out exactly who's behind this."

"I'm close," he assured.

"Do what you need to do," Barbara granted, "I want retribution."

140 Sophie

It was about ten minutes past seven o’clock that Sophie Conrad heard two consecutive short beeps from her mobile phone. In the middle of drawing out a silk blouse from her wardrobe, she neglected to attend to the device until it started to ring. As she reached for the tinkling phone, she slipped her arms into the collared top...

"Good morning, this is Dr. Conrad."

"Wake up," came a barked order. "We need you to locate your charge."

She recognised the voice as belonging to Doctor Sheila Matthews, the inimitable head of Emergency Medicine at the ACME Medical Center and a mentor to Sophie when she had just arrived at ACME. Her brow furrowed as she began to button her blouse, holding her mobile phone between her ear and the curve of her shoulder, "I'm awake - is something the matter?"

In the span of one minute, Sophie gleaned from Sheila everything she needed to know. The conversation ended quickly, with Sophie hastening the pace of her dressing, and as soon as the call ended, she attempted to contact the Director of Operations. When his communicator proved a dead-end, she dialed for his personal mobile number. He had never ignored calls made to his personal line and she counted the rings while moving towards the entrance of her apartment.

At the holding cells, Chase's Motorola vibrated and Barbara Rosen immediately asked to see who was calling.

"Pick up," she told him when she saw, "tell her to come here now."

The Director of Operations complied, answering the phone with his usual, “Devineaux.”

Sophie released a held breath. “Did you spend the night in your office again?”

"I... no. I left home about an hour ago. I'm at the holding cells."

She nodded to no one in particular as she picked up a navy-blue coloured coat and selected a pair of leather court shoes, “I’m about to walk over. Are you safe?”

"Sophie, just... come over, hurry, and don't talk to anyone."

There was a pause and her voice was quiet and steady as she repeated: “Are you safe, Chase?”

"I am...," he attempted a chuckle to lighten the tone, "I'm intact, I'm fine."

“That’s good to hear. I will see you in a few minutes.” She moved to end the call but as she turned to give her apartment a parting glance she added, almost as an afterthought, “Please be careful, Director.”

141 Ivy [Credits: Nace Bilby and Deric Storm for the post’s beginnings.]

As they drove along through the streets of San Francisco towards Nob Hill, Nace made a quick double check of his Emergency Medical Technician bag, the one he normally brought to firing ranges in case of accidents. He always had a hope that he would never need to use the supplies in the large bag or the skill sets he'd learned when undergoing basic EMT training as a patrol skill with 21 SAS.

So much for never needing to use the supplies in the bag. Nace thought grimly as they continued the movement that way.

“Ivy, Deric, just to let you know before I deployed to Afghanistan I took a basic EMT course with the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.” Nace replied, “I am willing to use what I’ve learned to help.”

“That’s good,” Deric said, looking at the smoke billowing over the site, “I have a feeling it may be needed.”

Nace quipped, “I honestly hoped I’d never have to use that skill set.” 

The vehicle went as far as it could go before being stopped by outgoing traffic and a fog of fine dust. Ditching the SUV, the agents made their way on foot towards the flashing lights of the San Francisco Fire Department trucks. SFFD Station 2 on Powell was only blocks away, and seemed to have been the first responders on scene,  followed closely by ACME medical ambulances. 

“Hey you three! Get the hell out of here!” A large man wearing a full department gear and a blue SFFD Chinatown shirt yelled. 

“ACME Field Team on emergency response,” Ivy replied quickly, “Who’s in charge here?”

“I am.” The man replied, “If you’re with the agency, put on these respirators. We’re bringing up evacuees to the Chapel down the street. There are still people stuck in that building.” 

Ivy looked up, and for the first time she saw the damage. Nob Hill Tower looked like it had been hit with a missile, a near perfectly round empty sphere dug into the top floors, framed in twisted metal and concrete. It looked unstable, and debris of brick and glass was still falling to the ground in uneven chunks. 

“Oh god.” She said as she realized the top floor where the majority of damage took place was Chase Devineaux’s apartment. The Commander knew immediately that this was the reason ACME had asked all agents to check in their status. Nob Hill Tower was not only Chase’s home, but this inner city area held some of ACME’s highest ranking members. 

Her communicator beeped again with a call.

“Monaghan.” Ivy answered, unsure of what to expect.

“Commander Monaghan, this is ACME command. We have your location at Nob Hill, please confirm.” 

“I’m with a field team. We’re going to help SFFD evacu--”

“Commander, your orders are to ensure that all ACME personnel stationed at Nob Hill Tower are processed by ACME, and ACME only. This is a priority one command. Get the injured to The Chapel of Grace for medical.”

“...What about Chase? Has he checked into Com-”

“Thank you, Commander.” The call ended. 

By this time a crowd of several agents had gathered around her. “Storm, Bilby, I need you in that building to pull out survivors. I want to know everything, put your communicator on broadcast. The rest of you help me bring these people to the chapel for medical.”

While Ivy was giving orders, a group of firefighters pulled out someone in a stretcher. 

"ACME!" a man called, "Is this one of yours?"

Ivy walked over, hoping for the best as ACME's own medical staff began transferring the injured man into their care. Right away, she could tell who it was, and she pulled out her communicator.

"Command," she requested, "this is Monaghan, I need a medical helicopter right away. It's Suhara Nakamura."

142 Calico

Calina Olivera Corranos sat in her chair at Deric's apartment combing her hair in front of a propped up mirror. Deric got up early this morning to go to the shooting range with his friends, so she had time to look over some plans for training later. ACME's waves against VILE was not yet over, even though the Antarctica main base was claimed 8 months ago in April. They are still finding more leads everyday.

The small make up container in front of Cali had loose powder in it, and it began to shake. Then everything else shook a little. On her communicator, Calina saw a request for personnels to check in. Curious, she checked in by pressing a key on her mobile then sending it back to ACME Command.

The next message told agents to go to 1221 Nob Hill. Any ACME employee who worked with Chase Devineaux long enough would know that address. Because he made people deliver reports to him there if they missed him at his office. Cali suddenly got very worried.

"Menino, I'm going to Nob Hill," Cali wrote in a text message to her Deric, "I can help with something."

143 Nevon

He was supposed to be on his way to the Bunker, but Nev woke up late. While he hurried through breakfast, he felt a tiny rumble and didn't think much of it until two messages from ACME Command sent his head spinning.

Of course Nevon Blair knew by heart the address of Chase Devineaux's apartment. He was trying to get a place near there all summer, but still had to settle for Portwood Hall at ACME Compounds because it was the next best thing to living with Wilson the bum and his cat James Hume.

He couldn't take a bus, he couldn't grab a cab, so Nev paid for a bicycle at the bike rental on 3rd street by the bay and rode into Chinatown and Nob Hill. His bike passed Grace Chapel where ACME Medical was setting up, and Nev thought he saw Gudrun among the victims, without proper identification, the foreigner risked being taken by San Francisco's EMTs instead of brought to the ACME Medical Center.

Blair veered his bike to a sharp stop at the church.

"WAIT, she's ACME," he yelled to the medics, "She's ACME! She has to go to the AMC!"

"You got proper ID, kid?" A medical responder asked. He was annoyed, but he wasn't mean.

"I know her," Nev replied and handed the medic his ACME ID, "She's Swedish, it's okay, you can check her into ACME Medical with my ID card. Her name is Gudrun…," Blair forgot her last name, so he used Gunnar's, "Gudrun Svensson."

An ACME personnel received Gunnar's girl and Nev got his card back before he grabbed his bike and flew another block. He was stopped here by police lines and traffic.

"Oh my god, oh my god," he chanted mindlessly when he saw the damage. There was no way, no way anyone could have survived on the top floor if they were caught in it.

Closer to the site was Commander Ivy Monaghan, talking to people from the San Francisco Fire Department, and he could see maybe Deric Storm and the new guy Nace Bilby with her. Then in the surrounding area, he saw Constance Kitlyn, and he waved.

"Connie, there are ACME Personnel at Grace Chapel setting up," he said, "Gudrun is there too, I don't know how bad she's been hurt."

He motioned to Connie that he had to go see Ivy, "I'll see you around."

At the site, Nevon immediately looked for signs of Chase's survival. Then he saw a silver Toyota Camry crushed under rubble. Its license plate was a yard or two in front of it, but the car was easily identifiable because of an ACME Compound sticker on its barely intact windshield.

Blair couldn't move, but instead of throwing up like he thought he would, Nevon's senses focused on something he never felt before. He would find out later that this was a surge of adrenaline directly related to his sense of loss, but at this point, the rookie was full of untapped courage.

"Agent Blair reporting, Commander," he went up to Ivy, raising his voice over the sound of an approaching helicopter, "I found Director Devineaux's vehicle… perm--… permission to process?"

144 thawkwood

Nace grabbed a hold of a Halligan tool, a sort of heavy duty tactical crowbar, out of the SUV and had the EMT bag slung across his chest. He grabbed a respirator and stuck it onto his face. 

Having seen the firefighters working hard on the first floor having evacuated most of the first floor he headed up the second floor. Some of the rooms hadn't yet been accessed. He went towards the nearest door and forced it open with the Halligan tool. The smoke in the room was fairly thick and he scanned the floor, noticing an unconscious female form.

He vaguely recognized her as the bartender from his first day in San Francisco. He checked her respiration first, noticing her breathing was shallow and that she was clearly unconscious. 

From what he could tell there was no sign of any broken bones. He hauled her onto his shoulders and ran down the staircase, heading out to where the EMTs and ACME medical personnel were gathered.

"I've got a civilian here," Nace said, "Smoke inhalation casualty." 

He gently settled her onto a stretcher before tugging on the arm of one of the EMTs who turned to take care of the patient. Nace turned around to run back into the building.. 

145 Constance

As Constance approached the scene, she saw the destruction wrecked by the assumed explosion. Chunks of buildings and glass covered the street. The structure which appeared to have taken the brunt of explosion was severely damaged. A dozen or so people, knocked down by the blast, were lying on the hard pavement of the street. Some were motionless; some, moaning, struggled to pick themselves up.

Scanning the area, Connie’s attention came to rest upon a young boy just to the right of her. A large piece of concrete debris, crushing his small leg, had pinned him to the ground where he lay. Hurrying over to him, Connie pushed on the concrete block. It moved little. Quickly she looked around for something to aid her. Nearby, a solid metal pipe was propped up against a building. It was the perfect tool.

Connie raced over and fetched it before returning to the child. Using the pipe and the curb as a lever, she slowly flipped the large block off the boy. Choking on the dusty air, she knelt down beside him and assessed his injuries. The fracture was painful and serious, and it seemed that multiple bones were affected. As she looked, she could even see a tiny bit of bone sticking up through the skin. Behind her, she could hear the sound of dozens of sirens, and in minutes, first responders swarmed the area. As Connie turned to call for a stretcher from one of the many ambulances arriving, the boy grabbed her arm.

“My leg hurts so much!”

Connie gently placed her hand under the child’s head. Tears poured from his pain twisted face. “You’re going to be okay. Help is here. You’re not alone”.

“Where’s mommy?! I need her! She was inside!”

A sick feeling set upon her stomach. If his mother was inside the building, then the chances that she was killed were high. Connie could say nothing but still held the boy’s head in an effort to calm him. From behind her a voice rang out.

“We need to evacuate the street! Please move beyond the area and wait for instructions from the police!”

Turning her head, she saw a tall SFFD member quickly approaching her.

“I’m an EMT and an LPN. I can help. But this boy needs a stretcher. He has multiple open fractures in his left leg. Most likely comminuted fractures”.

“Alright, will do!”.
The man hurried off in the direction of an ambulance, and, in seconds, a paramedic arrived with the stretcher. Connie helped slowly lift the boy onto it, and the paramedic rushed him quickly away all in what seemed like a split moment.

By this time, the area was now full of many Firefighters, Police, EMS members, and ACME agents as well. People were being pulled from the rubble, but the street was still filled with chaos. Controlled chaos maybe, but chaos nonetheless. As Connie stood, a wave of exhaustion hit her and she reached for a nearby streetlight to steady her. Her run, the stress, the dust, the smoke, and her empathy for the poor child now took its toll upon her body. Struggling to gain her breath, she saw
Nevon Blair approach her. Over the loud clamor around, she heard him call out to her.

Nevon said: 
"Connie, there are ACME Personnel at Grace Chapel setting up," he said, "Gudrun is there too, I don't know how bad she's been hurt."

He said something else which was swept from Connie’s ears as another ambulance arrived on the scene. The brave agent then hurried off and soon disappeared into the consuming crowd of people and vehicles. Connie straightened herself and decided to start in the direction of the Chapel. While the rescue attempt was in progress, she could do little here as she was not trained for rescuing people from unstable and nearly collapsing buildings. At the Chapel however, she could aid with triage and the treatment of the victims of this terrible event.

146 DericStorm (I'm inserting bits from Ivy and Calico's posts. A warning- graphic scene follows)

“Great googly-moogly,” Deric said, floored by the sight before him. It wasn’t the first time he had seen an apartment building after an attack. He had seen similar aftermath when he spent a few months working crime scenes involving the IRA in ACME Britain. It was another thing entirely to see it in his backyard.

Looking at the two he came with, he could tell they were stunned as well. The building looked like someone had used a giant ice cream scoop on it. He knew, from having to drop off some trainee evals, that this was where Chase Devineaux laid his head; in fact, if memory served, Chase’s place seemed to be “Ground Zero.” The place wasn’t what Deric figured the Director of Operations would live in, but a home’s a home. ‘Googly,’ Deric thought suddenly, ‘for once, I actually hope he slept in his office.’ His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Ivy’s communicator going off.

“Monaghan.” Ivy answered, unsure of what to expect.

“I’m with a field team. We’re going to help SFFD evacu--”

“...What about Chase? Has he checked into Com-”

He could see the redhead’s eyes narrow in anger. Apparently, the powers that be have given her orders that she didn’t agree with. “Have they heard anything from Devineaux?"
"Storm, Bilby, I need you in that building to pull out survivors. I want to know everything, put your communicator on broadcast. The rest of you help me bring these people to the chapel for medical.”While Ivy was giving orders, a group of firefighters pulled out someone in a stretcher. 

"ACME!" a man called, "Is this one of yours?"

Ivy walked over, hoping for the best as ACME's own medical staff began transferring the injured man into their care. Right away, she could tell who it was, and she pulled out her communicator.

"Command," she requested, "this is Monaghan, I need a medical helicopter right away. It's Suhara Nakamura."

Deric saw the EMTs heading over to their group with one of the survivors from this calamity. As they pulled closer, he got a better look at their quarry. What he saw made his heart drop.


He had only met the legendary detective a handful of times but greatly respected him. From the few conversations they had, Deric was awed by the older man’s wisdom and good humor. It was after a talk with the man that he finally manned up and took the next step in his relationship with Cali. If he was lost… Deric shook his head, wiping away that thought.

“All right, listen up…” he bellowed, getting the attention of some other ACME agents who had arrived on the scene, in the same state of shock he himself was in when he first arrived, “this is now a search and rescue operation. As far as we know, there are still survivors.”

Grabbing a respirator and a radio, he said, “Make sure you do not go in without grabbing these.” Pointing at two agents, “You two, accompany Detective Bilby.” Pointing at another two, “You two with me. We’ll start at the top floor and work our way down. You find any survivors, you contact rescue. Don’t try to be a hero; you can’t help anyone if you put yourself in danger. The rest of you, stay here and assist Commander Monaghan. Move!!!”

The assembled teams made their way inside the building. Deric saw Nace and his crew break off when they reached the second floor. The rest made their way all the way up to the ninth floor. Once they reached the top of the stairs, Deric felt his cell phone buzz. Pulling it out, he saw that he received a text from Cali:

"Menino, I'm going to Nob Hill," Cali wrote in a text message to her Deric, "I can help with something."

“We can use all the help we can get here, Bombshell,” he texted back. “Be safe.” Putting the phone back in his pocket, Deric and his team began searching the ninth floor for survivors.

- - - - - - - - -

“All right, give me the stats on room...” Deric said into his radio while looking at the door, “703.” The two agents who accompanied him, Helton and Dunnigan, were currently assisting one of the residents down the stairs to medical attention. The woman had suffered a broken leg when her bookcase fell on her. The major injuries seemed to be contained the area most affected by whatever happened here.  He had an idea what happened, but no proof. The questions surrounding this whole fustercluck seemed to be multitude. A main one was “Where the hell is Chase?” Deric had tried calling both his office and cell, but got nothing.

“According to the landlord’s registry, the tenant’s name is Peter Wisinewski,” came the voice of one of the agents working on street level, “Caucasian. Thirty-six years old. Five foot eight. Lives alone.”

“He one of ours?” Deric asked.

“Negative,” came the reply, “according to his work history, he’s an assistant manager at Pacific Savings Bank downtown. His office says he didn’t show up for work today.”

“Roger, making my way in,” Deric said before replacing the radio on his belt.

“Mister Wisinewski, this is Deric Storm with the ACME Detective Agency,” Deric bellowed, “If you can hear me, please stay away from the door.” Deric backed up to the wall before propelling himself forward with a front kick. The door flew open easily with the force. Shining his flashlight inside, Deric saw no one in the living room. He could hear the nearby groaning of steel as the building struggled under the weight. Deric moved very gingerly through the rest of the apartment. Finding what he assumed was the bedroom door, Deric opened it very slowly. “Mr. Wisinewski? Are you here?” Deric asked as he stepped in. The sight that greeted him was something that would stay with Deric for the rest of his days.

“Detective Storm,” the radio crackled, “have you found him?”

Deric tried to compose himself before pushing the ‘talk’ button. “Yeah,” he said in a completely neutral voice, “I found him... He’s gone.” The body of Peter Wisinewski was prone in his bed, the formerly white sheets dyed red with the blood oozing from the stump that remained of his left arm as well as where the top of his head had been shorn off. The location of those pieces, Deric surmised, were probably the same as the rest of his bedroom.

Damn, that makes six,’ Deric thought bitterly. 'If the Lord's good, he went quickly...'

So far, most of the tenants escaped with minor injuries. There were a few serious injuries, like the woman with the broken leg. However, from reports he was hearing over the radio, five people had been found dead. His team had found the remains of the fourth victim, Eighty-five year old Evelyn Martin, burnt to a crisp in her apartment on the eighth floor, next to the charred remains of her shorn oxygen tank. The memory of that corpse, along with the sight of Mr. Wisinewski, forced Deric to hurry into the bathroom before he emptied the contents of his stomach onto the bedroom floor.

Once he was finished, Deric made his way back out into the hall. Instructing the recovery team that had arrived to the victim’s location, Deric then proceeded to make his way to the next apartment. A lone thought entered his mind...

God, it’s gonna be a long day...
147 Vic-the-Slick
Joe said: "The insurance is to ensure that we keep the second part of the agreement. You see, Devineaux wants us, more specifically you, to lead him to where Carmen hid the files she stole from ACME tower. He probably figures that there is something in there that will point us to why the boss has been AWOL for so long. Funny thing is, for once I think he's right."

Vic hesitated, his mind wandering into thoughts that he didn't like expressing. Betray the boss… to maybe save her? That's not how VILE worked. Everyone knew their leader won't be found unless she wanted to be found. But she was talking to Devineaux, maybe this was how things had to be.

Fumigalli really didn't want to dig the files back up. For all he knew, Carmen was doing something for personal reasons, and he'd always been afraid of what he'd find, that his image of her was gonna somehow change.

With a heavy sigh, he started dialling ACME, and Devineaux's sweet secretary picked up.

"I got info only for Devineaux," he told her, "this is Vincent Fumigalli."

She replied in this exhausted way, like she was doing twenty things at once.

"The Director isn't available, please leave a message."

Vic made a quiet laugh, ACMEs are so rude.

"This is about the files he wanted, I know where they are, have him call me, ah?"

Vic left his temporary number and hung up.

"What a douche, that guy," he said to Joe, "Go get some rest, champ, Ima need to talk with 'Tessa n' the rest. Come down for dinner later, ah?"

148 Lee-Jordan

The problem with being a class-C informant was the fact that you weren't considered an ACME personnel. You're not treated like an agent, and you don't get to do agent things like arrest people and boast about it at the local sports bar.

No, you only get to be the guy who finds information for other people so THEY can be all snooty and successful.

This was why Lee Jordan never got the message to check in with Command or go to Nob Hill to help clean up. But while he sat in on a bench in the park area between Accolade and the Medical Center, the sudden rush of official cars and ambulances heading into the city from ACME Compounds didn't go unnoticed.

Then, of all people, he spotted Barbara Rosen walking into the academy. Someone like Lee, who was up all night, had reason to be loitering around the park at this hour. But for ACME's most notoriously cold-hearted board member to be at the compounds without the Secretary of the Boards this early in the morning… Lee knew something was up.

Taking his black Corvette, he drove after the emergency vehicles, when he spotted Nevon rushing by on a bike. That was completely abnormal.

Flagging down an officer, Lee rolled down his window and asked, "What's going on?"

"Nob Hill," the policeman answered, "the top floor of some apartment building blew up. Don't go there, use a different route."

Lee felt his throat dry up. While he worked for the guy in tweed, Lee knew some people were doing research into ACME for a demonstration of some sort. Although Jordan was never specifically asked, Tweed definitely wanted info on Chase Devineaux. It just never occurred to him that Chase might have been a target.

Is that it? Is he dead?

Putting his car on reverse and flooring the speed pedal, he looked for another way up the hills. While driving, he called Eleanor Mayhem. When he couldn't connect, he assumed that she was either still asleep after working a late night or she was also trying to check on others.

"E it's me," Lee left a voice mail, "I'm going to Nob Hill, call when you can."

Just yesterday, Lee thought about trailing Mikal Darsha. The computer expert came to ACME suspiciously and stayed, taking charge of the Information department like Chase's personal gatherer. Though Lee suspected that Darsha never actually took any ACME exams to be here, he didn't have a clue what else the Arab was capable of. Now he had to wonder, with the way Tweed worked, if Mikal was somehow responsible for monitoring the Director of Operations. He was in the perfect position as an inside man.

149 Joe_Kerr

Vic-the-Slick said:
"What a douche, that guy," he said to Joe, "Go get some rest, champ, Ima need to talk with 'Tessa n' the rest. Come down for dinner later, ah?"

Joe smiled and nodded before heading off in the direction of the prop room backstage. Along the way, he noticed that whilst renovation had begun on the auditorium section of the theatre, the stage and its backstage area was still relatively untouched. As he walked to his destination, Joe made a mental checklist of things that needed work backstage - rewiring and replacement of much of the old lights, several rotten floorboards, what looked to be a slightly leaking roof, etc.

The jester placed a hand on the wooden knob of the prop room door and turned it slowly. As expected, it opened with a creak worthy of a Hitchcock horror film. Silently chuckling, Joe added 'rusty hinges' to his mental checklist. The room itself was dark and carried the faint smell of mould. The darkness halted the Jester's progress and diverted his attention to locating the light switch, if there was one; Carmine on the other hand had no such problems and ran into the room with gusto. As Joe searched for the light switch, he wondered if Carmine had spotted a rat and went to chase it.

'Chase', the name brought a bittersweet taste to his mouth. He had expected nothing less from his confrontation with Chase but he still hated the fact that Kidman had to be left in ACME's custody; he understood the reasons, but that didn't mean he had to like it. As Joe fumbled around for the light switch, he wondered if this was what Kidman felt like - searching around in the dark for the light; for something to allow her to make sense of her situation, for hope.

Finally, Joe found the light switch and flipped it. The antique light bulb flickered into life revealing a room filed with the memories of the theatre's former glory. Remnants of old sets, props of all shapes and sizes, and even a rack or two of vintage costumes; Joe smiled as he observed Carmine running about through said racks. 

Joe pulled up an old chair and moved to take a seat.

Maybe now I can get some rest for the moment.

Just then the old light bulb flickered once, twice, then exploded into a darkness which quickly enveloped the room once again.

Then again...maybe not.

150 Mikal

Mikal Darsha did not have much time. He could see that the chaos was gradually being organized, and at its center was ACME. Ambulances were on the scene, Commander Ivy Monaghan arrived soon after and sent her two knights into the building. He saw that they pulled out Suhara Nakamura. He knew that they would not find Chase's body. 

"Yes, the ACME Commander is here." Darsha spoke to a cellphone in his usual accented English, "I need to leave now or we will miss him." 

Over the past 48 hours Mikal Darsha worked on tracing a set of encrypted messages that were sent to Chase Devineaux. They were waves of sounds and grainy video pushed under a complicated system of digital locked doors and traps. It was lot of trouble to not get caught. 

But the Israeli had some experience in this game. One file in particular was recognized as Sound Clip AS871-1190, an ACME declassified file open to only a select few agents. Once a list was produced of who these agents were, a systematic selection process began to exclude unlikely candidates. It was a slow process, but this reverse trail of breadcrumbs traveled back to Inspector Eleanor Mayhem, who accessed AS871-1190 on the night of the Winter Ceremony from her apartment. Security footage would show that she arrived at the ceremony shortly after. Perhaps too shortly after... It was only when Informant Class C, Lee Jordan appeared that the pieces began to make sense.

On the morning of December 14th, at 6:30 a.m. Mikal called Chase Devineaux to tell him what he had found. The Director of Operations was on his way--in his returned Porsche Cayman--to see a recently detained member of V.I.L.E., and Darsha was given the go-ahead to trail Lee Jordan. 

Then the situation at Nob Hill happened, and he rushed to assess the damage. 

There had always been something suspicious about Jordan and the way he watched the Captain. Mikal hoped that at this early hour, the informant would still be at his last known location... but it seemed fate wanted to one up those hopes. Lee Jordan arrived at the Nob Hill scene, black Corvette and all. 

"Mr. Jordan." Mikal greeted, hanging up the cellphone and placing it his his pocket. "Please come with me."

151 Lee-Jordan

When Lee finally got to Nob Hill, he could see the damage, and he could guess what might have caused it. Yet for the first time, he wasn't thinking profits. He was thinking how he'd get out of this mess. If it was true that Chase was in there, somewhere, and not alive, all the work Lee put in just died with him.

Jordan slammed the door of his car and looked around for something to blame. More often than not, a certain international thief came to mind. He'd have to blame her for this, that's where it all started. 

Mikal said:  "Mr. Jordan." Mikal greeted, hanging up the cellphone and placing it his his pocket. "Please come with me."

Lee Jordan froze when he saw Mikal. Go with him? Is he kidding? He thought to run, but if he did, guilt would be all over him.

"Have they found Chase?" he mustered asking, but he actually did want to know. Of all the people Lee's ever crossed paths with in recent times, Chase Devineaux was the only person to give him a fair chance. Even Jordan's own family was quicker to judge him about his choices. He had no idea what Chase ever saw, and he even thought to hate the director for it, but the decent side of him felt he owed the man. That bit made him resign to follow Mikal without a debate. But if things got heated, he did plan to run.

152 Flag (Written with input from Chase) ---

Flag has slept very little since he left Louisiana and this fact had made itself apparent as they started settling into their temporary home. The second that he spotted the rows of cots, he wanted nothing more than to lie down in one, but there were layers of complications to such an action.

His thoughts about how he's going to keep up his disguise in such a impersonal environment were interrupted by someone claiming to be a messenger from "Vedushchiy," which he assumed was another assigned name for Mr. Cane. Denied the chance to rest, Flag followed the mercenary through the maze of corridors and  rooms of wild walls until they reached a humble office featuring a flatscreen TV, a computer, and the man in Tweed.

"I'd offer you a seat, but it appears someone needed them." Mr. Cane gestured towards the barren floor.

Flag simply responded by standing in silence.

"I have something I want to show you." The man in tweed said as he clicked on some sort of media program to display a freeze-frame of a building in ruin.

Initially, the Sivoan didn't know what to make of the image on the television screen, but there was a sense of familiarity to it.

"Do you remember when I told you that I had a weapon?"


"This is what I was referencing"

Flag had never taken his eyes off the screen, but it was only now that his mind registered what his eyes saw. "The C-5?"


The Sivoan frowned as something else clicked his in sleep-deprived mind. "I can accept that ACME would have taken efforts to rebuild the thing, but how did you get access to it?"

"I have my ways." The man said simply before nodding at his guest. "Have you made contact yet?"

That's when Flag realized that this display was a veiled threat for him to reveal the location of his boss. At this, he pulled out his phone again and glanced at it. Displayed on the screen was where he had paused Bubble Breaker - a game that Olga had show him while they were waiting in the barracks.

 "Sort of."

The man in Tweed didn't like that answer. "Do we have a location?"

Flag gestured towards the screen on the wall. "So you can use that?"

His host seemed to have caught the message, "I will still honor our agreement."

The Sivoan sighed and returned the mobile device to his pocket. "I'm sure you can understand the concept, but I feel that I must explain that meetings such as this take time and while I might have received a level of confirmation, I do not yet know where to go."

The man in Tweed was about to say something but paused and considered the Sivoan's words. "You've made contact?"

Flag nodded and turned back towards the door. "I'd like to get some rest if that's all the same to you."

Mr. Cane merely nodded in return, seemingly stunned by the news his guest provided him.

With that, Flag was escorted back to the barracks where he donned a hooded sweatshirt and attempted to get some much needed sleep.

153 Calico

DericStorm said: “We can use all the help we can get here, Bombshell,” he texted back. “Be safe.” Putting the phone back in his pocket, Deric and his team began searching the ninth floor for survivors

Cali took a ride with some of the crime scene agents. When she got to the site, she could tell right away that it was not a damage caused by normal explosives. The walls and ceilings of the upper floors had been pushed in, and the direction of the debris suggested that the blast was above the ground. There was no burn marks and no primary fires, that would have been normal with blasts.

"This looks like an earthquake damage more than a bomb," Cali said to see if anyone from her group understood it better, "What can cause this?"

"We'll find out," one man replied, "start with pictures first, then let's wait until the medics get all the survivors out. We need two to pan out and find witnesses, and two to begin looking for bomb fragments."

"I will help look for the fragments," Cali replied and got out of the car, "But I am not on active duty, some one else will have to mark it as evidence." Another team member followed her.

It looks like Deric was inside, and she will meet him later when they are done with their jobs. Along with confusion, Cali can see many people with angry expressions on their faces. She was angry also, for the losses. ACME may never again be the same.

154 EarlJr

The morning of 14 December found Euge in one of his typical hiding locations: his office.  Regular classes had already concluded for the fall semester, but that didn't exempt him from the usual avalanche of paperwork spawned by the company.  His office was scheduled to be relocated across the bay to Accolade upon its completion, and the less he had to carry, the better.

A small quake temporarily interrupted the refueling guidelines he had to approve, but he paid it little mind until his communicator sounded with a message on one of the priority channels:

[URGENT. ALL ACME PERSONNEL. Report your status immediately to command.]

"OK," Euge thought to himself, "this isn't suspiciously unsettling at all."  The device chimed, indicating a successful check in, quickly followed by another incoming message:

[URGENT.  AIR OPERATIONS DIVISION.  All available pilots and crew chiefs report to south pad.]

At this, Euge slammed the lid on his laptop shut and sprinted out of his office to the pad, meeting three other pilots and a handful of support personnel going the same way.  The group made their way to the helipads to find some goon from operations had somehow made it there first.

"Alright ladies and gentlemen," he began, "this is an emergency situation and we don't have time for a sit down briefing.  There's been a mass casualty event at Nob Hill, and you're being deployed to support air ambulance operations into and out of ACME medical.  Alameda Tower has full control over the airspace at this time.  Go get spun up!"

With the briefing over, Euge started towards the nearest chopper, only for him and one of the loadmasters to be stopped by the operations command thug.  "Eugene, Ryan; I was asked to snag the best team to act as forward air control on location.  God help me, it's you two.  Go hitch a ride and stay on scene."

With the new instructions and an exchanged shrug of disbelief, the pair stepped aboard and plugged in spare communications headsets for the short jump across the bay.  The sight that greeted them on the other side was straight out of a war zone; a hemispherical chunk of an apartment building was simply gone.  Euge's first thought was a terrorist attack of some kind, but he knew of no explosive that would leave that clean of an edge.  Even a fast bunker buster would have left twisted rebar and some evidence of the top three stories.

Shaking this anomalous development from his mind, he focused on the tac-map on his communicator, noting the dedicated ACME medical bird was already en-route back to the medical center.  Standing up and leaning out the open hatch slightly, Euge saw some road flares marking a LZ at an intersection, and motioned the pilot to put his chopper down there.  A quick radio check confirmed everything was in working order, and a semblance of a plan saw casualties being moved from the incident to area hospitals.

An hour of this flying conveyor belt ended when teams inside and around finally gave an all clear, and Euge waved off the rest of the circling choppers before proceeding to incident command, which had set up in a nearby church, to try and make sense of this attack.

155 Gunnar

His brand-new communicator pinged in the tones of a vibraphone, then beeped rapidly to signal that the message he had just received was of capital importance. Gunnar haphazardly released the crate he was carrying from his grasp, and unclipped the communicator from his back pocket. He had set his preferred language to Swedish, but the message still came through in English, indicating that it was a locally broadcast alert.

[URGENT. ALL ACME PERSONNEL. Report your status immediately to command.]

“We have lost the second tower now?” he half-joked. He ticked a response key and returned his status, simultaneously pinging in his location. It took a few seconds to send in his reply, signals being impeded at his station underground.

Not five seconds later, another message was received, this time sent from a different source, therefore properly translated for his convenience.

[Mr. Svensson - Please report to AMC regarding your dependant’s condition.]


156 Kidman

It had taken a bit of convincing, but Kidman finally managed to procure a set of crayons and paper from the attendant that fed her. She was surprised the woman had remembered to come at all, for the place felt emptier than usual. The thin blare of sirens through bulletproof glass had been fairly steady since Chase had left. She was curious, but held it in check. She was still far too weary for any high-grade worrying.

Kidman liked her calm grey box.

She felt selfish about enjoying it, this peace, but she was unwilling to give it away just yet. There was nothing she should track, no one should speak to, no room she should leave to get food, and the heavy red flame was far duller without Carmen’s pen to channel it, even during the times of day it usually lay the heaviest.

So she had rested.

Now she allowed her thoughts to return, one by one, and it soon became apparent that paper was needed.

‘Who was that, on the phone and at the door? Who could be so powerful that they could treat Chase in such a manner?’

The woman had fairly well taken the man’s head and shook it.

‘Something almost happened to you, but you were here with me. You weren’t supposed to be, otherwise she wouldn’t have demanded to know.’

Kidman lay on her mat, scribbling out yet another picture of the ship from her dreams. She was drawing every image she could catch from them and now tens of pages were strewn about her cell, ranging from crude drawings to complicated string maps of what she knew and what she surmised.


One piece simply read ‘San Raphael’, to which she periodically added question marks to when she hit a dead end.

But some pages that didn’t fit the rest.

Kidman glanced at a laboured sketch of Chase.

‘It still doesn’t look like him…’ She thought with frustration as she pulled the picture over.


Something about him made her heart beat just a little faster. It felt like fear, but different. Was it fear for him and not of him? She had grown more protective of the man as she sorted through her data. He was an ally, and even if just barely so, he was the one Carmen had chosen to call upon. 

‘He must be a good man if she would trust him so. The sort of person I would protect. But I need not worry for him. He has much, much more support than Master. Or allows more… He’ll be fine.’

Kidman forced the last statement upon herself as she paused in her work. She couldn’t get his eyes right. She stared at the picture and it stared back. She bit her lip.

Was it Stockholm syndrome, where the captor was cruel at first, then slowly turned merciful in an effort to gain the captive’s sympathy? No, not just sympathy. She felt…Excitement?

Excitement was like fear, such a wild emotion. Maybe she had learned to enjoy it? There were a great many people who hated planes for the same reason she loved them. Had her fear of him converted to something else in an attempt to handle an inescapable situation?

His broad shouldered, strong armed, formidable form, his quiet strength, those piercing eyes …

‘I just want to…’

She felt a swirl of confusion rush over her and she tossed the picture aside.

‘So that’s what attraction is… But him? Why? Am I so lonely?’

The room was growing dimmer, and she was almost asleep when a brazen thought occurred to her. She reached over and picked up the picture again.

‘What if these feelings are yours, Carmen, and they’re coming through me? Do you miss him? I can see why. He does have a solidness to him in such uncertainty…’

She cast one last glance over the sea of paper she lay amidst, then fell asleep within it.

157 Chase

Back near the holding cells, Chase Devineaux and Barbara Rosen were in constant contact with ACME Command. Everything from the amount of dead and injured to Suhara Nakamura's status was carefully monitored. Meanwhile, after Mikal discovered additional information on who might have sent the messages, Devineaux gave Darsha permission to bring in the suspect.

"We should move closer to the site," Barbara spoke with conviction, "Dennis's fraternity, opposite the chapel, that's your Lodge too, isn't it?"

ACME's Vice President was referring to Dennis Rosen, her former husband and the Master Mason that sponsored Chase's entry into Freemasonry several years ago. One of the many reasons Devineaux decided to live in the area was the Nob Hill Masonic Center, but he was never public about that; or, for that matter, had he attended many Lodge meetings.

"We can use the Library today," Devineaux replied, "That's nice and quiet."

He looked up past Rosen to see Sophie Conrad approaching from the hallway.

It was the first time since joining the organisation that Sophie had entered this part of the ACME HQ compound but her steps, as they had been ever since she had left her apartment, did not waver in their quickness. By the time she halted before Barbara Rosen and Chase Devineaux, she had already ascertained the well-being of her charge as being of no significant difference from when they had met a day or two ago.

"Good morning," Sophie greeted, the words customary. She took on a formal position before Barbara Rosen, but dallied a while with her visual inspection of Chase Devineaux.

"Dr. Conrad," Barbara Rosen greeted with her usual half smile, except with more urgency, "Wonderful, what have you heard?"

"I've heard that there was a large-scale explosion at the Nob Hill Tower," Sophie replied briskly. "The Director has yet to be accounted for," she paused to look at Chase again, "and I was tasked to locate him and ensure his good health." The messages sent out to all ACME San Francisco employees was part of long-standing disaster management protocols and Chase Devineaux was hardly one to ignore such commandments. She silently wondered why. The doctor nodded as she continued with an expression made neutral, "That is all."

"It was a very personal attack," Barbara added, "It's wise we keep Chase's miraculous survival a company secret. It would be kind of you to also keep his status from potential leaks."

Sophie was amused at that request - the fact that it had to be so articulated - but comprehended its importance. Ever since she had become the doctor to the Director of Operations, keeping secrets had become a speciality of hers.

Chase shook his head impatiently, "Right, but otherwise, I'm fine," he changed the topic, "Suhara Nakamura is being brought to the AMC by helicopter… Do you think you can do anything for him? He doesn't have a dedicated doctor."

There was a moment of hesitation from Sophie as she turned over the information in her head. Suhara Nakamura, she remembered after a moment of thought, was one of the agency’s most enduring members and advised its Board of Directors. She had glimpsed him at the recent Winter Ceremony. “I can monitor his situation...” she trailed off, unwilling to commit to any form of care as she did not know his circumstances. However, now that she had seen Chase and concluded his condition, it became clear to her that she could be useful at the ACME Medical Center.

A calmer expression rested over Chase's brows when Sophie accepted his request, "Thanks, keep me posted."

“Yes,” she assented. “Will you leave for Nob Hill now?”

Barbara Rosen too, felt somewhat better despite it not being her idea. This was rare.

"I want to be closer to the action," he replied, "Can't do anything if I'm here."

“Yes, I understand,” Sophie nodded and took a step back.

"I need to get the driver," Barbara began dialing on her phone, "And I'll have Metzger meet us at the Lodge," she added, "We need to leave now."

Chase nodded in casual agreement and offered Sophie a handshake as Barbara disappeared behind a corner.

"Looks like we're heading out the back," he jested without knowing why. Today had so far been more than overwhelming.

She smiled, sympathetic, and considered the hand Chase offered before taking it and leaning in to kiss him lightly on the cheek. “Please be careful,” she said firmly, giving his hand a warm squeeze before releasing it.

"À la prochaine," he returned her gesture.

Et, Directeur,” Sophie commented lightheartedly as their paths parted, “tenez-moi au courant.”

À la prochaine -- [Parting] See you soon. Tenez-moi au courant -- [Informal] Keep me posted.

158 Ivy

["Agent Blair reporting, Commander," he went up to Ivy, raising his voice over the sound of an approaching helicopter, "I found Director Devineaux's vehicle… perm--… permission to process?"]

"Get on it, Nevon." Ivy confirmed. She knew this was personal for the young agent, which might not make him the best candidate… but at a time like this his expertise on all things related to the Director of Operations would become useful. 

It wasn't soon after that she saw Nace Bilby running out with a young woman slung across his shoulder.

["I've got a civilian here," Nace said, "Smoke inhalation casualty." ]

She recognized the lithe blonde as her childhood friend, Molly Keef-O'Sullivan. The young woman was just regaining consciousness in the midst of the chaos. 

"Mol, hang on... Hey, we need oxygen over here!" Ivy yelled out. Two paramedics, one from the local hospital and one in ACME Medical uniform appeared from behind a large block of fallen bricks with a tank of humidified oxygen. 

"Ivy? Was he--?" Molly coughed softly, and the paramedics stopped her from speaking further. They brought the young woman along with other evacuees down the hill and away from the scene. By this time, the dust was settling and Monaghan could see several agents as well as one of the ACME nurses pushing evacuees down the hill. 

There was a lot going on and the day seemed to pass marked by the number of dead and injured instead of minutes and hours. Soon, most of the action had moved to the Chapel of Grace where both ACME Medical and incident command was set up. Ivy was on her third downhill run from Nob Hill tower, accompanying a small convoy of stretchers and processing the names of marked ACME casualties along the way. Fatalities and most at-risk were rushed off first, what was left now were those that needed the least medical care. The sound of leaving helicopters from above made communication difficult, and she realized she hadn't heard from Deric Storm and Nace Bilby in over eleven and a half minutes. 

Ivy flagged down Agent Helton, one of the members on Deric's S&R team who was assisting a woman with deep cuts. "What's Storm and Bilby's status?"

"Storm just confirmed one of our last ACME casualties. Peter Wisinewski." The brown haired man replied.  "Both him and Nace should be on the way out now." 

A part of her couldn't let go of the fact that there was no trace of Chase Devineaux, but her commands were clear. She wiped off the cement dust that clung to her face and grabbed her communicator, "Deric, Nace, Crime Scene is already processing the site. They might need to ask you a few questions on your way out. Regroup at the Chapel of Grace." 

The stinging ruby glow of road flares caught her eye, and Ivy thought she made out the shadow of Eugene Grovington waving off the last medical helicopters. Before she could react, her cellphone rang with a call from ACME Command. Not her communicator, but her personal phone. 

"Monaghan." She answered. 

The voice on the other line was that of Barbara Rosen. "Commander Monaghan. Proceed to The Nob Hill Masonic Center's 2nd Floor Library.

Ivy was already looking at the Masonic Center. It was a imposing structure clad in white marble that stood just across the road from The Chapel of Grace. 

"And Commander... locate Eugene Grovington. Bring him with you."

159 Mikal

Lee-Jordan said: 

"Have they found Chase?"

Mikal Darsha stopped for a moment to try read Lee Jordan's face. There may have been a hint of true concern beneath the informant's muttered words, but from his short time studying Jordan's file and security footage, he knew that this was a man capable of much deception. How else would he have managed to find his way into the trusting arms of ACME's Inspector Eleanor Mayhem? People who traded in information could do anything. 

"You are not authorized to aid the field team." Mikal thought a slight change of subject would suffice. "But someone in ACME thinks you are still worth... something."

The Israeli was initially prepared to forcefully subdue Jordan should he have tried running, keeping his hand over a concealed Jericho 941. At the moment the informant followed without protest, and the two men walked down the road easily, passing the chapel where medical teams and agents scurried about. With everyone's eyes on the situation, they remained inconspicuous, and continued right into the parking entrance of a nearby building. From there they took a fire exit up to what seemed like the second floor, then into a carpeted hallway. Mikal relaxed here, because there were fewer eyes. 

"You asked if they found the Captain?" Darsha finally spoke again. He opened the door to a private room. The answer to Jordan's original question was already there, perched on a chair with the morning's newspaper in hand. 

160 Lee-Jordan

When Lee was young, he was easily the family's black sheep. His older brother took up their father's passion and went into politics, while his younger brother decided on a career in engineering. Lee wanted to be in law enforcement, so he went into ACME. The average cop in California looked up to ACME agents. Once Lee found out what a great company he worked for, he started exploiting it. Lee moved up the ranks by being exceptionally good at convincing people he was the best man for the job… and now, he was wondering if that would still hold.

He couldn't think, not one thought entered his head except for the one that screamed "No! He knows!" 

Why else would Chase be here? How did this happen?

Lee's chest was about to bust open from the pressure, but he acted calm, slowly walking into the room with his hands in his pockets.

"You have an assignment for me, Boss?" he said in the clearest voice he could gather, trying to slither his way out from as far an angle as possible.

161 Chase

Prior to this meeting Chase Devineaux reviewed a series of conclusive evidence that Lee Jordan was at Eleanor Mayhem's apartment the night a certain sound file was accessed. This, and a few additional means granted by the city of San Francisco, provided the Director of Operations a basis for accusation. 

When Lee Jordan entered and casually asked if there was a job to do, Chase got what he wanted: an opening from a guilty conscience. Despite the fact that Devineaux didn't have all the answers, he now knew how to get them.

"You haven't been honest with me, Jordan," behind the bromidic wooden desk, a sardonic, stridulous voice broke the silence, "Did I ever tell you I like honesty?"

162 Lee-Jordan

Lee Jordan, in an attempt to not look guilty, stared Chase back in the eyes and tried to divert, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Lee had been in this position before, countless times, but he couldn't understand why this time was so different. He was angry at himself, he'd become weak, attached to ACME, maybe even attached to Eleanor Mayhem, all things that made him miss his marks. Without distractions, he would have found Carmen by now, he would have been miles away from here, somewhere warm like the Bahamas.

Lee Jordan's heart rate was speeding, and he could sense his own lungs wanting air faster than he could breathe, but he took deeper, slower breaths to calm himself down.

"I'm under some kind of trial?" He laughed challengingly, "You don't have any--"

"I do," knowing Jordan's weakness was in his arrogance, Chase firmly cut.

While he was a much nicer man than he used to be, Devineaux had no qualms with letting the pressure fester until Jordan was sweating blood. It didn't take long, Lee's second nature was to challenge authority.

"What?" Lee was agitated, "What do you have?"

The pause added another layer to the increasingly viscous silence.

"Eleanor's in this building," plainly, Chase reasoned, "You want to go greet her after this conversation as a convict?"

The immediate answer was 'no', but the threat angered Lee even more and he moved towards the desk.

"!@#$% you," he yelled, "You think you can hang this over my head? You knew what I was capable of but you never bumped me to agent, I've been an informant for three !@#$% years!"

The patient side of Chase knew how to listen, even to intense yelling, because he learned some time ago that information came from everything. But today wasn't the day. Off the corner if his eyes, he saw Mikal moving in to keep Jordan contained, but Devineaux stood from his chair, hooked a clamp on the informant's throat, and with a twist of his thumb, pressed Lee's upper body against the wooden table.

"You've been a mediocre informant for three !@#$% years," a low, apathetic growl announced the change in Chase's temperament.

Lee struggled, unable to breathe properly, both his hands were against the wood, trying to push himself out.

"You want to hear a story, Jordan?"

Lee tapped, as hard as he could, a signal that meant he gave up.

"Good," Chase smiled without mirth, "There was a brick that did stupid things... it broke from one house, went to another…"

Lee was in agony.

"Then it couldn't fit in... so it went back to the first house. Tap if you're following."

"Can't... breathe," he tried to say.

"I didn't hear a tap, should I start over?"

Lee tapped, and Chase continued.

"Even though this dumb brick had no place, the first house let it back in... instead of crushing it like the worthless grout that it was."

"I get it," Lee said breathlessly, "I…"

"You want to try again?"

Lee tapped the desk, and when the storyteller let him go, fell to the ground and began replenishing his air supply.

Chase watched the sitting boy with indifference, but as he collected himself, Devineaux offered Jodan a hand and pulled Lee back up to a chair.

Lee rubbed his neck, his throat still throbbing from Chase's grip.

"I got offered money," he confessed, "I wasn't allowed to ask questions, but they wanted me to do something."

"Do what?" Devineaux stood over Lee Jordan. For the first time, the former agent was unable to look him in the eyes.

"Find Carmen," Jordan glanced around the room, hating his own words, "They wanted me to find her, and then get rid of her."

163 thawkwood (Thanks to Deric Storm and Ivy Monaghan for contributing to this one.)

“Ivy, it’s Nace.” Nace said into his communicator, “Deric’s lot is clearing the last floor of the building.”

He shifted the weight of the scared four year old who was maintaining a death grip around his neck as he stood outside the building. The child’s mother was currently being assisted by some EMTs for smoke inhalation.

“I should be making my way to the Chapel of Grace, I’ve got one civilian, daughter of one of the ACME Paralegals, I’m turning over to the EMTs from ACME at the moment. Her mum’s being assisted by the medical lot, she passed out from smoke inhalation.”

Nace got on his communicator and said, “Deric, what’s your status, mate?”

“We’ve got about 5 apartments left,” Deric spoke into his own communicator, “So far, no more fatalities, just some smoke inhalation. Any word from ‘El Jefe’ yet?” Deric’s team had cleared Devineaux’s apartment over an hour before. There had been no sign of the Director of Operations, or anyone for that matter being in the apartment, which indeed was Ground Zero for what had happened.

“Right,” Nace said, checking to make sure that Ivy was monitoring the last few moments. He’d set it to open broadcast, including Ivy in it.

“Copy that.” Ivy replied, feeling reassured that the rescue team was safe. “Nothing on Devineaux, but I was just called in by command. I’ll see you at the Chapel for debriefing. Out.”

“Deric, it’s Nace, as soon as the two survivors my team just got out of the building are taken care of, I’m headed for the chapel.” Nace said, before adding to Ivy, “I’ll check in with the Crime Scene chaps as soon as I get in unless you’ve got anything else for me."

Nace headed down the hill towards the Chapel, stepping inside to make his statement to the Crime Scene personnel.

164 DetectiveAwesome

Daniel Ainsworth had fallen asleep inside the bunker. The day before, Nevon Blair and Gunnar Svensson visited and found that the DECOIL module was missing from one of the C-5 prototypes, and this led to a day of investigations. Everything had to be re-cataloged, finger prints re-done, security footage re-checked... and without an elevator he played middle man between the two teams working in the underground bunker and ACME's original crime lab. Daniel finally fell asleep around 4:00 a.m., next to the Heavy Version of the S.T.U.N. Suit that was still in its final stages of testing, and had weird dreams of shooting aliens while a planet was collapsing around him. 

It was around 8:00 a.m. when he woke up to see his communicator blinking away with an emergency signal. 

"Oh balls!" He yelled as he saw the message, quickly checking in with command. Since Dan was currently assigned to lab work, he didn't receive any of the calls for field agents. He slowly went about gathering his things, and hoped to get a shower before lunch. So it came as something of a surprise when he stepped out into the sunlight and saw that the entire ACME Campus looked like it was on high alert. 

Choppers were hovering over the Medical Center, one landing after another with people being pulled out. There were white ambulances in tow and ACME Academy students huddled together, glued to the screens on their communicators. 

"What's going on?" Dan asked a passing student.

 "You mean you don't know?!" The young woman with purple hair and multiple piercings gave him a burning look, "There was an attack on Nob Hill... The press is saying it's Chase Devineaux's place." 

Dan starred at the screen which was playing re-run footage of the rescue work with various ticker texts like 'Terrorist Attack on Nob Hill' and 'ACME declines to release number of personnel injured'. He thought he made out Constance Kitlyn, the girl from the Winter Ceremony helping a kid get onto a helicopter in one clip. Nevon was definitely there and his former instructor Calina Corranos looked like she was processing the scene. Then the press attempted to interview Commander Monaghan, but she declined to comment and yelled at a camera man when he tried to take photos too close to the ACME ambulances. 

These scenes went on for a while until the news turned into an analytical segment. A few experts were trying to weigh in on the event. 

One man named Robbie Scharr, with a title that just said Expert Political and Military Analyst, seemed incredibly angry as he spoke, "The FACT is, ACME hasn't released any information about what happened. What are they hiding!? Eyewitnesses reported seeing a light, not unlike the C-5 portal systems that the company is known for." 

Next they interviewed Ted Murtone, a counter terrorism expert for ForeSTRAT, a private 'global intelligence company' that had agents like ACME, "It doesn't look like anything we've seen before. It's not a normal bomb. If we don't get answers soon, I would say it's time to start asking what ACME isn't telling."

Dan was floored. It was enough to take in the news that something like this happened... but now people think ACME was to blame? He suddenly felt his stomach drop... The DECOIL module that was missing would have been one of the things that triggered a light effect similar to the C-5. What if that was the key component? Was it even possible that someone could figure out ACME's technology that quickly? All Daniel knew was that ACME needed to know everything they could about the missing DECOIL... if only to clear their name. 

Danny ran back to the bunker, grabbing a soda and sandwich and giving Wilson his daily $1.00 on the way. He texted Bran Brychanson, 'Heading back to the Batcave, boss.'

165 Gunnar

The ambulances outside were ominous, as Gunnar had never seen so much activity at the Medical Center in his time living on the ACME campus. Two teams of Emergency Medical Technicians tugged a couple gurneys in through the emergency department entrance. Gunnar anxiously glanced at the occupants of the stretchers, and was slightly relieved to find that neither was his girlfriend. He lagged behind the EMS squads and made his way through the automatic doors under the bold EMERGENCY sign. Breaking file with the emergency crews, Gunnar broke into a quicker stride and aimed for the registration desk.

“I must find my ‘dependant’, which I was alerted about. She is named Gudrun Nygård.”

One of the least capable nurses behind the counter tapped at a keyboard and reported, “Sorry, there is no ‘Gudrun Neegoard’ in our system.”

Gunnar rolled his eyes and slowly spelled out his fiancée’s name. “N-Y-G-A-R-D.” The nurse followed and entered this more-or-less correct spelling.

She eyed Gunnar’s ACME identification badge suspiciously as the search results revealed no patients that name. “No, there is no Nygard here, either... Mr. Svensson. You said she was a dependant of yours?” The nurse curiously searched for anyone of the name ‘Svensson’. Only one name was found, first name ‘Gudrun’. “She’s in the Third Ward, Mr. Svensson. Patricia here can help you find it.”

Patricia needed not get up from her seat, for Mr. Svensson had already dashed down the hall. Whether by observation or by some instinctual sense, he soon found himself turning into the 3rd Ward of ACME Medical.

Patients lay calmly on three of the four hospital beds, while one was preparing to be escorted out of the building on a wheelchair. The wheelchair’s occupant obviously not Gudrun, the Swede took a glance at each of the bed-confined patients. One propped up, with their right leg wrapped in a cast and a small brace around the left wrist caught his eye, and he had found his girl.

“Gudrun!” he whispered, not sure who in the room may be asleep. He crept over to her bedside and knelt down beside her. A doctor walked up to him to see just who was trying to talk with this patient, and was practically shoved off by the anxious man. “[Gudrun are you fine?]”

She opened her eyes from her much-needed rest and drowsily winked at Gunnar. “[Good morning.]”

“Hej hej,” Gunnar responded, gently placing a hand on her shoulder. “[You look pretty in the hospital gown. How are you?]”

Gudrun smiled, but it was not so bright a smile as she usually would loose. Her eyes were distant. "[I am fine. It is a broken leg and a sprained wrist, and my back--it hurts so. It is very bruised, they tell me.]”

Gunnar felt a chill. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

“[They also tell me I am very brave. But... I thought over everything...]” Gudrun murmured, her eyes darkening further as her heart rate jumped. “[No one would blow up the hospital, yeah?]”

“[Blow up-- Gudrun... What has happened?]”

“[I fell off the swing, Gunnar.]”

166 Flag (Written with input from Chase) ---

Exhausted sleep isn't much like normal sleep. First of all, you don't really get a chance to dream because your body is all like finally! I can take a f****in break! and your brain is like Oh hey, me too!

This is why the scratching noise really got to Flag. There it was, this low metal on metal sound that managed to find it's way into his subconscious and jolt him awake just in time to avoid being stabbed.

From his new vantage point on the ground he was able to see the Hampster trying to pull what looked to be a syringe out of it's new home in the cot. Further investigation indicated that the syringe was empty. Momentarily panicked Flag jumped to his feet and punched the small, bespectacled, Irishman in the face. 

"The hell are you doing?" he asked in a low growl.

Hampster stared at him wide-eyed and muttered "needed proof" before he pointed at something near Flag's head.

Instantly the Sivoan was aware that the ruckus of this confrontation had caused the hood of his sweatshirt to fall back, exposing the ear that had managed to free itself from the clip while he slept. He immediately covered it back up and glanced around to make sure that nobody else had witnessed this. 

"That's it. You're dead!"

Flag started in on the rodent of a man, who threw up his arms and proclaimed "You can't kill me!"

He hesitated enough to ask "Why not?"

The Hampster point up at the ceiling, to where the proverbial man on top resided. "He'll know I'm dead and then he'll make you dead."

The Sivoan stood there, glaring at the cowering figure before him. "Did you... really just say that?"

The hampster man stared back, confused at what offense he might have just caused. It was almost more than Flag could stomach.

"Just go." he said as he pointed towards the door of the temporary barracks. "The next time I see you, I'll kill you."

Hampster jumped to his feet and dashed out the exit indicated, leaving Flag alone with his anger.

167 Patty-Larceny ((Co-written with Dr. Acton Roux! Yays!))

Patty Larceny settled into the old theater, one of its many dressing rooms had an old copper tub. It doesn't work anymore, because the drain isn't connected to anything, but it made a good place for her to sit in while she did her nails.

Patts was quietly doing mini dance moves with only her head while her giant headphones drowned out the sound of hammering and stuff. Winter holiday was great for her because she didn't have to stay in Europe and freeze. 

Dr. Acton Roux had been busy. The theatre proved a difficult spot for him to consistently hide. Workmen were everywhere, but it was good to have a nearby airstrip for his plane, for there, he may still be solitary. As he walked about the old structure, he came across some henchmen working with carpentry over a winding radio. The radio announcer spoke his brand, then told of recent updates world wide. A small section narrated of ACME's speculated malfunctioned C-5 corridor, and its affects on the lives of certain ACME agents. The news summed within a few short sentences, and thus moved on to other reports.

Quickly, Acton rushed, to find a gossip capable of providing more information. He found her, in an old copper tub, lacquering her nails.

"Mademoiselle," he said but she did not respond therefore he called louder, "Mademoiselle Patricia!"

Patty's numbed ears picked up someone calling her true name, and like a mythological she devil, she glared sharply at the source. Seeing an ominous-looking plague doctor surprised her.

"Dude!" She yelled back, "Knock, will you?"

Dr. Acton Roux looked around, but there was no panel of wood that was not at risk of being so moth ridden that it could be rapped upon with results, "There is no where to knock," he reasoned, and stepped in, "I heard news on the radio, has ill befallen ACME's highest ranks?"

Patty thought silently for a moment or two, she had checked ACME news this morning, and nothing came up. Maybe she was missing something.

Sliding off the tub, she hopped with her still drying toenails to her vilePhone. Checking through the inter webs, she found articles only a few hours old about a bomb at Nob Hill, San Francisco. The longest of these articles summed it up: That the attack was centered on ACME's Director of Operations and his top floor apartment, and that ACME hadn't issued a release of any sort. Speculations abound, and Patty formed one of her own.

"Oh my God," she commented, "They killed Chase!"

Acton looked at the blond young woman with curiosity, "Who is Chase?"

With timing, the dinner bell rang, but it was several seconds before Patty moved.

"ACME's McDreamy, Chase Devineaux!" She grabbed Roux's arm, "C'mon, we have to go tell everybody!"

168 Joe_Kerr

It was Carmine who first heard the dinner bell ringing throughout the theatre; the moment the first chimes had crept into the prop room, the feline's ever alert ears had perked up and the rest of her was soon to follow. Carmine stretched out on the old settee she had been dozing on and let out a loud meow which instantly woke up the jester beside her.

It took the formerly snoozing Joe Kerr a minute or two to gather his surroundings before he remembered where he was. After he had roped in a henchman to help fix the bulb and oil the prop room door, he had unceremoniously sat down on the settee he had discovered in the room and promptly fallen asleep. Now, as the ringing of the dinner bell got louder, Joe remembered Vic's mention of dinner and decided that it would be rude to be a no-show.

Getting off his makeshift bed, Joe dusted himself off and straightened out his costume. Picking up his staff, he beckoned Carmine to join him, only to realize said cat was already waiting at the door. Joe chuckled and opened the door for his impatient friend.

As Joe opened the now non-creaking door, he heard a couple of voices echoing around; one of which both he and Carmine recognized instantly. It was a voice he had come to know very well, having heard it both laugh and bark orders in Antarctica. VILE's golden girl was in the house and Joe knew first hand that when she was around, there was never a dull moment. 

Smiling behind his mask, Joe turned to Carmine who also looked like she was smiling. 

"Things are about to get interesting, eh girl?"

169 Sophie

Completed in the year two-thousand, the ACME Medical Center (AMC) was an expansive, glass-clad facility capable of running one hundred medical/surgical beds in a secure and technologically-advanced environment. Privately funded and built to cater to the healthcare needs of ACME employees and their immediate families, the AMC usually functioned at half of its intended capacity with most of the ACME Medical employees attending to agents and contracts aboard.

On this day, however, there was little that was usual.

It had been many months since she had last donned a pair of the generic navy-blue coloured scrubs of the AMC and Doctor Sophie Conrad took a moment to look at her reflection in the mirror as she braided her hair. Her personal pairs had been retired in the summer when it became apparent that her new position allowed her to dress in predominantly civilian attire, but the AMC-issued uniform felt almost as pleasant as she remembered. Resting on the Formica countertop before her, the display of her touch-screen device flickered as it independently scrolled through the electronic records and reports on Suhara Nakamura – and by the time she stood along the hallway of the intensive care unit (ICU), looking through the glass of the room that held the eminent ACME senior, she knew all she needed to know.

The family of Mr. Nakamura had already been assembled and updated by the medical team in charge of his care, but Sophie comprehended – perhaps, more than most – that not all who are family are related by blood…

170 Flag (written with input from Chase and Eugene) ---

Going back to sleep was not an option. Based on the unexpected frozen pipes, neither was showering. This afternoon was turning out to be a miserable morning - and not for just him.

The temporary barracks were located a short walk from the temporary mess hall, which was teeming with all manner of hired hands. He found Olga (one of the mercenaries from his trip) making her way to the food line and unconsciously joined her. They chatted lightly and picked their food before finding seats at a table near the center of the room.

"Have you had a chance to get acquainted with the others here yet?" she asked, her Russian accent coming out much stronger now than it had in the United states.

Flag shook his head "No. Not really."

Olga had known that he was called away by the man in Tweed and leaned in "Oh? Have you already received your orders?"

Again the Sivoan shook his hooded head. "Nothing more than you already know."

"Ah." She took a bite of her food and pointed at his with her fork. "Were you able to get ahold of her?"

He shrugged and pulled his phone out of his pocket to place it on the table. "Sort of. Phone's dead."

Olga eyeballed the phone suspiciously and poked the power button to confirm his story. "Do you not have a charger for it?"

"It's in New York."

"Oh... right." She seemed a little embarrassed to have forgotten the manner in which he had joined their group. "Could you not pick one up at the airport?"

He shrugged at this inquiry. "They were sold out due to the tourists."

Olga laughed at that, drawing the attention of the people around them. "Oh! Those silly tourists!"

Flag used the awkward silence that followed to eat a good portion of his meal. Olga however, merely pushed her food around her plate until she found something else to talk about.

It was at that a large, dark man with tattoos and dreads filled the doorway, took note of the room, and made his way to get his meal.

"Oh my God! It's him!" Olga squeaked in a hushed excitement.

Flag had no idea why the silent mountain of a man got such a reaction out of her, but he did make a mental note to avoid angering him if possible.

"Do you know who that is?"

He shook his head, his attention back to his food.

"That's Barabbas. He's one of the biggest bad asses in the business!"

He remained quiet, but glanced at Olga with a mild curiosity. As she launched into the details about how many people he had killed and tortured, Flag realized that she viewed being a murderer for hire as some sort of global carnival game. It fully explained why she was here.

Apparently Olga had changed subjects on him and she was now pointing to a group of notably disgruntled people in the back of the room. "Do you know why they are?"

Flag shrugged. "Scientists?"

"Right!" she clapped. "They're supposed to be making us neat things to help us with our mission!"

Olga pointed to another group of people visible only through the faux windows of the walls that comprised the borders of the mess hall. For a second Flag thought that he recognized a woman from the helicopter trip, but he didn't have time to ponder on it before more exclamation by his lunchmate penetrated his thoughts.

"They take care of the supplies we need to be comfortable!" She held up her fork as if of were a trophy. "Like our food! We have so many people in our community here!"

Flag pretended to be impressed and finished off what remained of his food. Somehow Olga had cleared her her plate as well and was leaning over the table at him.

"Want me to take you on a tour? This place is huge, but it doesn't take that long to find things once you know your way around."

Cornered by an opportunity in his favor, Flag nodded and within moments they were on their way.

171 Narrator [Credit goes to Flag, Chase, Euge and Mikal]

The man in tweed took in a deep breath as he gazed out over the ocean from the detached watchtower. He found that the difficulty in getting to this location allowed him privacy that he may not be granted anywhere else. As he watched the near frozen sea crash into itself, he allowed his mind to wander.

The first thing he pondered of was the VILE agent that he had enlisted with a false promise. In his limited experience with his rival's organization, he had learned that its individual members usually had a gimmick of some sort - be it clowns or pirates or whatnot. However he really couldn't place what exactly Flag was trying to portray. All he could guess was that he was perhaps the lead singer of a failed Swedish metal band. Rather than dwell how horrible his music must've been, he tried to figure out why Carmen would have hired this greedy moron in the first place.

That led him to thinking about VILE’s leader herself. Although she had been unraveling his scheme for years, he could barely remember what she looked like. Paying people to find her had been his way of solving a problem from the surface, but some things are too deeply rooted for third parties. He probably would have killed off that Lee Jordan had the boy succeeded, some people are geared to make enough dumb mistakes to even save their own lives.

The sound of footsteps rising from the stairwell jostled him out of his thoughts and he turned to see one of the few women he didn't mind listening to. An American known to most by her last name, Lancaster, but he knew that she once held the prestigious title of San Gabriel among ACME's final generation of 'Saints'. How the mighty have fallen, from the absolution of sainthood to the wastelands of Kamchatka.

"Karnak killed another one in the silo," she said casually as if she wouldn't need a response, "Any word from San Francisco?"

"Silence," he replied, "nothing but silence."

No news, they both understood, was good news. ACME was notorious for covering anything that spun beyond their control. This was only the beginning.

Satisfied with her answer, Lancaster relaxed, and on that, the man in tweed walked up to where she stood. Before he could say another word, she rebuked his advances with a quick nod towards the northern wall of the tower, "They're ready to test the lasers."

She handed him his cane, once propped against the wall.

"Ah, excellent," carrying the slight soreness of missed opportunities in his tone, he exited the room without poise to look back.

172 Vic-the-Slick (Written in co-op with Patty for a little flavor!)

Dinnertime among VILE elites was always something of a ball. They cooked together, then they ate together, that was the rule most times. The only person that never actually cooked much was Carmen, but it was well known that she saw cooking more like a science and was too experimental with meals to make anything fully edible. Then as if that wasn't enough, she would play with her food.

Vic felt the pangs on how much he missed that.

After the dinner bell rang, Patty came down with Acton and had him help her boil potatoes for mashing. When she and Roux began telling the team that ACME's malfunctioned C-5 killed Chase Devineaux, Vic was floored.

"What?" it was crazy, ACME had no C-5, VILE destroyed it when Vic and Flag took the tower, "You better have your sources, Patts," Vic went on, he didn't want to tell her that as far as he knew, Devineaux was the only person left in contact with Carmen.

"I got it off the inter webs," Patty argued, but she knew her sources weren't as reliable as if a VILE scout came running in with the news. 

Which was great, because that's exactly what happened.

Two grunts came running in, panting, "Hey Vic! News flash from our scouts in San Fran… ACME's C-5, it's gone and malfunctioned, blew up half a block, some agent's apartment! Civilians are kept out, but it's gotta be all over the news by now."

"See? Told ya," Patts commented, and went back to her cooking.

Somehow, Fumigalli was reminded of the end of that masquerade in Venice. Some Italian kid called out Devineaux's name and shot a bullet that hit an ACME. Vic hadn't seen much, but he manned the pickup helicopter disguised that night as a police transport.

In the silence of the craft, Carmen said to him:

"Tell me [that boy isn't] one of our own," she spoke briskly, removing her cloth eye-mask and throwing it aside, "find out what happened."
Then as Carmen wore the co-pilot gear and readied herself, she handed her Italian friend a Patek Phillipe. "Replace the strap for me? See if you can get it in the original leather… 1976"

Seeing her face in his mind again, he figured out what he had missed. The woman telling him to go fix that watch wasn't the Carmen he knew. Something changed in her, and as far as Vic could see, she hadn't been quite the same. Soon after, she wanted to take ACME tower, a plan that ended with bonuses and holidays for all of VILE just before the unthinkable happened: she disappeared.

Now their only other lead, Devineaux, was presumed dead. Suddenly, the conman wasn't so hungry.

173 Joe_Kerr

Joe had planned on making some Bruschetta and enjoying the company of fellow VILE elites and whatever juicy gossip had gotten Patty all excited. He had not expected, however, for the blonde bombshell to drop such a, well, a bombshell.

Chase is dead? Would that make me one of the last people to see him alive? Where does that leave Kidman?

Joe looked around to see Patty and Roux still calmly cooking whilst Vic looked ill at ease.

Deciding to break the air, Joe cleared his throat and addressed his sullen polyester clad friend.

"Non essere troppo veloce per pedere la speranza. Sono d'accordo con voi circa la C5. Qualcosa non è giusto." 

Joe was unceremoniously interrupted by the sound of Carmine sneezing due to one of the grunts knocking over a pepper shaker on his way back out. He shook his head and continued in a lighter tone.

"Fancy popping by San Fran for a 'funeral'?"

(OOC Note: The Italian phrase Joe spoke to Vic reads "Don't be so quick to lose hope. I agree with you about the C5. Something isn't right.")

174 Kidman A special thanks to Chase for the prompt and doing Renee, and to Carmen, for making sure Renee is a woman. :-)

She didn’t remember remembering the orange wallpaper, but it felt like the sort of thing one wouldn’t forget.

“Did you finish breakfast, dear?”

“Yes, mumsy.”

It was warm out, a good day to play, if she didn’t have to go to training. The woman in the sunlit kitchen called her back in warm bell tones. “I still see juice in this glass. You need your strength if you’re going to fly today.”

A man’s voice followed along with the rustle of a newspaper. “Test flight, today?”

“Yes, Da, but with the instructor. He’ll still have the controls. You’re both coming to see, yes?”

The woman’s face greyed. “I’m so sorry, Sarah, but I can’t,” she said as she returned from the kitchen with a suitcase and raincoat.

“Mother, mother, where are you going?”

“There’s no time, child. Be good.”

The sun was gone and the house rattled with some growing storm.

“Carmen, wait! You can’t, it’s dangerous! Father, Mother’s leaving, she’s leaving!”

But the man remained at the table, reading his paper. No...just staring, blank. Kidman pulled on his arm. “Father, stop her, save her!”

The house tore apart with a gust of wind, sending thousands of crayon drawings swirling over the remnants of an ideal. The man stood and looked at her, blank iron eyes, then disappeared as well.

“Wait, wait,
don’t leave me!

The echo of her voice on the cell walls brought Kidman to her senses and she roughly pushed her blanket of papers aside. She wasn’t sure how long she had been asleep, and while it was dark, that didn’t count for much this time of year.

The small window looked out upon the wall of the adjacent building, but the orange halogen streetlights managed to make their presence known, and Kidman sat next to the skewed orange rectangles they left upon the floor. She couldn’t be sure it was the isolation or the strain or the darkness that stole from her now, but her brief sense of peace was already sinking.

She had passed the signal along. The seed was planted. But how long for it to grow? Something had happened that day, of that she was sure, and though the aid would not tell her what, she knew It involved Chase.

‘He’ll have no time for her now.’

Kidman looked over the sea of paper. It was getting harder and harder to get back there now. The only thing she had truly been able to grab without prompting was the boat, and even that shifted with each dive. The rich detail she had been assaulted with was fading, replaced by dreams she knew were hers, and far less useful.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Chase’s watch kept ticking.

‘Vic wants to wait for Carmen to want to be found, but she
does want to be found, by Chase. Yet I can’t tell if Chase believes me, or will even remember the things I said. What can I do?’

‘Then find her yourself. Get the beacon back and find her. You know you can. It’s what you were made for.’

Kidman jerked fully awake. She hadn’t heard that inner voice so separate since the day Carmen failed to return to Antarctica.

‘It’s what you were made for.’

Something shuffled beneath the last sentence; stale air, a brown carpet, a dim light, a man with glasses. The words came in rough angles and didn’t feel like English at all, but still she understood it them. Familiar and foreign.

‘What does that mean? What was I made for?’

She closed her eyes and tried to catch them again, but found only static and torn orange wallpaper over shattered studs.


Renée, assistant to the Director of Operations, looked through her schedule. The recent event at 1221 Jones Street was disturbing. It was such a shock that she had to take a private moment to cry, relieving all emotions before she could work again. With remnants of tears, she cancelled all Chase Devineaux's meetings, halted all his calls, and kept him at the center of an organization-wide information lockdown.

Then she moved to one of her other tasks for the day: deliver a sandwich to a VILE prisoner. Renée had no reason to ask why this cloaked woman was kept inside an ACME holding cell, but she was undeniably thankful that the Director was here, and not at his apartment when the early morning attack occurred.

"Hello," the assistant greeted before she opened the door, "I have your dinner." Once inside, she found scattered paper with various images. The young woman took a brief moment to look at them before continuing, "Are you hungry?"

Kidman had tossed the shawl over her head at the sound of footsteps, but she could still see through it reasonably well. The woman looked familiar.

“Oh aye? Oh, cheers, love.... yes, actually.”

She paused. The ACMEs were never forthcoming with what they actually knew, but maybe she could ease it out of this one. “I was worried I might be forgotten. ...What happened out there?”

Renee had been asked that question nearly all day, but she was still surprised how hard it was to muster an answer. Not being the type to convey information without backup, she picked up her phone and turned it to a page from IBN's evening report.

"The news has this everywhere," Renee said with a sigh, "That was the Director's apartment."

Kidman stared at the crater mutely as the blood rushed from her face. She leaned back against the wall.


On the heels of shock came anger that swelled in a little pocket in her mind. ‘They almost took him from me as well.’

“What did this?”

"No one knows," somewhat irked at the mention of her Director's name, the assistant removed her phone, "I just can't imagine who could want to kill him."

“I suppose he is a prime target, but why like this? This’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. It couldn’t be passed off as an accident. And whoever did this did not know Chase was not inside...but assumed he would be....”

Kidman shivered but pushed it off. It looked pushed in, like something had fallen on it. From the outside. “This...was a long range attack...?”

"They are going to find out soon," Renee replied, "but you might know more than me, because no one knows either why you're here. Do you know?"

Kidman pursed her brows. “They don’t? So it’s true. That woman seemed so surprised to find Chase here.”

Her mind raced. Chase was acting on his own. Was it just for his car? No, he had that.

“Master.... I’m here because he needed collateral to get something to help find-”

She paused. Should she be telling an outsider this?

“I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you?”

"I'm his personal assistant," she replied, "he told me yesterday to bring you food. This is not usually my job."

Kidman eyed the woman carefully.

‘Close enough.’

“I came here on the belief that Ma-.... Carmen is in grave danger, and now I wonder if it has spread to Mr. Chase. Do you know anything about a red ship and someone named San Raphael?”

She started to scoop up her pictures into a pile. “Does anything here look familiar or mean anything to you?”

"No," a worried look displayed on her face, "do they mean anything to you?"

“Nightmares. I’ve been having the same ones for months now, insisting that some signal reach Chase about ‘San Raphael’. They take place on a large boat with a red deck, somewhere cold, and sometimes I see blood coming from the port side, mid deck.”

Kidman pointed to a drawing. “I didn’t think about this meaning anything, but this morning... Chase said San Raphael was real, and was dangerous.”

"You are saying… this San Raphael can be behind this morning's attack?" Renee couldn't believe she was repeating this, but what could she do, she was only a humble assistant. She adjust her glasses slightly, and looked at the drawings closer, "How would you know any of this?"

The girl grew quiet for a moment. “I...don’t know.”

"Then can I keep these?" the French woman gathered the drawings, "The Director should see these."

Adrianna Covrenzi

Adrianna Covrenzi stepped out of her midnight blue Bentley Continental and looked at the theatre before her. V.I.L.E. had truly done an amiable job with the façade, but that was just what this organization was good at, putting a mask on so that the world would look away. She wondered inwardly how easy it would be for everything to fall apart with Carmen gone. If this had happened three years ago, Adrianna would have thrown a Champagne Brunch in celebration, but she had since made amends with her 'frienemy', and although she would choose scalding torture before admitting it, Contessa had also grown attached to the rag tag team that supported Carmen Sandiego. 

As her stilettos slowly struck the pavement, and she allowed her butler to open the building's massive doors, the Countess was greeted by many familiar faces in the midst of cooking a dinner. Steaming pots of sloppy food were laid out, their pungent aromas wafting through the air and seeping into the new wood and fresh lain plaster. 
She noticed at once, Vincent Fumagalli, in his green polyester suit several decades behind what would be considered fashionable. The Italian commanded seniority among V.I.L.E., but the solemn expression on his face aged him. He was a regent desperate for a leader's return. 

"I trust you've all heard about ACME." Contessa removed her harp seal coat and handed it to her butler, revealing a long sleeved emerald evening gown. She was never known for dressing down at any occasion. "I think we can agree that we need a change of direction. If the detectives have a weapon of that caliber, or if God forbid someone else does, there's nothing we could do to stay safe."

Adrianna snapped and her butler pulled up a chair, she sat before continuing, "Carmen may never agree to this, but I know several people who can help protect us, and some that may provide us with an arsenal more suited to the members of V.I.L.E…." She looked at the blank expression on Patty Larceny, Joe Kerr, and several other theatre members.

"Yes, this means I'm going to hire armed guards. Yes, they will be violent… but they will be under our control, and I cannot see a valid argument against it."

176 DrRoux

All this time that the French-born Doctor Acton Roux was both a part of V.I.L.E. and yet had been fired from it, he had learned a great deal about the elites of this organisation. At the top was Vincent Fumigalli, a man with many dealings, but his inability to truly lead opened him for other members to take the role. Sarah Nade, an unorthodox lover of music played more of the quick decision maker. Yet today, Acton is introduced to another key elite of the organisation, almost as serene as the Red Queen in her demeanour and nearly as enigmatic, the Contessa Covrenzi in her lavish green looked ready as an eager princess to take her sister's crown. One may wish to hear her sing, but a glister in her eyes revealed that hers may be the sort of song sung to end life through shards of broken dreams rather than ease any suffering.

Acton felt repulsed by his conclusion, how could a man like him ever judge such a woman at first sight? Non, he must let time roll its course and allow her actions to teach him of his follies.

Her mention to hire armed guards to protect them suggested she understood the concept of protection. From under his mask, the doctor made a muffled chuckle that attracted the attention of some in attendance, an action that he regretted but used to his advantage.

"Certainly armed guards cannot shoot at a weapon so destructive, Madame," he suggested this as the reason he began to laugh, "Perhaps we must ask if this sudden attack on or enemy suggests a link to our leader's disappearance, and what it is that we must learn from it." 

"She had taken the tower which they housed this technology, and we have suffered through their retaliation, having lost our Antarctica Station. It is not unconventional to believe this could yet fall upon us, that we recreated this technology to assassinate this…," he tried to remember what Patty had told him, "the McDreamy of ACME, non?"

"How shall it seem to them if we now have armed guards?"

 177 Gunnar

He had learned as much of the attack as Gudrun and her medical caretakers knew, which he supposed was more than most people knew. Gudrun was one of the best witnesses of the event, and she had described it in the artistic way she always could. There had been a bright flash, like the sun had exploded; the sound was like an active audio cable being plugged into a live sound amplifier, screeching and popping with terrible ferocity. The rest of the story was based on rumor: ACME’s C-5 technology had been used to kill Director Devineaux.

Gunnar was more than scared now. As well as any could say, he had nearly lost his very best friend this morning. Furthermore, he was afraid that he would lose the good graces of her parents, especially after Gudrun had explained her condition to them via his disposable cell phone. And the fact that the Director had been personally targeted disturbed him.

Distracting him momentarily was another message on his communicator, requesting that various active ACME personnel assemble at the Chapel of Grace, very near the disaster site. He reluctantly parted with his girlfriend for the afternoon. Her goodbye kiss was no consolation to him.

Gunnar marched out from the AMC swearing intricate threats against this attacker in English, Swedish, German, and Russian.

178 Joe_Kerr

Joe Kerr pondered over Contessa's words carefully whilst listening to Dr Roux's rebuttal. He himself wasn't too fond of the idea of armed guards for several reasons. In his experience, armed guards were trained to kill, trigger happy and severely in need of a sense of humour. Their serious attitudes would also clash with the usually eccentric and somewhat Wonderland like atmosphere found in any VILE HQ.

Contemplating options and choices, Joe gave his carefully worded reply to Contessa with the aid of a most gentlemanly bow.

"My dearest Contessa, I believe I speak for most of us when I say that we are most honoured that you have taken the time to grace us with your presence and personally convey your concerns. Whilst I will concede that said concerns are valid, in your challenge to give a valid reason opposing the proposed plan of action, I have but this to say.

Your ladyship has already pointed out that powerful strength of the weapon. If reports are correct, the weapon entirely wiped out an entire building or two at the least. Such a weapon could no doubt decimate this place with one hit, rendering even the most highly trained of guards redundant and most certainly injured or dead. 

Furthermore, unless I am mistaken, the original purpose behind the facade of this theatre was to conceal VILE's actions in using this place as our HQ. If I may be so bold, armed guards would certainly attract unwanted attention to this place, counteracting your own splendid efforts in disguising this place as a fine theatre and nothing more. If, as you have also surmised, that it is possible that ACME is behind the weapon, it would be all the more imperative that we keep a low profile. 

I do believe your ladyship is familiar with the reasoning also that where there are armed guards, there is something worth protecting. Whilst I am flattered that your ladyship would find this establishment and/or its occupants worth protecting, being thieves we also know that armed guards are like flames to a moth, they lure thieves like us in. That is attention we really do not need.

However dear Contessa, your offer of 'an arsenal more befitting of VILE', as I believe you have put it so eloquently, intrigues me. I do agree that security should be increased in this place, but maybe in the form of a hidden security system invisible from the outside but one that key members of VILE can monitor at all times.

I would also agree with your ladyship's opinion that we need to upgrade our arsenal. We cannot deny that things are changing and we will be dealing with possibly more ruthless foes than before. I believe the equipping of each VILE member with at least one weapon, non-lethal but fully capable of incapacitating a foe of any size for an acceptable amount of time, would be most fitting. As I believe that your ladyship already has someone in mind who is most capable of outfitting each of us with a weapon best suited to us, I am more than willing to leave that aspect in your most skilled hands.

And that, your ladyship, is the humble opinion of this lowly jester."

Bowing once again to end his little diatribe, Joe stepped back to allow his fellow comrades to speak their peace, all the while doing his best to read expressions off Contessa, Vic and Patty.

179 EarlJr

Euge had entered Grace Cathedral after the last helicopter full of body bags had departed, hoping he might be able to review imagery of the attack more closely.  The glances he had taken in the midst of the crisis appeared unlike any bomb he had ever encountered, but a change in perspective might help him make the logical connections.

His opportunity never came though, as he happened upon Ivy in the middle of a call on her personal phone.  This was unusual enough, given that ACME agents were directed to use their communicators while on duty, in order to ensure events and messages were properly logged.  Whatever conversation she had held was off the record, and had apparently thrown her for a loop.  Euge watched her glance first at the building across the street, then at him, and finally fix the phone itself with a momentary disbelieving stare before shoving it back in her pocket.

Ivy quickly sent a last message out to the rescue team, "Deric, you have control until Cali gets here with Crime Scene.  If Homeland Security tries to step in again, refer them to ACME Command or Chief.  I'll be there soon."  She turned back to the pilot, "Euge, come with me."

Without waiting for a reply she set off at a brisk pace across the street, and nearly threw the doors of the Masonic Lodge open.  Leading Euge up the stairs, they found the library was already occupied by Barbara Rosen, who appeared to be expecting them.

180 Mikal [Credits to: Mikal Darsha, Ivy Monaghan, Chase Devineaux, Lee Jordan and Eugene Grovington.] 

Board Secretary Gunther Metzger rushed into the intended building on 1111 California Street and up to the Masonic Library where a small group of people waited for him. Barbara Rosen greeted the new entry with a barely audible huff.

"The press are calling it a malfunctioned C-5 based on eyewitness accounts and mindless speculation," Metzger said between breathlessness and sweat, "Everyone has been told we're in Information Lockdown, Tanya won't be answering calls from the media until further notice."

"Good," Barbara affirmed.

"He's dead, isn't he?" Gunther wiped off excessive beads of perspiration, "I knew you sounded too calm the phone. Dead calm, Barbara, for heaven's sake. What happened? Was it VILE? We weakened them so much already."

Before Rosen could refute the secretary's ranting, the door opened.

Mikal did not speak as he entered the Masonic Library. After the interrogation session there was much that needed to be shared. He respectfully nodded to Barbara Rosen and Gunther Metzger, taking note of their expressions as the Director of Operations and Informant Lee Jordan walked into the room with him. Metzger looked relieved, Rosen on the other hand, was unreadable. He also recognized two other faces in the room. The first was Eugene Grovington, Mikal had met the pilot in Tunisia under one of ACME’s less public missions. The second was Ivy Monaghan, the ‘girl in a cat mask’, who he danced with during at the Venetian Blue Moon Masquerade.

The Israeli placed an ACME electronic tablet onto the central table, allowing everyone a clear view. On the screen was a semi-pixelated photograph pulled from security footage at an ice cream store in Long Beach California. It showed a man in a tweed suit speaking to Lee Jordan. 

“Our informant has a lead. This is our best image. It is not very good.” Mikal started, “We may need some time to try and retrieve a real name.”  

"I can't give you a name," Eugene started, "but you might find people that know him as 'Mr. Tweed'."

Ivy turned to the pilot, who in one disjointed sentence had managed to command the room's attention. "...How do you know that?" She asked on reflex.

"Earlier this year, a few buddies told me about him. We met, once. He offered me a job, and I turned him down." Euge's voice was stable as he talked, almost casual. His eyes stayed fixed on the photo as if trying to recognize more details. "The man just seemed like a recruiting agent from a rival company. I didn't report it because it didn't seem suspicious." 

When Grovington looked up, Ivy caught his eye, and his brow furled for a split second before he turned away. Countless interrogation sessions had taught the Commander that this was an unconscious human reaction to guilt. It was one of the only universal tells in the world... and it confirmed that the man before her was an excellent liar. 

Lee Jordan looked at the image that showed him talking to the man in tweed without a lot of reaction externally. He couldn’t believe what Chase and Mikal were doing for him, saying he was on their side all along. Jordan looked around, relieved, Eleanor Mayhem wasn’t here.

“He would have hacked into the C-5 satellites to do what he did,” Lee pointed to the image of Tweed, “I don’t know much more, I can only guess, he never trusted me enough.”

Barbara Rosen viewed the photo, nothing she cared to see was in it, but now everyone had a face to the enemy, "I've suspected that much," she replied to Lee, "What else can you tell me?"

Chase exhaled, "Jordan found some information... messages intercepted from VILE's leader."

"She's working with him?"

"No, but she might lead us to him. Word from VILE is that she's involved in a little pet project outside, hasn't been in touch with them for months," Devineaux knew parts of this appealed to the board, and to Rosen in particular, "I've talked to Vincent Fumigalli, he's willing to give us the files she took from the tower for what we uncover."

Barbara raised a thin, well practiced eyebrow, a line that had drilled doubt into even the most reinforced-steel statements, "And what do you plan to uncover?"

"Something useful," he answered.

At this point, Renee entered, holding a file of documents. She wanted to show the drawings, but sensing the air of seriousness in the room, she decided that now was not the time.

"Good, you're here," Chase greeted as his assistant walked in, then took the center floor among the group, "We'll need to brief ACME on my status. Commander, you and Grovington -- gather all active agents, tell them we're on info lockdown, and keep them alert.

"What can you give me in terms of resources?" he asked the board.

Gunther Metzger began to count in his mind the various protocols that would allow this sort of operation, but Barbara Rosen interrupted him, "Clear this up, and you won't have anything to sign."

As if expecting that answer, Devineaux promptly continued, "Darsha, the informant's yours, find this Tweed, see what you can fetch inside 24 hours."
Then he turned to Renee, "Start dialing Fumigalli, let's get this done."

181 Ivy

A tense air still hovered about as Ivy Monaghan and Eugene Grovington made their way towards Grace Cathedral. It was time to debrief the teams, and put a few minds to rest about the state of their Director of Operations. The afternoon had fast faded into a rosy sunset--one of the few miracles of a San Francisco winter--and if it wasn't for the emergency vehicles and crime scene tape, this would have been a postcard moment. 

Inside the Chapel of Grace, most of the medical team had already left for AMC, save for several field-ready personnel who were asked to stay behind. Ivy was handed a roll call of agents in the vicinity, and she quickly scanned the list of familiar names. The crowd that gathered were some of ACME's finest, all of them summoned here because they were able bodied, experienced and most of all, loyal to the agency. 

"I know it's a mess out there right now." Ivy began her address, "First, I want to put some of your minds at ease. Chase Devineaux is alive."

She could hear a few breaths of relief. It was still little condolence for what the rescue team had to face earlier in the day.

"That being said, ACME is now on information lockdown. It's been confirmed that someone is targeting our company. We don't have full intel on the weapon they used, but we believe it's based off our C-5 Portal System. If this is true, then they've already demonstrated their disregard for civilian casualties, and we can't let them use it again. 

The attack at Nob Hill was designed to take out our leadership, and it failed. That means we have the advantage of surprise. In the next few days, a task force will be assembled to directly counter this attack. You've been called here due to a preselection process, but this mission isn't mandatory… it's likely to go far beyond what your employment contracts ask of you."

The Commander pulled up a digital copy of the Special Operations Understanding of Liabilities Contract. It was what every member of ACME's Spec Ops department saw when they got their first assignment, but this was new for members of the ACME detective division. 

"This is a non-disclosure agreement and confirmation that you accept the risks of the upcoming mission." Ivy already knew what the document said, having read the copy that Gunther Metzger drew up in the Masonic Library just half an hour ago. Knowing that she would do anything to see the people behind the Nob Hill incident brought to justice, she signed it without hesitation, but the Commander acknowledged there were agents before her that had much more to lose. 

"I understand that this isn't the kind of decision that can be made immediately. You have 24 hours to look over the document. If you agree, sign your name and use your communicators to send a biometric scan of your finger prints. No response means you've decided against it." 

She paused there, wishing she could tell them more. "Any questions?" 

-- [Note to all ACME agents/affiliates who wish to participate in the next mission, please move your character to the Chapel of Grace. They can not be part of the final raid without acknowledging the contract. Thank you.]

182 Vic-the-Slick

Joe's long speech threw Vic back into the swing of things. Was he mocking Contessa or was he reenacting Macbeth? That jester might have a death wish. Before he could add his opinion, though, Vic's phone rang. It was Devineaux's secretary. After almost 12 hours, she was finally ringing him.

"It's Devineaux's assistant," he told the crowd, "Everybody quiet."

Then he picked up.

"Callin' me back so soon pretty mama?" he said sarcastically.

"Fumigalli," Chase Devineaux's stern greeting sent chills down Vic's spine. He was calling from the assistant's phone, "I need those files."

"You… you know where she is?"

"No, but I have an idea. If I can verify this with the files she took, I'll know more," his voice was something Vic heard so many times on TV. It was like a series of numbing punches in the face, "Work with me, Slick."

"You work with us," Vic countered, "My people and I, we'll meet you at the storage, then when you find Carmen's location, it's us that's going to get her."

"You don't know who you're dealing with," there was some kind of reason in Chase's words, "But I'll let you decide when we meet."

"Hawaii," Vic said the location like he was shaking hands, "Noon tomorrow, local, Main Island. Meet me at the airport, I'll take you, and whatever people you wanna bring to the warehouse... Just be reasonable."

"Thanks Vic," Devineaux sounded sincere, "and this conversation... wasn't with me."

"Ey I want that henchman you took back too, ah?" Vic said just before he heard the line go off.

"Get ready for Hawaii," the salesman said to everyone at the dinner table, "Eat up if you're coming, we gotta be on our way t'night."

((VILEs, if you're coming, you tell me now. And if anybody overheard that conversation, you didn't hear Chase's side, ah? You only heard Vic.))

183 Chase

After hanging up with Vic the Slick, Chase handed the phone back to Renée and pulled out his own mobile to review messages. Many arrived from acquaintances, most of them from eons past, even former student and MC for the Winter Ceremony Ivana Tam had sent him a courtesy note. But Devineaux was looking for a particular in-coming from Sophie Conrad, hoping for an update on Suhara Nakamura. It read:

"Do return to the AMC as soon as you can. Mr. Nakamura's condition is grave."

"I have to check on Suhara," he said to present company, Barbara Rosen, Gunther Metzger, and Renée St Clair, "Renée, when you're done with arrangements, meet me at my office -- 1900 hrs."

The assistant brought his car to the Masonic Center and with it, he drove back to ACME compounds. As soon as he entered the Medical Center, he made eye contact with a passing doctor. Recognizing the woman, a moment of nonverbal communication transpired. Chase was attempting to figure out her name, as her face was written with worry trying to understand him.

"Sophie Conrad," deciding he couldn't waste any more time, Chase threw in the common name.

The woman's face brightened a little and pointed him in the direction of the Emergency Department.

He thanked her, only to remember a few steps later that her name was Sheila Matthews.

* * *

There was little she could do to directly help Suhara Nakamura as his care was now the purview of the best intensivists under the employ of ACME Medical and direct clinical duties were no longer within her domain. However, even as Dr. Sophie Conrad gravitated back towards the Emergency Department to assist with the management of those who had been transferred in via the ACME Medical transports, her tablet continued to update its information feed on the condition and developments of Suhara Nakamura - and though the hours trickled past, she did not send Chase more than a single text message, knowing that the Director of Operations would reply only whenever he saw fit.

"Sophie," Devineaux said as soon as he saw her.

Recognising the voice before she saw the man to whom it belonged to, she glanced at the time on her watch before silently acknowledging the arrival of Chase Devineaux, slightly surprised at his sudden and unannounced appearance. She had been seated at a workstation, reviewing patient and eyewitness accounts of the attack at the Nob Hill Tower, and took a moment to consider the look in his eyes before swiftly making to depart.

"Walk with me, will you," she said as she logged out of the programme she had been using, stood up, and moved towards the elevators that would bring them both to the second floor.

Chase followed, fast. He wanted to ask again exactly what the Japanese man endured, but the faces of the injured, most of which he could identify, seized his attention. So many lives affected only to kill one man… insanity.

The Emergency Department had private elevators that led directly into the lobby of the intensive care unit and the operating theatres. In the precious few minutes they had to themselves and in less than fifty matter-of-fact words, the self-possessed doctor conveyed that Suhara Nakamura had sustained a blow to his chest - possibly wrought by a falling piece of the building which had been attacked. He had a few ribs broken and suffered an extensive pneumothorax. However, that which threatened his life the most now was the heart attack - and consequent cardiac arrest - that he had suffered en route to the Medical Center.

Sophie quietly led Chase to the room where Suhara lay and stood beside him as the Director of Operations gazed past the glass.

The temperature controller vents along the floor of the hallway released a jet of warm air that added to the already confining atmosphere. Chase found the scene hard to take as he watched an unrecognizable, almost impersonal version of Nakamura through the glass. The man inside didn't look like the active, courageous friend Devineaux remembered. Here was an injured bystander, too frail to save.

"Shouldn't have to be this way," Chase said lowly, not meaning the words exactly the way they came out, but the idea sufficed, "There isn't anything I can do?"

Not wanting to deny him, Sophie replied simply with another question, “Would you like to go into the room - talk to him?”

"He's awake?"

“No,” she shook her head gently, “he is sedated as a comfort measure, but there is evidence that the sense of hearing persists.”

Knowing he might seem disconnected if he refused, Chase entered the room and somewhat loomed to Suhara's right, running phrases in his mind without selecting them as appropriate. Former Agent Nakamura was propped up at a 40-degree angle with clear, invasive tubes and many wires in organized chaos surrounding him. The private room's floor-to-ceiling windows displayed a rusted evening sky that colored the compound's garden an olivine hue. This mix of red and green reflected vividly against the forming Accolade and somehow stopped Devineaux from any feasible conclusion.

"I…" he started to apologize, but felt the old man wouldn't have it. Abruptly, he turned to Sophie, who was looking at him with her bright blue eyes slightly widened, sympathetic... and somehow, expectant.

This morning, Chase's head was still heavy from the previous day's events. The first thing he did was go down to his apartment's underground parking to make sure the Porsche Cayman was there. Like a boy, he wanted to take it for a drive; so he quickly dressed, skipped breakfast, and ended up at the ACME compounds earlier than normal. That allowed him time to think about what he wanted to do, and his choice to speak with the captive VILE agent confirmed further that his once panoramic vision was an illusion.

Had Devineaux been more careful about his location, he could have diverted the attack. His irresponsibility murdered nine -- or ten… By the end of today, he might take another life.

A sudden desperation blurred his vision and Chase looked for something to relieve the pressure. Finding no solid distraction, he exhaled and directed his attention to Dr. Conrad, "Christ, this place," he raised a seething tone, "58 doctors and not one of you could think of something to save Suhara Nakamura?" He became louder, "Unbelievable!"


(possibly missing ending)

184 Sophie

It was almost ten o'clock when Sophie Conrad programmed a 35-minute run into the treadmill she had stepped on. She disliked running indoors but at this hour and on this day it seemed the most appropriate option. Within the confines of the gymnasium on the roof level of the main ACME Academy building, she closed her eyes and breathed in deeply as the belt quickened beneath her feet.

She had parted ways with Chase Devineaux hours earlier but did not forget the look on his face when she had led him to the side of Suhara Nakamura. His outburst was startling and while she had faced it with unyielding calmness, she felt sorrowful that she could devise no better way to allay the self-reproach she perceived in his eyes than an offer of a warm meal (his first of the day) and a listening ear. A part of her recognised it - the look in his eyes - and empathised, more than she would confess. Though it had been many years since the smell of jet fuel and the wreckage in a Belarus forest haunted her, she knew the question by heart: Who was she, that she might live while another died? After all, it had been only a mere metre that separated her from the pilot.

It had only been an hour earlier that Chase Devineaux left his apartment in Nob Hill this morning.

While Professor Hyun-Ki Kim, the meticulous head of intensive care medicine at the ACME Medical Center, had already been through every option, Sophie had spent the hours after her meeting with Chase repeatedly pouring over the charts, laboratory and radiology reports, and intervention logs of Suhara Nakamura. With all of the best intentions, pharmaceuticals and technology on their side, there had been only one prevailing conclusion: There was nothing more to be done.

Frustration knitted her brow and Sophie increased the speed of the treadmill. She had always thought better on the move - and, now, she commanded herself to think with utmost clarity. Science was limited but what if those limitations could be transcended for a day - just one day.

The minutes passed, and she was conscious that her steps were loud and fast in the deserted gymnasium, but she could decide nothing. Then, all at once, her thoughts amalgamated and she pushed a button to halt the treadmill, picking up her towel and skipping off the machine. She did not lose pace as she took hold of the mobile phone she had left on a nearby bench and dialled for Professor Kim, exiting the gymnasium and taking the stairs down two floors into the facilities of ACME Laboratories...

185 thawkwood

"I understand that this isn't the kind of decision that can be made immediately. You have 24 hours to look over the document. If you agree, sign your name and use your communicators to send a biometric scan of your finger prints. No response means you've decided against it." 

Ivy's words echoed in Nace's ears. His response required a grand total of a nanosecond. As a soldier, running from danger wasn't in his nature. Cowardice wasn't in his nature either. It would be a grave error if his fellow detectives did not benefit from combat experience in Afghanistan he had garnered while assigned to the United Kingdom's 21 Special Air Service Regiment. 

"Remember, my son, loyalty is all we truly have." The words of his father, a long serving veteran of the South African Army, echoed in his mind, a guiding principle to his actions. Slowly he crossed himself, his pre-ritual for nearly any serious action before touching his finger to the screen of his communicator.

He sent a text message via the communicator as well, "I volunteer. What is my task?" 

186 DetectiveAwesome

It was later in the day when Daniel Ainsworth received a message asking him to go to Grace Cathedral. When he entered, there were already a few familiar faces. 
Deric Storm and Nace Bilby were there, the two men looked like they had been through hell. It was a far cry from the jolly mood at O'Sullivan's sports bar when he had last seen the pair. 

"Hey... you guys did good work out there today." Dan greeted solemnly. He smiled, although deep down, he wished he could have helped with the rescue effort more. 
By this time, the sun was streaming in through the west-facing stained glass windows. These were called the 'Passion' windows, and they illuminated the chapel in red and gold light at sunset. It was an effect consciously created by Charles J. Connick, an American designer who liked to play with colors. Dan knew all this because when he first came to San Francisco he joined an Urban Exploration group. 

He couldn't help but think back on those days. Daniel was just moving into the dorms and ACME classes were so much harder than he thought they would be. He so desperately wanted in fieldwork so he could be an awesome detective like Chase Devineaux, or beat Lee Jordan's ACME arrest score... He remembered meeting his buddy Nevon Blair for the first time, as the rookie who used to be an accountant moved in and they threw a party in room 303 to celebrate.

Dan's thoughts were interrupted as his former instructors came in. Mr. G and Commander Monaghan had changed a lot too. When Dan first sat in Eugene Grovington's advanced flight class he knew this man was the world's best pilot... but probably someone who never wanted to be a teacher. Now Mr. G smiled a lot more, and on rare occasions gave them advice on how not to screw up in life. Ivy Monaghan went from his CQC Strategy instructor to a S.T.U.N. suit wearing super Commander when she led them in Operation Brimstone. And now she was the one who was going to tell them exactly what ACME planned to do. 

The room was quiet when Ivy began to speak. When she said that Chase was still alive, Dan exhaled in relief. As she continued though the mood seemed to get darker. It was his worst case scenario, hearing that a weapon like that was in the hands of someone who didn't care about human lives. When she asked if they would volunteer, Dan didn't need to know what the contract said. His commander had already signed her name and that was good enough for him. 

He saw Nace cross himself and send in his biometric finger print scans, the dude looked ready for war. Dan followed, immediately signing his name and touched the communicator screen. "I'm in. When do we start?" 

187 Joe_Kerr

 Vic-the-Slick said:  "Get ready for Hawaii," the salesman said to everyone at the dinner table, "Eat up if you're coming, we gotta be on our way t'night."

Joe had been listening in to Vic's conversation on the phone and attempting to read his expressions. As far as the Jester was concerned, Vic's change of tones and his choice of words was a dead giveaway to who was on the other end - Chase Devineaux. 

Deciding it was better to keep that information privy for the moment, looked around at some of the other VILE members in the kitchen. Patty seemed to have brightened up at Vic's mention of Hawaii, Roux seemed as stoic as ever behind his death mask, and many of the non-elite henchmen were now vying amongst themselves for who got to be the lucky pilot to fly them to Hawaii.

Joe wondered if Carmine would be up for another flight so soon; as if reading his thoughts, said feline looked up from the plate of tuna she was devouring and gave a rather pleased "meow" while swishing her tail.

Though he couldn't be sure if it was more of the tuna that had the cat purring so contently or the trip to Hawaii, he made his choice and turned to Vic.

"I've heard of holding weddings in Hawaii, but a funeral?" he joked "Whatever. I'm always up for a Luau. Count me in. When do we leave?"  

188 Flag (Written with input from Chase and Eugene) ---

It was already dark in the world above when Olga had finished leading Flag on her “tour” of the facilities. If asked, the sorcerer would have compared the trip to walking someone else’s big (and insane) dog on a walk. If she wasn’t distracted by some strange detail, she was trying to attack him in whatever way suited her fancy. Had he had not been on guard since his rude awakening earlier that day, she very well might have done him in.

As the elevator from the sub basement levels deposited them near the temporary barracks, they found a flurry of activity. People carrying supplied ranging from cots and room dividers to food and kitchen supplies were waiting to be hoisted to the upper levels by the tiny mobile room they left behind. Before they had a chance to ask what was going on, Flag and Olga found their arms full of boxes containing odds and ends and shoved to the back of the line.

“Well... This is weird.” She said the instant a moment of silence was upon them.

Flag could only nod in agreement before the hyperactive mercenary turned around and poked inquiries at the man who joined in line behind her.

“The heaters above work now. We move back into the more comfortable apartments.” He said in broken english upon Olga’s request for him to translate.

“Oh goodie!” Olga exclaimed once. When she got no reaction from either of the men in the conversation, she sunk into a sulking silence that would have put Flag on full defense had she not had been carrying her assigned large box.

As the line slowly moved them back towards the elevator they vacated earlier, Flag allowed his thoughts to drift on the parts of it where he wasn’t preventing himself from being killed.

On the third basement level they had run into the man in tweed as he and a team of scientists entered one of the labs there. He had recognized the case from the auction and wanted to investigate the situation further, but Olga had chosen that moment to attack him and he found himself rather distracted. That “little test” had ended when he pinned to head to floor with his boot, but by then it was too late for him to have followed Mr. Cane.

On the fourth basement level they had found a charger for his phone. The civilian workers primarily occupied here and more than he would have expected had treated Olga as an old friend, leading him to suspect that she had been here before. It didn’t seem possible that she could do that much networking in less than a day.

The fifth basement level was a curiosity as there was almost nothing to see, save for the sparring matches amongst some of Olga’s peers.

His tour guide explained that the various basements that they had visited were suspended off of what use to be maintenance levels for missiles and that the bottommost level was where the fire pits and trenches had been, making construction here nearly impossible. She the further clarified that the whole of the compound – save for the fort and the watchtower – had been built out an old missile silo.

Flag could have taken the time to appreciate this knowledge, but before he knew it, he found himself in another one of Olga’s tests. This one ended with his knife in her hand and him pulling her out of one of the aforementioned pits. After she made a claim that he twisted her wrist, they made a stop at the second basement level, where the medical facilities had been set up.

The elevator door had decided that he had spent too much time lost in thought and dinged as and slid open. It was finally their turn to visit the upper levels.

189 Sophie

It was exactly seven minutes past eleven o’clock when Doctor Sophie Conrad watched the night charge nurse of the intensive care unit, Deborah Evans, inject ten milliliters of a champagne-coloured liquid into a one-litre bag of Normal Saline. They walked down the corridor, silently but side-by-side, and Sophie lingered in the hallway even as the senior registered nurse entered the room which held Suhara Nakamura. Connections were made and settings were programmed... and, at a touch of a button, the sterile fluid began to enter the bloodstream of the elderly man who lay on the bed. Even from the distance at which she stood, Sophie saw the droplets that entered the drip chamber - visible for a fleeting moment in time - before they disappeared into the PVC line of the infusion set, never to be seen again.

It was awhile before she realised that she had been holding her breath and it took a strange amount of effort to be rid of the constriction around her throat.

The hour had passed like a minute - a telephone call, a visit to the laboratory, a shower, another assessment of Suhara Nakamura, and a page of orders entered into the records... In a minute, she had taken one of the most high-ranking members of ACME down a path from which there was no turning back. A noise distracted her and she turned to see May Wong, a long-time registered nurse of the ACME intensive care unit, pushing a tall pine-green PrismaFlex dialysis machine through the entrance of the room...

It had been eight weeks ago, in a video conference with a research team from the Georgetown University, that the tepid announcement had been transmitted across the country – scientists had been able to programme stem cells to reproduce into that which they wanted. In addition to this, it had been possible to keep these cells from turning carcinogenic (an adverse-effect that had marred much research for a long time), enabling them to survive indefinitely. Ten days later, a single glass vial of golden liquid, frozen and inert in a surrounding shell of liquid hydrogen, had arrived at the ACME Medical Center - addressed to the one Doctor Sophie Conrad.

There had been little celebration to accompany the breakthrough, for after the smiles of triumph and clink of glasses had abated, the realisation of how much work there was still to be done in order to uniformly replicate and stabilise such an occurrence dawned. Still, no one could deny the excitement as the glass vial had been removed from its protective flask and its contents carefully divided and sequestered. What had once been considered fringe science was now reality.

Twelve days ago, Sophie had entered the ACME Laboratories...

Her blue eyes had sparkled behind her safety goggles as she depressed the plunger button of a pipette and deposited a minute amount of colourless liquid onto a microscope slide, combining it with the golden globule that already lay on the glass. She ejected the plastic tip of the pipette for destruction and moved the slide onto the plate of a microscope. Within the confines of a laminar flow cabinet, her hands moved in a ballet separate from her still body. A bead of nuclear stain rendered the cells visible beneath the lenses of the microscope and the world around her diminished - or perhaps, gathered further brilliance - as Sophie peered into the instrument’s oculars…

The cells were programmed to activate upon contact with human haemoglobin and Sophie had matched the liquid within the vial she had placed into the hands of Debbie Evans to a blood sample from Suhara Nakamura. Upon entering his bloodstream and beginning their replication sequence, the cells would become the template for the most injured organs within the man. However, replication, once begun, could not be stopped and the only way Sophie had devised to halt the process was to insert a sequence of autophagy into the DNA of the sample. The components of these cells, once ripped apart, were toxic and had to be manually removed from circulation by means of hemodialysis.

Sophie gratefully took the chair that a passing nurse offered. Her gaze drifted from the infusion pump, to the face of Suhara Nakamura, to the monitor which displayed his vital signs and then back again only to repeat the cycle. Within thirty minutes, she had moved from a seat in the hallway to one by his bedside. Suhara had no family to speak of, and aside from Chase Devineaux whom he regarded as a son, there was no one who could keep him company like other patients often had. She wanted to stand witness to everything she had commanded to be done. By midnight, Sophie had introduced herself, given an account of the day, and offered to recite a poem to her company. Long ago, her nanny had taught her the poem in both French and English and she often begged to hear it again and again for she loved the lulling winds and the vessels that wafted with a gentle motion.

There was no reply to be had from the unconscious man and so Sophie started in English: “A shepherd, a neighbour to the sea, lived with his flock contentedly. His fortune, though but small, was safe within his call...”

190 Nevon

Nevon Blair was at the Chapel of Grace after processing the crushed car and other debris at the crime scene. He was feeling better about things, because none of Chase's possessions like his briefcase or communicator were in the Camry at the time. 

When Commander Ivy announced Chase was alive, Nev almost died with relief. The stained glass windows might as well had been singing "Hallelujah" in his ears. But she brought up another point, ACME was attacked.

If this was true, whoever wanted Chase Devineaux dead had to have been a really bad person. He hoped it wasn't any of VILE, he remembered the first time he saw Carmen Sandiego close up, during the Masquerade in Venice. He took off his mask and she was just a few feet away from him. If his memory of that night was more like a movie now, it was probably because she looked like an actress. He and Dan even had a conversation about her being in some Italian movie earlier that night.

Nevon's thought bubble popped when a contract was brought up for them to digitally sign if they volunteered.

Blair remembered watching an episode of South Park where Kyle didn't read a contract, clicked 'accept', and ended up in a really bad spot. So he read the whole thing. While he was a little suspicious about the contract's acronym (SOUL), he did agree that Tanya was the best person to handle news from ACME to the press.

Nev put his thumb on the lower right section of the communicator's screen to sign his form officially.

"Does this mean we're in Special Ops?" he asked a nearby agent, then he said as an afterthought to himself, "But I'm not cleared for hostile takeovers?"

191 DericStorm

Ivy said: "I understand that this isn't the kind of decision that can be made immediately. You have 24 hours to look over the document. If you agree, sign your name and use your communicators to send a biometric scan of your finger prints. No response means you've decided against it."

Deric watched the whole scene with a sense of relief.

'And I thought the Irish were the lucky ones,' he thought.

As he listened to Ivy explain what had happened, it made more and more sense based on what he had seen while clearing the building.  Exploding oxygen tank with no visible ignition source; limbs severed with only a modicum of blood pooling; the question of "How?" had been answered. The only questions left were "Who?" and most importantly "Why?"

He watched his friend Nace Bilby walk up almost immediately and sign the contract. Deric also watched a few other agents, including Danny Ainsworth and Nevon Blair rush up to sign the contract. He chuckled at their enthusiasm while reading through the document. He had an aunt who was a contract lawyer and one of the things she always told him was 'never sign anything until you've read it through twice.'

After re-reading the contract, Deric decided.

'What's one more secret kept for this company?' he thought sarcastically.

"Oh, what the hell," Deric said, "I'm in." Deric put his thumb on his communicator screen and sent it in.

192 Gunnar

Ivy said:
"I understand that this isn't the kind of decision that can be made immediately. You have 24 hours to look over the document. If you agree, sign your name and use your communicators to send a biometric scan of your finger prints. No response means you've decided against it." 
She paused there, wishing she could tell them more. "Any questions?"

Ever-cautious, Gunnar sat at the desk in his hotel room, reading over the entire contract again and again through the night. He had printed it out earlier to be easier on his eyes... At this point, he gazed at it; glared at it. He flipped the two inked sheets back and forth, his right arm resting in the open dictionary set beside for translation of English to English, and eventually Swedish. But he knew that nothing mattered, whether he despised the document or not. He would sign it.

About 04.30, he rubbed his eyes and cradled his temple, utterly fatigued. He had been awake for twenty-four hours by this time. Yet his exhaustion was more mental and emotional than physical. Conceding to his need for sleep, Gunnar closed his lexicon and prepared to shut down his computer, glancing one last time at the background photo of two friends before pressing the power button and folding down the screen.

He had only taken a few breaks from his studying--one to drink a shallow glass of syrup, and another to brush his teeth and change into his next day’s attire. There was nothing more to do but succumb to his sleep.

The communicator lay on his sheets, requesting his SOUL affirmation. And why should he delay? The contract seemed fair, for what that was worth. He had highlighted all the details, none of which bothered him much. All that was required was the tap of a button. That could wait for him to wake up.

193 Calico

It had been a tiring day as Calina Corranos got to the Chapel of Grace with her crime scene team. First of all, she was a bomb technician without a bomb to study. The people who have seen the blasting said that it had looked like a round circle with light, like a portal of the C-5 type. 

Second of all, her family had asked for her to come to Brasil for the new year celebration, but did not say one word about Deric. So she had to guess on her own what her parents are saying about her American boyfriend. Do they want to see him? Or were they only being modern and leaving the choice for her? She wanted to ask them, but she cannot think how.

Third of all, Cali came back into the Chapel in the middle of Ivy's speech. From her understanding, this was an attack, and there was an enemy. They must retaliate and respond by attacking back. The form showed up in her communicator and Cali had the option to read it in Portuguese, but she did not needed to. She knew the English enough to understand.

It was a kind of special operations contract.

Cali's family was a great supporter of the Brasilian armed forces. Her great-grandfather fell into a ravine in the jungle during the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932 and crawled for 5 kilometres with two broken legs to a nearby village where he met her great great-grandmother who was helping to guard the village from the military police. Cali's own father lost 3 brothers so far to conflicts inside of Brasil, and while he was a General, he did not want his daughter to live in fear. Never, ever join anything para-military, he told her when she joined ACME many years ago, stay in the labs and do only part time field work. If Cali signed this form, her father will kill Deric.

But Deric was going, and she took a deep breath too when she saw him say he would go. She was an explosives expert, and they can use her to save lives in a job like this, Cali thought that she should not stay behind.

Contracts were only legal to sign if the language of the contract was in the native language of the agent, so Calina changed her contract to Portuguese and signed with her fingerprint. 

194 EarlJr

A gradual buzz of conversation began to fill Grace Cathedral with the conclusion of Ivy's improvised speech, her invitation for further information being ignored in favor of conjecture and snap decisions.  With a few hours left in the day to spare, Eugene Grovington and Ivy Monaghan decided to head to ACME's Accolade tower to see if follow up work could be done with the intelligence team.  The drive back was a quiet one, highlighted only by the occasional ping from the Commander's communicator as more agents committed themselves.

When they reached the building Ivy turned to Eugene, "I'm starving.  You hungry?"

He shrugged.  "Famished.  Accolade cafeteria?"

They eventually found themselves seated in the brand new and remarkably empty Accolade food court, sandwiches in hand and a packet of jalapeno chips between them.

Ivy knew there was a flaw in the story Eugene told at the Masonic Library.  Unknown to him, she had tried throughout the drive to formulate the start of a conversation.  As she sat the Commander decided to stop speculating.  Since when did she ever have a problem talking to Euge?

"So, this guy in tweed..."  She started.  "How would your 'buddies' know some lowlife like him?"

"Not all my comrades from my marine days were as fortunate as me, to find an organization like ACME.  They fell into a rough crowd after they left the corps, seemingly the same type this tweed fellow runs in."  For Euge to admit the truth of the matter would be monumental.  This was true enough for ACME to run down the leads they needed.

Ivy nodded once.  "You still hang with these friends?"

Euge quirked his mouth slightly at the line of questioning.  Was this the part of the relationship he had been warned about, where he would have to choose between bros or ... ?  "I keep in touch.  It's nice to hear from the old gang, even if it's just shop talk."

"What would Mr. Tweed want with your 'shop talk'?"

"Tweed was wanting former military for some project of his."  Euge shrugged.  "I didn't hear any details."

Ivy was quiet for a minute.  There was something about  Eugene's perfect answers that didn't satisfy her curiosity.  "So why lie at the Masonic Library?"

Euge turned sharply towards Ivy at her comment, and instantly regretted it.  His knee-jerk reaction was just as good as any confession of guilt, and a lie of omission is still a lie.  His answer came slow and measured; "Lie about what, exactly?"

"Euge, I trust you enough to not interrogate you... but there has to be more to this story."  Ivy watched his face.  Without exact information, she was just throwing a jab out into the dark, hoping it would connect.

Euge broke eye contact with her and was silent for nearly a minute while he weighed his options.  To cut and run wasn't in the cards anymore.  Mentally reviewing what he told the group assembled at the library, he concluded his best chance was to throw out tiny morsels of fact, in the desperate hope it would be pertinent enough to lead Ivy astray. 

"Mercenaries."  Euge blurted out.  "Tweed's been hiring private military contractors by the truckload."  'Crap.' he thought to himself.

Ivy's mind was trying to process two things at once.  First, ACME needed to be warned about the very dangerous group of people they were coming up against.  Secondly, someone out there believed the pilot fit right into that clique.  Her throat tightened.  "Oh god, Euge... are you a mercenary?"

"Ivy..." he started, but promptly cut himself off.  Any possible answer he might give would only serve to dig his grave deeper.  "Don't ask me that," Euge said through a tight jaw.  "Please.  It's a world I'm not willing to involve you in."

It had been a very humbling day, from her panic attack at the shooting range to the tragic events at Nob Hill... and now this.  A part of her was furious, she wanted to hit him or yell at him for keeping this from her.  Another part understood that in between the evasive maneuvers Eugene was upholding some twisted form of honor.  She closed her eyes for a moment.

"Okay."  Ivy resolved to a single word reply, steeling her spine.

She'd let it go, for now... with the impending situation it was better not to fight on two fronts.  Then, without knowing why, she reached across the table and took hold of Euge's hand, her thumb moving across an old scar that had long since healed.  Remnants of a past life.

195 Chase

5:00 AM, December 15, 2012, ACME Holding Cells

A little over 22 hours after the 6:55 AM attack on Nob Hill, Renée St Clair made her way to the holding cell and knocked before opening the door.

"Hello," she greeted the VILE agent inside, "We will need to go now, you're being taken to your friends."

While she waited for the girl to react, she checked on her phone the location of their pickup vehicle, a black Zero-Emissions SUV customized with a blue and silver ACME sticker.

She saw herself laid out on the table, wires and tubes threaded in and out, surrounded by whitecoats. Her body looked so calm there, was she dead? The steady beep of a heart monitor spoke otherwise. How many hours would it be this time? Suddenly the floor shifted and she was back in her body, paralyzed but awake under a haze of drugs. Through the blur she felt their instruments, the tug of tubes, the glare of lights. Above a scalpel came into view and in her head she screamed-

A knock on the door jarred her awake, and Kidman nearly cried with relief.

“Oh thank god, thank god, such good timing you have, Ms.” She said as she hastily threw the shawl over her face. Kidman took a moment to glance back as she left. She would miss this little space of peace, but after 24 hours it had begun to turn less so, and she was happier to be free of it than she earlier thought.


6:00 AM, December 15, 2012, ACME Air Field

Inside a customized cobalt-colored Cessna Citation X, Barbara Rosen poured dry tonic water into her first glass of light blue gin. With a plastic stirrer, she mixed the two liquids moderately before sipping. To her left sat Chase Devineaux without movement.

"Gin and Tonic?" she looked to the younger man. It wasn't a true offer, she knew he wouldn't drink, but she did want to start a conversation.

"It's six a.m.," Chase replied, the first words he had spoken since he boarded the plane.

"And it's a five-hour plane ride."

Devineaux stayed quiet. Last night, under Rosen's orders, ACME's Director of Operations stayed at an undisclosed hotel. He slept in short intervals of ten to thirty minutes, unable to stay still. The clothes he wore now were picked out by his assistant, also under Rosen's patronage and delivered early this morning. Barbara rarely meddled in ACME's affairs, but Chase knew this particular concern would influence her career on the Board, if it hadn't already.

"I gather you didn't sleep well?" The blond woman scoffed without being offensive.

"Did you?"

Rosen took another sip, knowing very well the topic on his mind, "I checked on Suhara this morning, they said he was doing much better."

Devineaux turned sharply as if asking her to repeat, but then he looked away. At the door of the Cessna, Renée arrived with the VILE agent.

His assistant politely smiled to both her superiors and motioned for the shawled woman to sit in a seat opposite of the Director. Renee then set herself facing ACME's Vice President.

“Chase!” Kidman squeaked almost immediately. She didn’t know who the other woman was, or even noticed her at first, simply wanting only to be near someone secure. “I’m so happy, so happy you are alive. They told me what happened...”

Only then did she notice the other woman, and Kidman instinctually checked to see that her face was covered.

Barbara Rosen naturally picked up involuntary reactions, some say, similar to the way snakes latched on to scent molecules with their tongues. The former lawyer was pleased to instil fear into this VILE underling.

"We're all very happy he's alive," she said almost snidely, preventing a verbal response from Chase, "It's certainly nice to hear a prisoner of ours feels the same. What is your name?"

Kidman was intrigued by Rosen’s nature, although it took a few moments to place why.

‘She’s powerful. Powerful people are interesting.’

“Ki- Ghost. I am known as Ghost here. Are you a friend of Chase’s? I saw you yesterday.”

Rosen gave a short condescending laugh as if she had lived through the same moment countless times, "Another 'Ghost', wonderful."

She ignored the question on friendship and listened briefly as the pilot announced takeoff, "Splendid, we're leaving. Tell me, what do you do for VILE?"

“I’m a janitor!” she chirped as the plane left the ground.

She wasn’t sure if her rising spirits stemmed from going home or from being in a plane, but the true reason was because the girl finally felt safe enough to be so. Chase’s presence made it safe, and while it didn’t occur to Kidman that he was the reason for her calm, the fact remained.

Barbara turned to Chase Devineaux after hearing that and spoke softer, "They're trading a janitor for the files?" she was amused, "They're getting smarter."

"We're not sure she's a janitor," Chase stated, "she doesn't have a record."

"Why keep that scarf over your head?" Rosen asked the janitor, taking another sip of her gin and tonic.

Kidman drew back slightly. “I’m in hiding.... “

"Of course you are," she seemingly ended the conversation, having nothing else to add, and led her eyes to the window as the plane took off.

At this time, Renée decided to be her hospitable self, "Would you like some water?" she offered.

“Oh yes, please.” She answered brightly. “I have to say, you ACMEs are nicer than I thought you would be.”

The assistant looked to her boss, who seemed more distant than usual, "Did you sleep at all? I have Zolpidem tablets."

Devineaux declined with a short shake of his head.

"You should take them," Barbara insisted and had Renée fetch him both the pills and something to drink. As the French woman handed a bottle of water to 'Ghost', Rosen studied this janitor from VILE and quickly formed her own conclusions.

She felt anxiety well up but she pushed it off to the side. ‘Chase is here, and he will get the files and he will find Carmen and everything will be good again.’

Chase received both a bottle of water and the pills, but he put the Zolpidem aside.

“What are these?” Kidman asked as she picked them up.

"They're sleeping pills, if you'd like you can have them, they should keep you out for the duration of the flight."

The girl looked them over as a thought occurred.

“I say... When you sleep with these, do you dream?”

"Do you want to dream?"

“God no! I want to stop! All of them, I want them gone.” She said with unexpected force as her most recent visions traced the back of her mind. “The things I see, every night, and I know they’re real, that they happened to me.  I can’t sleep, and when I’m awake, I’m still with them. Then I started seeing Master’s, and I couldn’t do anything but watch, every day.”

Hearing 'master' meant to Barbara this girl saw herself as some kind of servant. Observing further the janitor's moderate display of psychosis, Rosen plainly replied, "I've never had dreams when I take these."

Chase looked back at her with a question on his brow. Was she lying for fun?

"See for yourself, it's rather blissful," she poured a bit more tonic water into her gin.

“How long does it take to work,” She asked slowly.

"Fifteen minutes."

It was so tempting, but these were meant to knock someone out. While she trusted Chase to a point, really she knew very little about the ones she sat with, and a dull horror rose as she realized that drugged sleep was something she was very familiar with.

‘My god, am I that stupid? What if they make that? I don’t even know the side effects. But Chase takes them, and to sleep without dreams...’

Devineaux took the pills from her with a quick swipe, "You shouldn't take them, they're prescription-only," he said. Listening to the fogged conversation as the plane rose to cruising altitude reminded him that he was up against more in a few hours.

"I'll need that sleep after all," he added as he excused himself, then picked up his water bottle and headed to the two empty seats at the back of the plane.

Barbara exhaled a laugh and drank a little more from her glass.

196 Kidman

Kidman felt her heart beat just a little faster when Chase took the pills away. She couldn’t place why, and the feeling grew stronger as he left. Rosen suddenly seemed much more frightening in his absence and she yearned to ask that he stay, but didn’t.

‘He needs to sleep, and damned if I’m going to miss another opportunity to talk to a high level ACME because I’m cowering in a corner. So long as I don’t let her near my water, I should be okay.’
 She thought as she collected herself.

“I, I say, are you the head of ACME? I’ve just realized I never asked your name.”

"I don't exchange my name for pseudonyms, 'Ghost'," she leaned into the seat and continued, "I'm ACME's Vice President, and no, I'm not *the* head of ACME. You may call me Mrs. Vice President if you want to be polite."

“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Vice President, but ‘Ghost’ is all I feel comfortable giving, although to be honest, I don’t have a real name, so ‘Ghost’ is as legitimate as anything else I could tell you.”

She looked at the woman’s knees thoughtfully.
“Have you ever met Mast- Carmen?”

"Yes," frigidly answered the woman.

Kidman mentally braced herself against Renee for support. “You have? What was it like?”

"Haven't you met her yourself?" Barbara's tone remained unchanged, "What was she like to you?"

She frowned as she tried to think back to that night, forever ago. “I was so afraid of everything, I don’t remember that well, but she was... very tired, yes, and she felt very heavy, if that makes sense. Somber.”

"That doesn't sound like the great Carmen Sandiego," Rosen was surprised to hear those words, and made no effort to hide it, "When was this?"

“Yes, I’ve heard that she is usually very light, but not then. She works so hard, you know, in such a difficult space.”

Kidman paused as she gently stepped around the second question. She doubted such a high ranking ACME would wish to hear anything positive about her boss, but it was the subject she preferred.

“I know you may not believe me, Master is a very kind person. She’s made a safe place for a lot of people who would otherwise have nowhere to go.”

At this, Rosen looked towards Chase, resting in a double chair just behind Renée and the VILE agent with a coat over his head to keep out the lights. She couldn't tell if he was still awake, but she spoke softer in any case.

"She's programmed that way," Barbara spoke with concise understanding, "to rake up admiration where she can, and pity where she can't. I don't buy her charities, if she's as smart as they claim, then she's secretly using all of you."

Kidman pursed her brow.“Using us for what?”

"Her own gain," Barbara's lawyer wit stated the fact, "Don't you think it's irresponsible for a leader to disappear on her clan and leave them sick with worry for so many months?"

“I fail to see how she stands to gain from this.”

"If you knew you wouldn't be working for her, would you?"

“I’m sorry...I don’t quite follow.”

"She only acquaints herself with people who wouldn't suspect she's manipulating them."

“That sounds rather cynical and baseless. She keeps me and I’ve yet to do much of anything. I’m not even a thief. How well did you know her?”

"I've known her since before she could talk."

Kidman froze.“You...but... But how?”

"How else? I found her," Rosen liked winning, but she wasn't about to reveal anymore than necessary. The thought of VILE's leader having been no more than a baby when they first met did bring back subtler memories, her own boys were the same age then.

The colour drained from the girl’s face and for a moment she thought she might pass out as a wall of hidden memories pressed upon her consciousness.
‘Keep talking!’ a voice commanded, and Kidman struggled through.

“F-found where? You found... Are you like her Moth-.... I don’t... And you still think she’s that cruel?”

"I didn't say she was cruel, I said she was programmed that way. I suppose I should have said 'we' found her. Young or old, we find our agents somehow," she shook her glass, "Renée, ice please."

The assistant acted as a stewardess for the flight and fetched ice for the Vice President.

Something was clawing at the edge of her mind, gray visions of other children, a man with glasses, barren rooms, the sound of a heart monitor. Kidman fought it off, but she was losing.

“ her when she was a child, and you...programed her? Programed... for what? To manipulate people? You trained her to do this? As a child? You took her? ACME took her?”

Stirring her drink twice in closed triangular motions, Barbara smiled, "We found a little useless thing and made her into the Queen of Crime, isn't that a tale?" If Chase had been listening, he would stop her from pushing the enemy, but Rosen enjoyed swaying a jury.

“Why, why would you do this to her? Didn’t you have enough willing to serve you?” She dug her nails into the seat in a desperate bid to keep away the tears, then she looked at the sleeping man behind her.

‘To think I had almost found these people honourable. But not him, please not him too.’

“Does he know?” She demanded sharply as she pointed at him.

"Know?" Barbara lowered her voice and continued extending the truth, "Supposing he does know anything, then she must have told him her sob-story. But she's lied so much he probably can't let himself believe her."

“You don’t know this man.” Kidman said as quiet as death, then stopped, startled and unsure of where the words had come from. She was standing but didn’t remember getting up, but as she looked back at Chase, the panic in her head came to rest.

"Just like I don't know your Carmen Sandiego," Rosen sipped her light alcohol.

“You did this. You wanted a slave but she escaped, didn’t she? And yet, despite your cruelty she has never taken revenge. But now I wonder, how many others were there?”

"I'm just an old woman, what do I know about slavery or revenge?"

A picture slowly started to form.
“There were others. Yes, you find your agents, young or old. Master was stronger than you and resisted the darkness, but what of the others? What if the crater on nob hill was retribution?”

Barbara laughed uninhibitedly, but only shortly.

"Ah," her mirth trailed, "good at jumping to conclusions, aren't you? Anyone can drop you anywhere and you wouldn't know friend from foe."

“What are you talking about?”

Rosen only shook her head.

"She means you are gullible," said Renée, wishing to help, but she quickly regretted speaking up as the older woman continued.

"When someone gives you an inch, and you make your own mile," Barbara explained, "You're bound to be wrong."

Kidman stared at the two of them, unsure of how to proceed while the hum of the propellers filled  the void. She realized that her veil had slipped from her face, but it was too late to retrieve it now.

She took a breath, and when she spoke again her voice was calm.

“So it would seem. Are you looking for the files too?”

"I'm not looking for anything," she hinted to Chase, "He is."

“How kind of you.” Kidman replied quietly as she retrieved her shawl and took her seat. “You must care for him greatly. I can understand why. He is a very kind man under that grim exterior.”

"That's the one thing you may have right," Barbara commented.

She carefully folded the cloth in her lap, but inside she was on fire. When the secretary gave her the phone to see, she read that the blast was considered to be from a kind of C-5, but that sounded impossible. Carmen had stated her intention to destroy that thing, and Kidman believed she did what she set out to do.

“They say the blast looked like the C-5. Isn't ACME the only owner of the C-5's technology?"

"Anything can look like anything, speculation isn't much without proof," Rosen was growing tired of this janitor, "A good example is how I want proof your leader is dead, before I start toasting over her grave."


Kidman paused. It was a gamble, and most likely an outwardly futile one, but she had one last card to play before she put the deck away.

“Yes, this is true. I suppose it would be best then to simply ask San Raphael.” She stated as she placed the rolled up shawl against the window. “Now if you excuse me, I’m afraid I have my own nightmares to attend to."

The girl did not speak again for the rest of the trip.

From that reaction, Barbara Rosen concluded two things. One: that she had won; and the other: that this janitor wasn't fully informed, but desperately wanted to be. If the former lawyer knew how to feel pity, she might; but she merely identified it as a place where something of that sort should exist. What stood generally true was the fact that things would be much more sound for everyone, if San Raphael stayed buried in ACME's past.

And for a while, the plane was quiet.

Hours later, Chase Devineaux sat up with a start and rubbed off sleep just minutes before the captain announced the plane's descent.

"Heavens, do you have a time sensor?" Renée asked.

"Pressure," Chase replied, "my ears just popped."

"I've decided you're going to stay on the plane," Barbara Rosen instructed without prior discussion, "I'll take this one to Fumigalli in exchange for the files." By 'this one' she meant the janitor.

"You want me to hide here?"

"No, I want you to stay safe. It's not necessary for you to show your face, and so you won't be. And you have no excuse," Rosen closed her case, "I know which files we'll need even more than you do."

Voting was out of the question, and Barbara Rosen gathered Renée St Clair and the VILE prisoner to wait for Vincent Fumigalli.

“W-wait, my things.” Kidman started.

Renée showed Ghost the brown paper bag she was carrying, "Everything of yours is in here, you can check if you want."

Inside was the mask and Carmen’s pen, remnants of a life just days yet centuries ago. The pen she had to take even though it meant the nightmares would return; it was Carmen’s after all, and her burden to carry until they met again. But the mask...

Kidman turned to the man in grey as tears stung her eyes.

“Mr. Chase... I.... I want you to have this. I... Thank you.”

Devineaux looked at the mask with its sawed-off mouth section. He remembered taking it off minutes before finding out he had somehow cheated death. While he wasn't sure what he might do with the object, considering the tears in her eyes, he accepted the gift with a fervent dash of panic.

"Thanks," his face drew back slightly with a smile. With the mask in his hand, he placed it up between her face and his line of sight, and then lowered it, "Looks like you'll do better without it."

Kidman broke out in a glorious smile, and in a moment of recklessness she hugged him before quickly letting go.

“Please be careful, Mr. Chase, and don’t lose your heart.”

She took one last look back, then bounded off the plane for home.

197: Vic "The Slick" Fumigalli

Vic "The Slick" Fumigalli landed with his VILE Buddies in Hawaii by 7 AM local time, and he got to work right away. There was a hangar near Kona Airport that Carmen rented under another name from a random shipping company that Fumigalli knew.

He told his VILE buddies to hang around anywhere they wanted while he took care of Devineaux. Hawaii was a fun place, and he figured his gang could use a little break. Vic would call them again when it was time to regroup.

As soon as Fumigalli opened the door of the storage hangar, he could smell the crisp metallic air of ACME's old tower. Boss took truckloads of things out of that building, not just files, but old bits and pieces, memorabilia, and even personal belongings from desks and lockers. All of them labeled with their owner's name, title and addresses. Vincent knew she wanted some of these things sent back to the ACMEs, but he didn't think they needed this anymore. Besides, today ACME was coming here to pick everything up.

The so-called vault files that Devineaux was talking about were kept in a stainless steel case. The combination wasn't important because they were all thieves, they could break these things 24/7, but Vic thought it was strange Carmen kept it unlocked. The combo, 6174, was right on the numerical wheels, and all Fumigalli had to do was flick it open.

Inside were less files than he thought. There were 21 yellow folders, agent files with code names and titles (and info, lots of nonsense info). Angel names, they were, and as far as Vic could see while flipping through them, there were only 4 angels. Not all the files had pictures, and not all the pictures were clear, so Vic didn't recognize anybody in there, except one. He thought, funnily, that a 'San Uriel' looked a little like his boss. He couldn't tell for sure because most the pics were too small or distorted. Though when he got to the end of that file, he knew it probably wasn't her. A big red stamp across it gave her 'status' as 'deceased'. 

Fumigalli looked at the status of the other folders, all 21 of them, dead. That confused him. Who would want this and how was this supposed to help anybody?

Vic's phone rang, it was Devineaux's assistant. Not wanting to repeat what happened last time, where the number said one thing and the voice was another thing, he answered more politely.


"Hello, Mr. Fumigalli, this is Renée St Clair, I have Ghost with me. Where would you like to meet?"

"You at Kona airport?" Vic asked.

"Yes, Mr. Fumigalli."

"Then ah… get out of the airport and take a road marked '5' up to a hangar area at the back. I'm right 'ere too."

"I understand, Mr. Fumigalli," the secretary replied, "We will be there shortly."

That was smooth, Vic thought. She didn't say she was with Devineaux, but the conman wasn't really thinking about that. He shut the briefcase and decided to wait. 

198 Flag (Co-post between myself and Chase) ---

It is exceedingly difficult to brush your teeth when someone else is sitting on the sink you're trying to use, talking to you whenever you decide to lift the brush to your mouth.
Flag had discovered this when Olga started bombarding him with questions like "What kind of mercenary name is Flag anyway?"

"It's not."

"Oh right. You're not a merc."

"Right..." he responded before realizing that the term, in a general sense, did apply to him. "No... wait..."

"That makes the name even more strange. A flag is a thing for signalling and getting attention right? Why would you..."

He cut her off. Her questions were nonsensical and she obviously wasn't going to pay attention to the answers she received. "You do know that you're in the men's bathroom right?"

Olga finally paused her stream of consciousness. "Yeah... so? You didn't answer my question."

"What question is that?"

"Why did you choose the name?"

"I didn't" he said before sticking the toothbrush he bought at the airport in his mouth.

This simple action turned out to be a mistake and Olga quickly dove to try to shove it into his throat. Flag grabbed her arm in time to prevent this and turned so that he deposited her (face first) onto the slick tile floor. The scene caused an uproar of laughter from the other men in the bathroom.

"Would you please stop that?" he asked his friendly assailant as she managed to pick herself up.

"Fine." She crossed her arms over her chest in what had to be the least sincere pout Flag had ever observed. Thankfully, she did back off long enough for him to finish brushing.

"You changed one of your answers back there." She stated once they left the bathroom. "Are you a mercenary? Where did you serve in the military?"

"Sivoa" Flag muttered at her under his breath.

"Samoa? You don't look Samoan."

"Nevermind." He rolled his eyes and turned a corner to make his way to the permanent barracks, where he hoped he'd be able come up with a good enough excuse to get rid of his tag-along.


As luck would have it, he didn’t need to invent an excuse. A familiar one had been waiting on him just outside of the door to the barracks. "Mr. Flag, Vedushchiy requests your presence."

Without any of the usual hesitation, he followed Mr. Cane's underling to the elevators and was surprised when she pushed the B3 button. He had not expected to find himself back in the basements of the fort so soon.

So many of the crew had spent the evening moving things to the upper levels that coming down here seemed somewhat counter productive. These feelings faded when he realized the man in tweed had arranged their meeting in one of the laboratories. Naturally, they wouldn't move that equipment.

"I have brought Flag as you had requested." announced his temporary chaperone once they arrived in a smaller lab most likely used as an office.

The Sivoan found himself annoyed again at the use of his name (everyone here somehow already knew it), but he forced himself to remain composed as the meeting started.

"My favorite non-employee," the Vedushchiy said with a smile that was just too welcoming, "How have you been finding your stay? Comfortable?"

"Not in the least."

The man in Tweed ignored that and went straight to what was on his mind.

"I've been thinking, that maybe you haven't been making progress with contacting this elusive leader of yours because I haven't been specific enough," he sat back, putting his cane on his clasped hand and his hands on his right knee, "I'm first going to tell you I know she's been watching me, and I hate being watched… so I want her to show herself.

"That diamond you asked in exchange, it worked brilliantly for me during the tests. So I'll need it for my next task. This will require some setting up, two weeks, perhaps four. This should give you enough time to collect her. Don't you think?"

Flag knew that he was going to be annoyed with whatever the man said, but now he let it show.

"If she's near, that is probably plenty of time, but how do I know that you're going to want to part with the diamond at all now?"

"It should be useless for me then, because you'll be giving me the thief," he grinned passively, "In theory, it should be a win-win. If you deliver."

There was a hole to the man's logic, but Flag felt that it would be unwise to drop his facade to pursue it and show that he knew the man in Tweed was lying.

"Okay." He shrugged and glanced around as if he were trying to figure out why he was still standing there.

Both the figures in this room had never cleared why one wanted the diamond and the other wanted the thief, but the better dressed of the two decided that he should establish some understanding. He had some information, that this Flag might be very close to the Queen, but he didn't seem like the type to be consorting with her.

"What is the nature of your relationship with her? A man like yourself doesn't seem he would follow the orders of a younger woman."

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that they were orders. More like favors..."

The sorcerer paused as he noticed the nuances he applied to his work for Carmen didn't interest them and sighed. "She did go out her way to personally save my wretched life once."

"Personal favors?" 'Cane' was interested in the fact that she would go out of her way to save this one. He wouldn't know how she dealt personally with each of her cohorts, but hearing this made him realize he might have another card to play.

Flag shrugged. "Take that as you will, but I don't like being in debt and frankly, I need that diamond more than I need her now."

"Does she keep as close a tab on you as you keep on her?"

Flag smirked and responded to the inquiry with a quiet, yet malevolent, laugh. "I'd say we're about on par with that. Yeah."

He accepted the answer, looking for some form of contingency, a backup in case he couldn't afford to just give this diamond away. The air in the room was tense as ever, very little trust was in this place, and even less between the two men. But the more 'Cane' studied this failed punk rocker, the more he saw a man capable of even the worst sort of betrayal. He just needed the right push.

"Would it matter to you what I do to her?"

The sorcerer shrugged again. "Why would it? I get my diamond, I'm happy."

"I'm not so sure you're that easily happy," he added with a seriousness, "Remember you're being observed here." Then a smile appeared and he changed his tone, "Let's keep this beneficial. So far, she hasn't struck, and for your sake, you should deliver before that happens."

The door opened behind Flag, revealing the attendant standing in front of it. She smiled, "They are ready again, Genovesi has a subject for the test."

Genovesi, the mousy Italian, had been working on another project. So far, the subjects he chose had been rabbits, but he was beginning to ask for workmen from the nearby village for what he called 'short term study'.

"You may leave now," he said to Flag, "we're adjourned."

The trip back to the upper levels seemed to take longer than it had in reverse. Flag blamed the conversation he had just left for this as it felt like the (man in Tweed was just buying time.

The man's messenger also kept stealing glances at him, which she had not done before. If this was the observation that the man had been talking about, he would have to take note of her and the people she spoke with.

Much to his relief, she had left once they arrived at the barracks. Flag smiled at this and lifted his hand as he entered the doorway - just in time to catch the wrist of a hand holding a knife.

"Awww come on! How'd you know?!" Olga shouted as he twisted her arm behind her back and pinned her to the wall.

"Whatever they're paying you I'll double it." He whispered in her ear as he went above and beyond to make sure his body language indicated that he was whispering threats to her. "This place is full of morons and I'm done with it. It's time for a new game and I want some pieces of my own. Understand?"

Olga nodded her head, whimpering to add effect.

"Good. When I let you go, find me a few whose trust I can buy up front and have no other commitments to our nameless overseer. Arrange sporadic meetings for us and I'll throw in a bonus for you."

With that he turned her loose and shoved her out the door. She kept up her part of the act (if it was an act) by sulking down the hallway towards the hall where the women were staying.

He took a deep breath, exhaled, and made his way to his cot. Whatever way his agreement with the man in Tweed turned out, he was going to claim his prize.

199 Chase ((Joint post, credit to Vic, Kidman))

Renée St Clair found the address rather easily, and with their driver, took Vice President Barbara Rosen and the VILE agent up to the rented hangars.

Emotion criss-crossed in thin layers of water over her mind as the car drove to its destination. She was wearing her veil once again, if only to remain hidden from the driver. It was too late to hide from the others, and it nagged at her.

The secretary she didn’t mind much, but the woman... The woman was probably one of the worst people who could have seen her.

‘At the very least my hair was shaved. Surely one can’t tell from just fuzz that it’s grey, yes? God I want to go home.’

But home meant facing the ones she left behind, who most likely weren’t all that concerned about getting back an ornery little janitor.

‘One that rescued a good chunk of VILE with the laptop decoy. Give yourself some credit’ whispered the voice in her head.  Kidman glanced at Rosen’s knees and smiled softly. ‘I wonder if you would disregard me so if you knew how much I’ve cost you.’

When they arrived, the assistant got out of the car first, then opened the door for 'Ghost' while the driver opened the door for Barbara Rosen.

When the door opened Kidman bolted out immediately, lest the ACMEs decide not to return her because she knew Chase was alive.

Vic walked up to them right away, he was happier to see Kidman than he thought he would be.

“Vic! Vic Vic Vic!” she cried as she tossed off her veil, resisting the urge to hug him. The moment she was in his presence, the colour and warm that left with Joe returned to her, and she revelled in it. 

"Ey Kiddo," he said, holding the briefcase in the other hand, "they treat ya well?"

“Better than I thought they would, yes.”

Barbara Rosen was already looking inside the hangar's open space. The way the objects were arranged had some significance, and she understood all previous sixteen floors of ACME Tower was represented here.

"Do you have the files, Mr. Fumigalli?" she interrupted promptly.

Vic knew who he was seeing, but he still couldn't believe it. Barbara Rosen, Vice President, in the pinnacles of ACME decision making. This worried him. Maybe what he heard wasn't really Devineaux, maybe it was some voice actor, maybe--

"Director Devineaux is well," Rosen guessed why it was taking this con man so long to reply to her, "We'd appreciate you keep this quiet."

“Ey, I get it… But you're Barbara Rosen, ain't this illegal?”

"Your entire existence is illegal," she said with a penetrating air and repeated herself more slowly, "Do you have the files?"

Kidman stifled a laugh. The woman may have no heart, but she was still funny, and she carefully filed her name away with ‘Zolpidem’ for later research.

Vic handed Rosen the files and she took them into the hanger, placed them against a crate, and began to look through them.

While that was happening, Vincent turned to Kidman.
“How're doin' kiddo?”

“Doing quite well, actually,” she replied cheerfully, both genuinely happy and to spite Rosen’s for her attempts at breaking her. Then she cast a glance in Rosen’s direction. “I say, did you look through them first?” 

“I did,” Vic said quietly, “Was just files on 21 dead people, they all had the same four codenames. ‘San’ something something. One o’ them even looked like Carmen, but it weren’t for me to tell, them pictures too fuzzy to really see. Can’t be her though, she ain’t deceased, ah?”

A shot of ice lanced through her. “...’San’? Was there a... San Raphael?” 

“Yeahum... a couple of San Raphaels,” Vic replied, “But like I said, all marked as dead.”

“A couple...and all dead? Why would she steal the files of...?”  Kidman was now completely lost. ‘Then what were you trying to tell me?

Barbara Rosen checked the files. Anything truly physical about each of the persons in this briefcase had been eradicated years ago when paranoia and panic caused an ACME Board Member to go against group judgement and ordered the execution of all former saints and other key members of the program. The 'kill list' was passed directly to ACME's personal triggerman, San Raphael.

The older woman removed her sunglasses and studied the warehouse, imaging herself seeing through the eyes of its curator, Carmen Sandiego. Take the tower, keep its soul, Rosen thought in her head, what is it you wanted to tell us? Then as she browsed the objects, she surmised she was seeing them from the wrong perspective. Chase Devineaux was the intended audience. Looking through the organized mess, she found several wooden crates with seemingly random numbers spray-painted on the side. Barbara stopped at number 73, Chase's locker number, and took the crate out.

Vic watched, half wondering what the heck was going on, but he kept quiet. ACMEs were strange.

When she opened it, Rosen took in a piercing breath of air. Inside was a version of the popular cube puzzle from the 1980s, partially solved. 

The intelligence of agents was important and measuring their reaction to various puzzles aided in determining aptitude. The cube was one of the many indicators ACME used in the recruitment process, but it was an item to note among the last generation of Saints. San Michael made every member of his team learn to solve the Rubik's cube; Gabriel complied, Raphael hated it, and Uriel loved it. Uriel's playfulness stemmed to this day, and it was no surprise that this cube would appear again.

Taking the toy and putting it into the briefcase, Barabra nodded to Vincent Fumigalli.

"Do you intend for us to take back these stolen items?"

“Looks like boss wanted it that way,” the salesman replied, “Why crate 73?”

"It was the right number," ACME's Vice President avoided answering and then signalled to Renée that she was done. She shaded her eyes and began walking back to the car.

“No, wait, that’s it?” Vic yelled out and went up next to the woman, “Devineaux said he was going to tell us where to find her.”

"I can guarantee you the Director of Operations will live up to his end of the bargain," Rosen explained, "When our team figures out her location, he'll contact you. I would suggest you not being at this hanger over the next few weeks. We'll need to send our agents to retrieve our belongings."

“He said I dunno who I’m up against, ‘Who’ am I up against?”

At the time of ACME's Saints, Rosen was the project's lawyer, and even she had no idea what transpired in the mind of a madman or that of the young man who killed for him. Both she and Suhara Nakamura, then the Saints' recruiter, were notified of Raphael's deeds after a call from San Uriel to her team leader rang through ACME's Control Center. San Michael responded, but by the time they managed to stop Raphael, eighteen people were dead. Despite ACME having restructured, this loose end was never fully tied, and anyone -- former Saint or not -- could have been affected enough to want a violent recompense.

"A mass murderer," Barabra referred to yesterday morning's attack, "You've read the news, Mr. Fumigalli, ACME is still grieving."

“And Carmen’s got a fight with these people?” Vic asked almost desperately, this tone caused the former lawyer to stop in her tracks and remove her sunglasses.

"You honestly think, that after all this, she's still alive?" 

Vic was speechless, because he did honestly think so. But the words hit him like a ton of bricks and the polyester-clad con man bitterly let Rosen walk off. He felt like a fool, but hopefully, Devineaux was an honest one.

200 Kidman (Vic and I!)

After that chilling verbal punch in the stomach Barbara Rosen gave him, Vic quietly took Kidd and his pride down south a few miles to a place called Kona Brewing Co. that served Pizza and a few drinks. He texted the gang as soon as he got to the place to let them know where he was in case they wanted to meet up.

Looking through the menu, Vic ordered a pepperoni pizza and a beer for himself, then rubbed his head while he thought about what to do. He checked his phone, still no call from Devineaux. Fumigalli looked at Kidman. Only three years younger than Carmen, this one, but worlds apart. Vic remembered meeting Kidd for the first time way long ago, but he didn’t know her name, just that she was a grunt in VILE’s North UK facility. She’d always been strange to him, weird looking, grey. But he was surprised how she looked now, a little more colorful.

“How was ACME, Kiddo?” he asked.

Kidman had her scarf back on her head, but she really wanted to be rid of it. First chance she got she intended to trade it for a floppy hat and oversized sunglasses.

“It actually wasn’t all that bad, after I woke up the next day. The trip in was a nightmare, though. I truly thought I’d die. I think I may have been dead for part of it.” she replied with a laugh. “But the next morning, when Chase came in...”

She paused.
‘I already miss him so...’

“Chase,” Vic repeated, “Like, Devineaux?”

“Aye.... He was with me, you know. When his apartment was destroyed. He had come in early to remove my mask...himself. He didn’t need to do it personally, but he did. He never booked me either. I’m still unknown, and I am desperately grateful for that.”

Vic didn’t really understand what he was hearing, but he’s been with enough VILE members that told him all the first hand experiences they had with this Devineaux guy, most o’ them seem to appreciate his honesty, and none o’ them wanted to repeat seein’ him again. ‘Cept for maybe the gals.

“He went to see you, when he shoulda been blown up?” Vic’s eyes were wide for a little, then his beer came and he thanked the guy that brought it, “I’d say they owe us too, know whad I mean?”

“I would say, but at the risk of sacrilege, we may owe him more. He saved us,
purposely, the night Joe and I met him. Joe, for whatever crazy reason, told him VILE would disband without proof of Carmen being alive in the past year. If I hadn’t been so scared, I may have sassed him. Really, he was telling Chase he could wait out the clock and his work would be done.”

Kidman absently stared at the condensation on Vic’s glass.

“He gave us that card instead. Said ‘this should be enough to keep your lawyers happy.’”

Then she turned to Vic. “Why? After spending so much time trying to destroy us, why save us now?”

“I donno, Kiddo,” Vic thought for a while, “they did something together once at ACME, those two, I think it made them friends. Can’t get a grip on it m’self.”

The pizza came, and Vic took a piece.

Kidman took on as well, happy to have something besides sandwiches.

“He said if he wanted us done, he’d have done so already. I asked why he hadn’t, and I saw...confusion. He didn’t know, but I suspect... that you are right. That must be terribly difficult for him, to be torn like that.”

She took a bite of pizza. So much better than sandwiches.

Fumigalli listened and nodded to show he understood her, “Devineaux’s usually endgame for us in VILE. If he’s on a case, the grunts know they might’s well give up.” Vic chuckled a little, “but good guy if he treats y’ nice. I ain’t got the pleasure of face-to-face alone time w’him yet.”

“I’m not sure how he’d be with you, but with me, he was... When he took the mask off, I felt like a burden was lifted. He sat with me, talked out the nigthmares, and then...”
She paused.
“I say, mate... I’m glad to be back. I know I seem a cloud of doom, but... It turns out there’s a good reason for that.”

“Like what, Kiddo?”

“Vic, I know you aren’t going to believe me, in the slightest, but...”

How to explain this without sounding insane?

“I’ve been having this feeling of doom for a while, and then these dreams came, the same ones. They drove me to Chase, and once I told him, he verified something. ‘San Rapheal’. Carmen would say it over and over in my sleep. I didn’t think it meant anything, but it does.”

Vic’s face scrunched, which happens a lot when he was thinking, and it made all the points on his face join up. “I believe ya, Kidd,” he said after a while, “I duno why, but I seen Flag’s weird eyes and I seen Carmen disappear into thin air, Ima say I believe ya.”

Kidman could hug him, but she figured she should ask first.“Vic...may I hug you?”

“You can just hug me anytime,” Vic said, “I know things were tough b’fore, things should be better now.”

Kidman truly smiled for the second time that day as she hugged Vic. It was an unusual experience, smiling like that. She would have to get used to the way it affected her scars, but it was worth it.

“Thank you, thank you so much.”

201 Patty-Larceny (also me and Vic, thanks Vic!)

Patty Larceny was tanning on the beach. It wasn't the hottest winter Hawaii's ever seen, but she had to get all the sun she could get before she went back to that mouldy theater and start going pale as whatever.

A little side of her said she should have followed Vic, but she didn't want to spook ACME. And more than that, Patts needed a little time to herself, to think about life and all that glittery nonsense. If things went really wrong, and VILE had to disband, Patts was going to voluntarily stay with the group. Whatever money she got from the lawyers, she'd put back as a nest fund for the new VILE. Then she was going to get a trench coat and fedora tailored for her size, in bright vermillion, and keep the legend going.

A dude in shorts and a t-shirt ran by and winked at her. Patts smiled back, but with the weather at about room temperature, she really wasn't feeling it. She hated his bright blue shorts anyway. People who could run in those and still wink at girls half their age remind her of the way some monkeys evolved to break nuts with rocks and some of them starved to death.

She wished, really wished, Carmen was here because everything gets ten times classier when she's around. And ten times more fun too.

The message from Vic came through on her phone and Patts got off the sand.

By the time she got to rendezvous, she was already starving.

"Pizza," she said, took a seat, and started eating, "Hey Kitty," she looked at Kidman, "You shaved your hair!"

Swallowing a bite, she expectantly looked at Vic.

"You look like you just had horrible plastic surgery and was told you can't have your old face back," Patty commented, "Did you meet McDreamy? Is he alive?"

Vic shook his head.

"Gotta get off that, Patts," he replied, "Guess who came instead of him?"


"Barbara 'Vice President' Rosen."

"Get out!"

"Yeahum, and after lookin' round, she told me Car'm ain't likely t'still be alive, you'd think she'd have at least decency t'spare feelings."

"She's just pulling your strings, Vic," Patty sympathetically smiled, "she's mad somebody fired a rocket at ACME's Golden Boy, she's got to let it out somehow. Can we have more pizza?"

Vic ordered another large.

"So what do we do now? Guessing from your face, I don't think you know where Carmen is? Do we wait until we get another push from the lawyers?"

Vic made his thinking face again.

"She's gotta be alive," he said this because he remembered something very important, "Carmen wouldn't disappear on us without a word, ah? She always checks in. And if she can't check in herself, she uses something else to remind us… It's the lawyers, Patts, the lawyers were there to remind us she ain't checked in. Meaning she can't, so we gotta go find her… that was it… that had to have been her come-get-me!"

Vic had spent the year looking around for clues she'd left, that he'd forgotten the most basic one of all. He'd have to thank Barbara Rosen for knocking him right back into his senses.

202 Joe_Kerr

From the time they had touched down on the big island, Joe had been in a contemplative mood. Whereas Patty had made a beeline for the world famous Hawaiian sunshine, the Jester had opted instead for a leisurely trek with Carmine along one of Hawaii's many volcanic slopes.

Up on the slopes, the breathtaking scenery and fresh air provided a perfect backdrop for the Jester's musings. The incident at Nob Hill had been the latest and most alarming twist yet in this increasingly perplexing saga that had seemingly intertwined the fates of both VILE and ACME together.

What bothered Joe was that by all accounts it was a malfunctioned C5 that did the damage. Whilst many people were rightfully wondering who was currently in possession of said C5 technology, Joe had been pondering a more frightening question: Had it really been a malfunction? Who's to say it hadn't been deliberately designed to do such damage?

Could this be why Carmen had been so adamant about disabling ACME's C5 technology? 

The fact that Chase had been the seeming target hadn't surprised Joe. From what the Jester knew, the only one who had a clearer picture of what was happening, other than Carmen, was Chase Devineaux. Obviously, someone wanted him out of the way, and that someone was ruthless enough to justify a couple of dozen other side casualties as long as the target was annihilated. This kind of person was in a different league from what ACME and VILE were used to facing. Could either entity survive what was ahead? And even if they by some miracle did survive, how irreparably damaged would the game be?

"What do you think about all this?" the Jester asked his feline companion.

Carmine turned away from the butterfly she had been chasing and responded with a blank look and a confused "meow?"

Joe laughed as Carmine shrugged and resumed chasing the butterfly. He envied her ability to stay so carefree. As he observed her, he remembered that his role in VILE was to help his fellow members do just that, stay focused and carefree rather than worried and tense. 

Just then, Joe received a message on his VILE phone. It was Vic telling them to meet up at a local coffee joint. Joe smirked as he recalled that one of the benefits to having the old VILE HQ in Antarctica was that it necessitated this type of communication technology that could be used anywhere but the surface of the moon.

It was an hour later when Joe and Carmine arrived at the Rendezvous point. The duo had arrived just in time to catch the last part of a conversation between Vic, Patty and the newly returned Kidman.

"Aloha, my dear Ohana. It looks like paradise did wonders for you lot. So what'd I miss?"

203 EarlJr

Ivy's hand covering his came as both a relief and surprise to Euge.  His more cynical side thought perhaps she was stringing him along for information, but he quickly squelched that thought.  Even though he found Ivy's reaction unexpected, Euge still had enough faith in her to believe her gesture was genuine.

Just as quickly as it began, the moment was interrupted by another ping from Ivy's communicator.  Doubtlessly another agent commiting to whatever was coming next.  Thoughts of the SOUL contract, and others he had mindlessly signed before came flooding into his mind.  The wording and the agency publishing these may change, but they were all hiding the same ugly business behind a thin veneer or legal paperwork.  No matter how many times it was claimed his work would 'save American lives' or 'serve a greater good', it had become increasingly difficult to rectify such righteousness with the brutal and savage acts he had participated in.

His finger hovered over the delete icon when he looked across the table at Ivy.  Her attention was on her communicator, tapping out further instructions for those still in the field, but he could still see her face; a smudge of concrete dust mixed with soot streaking her brow.  Those lingering particulates bought the events of the day into sharp focus for him.  ACME was nothing like the organizations he knew from his past; they didn't promote insurrections and mass killings on a whim.  They were not the aggressors, but were merely looking for justice after being the victim of a surprise attack.

A swipe of his finger dismissed the 'confirm delete' dialogue in favor of the biometric authentication.  Euge hesitated for another half a heartbeat before pressing his thumb to the pad.

Finished with his dilemma, Euge placed his communicator face down on the table and looked across to Ivy, who was watching him with an apprehensive look.  She nodded slightly before standing.
  "We should link up with Mikal.  The rest of the team needs to know what we're facing."

204 Joe_Kerr


On a certain bed in the medical centre, a certain patient was getting his hand bandaged by one of the resident doctors. Said patient was a bald, Southeast Asian man of short stature who was growing increasingly impatient with the doctor who had taken it upon himself to be as slow and methodical as possible in his actions.

"Come on Doc, it's just a bloody hand. Nothing that won't fix itself in a few days."

The doctor, to his credit, didn't bat an eyelid.

"Mr Karnak, need I remind you about HIS orders? I assure you that if it were up to either of us, I wouldn't be treating you. I am only doing so because HE requires all of you be kept in top condition."

Karnak snorted in reply. While he appreciated that the Man in Tweed gave him leeway to fight as he pleased, he could have done without the mandatory medical treatments after every fight. Still, he was getting paid to sit here and get bandaged so he couldn't complain, much.

"I heard you took down another one in the Arena so I figured you'd end up here. You really ought to stop injuring the others." 

Karnak snorted again and turned to look at the source of the voice. A man in military fatigues of about the same height and build as Karnak had walked into the room; the absence of sound created by his military boots a testament to his stealth training. 

"Not my fault they can't fight as well as me," laughed Karnak

"True. Not everyone is nicknamed "Butcher" like you Karnak. Though I'm pretty sure HE hired you to butcher his foes, not the other hired help." The man in military fatigues made a point to gesture to the severely bandaged victim in one of the other beds in the ward before glaring back at Karnak

Karnak stared into the eyes of his former military partner Umnaj Worawut. The two had served together in the Siamese Military nearly thirty years ago as part of the special forces and shared a measure of respect for each other that neither man would afford to many others. Umnaj's fierce gaze had once earned him the nickname of "Siamese Tiger" but Karnak wasn't the least bit intimidated; if anything, he was bemused.

"I guess you're right as always. Guess that's why HE made you leader of the team and not me. Wouldn't have it any other way though. Oh, and I'll say one thing about the poor fool, he's got a tough jaw. It almost broke my hand...almost."

Both men shared a sadistic laugh as the doctor merely shook his head. He'd seen enough of such happenings the past few months to not be surprised. The Man in Tweed had assembled a fearsome force of mercenaries but many of them were getting bored with the lack of action and had started taking it out on each other, resulting in frequent trips to his particular domain, for the lucky ones at least.

The doctor had to wonder if this was what they did to each other, what kind of utter devastation would be in store for their enemies when they were finally allowed to do what they did best. 

205 Mikal

After the meeting at the Masonic Library drew to a close, there was car with a driver that would take Mikal Darsha and Lee Jordan to Accolade. With all the lavish pomp that came with the press tour two days ago, one floor was decidedly ignored: Basement 1, also known as ACME's Special Operations Division. 

The war room they would work in was one of the few finished areas of the basement. Bright lights and reinforced steel walls housed the department’s true gems: ACME's Super Computers, all linked to the company's intricate communications systems which in turn work with the likes of ECHELON and Onyx. The furniture was minimalistic, there was a collection of desks with Herman Miller Aeron chairs, each one holding a single lamp and multi-monitor computers that faced a theatre size screen. A seating area and conference room was located to the side, and to divide the space, a small kitchenette was equipped with a water cooler, refrigerator and capsule coffee maker that would provide human comfort to the intelligence team.

Five of ACME’s best hackers, communication analysts and digital information specialists were already weeding through the sound files that Lee Jordan had sent to Chase Devineaux. Two people were analyzing the video of Tweed at Long Beach. The security footage displayed prominently on the theatre screen, as facial recognition software overlayed the images. Tweed’s face was broken up by the program into over six hundred tiny measurements, recording the smallest micron of spaces between his eyes, lips, nose and ears. At the same time these measurements would be cross referenced with every known criminal ACME had on record. 

Though he was a fast learner, Mikal was not a born analyst. He had always played the role of trigger man, and for that reason he was almost relieved to have Lee Jordan here.

While it was easy to hate the man for the mess he caused, Jordan was a detective and had first hand experience with the people they were trying to find. With the right resources he would be unstoppable. “Mr. Jordan,” Mikal said politely, they would be on nicer terms from now on, “You are now cleared to access everything in ACME’s system. If what the Captain says is right, and Carmen Sandiego has been leaving us messages then you will be the best person to decode them.” 

Lee swallowed hard and sat down to look at what was available to him. Time to work and do what you do best, and not arouse suspicion. He told himself this as his fingers tick-tacked over the keyboard looking for information on Carmen’s last known coordinates.

I tracked her to somewhere in Northern Russia in October,” Lee said, “but I couldn’t triangulate fast enough, if I had to guess, it’s somewhere in Kamchatka. When they gave me the resources, they blocked out that part of the continent from me, and when I told them where I thought she was, next thing I knew, they fired me.

Jordan started entering into the computer what he already knew, the location of most of Carmen’s messages.

I think she was gathering intel on them,” he revealed his theory, “and she got close. So Tweed didn’t want me any closer either. He was always careful about what he did and who he got info from.

Lee was thankful he could finally tell this to someone, even though this wasn’t what he expected.

Are we going to arrest her?” He asked without looking up from the screen, “If we find her alive, I mean?

Before an answer was produced, the door opened.

Thought you might need some help.” Ivy greeted, tapping twice on the door frame. 

Mikal turned to see the crimson haired Commander and Eugene Grovington. “Help is always good.” He smiled, “We are still trying to match a face to a name that means nothing.” 
I haven’t unearthed any more on his identity, but whoever he is, he’s been busy.”  Euge’s disinterested scowl was back in place.  “This guy’s been recruiting PMC’s from everywhere he can get them.  Belltower, PBE, Xe, he’s been contracting them all.

The Israeli nodded at this revelation, the reason why the pilot knew this was irrelevant. “Okay, let’s expand the search to include any private military affiliates ACME has.” It seemed logical that Tweed would try to amass a small army, and making sure his resources were spread was a good way to stay safe. These companies would never divulge information on a paying client, but if Tweed wasn’t careful an enemy of an enemy could have left some trail worth following. 

There was a lot of information to sift through, so the analysts divided into two teams, each overseen by either Eugene or Ivy as Mikal tried to acquire external sources of information.

“I think we have something.” Leonard Wilkins, the poofy haired communications analyst suddenly shouted. He pointed at his screen, “Alfie N. Barber, aged forty-five, British physicist.” The analyst shifted around so everyone could look at the digital ID photo that was unmistakably a younger Mr. Tweed. “He was flagged by ForeStrat, trying to hire security and not footing the bill.” 

Looks like we have our man, yeah?” Mikal quickly sent a message to Chase Devineaux. “Let us  try to find out everything we can about Mr. Barber.” For the amount of time, they were making good progress. 

206 Ivy

Six hours since they got a positive ID on Alfie N. Barber, Ivy was starting to feel the effects of fatigue. It was 2:00 a.m. and she had been awake for approximately twenty-six hours. The Commander looked about the room, while some of the analysts took sleep in shifts, Mikal, Eugene and Lee seemed just as pin sharp as ever. She excused herself to shower, changing into the ACME standard white T-shirt and tan cargo pants that were provided to agents of all ranks. When Ivy returned she realized this was what most of the team was wearing, and that meant they were all prepared to be here for a very long time. 

As information from the crime scene team poured in, ACME confirmed that their own satellite and ground stations were hacked into and used to help triangulate the weapon’s signal. 

Can they do it again?” Ivy asked.

Nigel Carter, who was a liaison between the war room’s information team and other ACME ground stations replied, “Not right away, no. They won’t be able to use our system again. Which means they would have to either deploy their own or hack into another geostationary satellite. Even a moderately powerful computer would take a month or so to break the control key... this gives us six weeks... four weeks minimum before another attack.” 

Ivy nodded at this. One month was a short time frame for a major operation, but it was still good news. She drafted a secure message that would be sent to all field agents as soon as they signed in their SOULs:

[Agents. We have an estimated time frame of 4 weeks training before another attack is possible. Report in 12/16/12, 0600 ACME’s Alpha Team Base at Alameda Airfield for briefing.]

207 Lee-Jordan

For hours, Lee Jordan stared at the screen. Based on Carmen’s last known location, and the secrecy that this ‘Alfie N. Barber’ had around Kamchatka, he had been focused on activity in and around the peninsula. Kamchatka was a zone that satellite images wouldn’t update much, but because of some recent volcanic activity, tourists were taking pictures and posting them, of all places, on Google Earth.

In addition to that, Lee ran ACME’s image comparison software and had it scan blogs and other picture sites to find something he could use. His break came from a page by some Japanese tourists, taking telescopic photography of a coastal area. In the distance, unmarked by anything else on the current maps, was a stone fortress. Knowing stone structures in a place so desolate could possibly be built in the 18th century, it would have to show up in old air images even before the coldwar block-out.

He was right.

In a picture taken by some old spy planes from 1940s, the outline of a building could be seen sitting on a cliff. The structure was built as Rei Kremlin somewhere in the 1700s, but was now called Torun Zamok, a 3-storey castle-fort located in a bay near the middle of the peninsula. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times, and because of its location, it was once used to spy on the US.

Jordan leapt up from his seat and shouted, “I got it!”

There was no other information he could get except for its location and external visual reference. Anything else would have to come from specifically pointing an ACME image satellite right on the area.

“It’s not much,” he said, “but this has to be it, I’d bet my life”

Mikal was impressed. Perhaps Chase Devineaux was right to keep Lee Jordan under his wing after all. 

“Good job,” the Israeli confirmed. “We’ll compile this information for the Capt--,” He stopped himself, “The Director. Intelligence operations will run 24/7 from now on. It looks like ACME is going to Kamchatka.”

208 Chase

Kona Airport, Hawaii Afternoon, Local Time -- December 15, 2012

Barbara Rosen returned, entering the cobalt Cessna Citation-X to find her Director of Operations going through his communicator in one hand and spinning a pen in the other.

"You're looking sunnier," she said with mild amusement, only detectable to people who knew her. To get his attention, she confiscated the Mont Blanc and gave it to Renée, "What happened?"

"I got confirmation from Sophie that Suhara's going to be ok," Chase Devineaux's contented reply was a clear contrast to his earlier disposition, "And reports came from Mikal. We have a face, a name, a location; decent progress."

"You have a good team," Rosen sat down and opened the steel briefcase to reveal 21 folders and a puzzle cube.

"Great team," Chase looked at the cube and immediately saw a discrepancy.

"What is it?" Barbara asked.

"Were the files the right ones?" Devineaux asked while he picked up the toy, he tapped one center red square, then rotated to show there was another one 45 degrees from it, "Two red squares," he began to solve the puzzle, "Hold on…"

"The files are all here, I'm not sure why she would keep this."

"Baby pictures, family photos," Chase replied with half a smile, "Not really, but it counts. They're all she has, and you want to get rid of them."

The puzzle finished with a click, and one red square, surrounded by white tiles, came loose. The Director detached this piece. Housed inside the same location as the keystone screw that held together the mechanisms of the Rubik's cube was a small electronic part.

"Is that a listening device?" Rosen looked concerned.

"No point, this wasn't my cube," Devineaux studied the node, "It looks like it belongs in something else, but otherwise, it's dead," There was no battery, no apparent live signal, it seemed nothing more than a tiny module.

Keeping the curious item where it belonged, Chase closed the red lid and locked it down with one turn of the plastic game.

"We should go home," he said, "I'll call Vic on the way."

"You're giving them too much credit," commented Barbara as she prepared another gin and tonic for the ride home.

"Maybe," Devineaux nodded, "but they just gave you the last bit of evidence on the Saints Program, I think that's fair."

209 Vic-the-Slick

At the pizza place, Vincent Fumigalli suddenly got the phone call he'd been expecting.

"Tell me y'got something, please," Vic said into the receiver, "Ima dyin' here."

The other line was silent, and Vic wasn't sure how he'd take what was to come.

"I know where her last transmission came from," Chase's voice saying exactly what Vic wanted to hear made him sound like some Godsend, "If you have access to a web browser on a mobile phone, send me the number."

"Hang on, ah?" Vic looked around, grabbed Patty's phone, and turned on a browser. Then he gave the blond's temporary phone number to Chase, "Got one, what'd you want me t'see?"

Devineaux sent Vic a link to log in, and for a while, he established a direct connection with the phone. Patty's screen displayed some information on an Alfie N. Barber, and some other files while Chase explained what each were. Fumigalli listened as he learned for the first time what Carmen was doing this past year, at least what Chase thought she was doing. And while he hated the fact that this info was coming from the enemy, it made a lot of sense. Someone dangerous was making a weaponized C-5, and she wanted to stop it. 

But seeing that something people said looked like a C-5 blew up and took out Devineaux's apartment building, it meant Carmen didn't succeed in stoping this weapon from coming out. This part scared Vic most.

"So let me get this…" Vic concluded, "She's been tracking this weapon to keep it from happenin', it's working now, and nobody's heard from her since October."

Chase Devineaux affirmed Fumigalli's words.

"Her last transmission came from Eastern Kamchatka," Chase added, "I sent you the coordinates."

Vic put down the phones and rubbed his head with both his hands. After sufficient display and deep thinking, he picked up the phones again.
"I gotta go there," he told the ACME on the other end, "You need to find that weapon, I get it, but me, I gotta go find her."

A few seconds of silence passed by and the polyester-clad salesman wondered what he was getting himself into. Then he realized Chase was thinking.

"We have four weeks, estimated, before the hostiles have another clear window," ACME's Director took a kinder tone, "I can send some people to train with your people, somewhere neutral. Exchange skills..."

"Like here? In Hawaii?" Vic wasn't sure what he was hearing, but it sounded like a genuine offer.

"We can consider it a… sort of Joint Special Operations."

"Are you serious?"

"If you are."

Vic didn't need long to think."We'll take it."

"Right," Chase's tone was lighter, "I'll be in touch."

Devineaux disconnected from Vic's phone and also Patty's, leaving the declassified files for their review. Fumigalli looked at his teammates and immediately understood why Carmen might have left to fix this problem alone, but she's been gone too long, and it was time to pick up the pieces.

210 Ivy

Ivy slowly drifted into consciousness, from a surprisingly deep and good sleep. She found herself above the covers still in her ACME field uniform, curled up next to Eugene, her head resting on his outstretched arm.  

He's going to complain about that when he wakes up. The doctors had patched up Euge's shoulder since Venice, but he wasn't supposed to strain it. 

She checked the bedside clock, it was 2:00 pm, and she vaguely remembered coming home from the War Room at 7:00 am. By 5:20 pm today the 24-hour time period for SOUL contract signing would be over. Devineaux would return from Hawaii sometime this evening, by morning of the next day all field agents would be briefed on what Lee Jordan found... and in four weeks ACME would be in Kamchatka. It all seemed like a blurred dream. 

Sitting up, Ivy felt a cold dog muzzle nudge her leg. Killer, the blue-coat American greyhound was given to her by Chase four months ago when she moved to a new apartment alone. The arrangement seemed like a good idea until--early into her relationship with Eugene--she realized the pilot had major apprehensions against the canine species. Just one of many things she would come to learn about him.

"Where are you going?" Ivy felt a strong hand on her waist. 

Light sleeper. Should have suspected. "Don't tell me you were up all this time.

Euge sat upright, rolling his left shoulder back with an audible groan. He was still being cautious around her since their talk at Accolade. She remembered what he had said when asked about his past, 'It’s a world I’m not willing to involve you in.

This was hard for her to understand, because Ivy had only one world. It was often shaken because she was hot tempered and impulsive, but there was only one, and she had chosen to include Eugene in it. The imbalance between them was... bothersome. She bit her lip, burying that thought away.

"Euge, about yesterday... I said I wouldn't ask about it, so I'm not going to."

"Okay." he replied in a tone that indicated he knew she had more to say.

"But, I can't be worried about 'us' while all of this is happening at ACME."

She saw him grip the back of his neck with one hand at her response.

"I trust you. If you think this is going to be a problem, you have to sit me down and talk to me. Promise."

The pilot nodded, and she suddenly felt much more at ease. In that moment she remembered the many things that he was. Teammate. Friend. Partner. And in each instance she would trust him with her life. 

"Right, we need to get moving soon. I'm going to make lunch."

"What?" Eugene threw her a look of utter confusion. 

"Okay, fine." She relinquished the white lie, "Henry's Hunan Chinese take-out will make lunch."

211 Narrator

Auld Lang Syne Thus Far

Checkpoint #2

  • We're now in day 5 of Auld Lang Syne's time line.
  • Be sure to check out checkpoint #1 on page 7 of Auld Lang Syne's RP. 

Brief Summary: Carmen is missing while someone blew up Chase Devineaux's apartment at Nob Hill! ACME and VILE are putting their differences aside to find out who is behind it all.

The Long Haul:  On the morning of December 14, 2012 ACME Field Agents and Medical Personnel were called to the Nob Hill Area in response to what looked like an attack at Nob Hill Tower, where ACME's Director of Operations Chase Devineaux lived.

Eyewitnesses stated that the blast looked like it had come from an ACME C-5. ACME went on information lock-down, and still has not released any information to the press, who suspect the attack to be a malfunctioned C-5. However, this is impossible as ACME does not have a functioning C-5 (due to Carmen stealing our Tower 1 in Hiatus.)

Daniel Ainsworth noted in his post that he believes this may have something to do with the stolen/missing DECOIL module of the C-5. (DECOIL is used to stabilize the C-5 for use as a teleportation device.)

Meanwhile, at Torun Zamok... Flag joined the ranks of "The Opposition" a group lead by Mr. Tweed (Flag needs to find Carmen for Tweed in exchange for a flawless diamond.) This is what we know: Tweed has been hiring mercenaries. In a notable post, it is revealed that a former ACME Saint (Specialized Agents), San Gabriel was also hired as one of the mercenaries. They live and work in an old castle in Kamchatka called 'Torun Zamok' where they also hide the weaponized C-5 machine. While Tweed and Flag have an understanding Tweed also needs the diamond to power the weapon and asks Flag for a month so that he could use the it again.

Most members of V.I.L.E. regrouped in the theater--currently being repaired--where they heard news of the Nob Hill Incident. To save V.I.L.E. from being disbanded Joe Kerr delivered the sound clipping of Carmen's voice that he received from Chase Devineaux. This was proof that she was not missing for over a year. 

Kidman was detained in an ACME holding cell. Because Chase Devineaux left early in the morning to go see her, he was not at his apartment when the attack happened. Unfortunately Suhara Nakamura's living quarters was also in the area, and he was gravely injured. Suhara is currently being treated at ACME Medical Center.

Immediately after the rescue work for the Nob Hill Incident, Barbara Rosen and Gunther Metzger of the ACME board called a meeting at the Masonic Library. At this meeting, Lee Jordan was interrogated by Chase Devineaux and released information that he had worked for Tweed. Eugene Grovington confirmed Tweed's identity. Lee's betrayal was kept a secret for reasons unknown. 

At sunset, ACME regrouped at the Cathedral of Grace, Nob Hill where they set up incident command. ACME agents which are proven field ready and loyal were told inside information that Chase Devineaux is still alive. If they wished to participate in the mission to find and bring to justice the "Opposition" (people who orchestrated the attack on Nob Hill) then they would need to sign the Special Operations Understanding of Liabilities Contract within 24-hours. 

Chase Devineaux and Vic-the-Slick planned to meet in Hawaii to exchange Kidman for the files that Carmen took when she stole Tower 1. On the plane ride there Kidman talks to Rosen, and by the end of it Rosen tells Chase to stay in the plane while she retrieves the files. She finds them, along with a 'Carmen Clue' in crate 73. That post also reveals that, at the time of the ACME saints, "Both she and Suhara Nakamura [...] were notified of Raphael's deeds after a call from San Uriel to her team leader rang through ACME's Control Center. San Michael responded, but by the time they managed to stop Raphael, eighteen people were dead."

Meanwhile, at Accolade Tower, ACME (evening of December 14th to morning of December 15th): Mikal and Lee formed an Intelligence Team to try to make sense of the situation. Eugene confirms his past as a mercenary and gives vital information that identifies Tweed. The team was also able to establish a timeline on Tweed's next attack (4 - 6 weeks minimum) and Lee Jordan confirmed Carmen's last known location. 

What happens now?

//ACME: Training will take place for 4 weeks of RP time. Anyone who took part at the Nob Hill Incident time may choose to seek trauma counseling from ACME, or speak of training time with the rest of the field team (training specs will be posted soon.) Also, please use these days to wrap up any loose ends to your character's storylines before we move into the closed 'Final Raid RP'. 

//V.I.L.E.: Most of you are in Hawaii. Please do the same and wrap up any story lines you have. VILE members may also attempt information gathering before the 'Final Raid RP'. 

212 Gunnar ( Co-post, introducing the new and improved Gudrun. ;) )

Gudrun had been watching television about the attack at Nob Hill, it was such a dramatic experience to watch from different angles what she had seen in reality. She could still remember the light and thunder that was made, felt the wind, and the stinging dust inside of her nostrils. None of that was a very pleasant experience. She felt very lucky that she was not killed.

The young Svensson eased inside the Third Ward about noon, unsettled at his familiarity with this place already. He did not like to see his girl incapacitated as she was, though he knew she was nearing recovery very quickly. Against the back pocket of his khaki cargo pants, he clutched his communicator with sweaty hands. He approached Gudrun’s bedside and pulled up a chair for himself. “Hur mår du?” he asked, breathing in deeply.

“Jag är... ok,” she said sweetly but with some sadness, “[Is it true that was your ACME Boss’s home?]”

Gunnar shrugged. “Ja...” He brushed his hair back nervously and tried to think of an easy way to initiate things. “[Nothing is very secure any longer.]”

“Han är...,” she wasn’t sure she wanted to know if Gunnar’s boss was also gone. Only two days ago, ACME was such a bright and beautiful place that welcomed her into their midst, “[Gunnar... What is going to happen now?]

“[Gudrun, you know I want to protect you, so...]” he hesitated, no longer certain if he had indeed made the correct choice. “[They want us to go to stop the bad guys. I... signed this contract...]” Gunnar turned his eyes to the floor.

“[What is contract for? What does it say?]”

“[It says I am going to fight them.]”

“[Fight... The people who have this big bomb?],” Gudrun couldn’t believe her ears, “[Did you hear that nine people died, Gunnar? This is so big and you are just a man.]”

“[We have experienced leaders. They know how to handle with this. The commander has a plan, and we shall have proper guns and equipment. We can do it.]” Gunnar hoped he had sold it to her well enough. And yet, he had his own serious doubts about the outcome of this counter-attack in the making.

Gudrun was quiet for many seconds. Then she focused all her attention to one very important question, “[Are you not coming home with me?]”

“[Gudrun, I... can’t. I have signed the contract... since 30 minutes ago.]” He hung his head, suddenly feeling immersed in guilt. How could he be so impetuous, not considering Gudrun’s opinion?

Because he knew she would not want him to do what he wanted...

She was hurt and wanted to tell him he was stupid to sign, because he could be with her and at home where they both would be safe. Gudrun imagined herself waiting here, in this cold American city for all the time that Gunnar would be doing what he signed up to do. What if he was hurt or killed, who would she go to? None of her friends are here. Suddenly, Gudrun’s eyes watered as she began to sorely miss her mother. Then she cried.

Gunnar panicked. “[Wait. Gudrun, don’t! I shall be home soon. I will be safe. We will be fine and...]”

Sniffing a lot to keep her composure, Gudrun shook her head, “[Oh Gunnar, the Swedish nurse said that I can fly back in a week. If you are not done by then, I think...],” she took in a few more breaths, “[I think I have to go home without you.]”

Her thumb rubbed the ring on her finger and she slid it off. Gudrun wiped it dry of her tears, and placed it back on her finger again with a careful smile.

Gunnar clutched his seat, trembling as he watched the movements of her hands. He stopped breathing, but his heart pumped ever faster. “[But you will wait for me? You will, yeah?]”

“Gunnar,” she said, “[I’m frightened for you.]” Gudrun held out her arms to hug her fiancé.

He anxiously took hold of her, wishing they could stay in this way; to never let go. “[I will be fine. I promise to you. I will come home, and you will be there?]” Please...

“Jag ska,” she promised too, with a whisper into his shirt. But inside, she wasn’t sure he would come back. Would she have to distance herself now? Will it be like this when they are married also?

213 Ivy [Co-Post brought to you by Chase Devineaux and Ivy Monaghan]

ACME Alameda Airfield  15 December, 2012 2200 hrs.

In the plane ride back from Kona airport, Chase Devineaux diligently ran through the information he had on this group of hostiles. The first person he thought about was his commander, Ivy Monaghan and how much would be expected of her. As soon as he opened his communicator, a message from 'CMD Ivy' popped up.

"When are you getting back?"

He silently smiled without knowing why and replied: "In about an hour, Airfield Lounge."

It wouldn't be safe to talk anywhere outside of ACME compounds, considering his status. Being a marked man in hiding wasn't a foreign concept, but he never thought it would happen so soon.

When he landed, he wasn't tired. Walking down the portable stairway with ease, he dropped Barbara Rosen and Renée St Clair off with Gunther Metzger, who had a black limousine brought up to the runway. Then he made his way into the airfield's terminals.

Ivy paced back and forth in the short hallway of the arrival gate, the soft azure glow of an electronic tablet illuminating her face. She read the training specifications over again, remembering each field agent's name and mentally picturing them at tomorrow’s briefing. Monaghan put her thoughts away as the silhouette of Chase Devineaux caught her peripheral vision. 

"Hi," she turned and greeted the Director of Operations, "Airfield lounge is closed. Understaffed. I figured I'd catch you at touchdown." 

Taking a deep, encouraging breath, Chase hinted to the area's only refreshment stand, "Coffee?" 

“Hell yeah,” Ivy replied, then suddenly stopped herself. “I mean... yes. Thanks. Where’s Renée?”

"Home," he replied while getting the coffee for two and sitting down, "I thought it was better we talked off the record." 

Devineaux hunched over the low table. With his legs supporting his elbows, he clasped his hands together in thought.

“You’ve probably already been briefed by Mikal,” Ivy slid into the opposite seat, “Chase, these people we’re up against--”

"Ivy," he interrupted, "Listen first... I made a decision some time ago to stay with this agency. And with that came... decisions, orders, actions... that I'm not entirely proud of," there was a brief pause as he looked over his commander, "You started this with a higher moral code, and I want you to keep that road. And so -- knowing the nature of this -- I don't think you should go to Kamchatka."

“What?” Ivy nearly shouted. It wasn’t the briefing she had expected. She couldn’t be sure if Chase was trying his hand at empathy or if he just wanted to take her off the operation. “What are you saying, exactly?”

"I'm not doubting your abilities," Devineaux continued, "And I won't pull rank, this is still your choice. This mission is a Direct Action, it's an attack, there are a lot of risks: physically and psychologically."

“Damn right it’s my choice! Chase, it was clear on the morning of Nob Hill what kind of mission this was.” 

He exhaled audibly, "So you understand."

“I’m leading this op.” 

"And you're all right with it."

Ivy drummed her fingers on the stainless steel table. Was she really all right with it? There was nothing ‘all right’ about putting her team in danger if she couldn’t keep it together in a gunfight.  

"You see my point," he sensed her perception.

She already knew what the Director’s next words would be, and from instinct spoke out of turn, “Chase, no one out there is going to fight harder for ACME. I need to be on this.”  

"And I need to make sure you fully know your role," conjuring his own memories, Chase was strictly honest, "From now on, every decision you make will be for your team. You'll be absorbing their moral dilemmas, their fears, everything. You'll make the call, you'll take the blame."

“I know.” Ivy confirmed. 

She took a moment to look at Chase Devineaux. There was always a certain amount of restraint and tribulation within him, even now when he was completely off the record. The agents perceived it in different ways, some saw him as the brooding figurehead of ACME, some thought him too inflexible and robotic to understand, and Ivy... Ivy believed he was one of the few selfless people left in the world. Devineaux’s career was wholly based on making life changing decisions for other people so that they would not have to. It was probably the reason he was loved by the board, and also the reason he was the main target for ACME’s enemies. “I have to, because if I don’t, you will... and right now, you can’t.”

"Will this be the first time you kill someone?"

The question gave her a moment of pause. “If you’re asking me this as the Director of Operations to his Commander, then the answer is irrelevant.” 

She went into professional mode, Devineaux thought, good. 

Before he met Monaghan in Hong Kong, he reviewed her files and got the impression that she wore her emotions on her sleeves. But when they finally spoke, he was impressed. She knew exactly where her heart was and where her mind should be, a trait he wanted to imbue in future leaders at the Headquarters. When he first invited her back, she threw a curveball and decided to be an instructor instead; but he never questioned her dedication to the company. After the tower was stolen and ACME needed her most, she found a new path and became Commander Ivy Monaghan. The moment she asked for that title, Devineaux recalled making one of the easiest decisions of his life.

Seeing Chase’s expression lighten, Ivy continued “Let me worry about me. You’re the one that’s supposed to be dead, remember?” 

"I'm supposed to be," he nodded, "that's why I--" leaning back into the burgundy nylon chair, he changed his mind about worrying, "You know, you're right," he admitted with pride in his voice, "I don't have to worry. I have you."

214 Chase

Sunday 16 December, 2012 0830 hrs.

The hallways were deserted, filled only with the low hum of the climate-control and ventilation systems. A row of potted plants on the window sill beside the tidy desk of Renée St Clair stretched out their olive arms in the early-morning sun. 

This temporary office given to Chase Devineaux in the older crevices of ACME Academy formerly belonged to staff members before a new building rendered it obsolete. Signs of its former purpose were everywhere, bookshelves full of unused texts that missed the salvage bus, polished concrete floors with fine black lines that were neither intended nor repairable, and furniture built in the 1970s to last a missile crisis.

On one such furniture, a deep orange leather swivel chair, sat the Director of Operations.

For the past fifty hours, since the attack on the morning of December 14, Devineaux had gone through what he thought was all the grief he needed to deal with. But in the dandelion morning, as the sun through his office window made splashes of prismatic lines, he only saw how much he missed that iron sunrise gleaming into his former apartment.

A knock sounded at his door. Looking to it, he saw a friend, and welcomed her in, "Sophie," Chase greeted, "It's not Wednesday, is it?"

"It's Sunday, the sixteenth," came the reply, quite matter-of-fact in tone.

Sophie Conrad set down a brown paper-bag on the desk with one hand and with the other - and a determined smile -, took up the all-familiar Rubik's cube that had been placed near an adjustable reading lamp.

Chase's eyes followed the toy and met Sophie's glance with a brief notion of puzzlement before he lapsed into a silent chuckle.

"Good morning. I don't suppose you've had breakfast?" the doctor said as she sat down in the chair opposite of the Director and settled comfortably. "How are you holding up?"

"I'm good," his quick assessment was a superficial one, "No breakfast yet, I was just on my way... You?"

She laughed quietly at the diversion but regarded Chase with solemn eyes, nodding once at the paper-bag, "That's for you. I’ve already eaten.” Moving the Rubik’s cube slowly from one hand to the other and back again, she continued, “Have you been staying here since returning from Hawaii?"

"No," he answered, standing up to accept her gift, "No, I slept at a hotel last night," It was a different one from the night before, and he already felt like a nomad. Peering into the bag, he saw a complete breakfast: a juice box and a plastic vessel with two servings of a meat-and-potato pie. Even the provided 'spork' was interesting, "You think of everything."

"I'm your doctor..." she replied amiably, “It would be appalling if you should starve on my watch.”

"You're right," he said, sitting back down and opening the box, "You could lose your license."

She smiled but remained silent as she considered him. They had met every week for the past thirty-four weeks, and even if she disqualified his outburst at the Medical Center, she knew that he was hardly untouched by the incident at Nob Hill. No one in ACME was untouched by it.

Devineaux ate the pie. It wasn't his usual breakfast, but it tasted homemade, "Did you make this?" he asked passingly, "It's good."

"Thank you," she acknowledged, with a nod. "Unfortunately, that's all you're going to have. I've given the rest of it to a neighbour."

While eating he asked, "Have you signed the SOUL contract?"

"Yes,” she paused. “I’ve heard that the agents will begin their training today…"

"From your standpoint," Chase wanted an opinion, "do you think this is worth it?"


"The Direct Action... against these hostiles," Devineaux explained, "I'll be putting so much of our resources into it... if I was some outsider, I'd see this as a shallow vendetta."

"On the contrary, I think you've been remarkably composed for a man who has lost his home and its contained possessions," Sophie countered. "I've seen you make a lot of decisions - some very difficult ones, too..." she continued, gentler, "you've yet to make anything a shallow vendetta."

"As a friend and my doctor, you could be biased."

She granted him that conclusion but returned the question in kind, "Do you think this is worth it?"

"Would you label me selfish if I said I think it's worth it for me?" his statement was somewhat self-lacerating, "Marked man, no family, no attachments... gets to call forth an army to go smite his would-be assassins."

"No, not selfish." She was sympathetic as she shook her head. His struggle was apparent. "I think..." she paused to consider her reply, "I think that as long as you've chosen what is most right and what you most believe it, then it will be worth it."

Chase remembered when he was first in the field with Sophie Conrad. A small incident near the ancient silk road town of Miran, China, prompted a short rescue operation. Three ACME field agents went missing, Devineaux assembled a small search team consisting of him, a tracker, and a field medic. Instead of his usual responder, Dr. Conrad volunteered. While the Director was skeptical at first, Sophie soon proved indispensable. Still, not everything proceeded smoothly, but after twenty-four hours; with the help of a 'researcher' named Claire Sage, the mission ended well.

"Do you remember Miran," he began, "and the woman who helped us, Claire Sage?"


"She's the same mystery woman in that mayday message."

“Yes,” Sophie half-smiled. “She is Carmen Sandiego, isn't she?”

Chase put down the fork and leaned back into his chair, "When did you figure that out?"

“Last year,” she replied directly, “after the stealing of the Tower...” She had recognised the woman from some file photographs that were still in the medical records.

"Right," he stalled, careful not to reveal anything that might warp the story, "She found out about them first, these people who attacked Nob Hill, and the potential for a weaponized C-5."

“And now, potential has become reality…”

"This woman... doesn't like talking with words," he exhaled, "So now you know, she's in this too, and while I think she's been backhandedly leading us to this weapon... I can't help thinking she has ulterior motives."

The doctor thought for a moment. “Everyone has ulterior motives," she mused softly, “But... what do you think her intention is, in leading you to this weapon?”

"Other than to destroy it? I don't know."

“And what is your intention now, in calling forth an army?”

Chase's eyes immediately went to the base of his desk lamp only to remember that his Rubik's cube had been earlier confiscated by Sophie. All things aside, the woman leading him to Kamchatka had one clear goal. She wanted to prevent the corruption of a powerful technology. Her constant games provoked his natural lawfulness, and while he wasn't sure they shared motives, he knew his.

"Justice," he refocused, "I want justice."

((Apologies that this post references an unpublished off-site RP "Road to Miran". Will link to it someday.))

215 Gudrun

ACME Medical Center
Around 5:00 pm December 16th, 2012

Ivy Monaghan made her way to the ACME Medical Center sometime in the afternoon of December 16th. Like many academy graduates, Monaghan wanted to see Suhara Nakamura. It had been years since they worked a case together. Ivy remembered Suhara’s philosophy of slowing down, enjoying life... and she felt she had taken his words for granted. Although stable, the Japanese/American was not yet ready for visitors, so she left a sealed letter amongst a stack of cards and gathering of flowers that surrounded his room door.  

While on her way out, Ivy spotted a young woman reading in a hospital bed. She recognized her from the Winter Ceremony as Gunnar Svensson fiancée, and the commander was reminded once again of how many lives were linked to the success of this operation. Ivy tapped lightly on the glass to announce herself, then greeted the blonde.

“Gudrun, right? I just saw Gunnar this morning at training. How is AMC treating you?”

The young Swedish girl looked up to the voice that spoke her name, after a moment of hesitation, she smiled brightly.

“I am Gudrun!” She waved, “And you are Miss Ivy. The hospital is very nice, thank you,” Gudrun had been thinking to herself for awhile on what she might do about Gunnar’s situation, and she felt that this was a good opportunity to distract her from that, “Are you Gunnar’s friend?”

Ivy nodded, “I guess you can say that. I’m his Unit Commander.”

“Oh the one with the plan! You have signed this... Contract also? The one that said you will fight?”

“The SOUL? I did. We all did.” Monaghan sensed a slight bit of nervousness in the girl’s voice, and thought to ease her mind, “He’s a sharp kid, Gunnar. You don’t need to worry about him.”

Gudrun looked down at her closed book, “I didn’t know that it would be like this,” she admitted frankly, “When he asked to be married, I thought that I will have no more worries because he’s such a good boy. But now I see he is living in danger,” she paused, “Do you think I am a bad wife if I say that?”

That was a strangely familiar concept. “I don’t think you’re a bad wife.”

“And Gunnar can never be a bad husband,” she shook her head and the strands of copper blond hair, “so why do I feel so sad?”

Ivy knew she was the last person on earth who should be giving out relationship advice. “I can’t answer that for you, Gudrun... but you’re a long way from home and you just survived a very traumatic event. You’re allowed to be a little sad.”

“Ja... You are probably right.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Um...” Gudrun thought for not a very long time, “You can look after Gunnar for this? Can you help to make sure he comes home to me?”

“Of course,” Ivy slowly smiled, though the request seemed to weigh heavily on her. “I’ll watch him until you can.”

216 DericStorm

(Dr. Freeman is a NPC who is a local psychologist who handles cases involving law enforcement, fire, rescue and ACME.)

January 20, 2012 - San Francisco, CA

Deric entered the psychologist’s office and sat down across from him. He felt like he was running on empty, after not sleeping well for almost a week now, and was willing to try anything at this point. The other occupant of the room looked over at the young detective with a gleam in his eye.

“I have to say, Detective Storm, when they told me you requested this session, I thought I was being punked.”

Deric couldn’t help but smile at the crack; it was one of the reasons he liked Dr. Sidney Freeman. Despite being older, he seemed to have a way of dealing with younger agents. Deric figured it was just a method he used to get his patients to open up.

“Well...” Deric shrugged, “surprise.” This elicited a chuckle from the doctor. Deric couldn’t figure why, but he would bet money that Dr. Freeman had been a singer or an actor at some point. He had that air about him.

Dr. Freeman held up a manila folder as he spoke, “I received a list of the teams involved with the recovery effort for counseling. For some reason, I’m not surprised you were one of the names.”

Deric shrugged his shoulders in response.

“What did surprise me though, was how you were the first one to sign up for counseling,” Freeman joked. “I’m starting to wonder if the Mayans were right.”

Deric couldn’t help but chuckle at the joke. Until joining ACME, he had never liked dealing with shrinks. After his father died from leukemia, he was sent to a child psychologist for therapy. The combination of his mother’s death in a car accident 16 months later and the psychologist’s “shiny, happy people” mentality soured Deric to psychology in general for years. The next time he saw a psychologist, he really wasn’t in a listening mood.

“I was gonna have to see you anyway,” Deric said, forcing a smile. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last couple days.”

“From what I’ve read of the after-action reports, your team found five of the deceased,” Sidney said, glancing at the file he held. “That must have been hard.”

“Honestly, the night after it happened, I slept fine,” Deric sighed, slumping slightly in the chair. “It’s just every night since I can’t get a full night’s sleep. Does your report tell you the condition we found some of the dead in?” The silence was all the response Deric needed. “Nine people dead. I found one guy missing half of his head. For the past four nights, I’ve found a different person in that guy’s place. Last night...” Deric’s voice broke as he still couldn’t accept the image that ruined his sleep the previous night.

“Who did you see, Deric?” Sidney asked, handing the young detective a cup of water.

Deric took a shaky sip before continuing. “C-c-cali... um,
Calina Corranos.”

Ah, there’s the rub...’ Dr. Freeman thought, as he wrote a note to himself. Since he dealt primarily with ACME personnel, Dr. Freeman was aware of the “office gossip.” The young Irishman’s relationship with pretty Brazilian bomb tech was one of the worst-kept secrets in ACME. When he first met the young man about a year ago, due to an incident at the press conference regarding the disappearance of ACME Tower, Deric was more worried about what Cali thought of him. Sidney had advised the young man to tell the girl how he felt; Deric had obviously taken his advice.

“Why do you think you projected Cali in the role of the dead man?” Dr. Freeman asked. In his experience, having the patient work out their own problems usually had the best results. For all the Nebraskan’s bluster and farmboy image, Sidney knew Deric was an intelligent man. He just needed a guide to help him reach the right answer.

“I guess I’m scared,” Deric was staring out the window. “Things are gonna get heavy in the next couple weeks. People could die. I’m worried I might lose her.”

“She means a lot to you, doesn’t she?”


“So,” Dr. Freeman said, breaking the silence before it became oppressive, “what do you think you need to do to make sure your dream doesn’t come true?”

The look that passed along Deric’s face sent a chill down the psychologist’s spine.

“Whatever I have to,” Deric said flatly.

217 Chase


Since Barbara Rosen retrieved the Rubik's cube with two red squares, Chase spent several hours contemplating the electronic bug found inside. As a favor, Bran Brychanson at ACME labs took it apart then reassembled the pieces to better understand its function. Bran concluded that it was a fully functional hardware module meant to work with another piece of hardware.

"It appears as though this is something that should be sending a signal," the inventor reported over a sterile table at the electronic theater, "but it can't function without the mechanism that actually sends that signal. In other words, it's a SIM card to a mobile phone."

"And I have to find this 'transceiver'?"

"You see these gold teeth along the side of the node?" Brychanson lowered a magnifying LED lamp and held the dark ovoid against it until a thin golden line of ridges could be seen through the lens, "This is what attaches to the transceiver, whatever that might be."

The tiny pattern looked familiar, and Chase recalled where he might have seen something like that.

"Thanks, Bran," he said, quickly pocketing the bug, "I owe you one."

1221 Nob Hill

This was the first time Chase Devineaux returned to his apartment building since the blast. There was an eerie calm as he moved past the police tapes into the street he once frequented nearly every day in the last five years.

The building was structurally unsound, and cleanup already began around the outer rim of the radius, but many things remained exactly the way they were the morning of the attack. Chase was looking for his Camry. The company car, with its silver paint and blue ACME parking badge stood partially crushed under rubble. From surface examination, he saw that it had been processed, but he also knew nothing here would have been important enough for the evidence vault. Checking the glove compartment, he found a small set of keys. He detached these from his regular keyring when he changed from his locker to the temporary office and stored them in his Toyota for safekeeping.

ACME Lockers

In the ACME locker room, Devineaux kept a few possessions in his personal steel compartment. Number 73 held some white shirts, neatly folded, a pair of pants, name cards from various exchanges, and on a shelf above them all, was a painted metallic box. Accessible only with the keys retrieved from the crushed Camry, the box yielded a set of dog tags, a book of matches, and one half of a two-way radio earpiece.

Some time just after Chase Devineaux accepted the job as field director, a call from an old friend took him to a stretch of desert in Nevada where an exchange of words and information took place. He confiscated an unusual transceiver from that meeting, and kept it here should he need it again.

Leaning towards the locker room's neon lamp, Chase traced the curves of the in-ear radio until he saw a gold vein matching the bug's connecting 'teeth'.
Quickly, he took the earpiece and returned everything else to its original place.

Temporary Office: Director of Operations

This radio was out of commission for some time and he thought he had to find a power source for it, but he was happy to discover the piece worked on kinetic energy. A small bearing and pendulum inside rolled when the object moved, creating minimal electricity. Holding his breath, Devineaux put the node from the cube recovered in Hawaii to the radio from Nevada and heard a soft click.

An orange light pulsated slowly in and out and Chase counted the seconds. When he got to 25, the light turned a solid green. He put the object to his ear, but no sound came from it. He spoke, but nothing seemed to transmit.

A few seconds later, the green light turned off, then blinked systematically in what he recognized as international morse code.

Writing down the dots and dashes produced this sentence:

Parts of it were abbreviations only found in the ACME code book, and it took Chase some referencing to translate everything:
Attention, Conditions, Begin ACME code: Target is high risk, Ground infiltration recommended, Weakness at East Tower and North Wall, Approximately 120 Armed hostiles, Approximately 30 civilians, Arrest required, This is a friend, End ACME code, Over.

The light show ended and Chase sent back: 

SN [understood] With a pause he continued with less formality HWRU K [How are you?]

Several seconds later, he received:

WHN R U HR K [When are you coming?] The sender asked without answering.

JAN 12 K, he returned.

BTT LW [My battery is low] C VX JAN 12 K [Confirm a voice call on Jan 12]

C [Yes]

DSW [Do svidanya]

The transceiver went still, and the man in front of it stayed frozen in thought. He reviewed the information received, "High Risk", "120 Armed Hostiles", "30 Civilians"… this was more than enough to warrant an army.


(possible missing ending)