(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.
For those of you who have never been, the website tvtropes.org is a page dedicated to breaking down every facet of storytelling across storytelling mediums. It is a highly addictive site. See if you can find your character in there.
I think this is fairly obvious; QuestForIdentity
TheWoobie - but cut her some slack.
MysteriousWaif - also, this.
WaifProphet - and yeah, this, though she's not too bad off.
Poor Kidman.. FriendlessBackground
She doesn't mean to be, but she is, though so far just in chat - DeadpanSnarker
Partly because of this - HopeIsScary
In chat, she mainly plays this as well - ObfuscatingStupidity
What Kidman fears most; TheyWouldCutYouUp
[ 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's Kidman's tiny sountrack! Yeay!
Kidman in chat - 'Amnesia' by Chumbawamba
Kidman general - Mainly in the RP - 'You were there there' on the ICO soundtrack
Kidman serious/core self - Part RP, in chat to a certain few. 'Love' by Delirium
I find the videos themselves sort of distracting, so best to click the link and do something else while listening.
This is where all my lovely chat creations shall go.
Storm as Storm
Who took Storm's corned beef?
Happy birthday storm
More to come, I'm sure.
(Continued on from http://carmensandiego.info/blogs/entry/How-it-began-part-three )
Exhaustion and hope that all would be restored by morning had driven Kidman to bed early, but she found only restless shadows there and so abandoned her alcove for the garage roof. Now she gazed out over the moors, cool and pale under the moon.
"Grey hair, scars, and lost memory..." she murmured to the starry sky. Separately she could dismiss them, together they were a curiosity, but under the impossible they resonated with frightful intensity. Once benign questions grew larger, split apart and spun into endless loops until they threatened to crush her, but there were no answers, and at last the growing dawn begged her surrender.
Back in her alcove Kidman made one last attempt to sleep, but darker thoughts floated in. If people with ‘powers' were hunted due to rarity, and her scars were fresh when she came here...
‘What if this isn't over?'
Something twisted sickeningly in the darknesses and she quickly pushed it aside, recentering her focus on the VILE propaganda that plastered her walls.
Kidman sighed as she gazed at them, visions of a simpler, safer life. Then a thought occurred to her, and she pulled her coat on once again.
‘But if I'm not actually rare, then nothing should change. I'll just have to prove it.'
Rum arrived at garage to find Kidman there ahead of him, hunched over the computer. "What are you doing here so early?" he asked as he put his keys down on the counter.
"Just because you can't do thought healing doesn't mean no one can do it." Kidman replied without looking up, a touch of desperate agitation in her voice. "Lots of people can do it. It's not unusual at all, see?"
Rum looked her over. Dark circles ringed the girl's eyes, her uniform was misbuttoned, and stray tufts of hair stuck out at all angles from under her cap. He shook his head.
"You didn't sleep at all last night, did you, hun?"
Kidman fiddled with an empty styrofoam cup guiltily, then pointed back at the screen. "But see? People heal with their minds all the time.They wouldn't put themselves online if they were in danger, and they have lots of people that come to get healed. There's nothing wrong with me."
The older man pulled up a stool next to her and considered her thoughtfully. "You really think this all happened, don't you?"
"Yes, of course I do, because it did happen. I was there, I felt it happen. Why else would-?
"Hey, hey now. Then how about this, then? Did you know that sometimes when something really bad happens, like with Jan, the brain will make up something so it can deal with it. They call it a ‘psychotic break'. It'll feel real, but it's just your head trying to protect you. It happens to lots of people. Go on and look that up while I make us some coffee."
The colour cautiously came back to Kidman's face. "You mean I might not have it at all?"
"Sorry hunny, no men in black comin' a courtin'. You'll have to be content with runnin' from the million other people chasn' us."
The more Kidman read, the more the idea of a lapse of sanity made sense, and she meticulously purged thought-healing from her mind as days went by. Soon life returned to its normal groove and the girl happily followed suit, and yet, she spoke a little less now, ate a little less, hid a little more. The night spent on the roof under circles of chaos had given her a glimpse of the edge of sanity, and there were still three other mysteries. But those were old mysteries, familiar questions with no proven danger.
‘I'm just stirred is all. Perfectly normal. Just need more time.' she thought as she watched the tall grass wave in a weedy lot between two stone storage houses, one of many places she liked to hide in and think. Then a patch of grass rustled contrary to the prevailing breeze, catching her attention. The girl knew it was probably one of the many small things that ran about here, but something felt wrong, and after a bit of looking she she found its source.
"Cor, an adder!" Kidman squeaked and jumped back, but the snake remained where it was. Only the first few inches seemed able to move, as if its spine were broken. She came in closer to inspect, but as she did she felt something familiar begin to stir awake.
"No." Kidman whispered fearfully and pulled back. "No no no."
‘Yes! We can fix this!' cried a thin voice from within and Kidman pressed her hands over her ears. "No, this isn't real. I'm regular, people don't do that. I'm a safe, normal and safe."
Every muscle tensed with the growing desire to run, but the grass rustled again as the snake struggled and failed. Had it been here long? Was it scared? In pain?
"I, I can't just leave it here like this," she stuttered with teary eyes. She fought her shadows a moment longer, then slowly held up her jacket and tossed it over the snake. In a swift movement Kidman found the back of its head and held it the way she had been shown with her left hand, leaving her right free. It was a risk handling a venomous snake this way, but adder bites were rarely fatal to humans, while paralysis, she was sure, was fatal to snakes.
‘This is ridiculous' she thought all the while. ‘People can't heal with thoughts. This isn't going to work. I don't want this to work, I don't want....'
A seemingly empty space in the back of her mind reached across the expanse between them and a conversation commenced.
‘Tell me what you need' her voiceless voice asked and the snake's biology replied, taking what it needed from her to repair itself. Kidman didn't understand the physiological processes that she was enabling, but she eventually caught onto patterns and mimicked them, learning as she went until her energy was spent.
When Kidman regained consciousness it was cooler and darker. Crickets chirping out their evening songs in her ears, unaware that she lay in the grass amongst them. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the snake slip out effortlessly from beneath her jacket. They regarded each other a moment as their new realities dawned upon them. Then the snake turned, and with a flick its tongue, disappeared into the coming night.
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.
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.
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.'
(Written by Kidman, Carmen, and Vic. Edited by Kidman. 'Combined with Edge of the Earth')
Kidman was on the roof, as usual. No one else came up here and it had a wonderful view of the moors. Everywhere in the moors had a wonderful view of the moors. She felt safe here, where she could see everything and no one could see her. There was a time when this base saw more action, many years ago, mostly training. She had been trained here. She once thought to finish it and go on to be an agent like the others, go out and pock the walls set by law-enforcement with rainbows.
But she had never been able to take that last step, last steps.
That would mean going....out there.
The wind tugged at her hair. It always amazed her just how much stronger the wind was up here. It was only a two story building. It took very little to move into the current and be swept away. She had been careful to avoid it but knew if she wanted to remain in this group, she would have to do something to benefit it. There were all kinds of cracks to be filled and Kidman schooled herself in the art of odd-jobbing. Back when this base had been useful, she had been useful, but both had faded with time.
"If I could just stay here forever... "
Carmen wasn't a fool. Of course she knew this place was still occupied, even if she wasn't familiar with who did so. Someday the remaining stragglers would be sorted and reapplied where they could be useful, mixed back into the fold.
Kidman hoped it never came.
'I was so tired, Carmen, I'm so scared, of everyone. I don't exist outside of here....'
She paused, squinting into the growing dim. One by one the field lights flickered to life, the halogen hum her friend. Earlier she had attempted to speak to others, just in case she was placed back in the world. Just to see what it was like.
It had been daunting.
'Has it really been so long?'
"I should have been a doctor. I should be, yes? With this gift of mine. I would go to medical school and learn how the system works, how the chemicals interact, how the polypeptides align. Perhaps I could cure something, forge an antibody from a disease. I could and I should. Whenever someone fell off a roof or Ivy broke one of us in half, I could fix it. I would have to practice, train, suffer for it, but at least I would, could be something. If I wasn't so scared..."
Kidman looked at the scars on her hands, ghostly lines on ghostly skin. The never seemed to fade. She wondered if they were as noticeable to others as they were to her. She never told the truth when asked about them. She didn't lie; no, she was unable to lie, but simply brushed it aside. The questions stopped eventually and she let her short past fade into her comfortably dull routine. She almost never thought about any of it anymore...until recently.
Something was moving in the wind, and it was gaining on her.
'borrowed' Bell 212 painted to match an Italian Police Helicopter was dropped
off in Slovenia and exchanged for an Airbus A318. Vic "The Slick"
Fumigalli was able to pay for this on credit, since VILE was known for being
good on their word. He knew he did a great job, but from the singular look on
Carmen's face, he wasn't sure if one mistake was going to spoil this for him.
VILE agents sat dotted about the plane, most were asleep as the bird glided northward. Vic glanced at Carmen. As was usual with most short flights, she was awake.
"Should we talk about this?" Vic said as he stood next to her seat, "You remind me of an angry version of yourself."
"Did you send for a transport to pick up Kidman?" Carmen asked instead, ignoring his inquiry.
‘She's asking about work, that's good.' Vic thought. "Yeahum... got that taken cared of."
"Perfect. And no, this isn't the time to talk. We'll go over everything after we reach the safe house." she replied, dismissing him.
Vic complied and went back to his seat, then stretched himself out and took a nap.
Kidman looked at the letter in hand, then back at her cipher, and the letter again. There was no use checking it a third time. It said what it said, and really, she couldn't be completely surprised.
It was a long time coming.
She spent the next day in a state of constant bombardment. Shelf upon shelf of dusty memories and emotions rained down upon her at every turn, each demanding space in her tiny knapsack. Truth be told, she wanted to leave it all behind. How could she hope to stand before the Lady buried under so much debris?
'I should have cleaned this out years ago, but it was so much easier to pretend it wasn't there...' she thought now as she sat huddled against the pre-dawn chill. The transport would be here soon. She swore she could hear the engine's murmur on the wind and a speck came into view. It suddenly dawned on her that she would be interacting with a new person; whoever it was piloting, and a new sense of urgency took her.
'I have to make a shell. Who will I be? What can I maintain the easiest? What would give me the best advantage? Why is this even necessary? Because this is another person, or because this is a person closer to the center? Good god, I forgot, there is no hierarchy. That's what Mr. Kerr had said. I have to make a whole person! I...I don't even know how to begin.'
Her thoughts were interrupted by the roar of the helicopter and the rush of wind against her face. She couldn't help but feel a thrill in it, but as the door opened a burst of fear sprinted out in front.
'This copter leads to Carmen. You're in over your head.'
The moment of doubt turned over into rebellion and she thought on it no further as she quietly took her seat.
The pilot glanced at her. "You been here by yourself this whole time?"
Kidman watched her home shrink and fall away below her. "It wasn't always empty, but yes, I suppose I am the last one."
"Why didn't you ask for a new position earlier?"
She had no answer for that, not one she wished to say. "How long until we get there?" she asked instead.
Mercifully the pilot didn't press. "A few hours."
The girl nodded and let her head fall back against the seat. Now that she was in the air she felt...lighter. Long ago she used to ride in the back of transport copters as they brought supplies up from the channel. She had planned to learn how to fly one herself, but then...
The grass was bright green below and the sun was hot. People were everywhere, yelling, laughing. There was a crowd, gathered around some beautiful machine. So much fanfare!
"The leader is here! Our leader is here! Look, girl, look. Our leader!"
She could barely see her but she could feel her, hear her. Awe, and then, inexplicably, terror.
"She's coming, she's coming!" They cried around her. The noise grew louder, the colours brighter, garish, and the girl grew smaller, grayer. At last she turned to flee, but hands grabbed hold. The light was almost upon her-
"Hey! Wake up! You having a nightmare or something?"
Kidman awoke with a start, her seat belt clenched in her hands. "Oh, I, I'm sorry. I must have fallen... how long was I asleep?"
"The whole trip, but you didn't start fighting 'til now. Don't worry; base is just down there. You'll be off in a few."
"Thank you..." was all she could manage to say.
The A318 eventually landed on a small stretch of old road among former farmland. Those that exited the transport with her scattered as soon as they reached safety. This would strictly be a drop-off; the plane will leave by morning to be exchanged with another source of transport. All VILE members disembarking here would remain at the nearby facility until further notice.
Carmen departed the plane in full regalia, the color-changing Alexandrite gems about her neck alternating between aqua green and violet as they reacted to the varying light sources. A navy blue woven bag was draped over her right shoulder; one of the few indicators that this was present-day. Even the foggy fields around her looked convincingly antiquated. Due to the expedited nature of the retreat from Venice, backup wardrobes had been omitted, and so she now dragged, with some difficulty, the weight of the beaded dress as she maneuvered down the flight of stairs in her laced boots. For the masquerade the thief aimed for authenticity, and while she looked like a queen, she hardly felt like one as she stepped off the perilous metal ramp.
Bright white lamps in the airfield lit a path to the current temporary base of operations; an old compound not far from some marked swamp grounds. Within peripheral vision, Carmen spotted a pale face peering at her.
‘Yes', she recalled, ‘this one.'
She turned towards the girl and smiled warmly.
"Come with me," she called in her calming contralto. Her hand moved out to Kidman with the palm facing downward as if she expected it to be held but continued on ahead, leading the young woman to a private room.
Vic shot a quick glance at Carmen's action and scratched his head instinctively. He couldn't stay long; he had to go visit his Ma soon, but he might as well stay long enough to see what Carmen wanted with this kid.
Kidman gazed numbly at the halos in the mist. Her heart was exhausted and sought an empty space, but even in the calm of twilight she could not hold onto peace.
Carmen was coming.
She had hoped that Carmen would have already been there, already involved with something, leaving it to someone else to direct the girl where to eat, where to sleep. She was still just a grunt, she reasoned. There would be no reason for the Lady to address her directly unless it was necessary and most likely as part of a group. However, if she was just arriving now, she would be sure to note all that surrounded her.
‘Including me. No, she won't notice me. It will be fine, just fine.'
A shadow of a thought drifted up to the surface. ‘You're afraid of her.'
Kidman blinked. She poked the statement and it gave forth the same threads of fear she felt from the dream she had had on the way over. The one she had had so many times before but failed to understand. She brushed it aside.
‘I'm not afraid of Carmen. I'm just nervous. Anyone would be. She's Carmen. Besides, the summons means nothing. I'm just being pulled back into the fold, is all. Re-consolidation.'
The voice beneath her just laughed, tugging at the dark corners of her mind as it did. Then it jabbed her in the side.
‘Look up. She's here.'
A dual rush of excitement and fear washed over the girl as the glare of headlights poured down upon the path below.
‘She's human. She's not an image, she's a person. She bleeds and cries and brushes her teeth like everyone else. That's the magic of it, that someone could weave such high fantasy out of a mundane world. Don't forget, don't lose sight, or all is lost.'
Still, the urge to hide was strong enough that Kidman shrank into a corner as she watched the plane land and the tens of people spill out from it into the fog.
‘She's not there,' Kidman thought with a clash of relief and disappointment, but the last figure to leave brought her back to full attention.
"mother of god..."
The words slipped from her lips as Carmen descended the ramp dressed in a way she couldn‘t comprehend.
‘What is she...? Why is she dressed like...? Are you taunting me? Your presence wasn't enough to crush me, you had to dress like that?'
The thoughts made no sense to her and she couldn't find the means to interpret them over the loud, singular plea from her consciousness for her to stop staring.
‘Stop staring, stop staring, goddamn you, stop staring! She's going to notice, she's going to-'
The Lady looked her way and the world froze in stark relief.
"Come with me."
‘That voice...' Kidman thought as the woman reached out to her through molasses.
Carmen didn't wait. There was no reason for her to wait. She had made a command. There was nothing else but to follow, and yet, the girl could not move.
‘What does she want with me? What could she want with me?'
Tears stung her eyes as she felt the stares fall upon her, all asking the same.
‘What are you doing? Follow her!' A voice screamed inside her.
The sun was hot and the grass was green, and all around the colours grew garish. The light grew near and she was graying... no, not graying but fading, translucent, and fragile.
‘I can't, I can't! She, she‘ll see right through me!'
With a sudden jolt her vision became clear. It wasn't Carmen that she feared, but what Carmen could easily do. What perhaps only Carmen could do.
‘You knew this.' she thought angrily at her subconscious. ‘You knew and you let me come anyway. Why? Why are you killing us?'
‘Killing us?' her soul raged back. "I'm saving us! You're the one that buried me. I saw a second chance. You have two choices now, both of which may end terribly, but which would you rather have? Dying alone and wasted, or dying after having lived?'
Kidman felt herself fall away as she watched Carmen walk ahead into the mist. This was perhaps her last and only chance to salvage some meaning to her life.
"I joined you because I believe in your unusual heart. I have to put my faith in it now." she whispered to her retreating figure.
She closed her eyes and followed.
The long and dreary hallway echoed with the sound of Carmen's alternating heels, nearly drowning any noise made by her follower. This rhythmic tempo grew louder as they moved deeper into the base, away from the clamour at the entrance. In front of an imposing steel door, the resonance ceased and the air filled with cold silence.
Carmen's voice penetrated the stillness.
"It's too quiet around here." She said as she unlocked the door with a simple key.
Inside, a warmly carpeted hallway extended into a bedroom with antechamber, one promised to VILE's ringleader. Carmen left the door open after walking through, the beat of her shoes now dampened by the softer floor. She pulled her bracelets off as she walked, the left one first, then the right, and discarded each onto the carpet, followed by her earrings and necklace. By the time she reached the large leather chair in the bedroom's sitting area she had left behind a veritable trail of accessories. Last to leave her was the woven sachet, which she placed beside her as she sat down.
The thief exhaled melodiously into the evening as she rested on the furniture. In sharp contrast to the pleasant quietude, her mind was overflowing with thoughts. Everything led to the golden Mask of Helen, and the operation that surrounded it.
Her eyes focused on the pale face in the room with her, and she leaned gently forward to study it further. When she had first discovered a name on her roster that ACME had yet to acquire, she thought it would be to her advantage. Yet seeing the girl now, Carmen realised that she may have been too hasty. Whether or not Kidman would play a role in her new game with ACME would be determined in the next hour, but first, a formal introduction.
"Hello Kidman," she said with a smile. "Do you know who I am?"
Every step had echoed in the girl's mind, the tick of a clock counting down to something massive, waiting to envelope her as she traveled further into the darkness.
The urge to pick up after the woman as she dropped her things was surprisingly strong but Kidman fought it off. Cleaning was a nervous habit she couldn't indulge at the moment. Now she stood before her, caught in a three-way battle of wills, her fear, her anger, and Carmen.
"Hello Kidman," Carmen said with a smile. "Do you know who I am?"
The girl looked at her, puzzled. Was this a trick question? "Yes...?"
"Very well then, do you know why you're here?"
"In this room? No...n-not at all, no."
'Good god, her voice...'
Carmen smiled, a glint in her eyes. "Have you seen the news yesterday evening? Particularly one about a new year celebration in Venice?"
Kidman felt she might burn away under her intensity. "No, I, I don't generally follow...I-I'm sorry, was I supposed to?"
Something kicked her in the shin. ‘Stupid! Don't act so feeble. Feeble people are useless.'
Carmen seemed unperturbed. "Ah, no matter. I'll tell you of it. There's a man, Kidman, named Chase Devineaux. Are you familiar with that name?
"Not... so much." Kidman murmured and looked at the floor "I've been rather secluded as of late..."
Then her attention shifted.
"Is he dangerous? To you?"
Carmen laughed at the mention of ‘dangerous'.
"Let's just say he's equivalent to ACME's... lucky charm. He's proven rather... effective. He returned to ACME not long ago, and already it has caused complications for us."
Kidman felt herself relax just a bit. '...her laughter is beautiful....'
"Are you looking to steal him, then?" she asked without thinking and immediately chastised herself.
The woman let it pass. "Ah, no. While that's not often a problem, I foresee a direct setback. We used to be... friends, he and I. I feel he knows me, perhaps a little too much for comfort."
The idea of anyone knowing Carmen well enough to be troublesome bothered her.
"Can anyone really know anyone?" she said, again without thinking and clapped her hands over her mouth.
‘What is wrong with you?'
‘I just, I want to talk to her, like-'
Carmen paused briefly and Kidman cast her eyes to the floor once again.
"I'm sorry... It's... been a while since I've been around...people."
"Yes..." Returning a kind smile, the woman accepted that apology, "Now, the reason you're here, is that I may need a 'lucky charm' of my own."
Kidman's heart jumped in her chest. ‘Me? Useful to her?' "But I... How?"
"Mm, precisely. You're not at all ready."
The girl looked away. ‘Now that you've seen my decrepit state... No, I can't, I can't lose this. I need to, I have to, even if it to use my body to prop open a door.'
"I could be." She said, her voice calm with resolve. This was the path she had chosen. There would be no more running now. "What is needed of me?"
Carmen drew a long breath.
"I'm going to be taking ACME Tower... from its foundations." She said solemnly, for the first time solidifying her intentions.
Kidman cocked her head. "Why ever for? Could you not just steal its contents?"
"One would think, but I need to get rid of the C-5... among other things."
"For reverse engineering?"
"I don't want the technology this time, I want it gone."
Kidman wanted to ask why, but decided against it.
"It could take many months," Carmen continued, "but during all this, I want you to complete your exercises."
"Will I be with other people for these exercises?
"Yes, there will be others."
A flash of old memories, happy memories filled the girl's head. The thought of returning to that comradery, that atmosphere she had lost so long ago, outweighed the fear she had of being out in the open again. Exercises were generally not considered ‘fun', but for girl it was almost exciting.
Carmen recessed further in her chair. "Tomorrow I'm leaving with Vincent and I won't see you until after the tower has been stolen and then returned to ACME, but I'll be following your progress."
"I'll do my best." Kidman said as she stuffed her fear of failure in a corner. She would deal with it later. Then she paused. Carmen was right there, in front of her. After all these years...
The woman was somewhat surprised. "Mm, don't thank me yet. We'll speak more on this when you're ready."
"No... I mean... for what you have given me already. Sanctuary."
Carmen nodded politely as she made a mental note to tell Vincent to keep a watch on all trainees. "I haven't given you anything I wouldn't want for myself."
Kidman wanted to say more but her survival instinct stopped her. "I should... I should go then..."
Carmen studied Kidman again, unsure of what she's seeing, and the girl's mind seemingly filled with astraddled fear. 'No, no, don't look through me!'
The headache that had plagued the woman all evening returned before she had the chance to note that it was momentarily gone. Carmen briefly closed her eyes as she recoiled with pain. "Yes, and ask someone to bring me water and a some codeine? Please."
Kidman's attention snapped back. "Oh! Are you hurt?"
Carmen laughed listlessly at the oddly hopeful comment. "I've been flying too long, and I need to deal with a lingering headache."
The girl's mind immediately switched into a different state, mapping out how and what would be needed to alleviate the pain.
'No, damn it. Get out of here!' screamed the voice inside her.
'But, but I can fix it!'
The thief noted the girl's hesitation and it occurred to her that she might need to clarify her statement. "Kidman, you may go now."
"Yes! Yes, I'll get that, straight away, yes." Kidman stuttered thankfully. She took one last look at the woman in the chair, wanting to remember her as best she could for the coming months, then bolted from the room.
Vic walked down the hallway from the other side of the facility, a metallic container in hand. As he came up to the door of his boss's den-of-the-day, he saw the kid Carmen had met with run out in the opposite direction. The con man unconsciously scratched his head again as he knocked against the doorframe.
"Can I come in?" he asked, his eyes already far inside to where Carmen rested in the leather armchair. "I got you something to drink."
"Shut the door on your way in." Carmen spoke without looking at him, her concentration remaining upon the task of unlacing the Venetian boots that were suffocating her legs.
Vic stepped in, careful to avoid the abandoned jewellery and stopped at the dividing line between the bedroom and whatever room it was in front. Some V.I.L.E. agent might run in to help Carmen with her shoes, but Vic knew better than that. She was the kind of gal who needed a lot of space. If it wasn't his business to sit next to her; he liked to stay a respectable distance.
Carmen thrust her footwear to the side and gave the con man her attention. "You said you have water?"
Vic entered and handed his leader the stainless steel canteen. "It's elder flower. One o' the doctors said you should have some sugar."
Carmen accepted the vessel and placed it compliantly on the low table next to her ottoman.
paused a moment in thought. "You know, that kid, she entered to be a
lackey. You know that, right?"
"I do know," the thief replied, "but people change status all the time. You saw her supervisor's reports? She was doing very well... and then she suddenly stopped."
"So you want me to put 'er back into the fray with the other four noobs?"
"I've spoken to her as motivation; the rest is yours. I want the full report after, then have Rosso recommend one of the four to me."
Vic took note of everything and nodded. The one newbie deemed best suited would get the promotion. He was almost certain it wouldn't be Kidman.
"I got one more thing," he started, "Prospects on a new talent, goes by the name Kerr, when I get more info, I'll set that up and you get to d'cide."
A knocking at the door indicated that the order of painkillers and water had arrived. Vic Fumigalli accepted the delivery.
Carmen imbibed the elderflower drink, its saccharine warmth soothing but acted as an instant reminder that she was tired. She placed the drink down and stood up
I need to sleep. We'll review in the morning."
"Still want the codeine?" Vic asked
"Leave it." She replied with an air of finality. "Goodnight."
Kidman spent her first night after meeting Carmen hiding in the swamp, crying.
For her, it was the worst thing that could have happened.
"What does she want with me? What does she want with me?" was all she was able to repeat to blackness around her. She had been wet and cold from sitting in the mud, but she hadn't known where else to go to be alone. They had all seen Carmen lead her away. They all stared now and the girl had no answers.
Now, a month later, she still had no answers, but many unsettling theories. There was much time to form them in basic training. At the very least her new home felt close enough to her old one for comfort. Another derelict compound cloaked in secrecy, removed from the world yet perpetually watching over it. Base 210 was much busier than 407 had been when she left it.
'That is an easy enough thing to accomplish,' Kidman thought as she felt about for the tumblers in her practice lock. She could have taken the lock to a quiet place to work, but she made the effort to stay with people. She didn't necessarily talk to them, she just wanted them there, proof of Carmen's power. It was easy to slip back into the background when there were others around. She could be a happy, faceless brick in her fortress once again.
Although that was an illusion Vic wouldn't let her have.
'He's watching me again. I see him, talking to teacher, glancing at me.'
She felt torn. Kidman would have loved to have met Vic under normal circumstances. The man was a legend, after all; almost a right-hand man, but it was because of this that she had reason to worry.
'He's watching me for her...'
The pick she held jumped from her fingers and hit the floor with a telling 'clink'. Vic looked up and Kidman looked away. Every time he was there she fumbled. It was especially bad if he showed while she was in physical training. She had come by most of her injuries in his presence.
'The things he must tell her.... though if he tells her I'm a failure, perhaps she might forget me.'
A wave of anger washed over her. 'How dare you wish such a thing?' her soul's voiced raged, so fierce it caused her to hunch over in her seat. 'Pick up the pick and do it again. Do it until you get it right, until you are useful. You will be useful to Carmen. That is why you are here. That is why you exist now. Don't you dare seek to shirk your responsibilities to the master.'
Kidman stared at the pick dully, then managed to pick it up with shaking fingers.
Her soul took pity on her.
'Don't you...want to help her? It's Carmen. You know where she could be vulnerable. It can't be left unguarded. We can't let her fall. She is hope, and she is wonderful. Don't you want to protect that?'
The girl sighed heavily and glanced over her shoulder. Vic was gone.
'Yes... I know what I wish for her, but I doubt I could provide. That job requires a stronger person than I am, far better than I am, and I doubt that is why she sent for me... Why...why did she send for me...?'
Suddenly the room was too noisy and open and hard, so she left.
Kidman spent the rest of her day in hiding in an empty room, mind full of fog.
By month two Kidman had an answer, as far as she was concerned. Even though Vic no longer showed up to watch her, she still felt that others were, and though she accused herself of paranoia, she was quite sure the trainers were coming down on her harder than anyone else.
'I'm being built up for something. I know I am. Why build up a grunt, then? Because they are expendable, yes? I was a leftover on the edge. I was already gone. I never was if records are to be taken literally. I have no real skill-'
'Except the one-'
'and no one will miss me. I'm to be sacrificed.'
The thought alternately scared and comforted her. She wasn't sure herself what she meant by 'sacrifice' and even if she did have the nerve to ask Carmen, she wasn't there.
'Not that she'd say.'
Kidman picked another lock with ease. She would have to try something harder but again she delayed, and again her soul chastised her for it.
'If you're so sure Carmen is going to 'sacrifice' you, why are you still here?'
She had little experience with the woman herself, but she knew of her, what she symbolized to her. Carmen was an outpost in the black and white world the girl felt trapped in. Someone wonderful. She was physically attractive, yes, but the girl was more or less blind to that. No, Carmen was a force, a nature, a miraculous collection of traits that should not be able to coexist with each other as they did. A beautiful machine that made beautiful tears in the flat wall of life. The black band of the underside's dark nature lay tight against that heart to be sure, and there was little standing between it. All assumed Carmen was strong enough to withstand anything. It would be a lovely fantasy, but she was human, and therefore fragile.
Such a soul... needed to exist, needed to be tended, protected. Must be. Deserved to be.
Kidman put her lock down with an air of conviction.
There was research she needed to do.
Kidman sat at the top of a concrete stairway, her head against the wall. It was a grey day, the sort she liked best, when the weather was as pensive as she was. No one bothered her. No one bothered to. The girl had made it very clear that she didn't wish to interact, politely but clearly. She kept her gray hair hidden under her standard issue cap and kept the collar of her standard issue jacket popped up around her face. She still didn't speak to anyone. Her progress, in terms of training, was average. It was almost purposeful in how average she was.
But then there were the oddities. She spent hours at a time staring at things, as if they were the most fascinating things in the world. Most assumed she had spaced out, but there was a degree of concentration in those blank eyes. One day she was found assembling and disassembling a revolver behind the supply shed. When asked, the girl said nothing, picked up the pieces, and moved somewhere else.
The only thing that was consistent was how often she was found in the computer lab, asking for files. She didn't have a computer of her own and so was dependant on the public machines. Once logged on, she didn't seem to notice anyone else.
Kidman was researching. Everything.
Information on VILE was much more of an oral history, but ACME's history was easy enough to get at. Tale after tale of Carmen's flights of fancy crossed the screen and the girl fell ever more enamored with her. Carmen was so very special, how she planned and by what stars she did so. She also learned more of ACME. Most of it didn't surprise her, but one person held her interest;
'That's the man she mentioned that night. The lucky charm....'
He had been Carmen's partner....once. Now he held a high position within the agency and seemingly devoted to locking her precious Carmen away. That alone made him frightening. She stared at his picture and an intense pair of eyes stared back, promising terrible things. If ACME was the enemy, then this was its face. She had never met an ACME before but already feared them, and not just because they meant imprisonment.
'ACMEs.... think they can just beat up anyone because they're the Law.' Kidman thought grimly. She knew of one in particular, Ivy. She had never met Ivy either, but she had seen her work on many of her friends. Bruises, sprains, broken things....
There was a certain amount of disposability in the nature of a lackey, but still, it was never a fair fight. They couldn't fight back, wouldn't fight back. Wonderful Master did not want it that way, because she was wonderful. Why the ACME's didn't respect that, she didn't know, and it dimmed her view of them significantly.
'If Ivy is bad, then this Chase must be far worse as their leader.'
She had gathered all the information she could from afar, but even with this primer, most of her more pressing questions were left unanswere. Now she sat outside, dully staring ahead as others passed by. Some waved and Kidman waved back, distantly.
'Chase...the lucky charm... She said she wants me to be a counter charm. It doesn't make any sense how, except as a sacrifice. Maybe she'll throw me in the way when he's chasing her.'
Kidman found the thought oddly funny and smiled faintly. There was something else that had recently begun to make itself known.
'Take ACME tower?'
She had looked it up. The tower was a massive structure, a symbolic centerpiece of enemy territory, of once friendly territory. Carmen was going to take the whole thing. Not just things in it, not just the C-5, which the girl hated anyway, but the whole building.
'Maybe that's just her style. It is Carmen, after all, but the risk of it, the repercussions of it... Why make that man even angrier? If he gets too angry...Master, those ACMEs are violent people!'
She wanted to talk to others about it, but something instinctively told her to keep quiet about. Still, as days went by it weighed her down. What she really wanted to do was to talk to Carmen herself about it. It was an insane thing to even consider, questioning Carmen, her questioning Carmen, but if one thing had changed over the course of weeks of research, it was the slow shift in priority from protocol to necessity.
Kidman stood up.
Someone had to question Carmen, someone with nothing to lose and really, nothing to gain. If the woman already intended to sacrifice her of her benefit, the girl figured she could sacrifice herself for the same goal.
‘So, you will allow it?' asked her soul. ‘Are you ready for what she may hand you?'
‘No....but I want to be.'
Things began to change.
The girl was still quiet and strange, but seemed less haunted, if by just a hair. That wasn't where the difference lay, though. As if to confirm suspicion of her conscious effort to remain unnoticed, her performance suddenly lurched ahead. She wasn't the best by any means, but her nature towards it went from apathetic rote to an almost unnerving focus. The need to consume knowledge, all knowledge spread out in all directions. If an odd course of instruction was posted, the girl was the first to sign for it. Nothing was too daunting and it seemed the only thing keeping her from running off the edge was lack of prerequisites needed for the more dangerous courses.
You could ask Kidman why, but she'd just look away shyly. Not cold, just...quiet. What kind of quiet shifted about under her calm facade, but still somewhat more approachable. Her heart was beating now.
The idea of sacrifice had had time to lie at the bottom of the ocean of her mind and the ocean had already begun to claim it. It didn't look like it had; a cold, unfeeling thing. It now supported life, and that life called still more to it. Humanity returned to her, and as it did, so did her perception of Carmen.
Kidman was fiddling with a flight simulator, as she had been for the past eight hours. She didn't have plans to ever fly a helicopter for work purposes. She doubted Carmen would trust a new pilot with one of their few machines. No, she just wanted to know it, to finish what she had started so long ago.
It nagged at her that she should be doing something else, something that would aid The Cause.
'I am aiding the cause. I'm fixing something in my head. My head must be fixed if I am to think clearly during Dire Times. I must learn concentration. That's what Master would want.'
'That's what Master needs. Poor Master...'
Kidman didn't talk much, but she had begun to, and a more human version of Carmen was presented to her as she interacted with her fellows. Carmen's triumphs, Carmen's struggles, Carmen's possible fears and difficult past. It was a more tangible layer to a somewhat intangible being, one the girl could identify with.
'She's an orphan, like me. Well no...not really like me, but with the same... missing...ness. Our names are just labels given for the sake of convenience. There was no true beginning. We just...formed. That lack of grounding, I wonder if it affects you like it does me. I wonder if the idea of trust is as foreign to you as it is to me. The idea of safety, of permanence. You step into the current and you have to keep running. There's no where to rest...that is safe... You went deeper into life, where the current is strong, but with this tower...where are you going, Carmen? What if...you get washed away?'
Something on the control panel beeped and Kidman brought her mind back into focus.
No one else seemed worried about Carmen's dips into danger. Then again, no one knew about this one, no one so far as she knew. She would have given most anything to have someone to talk to about this.
She felt a new presence and looked up. Vic was there again, asking about her, no doubt.
'If only I could speak to you...'
Kidman was on the roof again. She was sure she wasn't supposed to be up there but she doubted anyone really cared. If they did, she could just claim it was part of her training. She was unable to lie outright, but so long as a piece of truth remained in the statement it was fair game and everyone was expected to know their way around a fire escape.
Training ran smoothly now. The girl had evened out, a steady B, B+ level. There were some places she was oddly efficient, such as picking locks and other arts of precision, but she was never able to gain any ground where physical strength was needed. She was capable of great bursts of speed or strength, but she lost it after a handful of seconds, and once gone, her body was next to useless.
The girl found it worrisome.
'What's the point of being able to crack locks if I can't do the legwork to get to them? I'm amazed I can even get up here. And if they chase me... No, I just need more practice. My muscles have to grow eventually, yes?'
The problem had never come up when she first joined. Then again, she hadn't gotten this far when she first joined. Somehow she had sensed that being a full on agent wasn't the best way for her to go and had veered off towards maintenance. She soon found she preferred being just be a cog in the machine.
'Now I'm not sure what you want with me." She said to the clouds above. "If you even remember me."
It had been so long since that damp, chilly night. Carmen came and went, came and went, all around the world. Time passed, and the girl was still here. True, Vic still popped up here and there, but by now Kidman assumed this was something he did for everyone and had always done. It meant nothing.
"Maybe you just wanted to scare me."
But what about the tower?
Nothing had come of it. Had it been a fake secret to test her? Carmen had never made it clear that this was a secret, though. That had been the girl's assumption.
"Maybe she was just tired."
'No...that's not it...'
Kidman nodded in agreement with her inner voice. She and her soul fought much less now, having grown closer, almost one for the common goal that led her up here now. Something was rising in the wind again.
'Do you feel it? Is it our restlessness?'
It was impossible to say.
'We did what we could to prepare,' it answered back.
The girl nodded again. She had put her helicopter training on hold to take up low level electronics and as much medical science as she could take in. It had been a difficult choice to make, but while being a pilot was what she wanted to be, it was not what she was needed to be, regardless of what Carmen's ultimate intent for her was.
It was the way of things.
However, with her growing awareness of herself came the growing need for confirmation that the one she loved was indeed the one she loved.
She needed to see Carmen's face one more time.
"I came to you with a vision and a feeling. The vision, though probably still accurate to a degree, is a distraction; one you designed yourself. The feeling ran the other way. I felt a good heart and a complicated soul thriving yet wearing under the strain of such weight. I felt..."
Kidman closed her eyes and tried to recall the woman's face. It had been dim and she had been tired and scared. The memory was scratched and faded, but she could still just make out her face, the face beneath.
"When you spoke of that tower...I felt the room tilt sideways around you. You spoke as if you were as certain as always...but you weren't. I didn't think about it until now, perhaps...unable to conceive of it until now, that you could feel uncertain. What a stupid thing to think."
A gust of wind tried to take her gray cap from her head for the third time, but by now the girl had pinned it to her collar. The lights from the airfield twinkled in the growing dusk and voices of comrades floated up about her. It felt like home, home as it once was.
"You made this, but you sleep and bleed and brush your teeth like everyone else. You're human. I still maintain my admiration for what I already know of you and you will always have my gratitude, but before I can go any further...I need to see you, really see you...one more time."
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.
(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.
(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.
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...'
(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.
Kidman has a long, winding history in her original Carmen-based universe which spans seventeen years. Some of it is written down, including her first interaction with Lee, circa 1996. For clarity's sake, in this timeline Carmen has claimed legal guardianship over Kidman as a way to keep her out of the possession of others. There's a reason for this, but that is a story for another day....
** * The Existential * **
The First Encounter
Acme Detective Agency
"You're kidding! No, you're not kidding, you're insane! I'm sorry, Chief, but no way, no how am I letting that dirt bag work here again. He spent two years in jail. He tried to kill us, for crying out loud! Why would you hire him again? Is there something I'm missing here?"
"Now Ivy, if you'll just calm down-"
"Calm down? Calm down? Chief do you have any idea what you are doing?"
"Well I should, I am the chief."
"Then tell me. Why are we doing this?"
"Because he's reformed! He's a changed man!"
"He's Lee Jordan!"
"Oh will you just give him a chance?" Then he added in a whisper, "We need him!"
"That's right! I forgot. And you'll also let Carmen Sandiego waltz back in here if she wanted to "reform" too! She's a thief to the core and that is it! Do think Lee will be any different? He's more a criminal than she is! In case you're forgetting, we have some precious cargo aboard the S.S. Acme, and that's Kidman. It was hard enough getting Carmen to let us watch her instead of letting her hang around VILE. We're supposed to be protecting her! Do you think that Lee could resist attacking her seeing as she is Carmen's kid?"
"He'll leave her alone."
"Of course he will! No one's getting near Kidman now that I'm on patrol!"
Zack chose that moment to break into the conversation.
'Oh no. All I need is for Zack and Lee to be at each other's throats over Kidman, and if I know Kidman, she'll probably be oblivious to the whole thing.' Ivy thought.
She knew well that Zack had a crush on her, but the girl had made it obvious that she only wanted him as a friend. Zack wasn't taking the hints. It was too late to stop him now, for now Zack had switched over into his commando personality.
"When's he coming? I can have the Zack2000 up in...two days tops! We'll barricade the doors! We'll set up a schedule so that they never even see each other! Then we could-"
"He's coming tomorrow, and no you can't set up that THING because Kidman would never stand for it." the Chief said.
"But then he can just-"
"Kidman can take care of herself."
"But Chief-", they started in unison.
'This is a black day. I'd prefer Carmen over him about 10 times over...make that 5 times.' Ivy thought as she watched Lee walk into the main room.
Lee didn't really know what to make of all this. He had finally paid his debt to society, wasting two years in the state prison, literally fighting for respect. Being thin was not necessarily a good thing when it comes to casting an ominous impression. He had learned to act like someone bigger than he was, and had acted like a "changed man" when the guards were around so to get out sooner on good behavior. Now he was acting grateful for being returned to this God Forsaken place. Lee sighed. It got him out early, that's all he cared about, and could perhaps wreak some "innocent" havoc on a few friends.
He looked at Ivy, who was in the process of burning holes in the back of his head, and gave her a sickeningly sweet grin that thinly disguised the malice beneath. He'd just have to take things as they came.
Lee had been at Acme for about a week before he learned of Kidman and what she was. He hadn't seen the girl yet, but assumed anyone fanatical enough to follow Sandiego through the fires of hell deserved to be tormented in the worst way possible. After a bit of searching and arm-twisting, he finally found Kidman's room, a modified broom closet. Within, he found what he was looking for; a handcrafted doll of Sandiego.
"Let's have some fun, shall we?"
He didn't want to destroy it just yet, so made a noose out of the window shade cord and slipped the doll's head through. Lee stepped back to admire his work.
"Ahhh. That's the way it should be."
Kidman decided she would not give the stranger the satisfaction of seeing how deeply the action disturbed her. Not until she could be sure what he was and what he was capable of becoming. She also decided not to tell anyone of the incident until, or if, she found the information to her advantage. Instead, she would silently observe this rough mannered man and see if there was more than what met the eye.
She was insatiably curious as to what went on in the minds of those who had been deemed "bad" and found the risk it put her in as irrelevant in the scheme of things. Death was far too familiar a presence, and the sweet melancholy of surrender that came with touching the void gave her a rush that nothing else did.
That was what worried Ivy most of all. Lee would undoubtedly target the girl, and the girl would undoubtedly allow it. It would take a 24-hour watch to keep Kidman away from him, and the agency just didn't have the resources to confine the little walk-through-walls escape artist. She knew that even as she thought, Kidman was probably following Lee, maybe even conversing with him.
In fact, Kidman was watching the man now.
The man ignored her, though very aware of her presence. He wanted Zack to leave so that he could have some peace. So did Kidman. Zack was once more flirting with her, telling her about the futures in computer data processing, the rise in stocks, his share of the glory. Kidman liked him well enough, but the relationship ended there.
To Zack, Kidman was the bad-girl fairy-child that he, the Prince of Goodness, would sweep off to better life and they would live happy ever after. Kidman, on the other hand, only planned a few months in advance, painfully aware how short her life was likely to be. Life was what she could of interest in the now.
She sat and smiled gently at Zack, but kept her real focus on the thin muscular frame in the leather jacket hunched over the racing form.
'A gambler.' she thought absently.
"As I was saying, when those Pentium 150s come out, whoa, look out! It's going to be faster than the speed of light, I'll tell ya that!"
"And another thing. You know how I went to that show last Thursday?"
Kidman knew he couldn't hear her. She rarely spoke, so her rusty vocal chords turned her words into airy whispers.
"Man was it great! I mean, all those systems. I was in heaven!"
Lee had gotten tired of this. Zack had been chattering for well over forty-five minutes, and he really, really wanted to get back to his hacking operation before the system checked itself again. He wasn't really "hacking" per say, but was nosing around in places he shouldn't, looking for leads on new, far more illicit operations he could get his hands into.
He threw his paper down on the table with a thud.
"Do you mind? She doesn't want to talk to you. F*ck off!"
Zack was stunned.
"Hey...you shut up, Jordan!"
"I don't waste my time talking to underlings."
"And as for her, she's mine!"
It was Kidman's turn to look surprised.
"Well good for you! Some of us are trying to accomplish something here."
"I'll get you out of here somehow, Lee! You wait and see!"
Zack looked like he was going to cry for a moment, but recomposed.
"Come on, we don't need this."
Zack pulled Kidman up by the wrist and the girl could only look back at Lee, a hulking mass of something of more powerful stock, drawing her in, as she was dragged helplessly from the room.
She returned fifteen minutes later after giving Zack the slip when he started up his story again with the Chief and the desk clerk as audience. She silently relocated herself in the same spot she had been before and resumed her observation.
Lee was unaware of her return, far too busy with his own underhanded work.
"Canaconni. Italian mob. Hmmmm. Sounds good. Letsee what else..." Lee mumbled to himself. He looked over his shoulder for a piece of paper to write on, narrowly missing the girl.
Kidman thrilled. The suspense was ecstasy to her, the moments passing with blissful eternity. What Lee would do when he saw her, she could only guess, and she liked it.
Lee slowly realized that someone was watching him and suddenly whirled around, looking Kidman full in the face.
"What are you doing back here? Aren't you Zack's little pet?"
"No one owns me here."
"Nice to know. How much have you seen? "
"Nothing I haven't seen before."
This answer didn't exactly satisfy Lee. He walked over slowly to where the child sat and towered over her with his trademark smirk. Then he brought his hands down on either armrest of her chair and brought his face inches from hers.
"You little spy. Trying to get rid of me?"
Kidman maintained her ever-present state of calm interest, but inside she reeled with excitement.
"Why would I want that?" she replied in a cool, soft whisper.
For reasons he didn't understand, Lee didn't feel threatened by her. She was a weird little thing; pale, almost sickly so, with short, white-blond hair that stuck out in strange angles. Hints of scars crisscrossed her face and her grey eyes watched him with absent wonder. Her detached manner was a little odd, but it was a welcome change from what he had been receiving from everyone else here.
'Come to think of it, I've never seen you before. You aren't listed in the roster...'
Lee decided to add the child to the small collection of things he found worth thinking about where the agency was concerned.
"You sit here now."
He put the swivel chair and its cargo in between himself and the screen, then leaned over and put his hands over either side onto the control bar in front of it, trapping her there. "Want to see what I'm doing? Then you will, but if I find that anybody knows because of you, I'll kill you."
"I will kill you."
"As it should be."
Lee looked down on the top of her head. No fear in that face.
"With a gun. You sure you want to stick around?"
"I don't appear to have much choice."
"I'll let you go."
Kidman sat quiet for a minute. "Permission to stay?"
"Granted, on your own life."
"It won't be missed."
Lee shot a quick glance at her. No change in her expression. He pondered her response for a moment, then continued on his business, pressing the chair and its captive closer into the control bar, catching Kidman across the midriff and trapping her completely.
She was quite happy.
After a few moments she deduced his actions.
"Breath a word..."
"You will be owned by the mob."
"No one owns me."
"The mob will. They own everyone they touch."
"They won't touch me."
"They'll kill you."
'Good point' thought Lee.
"Moving on..." Lee clicked a few keys. Kidman glanced at the new screen.
"You can do better."
"Drug smugglers? You'll be a lackey."
"What's it to you?"
"Wasted talent is a terrible thing."
Lee sighed and pushed a few more commands. V.I.L.E showed up. Kidman looked mildly surprised.
"They didn't update this file."
"It's not V.I.L.E. It hasn't been for five months. It's the INL."
"No Villains, no Evil. All INternational unLimited."
"And how would you know that?"
"I have ties."
"No way in hell I'd go back there. Mother f*cking Sandiego!"
"That is an interesting concept." Said Kidman, still not at home with English slang and idioms. "F*ck" she found most perplexing. It acted as a noun, a verb, and adjective and that made understanding the use of the word impossible for her overly logical mind.
"Carmen isn't homosexual."
Lee looked at her face. She was dead serious. He let forth a roaring laugh. "Are you sure about that?"
Lee sighed a long sigh.
"Whoever you are, you're hysterical. No, I mean I hate the [censored]. Black-listed me out of a lot work, got me creamed in prison."
"I am aware that you are not on good terms with her. I ask you then, why would you consider a job with the mob?"
"They adore her."
Lee punched another handful of keys.
'The hell with this. At the rate I'm going, I might as well go freelance.' Lee thought, 'But I don't think I'm ready for that yet.'
"Guess I'm still stuck here in this cesspool." Lee muttered.
He pulled out of the files and returned to the main menu.
"Lets see what dirt I can pull up on our little detective friends..."
Lee was almost completely hunched over Kidman's shoulder and she couldn't believe her luck at getting this close so quickly. She could feel his hot breath ruffle her hair and his leather jacket up against the back of her neck. His necklace bumped into the back of her head from time to time and once felt the firm lump of an automatic weapon concealed in his jacket lining press up against her back. She was quite comfortable.
He certainly was a dangerous man, but he had already let down his guard with her. Still, what would he do when he found out who she was?
Ivy chose this moment to walk into the security room. Zack had asked her to find Kidman for him; there was something he forgot to say. She was stunned by what she found.
"Lee! Get away from her, now!"
Lee jerked around and placed his hand on Kidman's shoulder behind him.
"I said, hands off!"
"What the f*ck do you want!"
"Step away from her..."
"I'm not doing anything-"
"Just move away."
Ivy looked as if she was about to high-kick him in a most unfriendly place for a male. "Just get out! Out!"
"Fine..." Lee muttered, adding "[censored]" quietly under his breath.
Lee left the room, but hid right outside the door. 'What is she so testy about today?'
Ivy rushed over to a slightly puzzled and secretly disappointed Kidman.
"Are you okay? What did he do to you?"
"If he thinks he's going to hurt you just because you're Kidman..."
"Ivy..." Again, no one could hear her speak, except Lee, who was paying special attention to her words.
"Why don't you ever call for help? He can kill you, you know."
"Kidman! Honestly, I just don't know..."
The conversation continued on, but Lee had the piece of information he wanted, the child's name. He went off to see just what there was to be known about this strange little girl.
7:15 pm, Saint Carlo's Cafe, San Francisco.
Lee drove out five blocks west of the Acme building to his favorite crash spot. He never liked doing any form of work in the sterile surroundings of the updated agency. He much more preferred a social atmosphere. He didn't feel he had much privacy, certain that most of the security cameras had been rerouted to watch his movements rather than their regular spots.
He pulled his old, brown Volkswagen station wagon into the parking lot and pulled his laptop out of the front seat. He gave a slight wave to Carlos, the owner and keeper of the beer, and made towards his favorite two-seat by the bay. The sun was just beginning to set, but already a stiff cool breeze came at him from across the bay. This was the time Lee liked; this was when the day truly began.
After ordering his usual Corona and a taco, he set up his command center on the clear plastic table. Lee switched on his laptop, adjusted the cable to his cellular phone, then turned away as it took its sweet time booting up. The Pentium 75 could just barely handle all the software Lee had installed on it, so he knew it would be a good five minutes before he could actually do anything. Instead he turned his chair towards the setting sun across the bay.
'Damn, what a life.'
He had been born in Philadelphia, a true Philly kid. He was the oldest of three, having two younger sisters. His parents got along well enough, but their relationship fell apart after Phoebe, his youngest sister, died suddenly of brain cancer. It had developed over a week and she was gone before anyone knew what happened.
Lee had been fifteen, she had been nine. He never got along with his other sister, Marie. She disgusted Lee in her constant calls for attention from her parents as a spoiled brat, her teachers as a bully, and from men as a slut. When she was sixteen she ran away from home with one of her drunkard boyfriends and moved to his hometown in Kentucky. When he left her, the family never heard from her again, save for a postcard from time to time. She was a waitress at a truck stop diner.
Lee's relationship with his parents was never as he wished it to be, either. He hadn't been beaten and his father wasn't a drunken bastard like his father, but still, he was a far shot from the model father. They weren't well off, but not poor, either. They had a TV and new clothes, but money was tight and stress levels in the house always ran high. His father held down two jobs; one as a salesperson for a large corporate complex that created appliances, the other a manager of a small drugstore. His mother didn't work. She was submissive to his father, always doting over Marie. Phoebe got some attention from her father, Lee from no one.
Lee's academic achievements generally went unnoticed. His joining extracurricular activities had never been explored. Usually he spent his time in his room, reading books and bouncing a tennis ball off his wall until he bored of it or his father threatened to kill him.
Phoebe had been the one thing keeping him from giving up. She sat in his room with him after school and watched over his shoulder as he did his work. When the two were younger they'd play basketball in the old lot behind the school, or he'd take her to a movie. She had been full of pep, feisty, yet strangely wise beyond her years. She always believed in him as a big brother, always ran to him when Marie threatened to hurt her, always fought with their father when he got to carried away with his threats to Lee about what a worthless kid he was. She was his hero.
The school system was what stepped in and gave Lee the opportunity to go to the West coast to become a detective. After an incident at the school involving stolen money from the library's funds that Lee solved by himself, the school went to his parents about a career in the investigation field. His parents were unmoved until they received the letter from Acme requesting he try out for a position. The airfare was free.
Lee wasn't exactly sure he wanted this, but Phoebe convinced him to take it. And it worked out. Few people at the agency remembered what Lee had been like before his sister died. Most didn't notice him. He usually kept to himself and his sister, not blending with the social scene well. It was a dream come true, though. Lee had the time of his life at Acme, and found a passion for the job. He was even liked in the very small circles he kept.
A month later, it ended.
Lee's world came crashing down as Phoebe slipped away from him. He almost missed being by her deathbed, being way laid by a job in the Philippines. He cried. He cried out of anger of being robbed his only friend, of being tossed out so rudely into the cold. He was angry at Marie for not being there when Phoebe died; off having sex with some guy in a bar. He was angry that his father turned to drinking and eventually left his mother to somehow pay the bills by herself. He sent her half his paycheck until she got a job as a secretary, but some disparaging words about his father to his mother had set off a furious argument that had yet to be resolved.
One sister dead, one sister estranged, one drunken father living in the middle of Oregon, and one frozen mother in Philadelphia. Lee fell into a slump. He let no one console him on his losses. He didn't want their pity. They all had nice families, sisters, friends, pets.
Lee became bitter and spiteful, perversely enjoying other's hardships. With that bitterness came cockiness, no longer caring what people thought, that they didn't know how he felt, that they were all weak and beneath him. He despised them all for living so well. Eventually, he shared a common contempt for everyone. He became more self-centered and outlandish to cover up the pain. His job was his life, nothing more, nothing less.
He now had no one to tell him that he was worth something, so he put more effort into becoming the best in his field. Every case was a brutal struggle for respect from the world that turned its back on him. When he didn't get the fanfare he believed he deserved, he supplied it himself. In one short month, Lee metamorphosed into something unbearable.
Lee stopped and looked at the fading sun.
'I still am.' He thought with a sad smile.
Eventually the friction between himself and the detectives had grown to be too much and he bailed ship, hopping over to a life of crime with his former opponent, Carmen, who in turn, kicked him out for acting like an ass. Blinded by rage, Lee avenged himself on Carmen by holding her hostage while he attempted to rob the US mint. It had proven costly. He was apprehended and thrown into prison.
Lee let out a sigh. 'Ah, prison.'
Prison had been a bucket of cold water on the head for him. His runaway train act had been brought to a crashing halt as he battled one inmate to the next. He suddenly found himself fighting for his life against huge power-lifters. Compared to them, he was as thin and weak as a beanpole. But a new feeling of violence emerged, and within two weeks became vicious enough to tangle with the best of them. He swore on Phoebe's soul that he would be nobody's [censored].
Strong as he was, Lee knew he couldn't last in there forever. His cell-mate wasn't bad, a guy named Chico who was in for stabbing a store cashier in a botched robbery. He was slightly larger than Lee, but other than shouting obscenities and pushing him around from time to time, he wasn't a real problem.
It was a small band of men at the recreation grounds that he feared. Lee began to specialize in hiding himself when more than two of them were together. Most of the time this worked, but one time he hadn't been so lucky.
Lee finished the last of his taco and washed it down with his beer. He turned back to see how the computer was faring. It had cleared the first three stages, only two more to go.
'Damn this computer.'
The air was getting colder and Lee pulled his leather jacket closer to him.' The good thing about leather', he told himself, 'is that once it gets warm, it stays warm.'
He turned his chair back to the water and ate the remainder of his nachos. The wind picked up and pulled at his unkempt swirls of hair. The computer lit up the table through the dusky darkness.
Lee shifted his thoughts back to his ordeal in prison, remembering it with blurred yet perfect clarity.
He had been standing by a poker game, wanting to see the outcome of just one more hand. He knew he should be watching out for the five men that usually tailed him for money that he didn't owe. It really didn't matter to them whether he did or not, they just wanted the money. All five where body builders. They all looked like they had been truck drivers at one point. All but one had tattoos up and down their arms; the last making up for it with multiple piercing. Three had ample stomachs, the two others where muscular. All were twice Lee's size. He could barely remember their names, but two he knew for sure.
The ringleader, the tattooed, big-bellied blond-bearded biker's name was Bubba, his larger, dumber sidekick, was Tiny. The others had names like Snake, Nails, Death, and the sort, but Lee had never bothered to find out exactly who was what. It didn't matter. All that did was that he was their perpetual target, and on this day, Lee was not paying attention. He finally turned around, but it was too late.
Bubba was right in front of him.
He grabbed Lee by the shoulders and slammed him against the concrete wall.
"Hey, Boy, where's my money?"
"Get the f*ck off me, bastard. I don't have your godamned money. Where the hell am I going to get it from?"
"Pull it outa your ass, I don't give a crap. Seeing as you don't have it..."
Bubba smashed Lee across the face. Lee was stunned, but got over it quickly. He pushed off Bubba's stomach with his leg and freed himself. But it was only momentary. Bubba threw a punch into his stomach. As Lee doubled over in pain, he felt a crashing blow come down on his back from Tiny.
The other inmates, who had been waiting for this fight for a long time, gathered around the fight zone. Lee dragged himself to his knees and ducked a blow coming from Snake's direction, Death catching it in the shin. After Death smashed Snake, he kicked Lee's legs out from under him as Bubba kicked him in the head.
'I have to fight back. Phoebe, God, help me...'
Lee felt a surge of strength. He grabbed Nails' leg as it came at him and pulled him over. Lost in momentum, Nails went flying into Tiny, who was about to give him a 300lb drop. Snake pulled him to his feet and took another swing. Lee blocked with his arm and was surprised to hear the sound of splintering wood. He would later find it had been his bone. At the time he didn't feel the pain. He rallied and drove one home into Snake's crotch. Two were down now, but three was more than enough to kill him, and he knew that was the intent. He searched the inmates' jeering faces frantically for help but got no response.
'I don't want to die here...to these motherf*ckers...Phoebe...'
Suddenly he saw an abandoned lunch tray with a small butter-knife on it. Breaking free, Lee grabbed the knife, threatening anyone who came near. Bubba walked up to the bloody man as if he was holding a bouquet of flowers.
"Hand it over, Boy."
"I said hand it over!"
Lee slashed Bubba's shoulder as hard as he could. Bubba let forth a scream that shook the walls.
"Kill that bastard!"
Death was the only one still reasonably in the game, the others either unconscious or in to much pain to care. He walked over in slow motion.
"Prepare to meet your end, Boy."
Death picked up a billiard stick and tried to ram Lee with it, but Lee twisted away and the stick hit the still swearing Bubba, sending him over the card table. Death tried again, this time catching Lee full in the side. Sprawled out on the floor and barely conscious, Lee had a horrifying thought.
'No one is coming to my funeral. No one...'
Lee slipped out into blackness. The guards finally decided to break up the fight, seeing as the match was over and there was nothing more to watch. They didn't want it on their record that a man died while they cheered on his oppressors. Before they got to Death, Death rammed Lee's body with the stick a few times and gave him a solid slash on the leg and the eye.
Both scars were still there.
After that, Lee had been moved to solitary confinement to keep him out of trouble while he recuperated and spent his time ratting out fellow cellmates to gain him his freedom. He had even written that letter to Acme about what a changed man he was. They had bought it, and seven weeks later he had returned to Acme once more. He was no longer an anguished, egotistical jerk. Now he was much quieter, more brooding, and more violent in his language than before. He told no one of his ordeal in jail. He knew they would all enjoy it too much.
He no longer took crap from anyone. He was much stronger than before. To the men in the rec room, though Lee had been defeated, he had beaten four of the five by himself. He had respect. He was feared. He no longer had to search for it from others. His feelings toward Carmen matured into hatred as he tried to find new work. He had never stopped to think about how easily she could block him from many of the better positions in the underworld. Not only had she gotten him thrown in prison, she had put a damper on his criminal career. Deep inside Lee knew that he had brought it upon himself, but he would never admit it to anyone, even himself.
As for his search to be a hitman, Lee found a new need for power and control over others after the fight. He wanted to have the power to end their lives like they had had to end his. It was beginning to dawn on him that joining a syndicate was not such a good idea. He decided then and there that as soon as he was ready, he would meet up with a man he knew in the field and would learn the art of selective murder for himself.
The computer finally got to where it should be and Lee punched some keys, quickly gaining access to the central roster.
"Letsee little Kidman...just who are you. Hmmm...nothing."
The roster showed no Kidmans as hired detectives.
He tried searching a different list, and then another.
'What are you?'
Lee finally ran a complete search of the files until he found her, listed under...prisoner?
Lee stared at the screen. He clicked under her name and found a small page devoted to the silent child, but the only thing he could see was her extended name;
Kidman sat in the TV room, alone. She usually had someone else in there with her, watching late night TV, but no one was around, and the girl felt deserted. She was avoiding most of the detectives as it was. Zack's flirtations with her began to upset her, especially as she could not seem to get across why she was not interested, mostly because she didn't know herself.
Most of the others where so gung-ho about locking her beloved mother away in a cage by herself or with someone of violent personage that it caused her to be ill. Even Ivy, who was part of the Trinity, was not making things better by blatantly defying every last belief and perspective that the girl owned without mercy.
So Kidman hid.
She still was wary about the one called Lee, although to her he was the most interesting one there besides the Chief.
Yet Lee wasn't here and the night was slipping by without her. She felt the urge to go somewhere, do something. When she was with Carmen there was never a night left untouched, but now...
Kidman sighed and walked out of the room and down the hall. She passed the main room where a group of detectives she generally didn't care for were talking about the pain they had put a harmless henchman through. Kidman didn't think it was humorous. She didn't see how it could be, but passed it off as being an acquired taste people have. She walked away from the laughter towards her room. The hall was dark and cold, and it appealed to her. She opened the bolts on her door and set her papers down on the table beside it. The room seemed colder than it should, as if the window had been left open.
Kidman flicked on the lights.
Lee was lying on her bed, his back propped up against the wall.
"Surprise, surprise!" He said softly with a devilish grin.
Kidman was startled, but her daily life was so overrun with sudden horror and surprise twists that her sense of shock had fallen away long ago. She looked at him blankly.
"So proper! Well, well, I found out your little secret."
"Your name. Sandiego. You're the kid. You led me on." Lee's words were softly spoken, his smile still humorous.
Kidman cocked her head. "Indeed, and not. You never asked me of my name."
Lee rose from the bed. "What are we going to do now, Kidman?"
"Do you ever speak in full sentences? Ever?"
"No. It is an...unnecessary thing..."
Lee looked at her. This was Carmen's daughter? Carmen adopted this? This isn't a Carmen! Where is the arrogance, the superiority complex, the...the...Carmen? No, this wasn't what he had expected the Sandiego to be. Should he continue on his warpath, or stop and change course? He needed to see what she would do when he said he knew her lineage. She hadn't reacted right at all. No, she was just standing there; examining him as if he had just told her is was windy in San Francisco. Was it bravado? No, it was something weirder, almost amusingly so.
It suddenly occurred to him that she was the only person here at Acme that he didn't feel compelled to hate.
He took another look at her. She seemed to be preoccupied with something else, some clothes on the floor.
'She could care less! She could just care less! I think I'll keep it that way.'
A fairly accurate chronicle of what Kidman did as a stormtrooper VILE grunt her first year.
This album is posted in reverse, so click 'previous' to view in order.
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.