A Memo Titled "Shit I Already Know!"
Murphy’s Sixth Law: If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which a procedure can go wrong and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.
There were two minutes of silence in which Louisiana shifted uncomfortably, contemplating how much she should and could tell her Freelancer friend residing at the top of the board.
She gave a mental jump as the wayward thought came to the forefront of her mind.
The hell is wrong with me? Since when do I consider York a friend? Twenty minutes ago I was trying to come up with a plan to kill him in an amusing yet ironic way!
She shook her head to clear it as the elevator ding-ed, and stepped out into the empty corridor. Then she reclined against the metal frame, thinking how the last time she’d had this rapid a change in opinion of someone was when she’d met Roman. Then again, she probably would have had her head bitten off if she didn’t give her blessing.
Gotta keep your head clear, girl. This is all just temporary, remember? You can’t afford to be thinking like this; can’t afford to get attached.
“Definitely a bad idea,” Louisiana murmured to herself.
“What?” York’s voice was obscured by static, and there seemed to be some kind of echo or double timbre, but it was still recognizably curious over the radio.
“You said something,” he clarified. “Were you talking to me?”
“No!” She answered quickly. “Well… um… not exactly. I was just thinking that it’s not a good idea to… uh… let your soldiers go into the field with so little info. Sloppy. Ends badly.”
York gave a slow and doubtful “Right” as Louisiana face-palmed herself but let it drop.
He knew that if she didn’t want to talk (and resorted to lying almost as terribly as he did) then no one was going to get anything out of her. That was something he’d learned about her in her first ten minutes as a rookie.
“So!” She said loudly, trying to drag attention away from her painfully obvious deception—how did she have a successful career again?—and walked a few feet before leaning on the wall. “I’ll just, uh, give you the run-down, shall I?”
Her voice reverted back to the Lucille Essex persona as she said this and made York, still outside the building, chuckle.
“Yeah, it’d be kinda helpful to know what we’re doin’ here. Other than implementing my plan to make you fall in love with me, of course.” His voice was light and friendly and certainly deserving of his status as the charming playboy of Project Freelancer. Rat bastard.
“Of course,” Louisiana answered her voice very serious. Still, she rolled her eyes as she recognized the ‘I’m just a regular, easy-going guy’ tone underneath that had irked her since day one for reasons unknown.
“But don’t get smart,” she said good-naturedly, and then she couldn’t resist temptation (sexy bitch that she was) and added with a smirk, “It might ruin your reputation.”
Laughing again, York said, “Oh, ouch! I’m hurt that you would say that Louisiana. Why is it that whenever I’m feeling good and confident in my standing with the ladies you always pop up to knock me down a peg? Why do I always have to remind you that I’m on your side?”
She gave a wry chuckle in response, disregarding the insinuation that she was a killjoy and filing it away for future bitching. He wouldn’t be saying that last bit if he had all the information. Or any information, really. Now that she thought about it again, and had gotten to know him a bit better, she could figure out what he might say if he found out about his precious Director.
Guessing the reactions of the other agents if and when they found out had been a little game with her since being recruited. She figured Connecticut would probably say something akin to ‘I told you so’ or ‘I knew it’. Paranoid as she was, Connie was probably the closest to really knowing anything.
She doubted the Freelancer grape would really give a damn. There was something about that woman that set Louisiana’s teeth on edge. Something that was just a not-so-tiny bit off about her (though, maybe it was just the shark DNA shining through). The grape’s riper twin, on the other hand, probably wouldn’t be very accepting of what the Dr. Church’s morally ambiguous activities but she didn’t know him well enough to say for sure. The most personality she’d ever seen him display was several months ago when York went around asking anyone and everyone to be his Valentine and ended up hitting on both North and South Dakota simultaneously.
That had not ended well, but it had been incredibly entertaining.
And Little-Miss-Oh-So-Perfect would probably parrot back the Director’s explanation, sycophant that she was, or spout something about anything being necessary in a time of war. Something to that effect, anyway.
IDaHo, WisConMan, New Hamster, Snitchigan, Oregano… she had a theory tailor-made for everyone in the Project that she’d met.
But York seemed a little too decent a person to condone something like what Leonard was attempting. The fact that he was such a… not-bad person confused her. How did someone who just wasn’t bad end up in PFL?
It was also something that unnerved her about him. Louisiana didn’t meet a lot of—if not regular people—then relatively sane people; especially considering all the nut jobs she’d come across over the years. That, added to his consistently relaxed temperament, made her wary around him. The Project’s atmosphere was extremely competitive and constantly charged (with good reason) and his flippant attitude was definitely out of sorts with the gravity of their situation.
A particularly violent crackle of static made her jump, as did the annoying bark of,
“Aha! Thank you, sir! You’ve been a marvelous help!”
Her blood went cold. What. The. Fuck?
“Wyoming?! How the hell did you get on this channel?” Louisiana couldn’t believe it! How could that pathetic piece of white-meat get onto her channel? Kale himself had shown her how to block that jackass!
Then she heard it; the unmistakable, downright evil chuckle of one of the most infuriating people in the universe.
An Oh shit, I know who this is sigh and a disgruntled “Speak of the devil” accompanied the frustrated young woman as she walked to the opposite side of the hallway and leaned against that wall.
“Aha! I knew it was you! No one else sighs like that! By the way, have your new friends figured out that sighing is your main form of communication, yet, or did you finally break through the years of psychological trauma and figure out how to communicate with other human beings?”
The cocky bastard’s voice also had the same echo as York’s and was warped by the snap! crackle! and pop! of interference but she still easily recognized its mile-a-minute momentum. Unfortunately.
“Oh! By the way, were you talking about me earlier, Catie? Cause I caught that whole ‘speak of the devil’ crack and people only say that if the person they were talking about shows up.”
A resigned, yet still annoyed, sigh echoed as she began to pace the width of the tastefully decorated corridor. She’d blissfully forgotten how fast the pseudo-Italian could speak.
“Not technically. More of a passing thought, really. Doesn’t count,” Louisiana explained as she literally, and painfully, pinched her own arm for not being careful and thinking about the little punk. He always found a way to appear when she thought about him. She’d once asked him about that particular skill but his response had been “Pshhh! I’m like Superman; I know when I’m needed!”
She’d refrained from asking him questions ever since.
Then his words registered, triggering a reflex born out of years of saying it, like muscle memory, “Don’t call me ‘Catie’.”
“Who is this? Do you know this guy, Louisiana?” The Freelancer in question raised her eyebrows at the sudden challenge in York’s voice. Was it just her or did he sound… jealous?
“Yeah, she does. Nice to meet you, man, the name’s Romeo. Romeo Valentine.”
Roman Valentino, Louisiana automatically corrected in her head.
“You’re kidding,” deadpanned the inexplicably resentful soldier in tan.
“Thanks again for helping me, my good man! You can call me Wyoming and the other one asking all the questions is York,” cut in the smarmy bastard in white. “My rather immature comrade here has been tuning me out, quite literally, ever since an unfortunate incident a several months ago.”
His voice turned particularly bitter as he muttered the next part under his breath. “And obviously she can’t let go of a ridiculous grudge.”
“Hey, no problemo! Catie and I are both friends with Kale, the guy that taught her that particular trick, so it’s the least I could do. Actually, you’re not the first person to have that happen. She used to do that sort of thing to me all the time.” She could practically see his ‘I am a cocky bastard, hear me roar!’ expression as he carried on.
“But she had to stop otherwise Teri would have kicked her ass. And I couldn’t possibly be the cause of my wife getting into a fight with her best friend! Practically her sister, right Catie?”
Louisiana first rolled her eyes at the oh-so-subtle jab at the fact that her best friend in the universe had—not only gotten married, oh no—she had married him, then stopped pacing and turned to face the closed elevator doors.
“Keep it up, Valentino. See where it gets you the next time I chat with her,” she made sure the warning in her voice was clear before continuing. “I’m due to talk to her soon, anyway. Haven’t talked with her in a few weeks. So, how is our precious Terence?”
“Still pregnant,” he answered morosely. “And now she’s moody as hell! Every time I open my mouth she damn near bites my head off! You gotta help me, Catie!”
“Well, that’s what happens when you get your wife knocked up.” She answered, grinning at how she was no longer the only one on the receiving end of her friend’s mood swings. “And don’t call me that anymore. I didn’t like it—no, wait, scratch that—I hated it back when it actually applied. And it doesn’t even make sense now that my official IDent is ‘Louisiana’, anyways.”
But, after knowing him for as painfully long as she had, the purple-headed bundle of exasperation that was standing in front of the elevator could easily hear the lack of give-a-damn in his voice. “So what, Catie? Before you were ‘Louisiana’ you had most people calling you ‘Carter Cortez’. And before ‘Carter’ it was ‘Andromeda Martinez’. And before ‘Andi’ it was ‘He–’”
A male voice with an Aussie lilt came from behind. “Lucille? Is that you?”
The girlish shriek given by Louisiana hurt her own ears as well as anyone else’s within a fifty-mile radius. She whirled around and her right hand flashed out catching unawares, and across the face, the man standing casually behind her.
“Oh, my god!” Fortunately, Louisiana had both hands covering her mouth making her voice just muffled enough to disguise the distinct lack of something very important while still allowing the familiar man to understand what she said as he clutched his bright red cheek and blinked rapidly.
She ignored the two voices in her ear demanding to know what was going on, but gasped when she heard Valentino’s voice cut through the others’ yelling “Accent! Accent! Your damn accent woman!”
Louisiana started mentally kicking the ever-living crap out of herself, “I am so sorry, Jules! You just startled me is all,” she continued apologetically, careful to use adjust her voice accordingly this time.
After blinking away the pain-filled tears, the dark-haired man straightened and waved his hands dismissively.
“I’m fine. But, may I just say, you have a mean backhand. Besides, it’s my own fault,” he said smiling ruefully. “After all, everyone knows better than to sneak up on you after what happened last time. I was just so surprised to see you here! I mean, it’s been so long since you came to a Society function.”
Once again, she could hear voices in the background asking “Society? What society?” as well as “What the bloody hell is going on?!” and she hastily whispered to Valentino to run interference.
“Alright guys, so the Society of Phoenixes is something we came across a couple years ago. Catie’s dickhead boss, Rogers, needed something jacked so we had to go undercover, and by ‘we’ I mean ‘she’…”
Louisiana coughed pointedly. “Yes, well, I’ve had a lot going on lately.”
“Obviously,” Julian answered, eying her hair and with a raised eyebrow and grinning. “The last time I saw you, you were still a brunette. What, not exciting enough for you?”
York’s voice cut through the Valentino-based Mayhem of Judgment on the radio “Louisiana’s a brunette?!” But was quickly silenced by a well-placed “Shut up, dude, I’m trying to explain!” from Valentino before he continued. “Anyway, that’s where she ran into this dumbass you hear on the radio, he’s got a total thing for her, by the way. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad…”
“Mmm. Well, I just thought it was time for a change.” She answered, shrugging and trying not to be distracted by Valentino’s extremely biased and slightly inaccurate explanation, before taking a good look at Julian Burgess. He was almost six feet tall, with straight black hair accompanied by twinkling brown eyes, and with some nicely tanned skin. A classically handsome man who certainly knew it.
All in all, a very solid and (dare she say it?) normal guy. Well, as normal as you could be while still a privileged previous frat-boy from Yale and hereditarily a member of some dumb secret society.
But, he was as normal as men around her seemed to get.
“Lulu?” Julian was looking at her concernedly.
A snort at the nickname echoed over the radio but she wasn’t entirely sure who it had come from.
“Hmm?” Louisiana was broken out of her reverie.
“Are you alright?” His eyes softened when he looked at her. Ever since ‘Lucille’ joined the Society of Phoenixes, Julian had taken a liking to the eccentric young woman. She had been someone new in a crowd of old – inexhaustible and ever-interesting with a peculiar way of looking at everything that was conceivable and several that weren’t.
“Oh, yes, I’m fine,” she answered hastily, cutting off her internal reflection that she really needed to meet some ordinary people.
“Alright, then shall we?” He held out his arm like a gentleman which she graciously accepted.
As they walked, Louisiana tried to focus on both Julian chattering about what she’d missed in the way of social events and Valentino alternating between telling embarrassing stories about her and explaining the hard-core paranoia that was SOP. It continued like that for several minutes until they came to a dead end. On either side of the corridor were two doors that faced each other. On the left door was a black plaque with a white character for ‘female’ and on the right door was a white plaque with a black character for ‘male’.
“Well, it seems that this is where we must part, my lady.” He said this very dramatically as he bent over her right hand and kissed the knuckles.
“It seems so,” she answered, rolling her eyes at his theatrics.
“Do you have your pass?” Julian asked suddenly.
York, “Pass? What pass? Louisiana didn’t’ say anything about a pass—”
Valentino, “Dude, just… stop asking questions. You’re gonna get a headache. Right, so SOP has all of its members carry around on their person a unique symbol to identify who they are to fellow members without saying it out loud. As if anyone gives a flying fuck. Most people have it stitched into the hems of their clothing or several separate parts that combine to make a single, cohesive whole and what-have-you. You know, subtle. Actually, it’s kind of a funny story about how Catie got hers, see what happened was…”
Louisiana frowned in confusion, and annoyance, before holding up her left hand and showing the man her index finger.
On it was a rather large, thick and heavy signet ring of black gold. Its center was a circle, about a centimeter-and-a-half in diameter, which displayed an ornate crest. It contained a dark silver sword with the tip pointing downward, flanked by two wings made of white diamond that curved artfully up and around the circumference of the circle, and in the background was a five-pointed crown of yellow gold.
She’d been chewed out by the Director for stamping the same emblem on the left thigh of her armor; her response being that her armor was boring and that he needed to get in touch with his inner child.
She also had it tattooed on the ribs below her heart, but only a handful of people in the universe really knew about that, and none of them were in any position to blab.
The diamonds winked brazenly at Julian as he studied Louisiana’s hand intensely.
After a moment of his silence, if not Valentino's (“And then she dyed her hair black with a white spider web in it so that the chick would stop trying to get her to join the convent…”), the Freelancer couldn’t take it anymore, pulled back her hand and said, “Alright, you’re making me nervous! What’s wrong? Why’d you want to see my pass?”
“Have you ever let someone see it or taken it off for a long period of time?” Julian answered.
“No one even knows it’s there and you’re avoiding the question."
“No, I’m not. I’m just making sure.”
“Oh, for the love of fuck! Making sure of what?!”
Valentino, “Deep breaths, Catie- I mean, Carter! I mean Louis- You know what? Fuck it. Just fuckin’ breathe.”
“I met a new member, a woman, a few days ago who had a one like yours. I was wondering if you’d shown it to her and she had a similar one made. You know how you were the first person to wear their sign so openly,” he shrugged but it was obvious that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. However, Louisiana wasn’t concerned with that at the moment because she was struggling with the pressing need to hyperventilate.
Valentino echoed her own thoughts, “Uh-oh, this is not good. I’m gonna send a message toTeri.”
“Jules,” she said carefully. “This is very important. Who was she?”
He noted the change that came over her voice but wasn’t overly anxious at that moment, and simply shrugged, “I don’t know.”
Louisiana took a deep, cleansing breath and tried not to go into full freak-out mode.
“Okay. Okay, what was her name, Jules? What did the symbol look like?”
Julian frowned. “I don’t remember her name, exactly, but it was a little weird.”
She nodded. That was no help whatsoever, they all had strange names.
“You don’t remember, fine. But what did the ring or whatever looked like? Please, this is very important.”
Julian unbuttoned the jacked of his navy-blue suit, put his hands on his hips, and looked at the ceiling, trying to recall.
“Well, first of all, it was a necklace and the metal wasn’t black. It was more like a dark gray,” he started, frowning in concentration. “And the design was simpler than the ring. Diamonds—like the wings on yours—but instead it was two crescent moons. And one was smaller than the other.”
“Selene,” Louisiana sighed with relief.
Valentino, “Oh, thank God!”
Julian perked up at the name. “Yes! That was it!” He smiled at her as if he had been the one to remember the name instead of Louisiana telling it to him.
Twit. A cute twit, but that never absolved anyone of their crimes. If it did then Louisiana would have used it already.
But since she was no longer panicking she let it go, smiled back, and said, once again apologetic, “Sorry to get all freaked out on you. I was just worried that you ran into someone… well, just someone else.”
“It’s perfectly alright,” Julian answered, nodding in understanding. “I really didn’t mean to worry you.”
“It’s fine,” she quickly reassured him before bidding him a quick good-bye as they both stepped through their respective doors.