The Sera Calliveaux was known for the brilliance of its performers. Being a wildly popular casino hotel that resided on the beaches of San Francisco, it had more than enough funds to hire the most prestigious artists from around the globe—from well-loved popstars to prodigious foreign musicians to entire choirs and orchestras, as well as everything in between. If a body wasn’t there to gamble away their wages, they were there to hear the music; a bright light shining through the fog, a touch of magic shimmering amidst the mundane.
The man in the black tuxedo was listening to just that sound, though it wasn’t coming from the place most would expect. Walking through the dimly lit corridors, he hardly noticed the beautiful duet echoing from the Calliveaux’s main arena, nor the roaring applause that came after it; all he heard was the faint sound of piano keys, drifting slowly and steadily through the halls. The tune was familiar to him. He had heard it months prior in a New York opera house, where a young woman had plinked it out on a nearby grand.
“Hey Ahlberg, any luck?” A sudden voice stopped Ahlberg in his tracks, and he reached up to touch the wire that was in his ear. Somewhere outside the massive building was a large white van, and in that van was the source of the voice—a young advanced technological support agent (ATSA) who went by Cap. “I sent some info on the perp to your holograph: aliases, frequent disguise patterns—”
“She’s ’ere,” the Austrian agent interrupted, turning around in circles where he stood as he searched his surroundings. “Robin is ’ere. She’s in ze building.”
“What? You saw her?”
Ahlberg hesitated. “I ’ear ’er,” he said at last, moving to jiggle the handle to a locked room. The melody he was following seemed so close, yet so frustratingly indirectional. He tried the next door. “She’s playing zat song from New York.”
“The Opera House,” said Cap with a hint of realization in his voice. “Are you serious? Are you sure that it’s not just… a coincidence?”
“I guess it could be.” Ahlberg, upon trying the fifth or sixth locked door, suddenly noticed one cracked open in the peripheral of his vision. Turning toward it fully, he cast his glance up and down the hallway before stepping in its dorecrion. In the nearby arena, applause erupted yet again as another performance ended. “But I zhould at least check it out, yeah?”
The tall agent pulled the door open, revealing a darkened stairwell illuminated only by the light from its jointed hallway. The gentle music was noticeably stronger; Ahlberg inhaled deeply before inflating his cheeks, staring up into the growing darkness that lead upwards.
“Holy cow,” Cap said after a brief moment. “I can hear it.”
“Stand by,” Ahlberg ordered, taking a step up and grabbing the door handle behind him. He didn’t let it click behind him, but he did close it as much as it had been before. In the greatly increased darkness, he stood a moment in an attempt to let his eyes adjust, knowing that if he turned on the light it might alert her of his presence. The piano was still going.
The field agent took another deep breath. Reaching out to hold the railing, he began to ascend the steps one by one, the sound of his shoes against carpet mingling with the robin’s song.
It seemed an eternity before he made it to the top. Their weren’t many landings—three that he remembered—but the agonizingly slow pace at which he traveled (an attempt to minimize sound) had made time drag, and he felt he’d had the time to count each of his pounding heartbeats individually.
“You alright?” Cap’s voice over the wire made him jump slightly. The kid was whispering—as if the perpetrator might be able to hear him. Ahlberg almost laughed. “You’re breathing kind of hard.”
“Stairs,” the man replied simply, quietly. From where he stood, he couldn’t see any of the room he was about to enter, as a wall jutted out a few feet forward and blocked his view. He slipped his hand into one of his jacket’s inner pockets, making sure that his pistol was still there; the tune he had been following was now almost overbearingly loud, even compared to the concert going on beneath him. While he could feel the thrums of high-energy music beneath his feet, he couldn’t really hear anything but the bass line and a few muffled vocals. It contradicted fiercely with the piano. The result was a chilling dissonance.
The agent took a deep breath. “I’m going in,” he said, and straightening out his tuxedo overcoat, he rounded the corner.
The room was large—it also appeared to be a storage room, with boxes stacked to the ceiling in some places, and decór scattered around randomly. The only light that greeted it was the light from a single window straight ahead of him, bathing everything in silvery moonlight. Sitting right in the middle of it all, however, was a large black grand piano; nearly identical to the one back in New York.
The man crouched. “Cap,” he whispered, hoping the sound of the combined songs would be enough to obscure his voice. “I need—Cap?”
Screaming static greeted him. Wincing and biting back a yell, he yanked the wire out of his ear, trying to shake the sound out of his head. “Urgh,” he grunted, and when the sound exit his mouth, he realized there was something terribly wrong. He could hear his own voice way too well.
Ahlberg lurched back, scrambling back onto his feet. While he had been distracted, Robin had stopped playing—and was now standing directly in front of him. Panting, he saw that in her hand she was holding some sort of strange box-shaped device—likely what was obscuring his connection with Cap—while her other hand was in the pocket of her hoodie.
She didn’t look like a villain, that was for certain. Standing at what he assumed to be five two, she was minuscule compared to him—her blonde hair was cut in a short bob that cupped just below her chin, with bangs that swept to the left, giving her an almost childish appearance. Ahlberg knew not to underestimate her, though—he’d made that mistake in New York, and he hadn’t come this close to catching her until this very moment. Crouching ever so slightly, he slipped his hand into his tuxedo.
“Got a gun in there?” said the girl. Kicking lightly at a heart-themed wreath that looked a little mangled, she scrunched her mouth to one side of her face upon seeing his surprise. A disappointed sigh escaped her. “Please don’t. I just wanna talk.”
Ahlberg pursed his lips. His hand was still gripping his gun, but he hadn’t drawn it out—he simply stared at the anomaly before him, trying his best to discern her motives. “Talk,” he stated at last, still refusing to let go of his weapon.
“Yes. Talk. Speak. Exchange civil words of… I dunno. Something.” She shrugged. “Without weapons, preferably… namely ’cause I don’t actually have one with me right now. Or, like, ever. Ha.”
Upon seeing her seemingly uncomfortable grin, Ahlberg narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Really? No weapons? Casting a glance about the room, he slowly straightened, though he still felt extremely tense. He still kept his hand on his gun, however.
Robin huffed laughter, shaking her head. “I feel like you kind of overestimate me, Ahlberg,” she said. Crossing her arms, she tilted her head slightly to one side. “I literally don’t have much of anything with me right now, and if you wanted to arrest me… you probably could.”
“Tch.” Ahlberg scoffed, disbelieving. “Overestimate. Failing to overestimate you vas my downfall in New York.”
“Yes but see, overestimating might be your downfall here.” He could barely see her smile in the little light that was offered, but it gave him chills. “Both are equal evils. It’s like jumping from one ditch on the side of the road into another.”
“Are you saying you vant me to arrest you?” said the man. Finally feeling like he might perhaps have the upper hand, he drew his hand away from his gun and crossed his arms. “Because zat can be arranged.”
“Nah.” Turning on her heels, Robin began to walk back to the large piano, disappearing behind it as she took a seat. The agent she left bit his lip, hesitating for a large stretch of time as the tune began to play anew, until he at last decided to follow her. When he rounded the corner, her eyes were trained on a piece of sheet music.
Postcards from Far Away.
“Like I said, I think we should talk.” Her voice was quiet, but he could still hear her. Crossing his arms, the agent leaned on the large instrument and watching her hands as they plinked out the notes. “My team thinks that working against each other does more harm than good, since we’re essentially on the same side. I kind of think they’re a little bit dumb for thinking I can convince you of anything, but—”
“ ‘Ze same side?’ ” Ahlberg didn’t hear the rest of what she said. Furrowing his brows, he straightened off the piano, looking down at her small form in astonishment. “I do not know vhat vorld you are living in, but ve are not on ze same side.”
Robin stopped playing. Turning to the man, she stared at him hard, blinking once or twice before turning back to her music. “Didn’t anyone teach you not to interrupt?” She inquired, huffing as she began to play again. “Some southern manners would really do you some good.”
She stopped playing with one hand so she could flip the piece of sheet music to the next page. “But yes, I think we’re fighting for the same thing.”
“And vhat vould zat be?”
Ahlberg exhaled through his nose. “And how is zat?” he inquired, holding one hand out to the side as he questioned her logic. “You are a zhief, and a liar. Vhat sort of moral standards could you possibly uphold?”
Robin laughed, throwing her head back slightly and snorting. Ahlberg let his eyelids fall over his eyes, lifting one brow as he watched her. “You’d be surprised,” she said at last, shrugging her shoulders. “In fact, most people that others deem ‘villains’ are a whole lot more morally conscious than you’d expect.”
“Unlikely,” argued Ahlberg.
Robin closed her eyes and sighed. “Look,” she began, still looking to her piece. “I’m sure your buddy is gonna be here within seconds, and then I’m probably gonna be toast, but I’m risking being here because I think it’s important for you to know that I don’t want to fight you. And I know you’re not leaving because you’re at least halfway curious to what I have to say.”
“No,” said Ahlberg, rolling his eyes. “I’m ’ere because I zhink you’re crazy, and it amuses me. More zan zat, I’m zimply waiting for reinforcements so zat I can arrest you.”
Robin stopped. Turning to him, she grinned. “But you have a gun.”
Ahlberg bit his lower lip. “Likely not enough power to get through you, girl. Besides, you’ve probably already stolen it.”
He meant it as a sort of joke. Little did he expect to see, when Robin turned in her seat toward him, a black glimmer just beneath a hand that resided on her lap. Eyes widening, he immediately checked where he holstered his weapon.
“You’re smarter than you look,” said Robin, smiling. She tapped the weapon with her forefinger. “And yeah, I’m totally not gonna shoot you. I just kind of swiped it just in case I wouldn’t be able to get through to you, which I suspected I wouldn’t. And, of course, I was totally right.”
Ahlberg scowled. “You’re a coward.”
Robin frowned. “I’m a cat burglar,” she corrected, pulling herself into a standing position. She blew on the barrel of the gun, though her eyes never left him. They glinted silver in the low light. “And yeah, probably a coward too, but you know. I’m working on it.”
The sound of footsteps suddenly found its way into the room. Ahlberg’s gaze snapped toward the place from which he had entered; Robin, seeing his distraction, kicked the stool on which she had been seated flying toward him.
The agent and the stool collided. Nearly knocked to the ground by the force of the blow, Ahlberg staggered back and steadied himself on a nearby stack of boxes. “Hey!” he cried out, but she had already gone. The window was open. A gust of wind gently blew at the curtains.
“Ahlberg!” Cap was the first to stumble into the room, followed by his assistant Emily. His usual red baseball cap was gone from his head, and Ahlberg could see the look of panic on his young face even from where he stood—though it quickly faded when he saw the older agent. “Ahlberg!” He exclaimed, and threw his hands up into the air. “You’re alive! I was totally freaking out!”
“Yes, I’m alive,” said the man, none too happily, nearly running toward the stairwell. More agents were spilling out but he pushed past them, making his way hastily to the stairs, already beginning to descend as he called out, “Put out an APB for a small blonde girl in a red hood! Zat little rat stole my gun, and more zan zat, she got away. Out the window. Send some officers to block off 46th and Howards this second or somebody is going to get fired!”
“Yes, sir,” a voice behind him said as he hit the second landing, swinging around the next corner and jumping two stairs at a time.
Zat little zhief doesn’t know vhat she’s talking about, he thought to himself. Even so, he couldn’t shake the feeling of doubt that gnawed at his chest, even as he ran to try and catch her.
I feel like I haven’t posted anything here in forever (‘: but here’s a little project I did for school!! I just finished it so in all likelihood I repeated myself a million times, but I’m proud of it and wanted to share