I don't own these characters or profit from them.

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

Everything Changes

By, Clayton Overstreet

The Player sat behind his computer and entered the new software for the new Carmen Sandiego upgrade. Then he typed in the passcode: Operation Anti-hero.

Carmen: What's all this Player?

Player: I hear you've been having some trouble lately Carmen. Two of your worst enemies, your mentor and your protégé have teamed up and stolen your organization from you.

Carmen: True, but I'm still the greatest thief in the world.

Player: Says you, but they're catching up quick. You know Carmen you've caught them both before, but only with ACME's help.

Carmen: I know. But the truth is that ACME doesn't have anything I want or need.

Player: Suppose I find something to tempt you?

Carmen: Many have tired player, but all have failed.

Zack and Ivy arrived at ACME headquarters and flopped down in their seats, groaning in unison. The Chief appeared on the screen. "Hey what's wrong gumshoes? Feeling sick? Being audited by the IRS? A big kid steal your lunch money?"

Zack laughed. "Chief, the last time a kid tried that Ivy pushed his face in the dirt and made him eat it for lunch."

"It's just this latest crime wave. Ever since Lee Jordan and Maelstrom broke out of prison and took over V.I.L.E. together we've been run ragged. Between their crimes, which make Carmen look like a saint and Carmen trying to prove that she's capable of being the best thief on Earth without her former minions the entire agency has been run ragged. Nothing is safe and every police force on the planet is feeling the stress."

"Besides that even though we've been catching them about half the time and even getting some of the stolen artifacts and money back, the henchmen are barely in prison long enough to go to trial before Lee and Maelstrom break them out again."

"The worst part is that the new V.I.L.E. doesn't have Carmen's restraint. People are getting hurt and dying and every time Lee and Maelstrom succeed at their crimes it means they have more funds for the next one… most of which they use on explosives and paying hosile foreign governments to protect them."

The Chief sighed. "Great, now you're bringing me down."

"Sorry Chief," they said. Ivy continued, "We're just over worked and worried."

"This job used to be frustrating, but it was fun too," Zack said. "Now we spend most of our time looking at the victims and wondering how far those psychopaths will go next. How long until V.I.L.E. sets up a string of nukes so they can steal the Italian peninsula or just demand control of the whole world? For Carmen it's a game to challenge herself. These guys just want to take things for themselves for the money and they will crush anyone in their way. We've lost seven agents and another thirty are in hospitals around the world."

"Well excuse me," the Chief said. "But what do you want to do about it? We're the ACME Detective Agency. We stop the bad guys. It's what we do Zack-a-reno!"

"You're right chief," Ivy said standing up. "We do stop the bad guys. But I just realized something. We're not the police."

"What do you mean sis? Are you saying it's not our problem?"

"No, I'm saying that we don't have to follow protocol or wait for their next move. We can be proactive. And we should focus on the real threat. Carmen was never a 'bad guy' and now with people getting hurt she's just a distraction."

The Chief floated around to look her in the eye. "So what are you suggesting?"

"I have an idea. Something I've been thinking about since we thought Carmen died in the avalanch last year."

"If you've had a plan that long then why didn't you mention it before Ivy?"

"Because it is against the rules, illegal, will require huge changes in ACME and our methods that make Carmen's plans look tame and there's a good chance that it'll fail." She made a fist so tight her knuckles turned white. "But now I think it's time to go all out. I'd rather die than let slime like Lee and Maelstrom terrorize the world." She looked at the two of them and said, "Here's my idea…"

When she finished the Chief and Zack stared at her, mouths hanging open in shock. Then the Chief said, "Ivy, that plan is insane, freaky, wrong, far out, and completely against everything ACME stands for." He flew around talkinging faster and faster. "My programming won't even allow me to help with something like this without high level clearance. You're talking secret black ops that, while the case could be made that we're doing the right thing, will have us labeled as criminals in nearly every country on the globe if anyone ever learns about it."

"Plus there's the whole Carmen thing," Zack said. "I mean I kind of suspected, but…" Ivy raised an eyebrow and he held up his hands in surrender. "Hey it's up to you. I won't interfere if this is what you want."

"Thanks Zack, I appreciate it. But there is a problem. If I do this you can't be involved."

"Why not?" He asked.

"I'm eighteen and a legal adult. You've still got some time left." He started to argue, so she held up a hand to stop him. "Plus you need deniability little brother. If this works or doesn't the one involved goes to prison if anyone even hears about it."

"I don't care. If you go down I go down with you."

"That's sweet Zack, but you're forgetting the really important part of the plan. For that to work it's got to be one on one. I can't have my little brother standing next to me this time. No backup. It's a risk, but one I have to take… for myself as well a for ACME."

Zack sighed. "I see your point. But if she hurts you…"

"Zack, one thing we know is that Carmen would never hurt anyone. Physically at least. Trust me, I can handle whatever happens."

"I do trust you sis."

"Zack…"

"Yeah, don't call you sis. I know."

They looked at the Chief. Ivy asked, "So what do you say Chief? Do I have the go-ahead?"
"I sent your request up to the Player and here's the response." Words began appearing on the screen and the Player's voice read them aloud. "Ivy, you are given permission to try your plan. However ACME cannot condone or support your actions. Should you do this you will have to turn in your badge. If you fail and you decide not to go through with it, then you can return."

"You mean she'll no longer be an ACME agent?" Zack asked, horrified.

The Chief reappeared and said, "That's the size of it Zack. Ivy's plan takes her totally off the reservation. Out of bounds, no going back, don't call us we'll call you!"

Ivy forced a smile. "Don't worry Zack. We both know Carmen well enough. It's a chance worth taking if it means saving lives. Even if I end up in prison it's still better than not taking the chance." She put a hand on her brother's shoulder. "Maybe if you ask nicely your next partner can be Tatiana, that nice Russian agent you like."

Zack smiled. "Well she would be easier to get along with than you."

"That's the spirit." She reached into her pocket and pulled out her ID badge. Then she tossed it onto a nearby table. "I guess that's it."

"Not exactly," the Chief said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well this sort of thing takes mountains of paperwork. It all has to be filled out, filed, reviewed. So until all that's done technically you're still on staff… with access to ACME vehicles and resources." He winked. "So you've got forty-eight hours for us to finish that paperwork and then file it or lost it, depending on how things go."

"So for two days you're saying I have unlimited access to ACME's equipment."

"Hey babe, you don't work here anymore. I can't tell you what to do."

Ivy smiled. "Thanks."

Zack said, "Ivy if you need help or anything…"

"You'll be the first person I call little bro." She took one last look around. "Wish me luck."

"Good luck," they both chorused.

"Player, C5 me to Carmen's villa in Paraguay!" She vanished in a circle of blue.

Carmen Sandiego had finally gotten to bed after a night of pacing, but she still could not sleep. She was no longer having fun, even on the job. Everytime she turned around Lee and Maelstrom seemed to be committing some other crime. Blasting through a Swiss bank to empty out the vaults, kidnapping a millionair's daughter for the codes to his security firm's softward protectors, hijacking Air Force One. All the time leaving a trail of dead or injured bodies behind them.

Carmen had matched them job for job, trying to at least set an example. She had stolen from the Queen of England's gift room, a museum in Ireland, Elizabeth Taylor's private jewelry collection, and more. She was exhausted.

"You never appreciate henchmen until they're gone," she muttered. "Traitors." It still hurt a bit, but among V.I.L.E. personnel they had come to an agreement. Carmen was brilliant, but Maelstrom and Lee were too and they paid.

"You may be in it for the challenge Carmen, but we want cash. Besides, if you weren't so soft we could have crushed ACME by now and nothing would have stood in our way."

It was sick. Couldn't any of them see the point in having a real challenge? In facing a worthy adversary? No, they just wanted a get rich quick scheme. Shallow jerks.

"Is it me?" She wondered as she started to drift into sleep. "Am I the odd one out?" She had picked Lee to turn to theft because she had thought she had seen something of herself in him, just as Maelstrom had with her, taunting her with the challenge. Instead somehow they both turned into dangerous lunatics who were nevertheless effective thieves.

Plus lately the ACME detectives had been so busy dealing ith them that it was a shot in the dark if they even had time to try to stop Carmen's crimes. Often they either let her go to chace after the more dangerous criminals or did not show up at all. She was beginning to feel neglected.

Carmen awoke sometime later as something jerked at her neck. In the dark she could barely see anything more than a sihouette standing over her in bed. Despite herself she let out a girlish scream.

The figure ran away and Carmen lept from her bed in a martial arts pose. "So V.I.L.E. had decided I'm too much of a threat huh? Well you wont' take Carmen Sandiego easily!" Suddenly she was blinded by a flash of blue light. "What?" When her vision cleared she blinked away the last of the afterimage. "A C5 corridor?" She made her ay to the light switch and turned it on.

Immediately her hand went to her neck. Her locket with the picture of her mother was gone. She had done a DNA test and confirmed her father's existence, though never gotten in touch with him again yet. After Lee Jordan had used him as bait to blackmail her she decided it was safer for both if they had no more contact. Besides, the first time they had officially met had not gone well and it would be a while before she was ready to try again.

"Why would an ACME agent steal my locket?" Or had Maelstom hacked the C5 network? She began looking around the room. Besides the locket Carmen noticed that her hat and coat were missing, as was a portrait she had done of herself stealing Leonardo da Vinci's notebook from a museum in Vienna.

In the portrait's place was a note attached to a DVD of Anastasia. She picked it up and read it aloud to herself. "Carmen, the people agree it is time to show the Czarina of crime what it's like ot have something stolen. If you want them back you'll have to follow my clues for a change. See you at the palace princess. Do svadaniya, the Tigress." She snorted. "If Ivy thinks she's luring me into another trap she's deluded." Even as she sai it her hand went up to where the necklace usually hung around her neck.

Going to a nearby wall she tugged on a candle holder and the fireplace swung around revealing a high tech computer console. "Computer, contact ACME."

The Chief's face appeared on the screen. "Whoa, a call from Carmen Sandiego. I'm honored, but if you don't mind Carmen unless you're calling to turn yourself in we're a little busy here."

Carmen smirked. "Why Chief, I'm hurt. I used to be your top priority."

"Yeah, well that was before security cameras caught Lee Jordan blowing a hole in Africa's biggest blood diamond depository."

Carmen frowned. "Well if you are so busy why is Ivy wasting her time stealing things from me?"

"Sorry, can't help you there. Ivy turned in her resignation yesterday. Anything she does now is all her business." Shaking his head he said, "You know it's weird, the way former ACME agents turn to a life of crime. Do you think it'll happen to me?" He suddenly was wearing a black top had and with a giant curly moustache, looming over a woman tied to train tracks. "Mwahahaha!" He turned back to normal. "Nah, it's not really me."

"You're saying Ivy quit?" Carmen was shocked. "And you let her? That's a huge mistake Chief. You know she's the only detective you have who can keep up with me."

"True, but hey, what can you do?"

Carmen narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "So if she's no longer with ACME then why did I see a C5 corridor?"

"She must be abusing the system before her resignation goes through. Tut-tut," he said, turning into a mummy. "Where do I go wrong? You raise them right, teach them to be good people, and they go bad on you… it really is a shame." Bells rang in the distance. "Oops, looks like another crime in progress. Got to go Carmen. Lovely seeing you again. Maybe next time we'll talk when you get your one phone call. Bye!" He cut her off, disappearing from the screen.

Carmen tapped a finger on her lips. "So Ivy quit and she did it just in time to steal from me. Interesting." The Chief was a horrible liar and she knew something else was going on, but it was intriguing anyway. "Very well, if Ivy wants me to follow her clues then I will. This should be fun." She looked at the note and DVD again. "For a clue it's not much of a challenge so far Ivy." Then again maybe the challenge was more personal. Anastasia was a similar story to Carmen's own life. A burning palace, dead family, a life as an orphan, crooks… and a locket that held the key to it all.

"Computer, access all the information you have on Anastasia."

In a monotone of Carmen's own voice the computer said, "Anastasia was the last member of the Romonov family, supposedly killed when the army turned on their royal family. However it was rumored that she may have survived the executions and her grandmother offered a reward to anyone who could bring her back. Many people attempted to claim the reward, but officially they were all proven to be fakes and con artists out for nothing but the reward and most historians agree that she met her death with her family."

Carmen nodded and went to her closet. "Very well, it looks like it's time for me to storm the Winter Palace."

Carmen, dressed in her old clothes from when she worked at ACME, hang glided onto the roof of the former palace of the Czars. It had been rebuilt after being mostly torn aprt and looted into a historical site. Many of the czar's former belongings had been recovered and were on display inside. At least they were.

Now the building had a big gaping hole in the side and had been cleaned out of anything valuable by Maelstrom and Lee Jordan over a month before. They had left nothing behind but damage and an empty building that had been fenced off, but were not even guarded any more and would not be unless someone managed to recover the artifacts some day.

Flying in through the blackened hole Carmen landed in the dance hall, amid rubble and debris. "Dear lord, this is awful."

"Tell me about it," a voice said behind her. Carmen turned and saw Ivy standing at the other end of the room, arms crossed. "You know Carmen, you're kind of to blame for this. Egging Lee on until he left ACME and became a thief."

"You can't blame me for that detective," Carmen said. "What Lee became is what he always was. He just hid it from you. but I saw what lurked inside him and let it out." She sighed. "To tell the truth I thought he was more like me. Instead it turns out he was more like that mad man Maelstrom."

"You didn't get that when he tried to kill me and Zack?"

"I never wanted that Ivy. You know that. I tried to channel Lee, to teach him to channel his impulses and accept the joy of the challenge. But in the end his greed drove him insane." She frowned. "So is that what's going to happen to you Ivy? Is your stealing my things the beginning of your own crime spree?"

Ivy laughed. "Carmen, you should know me better than that. I don't expect to keep the things I've stolen from you. They're just bait."

"Oh? Are ACME detectives waiting in hidden corners to pounce?" She eyed the room.

"Not likely. I quit remember? I wanted to devote my efforts to another project. But before I'm done I need to catch you Carmen. And I'm going to do it in my own way."

"You're going to arrest me by yourself? Maybe that would be a bad idea. You're a thief now too."

"Call a cop," Ivy said with a smile. "In the meantime I do have a question for you Carmen. Do you identify more with Anastasia or Rasputin?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well you have a lot in commom with the grand duchess… but Rasputin was a genius and supposedly a holy man. Not a real monk, despite his claims, but he did keep czar Nicholas from dying due to his medical problems caused to his blood problems when even talented doctors failed. He kept the boy who would be king alive and well and kept the royal family strong with him as czar.

"But the royalty also feared him and his strange powers and they killed him. Rasputin somehow survived many of those attempts even when he was poisoned, bludgeoned, stabbed, shot… eventually they had to tear him to pieces. Sort of what I'm sure Maelstrom and Lee have planned for you."

Carmen smirked. "Yes, but in the end he still got his revenge. They say it was Rasputin's curse that ultimately brought down the nobility of Russia."

"Exactly," Ivy said. She pointed behind Carmen. "That's yours I believe. Looks good doesn't it?"

Carmen turned and saw her portrait on the wall at the top of a large staircase. "Nice, but what about the rest—?" Behind her back there was a bright blue flash. Turning she frowned. Ivy was gone. "Slick move Ivy." Trying to keep her cool she walked up the stairs to her painting.

Stuck to it was a heart shaped box and a Valtnetine's Day Card, pink with a big heart in the middle. Picking it up Carmen opened it and a tiny recorded message played. "Carmen more than once you've had me over a barrel. And more than once Zack and I have nagged ya. But when all is said and done, you've never let us fall. Hugs and kisses, Ivy." Carmen opene the box carefully and inside found an assortment of German chocolates, some of the best in the world. She picked one up and bit it. "Mmm, my favorite." She saw a picture of Ivy sitting on a horse under the lid. Carmen recognized the symbol on the blanket and saddle. The royal Canadian mounties.

Still this clue did not pop out at her the way the last one had. Did she want Carmen in Germany? No… she doubted that. But where else?

Opening and closing the card she listened to the message a few times. "Nagged ya… over a barrel… fall." She smiled and shook her head. "Only one place in the world it could be." She looked at her wrist watch. "Computer, give me information on Niagra Falls."

"Located between the border of Canada and America Niagra Falls is one of the most popular vacation spots and one of the biggest waterfalls in the world. Millions of tourists flock to it each year, intent on enjoying one of the most beautiful and romantic spots on Earth. Another popular sport used to be going over the falls in nothing more than a barrel, but since so many people have died in the attempt it is no longer allowed and there are sever criminal penalties for even attempting."

"Oh Canada," Carmen said as she lifted the painting off the wall.

Carmen arrived at Niagra Falls from the North. There were plenty of guards around, but without her red coat and hat on as long as she did not draw attention to herself she should be fine. At least that's what she thought as she got into line for the ferry. Down river she could see the next, spread across the river to keep anyone from going over the falls, either in a barrel or a boat. It was patrolled by ships from both Canada and America who kept an eye out for border jumpers and daredevils.

"Stop! It's Carmen Sandiego!" Carmen froze and then turned, preparing to run. But as she turned she saw the border guards run by, within ten feet of her and then kept on going. Following then with her eyes she saw they were converging on a familiar red jacket and large brimmed red hat. "We've got you now Carmen!" One of them ripped off the red hat.

"Is something wrong officers?" Ivy asked innocently.

The dozen men who had surrounded her suddenly looked apologetic. One of them said, "Sorry miss, you… you matched the description of a criminal reported to be in the area eh."

"A criminal? How scary. Thank you for your prompt action then," Ivy said. "There are so many of you! Who is it?"

"Have you ever heard of a hosier named Carmen Sandiego?"

"I think so," Ivy said. Carmen had to cover her mouth to stop herself from laughing out loud at the innocent tone. "Who reported her being here?"

"An annonymous tip."

"I hope somebody isn't playing a joke on your men. I can't imagine why a famous thief like Carmen Sandiego would be here. There's not much to steal unless she's after the waterfall."

"With Carmen Sandiego you never know. Sorry to bother you miss." They all backed off as people, realizing the show was over, began filing on to the boat. Ivy put Carmen's hat back on and fell in with the crowd.

Carmen made her way up the gangplank after her, losing sight of Ivy periodically as they made their way to the front of the boat. As the ferry started moving she finally saw her at the front of the boat. Moving fast she reached out and grabbed her wrist. "Got you now Ivy!"

"Do you?" Ivy twisted and Carmen felt the air float around her as she landed on her back with a thump. Ivy sat down on Carmen's legs, pinning her arms. "Took you long enough to get here Carmen."

"We can't all hijack the C5 for our personal vendettas Ivy."

"If you think I'm doing this for some kind of revenge Carmen, then you are totally missing the point." She sighed. "Maybe I should have taken you to the bottom of the falls. It's supposed to be fun going through the water. But after I had this jacket and hat dry cleaned for you I couldn't bring myself to do it."

Carmen frowned and looked around. People were starting to stare. "I don't know what you're up to Ivy, but if you think you're going to trap me then you are sadly mistaken."

"There are traps and then there are traps Carmen." Ivy let her arms go and stood up, taking off the coat and hat. Dressed only in her usual clothes she said, "I'm surprised Carmen. You're usually so good at taking the hint, but apparently in some areas you can be a little dense." She threw her the coat and hat.

Carmen caught them and folded them over her arm. "Not so fast Ivy. I want my locket."

"And you'll get it at your next stop."

"Why not now? We're on a boat in the middle of a river. There's nowhere you can open a C5 long enough to get away without me jumping in after you."

Ivy smirked. "True, but who says I'm planning to open it here?" She touched the watch she wore and in a flash a car appreared, floating in the water beside the ferry. "Catch you later Carmen." Ivy jumped over the side and into the driver's seat. The aqua car sped off, heading towards the falls.

Carmen started to reach for the button of her concealed jet pack, but hesitated as patrol boats from both countries closed in on her. "Stop your boat and turn around. You are headed for restricted waters!" Ivy ignored them, turning up the speed and pressed a button, causing water jets to push her floating car up and over the net.

One of the other tourists said, "She'll never make it! Even if she survives the falls they'll arrest her at the bottom…"

Carmen watched as Ivy went over the falls. From the edge she caught what could have been a trick of the light, but what looked like a blue flash to her. "Something tells me she'll be fine."

Absently she took off her old brown hat and put on her red one before slipping into her coat. When she did she felt something in the pocket. Opening it she found a small jewelry box. Popping the lid she found a ring inside.

The ring was gold with a polished white stone. Inside the lid was a poem in tiny gold letters. "I can see the sphinx and the pyramid tonight and the Eiffel Tower if I turn right. I'll be waiting all night, in a city of lights, doing what I think is right. Meet me for dinner, I will make it a winner, and I promise to show you the sights."

Carmen frowned and took out the ring. On the inside she saw a tiny engraving of a pair of handcuffs. Slipping it on her right ring finger she found that it fit perfectly. "What is she trying to tell me?" It was jewelry, but not the one she wanted. "Computer, scan this ring. What can you tell me about it?"

A scanning ray came from her watch. "Recent construction… custom made… within the last day. Not listed on any jewerly maker's inventory. The band is gold and hollow. Inside is a center of Buckminsterfullerine…"

"What's that?"

"An extremely rare substance found only in certain meteorite craters and believed to be left over from the Big Bang. Also known as Bucky balls because of its unique molecular shape."

"Continue with the analysis."

"The stone is identified as a moon rock. Estimated value of this ring is… incalculable. It is unique."

Carmen stared at the ring on her finger. Her computer could calculate the amount even historical artifacts and buildings would be worth. Saying it was incalculable… meant you could buy a country for a fraction of its value. Feeling nervous she put a glove over her hand, not wanting to risk losing it. Then she looked at the box again.

"On their first joint mission to track me down I did make Ivy and Zack go from Egypt to Paris." Paris did have a pyramid, if you counted the most famous art museum in the world… which also housed the Mona Lisa smile Carmen had stolen. "And Paris is known for lights. Then again I sent them to the moon too." She frowned, feeling the ring under her glove. "But there's no sphinx in either place." She stared at the poem. "I'll make you a winner… all night… Computer, list some famous sphinxes."

"Spinx, the half man half lion, often with the wings of an eagle. The Great Sphinx of Egypt is suspected of being almost twenty thousand years old and recently was discovered to have a hidden tomb under the right paw…:"

"Other famous sphinxes. Ivy would never be that obvious."

"The greek spinx terrorized ancient Greece until Oedipus solved her riddle. Supposedly a crossbreed between a gryphon and a desert demon…"

"No…"

"Alexander the Great who was also the pharoh of Egypt and ruler of the known world is said to have his face on several sphinxes across his empire."

"Next."

"The Luxor Casino in Las Vegas has a sphinx…"

Carmen raised an eyebrow. "That's it!" Las Vegas had a pyramid shaped casino with its own spinx and not to far away were mock ups of famous sights from around the world, including the Eiffel Tower. Add that to what looked like the world's most expensive engagement ring and the city that never sleeps was her next stop. She pushed the button on her jet pack and smiled as around her people gasped while she rose up into the sky.

Back at ACME Zack stared at the computer report. "Hey Chief, check it out, Carmen was just reported flying from a ferry at Niagra Falls."

"So it seems like Ivy's plan is working. I don't know whether to be hapy or terrified."

"With my sister, always bet on terrified." He frowned. "I guess this means Carmen is playing along."

"You don't seem too happy about that Zack-attack. Something on your mind?"

"I'm just worried about Ivy. She's really putting herself on the line for this. If it doesn't turn out like she wants she could get really hurt. If it does… everything will change."

"Everything always changes Zack-meister. Ask any baby. Whew! But if you want we could forget the plan and I could send a few dozen ACME agents to the last checkpoint and arrest Carmen when she shows up."

"No, I can't do that. We need to know if this'll work. Besides, Ivy would kill us."

When Carmen arrived in Vegas she went straight to the Luxor. When she arrived she was surprised to find a Limo waiting outside and the driver holding a sign that said "Sandiego or Bust". From the radio in the front he was playing songs from the opera Carmen and clearly not enjoying it. She went up to him. He looked up uninterested and said, "Are you Miss C.S.? I was told to look for a woman in a red coat."

"Yes."

"I'm Jeffrey and I will be your driver tonight." He turned and opened the door. "If you'd care to get in."

Carmen hesitated. The car could be a trap. Get her inside and the whole thing could seal up tight. It was a good idea and if she got in might work. Heck the whole back could detach and fly her straight to ACME, prison, or Lee and Maelstrom's headquarters.

So far nothing Ivy had done indicated a trap. The palace had been empty and isolated. A perfect place to hide dozens or even hundreds of people if it came to it. Likewise it would have been easy enough for them to replace the people on the ferry with agents or undercover cops. But the local police had mistaken Ivy for Carmen.

"Well if it is a trap it won't be the first time I've had to escape from prison," she muttered to herself and got in. Jeffrey closed the door and went to the front to start driving.

In the back Carmen found a dry cleaning bag. Attached to the front was a note. "Dear Carmen, I hope you like this. It should be in your size. Sorry this took all day, but it takes time to touch up a painting." Unzipping it Carmen found a red dress. Shoes were in the bottom, red stiletto heels. Around the neck was her locket. Popping it open she gasped, seeing that her mother's portrait had been restored and looked brand new. As good as the one in her father's house.

That meant that Ivy no longer had any bait. Carmen checked the door and it opened a bit. Outside she could see the street zooming past. She could leave right now.

Instead she closed the door and looked at the dress. "What are you planning Ivy?"

When the car finally stopped Carmen stepped out. She wore the red strapless dress with a black line sewn through it that accentuated her curves. She still had on her own red hat though. Pinned to her chest was a corsage with a rare blue rose and a sprig of small white flowers around it. Her coat was thrown over her shoulder.

She was at an open bistro. A lot like the kind you saw in Paris. There were small two seat tables. Violin music was piped into the area through hidden speakers and the traffic was slow. They seemed to be on the edge of town, away from the main roads and tourist traps.

Ivy sat at one of the tables, examining a menu. Carmen was impressed. "You clean up nice detective."

"Thanks Carmen. I'm glad to hear I meet with your approval." She wore a white sequined dress that hugged her nicely. To Carmen's surprise Ivy had her hair done up and her nails done. She even wore a hint of lipstick and other makeup, just enough to show off her natural beauty. Before all Carmen had ever seen on the girl's face was oil stains or mud.

Ivy smiled when she saw Carmen and that was as surprising as anything else. "I was afraid that after you got your locket back you might not show up."

"And miss out on finding out what exactly this was all about?" Carmen sashayed over and took a seat. "So what was this all about Ivy? Did you quit ACME and break into my house just to poke the sleeping bear? Let Carmen Sandiego know what it felt like to have something stolen from her?"

Ivy set the menu down and chuckled. "Still not getting it huh? I thought it was obvious. Maybe I'm being to subtle." She leaned forward, lacing her fingers together as she looked Carmen in the eye. "Carmen, do you know what they do with the very best hackers, thieves, assassins, and other criminals when they catch them?"

"Lock them up," Carmen said.

"At first, sure. You have to let them think about where their bad choices have left them." She tilted her head and said, "But then what do you do with them? If they aren't crazy psychos like Maelstrom." Carmen looked stumped. "You put them to work. Who do you think design computer fire walls, security systems, and train CIA and Army guys to fight and handle weapons?"

"Is that what you're after, trying to get me to come back to ACME?"

"Not exactly, but close." Ivy sat back. "You're a thief Carmen. More than that you're both a genius and an adrenalin junkie. You've invented amazing machines, come up with impossible plans that you made look easy, and you did it all for a challenge. I doubt any bars would hold you and in America at least, they can't kill you for being a thief. Especially since you've gone out of your way to make sure nobody ever got hurt on any of your capers.

"I don't see you giving up stealing. But being a criminal… I don't think that's ever sat well with you. Not like it did with Lee."

"What makes you say that?"

"The fact that you've always left clues for us to follow and given at least a chance to take back your ill gotten booty. The way you've saved my life and Zacks more times than I can count. How you reacted when Maelstrom first escaped prison. You're not a criminal at heart Carmen. You're a lonely little girl playing tag with her friends."

Carmen frowned. "And what does that make you Ivy?"

"Your best friend," Ivy said. "Or as you said it, your favorite detective." She smiled. "I am, aren't I?"

"You certainly are the most persistent," Carmen said, turning to look at the lights of the town. Spotlights, flashing neon, and even distant video screens. "You and your brother have caught me a dozen times. I've escaped each time, but even Lee only caught me once. You beat out all of my henchmen and enemies as well."

"Yet if I fell off a cliff… you'd always catch me, wouldn't you Carmen?"

"In a heartbeat," she said without hesitation.

Ivy nodded. "I know. That's why I came up with this deal. I can get you immunity for all past crimes and a sort of parole in my custody. If you'll work with me at a new agency I want to start."

"What agency might that be?"

"I thought I'd get your opinion on the name, but it would be a repo agency. The best in the world." She showed teeth when she smiled this time. "You and I and whoever we hire would be responsible for retrieving stolen items from criminals. For a fee of course. Plus we'd act as bounty hunters, turning the crooks over to ACME or the police for the rewards.

"If you agree you'll have to make some concessions. You'll have to put yourself in my custody. No more stealing from innocent people. And you'll have to return anything you've stolen to the original owners."

Carmen was silent for a moment. Then quietly she asked, "What would entice me to make such a deal? If I want to steal from a criminal or catch them and turn them over to the police, I can do that all by myself."

Ivy nodded. "Without a doubt."

"And if I did I could keep all the look for myself."

"Nobody could stop you," Ivy said. "To tell the truth I think you'd get more of a kick robbing criminals. Their security systems are usually more dangerous and harder to figure out, since they don't have to keep it safe for everyone else. Plus a lot of them don't care about the historical value of an item so you'd have a time limit before they melt it down or pry it apart for sale. And their security guards tend to be much more dangerous. You played by rules Carmen, but as you know most criminals aren't as honorable."

Carmen's eyes sparkled. "I know what you're doing. Quite the enticement Ivy. Not a bad idea in itself and one that bares thinking about. But again, what do I get for going straight and not doing it by myself?"

"Me."

Carmen stared at her. "What?"

"You get me. How much clearer can I be about this?" She looked up at the sky. "This is really the risky part of this whole set up. I mean I know there's a fifty-fifty chance you aren't gay…" She glanced at Carmen's outfit and then went on. "Okay, maybe a sevety-five-twenty-five chance considering how you like ot dress, but still a pretty big risk."

"What's wrong with the way I dress?" Carmen asked. "Besides, you're one to talk. With that short hair, that jacket, those pants both in brown and beige and that white tank top you wear. If anyone should be judged by their clothes…" Ivy raised an eyebrow and smirked. Carmen realized what had been in front of her eyes the whole time. "Oh."

"What can I say? I live the cliché."

Carmen blushed, her cheeks almost as red as her dress. "I thought you liked that one Agent…"

"I can appreciate boys. Some are pretty yummy looking and I've kept my options open. But I realized a while ago that there's only one person I've ever been in love with." Her eyes unfocused. "You don't know what it was like Carmen, that time you got buried in that avalanch. Nobody at ACME wanted to believe it. The Chief was depressed, Zack and I were crushed… we threw ourselves into work catching your henchmen during your little test just so we wouldn't have to think about it. I wanted to die." She glanced at the ring on Carmen's finger. "That's when I picked up the moon rock. Actually Zack grabbed it while we were up there catching Sarah Bellum and gave it to me as a souvenir when it was all over. You have no way of knowing what I might have done if you had not been alright in the end."

"Yes I do. You've taken a few risks in your time trying to catch me. Had a few close calls." Remembering them Carmen could still feel her heart in her chest. More than once Ivy had disappeared over the edge into a fall that should have kille her. "Maybe I didn't think you were dead as long as you thought it of me… but I can imagine."

"Yeah, I remember seeing your face a few of those times. Sometimes I have dreams…" Carmen leaning over the edge, falling up as Ivy reached desperately for her fingers.

Carmen stared at the ring, deciding to change the subject. "You had this made for me?"

"Only the best for Carmen Sandiego. I got the bucky ball center of the ring from a scientist I know. The gold I got from an auction in England. It was an ingot from a chest that belonged to Francis Drake, the privateer. A man who also stole for the government." Ivy smiled. "Mind if I order dinner? I promise to pick something good."

Carmen did not say anything, her mind on what Ivy was saying. How had she missed this? She had known the girl so well for so long. The thought had crossed her mind a few times, especially when she saw Ivy without her jacket on, but never seriously. It was like the idea of stealing a star, fun to imagine but impossible and out of reach.

It was only later when she saw her empty plate and soup bowl that she realized she had actually eaten the food Ivy ordered. Ivy sat there, still grinning and watching her face. "What makes you think I would take up this offer? For starters Ivy, you're ten years younger than me."

"You say that like it's a bad thing." Carmen felt herself flush again. "In all the time anyone has known you, nothing in the file says anyone has ever seen you out on a date. You go to the opera and various other places, but always alone or with several henchmen. Never just you and someone special."

"I never found anyone who could keep up with me," Carmen said defensively.

Ivy nodded. "I can. Like you've said Carmen, I've kept up and even caught you a few times. Considering I was playing catch up to your plans that is pretty impressive. But the times I really got you, like when I was the Tigress or last Christmas when you kidnapped the Chief, it was always when I led you on the chase instead of the other way around. So I thought, if the best way to catch Carmen Sandiego is to let her chase you… what better way to do it than this?"

"Oh my," Carmen breathed. It was so obvious now. First the movie, and then the chocolates, the trip to Niagra, and now the fancy dinner. "This wasn't a theft. It was a date… and a proposal."

"Bingo Carmen." Ivy said, sipping the last of her sparkling apple cider. "Brains and beauty. No wonder I fell for you."

"But why now? I can't imagine ACME's best detective suddenly deciding to quit just to have me."

"Don't sell yourself short Carmen. I've been considering it for a while… though I was kind of hoping we could talk you over to our side first. Preferably from the inside of a jail cell… you would have looked great in stripes." Carmen couldn't help laughing. "Then you pulled that trick with Judge Traitor… making us help you while pretending we were saving your life. I was so mad at you after that. You are so frustrating sometimes."

Carmen almost apologized, but the words stuck in her throat. Ivy saw it and did not say anything. Very loudly.

"As for why now… because I don't just want to marry you. I need you Carmen. I am… or I was… the best detective at ACME… I think I'd evenually beat out most of your records. What do you think?"

"Maybe," Carmen admitted reluctantly.

"You're the best thief in the world. Two of the worst are now trying to take that title from you and they're doing it at the expense of a lot of people." Ivy shook her head. "People are getting hurt Carmen. Most of it's being done by your hechmen, your protégé and your old mentor. I hate going straight for the guilt trip but there you have it.

"When you get right down to it, the only thing I can think that would make you agree to this is if you give your word. To get your word I have to offer something you want. I'm hoping that's me. If you make a vow to me, I know you'll keep it. Love, honor, and cherish until death do we part. I know everything about you Carmen and if you say it you'll do it."

"What makes you think I'll say it?"

"You haven't said no yet," Ivy pointed out. "You're still wearing my ring. You've always made sure I was there to watch for your very best crimes. I think you love me as much as I love you. You may break my heart, but I had to try. Otherwise I'll never know."

Carmen reached for her new ring, but instead of taking it off she twisted it back and forth on her finger. "It's a very expensive ring. I'd be crazy not to keep it." Ivy just smiled, confident that the ring was staying where it was. "Ivy this is…" She was at a loss for words.

"Well there's one way to tell if we might work out."

"How—?" She was cut off. Ivy reached across the table and slid her hand behind Carmen's head, under her hat and sinking her fingers into Carmen's thick black hair. Before Carmen could even respond Ivy pulled her forward and kissed her on the lips.

Eyes closed Ivy moaned in relief. She had imagined doing this a thousand times. Carmen's hair felt like silk in her hands and her lips were so warm and inviting. Now she was afraid to open her eyes. Maybe she had guessed wrong and Carmen really did not care for her as much as she thought. Did she think of Ivy as a daughter or sister? Or merely an annoyance and she would have been upset if anyone could have been hurt during one of her crimes.

Finally she opened her eyes and saw that Carmen's were closed. She looked peaceful and content in a way Ivy had never seen before. She was not resisting or even pulling back to break the kiss, obviously happy to stay there as long as Ivy wanted. Ivy deccided to take the chance and deepened the kiss.

She had no idea how long they were there like that. When Ivy finally moved away her muscles ached from standing there. Carmen's eyes opened and she looked at Ivy in the way she usually looked at something shiny recently liberated from a display case.

"Does this make me the greatest thief and detective in the world?"

"What do you mean?"

"I stole a kiss from Carmen Sandiego. And you're wearing handcuffs."

Carmen looked at the ring again, remembering the handcuffs etched into the underside. "You sneaky…"

"Or we could call this a tie." Ivy reached over and took her hand. "I know you can do anything on your own Carmen. I won't dispute that. What I'm saying is that I'm willing to spend the rest of my life making sure that you don't have to."

Carmen thought about her life… mostly the last twenty-four hours. She had gone to bed, alone in a big empty house. She had woken up with someone in her room and her first thought was that someone had come to kill her. And she had nobody to call for help. Even the painting Ivy stole had just been of Carmen, alone.

"You'd really trust me?"

"Not with an antique," Ivy said. "But with my life and my heart? You don't even have to ask."

Carmen said, "This idea of yours… it'll be dangerous. If you or I got hurt…"

"That's why I need Carmen Sandiego. I think the greatest thief in the world should be able to keep either of us from becoming widows."

"What about your brother?"

"He and the Chief are waiting to see how this all turns out. If you say yes I can have every ACME detective here for the wedding in ten minutes."

"I meant…" She stopped. Ivy knew what she meant. Zack was Ivy's partner… until Carmen said yes. It was a huge sacrifice quitting ACME.. Ive knew what she was giving up. And the word "wedding" was ringing in Carmen's ears. "Are they bringing gifts?"

"Naturally." Ivy smiled. "In fact according to the Chief if I could get you on the straight and narrow again they might even include plans for our own C5. Though I'd want you to work out the glitches. You know when I got sent to Vegas from Niagra Falls I ended up on top of a casino."

"In that case…"

Lee Jordan and Maelstrom laughed as they looked at the underground desert cave where they kept their loot. Treasures from a hundred museums glittered in every corner between gold bars from mints and things from private collections as well.

"My boy this is fabulous," Maelstrom said.

Lee nodded. "You bet, partner. And even better is knowing that nobody can stop us. We've outshown Carmen and thanks to our friends in the local government ACME and most of the other countries couldn't come after us even if they knew where we were."

"Much longer and we'll completely control this country and then we can start spreading out," Maelstrom said. "It'll be glorious. Once we have enough pull we can declair ACME rogue and watch as the world turns on them. All their good works washed away like the mud off of our boots."

Lee nodded. "Speaking of spreading our influence, our men have heard word of a tanker ship carrying a highly dangerous nerve gas will be leaving a small island testing area for a holding facility in China."

"That';s what I like about working with you Lee. You know exactly how to get me interested. There is only one question."

"What is that?"

"Do we steal the nerve gas or simply take the whole facility?" They both laughed again. It took them a moment to realize that the floor was shaking. "What is going on?"

"I… I don't know," Lee said. A piece of roof came loose, almost hitting them. They ducked back and then looked up. A large red grappling hook was sinking into the roof of the cave. It was followed by a dozen more, until they peppered the ceiling like chandeliers.

"Quickly, outside," Maelstrom shouted.

They raced outside and looked up at the sky. Four of Carmen's giant hovercraft flew overhead. Only under her usual logo were the letters ICSRBH. Standing on top of the cave infront of a veritable forest of cables were Ivy and Carmen.

"You see Ivy, a little noise will send the creepy crawlies running for daylight."

"These two look better in the dark," Ivy said. "Preferably under a rock somewhere."

Looking up at them Maelstrom said, "Carmen Sandiego. And a new partner. Here to steal our prizes are you?"

"You know Ivy if you wanted to become a thief, you could have joined me," Lee said with a wink. "You didn't need to go with a has been like Carmen."

"You're right, I should have given up being with a mature, sexy, intelligent woman to spend my days gloating in a cave with a creepy old ex-convict and his smarmy boy toy. What was I thinking?"

"Ivy," Carmen said. "Name calling is beneath us. They know they're scum." She winked. "And now, they're going to be dirt poor scum."

"I don't think so," Lee snarled. He reached for a walkie talkie on his belt. "Henchmen, come quickly and come armed." A moment later dozens of men and women appeared, all brandishing weapons and all aimed at Ivy and Carmen. "You two aren't going anywhere."

"You see Carmen," Maelstrom said. "A thief can work without weapons, but why bother when it's so much simpler just to destroy anything you don't have a use for? Like, for example, the two of you."

"Because the mind is always better than brute force. Make your job too easy and you get sloppy." Carmen snapped her fingers. Suddenly there were sparks and small explosiong from all of the guns. The henchmen threw them away and they fell apart before they hit the ground. "Of course it doesn't hurt if your enemies forget to guard the armory."

Maelstrom said, "Get them!" The henchmen started to move forward.

Ivy shook her head. "Slow learners." She checked her watch. "Three… two… one…"

Suddenly the henchmen faltered. As one they looked down and then began violently scratching themselves. Lee and Maelstrom felt the tingle and then the itch too. As one they began scratching.

"What have you done?" Lee screamed.

"It turns out your even less secure about your food and laundry. While Carmen took care of your weapons, I treated your laundry detergent with half of a binary chemical and your food with the other half. Once you came out into the hot desert sun and started sweating, the two came together into something a lot like poison ivy oil." She winked. "I hope the joke isn't lost on you two."

"That's what makes a good marriage," Carmen said as all of the villains fell to the ground, scratching themselves raw and now tearing off their clothes. "Sharing in the responsibilities as equal partners." She waved and the hovercraft fired a powerful laser. It cut through the hard rock and sand like butter, cutting a square around the cave. Then it shut off and the hovercraft rose. The ground shifted and then tore free, dragging the cave up into the sky.

"Impossible," Maelstrom shouted.

"Please," Carmen said. "If I can steal a national monument I can steal a cave."

"And for the record, we're not theives," Ivy said, throwing a card down so that it landed on Lee's face. Between scratches he read, "Ivy and Carmen Sandiego's Repo and Bounty Hunting." Then she pulled out a remore and pushed the red buttom. Nets began falling from the hovercraft, entagling the henchmen and their leaders. "If we were thieves we couldn't turn you in for the reward."

They were too busy scratching to even try escaping from the ever tightening nets. Still Maelstrom managed to shout, "You two may think you've got some kind of moral superiority, but in the end you're just criminals. Stealing from us is no different than what we've done. You're no better than us Carmen."

"Call a cop," Ivy said.

"You are mistaken Maelstrom. There is one key difference between us." Carmen leaned over. "We aren't going to jail."

"That and we're not bat-guano insane," Ivy added.

Lee glared at her. "We'll get out Ivy. No prison can hold either of us for long."

"Your new mentor spent the majority of the last decade behind bars Lee. Forgive me if I don't quake in fear." They rose into the air. The nets too began retracting along lines towards the hovercraft to be packed away like so much luggage. Ivy glanced at Carmen and said, "Do you think we should put another S on the card for Security? I would like to see their faces when they find out you've been working with the authorities to design better jails."

Carmen grinned and leaned over to give Ivy a peck on the lips. "I think it's best to leave that as a surprise, don't you?"

Player: So you ended up on the right side after all, eh Carmen?

Carmen: For now Player. We'll see how it goes once Ivy and I run out of competition. She seduced me to your side. That can go two ways.

Ivy: And maybe not, huh Carmen?

Carmen: Player, isn't it past your bedtime?

Player: Good night girls. Carmen, don't keep Ivy up too late. Some of us need sleep.

Ivy: Sleep is over rated.

Carmen: Good night Player. See you next crime.

Author's Note

Okay first off I always kind of thought Carmen was flirting with Ivy… and they obviously cared for each other through the whole show. Sort of like Kim and Shego in Kim Possible, but maybe it's just me. I do know that during those last season Carmen, Zack, and Ivy did team up a lot.

Second, the series ended too soon and ultimately I think we can all agree that Carmen was well on her way to become an anti-hero rather than just the bad guy. If it were a game the new version would probably let the player help Carmen plan and execute her crimes rather than stopping her and stealing from crooks is a good way to still be a thief and be a hero at the same time.

Anyway I tried to make this both romantic and entertaining while keeping to the basic feel of the show. Hope you liked it. If so, tell me. If not, tell me why. I am always looking for feedback and reviews on my fan fiction as well as the books I have for sale on Amazon, so feel free to tell me what you think.