Author: A Markov
Title: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Summary:Sequel to Vanishing Love. Violet thought growing up was hard, until she fell in love. Now she is struggling to build a future in a relationship that nobody, including herself, understands but the past won't leave them alone. Is love strong enough to overcome the sins of the past? Can she find balance between love, family and duty? The resurrection of a sinister Agency project and the return of an irate ex aren't going to make her life any easier.
Warning: This story contains some explicit language and deals with mature themes including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.
Disclaimer: The characters and locations are property of Disney and Pixar. They are used here without permission or profit. You're welcome to sue me, I don't have anything.
Chapter 13: Second Best Hand
Chi stared down at the phone in her hand, lost in the past, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Violet's voice brought her back to the present.
"Who was that?"
Chi looked up, still somewhat confused. "What?"
Violet moved close to her, concern obvious in her expression. "On the phone… Just now, you answered the phone and then zoned out. Who was it?"
It was a good question. Chi struggled to find an explanation that wouldn't make her sound crazy. After several false starts, she realized her silence was causing Violet's concern to intensify and just answered the girl's last question. "It was… Jacobs." Her answer didn't seem to decrease Violet's concern, so she added: "My… my old handler."
Violet wasn't any less concerned, but she did seem more confused. "From The Agency?" At Chi's nod, she continued, "What did he want?"
"He uh…" Again, the explanation was probably going to make her sound crazy. He woke up my inner child and gave her chores was probably going to freak Violet out. She noticed that her delayed response was agitating Violet again. She just blurted out the simplest explanation she could think of. "He activated me."
"You're being called in to work at The Agency?" Violet spoke slowly.
Chi sighed. She knew she wasn't making sense. "Not exactly." She tried, once more, to come up with an explanation that didn't make her sound crazy. There's a little girl inside my head who works for Jacobs but it's OK because she's actually me and she's not insane or evil at all… really. How would Violet react to that? "I have to call him up and make reports about you. When you leave." Maybe Violet would leave it at that.
"What?" It wasn't a scream… quite.
Chi closed her eyes and whispered, "When you leave, I have to call him and tell him where you're going and then… I have to…" She was still a little hazy on how she knew this but it was important. "forget… I called."
"WHAT?" This time it was very much like a scream.
Chi placed her hand on Violet's arm, trying to be reassuring. "He said something on the phone. Something in Latin… I think…"
Violet pulled her arm away and leaned back. "And now you're hypnotized or something?"
"No, it's like there's someone else in here with me... completely separate… asleep… I don't think I'm supposed to know about it…" Chi could see Violet withdrawing. She realized how her last sentence must have sounded. "Not 'it'" she hastily corrected. "her."
Violet took a step back. "I'm really scared, Chi. If there's something inside you making you do stuff and forget about it…?"
Chi could feel control slipping away. This was the reaction she feared. She had to convince Violet that she wasn't in danger and what had been awakened wasn't some faceless agency drone, but a real person based on her own memories. Unfortunately, the only thing that came out of her mouth was "Not something, someone."
"That's even scarier!" Violet shouted, moving further away. "A completely different person? Inside you?" Violet's eyes brimmed with tears, her voice was pleading. "You can see how that would freak me out, right?"
Violet's fear was tearing her up, Chi tried to sound as calm and sane as she possibly could. "You don't have to be afraid of her."
Violet looked at her in complete disbelief. "You're saying that there's a person inside you… that you didn't know about… who works for Director Jacobs… and is going to take over your mind and body… and then use you to tell him everything I say and do… and I don't have to be afraid of that?" Violet transitioned from fear to anger somewhere in the sentence. "Why the hell not?"
"Because she's me."
"The 'someone else' is me."
"How do you know?"
The question momentarily made Chi angry but she understood Violet's concern and fear. She tried to reassure the dark haired girl. "I can see her... me. It's definitely me. I'm sleeping."
Violet regarded her through narrowed eyes. "How can you tell that it's you and not some Agency construct?"
"I can see her now." Chi chose her words carefully, struggling to find some way to explain what was going on in a way that would reassure Violet. Perhaps if she let her know that it wasn't a new phenomenon, "She's always been here but I never saw her because I never looked there before."
"Freaking out now."
Or perhaps not. Chi tried another tactic. "It's a memory." She kicked herself for depersonalizing again. "She's a memory. She's my memory."
"They screwed with your memory before, Chi."
Chi mentally kicked herself again, of course Violet would be sensitive about that. "No. This is a real memory and she… I'm asleep."
"Still freaking out." Violet insisted, but she relaxed marginally.
Chi knew she had to just tell Violet everything. No matter how crazy it sounded. "Vi, when I lived with the sisters, there was a spot in the cellar where I used to go and hide. A place where I kept some of my favorite things... a scarf… it was soft and colorful, I was sure it was made of silk. I had a bracelet with a bunch of plastic charms… my favorite book; 'El Principe Oso,' I guess it was a kind of nest; a place where I could dream. I can see her… me… sleeping there. I just finished reading the book and now I'm curled up dreaming of the Bear Prince." Except she wasn't; she was dreaming of something else…
"Chi, none of this is helping." A note of hysteria crept into Violet's voice. "Are you saying there's a version of you, a memory, that's reading a book and napping in the basement of the orphanage where you grew up?"
The blonde considered this. "In a way, yes." Violet was still worried but she wasn't shrinking away anymore. Chi took her hand and drew her nearer. Violet didn't resist. "There was a little spot in the cellar. I used to sneak down there when I was supposed to be doing my chores. It was always cool and smelled spicy. I had to climb up two of the water casks-they seemed so big-and slither around a duct-it was flexible so I could move it enough to get around it… I would curl up on a knitted blanket that Thea gave me and rest my head on that soft scarf and read that book." Chi paused for a moment lost in the memory and Violet relaxed against her side. She put an arm around the younger woman and rocked her gently from side to side. "I thought El Principe Oso was the most romantic story I ever heard. The woodcutter's most beautiful daughter agreed to marry the bear so her father could continue to cut wood from the bear's forest to support her mother and sisters." Chi used her free hand to stroke Violet's hair. "But the bear was actually an enchanted prince who gets taken away from her and she goes on a quest to break the enchantment. She was beautiful and she was the hero! She saved the Bear Prince…" Chi noticed Violet was starting to tense up again. "I guess the story's not really important." Chi tilted Violet's face up so she could look into her eyes. "The important thing is that it's me. A little part of me is still curled up in that little niche in the cellar where I used to hide from my chores, rest my head on that soft scarf and dream of saving the Bear Prince."
"I don't understand."
"There's no faceless secret sleeper agent inside me, Vi. When you leave, that little girl is supposed to wake up and call Jacobs and tell him where you're going and then I'm supposed to forget all about it."
"How is it that you know about it and how is this not scary?" Violet's voice cracked.
"I'm not sure, exactly, but there's something new in my life, something different from the last time she was awakened."
Chi grinned. "You, silly."
"Yes. You. She likes you, Violet. It's like the phone call woke her up and she looked around my memories and she found you. She found you in my memories and now she's curled up on that knitted blanket resting her head on that silk scarf and dreaming but she's not dreaming of saving the Bear Prince. She's dreaming of saving you."
Violet's brows furrowed in concentration. "So, when I leave…?"
"Her instructions are to call Jacobs and tell him where you're going."
Violet pulled away slightly. "Chi, Uncle Rick's in custody. Bartel just told me. He wants to meet…" She dropped her head into her hands. "How am I going to make this work if you have to-"
Chi's easy laugh interrupted her. "That's what I'm trying to explain, Vi. You don't have anything to fear. Jacobs miscalculated! The little girl, who he's counting on, is me. More importantly," Chi took Violet's face between her hands and looked directly into her eyes, "she's the part of me that sneaks off to the cellar and does what she wants instead of doing her chores. And she likes you way more than she likes him."
Violet's brow furrowed momentarily as she considered Chi's words. Slowly her expression morphed from confusion into comprehension and then into relieved amusement.
Violet glanced around the crowded coffee shop. She picked out Joe Bartel easily. He looked exactly as Chi had described him. She didn't see anyone else who was obviously an agent but that didn't mean he was alone. She made her way over to him and sat across from him with her back to the door.
"Where's Ms. Mera?"
Violet ignored the question while she moved the chrome napkin holder so she could see the reflection of the door in it. She glanced at the clock behind the counter and looked around once more to see if she could identify which customers were really agents.
"Ms. Parr, I—"
"Shh!" She held up a finger. Violet didn't know if she was just being paranoid or if they really were out to get her, but she couldn't shake the feeling that this was a set-up. "I don't like this place," she hissed.
"Ms. Parr, I—"
"How many agents?" she interrupted.
"How many agents do you have in here and why do you want to know where Chi is?"
"Ms. Parr, I assure you…"
"I'm sure you do." She waved off his response. "I'll just find out for myself." Violet glared into his eyes unrelentingly as she sat back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. Dense smoke began pouring from under a door to a storage closet at the rear of the serving area and a concerned murmur ran through the small shop. The murmurs turned to cries of panic a moment later when the door burst into flames. "Stay there!" Violet commanded as Bartel started to get to his feet. The frantic crowd flowed around them toward the doors. In minutes, the entire shop was empty of people. There was an abrupt change in the air pressure and all the exterior doors slammed shut. The smoke flowed outward, collecting in the glass windows of the shop, hiding them from the outside.
Bartel looked over at the closet door. It was completely whole and unsigned. "That was you? An illusion?"
Violet nodded. "I figured if there were any other agents with you, they'd still be here when the smoke cleared."
Comprehension dawned on Bartel and he gave her a look of grudging respect. "Of course, the fire department will be here soon…" he cautioned.
"So, talk fast."
"None of your damn business," she growled.
If Bartel was surprised by the answer or the tone, he didn't let it show. "You understand that this is about her as much as it is about you?"
"I understand that The Agency has a secret program to build its own army of supers in case we go rogue. I understand that Chi and Syndrome were used to eliminate the supers that The Agency thought were most likely to pose a threat. I understand that Director Jacobs coordinated the whole thing," Violet flexed her hands and pinned Bartel's arms and legs with force bands, "and I understand that you're Jacobs' lap dog." She stood, suddenly. Her chair skidded away from her and crashed against the door behind her. A flick of her head and the table between them flew to one side while Bartel was lifted from his chair and pushed violently back against the wall. "I also understand the concept of taking care of loose ends and if you think I'm going to hand Chi over to you so you can shove her into a deep hole somewhere and forget about her, you've got another thing coming."
Bartel struggled against the invisible bonds holding his arms and legs. "Ms. Parr, I assure you that I'm well aware of your feelings about Mirage. As far as I know, there's no plan to incarcerate her and I'm sure that you would move heaven and earth to rectify the situation if The Agency was to move against her. I'm here to talk to you about Agent Dicker. The Director is making him the fall guy for this whole business with your friend, Kari, and he's being detained in The Agency's high security wing."
"Kari? Kari McKeen?" Violet took a step back and released Bartel's bonds with a gesture. He stumbled slightly as he regained his feet and his balance. "Kari's in Norway." Violet continued, "Skippy Loop-de-loop sent her away after… Are you saying that was Jacobs?"
In the distance, they could hear sirens.
"Ms. Parr, Violet…" Bartel looked nervous, he licked his lips. "This is a completely different issue. Your friend, Kari, is back in the U.S. and she thinks she's Syndrome."
The sirens were getting closer.
Violet's eyes narrowed as she searched the agents face for some clue that he was trying to play her.
An air-horn sounded just outside.
"How many agents?"
Violet clenched her fist and rolled her eyes in frustration. "How many agents are out there?" she growled.
The shouts of the emergency crew could be heard from the street outside.
"Sure you are." Violet glanced at the clock once more; it was time to go. She closed the distance between them quickly and looked Bartel straight in the eye. "Do you trust me?"
"Grab my arm and don't let go."
Dr. Simmons rubbed his temples and tried to remember the last time his head didn't hurt. He rummaged in his drawer for a pain-killer and tried to remember if he'd taken Tylenol or Aspirin last time. He closed his eyes and let out the breath he'd been holding. "Screw it!" He thought, and reached for the Vicoden. His headache had been pretty much constant since Dicker had brought him onto the 'Synthdrome' case. He briefly considered filing a complaint with HR against the senior agent for exposing him to what any competent jury would agree was a hazardous situation. At the very least, he could get a few weeks off when the situation was finally resolved. Though, as far as he could tell, there could be no satisfactory resolution to the situation. He looked over his notes once more. The girl's transformation was startling and frightening beyond anything he'd ever conceived of. The completeness of her indoctrination and the total loss of anything resembling her own personality was unimaginable. He'd spent nearly ten minutes looking through the thesaurus trying to find a word to express how bad it was and had been unable to find one. It was, quite literally, the end of humanity.
A muffled crashing sound reached him from somewhere else in the building, probably the girl's lab. She'd been building all kinds of destructive things. They'd barely been able to keep up with her and prevent anything from getting too out of hand. He turned back to his work station to finish his recommendation that the program be ended immediately and all records expunged but another crash, this one much closer, caused him to jump a little in his seat. He reread the recommendation through and sent it off, knowing in his heart that the people who would read his recommendation were too short-sighted to follow it. There was no other course of action available to him. He would have to sabotage the program himself.
Simmons gathered up his notes and started shredding everything he could find that related to the program. He deleted all his files and notes from his computer, then realized that probably wasn't good enough, and started a hard drive reformat. He made a mental list of everyone involved in the project at the lab. There were nine people who knew the scope, but he didn't think any of them could recreate the program from scratch. If he destroyed his notes, the computer files and then fled the country, maybe they wouldn't be able to duplicate the process. The girl would have to die, of course. She was, for all practical purposes, the inventor of the process.
Simmons took a moment to mourn privately for the tragedy that someone so brilliant was also so flawed. If only that power and intellect could have been nurtured and focused for the good of all humanity… He stopped when he realized that he was on the same mental path as those who had initiated this whole thing in the first place. The cold hard truth was that humanity wasn't ready for this and they might never be. He glanced at the clock as he gathered up the bags of shredded documents. Jacobs would be back soon. He had less than an hour to burn the remains of the documents and figure out how to kill the girl.
As he made his way down the stair well to the incinerator in the basement, the concrete wall next to him exploded outward. Chunks of flying concrete and rebar tore through his body at nearly supersonic speeds. The smell of smoke filled his nostrils and as his consciousness faded, he hoped the fire would destroy what was left of his notes on the project.
Seventy four agents and contractors were at work in the Agency building known only as "The Lab." Of those seventy four, only nine knew the full story of what was going on. It wasn't any help to them when "Syndrome" got tired of playing games and loosed the killer robots; first on them and then on the unsuspecting population of Metroville. When the flames died down and the smoke cleared, they were just as dead as the people who had no idea.
Joe struggled against his bonds and tried to get through to the young woman pinning him to the wall.
"Kari? Kari McKeen?" she asked in surprise. The invisible bonds holding him suddenly went away and he nearly fell over. The young woman turned away from him and scratched her head. "She's in Norway. Skippy Loop-de-loop sent her away after… Are you saying that was Jacobs too?"
In the distance, he could hear sirens.
"Ms. Parr, Violet…" Joe chose his words carefully. Invisigirl obviously thought he was trying to bring her and Mirage into custody. The fire department would be inside any moment and his best chance to put a stop to the 'Synthdrome' project would be gone. He took a deep breath and remembered his negotiation class motto: When all else fails, use the truth. "This is a completely different issue. Your friend, Kari, is back in the U.S. and she thinks she's Syndrome."
The sirens were getting closer.
The suspicion on the girl's face was disheartening.
An air-horn sounded just outside.
"How many agents?" She hissed at him.
"What?" Was she still accusing him of bringing back-up? Who could he trust?
Her entire body tensed and her eyes flashed with rage. "How many agents are out there?" she growled.
"I'm alone." He tried to reassure her, but her paranoia was infectious. Maybe he had been followed.
The shouts of the emergency crew could be heard from the street outside.
"Sure you are." Her voice dripped with sarcasm. Suddenly, she was right in his face. "Do you trust me?"
"Grab my arm. Don't let go, and don't panic!"
Nonplussed, he wrapped his right hand around her left bicep, struck by how small she was. With his hand wrapped around her upper arm, his thumb was actually overlapping his finger up to the first knuckle. He was wondering how someone so small could manage to be so intimidating when the world went away. Holy Shit! Joe bit off a scream and clutched the tiny arm in his hand reflexively. He could feel the floor under his feet and the girl's arm in his hand. He wasn't dead, just blind. He gasped reflexively and a scream started to form in his gut.
"Don't panic," she repeated, "it's just a side effect." Her voice was a hiss.
Joe managed to suppress the scream and tried to find something to focus on.
Invisigirl provided a welcome distraction. "Take two side-steps to your left." She muttered and pushed gently at him. He felt a large body pass through where he had just been standing. "The door is directly in front of you." Her calm murmur penetrated his fear and kept the panic at bay. "On my mark, walk forward, normally." He almost started forward immediately, but a gentle pressure on his chest held him back.
"Now." The soft command was accompanied by a change in the pressure and he found himself moving forward. "Four more steps then turn right. Three… Two… One… turn." A small tug let him know when he'd gone far enough. He kept walking, concentrating on picking his feet up and placing them carefully. Panic over his blindness threatened to overwhelm him, only Invisigirl's calm voice and his own years of training kept the paralyzing fear at bay. The sounds of people rushing around him formed a picture in his mind. He visualized the barriers, the crowds the big, red trucks. Visualizing what was going on was another way to occupy his mind and keep the fear under control. He felt the pavement under his feet. It was solid and reassuring. The smell of water evaporating, ripe garbage… they must be passing the alley… That was a good 35 feet away from the coffee shop, they were moving fast.
"Four more steps then turn to the right. Three… Two…"
Did she think he couldn't count?
The smell of the dumpster nearly made him gag. His hand tensed around her arm, involuntarily, and she let out a small hiss. He was suddenly aware of the death grip he had on her arm. He must be crushing the bones together. He started to relax his grip…
"Don't let go yet," she murmured, "we're still where they could see us."
Realization drove the panic away just as she pulled him to a stop.
"Ready?" she asked.
He nodded then realized she probably couldn't see that so he tried to say 'yes' but before he could form the word, the world popped back into view. The sights of a Metroville alley filled his eyes. There was a dumpster. It was overfilled and rotting food waste from several restaurants spilled out. Something the color of phlegm oozed down the side and underneath it a rat carcass writhed with the activity of thousands of maggots feeding on it. He'd never seen anything so beautiful in his life. Nausea and fear, heightened by dizziness brought on by the unexpected return of his sight churned in his stomach and he added a little more color to the ground in the alley. He recovered fairly quickly and turned to take out some of his frustrations on the young super who had just put him through that. She was rubbing her arm where his fingers had dug into it and flexing the fingers of her left hand.
Joe could see the bruise already forming on her arm. His anger faded quickly. "Sorry about that." He muttered.
She shrugged it off, "comes with the territory. C'mon, we've got a train to catch."
"Cab, train, bus, limo..." She shrugged again. "Same thing."
He followed her through the alley. "Ms. Parr…" he cleared his throat, "How… uh… why… uh…" Joe swallowed and tried to quiet his roiling gut.
"Basically, I just made it so your body wouldn't reflect any light. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about anatomy to exclude your optic nerves from the process. No light reflected to your optic nerves, you're blind."
"That's not how the eye works, Ms. Parr."
Invisigirl rolled her eyes and threw up her hands. "Well, if I knew how a god-damned eye worked, I could probably make you invisible without making you blind." She snarled, as if that fact was painfully obvious and Joe was just being stupid on purpose. "If it'll make you feel any better, you handled it a lot better than my dad did."
While he tried to wrap his mind around Mr. Incredible's possible reactions to suddenly finding himself blind, they reached the end of the alley at the same time a tan Town Car pulled up. Violet opened the door and slid in making room for him. As the car pulled away she turned to him, "now, tell me why Kari thinks she's Syndrome and what that has to do with Uncle Rick being locked up." Her tone was light and conversational but there was steel in her eyes.
Bob Parr turned off the television and shouted as he ran toward the front of the house, "Helen! Dash! Giant robots destroying downtown! Let's go!"
Next Time: Everybody dies.