A Whateley Universe fan fic
My name is James, Kara James.
My life changed dramatically on my eighth birthday. My mother's name was Annabelle James, and she was the head of Black Swan Military Contracts based in San Cabrillo, Karedonia. She used to work for Gizmatic before I was conceived, helped put him in power actually She retired from field work and started her own company when I was born. Nowadays Black Swan mostly did work for legitimate governments, black ops that they couldn't handle for what ever reason. Most of those government clients where less then thrilled she was based out of Karedonia, but the lack of extradition treaties and the local laws kept the company safe.
I grew up with a dozen or so 'aunts' and 'uncles', hard men and women who had a variety of skills ranging from hand to hand exerts to power suit jockeys. Throw in former Hollywood special effects specialists, a combat wizard named Harry who fights the things that go bump in the night, and hackers that could strip a secure network of all it's secrets. My mother had assembled quite a team, and those who required the services of independent contractors knew it.
Granted more then a few of them didn't know what to do with a precocious and... OK I was a down right nosy brat growing up. Add in I as the boss's daughter and my mom could take any of them on the sparring mat and did so regularly... I learned a lot of things that Children's Services would have been having fits over if they knew.
Not that Karedonia has Children's Services like in the United States, of which I was also a citizen. No, Karedonia is... well to borrow a line from Mr Lucas “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” But it was home, and beautiful. We had a rather charming beach house which was at the heart of our training compound. There where all manner of work shops were the tools of Black Swan's trade where repaired or made, barracks to house the staff and gun dogs and a training center. A dry dock jutted into a small but deep bay. Cradled in the dock was a decommissioned 378-foot High Endurance Coast Guard cutter which Black Swan was retrofitting to work like the SHIELD helicarrier. Why do you seem surprised? Karedonia is Black market Central. And with all the mad scientist types that call the island home, or at least 'vacation home', there is always fun new tech to play with. To this day I suspect that there was more then fluoride put in the water supply.
But all the tech and training does little when your guard is down for what should have been a fun day celebrating a kid's birthday. The tech and special effects crew were setting up for a light and sound show, several of the gun dogs were out fishing, and me and Mom where out looking for an outfit for me to wear.
San Cabrillo still has that bygone 50's era vibe that has managed to avoid the ultra modern that has taken over the capital. The town had also manged to avoid the tourist trappings of the other villages, as there where no hotels or time share lairs in the area. Which is quite a feat as it was only settled a little over a decade ago. Most of the residents where formerly in the villain business as minions, henchmen, and mercenaries and they wanted to just forget about the world at large. Mom got a pass as our compound was several miles down the road, and our people quietly encouraged the new to the scene recruiters, villains, and the regular tourists from hassling them. San Cabrillo was connected to the rest of the island by one road that wandered through the jungle which was not the friendliest patch of shrubbery, as Prince Jobe had has his creations, both flora and fauna released within.
The town's open air market is an intoxicating place, and I don't mean because whole-sale drug and alcohol distribution was going on. That didn't happen in this one, though there was some illegal tech being passed around. No, it was all the people. Until my dieing day I will be a people watcher because of that market. Over a dozen languages could be heard as prices where negotiated, threats where exchanged and bargains struck. And the common place sales of food, clothing, and entertainment went on side by side with what the world called illegal.
November 11th, 2000
“Now Kara, don't you want to look...” Mom started to coax as she held up a flora print dress.
I cut her off stubbornly shaking my head “No, rather get some new khakis and a shirt.”
“What, so you can rip the shoulders out of another one?” Mom huffed as she harshly rehung the dress.
“I didn't rip them out, I asked Julia to alter them properly.” I protested, for I had asked the company costume maven Julia Dietrich for the custom work. Mom never objected to Julia doing alterations before, why should she be protesting now? Back then I liked how I look with bare shoulders but still having sleeves, and I still do.
Mom sighed and looked down at me. “Kar, you know your grandparents are flying in. I want you to look like something other then ...” she paused trying to think of something to compare me to.
“GI Joe Barbie?” I supplied, as more then a few of the local kids had called me that, especially after I'd field stripped and reassembled a hand gun for show and tell last year.
Not that I looked like Barbie. No, that look went to Mom with her blond hair, crystal blue eyes and perfectly tanned skin. Me, I take after my father with my tumble of dark curls, light brown eyes and skin tone that had people thinking I was either Hispanic, a light skinned African, or Native American. Even Mom admits she wasn't sure what my father was. She didn't even know his name. That day I was wearing Daisy dukes and the red short sleeved shirt with the Gizmatic Sprocket logo on the front. Mom was in a smart light gray business suit that said “Professional” with a capital P. I knew she had at least five weapons on her as well as a PFD. I was also armed, though only with two knives. I was hoping Mom would let me carry a gun now that I was turning eight.
Mom gave me a thin smile. “I was thinking little savage, but GI Joe Barbie works. Look, lets get this one dress. Wear it for a few hours and you can get something you like after your your grandparents leave to go to their hotel.”
“Anything? And why aren't they staying with us?”
Mom held up a finger “Within reason.” she said avoiding my second question.
“All right.... but no heels to go with the dress.”
“Sandals. Nice ones, not the ratty ones you have at home. Actually we should find you a new pair of every day ones while we're here... go try this on Kar. And come out so I can see it, don't just go in there and wait for a bit then come out saying it fit. I want to see it.”
She knew me so well, that had been what I was considering. With a grimace I grabbed the dress and headed for the small cubical that was set up as a fitting room. I gave it a once over looking for hidden cameras and the like, but this seller was honest and didn't take part in any voyeur porn shots of naked customers. Striping off my shirt I pulled the dress on over my head, leaving my shorts in place. While I suspected Mom knew, I really didn't want her to see the lacy, and slightly sheer, thong I was wearing. It, and it's three sisters that where hidden under my mattress where early gifts from Julia. It's a good thing Mom has had me doing my own laundry since I could reach the controls while on a step stool, else they'd never get cleaned without her knowing. Smoothing the dress I stepped out and gave a slight twirl to show it off to Mom.
“Very nice dear but you really should have taken off the shorts, they ruin the lines.”
“Didn't feel like it Mom,” I replied as I ducked back into the changing room.
Mom let out a sigh. “Kara, what have I told you about going without underwear?”
“That it's only OK at night when I am going to sleep.” I parroted back as I changed out of the dress. “And only starlets who are out for attention go out in public during the day without. And you hate working for attention seeking starlets.”
“That's right. Let's get that paid for, find what ever it is you want, then back to the compound. The fishermen should be back by now with dinner.”
The walk back to the compound as the last pleasant memory I have of my mother.
Black Swan's compound was surrounded by a decorative six foot tall stone wall that concealed some of the best force field generators and automated weapons turrets on the market. It also didn't look like a training center for a mercenary outfit; with the Spanish style architecture of the buildings and the fact the challenge course was hidden behind hedges. OK maybe the jump jet landing pad and the dry dock gave it away some.
Charles Godfree, our gate keeper for the current shift, gave us a wave as he opened the wrought iron that blocked the drive. Charles was a new addition to Black Swan, and had only been with us for a few months. He'd been with the MCO until ideological conflicts and politics forced him out. Their loss was our gain as besides being an excellent power suit driver, he had a knack for keeping them running in the field without a support system and he was an effective trainer.
“Good timing ladies, the elder's pilot just radioed in to say the jet will be landing in fifteen and should be here ten after that. The fish and burgers are on the grill as well.”
“Thank you Charles. Kara, hurry up and get changed.”
“Yes mom.” I said before scampering away.
I was stripping off the lacy panties when it began to get hard to think. Dropping them, and not caring that my lower body was bare, I fought against the haze to press my face to the window to try and see what was going on. The gun dogs and support staff I could see around the compound where just standing there staring into space, their faces slack. Mom staggered out from the porch, looking dazed. As if her appearance was a trigger, the shields came up. The intruder defense system kicked on a few seconds after the shields, spraying a fine mist of a paralytic agent from hundreds of nozzles all over the compound.
People started dropping.
Shaking the haze I threw clothing on and covered my bare skin, mouth and eyes as best I could as the intruder defense system in the house kicked on. I hesitated then, debating what to do next. My decision was made when I saw armed men sweep through the gate. I grabbed my go bag like Mom had trained me to do and darted through the house. I could hear muffled orders being issued as I skidded into the pantry and flipped open a concealed key pad. Quickly tapping in my code a section of flooring popped up allowing me access to the evacuation tunnel. Red lights came on as I dropped down and pulled the hatch closed behind me. The red glow flickered to life ahead of me as I pelted down the corridor as I tried to decide if I wanted to stay in the panic room that was ahead or go out the escape hatch. I was worried whoever was invading might some how know about our panic room and had the equipment to break into it. A sound I thought was the the front door coming down solidified my plan in a hurry, and kicked my speed up several notches until I came to the the exit hatch and triggered it's release.
I shivered under my makeshift shelter as the rain pounded down through the leaves. I'd fled into the jungle figuring that even with the Jobe-spawn it was still safer then sticking to the road and being picked up when our attackers left. I planned on hitting one of the safe houses Mom had set up in the village in the morning and... my plans hadn't evolved past that point. If I needed to I was could “borrow” a bike or a motor scooter once night fell again so I could put some distance between what had happened and myself if I needed to. I didn't like the idea of just leaving every one, but... I shoved the thoughts down and away before tears could come to my eyes. I didn't have time to cry. This was just like survival camping with Mom.
Just without her.
I pushed it down again and fished a power bar out of my pack, and began to nibble. I needed to keep my energy up, though I also needed to think about where my next meal was coming from as I didn't have many more bars. I could beg, but people in San Cabrillo knew me, and once they saw me word would get around, and possibly to the wrong ears. I would have to resort to stealing from the general store or the gas station. Preferably the gas station as the owner of the store had an apartment over the place and he had a BIG plasma rifle in place of his left arm. Sweet guy though, he gave us kids free ice cream when we got “A”s in school.
I was beginning to nod off when screeching “EXTERMINATE!!” assaulted my ears. The Emperor had sent in the Pepper Police... this was so not of the good. Panicking I shoved my things back into my go-bag before heading deeper into the jungle and away from San Cabrillo.
Sunrise found me sleep deprived and soaked to my skin as it had started raining just before sun rise. I had pulled myself into the crook of a tree once it got to the point I couldn't run any more, and tried to get some rest. Which was next to impossible due to the nightmares that bubbled up as soon as my eyes closed. Several times I was damn lucky that when I started awake I didn't fall off my perch.
I slithered down to the ground, wishing I could grab a shower to tame my unruly mane of hair which in the humidity had poofed out into a mock-Afro. I dug out a spare shoe lace and quickly bound the mess up as I debated my next step. Mom had safe houses and supply stashes all over the island, all of them hidden behind shell corporations or under the name of an A list villain people didn't want to mess with even if they where reported MIA for several years. If I got to one of those I would have a safe place to wait and see how things worked out. I was hoping word from Mom was already waiting for me and we'd be having ice cream by the end of the day. Nodding to myself I pulled out a Karedonia topographic map and my compass to get my barring. I had a rough idea where I was, I just needed to find the road to the next town over from San Cabrillo.
I got lucky once I got to the road, there was a slow moving truck trundling along. It was child's play to hop up onto the tailgate to hitch a ride. Monica Bay was very much a tourist trap, despite, or perhaps because of, the local legend that had that the Portuguese Saint the island had originally been named for had been transformed into a woman after he stripped down to bathe in the bay's waters. She's taken the changes in stride and continued to preach until her death. When she died a church was erected around her grave, and the alter set on it. Which just happened the church was still standing and right next to one of Mom's safe houses.
The Church of Sao Monica was a humble stone building, that was like an old nun sitting out in the middle of a rock concert looking dignified and slightly amused by the hype and hustle around her. Mom's safe house was on the second floor of a surf shop that I could see was doing brisk business from three blocks away. I could also see a van parked so that anyone inside could see the stairs leading up to the second floor. The hair went up on the back of my neck and I ducked behind a mail box to watch them. If the people in the van had been Gizmatic's people... well there wouldn't be a van. Gizmatic's surveillance was wholly electronic with his Nomads and other devises. There was no need for fail-able biological witnesses when technology never slept or had to run to the rest room.
The only other people I could think might be staking out the safe house where the people Charles had helped take over the compound. Which meant I couldn't go there, as either they had someone waiting inside or they had left something fun to greet anyone dropping in. Squaring my shoulders I turned my back on the surf shop and trotted around the block to where I'd seen a phone booth. While most countries where phasing out the archaic land line Gizmatic had seen the wisdom of setting up secure lines around the country for those who wouldn't risk cell calls while planning their next job. Coming to the one I'd seen I dialed 555, which was a free call to the emergency response operator.
“555 emergency response, how may I direct your call?” came a perky, yet synthetic, voice reminiscent of the Star Trek computer.
“I saw a man in a van near the surf shop. I got a glimpse inside and there was something under a tarp in the back. I think there was blood and long blonde hair coming out from under the thing.” I said putting a quiver in my voice. “I think the guy was the one the news was talking about last week, the one who kidnapped that wealthy girl last week in Key West...”
Karedonia might be a haven for the villains of the world, but there where rules. For one you could commit a crime and skedaddled down here to hide after the fact, say after successfully kidnapping then ransoming a girl you could come down with your ill gotten loot. But if you came down here while still committing your crime, say by bringing your victim with you, Gizmatic wants nothing to do with you as he has enough trouble with other nations and you will be punished harshly. Even of the men watching the safe house weren't arrested, the disruption might buy me enough time to get into the apartment.
“Thank you for your vigilance citizen, enforcers have been dispatched to the location you specified. Please stay on the line in case we require more in....”
I hung up and hurried back to watch the fun.
I arrived in time to see the van pulling away as flames emerging from the windows of the Sao Monica to crawl up the stone walls. Before the robotic fire department arrived, the flames had spread to the surf shop. People panicked and scattered as the largest fire bots, little more then self guided firetrucks, began to spray down the buildings. Smaller more human form bots plunged into the flames to locate those trapped within. Darlek “officers” also showed up, along with Nomad Enforcers to act as crowd control and to look for the van I had called in. The van was long gone though. The last to arrive where some ambulances, with human medics.
Guilt gnawed at my stomach as the first victim was brought out of the church. It looked like the priest if the remains of his clothing where anything to go by, and he was badly burned. Two of the medics moved in to take him from the robot, and the safety orange machine turned to go back in as soon as the man was handed over.
Nearly a dozen people where pulled out of the church and the surf shop, and part of me vowed to make sure those who'd done this would pay dearly.
November 14th, 2000
I returned home in the middle of the night, wary and on alert. Home... home was in ruins. The barracks where barely standing with the massive holes blown out of the walls. The power suits had been opened like cans of tuna and left scattered around. Brass of various calibers littered the ground, and the walls where scorched from plasma blasts. The house was surprisingly intact and the cutter was missing from the dry dock. I wasn't sure how that was possible, as the last update Mom had gotten said it wasn't sea worthy. The one good thing was someone had cleaned up the bodies, though there was still blood stains.
Pushing my rebelling stomach down I began to pick through I did manage to find a few useful things in the wreckage, like some camping equipment, tools, and some cash that scavengers hadn't gotten to. One of the companies tactical tablets was also intact and I used it to tap into the security system's off site records.
Forty five minutes later I wished I hadn't.
I saw the team go up to Mom and clip something around her neck, then injected her with a hypo. She seemed to come out of whatever state she was in and shake off the paralysis. She had a conversation with the team and they spread out. Soon two squads of Black Swan operatives where collared, kitted out, and boarding two of our jump jets.
I fast forwarded the tape, watching the jet take off as the invaders did something with the shield generators, removing some devices I didn't recognize, but was pretty sure shouldn't have been in there. Then my heart froze and I paused the tape, zooming in so I could get a look at their inside man. It was Charles, looking like he knew the masked men, and was joking with them as he helped inject the rest of Mom's people. Once everyone was injected Charles and the invaders disappeared into the house.
I didn't see them emerge.
It wasn't long after that that Gizmatic's Darlek and Nomad Enforcers, as well as human troops stormed the compound. The Mom's people put up a heck of a fight, but they didn't stand a chance against the attacking hoard. I quickly switched to the local news to see what the hell was going on.
I really wish I hadn't as I found a special broadcast by Emperor Joe Wilkins had made the day after my world went to hell.
The High Pooba stomped out wearing a suit of power armor, reminiscent of Buzz Lightyear's space suit with extra weapons clipped on, with a look of anger on his weasel like features. Behind him came a gaunt man with a huge nose and a cybernetic eye who'd styled his hair up into horns. His coat was missing a sleeve, showing off an impressive mechanical arm. It took me a moment to recognize him as Dr Diabolik. Gizmatic's metal clad hands thumped into the podium, denting what ever it was made out of. “Yesterday a raid was perpetrated against a valued ally of this kingdom, breaking numerous laws, and endangering his family.”
The wall behind Gizmatic shifted and displayed a plush vacation house on one of the private beaches. A boy and girl, their faces blurred, where seen sitting at an outside table with Dr Diabolik eating dinner. Then two drop jets, the Black Swan logo visible, swept in. Automated defenses sprang up and Dr D hustled his kids in side as his personal guards arrived on the scene and began to return fire. The drop jets landed and the squads deplaned. The firefight was brutal, though it had an edited quality. The clip finished off as one drop jet exploded and the other fled.
“This violation was driven back and when Dr Diabolik contacted me about it my Imperial wrath was swift and surgical. Several of the perpetrators where killed when they refused to surrender, and some temporarily managed to escape. We will not rest until they are brought to justice!!”
Pictures of Mom and her team leaders appeared on the screen with their names, known aliases, and known skills and for those who where talents; powers. Several of the pictures had a red stamp “Killed” across them. Others had a yellow “Captured” across. There where very few that weren't marked.
Mom's was one of the red stamps.
“The crown is offering a reward for the live capture and extradition back to Karedonia of those who have managed to evade our royal might.” Gizmatic's tone shifted from Supreme Ruler to weaselly businessman. “The form of the payment is negotiable, be it gold bullion, gems, rare elements from the Orc mines, Gizmatic products, or a reduction on your next rent-a-lair.”
Diabolik cleared his throat causing Gizmatic to glance at him. There seemed to be a wordless conversation before Gizmatic reluctantly moved out of the way. The space obsessed villain glowered at the camera. “I will not stand for my children being endangered like they where, and I have seen that the perpetrators where, and still are, being punished accordingly!”
The clip ended and I absently clicked a link saying “related story” under the player which lead to a article about how, coincidentally, the private jet the Traitor's parents had been flying in on crashed on approach to the local airport, killing them and the pilot. The Co-pilot some how survived. All signs pointed to mechanical failure.
This left me wondering what I should do. My mom's side of the family was gone, I'd never met my father, and after this attack any Black Swan retirees would be going to ground or rolling over to suck up to two big name villains. Which I could do myself, by taking the footage I'd found to the police. But would they believe me, or just dismiss the evidence as a forgery I'd had made to clear Mom's name? And the people who set this up where still be out there, still looking to tie off any loose ends...
A prickle played over my neck and I ducked down clutching the tablet to my chest as I frantically looked around the darkened ruins. I glanced down at the tablet just as the stilled video fuzzed out and “Remote access lost” appeared on the screen.
“Son of a...” I cut off the curse, thinking if mom had caught me she'd tan my bottom. I had no proof now about Mom's people being attacked before Gizmatic's people showing up. Not that I could get to either Dr. Diabolik or the Emperor... well maybe Dr Diabolik was accessible. It was a crazy idea, but I knew the island pretty well, so I'd recognized where the beach house Diabolik was renting was located from the video clip.
The thought of Dr Diabolik and his kids having a family dinner in that clips hit me hard in that moment. Never again would Mom and me have dinner together. Never again could I go to her with some triumph or injury and get her full attention. Tears began to stream down my face as sobs wracked my body. At some point I drifted off laying there, and the sun in my eyes woke me the next morning.
November 21st, 2000,
I'd gotten lucky and found an empty beach rental with a busted security system to hole up in. Mind full of the neighbors, I was careful to keep a low profile going out to find food in the evenings, making sure to get back before day light. Dumpster diving really wasn't a good option in the tropics do to rapid spoilage, so I was mostly shoplifting, spreading it out over several stores, often riding a bike to the next town so as not to mess where I slept, wearing various outfits and just doing what I could to stay under the radar least someone got wise to me.
I was just going into a little Stop and Rob store when a news paper tossed on top of the trashcan caught my attention. Under the fish and chip grease and mayo the page 4 head line read “Diabolik Raid Staged” I quickly pulled the paper out of the bin and scanned the article. The gist was that after interrogating those members of Black Swan they had captured, Gizmatic's people had discovered that they had thought it was a legitimate hostage rescue. They said Mom had gotten a call, and money transfer, to recover a brother and sister who had been taken from the US by their father. They'd no clue that they where being sent after Dr. Diabolik. Those in custody where still being punished, but they weren't being sent to the Orc Mines.
Crumpling the paper I stormed out of the Stop and Rob mind whirling. I wanted to know who had set my family up, and I wanted to hand them over to Gizmatic or Diabolik's tender mercies. I had decent lead in Godfree, if I had some way of following up on it.