(Just something that's been rolling around in my head for a while.)
It wasn't until she kicked off the last hook that she noticed the change. The wind had stopped.
Kidman cautiously opened her eyes and focused. It was still bitterly cold, but it no longer pressed against her body, seeking to push through her in a chaotic bid to flee itself. Now it just...hung. Silent. She exhaled and the sound echoed in her ears. Far, far in the distance she could hear gunfire, the shallow echo of wind, but here it was empty.
It suddenly occurred to her that those on the other ends of the hooks could be dead. Kidman inhaled sharply as a wave of cold heat washed over her. 'Did I... kill someone?'
But there hadn't been a scream, no sound of impact. She moved to peer over the edge when something brushed against her face. It was then that she noticed them; tens, hundreds, thousands of spots just hovering in space. Kidman gingerly plucked one from the air and examined it.
"Is this snow? Why is it just...?"
She stared at it and it remained the same, resisting the heat from her breath. She flicked it away with surprise but the moment it left her hand it froze in space again. The silence was deafening.
She looked over the edge with abandon now. Of the eight men climbing, only one had fallen, or was in the process of falling, the look of surprise still clearly etched on his face as the loosed brick held motionless in the air above him. All the others remained on task, unaware that their hooks had been moved several inches out from the wall.
"What, what is this?"
Kidman turned and ran down the stairs to her fellows, only to find the bird-faced doctor paused in mid-stride, his cape held aloft by something unseen.
The girl waved her hand in front of him, and even almost dared touch his mask, but declined. Even in this otherworldly state, it seemed a perilous thing to approach.
"ACMEs? Are you oka-? Oh no."
The other doctor and nurse were crouched by the desk, hand in hand, but still as stone. Kidman tried to revive the three; shouting, pushing them about, but it was for naught. After a few moments debate, she reluctantly moved on to the basement tunnel and was dismayed to find the ACME guards, Deric and Nace, both frozen in defensive stance against several mercenaries, who where thankfully stone as well. She carefully looked a stone hostile over. There was no heartbeat, no breathing, yet they weren't dead, and just like the others, they seemed to be caught mid-moment.
It was as if time had simply...stopped here.
The sounds of normalcy, for a raid, were stronger as she traveled further in, indicating that this event was not pandemic. How far the circle of timelessness extended or what held it was unknown, and it nagged at her that she might be caught in a bad place if it were to suddenly undo now. She returned to her fellows, still in the positions she had left them, and peered out the second story window. There were two figures standing in the snow, seemingly engaged in conversation. The one closest to the tower was obviously of the enemy, but the other...?
Kidman took a brick and released it over the first man's head, but it merely held in the air. She sighed and pushed it down as far as she could, but it would go no further than she did, and eventually the girl decided to make use of it by using the floating bricks as steps. Over and over she traded them until she could jump to the ground safely, then left one brick above the man's head while the other she took with her to examine the second figure.
"Hey!" She called as she brushed the flakes out of her path. "Can you hear me in there? What side are you-...."
Then Kidman saw her face and her fingers slackened around the brick.
"...Mama?" she asked in a broken whisper, but the woman did not respond.
Then the girl fell still as well, a cold stone forever between them.
(More Kidman past, following http://carmensandiego.info/blogs/entry/How-it-began-part-two May end up not being canon...but I worked hard on it and I like how it came out, so here it be.:-))
"And that is why Batman is better than Superman."
Kidman nodded absently as she dozed on the garage counter. The scent of warm hay drifted in through propped open windows, carrying away with it the usual smell of diesel, while in the distance the stop and start of an engine droned over intermittent construction noise.
Suddenly a curdling scream ripped through the afternoon's comfort, sending the lot of them out of the garage to find a construction worker huddled over a body on the ground about a 100 feet away.
"Someone get a medic!" The man cried out as he fought to staunch the blood rushing from the woman's neck.
"I'm on it." Ted, one of the garage mechanics assured as he dialed into medbay. "The hell happened here?"
"Ma' nailgun slipped, got ‘er in the neck. Ah' think it hit somethin' big. Aw God, Jan, don't die on me!"
A fearful Kidman hung back as others rushed in, but the gathering crowd swept her forward until the injured woman suddenly came into view. She sensed a body in panic, struggling to to regain what it had but failing. Something slipped across her mind's eye and when the girl moved next, it was on instinct alone.
No one noticed the small agent force her way through the ensuing chaos, nor noticed her pale hands amidst the others pressing a bundle of bloody shirt against Jan's neck. Only after the medevac helicopter came and went did anyone notice her; slumped unconscious in the dirt.
Several hours later, a small group of technicians sat around in medbay tossing cards into a hat.
"Hey, hey Kid. Hey. Hey. Hey."
"Stop it, Tony, that's annoying."
"Your face is annoying."
Kidman rubbed her head as her teammates came into view.
A thin man with scraggly beard stared back intensely. "What the hell happened to you? I didn't know you was afraid of blood. Probably shouldn't look at your hands."
The girl held them up with some difficulty, for her whole body felt as if it was filled with wet sand. "Oh, that's not my blood. I say, is the lady okay?"
"Okay, not afraid of blood. Why'd you pass out, then?"
Kidman paused to put words to it. "I think... I used too much thought to make to fix the hole. Is the lady okay?" She asked again.
"It don't really take much thought to hold a shirt down-" he got out before Ted elbowed him in the ribs. "Jesus, Tony. Kid nearly saw somebody die, okay? Drop it."
Rum, a large man with a warm, deep voice gently pushed Tony aside. "Jan'll be fine, hunny. They thought something major got cut, but it just passed over. A miracle, they're saying, ‘cause where it hit, it shoulda got somethin' real bad."
"Bloody." Boulder muttered in disbelief. "Crazy how that stuff ‘appens."
Kidman looked at them quizzically. "It did cut open. We just closed it is all."
The others looked at each other with uncertainty until Tony asked the obvious;
"We did what now?"
"You know, when you.... you show the pieces to grow back. With thoughts." She hazarded, trying to demonstrate with her hands. Kidman wasn't entirely sure what she had done, but it didn't feel like anything unusual, just difficult and exhausting. "And not you guys, the man next to me."
Tony scratched his head.
"You mean the guy that was with her? He wasn't healing her with thoughts, Kid! He was applyin' pressure to stop the blood! Don't you know first aid?"
"But I... Are you sure?"
"People can't heal with thoughts!" The thin man burst out in exasperation.
Kidman stared at her hands as something ominous rippled beneath her mind.
Rum reached over and pat the girl on the shoulder sympathetically. "Ahm sorry, hunny, people just can't do that sort of thing, but don't worry much about it. Jan'll be fine. Go have a wash off an' get some sleep. You had a rough day."
"You're better off without ‘em anyway." Tony said as he lit a cigarette. "‘cause if you really did have magic healing thought powers or whatever, they'd lock you in a lab." He let go a puff of smoke. "Forever."
Kidman stood in the shower for what seemed like hours that night, trying and failing to match two pieces of reality together. What had happened with the artery was real, she was sure of it. All that she had perceived through Jan had left imprints in her mind as memories do, although differently than usual.
‘If people can't heal with thoughts, why can I?' She thought as stepped out into a bathrobe. ‘I'm just like everybody else.'
She caught sight of herself in the mirror, and for the first time, really looked.
A growing mystery looked back.
Grey hair wasn't like everybody else. She hadn't seen it on any another young person. Then there were her scars. She had seen those on other people, remnants of terrible injuries, often from terrible things like wars, fights, or prisons, although there was the occasional mislaid firecracker.
‘Then where did all of mine come from? How? Why?''
The bathroom grew colder and dimmer as Kidman traced the lines on her face.
‘What... happened to me?'
She had never cared much about her hazy memory before, but now as she cast about the inky blackness for answers, its true horror finally made itself known.
There was nothing there.
Nothing at all.
Darkness stole up behind the sun's fading glory and slowly embraced the small figure traveling towards it.
Kidman had wished to circle the island, or walk as far as she could. Days before she had managed to haggle away some money from Vic, and with it she had bought new clothes days before. Only now had she gotten to wear them.
The fever that came on the night she had arrived had certainly not been welcome, but it turned out to be not entirely unwelcome. For nearly three days she had been forced away from herself, and she found her mind a much quieter space when she returned.
Kidman paused to pick another shell off the beach. She already had tens of them in her wicker basket, but the thrill of finding the 30th one was the same as finding the first. Still, the action of bending and standing made her slightly dizzy, so she promised each shell would be the last.
It had been concluded that a compromised immune system had be the cause. Custody with ACME would have been more than enough, but the loss the mask to Chase felt like a loss of virginity, and the dreams...
Kidman's face darkened and she looked out over the ocean for solace.
The consensus had been that she never speak of the dreams, for it made people nervous. Had she never found 'San Raphael' meant something, had not spent nearly 24 hours in isolation drawing them, had not felt the ghosts of her lost beloved's affections for the grey man, surely she would be inclined to agree that they meant nothing.
The fever had seemingly burnt much of her memory of them, the trauma they carried remained, and she dearly resented being left alone with them. Carmen's fear and exhaustion now had a solid context, and months of suffering now made sense, but she couldn't speak of any of it, to anyone.
It hurt more than she would ever be allowed to say.
Kidman saw a piece of glass in the sand and sighed, then placed it in her basket to throw out later. Again the thick ooze of lethargy swayed her and she steadied herself against a bench.
It could have been the explosion, it could have been the fight with Rosen, it could have been the vague coherence that in a month's time they could all die in the Russian wasteland and leave a madman free for their failure. It was more likely a cumulation of all of these, yet something stood out amongst them; the sight of the back of her shaved head between two mirrors in her hotel bathroom.
Beneath the fuzz ran two long, S-shaped scars. It was the last thing she could recall before falling ill.
Nausea rose at the memory and she shook it off as she continued on her way.
She had kept her head covered ever since by a white fisherman's hat, and when the day had been brighter, a large pair of sunglasses. The sun hurt her skin when it touched her directly, but she resolved to let it do so to make her skin colour to a more natural tone and possibly erase some scars.
She had forced herself to buy clothes with colour, and now wore the loose, red and white striped tank top and grey-blue linen gaucho pants she had procured. Her shoes were merely plastic flip-flops, though chose to go barefoot when she could. A wicker tote held her only other possessions; the hotel key card (possibly a disposable phone) a bottle of water, a half eaten bag of chips, and dozens of shells mixed with glass.
Really, Kidman owned next to nothing.
‘Just like poor Mr. Chase.'
No, she would never be like Chase. He was fully human, and while she didn't believe she was an alien thing, she felt it, deep in her bones.
"Chase..." she murmured to the stretch of sand ahead. It was growing ever darker and a voice nagged at her to go back to the hotel. She paused to watch the water roll over the sand instead. She had never seen a beach like this before. Once she had gone with her old group to Blackpool, but it was nothing like this. Everything here was so lush and vivid, every wild inch of it beckoning her to renounce her grey ways and to stay here forever.
A vision of Carmen freezing in the tundra slammed her back to reality, and the voice in her head whined ever louder of the dangers of dark places until she reluctantly turned back.
If she had to put herself in danger, it should be for a good cause, but going back meant having to socialize.
Kidman kicked up an extra bit of sand as she walked back towards the remains of the day. Happy as she was to be back with her fellows, being so resurfaced an old wound. Vic, Joe, and Patty were seasoned agents, trusted agents. Had Vic told them that she had failed to merit that rank a year before? Details of the night she had met Carmen had gone in and out of focus over the months, but the emotions were burned to memory. The Queen had looked disappointed in what stood before her.
Really, she couldn't see Carmen being happy at any of them if they could manage to find her. They would be breaking the cardinal rule; don't look for Carmen-
Kidman paused mid-step.
"Roux!" she said to herself "That's where I know that name! He was the last to see her."
He had tracked down the boss in a rather reckless fashion, and yet, he was still allowed to stay.
‘I suppose that's something, but Joe and I went to ACME, and then convinced Vic to give over her things on a hunch. The others have a history, so she might spare them, but I...'
It didn't matter. She would do it all again. Even if the visions had been dismissed as the offshoot of psychosis, she still believed them.
‘I did what I felt I had to.'
And for a long while after Kidman thought of nothing. Warm as Hawaii was, it was still winter and the breeze off the ocean made her wish she had bought a jacket, but there was no money left for that now.
‘I'm almost there anyway' she thought as she caught sight of the neon motel sign in the distance.
Other concerns sought to present themselves but she wouldn't allow them. The raid was out of her depth of understanding, a year's worth of nightmares were now consigned to her ever incoherent history, and the confusing flickers of attachment to ACME's Director of Operations led her into places she felt she had no business being in.
For a second the sight of her head scars blinked in to her line of sight and her jaw tightened. She clutched her hat miserably in the middle of the vacant street, a solitary thing bathed in the pale pink glow of the (hotel name)'s sign.
Kidman looked up at it with faint nostalgia. She had often imagined Carmen hiding in one of these old motels when she first went on the run. She had always wanted to experience it for herself, and she wrapped herself in the comfort of old fantasies she ascended the ancient stairs.
‘Please, Master, just let us find you and know you are safe. That is all I want. Past that... I no longer wish to think on.'
I figure I should probably explain what happened with Kidman and why she was the way she was.
Okay, so when I was asked to join, I brought in a character that was already in existence in another story I wrote. She was rearranged to fit TECS more or less, with the micro-pk thing remaining. I'd never done an RP like this before, and was still in novel mode, so my plan had been the age-old bildungsroman;
Start Kidman weak.
Have wise wizard Gandalf call upon her for a quest
Kidman goes on quest
Kidman saves destroys the ring, saves the princess, whatever
Everyone has a party.
So in Feb 2012 I start phase one;
Start Kidman weak.
Wise wizard (Carmen) calls upon her, but makes her wait a year (or two) to train because wizard wants Kidman to cue up for Paradigm Shift. Tower gets stolen. Somewhat traumatized Kidman is still weak and waiting for wise wizard to call upon her to save the princess.
Wizard is about to make contact when RP bubble pops.
Kidman is still weak and waiting for wise wizard to call upon her to save the princess.
Begins to feel a bit nervous.
Kidman is still weak and waiting for wise wizard to call upon her to save the princess.
Angst is growing. Am tempted to change course, but really want to stick to plan of natural growth. Just needed to hold out a little longer.
Wizard starts collab to Call upon Kidman to Save the Princess and reveal So Much Plot, including the micro-pk/healing thing.
Wizard then suddenly disappears.
Kidman (and I) are worried.
Wizard is missing. Kidman (and I) are very worried.
Wizard is alive but unreachable.
Kidman is still weak, and now in stasis.
Kidman is still weak and in stasis.
Kidman is still weak and in stasis.
Signs of wizard on the wind.
Kidman is still weak and in stasis.
Wizard has semi-returned, but collab to Call upon Kidman to Save the Princess and reveal So Much Plot, including the micro-pk/healing thing is now obsolete.
Kidman is revived, but still weak and waiting for wardrobe to let her into Narnia.
Wizard is back but written as missing. Without wizard Kidman is still weak and tries to find a way to cope by asking for storyline that will link her to wizard to get around this. Dream link is approved, but is slowly pushed back. Kidman is forced to find new wizard and asks for storyline that brings her in contact with Chase.
Kidman finally has ‘wise wizard to call upon her to save the princess' moment, but with Chase. Micro-pk is not revealed due to ad-hoc dream link.
Kidman is at last able to level up and start Quest to Save Original Wizard.
So you see, when I set up Kidman to develop through the RP, I took a gamble and lost.
I write by putting a character in a story and writing what they do. Kidman stuck for nine months worrying over Carmen made for a very cranky, depressing, and terrified character, something only the RP's progress could change. I probably should have stopped writing while I waited, but I thought the story would move at any moment, so I kept on going.
Anyway, Chase-wizard has broken the curse! Now I can actually write her doing stuff! I ask you to forgive my blunder and possibly time-skip all that angst if you can in your collective memories. ;-)
I promise it will never happen again.
Kidman lay on her back on the extra comfy mat on the floor. She felt much lighter now, freer, perhaps even as free as before she turned to hiding. She had been holding her breath for so many years, swimming for so many miles. At last, land.
It was quiet in her small cell. Quiet and dim. And safe.
The ACMEs had been more than merciful with her, especially Chase.
He had kept the lights off in her cell. He had been patient with her mask, had even come down himself with a gentle solvent. He had kept her out of the system, and now, most importantly, he had listened.
‘The signal to Chase...' came a whisper in her mind and she gently turned it away. ‘The signal is sent.'
No one had ever asked her about the dreams before, so she had never described them, or even sought to pin them down. "What is San Raphael?" had been more a question to herself after hearing it said aloud. She hadn't expected an answer.
Certainly not that answer.
‘If that was real, then how much more?'
There was much time to do very little with, and the girl was exhausted, so she turned her attentions to sleep and investigating what she had long sought to ignore.
It proved to be more difficult now.
The red fire was more a phantom ache, even during the times of day it was usually the worst. Kidman reached for Carmen's pen for perhaps the hundredth time before she remembered it was gone.
‘The pen... Was that it? I focused in it so much. Is that how this happened? Can I get back to her without it?'
After several hours she eventually made headway, and made note of everything that seemed significant.
Now she floated at the surface and arranged the data she had.
‘His eyes... When I asked why he hadn't ended it yet, he didn't have an answer. He didn't know. He should have known. This should have been something he would map out long ago, but he hasn't.'
She closed her eyes and recalled his face. He wasn't stone anymore, but flesh and blood. He was human as any other, and his iron eyes held shades of emotion as any other.
‘Perhaps you don't know because you don't want to.'
There was no denying that he had saved VILE.
The irony lightened her heart.
‘After months of trying to destroy us, you throw us a rope.'
Kidman had been surprised that Joe would even tell Chase that VILE was on the edge of disbanding. If anything, it should have made ACME less inclined to help, but Chase gave him the chip instead. Kidman had come instead for the files or ACME's resources, something she had initially failed at.
Kidman closed her eyes and smiled softly.
That didn't matter now.
Chase was clearly concerned, and even if he couldn't find the files or didn't believe in her clairvoyance, the seed was set. He would know what he needed to know when he saw it now.
At last she was free to rest.
‘...the signal to Chase, to Chase...' whispered in her ear as she drifted back to sleep.
‘He has it, Carmen....' she murmured back. ‘It's going to be okay...'
(OOC: This isn't to slander Ivy. It's to show the enviroment Kidman grew up in, and how she developed her fear of Ivy. Also, I don't know much about Chase, or I'd be afraid of him, too.;-p)
It was a cool fall Saturday, the sort where you got a bunch of friends together and fixed machines while a taped Brit-com played on in the background. There were at least six grunts either doing odd-jobs or drinking coffee, one of which was unusually small.
"I'd like to go live someday. What do you guys think?"
A man with a five o'clock shadow glanced at the grey-haired girl that was handing him tools. The term ‘go live' was a grunt term for going on a heist, or any situation where arrest was possible. ‘Grunts', as they lovingly called themselves, usually worked behind the scenes. Very few actually went to the front line, and while some considered it a great honour to be chosen to do so, others had a different view.
"Go live? And risk getting Ivyed? No thanks. Maybe if I had fightn' skills or sommik, but I like my bones how they are."
"You know, beat up by Ivy, the ACME chick."
Kidman scratched her head. She was still getting her footing and didn't know much about ACME, other than the fact that they wanted to catch all her friends and put them in jail.
"Why would she beat you up?"
"Because we're criminals?"
"I thought we were just arrested if we got caught."
"Well, that's how it's supposed to go down," came another voice from across the garage. "There's supposed to be this thing that if we don't hurt them, they don't hurt us, and usually, it works. But then... there's Ivy."
Kidman chewed her lip. "Surely it can't be that bad..."
"Yeah? Hey Boulder, you got access over there?"
A heavy built man with tanned skin looked up from his computer. "Aye. Whotcha lookn' fer?"
The room went quiet.
"The kid here doesn't think she's that bad. Why don't you go over there and take a looksee?"
Kidman heard a few chuckles as she looked over Boulder's shoulder at the screen. A red-haired woman stared back with frightening intensity. She was smiling.
"That there is Ivy," Boulder said as he scrolled through what VILE had collected of her. "‘Multiple black belts, with specialty in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Taekwondo. Also incorporates kick boxing, Krav Maga, and Black Tiger Kung Fu. Has short temper and is easily provoked. Has caused serious injury. Use extreme caution.'"
"You want to see? We have pictures of the injured."
"We got pictures? I wanna see this."
A thin man with a mangy beard came over to the table, followed by the others as Boulder navigated the database.
"All right, so this is from a job in Russia. We had two grunts blocking for Carmen to get out. Her brother just fakes his way out, but Ivy-"
"Sails right through the air, slams a guy right in the shoulder, full force. Bam! And then down on the floor! The guy's just blocking! No gun, hands out, you know? But he got out okay. Just bruising. No wait, dislocated shoulder. See?"
Kidman winced. "Why, why would she do that? It says security was already there!"
"Because she likes to hurt us, kid. Because we're the bad guys, and heros beat up bad guys."
"Yeah, ‘cause, you know, we ain't human beins or someten' Tell her that one with the sphinx."
"Yep. Infamous Sphinx incident. Okay, so some grunts are on top of the Sphinx, the one in Egypt, and they're there to make sure the kids get the clue Carmen left for them. And Ivy just sweeps his legs out, just knocks him over the edge."
"‘Sweep the leg, Johnny. No mercy.'"
"And that thing is high! He managed to fall onto a ledge, but busted his leg up real bad. Guy could have died, though."
Kidman looked at the picture of the man's leg. "She knocked him off? Did he come at her?"
"He was a watcher! I mean, what do they expect? Do we ever hurt anyone? I know we grab them sometimes and lock ‘em up, but seriously, your average mugger on the street does worse. But here's the thing; the only one that does this is Ivy. Here, this guy got kicked in the face. In the face!"
"This chick here, another dislocated shoulder, broken collar bone. This guy, broken nose. This guy... oh this guy really got f*cked... He was on a log transport and Ivy cuts the ropes. Guy falls off the truck, over a cliff, and then the logs land on him. And these are heavy, right?"
The thin man squinted at the picture on the screen, then whistled. "Greg Mirkum... You know, you don't often hear about that one because it makes the boss upset. I mean, Ivy busts on us, but she didn't mean for that to happen. Besides, we don't know for sure that's what killed him."
"Aww bollocks, Tony. Wha'd she think would happen? We're noffik but traffic cones to these guys-"
"Whatever. I still say she should know she probably killed a guy."
"There's no proof of that. You can't just something that serious without knowing for real."
"But we can agree that this guy, right here, got knocked off the truck when Ivy cut the lines, and then died, like, two weeks later for no reason."
"Rum, for god sake, we're f*cking criminals! You think they're gonna be all pansies with us? And we aren't being made to do this. Greg could have fallen off on his own."
"But he didn't fall off on his own. He got crushed because Ivy don't see us as worth a thought. We're supposed to care about them, but f*ck us, right? And we aren't just criminals. We're flippn' VILE. We're the PG of crime. He was a nice guy. He didn't deserve that. No reason for it. No reason."
The room got quiet save for the rain and the Brit-com's laugh track, which was now wholly inappropriate. Kidman anxiously pulled on her fingers as Boulder continued to scroll through the injury reports. They were mainly regular work-related accidents mixed with a more than a few others related to live events, but whenever it was mentioned that an ACME agent was involved, Ivy's name was alarmingly common.
"But...why, then? If the others don't, then why her? Why do the ACMEs allow it?"
Boulder shrugged. "I don't know, kid. I don't think she killed that guy. Some say she did, but most don't. I will say she does a lot of damage, and she don't seem to care how much. As for why ACME don't stop her? Like Jag said, we're f*ckn' criminals. We're awesome f*ckn' criminals that do it classy and try not to hurt anyone, but they don't care about that part. As far as they're concerned, we deserve anything they give us, an Ivy's only too happy to do it. Stay away from her, or she'll break you too."
From that day on, Ivy became a point of fear and frustration for Kidman. She soon found that a few of her guardians had suffered Ivy's wrath at some point, and was further traumatized when she began to see the results first hand.
Most didn't care or laughed it off. They had had worse, and what could a thief expect?
But others were like her; docile types that lived in the grey space that Carmen had provided and had little experience with violence. They were the engineers and technicians who needed to be on site, and couldn't conceive of a reason to fear a broken rib.
Was it mistaken identity? Heat of the moment?
Or was it that this Ivy truly enjoyed what she did?
VILE had very little in the way of proper propaganda, but as the grunts circulated their war stories, Ivy's infamy grew, until she became a veritable boogeyman.
Keep alert, or Ivy will throw you off a building.
Train hard, or Ivy will kick you in the face.
Don't mess up, or Ivy will break you in half.
And above all, don't get caught,
Or Ivy might kill you.
(Continued from http://carmensandiego.info/blogs/entry/How-it-began-part-one )
She wasn't found until nightfall, when she followed the smell of food into the cafeteria.
"Hey, hey, who are you? You can't just come in here."
The girl looked at the man in front of her blankly, then pointed at the pasta on another man's tray.
"You don't talk?"
The girl continued to point at the pasta and the man scratched his head.
"Anyone know what the hell is going on here? Jesus, looks like she fell in a chipper- Wait, where are you going?"
The girl was now trying to get behind the lunch counter. The man sighed. This was one of those situations that called for the police, but that wasn't how things were done. Not around here.
"Somebody get this kid some medical and some food- Hey, you can't just take that!"
Kidman's first, and perhaps only theft at VILE; a handful of pasta.
‘This kid' became Kid, with ‘Kidman' added later as a half-joke in reference to Nicole Kidman that stuck. Other than that, little was known, and really, little was asked. VILE wasn't the sort of organization to pry. At first she merely floated around, but curiosity led her to be drafted into small tasks, and from those she mastered larger ones. She did eventually learn to speak, or remembered how to speak, and when she did, she had a strange accent that couldn't be placed, but it soon wore down into the lilt of northern England.
Kidman wasn't aware at first what VILE was, and by the time she did, she didn't care. Theft wasn't presented as a terrible thing when the stories of Carmen were told. It was a daring game against the world, a fantastical thing that only Carmen and her magical team could do. A team she was part of.
Her naivety wore away with time, to a certain extent, and she became fairly on level with those around her, except she didn't look back. It didn't occur to her to. How would she know? How would one know they were missing their memory if they could not remember having one? No one asked, as it was considered bad taste to do so. Clearly the girl had escaped something terrible to have such scars.
Clearly to everyone but Kidman.
Lots of people on base had scars.
Lots of people on base had grey hair.
She had been told once that she looked like an ‘anime character' and was shown a picture of a young girl with silver hair. If it was in a magazine, it had to be normal.
Unusual, but normal.
She had her uniform, her little room above the garage, her teammates, her pasta. For nearly two years Kidman was normal, unusual but normal, and very, very happy.
For the first few minutes, that was all the girl could perceive. Then the wind, the heat of the sun, the scratch of that within which she lay, and pain. She sat up. Squares of green sprawled out before her, endless to the horizon. She watched the grass move in waves with the wind. Her mind was empty of thought, save for the barest of basic.
The girl stood up weakly, fell, but succeeded in staying up the second time and surveyed the space around her.
'A field. This is a field. I am in a field. Those are bushes. That is grass.'
She looked at her hands, then at her clothes. An old white t-shirt and blue and grey striped pajama pants. It did not feel familiar, but nothing did, and somehow did not seem to be cause for concern. A sense of urgency flitted at the edges but she could not grasp it. It was, as dreams tend to be, just how it was.
It eventually occurred to her that standing in a field was not amounting to anything constructive and she slowly made her way across the moor towards a narrow dirt road, each step purposefully placed.
‘Roads go places.'
This particular road was upon a particularly steep hill, and so the obvious direction to go was down.
‘Rocks make my feet hurt. Don't put feet on rocks.'
Whether she walked for minutes or hours, she couldn't say. All there was was forward until such time that she arrived Somewhere.
That first somewhere was a dilapidated shack. A man in old jeans and a checkered shirt reclined in a rocking chair in front of it; a beer in hand and a radio at foot.
The girl stared at him.
The man stared back. "The hell happened to you? You fall in a chipper? Wots with tha hair o' yor?"
The girl cocked her head, but said nothing. Some of the words made sense to her, but she couldn't quite find their meanings.
The man stood up to get a better look.
"You speak English? Jeeze you're a right mess. Wotcher name, kid?"
She sensed that a response was expected, and soon grew visibly frustrated with being unable to.
The man sighed. This was one of those situations that called for the police, but that wasn't how things were done. Not around here. He pulled a transceiver out of his pocket.
"Hey Yeller, I got a situation up front. Some beat up kid just wander' in, don't speak a lick."
A fuzzy sound answered back and an argument commenced, but this was of no interest to the girl, and so she wandered past unnoticed to the path beyond.
[ Derringer ]: Carmen isn't ALL ACME agents think about, you know.
Kidman is suspicious.
[ Kidman ]: What else, then?
[ Derringer ]: There are other criminals out there too ;) Your boss doesn't consume all of our waking thoughts.
[ Kidman ]: Well that's good. Master needs to be free.
[ Derringer ]: Well I wouldn't go that far.
[ Kidman ]: You have no idea what chaos would ensue if she were gone.
[ Derringer ]: Enlighten me?
[ Kidman ]: Master is a cleansing element of the underworld. She keeps many things in check. Chase knows more of it than I do.
[ Derringer ]: Well as I see it, there's only one Carmen. I'm sure you'd agree no one could pull of the stuff she does or run VILE the way she does. so getting rid of her would leave you guys in a scramble.
[ Kidman ]: For many, Master is the third option between the black and white. There are many who cannot chose white. Without Master, our only choice would be black. Really, many of us are not criminals at all.
[ Derringer ]: That's a shocker.
[ Kidman ]: Is that sarcasm?
[ Derringer ]: Partly. Everyone has hard knocks. Not all of them are lining up to join VILE. There's always a choice.
[ Kidman ]: Not for me there isn't.
[ Derringer ]: Because you've convinced yourself to see it as such. But I know how loyal you are to Carmen so...
Derringer saves breath
[ Kidman ]: Perhaps, but I can't think of any other existence I could have where I could remain unmarked.
[ Derringer ]: ...unmarked?
[ Kidman ]: There's no record of me anywhere. It has to stay that way. Most people would just make a fake past, but I can't lie, so it's not an option.
[ Derringer ]: Hm I was about to suggest that. Is it wrong to lie to protect yourself?
[ Kidman ]: I'm not capable of it, mate. Design flaw, I guess.
[ Derringer ]: Well I'm starting to see your point.
[ Derringer ]: But not everyone in VILE is in the same boat, I'm certain
[ Kidman ]: I may seem straight up fanatical, but it's more complicated than that.
[ Derringer ]: Not fanatical at all. I see where your worldview is coming from.
[ Kidman ]: Lots of refugees, ex-cons, defects, exiles, ect. Society won't have us, but we aren't really that bad. Master runs a lot more than what you know. Take Anja, for example. She doesn't even know what Master really does.;-p But technically, she works for VILE.
[ Derringer ]: Oh please...there are tons of strays in acme as well
[ Kidman ]: Strays is one thing, people that need to stay off the grid is another. ACME is a law based thing. It's just not safe for some.
[ Derringer ]: I'm just not buying it completely. I dunno.
[ Kidman ]: Well some of us ARE straight up criminals.;-)
[ Derringer ]: It'd be fine and dandy if you guys were just laying low together. But when you start stealing things... Then I start to lose sympathy.
[ Kidman ]: Yeah... but you could argue that that is a service too.
[ Derringer ]: And how so?
[ Kidman ]: Makes people learn about things.
[ Derringer ]: lol! because I'm sure Carmen's aim is to educate the public on valuable objects ;)
[ Kidman ]: Hey, the Mona Lisa is only famous because it was stolen. Plus, it's far more entertaining to watch than most world news. A touch of fantasy in a mundane world.
[ Derringer ]: Entertaining for you, yes. maddening for other
[ Kidman ]: Oh come on. You always get the stuff back.
[ Derringer ]: Because what would she do with otherwise?
[ Kidman ]: Sell it is what most would do. Hold it for ransom. Blow it up for kicks.
[ Derringer ]: And that's something I'd seriously ask her if I ever came close enough....where do you even put things like the statue of liberty?
[ Kidman ]: MAJICK!
[ Derringer ]: well you can't really sell a lot of the things she takes. holding it for ransom seems like a viable option....and blowing it up is too crude for Carmen's taste
[ Kidman ]: You see?
[ Derringer ]: But to be fair, she's the only one who has the know-how to even pull these kind of thefts off.
[ Kidman ]: And if Master was gone, there would be a power struggle and lots of people like Contessa would be off the leash, which you DO NOT WANT.
[ Derringer ]: Still, you guys wouldn't be as organized. Much easier to round you guys up.
[ Kidman ]: Yeah, you'd think that...
[ Derringer ]: Even if you guys were to get a new head, they wouldn't be nearly as skilled.
[ Kidman ]: Things take on a whole new dimension when dicipline is thrown out.
[ Derringer ]: This is true.
[ Kidman ]: Go team Master!
It was her natural state.
‘No...' her inner voice reminded her. ‘Your chosen place.'
Kidman was huddled on the floor in yet another empty hallway, her head between her knees. Days passed and she pulled further and further away from the others. She was a mummy unearthed; once preserved in stasis but now rapidly decaying. The pain of it had turned her so bitter that she could no longer bear to interact with anyone. She couldn't stand the sound of her voice or the words she spoke; all so grey and acidic.
She couldn't stand what she was.
"I'm so..." She murmured dully. "Look at them all, so strong, confident, full of memories, full of humanity, full of...stuff. I should be like that. I could be calm and graceful, like Master."
Another jag of pain.
"Master... how could you...? No. This isn't your fault. You didn't make the rainbow for me. You didn't make it for anyone. I just hid here because it was convenient and you haven't thrown me out. I have nothing to do with you, Carmen, or anyone. I have nothing to do with anyone. I can't relate...to anyone."
Her inner voice began kicking at her again.
‘Then get up and do something useful. Go talk to people. Stop being so pissy and get up!'
The girl stirred, but lacked the will to do much more.
The voice continued to berate her.
‘You think you're the only one with problems? The only one with demons? The only one who's 'different'? So you didn't get chosen. So VILE is about to slide into chaos. Do something about it! You're so afraid of being-'
Suddenly the voice scratched away and something buckled inside her. White warped with shadow, the feel of hands, a tumble of noise, a fear of drowning. A wave of heat rolled over her and the girl fell forward with a gasp. She grabbed desperately at her hair for focus, but it just came out in grey, matted clumps in her clammy hands.
Then it stopped.
Kidman lay on her side, cheek pressed against the cold tile floor in a daze as the urge to vomit came and fell.
‘Don't think of such things...' she bid the voice weakly.
For the first time in weeks, perhaps months, the cloud of acid that clung to her fell back.
In her delirium she was calm.
She turned over on her back, letting the cold seep through her sweat-soaked clothes to pull her back from her nightmares.
"I'm so... angry...." She said again, much softer, sadder. "So angry at everything, everyone...."
The empty holes in her mind had been so easy to ignore before, but not now. Now was the time to galvanize, to center and solidify against the enemy, but there was nothing there. Any attempt to build a new identity had invariably failed, There were just too many unknowns, rendering her impotent on almost every level she could conceive of. All she could do was built card houses with shadows and try and accomplish as much as she could before it collapsed again. Now that would not be enough.
"Even orphans know who they are, where they came from. I tried, Carmen, really I did, to get past it, but what kind of person...?"
Kidman glanced at her reflection in one of the thick-paned windows. A sickly thing looked back. She was not what one would call attractive. Her hair was flat grey, and her skin pale and thin. The scars, the circles under her eyes, and awkward manner; there wasn't much beauty there.
But at least it was something familiar.
"That is me, there. That is me." She said with absent resolve.
She wasn't well liked, she wasn't particularly skilled, save for the one skill she could never use, and she felt a life she never had slipping away before her.
She would rather be angry at Carmen for forcing life upon her, but it was just too absurd. Carmen was just a person. And a god. And a person. And a god. The woman controlled her very existence through VILE's oasis. Kidman could get, food, water, shelter, safety without anyone asking who or what she was. It would be impossible anywhere else.
But Carmen was also just a person.
'A person who did something incredibly stupid.'
The weaker side of her rushed to chastise but this time Kidman sided with her more belligerent voice.
"She did something stupid. Taking the tower was stupid. No one wants to tell her it was stupid. No one wants to believe Carmen, the Master, could do something stupid, and because of this Master was allowed to do something stupid. Now we'll all pay, just like Vic."
A stronger person, a less fearful person, a more valid person could have stopped him from leaving. A more valid person would have the right and ability to tell Carmen the truth. Any person could, really. All people were valid. They were born, were children, were teenagers, climbing layer by layer from the solid earth. Carmen was just a person like all others.
"But that's still more than I am."
Kidman slowly pulled herself up into a sitting position and looked at herself in the window once again.
"There's got to be more to me than this... I felt it, for just a moment."
It had been there, a flicker of something more solid in her, something good, but it disappeared beneath the blades.
"Perhaps I'm not meant to..." she thought as she slumped against the wall and fell away to sleep.