AI 1 No Pawn Can Truly Replace The Queen
No one wanted a new member to the team. With Myka gone, Pete, Claudia, and Artie had all gotten closer, and even Leena had begun helping in field assignments a little bit. They were still a family, though a bit broken. They got by, even if it was because no body talked about Myka.
But that wasn't the issue. The point was, they didn't want a new member. And that was that. However, apparently, Mrs. Fredrick had decided that was a big "No."
"We don't need a new member," Artie pushed. The team- Artie, Pete, and Claudia- were assembled in the front room, facing off against Mrs. Fredrick.
"Arthur, the three of you can not balance the duties of the Warehouse properly," Mrs. Fredrick said calmly but firmly. Her eyebrows were slightly knit together, the only sign of her irritation at being argued with.
"Leena's helping," Pete pointed out, his arms crossed.
"Leena is not a Warehouse Agent."
"Then why don't you make her one?" This time Claudia spoke up. She was slumped in her clear swivel chair, moodily glaring at Mrs. Fredrick out of the top of her eyes.
"Because she has… other purposes," Mrs. Fredrick insisted. "Besides, she's not qualified. Now, you are going to get a new agent. And that is that!"
They couldn't push their case after that.
It was two weeks before Mrs. Fredrick showed up again, and the Warehouse agents had hoped she's forgotten or finally folded. But no, she came one day, saying she'd found the new agent.
"What took so long?" Pete asked, this time his hands on his hips.
"She proved… difficult to track down," Mrs. Fredrick said carefully.
Artie narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"Well, let's see her," Claudia said with a shrug.
The door to the Umbilicus slid open, and a tall, thin woman stepped into the room, carrying a mischievous half-smile. She had black hair that had a reddish hue in the light and wore a long black coat under a ratty messenger bag.
"What! Her!" Arthur yelled, scrambling to his feet, his eyes suddenly lit with rage and disbelief.
"Oh, nice to see you too, Artie," the woman said in a light and cheery, but sarcastic voice. She had a British accent- not as thick as HG's, but still very noticeable.
"Miss Anderson is currently the only person suitable to fill in the opening in your team," Mrs. Fredrick said, her voice remaining calm.
"Wait, who is this chick?" Pete asked, bewildered.
"Mr. Lattimer, meet Alice Anderson," Mrs. Fredrick introduced, pronouncing the woman's name 'Al-ees.' "Miss Anderson, Pete Lattimer."
Alice extended her hand and took a few steps towards Pete. "Pleasure to meet you-"
"Don't touch her!" Artie ordered quickly, moving surprisingly fast to intercept her. "Alice Anderson always has deadly artifacts with her."
"Oh bloody hell, Artie, I'm not going to kill him!" Alice said in exasperation. "Look, I've got nothing up my sleeves." To try to show this, Alice pulled up her sleeve, however, this revealed a silver bangle on her wrist that looked suspiciously like half of a pair of police cuffs. "Oh, damn, forgot about that." The Brit quickly pulled her sleeve back down and backed away.
"Was that the other half of Modus Operandi's handcuffs?" Mrs. Fredrick asked strictly, as if speaking to a child in need of discipline.
"Please add it to the list of artifacts you will be adding to the Warehouse's inventory."
Alic pouted slightly, crossing her arms.
"See, you can't trust her!" Artie demanded angrily.
"Miss Anderson has agreed to work for the Warehouse in return for something of value to her, and she understands that if she does anything harmful to it, that thing will be snatched away." The way Mrs. Fredrick spoke made it clear that she wasn't just telling Artie the facts- she was also reminding Alice of them.
"And what would that thing be?" Artie asked with cool suspicion.
"It would be none of your concern," Alice snapped, anger raging across her face briefly before she forced on a blank mask.
Claudia, who'd watched quietly up until now, spoke up. "Let's just give her a go, Artie. As if we have a say on whether or not she's an agent anyways."
Mrs. Fredrick gave Claudia a grateful nod. "Miss Anderson will also be restricted to inventory duties until she's achieved a certain level of trust with both you and the Regents."
Artie's eyes flashed. "This is just like when you brought back HG! We can't trust her!"
"You will work with her whether you like it of not." Mrs. Fredrick's voice was hard and commanding, and with that she turned on her heel and walked out.
"I'm not going to try to destroy the world," Alice said indignately. "I quite enjoy living."
This brought a snort from Artie as he turned away from the Brit and towards the computer. "Claudia, Pete, there's a ping a couple towns over. It's easy; you can go deal with it quickly." The burly man turned and glared at Alice. "I'll be dealing with this one."
Alice sighed lightly as Pete walked past her with a quick nod.
"Good luck," Claudia whispered with a smile when she passed. Alice chuckled, shaking her head, and then met Artie's gaze.
"Are you still mad about Paola, Artie? I told you it was the Italians' fault," Alice teased with a smile. Artie didn't laugh.
"What did you do to them?" Artie asked coldly.
"Who?" Alice tilted her head to one side curiously, her arms still crossed in from of her.
"The Regents! You've been an enemy of the Warehouse for years; they have no reason to suddenly want you on the team." Artie spoke angrily, his eyes glittering with suspicion and rage.
Alice sighed. "Artie, how many times have I stolen artifacts from right under your nose without you ever noticing?"
"Too many," the older man answered unhappily, "but what's your point?"
"And that means I know this Warehouse just as much, if not more, than you do. I know ever secret way and tiny crevice. And they know that" Alice shrugged. "Besides, I only ever did those things because of the Regents, and it seems they've changed. Maybe I'm not even a threat anymore."
"That doesn't mean you can be excused for what you've done," growled Artie.
With a sigh, Alice put her hands up in surrender. "Fine. I'm a bad girl. But at least give me a shot, eh? I can be of use."
Artie sniffed and turned away. "Yeah right. I'm only going to deal with you because I have to. However," and there he paused to glare at Alice out of the corner of his eye, "if you ever step out of line, make me even think you're betraying the Warehouse, you won't be around to manipulate the Regents with pretty words. I'll put you six feet under."
Alice laughed and turned her back to him, muttering under her breath so Artie couldn't hear, "As if you'd be able to kill me…"
"Wow, he really hates her," Claudia stated as soon as they were outside the Warehouse.
"I wonder why. I mean, she seemed fine to me," Pete said, "and I didn't get any vibes about her. Plus, Mrs. Fredrick trusts her, and that makes her a-okay in my book."
"True." Claudia opened the passenger door of the SUV. "Still, HG fooled us all except Artie. She could be no different."
"Only one way to find out," sighed Pete, getting in and starting the car. "But for now, let's just bag this artifact."
Pete and Claudia returned with a voodoo-Barbie doll to find Alice and Artie in the main office. Artie was pointedly facing away from Alice in his chair, while the woman slouched in another, and the two were bickering.
"Can I do inventory?
"Can I use the computer?"
"Can I go to Leena's?"
"Can I kick you?"
"Hey guys, I hate to interrupt..." Pete started.
"But we've got a evil Barbie doll of doom to take care of," Claudia finished, waving the silver bag at the two.
"Good, good. Claudia, put that thing away, and take this bloody she-devil with you!" Artie gave Alice another glare.
"Oh yay, into the warehouse!" Alice practically squealed, bouncing up onto her feet.
"On second thought..." Artie growled.
"I'll keep an eye on her," Claudia promised. She led the way out of the office. "Follow me, she-devil!"
Alice trotted after her happily.
"So, Alice," Claudia began as they made their way into the warehouse. "How do you know Artie?"
"Oh, I helped him with a mission when he first joined the warehouse way back when," Alice answered cheerily. "He's hated me since."
"Wait- when he first joined? He's like, old. And you're not. How'd that work?"
Alice laughed. "Darling, I was born in 1749, in Wimborne Minster."
Claudia stared at her. "Wha- How!"
"Well, when a man and a woman love each other very much-"
"No I mean, how are you still so young!"
Alice sighed. "Lots of reasons, Claudia. Mostly because I was bronzed..."
"You were bronzed?" Claudia repeated, shocked.
"Several times." Alice shrugged.
"That explains why Artie hates you so much..." Claudia muttered. "I suppose he always will, then."
Alice shrugged. "Probably. But personally, I don't care one way or another. I'm not here for him."
"I would ask what you're here for, but I've got a feeling you won't answer," Claudia said.
"Smart girl," Alice answered with a smile.