Story Concepts: Carmen Sandiego [Hard Drive Archive]

Carmen-sandiego

Author’s note: I wrote this nearly ten years ago (prior to my first website). it was a fun, little thing that I whipped up one night on facebook when the “Notes” application was still a thing that people used. Hope you enjoy it!

Carmen Sandiego the red trench coat and matching fedora wearing grave robber is one of the most iconic character’s in education PC games ranging from Geography to History. It didn’t matter how hard you tried, no matter how many nations capitols you could name in under three minutes the woman was neigh impossible to capture. Even if you did manage to crack her riddles and make it past her henchmen all you’d get in return was a laugh and a wise latina quote just to show she was only toying with you this whole time before escaping on a jet pack or helicopter. She could solve the Da Vinci Code in less than thirty minutes and still have enough time to translate the Akkadian languages of Mesopotamia. Laura Croft and Gina Diggers have nothing on this woman. However, before she was a double-dealing diva with a taste for thievery and running scams in Scandinavia she was actually a hunter of grave robbers herself.

Though Ms. Sandiego’s origins are unknown she was for a time an aspiring archeologist with a fascination with ancient Egypt, but was recruited into Interpol because of her unique ability to infiltrate and bring down several art smuggling rings throughout Europe and the United States and after subduing her enemies she would disappear without a trace to the next job, dubbed by many in the underworld as the “Trans-Atlantic Ghost”. Crime Families and aspiring cat burglars tried to best her, but most ended up dead or driven into madness over several hours of geography questions. She even scouted out and hand picked Harriet The Spy, the dirty blond from the New York’s Upper East Side to train her in the arts of detective work and riddle solving. Later on Harriet with the help of Carmen would be recruited by the newly formed A.C.M.E Detective Agency and serve several years with Carmen.

However, as most of these stories go there was only one person who could best her in the art of hiding and infiltration. Going by the code name “Waldo” a scrawny middle aged man with an affinity for white and red stripped turtle necks, blue jeans and wearing thick glasses was a man of exceptional skill. Where Carmen’s ability to hide in the shadows was her strongest asset, Waldo could hide in plain sight. Blending with the environment around him he could track down and with the occasional help from Carmen capture the thief and bring them to justice. Many in A.C.M.E would say Waldo was Carmen’s better half and after a few years their relationship together became more than just professional.

That was until one day Waldo went missing, gone without a trace. “Where’s Waldo?” they exclaimed. Searches throughout Washington D.C and Hollywood movie sets found no trace of him. At the same time a lot of priceless artifacts were turning up missing as well. Famous works of art stolen from the London and New York Museums only to be replaced with a white and red scarf. This was a job for Carmen. After several weeks and seven continents later Carmen finally found Waldo in Siberia Russia and learned what she hoped from the beginning wasn’t true: Waldo was the one who stole all those priceless artifacts.

Carmen learned the truth that day, she learned that A.C.M.E Detective Agency, had been over the years through money laundering and other criminal elements using the artifacts to bolster the anti-crime agency and in collusion with wealthy art dealers and well funded crime syndicates drive up the prices of artifacts well above reasonable levels so that public museums would be unable to afford to keep them on display. By doing this A.C.M.E’s top brass and art dealers would in effect keep the artwork out of the public’s hands, barring them access to the wealth, culture and learning that back in Waldo and Carmen’s day was taken for granite. Only the exceptionally wealthy would have the privilege to display Van Gogh’s paints in their mansions while the people were deprived of a piece of history that should be available to all, and of course A.C.M.E would get a cut from those profits made by the dealers.

It wasn’t until Harriet and the gang showed up that Carmen learned that A.C.M.E had no intentions of arresting Waldo and giving him a fair hearing: He was to be killed on sight and the stolen property be brought back, Carmen had been sent on an assassination mission. There would be loot but no warrant. Waldo didn’t apologize for what he did. Both he and Carmen knew she had a job to do, they were both professionals. Against the protests of Harriet Carmen left Waldo to die in the tundra after one last fair well kiss. Carmen emptied the bullets in her gun, Harriet doctored the logs. Waldo was pronounced dead at the scene no body was found though, presumed buried under the snow only a white and red scarf remained.

Waldo’s death and “betrayal” shook the agency, but not as much as Carmen’s guilty conscience. Shortly after the mission Carmen disappeared as well. Carmen had thought a lot about what Waldo had told her and was beginning to see things differently now, but she wasn’t going to go into hiding like he did, she’d do things out in the open if she had to if only to get back at A.C.M.E and if your gonna steal, steal big. She went from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe stealing several artifacts and treasures from the shell companies that operated under A.C.M.E’s art dealer network, but soon she got more daring.

In a stunning display of skill and masterful thievery she managed to steal both the Statue of Liberty and the Space Shuttle in a single day claiming it for the people. Interestingly enough these acts were done a week before both monuments would be seized by a private firm working with the art dealer cartels and were to be transferred to private estates. Things were bad when A.C.M.E found out Carmen was behind the jobs in Norway and Bonaire, but now Carmen had raised the stakes. However, despite the media’s depiction of her as some terrorist stealing artifacts and national treasures, she had no interest in selling the items back through shady art houses. She was going to do anything she could to coax out the bastards who betrayed her, using A.C.M.E for their own selfish gain and sending her out on a mission to kill the one person she ever cared about. Hell hath no fury like a female scorned.

Harriet now 26 has been elevated to senior detective status at A.C.M.E and has been put on the “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Unit” and the higher ups are breathing down her neck more than usual. It was a job Harriet never wanted, she knows the truth as well, but still has faith in the agencies original mission statement. Hopefully she thought, by staying here I can bring the agency back to its former roots. Meanwhile Carmen, pushing forty is still on the run and still at large and if you’re gonna catch her, you better make sure you bring an Atlas

First Draft of Novel: Completed

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It has been a long and grueling process. Two months of research, sixteen months of writing, eighteen months of work. 84,885 words: 126 pages single spaced, 246 words double spaced. It’s done. However, it’s not done-done. I still have editing and revising to do. There will be many more drafts before the final manuscript; but at least I can say I got this far and I’m one step closer to completing my novel…I think I’m probably going to go take a nap now, lol. Bye!

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Austin By Night – Art [Layer 11]

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I wake up in the back seat of a car after having come to a stop. I check my watch and realize it has been nearly twenty four hours since Molly and I went our separate ways and I decided to lay low at a friends house. My clothes are soaking in sweat from being in the car for so long. I remember paying this man and his friend two hundred dollars to drive me back to central Austin, back to a specific address. I don’t remember talking to him much or his friend. Something about last night’s rave at the anime con and a guy who got robbed at gun point in the parking lot for his cash and gundam figurines. My contributions to the conversations were short, monotone phrases of something approaching these sorts responses mostly being: “Wow.” “That’s fucked up.” “Did that really happen?” “It is what it is, dude.” After the first hour of the driving around and hanging out in their apartment throughout the day they stopped talking to me and continued the agonizing, stream-of-consciousness level of conversation with each other. I was tired, not interested in discussing the latest season of Soul Eater, or the most recent post on Sankaku Complex. I closed my eyes and saw the dealer’s rooms, cosplayers and laser light above the dance floor drift in and out of my subconscious. Then I saw the woman kill that man on the live camera feed and I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“So,” The guy lets the word drag on unnecessarily to fill the silence. “This is the spot, right?”

I look over and see my old middle school. Now a long, dark, ominous, single-story, red brick building, with black windows that suggested something terrifying was hidden inside them. I forgot how afraid I was of the dark.

“Hey,” The other guy snapped. “We have to get to San Antonio by midnight. You have the other half of the money?”

I realize, turning to face him; that I didn’t remove the aviator shades from my face and I was seeing everything in a darker tint.

“Sorry,” The word comes out dry, like sandpaper, as I reach into my back pack and pull out the second hundred that I promised for their service. The second guy snatches it from me, happy to receive the money.

“Thank you,” I say in the dry sawdust voice again and step out of the car.

“Hey, man,” The driver rolls down his window and looks at me. He seems genuinely concerned. “We can drive you to your place, man. You don’t need to give us some random address.”

I look at him through my shades, trying to see the angle in what he’s offering. I glance at my reflection from the passenger door mirror and I see a guy in white shorts, white button up, black fingerless biker gloves and lips pursed. I look like a burnout or somebody trying too hard to impress strangers. Either stereotype might fit, since it all adds up to someone dying for attention or a man looking for sympathy by feeling the need to bribe people he doesn’t know for rides. I probably know what the real answer is, but I’m too afraid of going there. It’s a level of introspection not worth the price of facing who I really am. That’s for other people to make assumptions about.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I sling the backpack over my shoulder and start walking.

The car pulls away and heads down the nearest avenue, presumably towards I-35, south, to San Antonio.

I walk in the dark back to my mom’s house, mentally counting up the money that I made. After the hotel room, convention badge, food, the burner phone and transportation, I had made a 2,300 dollar profit. Better than expected, but I probably could’ve roomed with somebody to cut costs. Maybe I can room with a client next time.

I see the porch light on when I reach the house. The rest of the street is dark, which should strike fear in me, but the shades help alleviate that. I am not here, I tell myself. I can see through the large window that the television is on, my sister is home. I walk up to the door and go inside.

My sister glances up at me and returns to her reality TV show, something about housewives.

“Hey,” She says in between the bites of a sandwich. “How was that anime con, or whatever?”

“It was cool,” I sound a lot clearer, moister returning to my throat.

She looks at me in an odd way and I remember that I’m still wearing my shades.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” She asks. “It’s, like, ten at night.”

I laugh and take them off.

“Sorry, it was a joke,” I say, trying to smile.

I hear my mom coming in from the kitchen.

“Hey, Eric! How was your trip to Dallas with Neal?” She seems happy to see me. She’s stirring something in a bowl and wearing a cream colored apron over a green shirt, with matching slippers and black yoga pants.

“It was good, really cool. We just hanged out in the hotel room and helped out moving equipment in the dealer’s room for the sellers.”

My mom looks off to the side and nods her head, I can’t tell if she’s expecting more for me to say or is confused, but accepting my answer.

“Sounds interesting,” She says, her stirring slowing down a fraction. She looks up at me and smiles again “Well, dinner is already prepared, so you can have it now if you want.”

I nod, thanking her, and head to my room.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Waves of Atlantis: A Tale of Terrible Plot Development Under the Sea [Hard Drive Archive].

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

When I first heard about “Waves of Atlantis” I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. There was virtually nothing about this book online, except for two posts, by two disgruntled readers, claiming that this book was the worst literary piece of garbage to come out since Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kompf.” Bold words really, when you think about it: how can a work of fiction, about astronauts discovering Atlantis, be that bad? Sure, it’s probably as campy as hell, but I’ve read worse. At this point I should have wished for my future self to step out of a time portal and punch me unconscious before I whipped out my credit card to order this “novel.” Oh God was I wrong. So, so, wrong.

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Waves of Atlantis: a book so good, no reviewer ever saw a copy of this hit their desk.

“Waves of Atlantis,” written by “Professor,” of “accredited,” University (read: mail-order-degree-mill) known as American World U., Maxine Asher, is the story of two astronauts, which should be noted are written in the likeness of a young Al Gore and future VP-candidate Sarah Palin, who discover Atlantis. The first page of the book can only be described as the best, worst first page of any novel ever written. As an English major, I couldn’t help but stare at the page, utterly dumbfounded and yet extremely amused at the sheer incompetent skillfulness of its execution, while at the same time, giving off an air of proud defiance, as if to say “Yes, I don’t need an editor and you’re going to sit through 136 pages of this shit.” Miss Asher apparently, yet unsurprisingly, got this book self-published through her “University.” Probably because she thought it was so good publishers wouldn’t even bother putting it on the shelves before selfishly trying to steal this masterpiece from under her. Or maybe because it was terrible, could go either way, really. I present to you exhibit A:

“What a bust!”

“Was it that bad?”

“Listen Pierre, it was worse. We have absolutely no information to report to Houston.”

“Well whose fault is that?”

“It certainly isn’t mine. Don’t look at me. I warned you guys—I mean guys and gal—about the possible problems with the mission.”

“Hey, wait a minute…I was the one who knew from the start that this crew could never detect estra low frequency waves in the atmosphere.”

“Look Jane,” Tom said, staring at his feet, “ no one ever doubted your special abilities to understand mind control. The difficulty is that we simply don’t have the right instruments to find out where these waves are coming from.”

As the crew continued to sit around on the floor of the spacecraft looking dejected [huh?], Jane threw [threw? Like a Frisbee?] a sly smile at Tom, unaware that the rest of the men caught her look and began to snicker.

That, ladies and gentlemen is the first page of the novel. I shit you not. No context or setting that one can gather here, except something about mind control and the sexual tension of two lovers that’s about as subtle as a baseball bat.

The story, which unfortunately takes several pages of tooth-pulling dialogue to get to, is that the world is on the brink of chaos. An invisible psychic wave, known as ELF waves, are spreading across the Atlantic, affecting everyone that gets caught in it’s radius immobile, in a state of extreme depression and laziness, followed by death. The Supernatural Council under UN authority orders NASA (sigh…just roll with it) to send scientists into space to find the origin of these invisible waves. So why are they going into space to try to find the source of the problem? Because fuck you, that’s why! Maxine does not need to explain herself, the same way Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins don’t need to explain why their “Left Behind” series lasted eight books longer than it ought to. (Un)Fortunately, Miss. Asher doesn’t shrink the margins in her book and it’s only 136 pages so…great, I guess?

Either way, this book suffers from one of the major flaws of providing expulsion in long, LONG chunks of paragraphs. Most of which involve people and places on Earth with characters that you only read about once and are soon after killed off or just never mentioned again. Asher, like a bored, vengeful, uncaring God dispatches her minor characters with ease, without even providing any real backstory for them or having them even accomplish anything remotely significant in the book. Those Archeologists who get close to finding the origin of the ELF waves? Death by falling. Those secret agents who try to discover what’s behind the waves? Killed in a freak explosion. Those psychic children that the government uses to track the waves? We never hear from them again. The biracial family stuck in the city that’s being engulfed by the waves? You don’t hear from them again either, but the author assures us that they’re all dead, so don’t bother.

What you should bother with though, and Asher will try her damnedest to make certain that you do, is the not so subtle third-basemenship between the two Astronauts, Tom and Jane, and their quest for the truth behind the ELF waves. After losing fuel on their space shuttle…for some reason, the crew crash into the ocean, namely the Bermuda Triangle. Fortunately Asher decides she wants these poor mortals to live, by turning the space shuttle into a submarine. Because that’s was just some ability the ship happened to have at its disposal (Obama spared no expense apparently, giving NASA such a huge budget for that).  It is here that our two-dimensional heroes find the lost city of Atlantis.

The only thing that saves this book, if you can even consider it its saving grace, is the dialogue. Asher, if anything else, can write the most laughably bad conversations fit for only an Uwe Boll film or an episode Adam West’s Batman. I present to you another excerpt from this masterpiece trash-theater starring Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

“Ok—I’ll give it a try,” said Tom grudgingly, beginning to turn the boat at a 180 degree angle. “Somehow I always do what you want me to do and then we get into trouble. If I didn’t love you so much, I could say no but I guess I am powerless under your spell.”

“You make me sound like a witch Tom. I’m just a red blooded adventurous American girl.”

Tom chuckled at the remark. Jane was very beautiful, very convincing and very glib in tongue. He was putty in her hands and she knew it.

Man, I’m gonna need an ice-pack to stifle this red blooded American boner. Oh, yeah, that page that I cited is real and yes, this book definitely did get published. It only gets worse from here as Tom and Jane learn from the inhabitants of Atlantis that it’s being caused by crystals that they themselves created in order to keep their civilization alive. And the only way to stop it is with…meditation, eating vegetables, the power of love and Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ, meditating, all loving, vegetable eating, superstar is going to save us, with the help of Tom and Jane, prayin’ the waves away. I almost blacked out from the sheer absurdity of this revelation. Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick wish they could come up with something this retarded.

Unfortunately (or fortunately? I don’t know if it really matters now) the plot suddenly shifts to a secret location where we find the secret cabal that plans on using the ELF waves to take over the world. These “Evildoers,” (Yes, that is what Asher uses to describe this organization) is made of who else, but scary Russians, Chinese and other questionably evil minorities. Hey, at least this organization is all inclusive, unlike the obnoxiously Aryan Tom and Jane show. So of course being the godless communists that they are in the eyes of Asher, decide to use this opportunity to mobilize their armies to attack North America and Europe. I suppose those ELF waves won’t affect their troops, or what? And how do they plan on safe guarding against these waves themselves anyway? And why North America? I mean, I know most people hate us anyway (especially America), but if they do have a cure for the ELF waves why not use it as leverage over other world nations? That’d be way more profitable than invading two entire fucking continents.

The book comes to a rather Asherian, anti-climatic conclusion, with the final show down between the United States Rangers and the “Evildoers” army. It only takes three pages before everything ends in a Michael Bay-esque action sequence involving Tom, Jane and the Atlantians saving the day. The story ends with peace restored, the waves disrupted and Tom and Jane making out under the ocean.

This book is both a travesty and a work of pure comedy. Its badness is only matched by its unintended hilarity that makes this thing a gem among trashy literary gems. Last I heard was that this book was going for $25 on amazon. If you’re willing to drop cash like that on this turkey then may God have mercy on your soul.