It could have been a family driving to the grocery store in their SUV. The driver was mostly quiet, only occasionally yelling to his passengers to quiet down. Several guys were joking around and teasing each other in the back, with a playful fight erupting now and again. A small girl was sulking in the corner, hat pulled down over her eyes. It all could have been normal, yet none of it was. The 'SUV' was a military Stryker vehicle. The 'guys' were a team of Black Ops soldiers; giddy from the adrenaline rushes of their successful mission. The little girl was still a little girl but she wasn't sulking about what they were or weren't going to get at a candy shop. She appeared to be sulking about going at all. No one was complaining though, most girls would not be so calm after being kidnapped.
The girl in question had no idea what had happened. One minute she was up late with Margo, arguing about school and the next, she was being taken away in a very scary car. Somewhere in between was lots of gunfire, explosions and a long, jarring fall. Through a window, if she remembered it right. "Some guy jumped me and ran out a window, shooting up the house. I can already see Agnes' face." Edith smirked. She'd have to make a few embellishments and then it would be an awesome story! She almost whipped around to tell Margo, then reality sunk back in.
Moisture threatened the corner of her eye; the proud child had to viciously rub her eye to make it go away. Crying was the one thing she would never do in front of anyone. Even in the horrible, horrible years she spent at Ms. Hattie's Home for Girls, those tears would never form under the harsh glow of buzzing electric lights. Only in the total darkness alone and safe in her bed would Edith allow herself to let it out, if only a little. Those nights, she would curl up as far under the covers as she could go, bury her head deep into the pillow to muffle her sounds, and cry. Let the raw emotions she had been restraining all day to wrack her small body, let the bed absorb the cries of pain and despair she desperately needed to scream, and the soft fabric of the pillow to absorb the rivers of tears that would flow from her eyes.
Her sisters never asked why her eyes were so red the morning after, they didn't need to. They understood that Edith couldn't show how badly she felt, that it would expose her vulnerable heart to Ms. Hattie's hellish rage. So would just both hug her, whisper words of encouragement, and let their actions say what their words couldn't. Any other time, Edith would've pushed them away, claiming that such intimate displays were beneath her, but not on the mornings after. On those days, before a fresh day of torment began, they would just embrace each other, sharing their strengths and weaknesses. Margo let Edith's headstrong confidence bring her up, Edith let Agnes's innocent hope become her own, and Agnes would feel all her fears dissolving under Margo's protective shield. These were their favorite moments; it provided fleeting memories of their true home, the one that had been so violently ripped from them. Always though, Ms. Hattie's sickening voice would boom through the P.A., and it was over. It would be time to return to prison.
"Yo! El Chica! Why the long face?" a taunting yell came from the kidnappers, followed by rancorous, cruel laughter. Edith balled her fists, wanting nothing more than to turn around and punch all their faces in but knew if she tried, she would be hurt. Ms. Hattie never hesitated to use her ruler to "prevent more fighting". However bad she might've been, these men were so much worse. They had tried to shoot dad, and one fuzzy memory actually displayed a gun pointed at her. For all she knew, they might kill her for hitting them. So the girl tried to force her anger down, however, it seemed to get stuck in her throat. Something was burning, making it really hard to breathe. Edith swallowed as hard as she could, but the lump stayed right where it was. A tear was dripping out of her eye when a loud thunk echoed throughout the car. She risked turning her head just enough to see, and saw one man had decked another, just like she had wanted to. Slowly, the burning went away, and she wiped her eye again as the bigger kidnapper chewed out the smaller one. She turned away before they could notice her looking.
"Sorry about my squad-mates, they're usually pretty wild after a successful mission. You can come to me if anyone bothers you." A voice said from behind the young girl. It was much deeper than the first one had been, and sounded… so much more mature than the others. It was hard to describe, but his voice carried no hint of joking or malice. A small part of her immature mind wondered if he was really a robot, programmed to act like a human. Still, she finally had a target for her anger and sarcasm, and quietly replied:
"Well, some mean people kidnapped me, it's kind of bothersome."
There was a brief pause, and when he replied, there seemed to be a hint of sadness in his voice. (Disproving the robot theory) "I'm sorry you were dragged into this. All I can say is that your father owes our client a great deal of money, and we've been hired to ensure he pays what he owes."
The 8-year had almost no clue what the man had said, but she caught the tone. "So, you're holding me for ransom?" she asked hopefully.
Behind his combat mask, the soldier smiled. "Yes, I guess you could say that." Edith thought this was insanely cool. Just like the hero in that awesome movie she couldn't finish because Dad had caught her. She smiled, grounded for a week, but so worth it. However, the memory of her father, even when he was yelling at her, brought the girl back down. She remembered exactly where she was.
"I want to go home." She said, her sadness showing through. Edith hated herself for sounding so weak, but it was the simple truth. She and her sisters hadn't had a real home for almost 3 years, ever since that fire... Even now, none of them could be around an open flame without running away or crying. One of the worst tortures Ms. Hattie had ever used against them was tying them to a chair and lighting a match as close as their noses. Those days, if two of the girls found their sister quivering and whimpering on the floor, they would know what Ms. Hattie had done. They didn't sleep alone those nights; the girls would join all the beds together, and sleep in one great bundle. Somehow, it kept the nightmares away. Still, Gru knew when his daughters would scream and the first time Agnes had a nightmare, he gathered up all three girls and they slept together in his bed. Edith knew her Dad was secretly awkward and nervous, but he relaxed when they all cuddled into him and slept, even Margo. Those mornings were the best, as they would wake up knowing they were all together and loved once more. Even if it did take a while to unwrap Agnes from Dad's leg.
"Don't worry young one, I'm sure this will all be over soon enough. Your father's not known for letting things go easily." The soldier finished as he sat back down, a knowing smile on his face. Felonious had once chased him across the entire continental U.S. to retrieve a set of stolen blueprints to his first hideout. It had been quite the mission. If Mr. Gru had recognized him on this mission, he probably would've jumped out the window after them, knife in hand. A distant hiss brought another smile to the soldier. He knew they were almost home.
Edith jumped in her seat as a giant BA-DOOM shook the car. The kidnappers didn't seem bothered at all, in fact, they seemed more excited. She was about to ask what the heck was going on, when they all got to their feet, like they were ready to run, and one grabbed her around the waist and mouth. Biting hard and trying to scream, the young girl barely noticed the back door falling open and all the kidnappers sprinting out. Then everything turned into a blur.
A roll that made her sick to her stomach.
A jarring stop, with little bzzt's flying by.
A distant scream of pain.
Another roll, steel beams flashing by.
Being drug across a grated metal floor, a hand muffling her cries.
Being swung side to side as the world flashed by.
The sounds of fists hitting flesh.
A long drawn out yell…
Edith was about to puke. However, right before her stomach gave way, a loud voice called out "Stop!" and the world went still. After her guts stopped turning and got back into place, she looked up to see a lone, bald man striding down the walkway they were on. His steps echoed everywhere, since they were the only sound at all in the massive warehouse-sized room. Down below, she could see the strange car that had taken her away from home, along with five other, stranger looking cars. Two seemed to have a cannon on top, two had six wheels and a weird thingy on top, and two looked like normal cars with another thingy on top. Edith had no idea what the things on top might be, but she did remember dad's lawn basically started exploding as she was being thrown into the six-wheeled car without a cannon. Maybe they were magic! Suddenly, the lights were blotted out, and someone cleared their voice right over her head. Edith slowly looked up, seeing only the outline of a shaved head silhouetted against the blinding warehouse lights.
Slowly the head came into focus. The man had a scrunched up face, like he was always squinting. His head was almost completely devoid of hair, except for some dark outlines here and there. His ears were huge and bulging; like they were full of water or something. His nose was battered and flattened. His lips were very pale, almost impossible to tell apart from the rest of his face. His eye brows were blonde, also camouflaged well against his face. Even his eyes seemed hidden, a deep blue inside wide slits of eyelids. Still, the lines on the scrunched part of his face carried the expression well, and he looked pissed! All of the young girl's instincts told her to curl up and hide, but her ego wouldn't let her. So she glared back at the man with all the menace she could gather. He just glared harder at her. Right as Edith was about to break and look away, his eyes softened, his mouth kinda almost smiled, and he started to laugh.
The laugh had a deep tone, but was full of energy and life. It brought a warm glow to the young girl all by itself. Around her, the soldiers (for half were in uniform) slowly started loosening up. Guns that were held closely to their chests were falling to their sides. The tense, jaded expressions were morphing into easygoing smiles. Even the arm keeping a strong grip on its hostage loosened, giving her some breathing room. The girl was too busy to enjoy her new freedom though. She was staring at the man in utter confusion. Not even her extremely random super-villain dad laughed for no reason. The thought that he was insane crossed her mind when he clapped his hands and began a speech to the soldiers.
"Bravo and Charlie squads win this round boys!" He called across the room. Three of the soldiers looked a little put off by his choice of words, but most were now cheering and doing victory hoots. "They managed to break Alpha squads defense AND (he said it loudly) brought me an 8-year old girl who can stare me down longer than Dillon!" Joyous, teasing laughter broke out everywhere, and one very sheepish looking soldier was getting many playful pats on the back. "However!" he said abruptly and the room grew quiet. "I was also kind of hoping to get an 11-year old bookworm." The room went silent as Edith's head started buzzing. They were after Margo too! Who were these people? She looked up in time to see another half-smile show on his face. "Ah, we're fine ya big dummies, mission successful, everyone to the mess hall!" What followed could only be described as a human stampede. When it cleared, only Edith and the bald guy were left in the room.
He put his hands behind his back and started circling the young girl, his face curious and inquisitive, like he was trying to find something inside her. Edith stood there without moving, glaring at him when she could see him. This 8-year old is a master of projecting an image of confidence and general recklessness. Even if she feeling nervous and scared inside. Still, with every revolution, the man grew more knowing and a little condescending. Edith got the distinct feeling he saw straight through her mask. Finally, he stopped and faced her. "You do an excellent job of hiding your emotions, even better than some of my soldiers." He stated. The little girl was a little unnerved at how fatherly he sounded. "Be careful though. Here, bluffs will be called and a brave statement will be tested. Don't say something unless you're prepared to back it up. Understand?" Edith nodded, feeling much more humble than before. "Normally, you'd be placed in the cells for the duration of your stay, but you're quite young and have committed no crime…" he trailed off. Edith felt a shiver go through her at the word slammer, but didn't quite know why.
The sound of boots on the steel walkway announced one of the soldier's rapid approach. His face seemed covered in some kind of sauce. He snapped into a standing form, and then stated "Lieutenant"
The bald man turned, assumed the same stance and replied "Corporeal".
"I know that normally we would use the Brig to house our hostages, but due to her age, I would like to make an exception this once." The bald man nodded, looking interested, if skeptical.
"I request that she sleep in the Bulldog Barracks, with my fireteam."
"Really, why is that?" the bald man stated, starting to circle the 'Corporeal'.
"We were the ones to enter the house, we should be the best prepared to understand her actions or needs."
The man finished one circle, smiled at the Corporeal, and stated "You just want her near you Nicholas. Something happened during the operation, something you did, that you feel you need to make up for." Edith wasn't sure what he could've done, the memories were pretty sketchy, but the soldier nodded stiffly. "Permission granted, I was actually thinking about the problem myself. Keep her away from the drinks and guns though, I want no incidents, understand?"
"Yes Sir!" the younger corporeal hooted, masking his emotions.
"Good, you're her babysitter from now on then. Watch her like you would your own daughter. Now get back there before all the good food is gone." The older man said, clapping the corporeal on the back.
"Come with me little one." The younger man said, and took her deeper into the base, into his home. Edith was still nervous, scared, and still desperately wanted to go home. But she sensed that she would be cared for here, and could go home soon. In the end, that's all she really wanted.