Dear cache of thoughts,
While going through my things, I found this old account I wrote when I was young and the world was bright. May it serve as a warm reminder of the joy I had.
Operation Car Alarm #409-81
As we all know, Carmen makes the most interesting heists ever to be concocted. After hanging around the water cooler long enough, I have learned the details of quite a few of them. This one in particular caught my eye (or ear). This is the case of...
Operation: Car Alarm
By agent 200309
March 23, 1997, the Caribbean
At this point in time (and she still is) Carmen was on a mask kick. Don't ask me why. Ever since this grand heist Carmen hasn't been able to get enough of them. Rumor has it
she will decorate the new lodge hall with them. It started a long time ago, about a month, when she saw this exquisitely carved mask in a reference book, a.k.a. Carmen's gift catalog. As usual, when Carmen wants something, she just goes out and gets it. But this proved to be a problem.
Step one of any heist is to locate the site of the object. This was at the Alvo Pacifica Grande Museo. Next one checks security. Now it is boasted in security clubs a certain seismic system that is used in government offices around the world. One can make not one sound, not touch the floor for a second, and not possibly break in without this irritating little device going off.
Alvo Pacifica just so happened to have one of these.
Our hero stood on a hill about 500 yards away from this museum for days, peering at through her 85x scope, wearing a Hawaiian T-shirt and culottes (you haven't lived
'till you've seen Carmen in this!) looking for some way to get around this minor setback.
You can't destroy the alarm, it will go off.
You can't go in as a guard, the area is off limits to guards after closing time. Why? The alarm.
You can't steal before closing time, the shifts are 3 hours long and there are cameras.
Yes the cameras CAN be rerouted but that might cause just a little suspicion.
You can't come in as a tourist. Where are you going to stuff a mask that big? In your hat?
Maybe if she didn't make a sound....
We called in a dedicated ninja from division 820 (Japan) and sent him in. True ninjas make no sound at all, but this darned alarm went off anyhow. The guards swarmed in and arrested poor Kasagi but we intercepted the police car and sent him home with a bonus on his paycheck.
Now Carmen was SURE there was no way around this alarm.
"Ach!" said she.
But our hero had not given up yet!
That point didn't come until about a week later.
Saddened by her defeat, Carmen went out to the supermarket to get herself a treat. Exit Carmen with a bottle of sherry and dried apricots. As she passed a rather beat up car next to hers, she brushed up against it ever so slightly and a booming alarm was set off. This was very unexpected!
Being the thief that she is, Carmen ducked between the two cars and waited for something to happen. It took a second for her to realize it was only the alarm of the car next to her. She stood up and surveyed the scene. No one was looking, no one was running toward the car, yelling and screaming.
No one cared!
A slow a steady smile appeared on her face.
A day later Carmen called a meeting in the center square of 410 (Jamaica) Everyone who residentially worked there plus a few others were seated in a semi-circle. The sun was hot and Carmen still hadn't shown up yet. Some were threatening to leave, when suddenly Carmen pulled up into the middle of the square in an old brown car that looked very similar to the car that drove the laundry downtown.
She honked the horn merrily, her cheerfulness bouncing off the puzzled faces.
Carmen stepped out the car and faced them, then pushed a button on her key ring and the car beeped. The crowd waited for something to happen but nothing did. A man in the second row asked the inevitable.
"Carmen, did you just set the car alarm to that thing?"
"Why? That car goes off at anything! It's a pain in the neck!"
A second woman set in. "You don't think your car is safe? What are we, criminals?"
The crowd laughed and Carmen with them. Then she answered with a plan that could only be marked as the genius that was Carmen.
"Note the car. It has a very, very sensitive alarm. It goes off at just about anything."
Carmen kicked the car and the arena was filled the blare of the car alarm. She shut it off.
"What do you do when you here the sound of a car alarm?"
"Nothing" answered guy #1.
"Because the dang thing goes off so much you know it's probably just a malfunction. You kicked it. Doesn't mean you were stealing it."
"So car alarms are disregarded because they go off for next to no reason."
Carmen looked very happy at this point.
"What other very, very sensitive alarm can we think of?"
The light bulbs began to appear over various heads in the audience.
"Good God Carmen that's brilliant!" shouted one.
"Capital idea, Mad'am Sandiego!" said another.
"I don't get it." said a third.
To which Carmen the Patient replied, "As thieves we have come to fear many types of alarms, especially the ones we can not hear. Lucky for us, the seismic in Alvo is quite loud and quite irritating."
"And this is good, how?" asked Number 3.
"Car alarms! Loud and noisy and irritating as they come. But what makes them different is no one pays any attention to them. Why? Because they are so defective, no one takes them seriously! A thief could sound one and still get away."
"It's true!" came a call from the back.
"I've done it too!"
The calls of many proud car thieves filled the air. Carmen clapped her hands and all were silent. Except one.
"Carmen, the seismic 62 is not a car alarm. It is quite efficient."
To which Carmen the Benevolent replied, "The system is so sensitive, anything will make it go off. We must set it off numerous times until the police believe the system ineffective, thus eventually giving us enough time to slip in and out. It is as simple as throwing a rock through a window, over and over again." and at that, Carmen kicked a small stone at the car, sending it once more into a fit, which she righted quickly.
"Carmen, won't the police find the rock and know someone was doing it and it not just the alarm?"
"Why yes, if we where using a rock, but we aren't. Instead, we will be using... ice."
"Sculpted into pellets, the ice will be shot through an air duct in the ceiling. Seeing as Alvo is in the Caribbean, the pellet won't last long after it's purpose has been fulfilled. No evidence, no mess, except a small drop of water. We will keep close tab on conversations until we feel that the situation is ripe, and then, it is ours for the taking."
The crowd looked at her, stunned. She was a beautiful woman, in her red light linen blouse around and matching palazzo pants. A straw hat shaded her face but one could still see it beaming, the blue eyes sparkling.
Standing there in front of that beat up brown car, stood a genius.
The crowd cheered!
She was their genius, their boss, their thief!
"Nothing can keep her down!" they cried.
Good ol' Carmen comes through again.
* * *
And so it went, Carmen and a few selected would climb to the top of that hill and shoot the pellets over and over again. Every time the alarm went off. Every time the police responded diligently...until the forth or fifth time, that is. Now, the police know that if there is an alarm sounding, they must respond, but there were much more important things to deal with and the temper was growing short towards Alvo Pacifica.
They were demanded over and over again to have the system fixed. And each time it was checked, but for obvious reasons, no glitch could be found. Soon they would be ordered to replace the system or scrap it all together. A seismic 62 would cost millions to replace. True it was insured, but for the life of them, they could not find proof to prove it to the insurance company, thus the cost would fall completely on their shoulders. So they began to weigh the odds. True, a ninja had just tried something, but other then that, all had been quiet. What more could they do but keep checking the system?
And so it went.
Alvo Pacifica, Caribbean. Thursday, May 7, 1997. 1:27am
It was now a month later. By now the police all but ignored the signal coming from Alvo Pacifica. As well, the guards decided that the evening soccer game was far more entertaining than seeing who was "breaking in".
Which was fine with Carmen.
She strolled around until she found what she had come for, then flew up through the skylight again. It slowly occurred to the guards that someone should shut off the alarm. A guard rose out of his comfortable chair and ambled down the hallway without a care in the world. Until he saw the empty display case.
"El diablo es aqui!" he cried. Soon the building was swarming with police as well as two familiar detectives.
Boy George (agent #200899) was the only one close enough to make out what Zack and Ivy were saying, though he didn't make out everything. So what he couldn't hear, he ad-libbed as best he could.
Detective dialogue according to Boy George: (Stuff we are pretty sure he
made up is in parenthesis)
Ivy: (God d--n it!)I can't believe we fell for something so obvious! No duh it was a Carmen crime!
Zack: Don't blame yourself.(Carmen's just the best thief in the world! We didn't stand a chance!)
Ivy:(Yeah I guess your right) But she just walked right in and swiped the (couldn't pronounce the name of the mask so he called it the voodoo mask) Voodoo mask! All this time and it had just been a trick!
Zack: Well we know she can never try something like that.
Ivy: I bet she would.(And we'd probably fall for it again too.)
Zack: Well, we have a run away mask on our hands and no clue yet.
Ivy: I think that was all she wanted to do, Zack.
Ivy: You know what really boils my pasta? She used a crime detection unit against us! The irony of it! (makes me so God d-ned mad! If I ever get a hold of her I'm going to kill her!)
Zack: That's Carmen for you. Ya gotta admit, it was a good idea.
Zack: Well it was.
Ivy: (@#$%!)Hey, there's someone in those bushes over there!
Ivy: There! (and my God what a hunk a man HE is! D--n he's hot!)
This is where he goes off the deep end. Needless to say, Boy George got a beat down from Ivy when she caught him. His description of that scene typed would have so many parentheses with dashes in them that there would be basically no text. I'll just say it wasn't pretty and leave it at that. Now before you all think everyone here is like that, they aren't.
Boy George has a bit of a cursing problem and he's incredibly narcissistic.
What is common however, is a general fear of Ivy, because, well, Sandiego rules state we can't hurt them, but Ivy sure can hurt us, and she takes the liberty quite often.
Still, it was kinda funny to see Ivy chasing him. Boy George is such a womanizer and Ivy was just the perfect justice.
Wait a minute, I'm getting off track here!
As I was saying, that is what conspired between our detective friends. Meanwhile Carmen has changed clothing and has escaped using the metro. At 2:00 in the morning, public transportation isn't as low on Carmen's list as it is during the day. Besides, everyone would be combing the air and sea for her. They would never suspect getting on a common subway.
Ah, the genius of Carmen.
She came up at a rendezvous point and was picked up by an ordinary looking cab that one of our guys drives part time. We all regrouped in the basement of the Blue Shell Inn.
Then, we partied!
Everyone who had been a part of the crime was in (I helped! I had to carry equipment, but I helped!) which was about twenty people. It was a very good party indeed. The best part of these victory parties is when we all get Carmen to stand on a box or a table and have her make a speech about what great thieves we all are and that together we could take over the world and such.
Once we all started singing Gospel music. The entire time Carmen spoke we kept crying out, "Yeah Sister! Say it loud, Sistuhhh!"
It takes a while but Carmen eventually gets into it.
So like usual Carmen made her speech and we acted like a bunch of idiots until about 6 in the morning when the owner kicked us out because he would be opening for business soon. Carmen had a glass of wine or two, then left at about 3am. She usually leaves early. Many others did as well.
She went back to this huge stone hovel inn the rurals and had a good sleep.
We, on the other hand, continued to roam around the countryside until 7 or 8 then went back to camp. Carmen generally doesn't mind or even care what we do off-duty. So long as we were ready to go by 8:00 on Monday, we could do whatever we pleased (To a point of course).
We all woke up in time the next day to see our beloved leader on TV.
Needless to say, it had been a success. The media was all over the story, all inadvertently praising Carmen's genius. Most of the reporters caught on to the idea of a car alarm, and hailed her even more. Ivy's quote about Carmen using a crime detection unit against the law was repeated several times and the legal system was scolded over and over again for letting something like this happen.
Carmen was in a very good mood for the rest of the week. The next night she started a string of thefts all relating to the mask theme, but none would compare to what she had just pulled. I believe that particular crime wave is over now, but sure as the sun rises, Carmen's already started something else. That is for sure. She couldn't keep away if she wanted to. And if that wasn't assurance enough, another volume of Carmen's "gift catalogue" is missing.
"Whoever says I do it to prove myself intelligent is correct, but what I really wish to prove that a solution can be found for any situation... and that I will always find it." - Carmen Sandiego
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.'
(This is an excerpt of ‘TSE' a massive Carmen fiction that my wife and I wrote, circa 1999. I was very new to the world and so some suspension of disbelief is required where my technical knowledge is obviously lacking.)
"Show her my what?" Carmen asked as Kidman fussed over the buttons on her coat.
"Show her your empire!"
"Kidman, that would take literally years."
"Just give her an overview, point out some key points of interest, dazzle her with the hidden beauty of the INL! Really sell it."
The woman looked amused.
"You want me to convince her to stay, don't you?"
Kidman polished a button carefully.
"I never said that...I just want her to see what you really do."
"Is that so?"
She paused and let Kidman finish fiddling with her button.
"You realize, small one, that I can see right through that."
"Don't tell her."
"Oh for heavens sake, Kitty."
"But even so, I do think she should know of what you really are as opposed to the false rumors and myths that surround you. No doubt she has been bombarded with the same that I was when I first lived within the Agency walls."
Carmen took sudden interest. "What myths?"
"Well....that you left for the fun of it."
"Yes, I know that one well enough."
"That you are an idiot because you chose a life of crime-"
"'Chose'...yes, I've heard that one, too."
"That you're poor."
Carmen laughed softly under her breath.
"That Proff. Bellum makes all your gadgets because you can't-"
"They also think that all you are is a thief, living in a warehouse somewhere, existing for your next theft and only that. I like that myth the most."
"Because...," Kidman murmured happily as they knocked on Seldavia's door, "it is so magnificently false."
"Isn't it, though?"
"So will you show her?"
"You just enjoy the reactions. If I blindfolded you I'd bet you wouldn't enjoy this nearly as much."
"But you won't, will you?"
"Oh of course not. I'm not going to ruin your fun."
After a few moments the door finally opened and out stepped a rather calm, if not resigned Seldavia.
Kidman grabbed her immediately.
"Oh...hey Kidman." Seldavia said with a soft smile, still emotionally exhausted.
Carmen smiled apologetically in response. "Kidman would like to show you ‘the truth about me'."
Seldavia looked at the woman before her. She was an unusual beauty, a graceful pillar of calm that radiated with effortless power. Kidman looked so small and childlike in comparison, yet strangely at home. Seldavia's first thought was to feel ashamed at her own appearance, but passed it off. It was a new day. Apprehension prevailed, but a ravenous curiosity was making itself known beneath her caution.
Kidman ran in past her as Seldavia and Carmen stared at each other. "The fluers are happy again!"
Seldavia turned and felt another wave of emotion wash as she saw Kidman stroking the petals of her damaged flowers. They were different now; beautiful, and Kidman was in awe of them as had been the original plan.
Surely it was an omen of some kind.
"The truth about you?" Seldavia asked in an easygoing, almost daring manner. ' Show me what you've got, but I still don't trust you yet...'
"Well, rather, the truth as to what I do. Come, the limo awaits outside."
And they went.
"This is Ground facility 115." Carmen declared over the roar of engines.
They were in an underground airport that appeared like something out of a Sci-Fi movie; a dormant volcano brilliantly altered to avert catastrophe should it decide to reawaken. Construction lights were strung up like stars far above their heads and the many jets and liners; both bought and stolen, taxied about the endless tarmac, their reflectors blinking obliquely as they rolled towards the oncoming dusk.
Carmen ushered the two aboard a rather commonplace freighter and they took off shortly after.
"Carmen, this plane doesn't look to be up to your standard of luxury." Seldavia said, half amused.
"I have my reasons."
"Okay, then where are we going?"
"Yes Kidman, the ice castle."
"It's a wondrous place Master has nestled in the Urals, our own magnificent laboratory that stretches for miles on her private property. Though she has a great multitude of labs throughout the world, Master built this one specifically for her refugee scientists."
Carmen rolled her eyes at the use of the word "Master".
"You sound like an infomercial. ‘Nestled in the Urals...'"
"I suppose I should tell you what I really do for a living seeing as you are one of us now."
A steward brought in tea and shortly departed.
"I always thought you were a thief. Aren't you?"
"Why yes, amongst other things. It was my sole curriculum for many years until I had enough money to do what I do now. The art of theft is a dying one, like sword fighting. It is beautiful, skillful, yet so misunderstood."
"Yes, but stealing hurts the population."
"So a museum does without a piece for a few months. I don't rob people's livelihoods. The museums usually get their artifacts back rather quickly and some free publicity. The Mona Lisa isn't famous because of skill alone."
"So why do you do it?"
"For fun. On the side."
"On the side of what?"
"Tell her, Master, tell her!"
Carmen sighed. ‘So rare to see her so happy, though...'
"You mean tell her as you would? Fine."
Carmen drew herself up in a mock pose of arrogance.
"I am a technological kingpin in both the black and white markets. I am the president of various companies, and one rather unique group named the INL. These persons, numbering almost two thousand by now, are the 'henchmen' or 'gang mates' in my ring of thieves.
"But we aren't all thieves. The INL is a sub-sect, an underground society with all the positions of a country to itself. Of these, most are either thieves, political refugees, hackers, ex-military officials, scientists of all kinds, doctors, and petty criminals of other kinds. Some are here because they want to be part of this Empire and reap the benefits of it. Some are here because they wanted to do something different with their lives, but almost all have one common identity. We can no longer function in our current societies. The scientists and doctors can't get funding, equipment, or interest in order to carry out their research.
"There is a group known as the Collective of Fugitive Scientists, or CFS, which consists of a growing number of scientists that are here because their lives were in danger for what they knew, but felt they must continue their work. I provided a haven for them."
Kidman puffed up in her chair, obviously enjoying Carmen's performance.
"Then there are hackers who needed purpose, thieves that needed inspiration, petty criminals that needed discipline, and young persons that found the military disillusioning after the Gulf and Nam wars and were ready to fight the system. We are all here, waiting and watching, moving below and above the surface in a new world we claimed for ourselves."
Kidman clapped and Carmen motioned for the steward to bring her something stronger to drink.
Seldavia probably would have as well if she drank at all.
"But what do you do with all these people if your main drive isn't theft?"
"It's a company in the end. All of us use what talents we have to steal, alter, create, and sell. Each has his or her part. If you've ever come across something in forensics that has a pyramid of three dots, it means I'm proud enough to have such a thing linked back to my dedicated team."
"What about the competition?"
"I assimilate the competition."
Kidman looked up from her tea.
"Carmen does that, she shells them out and then buys them in."
"I see." Seldavia replied flatly.
"I didn't think you would be impressed. There is the taint of illegality on it that seems to diminish any accomplishment it might be to nil."
"Oh not at all! I don't really have a grudge, so long as you're not hurtin' anybody."
"I should hope I don‘t..."
"So you run a multinational company in the black-market and you steal on the side."
"Corporation, and the INL is a League."
"Cooperation is generally used for extremely large companies."
"I get the feeling you aren't comprehending just how much I control. Look out the window to your left."
Seldavia looked down into the mountains and her jaw dropped.
Interwoven around four peaks was an immense white structure of glass windows and domes that seemed to rise naturally from snow. The sheer magnitude of this complex, sitting somehow hidden in the mountains, somehow inconspicuous to the Russian reconnaissance, was hard imagine, even though it was right below her.
Kidman happily watched her expression. She was so proud of Master.
"I see you're enjoying yourself." Carmen remarked.
"You know me all too well. Look at her stare. How beautiful..."
They landed on an air pad lit in airy splendor.
Carmen tucked Kidman under her jacket and motioned for Seldavia to ready herself for the cutting winds that awaited them. Guards immediately surrounded them as they stepped off the plane and escorted them in. Seldavia looked at Carmen as she ran ahead, luminescent under the cold lights, her black trench coat in sharp contrast with the driving snow, hair whipped wildly by the wind.
That woman belonged here.
Seldavia marked the view as a snapshot in time, something to reflect upon at a more tranquil time.
They cleared security with a flash of lights and paperwork and Seldavia found herself in a lab coat with a security tag around her neck. Kidman was wearing neither save for her uerthermine glasses, most likely a new pair after all this time. Two black-clad guards, who turned out to be good-natured ex-military workers from the States, followed the trio as they went. Seldavia hadn't believed the idea of ex-military in Carmen's ranks, but it became clear that this was a large category of INL as she was introduced to security personnel they met along the way.
Carmen walked at a frightening clip down the softly lit hallways, asking her guards to open doors here and there, coaxing Seldavia inside, and introducing her to the local staff and machinery. As the woman led her along the twisting corridors of the labs, Seldavia had to wonder why Kidman seemed so at ease here when it looked, well, though not the same as, but close to the resemblance of the Complex she had just been rescued from.
"And now the coup de grace...."
Carmen led them into a plush lobby that ran in a circle around something massive. Seldavia had seen a massive dome of glass from the plane, but so far had not seen anything with one from inside until now.
"Inside this door is the Bay. In here is where my most grand creations are made. There are usually about ten different projects going on at any one time, so it is quite busy. Watch yourself."
With a flourish of identification the guards swung the glass door wide to reveal a magnificent room of impossible proportions. The doors opened to a catwalk that encircled the observatory with stairs leading to the ground floor. Seldavia walked to the rail in awe. The room was at least a quarter mile wide.
Below she could see the various projects taking shape amidst the noise and chaos. People scurried back and forth with this and that, others at terminals, while still others were welding or tinkering with their projects. She could see three distinct vehicles; along with two more that seemed to be in their early stages, as well as many smaller projects out of a Bond movie. The great glass dome covered the whole of it, underneath which was a crisscross of wires, pipes, and metal rafters, chaos in an orderly fashion.
After a while a couple scientists noticed their Grand Master on the high walk and almost all work ceased as they paused to greet her, some quite enthusiastically.
Carmen looked embarrassed and Kidman looked happy.
Gradually work resumed once more.
"I guess seeing you is a rare occurrence."
"Of course. If Master stopped in here all the time nothing would get done," Kidman chirped gaily.
As she spoke she spied a scientist pushing her way through the crowd towards them. The woman was dressed in a designer lab coat that bore markings that Seldavia would later recognize as a sign of high rank. She had a short, thick mop of dark brown swirls with a rather conspicuous white streak up the front, and what seemed like a slimed down version of infrared goggles.
She greeted Carmen in Italian and shook her hand, then ruffled Kidman's hair, as was the common and accepted form of saying hello to Kidman, then turned to Seldavia and spoke in Italian until she realized she wasn't being understood.
"So you are ze girl who brought home my niece? Graci, graci! So proud of young courage you have. Let me introduce myself. I am Professor Bellum."
"You're Sara Bellum? But your hair..."
"Ai! Zey still have dat horrible picture of me in Agency files, don't they? No, my hair does not stick straight up like dat. So, you've heard of me?"
Carmen was trying hard to suppress her laughter. She had made sure that Acme never changed Sara's picture.
Seldavia shook her hand.
"Well yes, I have. You're Carmen's main engineer. Didn't you leave at some point-"
"No, I never left."
Seldavia felt a soft jab in her side as Carmen interjected and she deduced from the woman's face not to press further.
"I see you already know quite a bit about Professor Bellum, but let me tell you a bit more. Sara has been with us for nine years after she was 'downsized' from the cooperation she came from, Lumini."
"As you can see, Lumini ees no longer in service." Sara said with a smug smile. "I oversee ze board of Technology department, and dis place is my own personal domain. Look up. You see zose windows on the walls in circle below dome? Ze second row above them is ze windows to my apartment complex."
The Bay was roughly a quarter mile in diameter itself and roughly four stories high. From where the three stood, they were on the third floor. Below them was another overpass spanning the circle with white marble walks and the various labs and offices behind the doors that lined it. Then there was the ground floor. At the level they stood on and starting about fifty feet to the side were five by ten foot windows that ran also ran the span of the dome, offering the surrounding lobby area a spectacular view.
Carmen explained that the offices on the Third Floor were for the bulk of the inhabitants here. They had not only a view of the mountains outside, but when they walked outside of their offices, they were greeted by the windows into the Bay.
Seldavia looked up. There was still yet another level of windows above that.
"What is the Fourth floor?"
Carmen pointed to the East side.
"Higher ranks. Starting from that marker there is where the East Bay Apartments start. Every six windows is a room. As it gets closer to the South end, every ten windows is a room, and the whole West half is Sara's alone."
"Indeed eet is."
"Where do the normal people stay?"
"There are no normal people, Seldavia."
"But this can't possibly house them all."
"Of course not. Many of these scientists are on sabbatical or drafted for special projects. At least half of these rooms are rented out, though the fee is high, but so is the salary. Some live off premises and stay at the camps, while still others rent the economy rooms of the Ground floor. Oh yes, and there are more living quarters in Building H in the East wing."
"If my dwelling was not in such a disarray I would take you up to see eet."
Seldavia looked up.
"Uh Carmen...there's a man on the roof..."
"Yes, that's a janitor. Don't worry, he has a harness on."
"What is he doing? Can't he fall through?"
"He's removing of some of the more stubborn pieces of ice on the dome. No use having windows if you can't see out of them and sometimes the embedded heating strips go dead. It is a large space, after all. As for him falling through, this is made of double sheet bullet proof plexi-glass, and even if he did fall, the filter would stop him."
"To keep unwanted light from getting out."
"Anything you would like to show us in particular, Sara?"
"Well, I do haf zis one theeng. Follow me."
The group descended into the chaos along with the two bodyguards.
The noise on the Floor was deafening. Engines and protocol signals and beeps, and the ever-constant paging of various technicians to other sites echoed off the walls. Every once and a while something would rise above the din and make itself clear, sometimes an electrical snap, sometimes the whirl of a new motor being charged.
The seas parted as the Most High walked through. Almost immediately the workers identified Seldavia from the Reception last week and congratulated her, thanked her, and some even blessed her.
Finally Sara stopped and picked up a curious device off a lab table that several scientists had been bent over.
"Zees is a long range scrambler. Eet jams security electronic systems temporarily. You just point and cleek zis button here and...but not before you push dees, dees, and dees....and then you haf to calibrate it 42 degrrees, zen you haf to decide what level you want eet on. Then you aim and push dee button. Eet soundz complicated but eesa not. Here, you try."
Seldavia took out her hand to hold it but suddenly realized she was still as a lack for fingers and jammed her hand quickly back her pocket.
"No, no thanks, I'm afraid I'll break it."
They waved goodbye to the professor, who was already lost in her own world, and began the walk back to the gratings. Seldavia walked quickly without a sound.
Carmen looked puzzled but it passed quickly. She was still unaware of the condition of Seldavia's hand and so thought nothing more of it, but Kidman looked highly concerned.
"You haven't told anybody about your hand?" Kidman whispered at her, just loud enough to be heard by the woman beside her.
"No...it doesn't matter Kidman."
"Of course it matters! You must tell Master!"
Kidman sighed, then got an idea.
"Master, can we show Seldavia the Medical District in Poland? 602?"
"I don't see why not, but I thought the Medi-Sci gave you the creeps."
"Only in some places..."
"Well if you don't have any objections, little one. How about you, Seldavia? Are you feeling up to it?"
"Yeah I'm fine, lets go!" Seldavia said with mock assuredness. Damned if she was going to show her weak face again.
Carmen gave her a look that pretty much said she knew better, then stopped a security cart.
"Take us to the airlift, please."
Carmen turned to Seldavia.
"The indoor airlift here is also quite impressive, I might add."
The security cart drove them to the West wing of the Bay and reached a set of interlocking heavy metal doors. Security was passed and the cart drove through into a hexagonal metal corridor lit by tiny blue lights that caused for an eerily beautiful glow against the circuitry and metal. They were on a elevated trestle to the side, as shuttle tracks lay below. Seldavia watched the cars come and go in a ghostly metallic silence that was intermittently broken by Kidman testing the echo factor. At last the cart reached a second set of doors, more security, and they entered the airbase overhang, then down the ramp onto the floor.
"Kidman, stop that. Put your coats on, is usually cold in here."
The noise was deafening. They could hear the vibrations as they were coming down the corridor but the sound increased a hundredfold within. Jets of all sizes taxied around them, threatening to crush them with one false move.
Kidman started playing with Seldavia's hair.
Seldavia looked at her incredulously.
"Kidman, what are you doing?"
"No it's okay, it's fine, but why now? With all these things everywhere?"
"Things? Oh, the planes. I don't know."
Carmen looked on calmly. Kidman was a reminder to her of what really mattered in this high tech, and sometimes impersonal, world.
"Kidman seldom knows why she does the random things she does. I suppose that's just her way."
Seldavia felt herself calm as well as Kidman braided any lose strands she could find, then braiding the braids with the braids.
"Master, where's our plane?"
Carmen had out her laptop, the screen lighting up her lap the same pale light as the airbase.
"Our plane is that one there, the 747 in the corner getting refueled."
Carmen got out of the cart and made arrangements with the officials guarding the plane and then with the pilots.
"Carmen, do I still need this lab coat?" Seldavia asked.
"Might as well keep it, or I'll have to get you another at Medi-Sci. Don't lose that pass."
"Come on then- Kidman, stop playing with her hair for one minute so you can look where you're going." Carmen remarked as Kidman tripped over a fuel hose.
Kidman resumed her braiding once they had boarded and Carmen resumed with her laptop.
Seldavia propped herself up next to the window, half listening to the conversations of the agents around her as she watched the ground fall away, leaving the bright bustle of the Bay to be swallowed up by the cold, starry night.
(Excerpt from 'Saving the Lain', the second epic fic thing I did with the wife, circa 2001)
"So.... uh, this is your train?" Matt asked Carmen awkwardly.
Seldavia made a face behind his back. ‘Lame.'
She was almost sure that Carmen was thinking the same thing, if she was even listening.
The woman was huddled over her laptop, now connected directly to the train via a port under the window frame.
Matt seemed unwilling to look Carmen in the eye, for all his brashness. This secretly pleased Sel, knowing that she held the respect of someone so mysterious that Matt couldn't fathom her. But he certainly was going to try.
"A-hem hem Hem!"
A few people looked up, Carmen not being one of them. Matt proceeded to go into what appeared to be a desperate fight to clear his throat of phlegm. Seldavia shook her head in embarrassment, more for him than herself.
"Do you need some water?" Carmen asked without looking up.
"Uh no, yes! Yes some water would be good... So, what are you doing?"
A few other agents looked over her seat.
"Yeah Boss, what are we going to do about the outsider?"
"I left a whole bunch of stuff out in the open, I'm so sorry, I didn't have time-"
"We aren't going to just abandon Sub-White 1, are we Boss? My stuff is there and -"
Carmen glanced up at her worried henchmen.
"No one's abandoning anything. This is temporary. I'm not getting any of you killed over material possessions, but if you're so worried...."
Carmen clicked a few more keys.
"She can't get into any of your rooms or workstations."
"Or our bar?"
"No, not even the bar."
A cheer went up from the back row.
Carmen looked amused and Matt saw his chance.
"So, where can she go?"
"Well, I have her limited to the corridors. I'm sure she'll pace up and down them a bit, get bored, and leave."
"Unless she graffiti's the walls." added another comrade.
Seldavia suppressed a laugh as Carmen spoke to someone on her headset.
"Carol, could you send a line out to our field agents and tell them to take a train to White Base or sub2, which ever one is closest to them."
"So you run this whole operation by yourself?"
Carmen sighed. "In a sense. They run it. I coordinate it."
"But you're the master schemer of some of history's greatest crimes. Your network is unrivaled!"
"Oh it has plenty of rivals..."
"So why are you in crime, anyhow? You seem so...legit."
"Let's just say that law-abiding world is for people who need laws."
"And you don't?"
"What's the real reason? You didn't just wake up and decide to be a kingpin."
"That's pretty much it. Masahra, can you watch this for me? Tell me when the activator bar turns red."
"Then where did you get the money?"
"Thought you were an orphan."
"Is that so?"
"It says so in the dossier."
"Do you believe everything in the dossier?"
"What else is wrong?"
"My IQ is actually 300."
"You're not going to be straight with me, are you?"
"Did you think I would be?"
‘Ask a stupid question...' Seldavia thought, and was surprised when Carmen winked at her in response.
‘Did she hear me...?'
"Why not? I'm a trustworthy kind of guy." Matt asked, oblivious.
"Well if you really must know it goes like this;"
"Wait, let me get my note pad."
"I was working as an undercover agent in Ireland back in the eighties. It was raining and I hadn't eaten in days. I was about give up and go to a punk rock concert."
"And there was this little man dressed in green. I had heard about this gang before, and I knew the bounty on them was very high."
"So I traced him back to his hideout by using the unusual sky display as a guide."
"Then I grabbed him! He tried to bribe his way out, but I had been forewarned of his kind. Eventually he gave me his life saving which he kept in a big black pot. I don't remember the exchange rate for gold back then, but it was a pretty good sum."
Matt sighed. ‘Why do I even bother?'
"Yeah, thanks for that."
"No, thank you. It feels so good to finally get that off my chest. Now, if you don't mind..."
"Alright, alright. Is there a restroom on this train?"
"Next car over."
He had just closed the door when the entire car exploded into laughter.