Ever since his in-depth discussion at the Austrian cemetery, Flag found himself bouncing from one place to another in order to "prepare" for the heist to come. However, preparation only came in the form of information delivery and had he known that he would have to deal with so many people, he would have outright confessed to having the ability to pull the heist off himself - an exaggeration regarding his personal abilities, but accurate enough when considering their rivals technology.
If it was so easy, then why all of the preparation? It was for his safety, of course.
The Sivoan always felt an odd sense of protectiveness from Carmen. It wasn't the kind that a child would feel from its parents, but more like what a prized possession would receive from its owner if it had the ability. Perhaps this was because he was something of a rarity on this planet... and she certainly liked to collect rare things.
Conceivably, he should have been grateful for the extra consideration for his well-being, but he really just didn't care.
His idle thoughts faded as the Cessna touched down on the short runway of a training facility that belonged to somebody else in the syndicate. As the small plane slowed to a stop he picked up the leather messenger bag that held his only possessions along with another case that needed to be delivered.
A company of trainees jogged past as he set foot on the tarmac and he found himself oddly comforted by the sight. Despite the disgust that some people had for these "grunt farms", he understood that the brainwashed instincts that they instilled were necessary in making sure things were done properly. No amount of ACME training could match the loyalty and reflex that the camps physical drills ingrained into their newest members.
It reminded him of his military training back home.
Clearing his head of anything but the assignment associated with this pit stop, he made his way towards the compound to drop off his package.
Kidman always looked when an aircraft landed. It could be Carmen, after all. It almost never was, but it could be. This time, as usual, it was not Carmen, but what she saw stopped her dead cold.
'He has gray hair. His hair, his hair is gray. He isn't old but his hair is grey, and....are those ears? Are those...? It...that...'
Flag had just reached the door when he felt eyes on him. Even though his employer has ensured that he didn't have to disguise himself within VILE territories, he often did so because it prevented awkward situations like this. He turned to shot a warning glare at the girl gawking at him and fell short. For a moment he felt displaced and confused at the similarities between them, but then settled on the notion that she had been a lot more successful at changing the color of her hair than he had ever been.
"Nice dye job." he said dismissively and returned to his errand.
Kidman cocked her head. "Dye job...? You mean, my hair?"
The immediate reaction was to be saddened by the remark and shy away, but it looped back over on itself given the appearance of the speaker, emboldening her further. "It...it isn't dyed. This, this is how my hair is. It is this way because...I, I don't really know why it is this way. But it is. Like your ears."
Flag found the door was locked and grunted under his breath. "Wonderful."
He had tuned out the girl as soon as he turned away from her, but with the new predicament her words started to seep into his awareness. "Say that again."
Something about the man's voice made the girl recoil and a voice screamed at her from the back of her head.
'Shut up! You don't know if those ears are real! You're going to screw up everything! Just turn around and walk away.'
'Walk away, dammit!'
"Oh...I'm sorry. I just noticed your, yes, I'm sorry, I'm off."
She fought with herself a moment longer before she reluctantly turned to walk away.
Flag sighed at his situation. "You're fine. I should have done better to hide them if I didn't want commentary."
The girl stopped short. "They're...real?"
'No no no! Keep walking! Oh damn it...'
"How...how is that possible? How are they real?"
He waved the question off. "Long story short, I'm not from here."
He preferred doing things solo, but he also had a small time frame in which to deliver this package before his trip to San Francisco. "Is there another entrance where I can drop this off?"
At that Kidman blocked out the angry voice in her head entirely. She needed the information he held.
"I can show you another way in if you'll answer a few questions." She stated bluntly as her mind swore loudly in her brain.
Flag let out another small sound of frustration at that. He didn't particularly want to answer any more questions but would allow it this time. "Walk first. You can ask on the way."
Kidman led the way. There were thousands of questions she could have asked, but there was only one that mattered above all else. "If you aren't human, why has no one tried to capture you yet?"
The walk that they had barely started came to a halt at that one question. It was a question dripping with experience, and that unsettled him more than he would ever admit. "They've tried. ACME even succeeded once, but that's another story altogether".
He knelt so that he could bring his slitted sunset eyes to meet her cool gray ones. "What makes you ask that?"
Kidman's heart pounded against her chest as a wave of fear passed over her. She couldn't find her voice at first, her thoughts drowned out by the screaming in her head.
'Look away! Look away!'
She came to her senses and did as her head commanded.
"It just seemed a logical question to ask." she said just a little too awkwardly, a little too loudly. She was stuck now, half way in and half way out. She knew she should run, but the need, the desperate need for this knowledge was just too much. "Why don't you hide? Aren't you afraid?"
"Right..." He stood up and allowed himself to be led again, disappointed in the answer that he received. As promised though, he continued to answer her questions. "I hide as much as the rest of VILE does."
The moment he started walking again the girl spilt out her questions haphazardly like a bottle uncorked. "Is that why you work for her? Because it is safe here? Were you not afraid of what she would do? What the others would think? Has anyone ever tried to do tests on you? Are you a genetic mutation or are you from another planet? How did you get here? Can you get back? Can you do any majick? Has anyone ever made you do majick? Does ACME know? Did ACME try to do tests on you? Did Master?"
Flag turned around, the annoyance at the sudden bombardment of questions clear on his face. "My reasons for working with that daydreamer are my own, but VILE makes it convenient. Nobody has done tests on me because frankly, I haven't given them the ability to do so and please..."
He set the document case down and crossed his arms. "... tell me what gives you the impression that I have a knack for prestidigitation?"
Kidman paused, more in her own head then out of it. "Presti... You mean majick? I'm sorry, that was rather crude... I mean advanced...hyperphysics... Doesn't matter. The important thing is that... Well how could you make it... Of course... you're stronger..."
The girl's face fell, but she quickly recovered. "Do you think they would have done tests if you hadn't gotten away?
He shrugged, his arms still crossed and the annoyance at her avoidance of his questions apparent. "They had the chance to. I was in their medical care at the time."
Kidman stared blankly. "They didn't...not even question it? How is that possible? I mean...the ears! How could they not want to...?"
Her voice fell away as she unconsciously traced a scar on her chin. "I'm sorry. For all the questions. The door is down those stairs..."
The Sivoan kept his eyes on her. "You're not from Earth either, are you?"
Kidman stared ahead. "I don't know what I am..."
"How could you not know what you are?"
The girl balled her fists in frustration. "I, I just don't. How would I know what I am? I just woke up here one day. These scars were new then, but I don't know where they came from. But they came from somewhere. I had to come from somewhere and I'm afraid of somewhere, because that's where the scars came from."
She looked off into the distance. "If I get caught... somewhere might come back for me..."
Flag smirked a little at that. "Scars are a story of survival. Why be afraid of something that you've already overcome?"
He had more scars than one could count. Numerous floggings, failed rituals, fights, etc. were etched all over his body and were the primary reason he wore such heavy clothing. What thwarted him now was the question of why - when he hated kids- was he talking to this girl?
After a pause long enough to let his former statement soak in, he turned towards the basement entrance she indicated. "We can continue this if you would like, but I have to drop this stuff off for Carmen or else she'll probably lecture me."
Kidman wavered. "At least you know where yours came from... mine...mine feel more like a warning of things to come."
She looked down the stairs. "You don't have to worry about Master lecturing you...she isn't here."
This was the second individual that Flag had met that referred to Carmen as 'master,' and he shook his head at it. Although she was to polite to say so, he was fairly certain that she didn't care to be addressed as such.
He let a small laugh escape. "I didn't mean that she'd lecture me now."
"Oh... " Kidman said, then thought a moment. "Master...never mentioned there was another- a non-human... Does she know?"
Kidman stared at him for a long moment, unable to say anything.
'She knows....but did nothing? But wait.'
"Do you... Would you happen to have any...abilities, as it were? Not from here? That she might find useful? If so, does she know? Has she asked you to use them? Do you think she would...make you?"
She waited for the angry voice in her head to scold her but nothing came. It was listening too, despite itself.
They reached the door at the bottom of the stairs and he paused to find the words he wanted. "She doesn't know the scope of my abilities, but recently has taken an interest in them."
He placed a hand on the door handle and pulled the door open. "Carmen does appreciate the talents of her minions, but isn't known for forcing them to do something against their will."
Kidman stopped short. The voice in her head awoke from its stupor and started its racket once again. This time she was inclined to listen to it. She had gotten what she sought from the man, and although the information was one person's opinion and could easily be less than true, it was something, and something was far more than nothing.
"Thank you," she said instead, took one last look at the man and ran off, leaving him to enter the compound alone.