Attending Maleficon, Maleficent’s signature conference for villains, wasn’t Carmen Sandiego’s idea of a good time. Stealing the Grand Canyon was more her speed. Or the canals of Venice. Or the Portuguese language. Or the concept of time. Any of these would have been more enjoyable than listening to Lex Luthor’s third presentation of the day, this time about the need to be goal-oriented in thinking about your evil plans. The PowerPoint listed “1) Get Kryptonite 2) Kill Superman 3) ??? 4) PROFIT.” Herr Starr leaned back in his seat next to Carmen, smirking in amusement. Ugh, why did she always end up sitting next to the creeps?
Magneto and Palpatine’s “LifeHacks” panel earlier in the day hadn’t been better. The bottom line had been that magnets could somehow control brains and that controlling people’s brains was a handy shortcut. Carmen had been more of a geography and history kind of girl, but that science seemed slightly off somehow. And why control people when you could just take whatever it was you wanted? Typical villains, always overcomplicating things.
The networking at Maleficon was fine, if you could avoid getting stuck having a conversation with Luthor. Or Magneto. Or Rasputin. Or any of them, really. But the hotel bar was worth the price of the conference. Strong drinks, bitter screeds, pent up feelings, and a lot of hooking up made for excellent people watching.
She’d found a dark corner to sit in and observe the madness. She watched Croup and Vandemar sizing up everyone in the bar while they methodically played the most complicated version of Scrabble she’d ever seen. Palpatine was at the next table over, slipping his religious pamphlets to anyone that would get near enough while continuously Force redirecting Rasputin from coming over to talk. It was only a matter of time before Palpatine got distracted and didn’t catch Rasputin in time, then the shouting would start.
Magneto stood off to the side, ignoring Palpatine and everyone else, playing a solitary game of darts in which every single throw was a bullseye. Except for the dart that somehow veered right and curved around a table to spear through one of Albert Wesker’s tentacles. He screamed in pain and retracted it from its place, curled around Magneto’s very expensive single malt. Magneto grinned, displaying a quantity of teeth not out of place on a shark. “Clumsy me,” he offered. Wesker scowled and moved to sit elsewhere, grasping tentacles leading the way. He bumped into Sir Crocodile, whose broad frame was blocking anyone from moving past him as he ordered a bottle of wine. Sir Crocodile turned slowly to look at Wesker, made a condescending huff, then put out his cigar on Wesker’s leather coat. Vandemar and Croup snorted in amusement as Wesker stormed past their table and out of the bar.
Carmen noticed Herr Starr had found a seat at the bar next to Assistant Mayor Bellwether, looking predatory until she said something to him a low voice that she couldn’t make out. Then she gestured to something behind him. His good eye had widened considerably and he’d nodded deferentially, leaving his room key next to her drink.
Then out came the karaoke, which was maybe the best part of the night. Maleficent and Sir Crocodile had already disappeared together. Cobra Commander had taken over the mic and was howling “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and then got into a fight with Starscream who wanted the mic. Cobra Commander ignored Starscream’s grabs for it and broke into “I Will Survive.” Starscream finally wrenched the mic away from Cobra Commander, shoved him off the stage, and prepared to start his song.
Carmen looked over as a muscled man with a skull for a face sat down next to her, ordering a gin and tonic. He grimaced at Starscream’s warbling version of “Leaving On a Jet Plane.”
“Save your torturous singing for the shower, you musical miscreant!” he called. Starscream just flipped him off and leaned drunkenly on the mic stand, stumbling slightly.
Carmen leaned in next to him and said in her smokiest voice, “You want to go up there and show him what that song is supposed to sound like?”
The man scoffed. “Skeletor doesn’t sing for drunken rabble.”
She brushed her hand against his. “Shame, I bet you have a beautiful singing voice.”
The skull-faced man calling himself Skeletor gave her a long stare. “That is not what people usually say.”
“You must know a lot of fools then. Let me buy you a drink?” She looked at him from under the brim of her hat, flashing a smile.
It honestly wasn’t her fault that he was a lightweight. So when, after his second gin and tonic, he started to slump drowsily against the bar, she certainly hadn’t meant to steal his wallet. Well, she did, but only because it was there. She left him to enjoy his nap and circulated around the bar.
Carmen hadn’t necessarily intended to lift anything tonight, but as the night wore on she’d ended up with her trench coat pockets full. She had Bellwether’s Night Howler Gun, a shard of Kryptonite Luthor had been carrying around, and Skeletor’s wallet. She’d taken the letters off Croup and Vandemar Scrabble tiles, she’d stolen Palpatine’s lightsaber while he was busy taking over the DJ booth, she’d stolen Magneto’s Genoshan signet ring, and Starscream’s cell phone contact list.
None of this would have been an issue if she hadn’t been a little drunk and tried to swipe Cobra Commander’s face hood mask thing while he was passed out in a booth. But she’d miscalculated ever so slightly and brushed his shoulder when she was taking it off and he’d startled awake. After that, things were a blur of shouting, reaching for weapons, threats, grandstanding speeches, and her running through the kitchens and out into the back alley. She needed a bolthole right now, one that would keep her away from this pack of villains, at least until next year. She flipped through the wallet she’d taken and found an address on the driver’s license. Eternia, huh? A different planet might be a good place to lie low for a bit until this blew over.
This was an undeniably perfect plan, guaranteed to get her out of range of Force Lightning and magnet magic. It was even nice in Eternia! Crisp air, rugged citizens, nice cafes, basically a strange version of Austria. Eternia was, all in all, pleasant.
Pleasant for a bit, anyway, then it was fine, then it was boring. Carmen never had gotten the hang of vacations. So she went to the museum. Within ten minutes, her fingers were itching and she felt a prickle at her neck. Within a half hour she was looking at the security cameras and examining points of entry and exit for each display. No! No, she could handle this without causing trouble. She’d just steal something small.
She wouldn’t alert any attention if she just picked up a new wallet for Skeletor. His wallet was the reason she was here after all, so if she stole this and someone was upset, it was really more Skeletor’s fault than hers. She palmed a wallet from the museum gift store that looked like a dinosaur trying to devour you every time you opened it. He seemed like a dinosaur type. It was child’s play slipping into Snake Mountain and leaving it on his bedside table. It was less easy resisting the urge to take the enormous ornate saddle that he had hanging on the wall. Was he going to miss that? Surely not.
Skeletor was glad to be back in Snake Mountain. Maleficon seemed to get more desperate every year and having his wallet taken was an unnecessary additional humiliation. Admittedly, in the bar brawl he’d landed a good punch on Rasputin, which made him feel like he hadn’t completely wasted his time at the conference. The only other silver lining was having a book signed by Maleficent. He went to put it on the bookshelf in his room when he noticed the new wallet on his bedside table. Skeletor looked around suspiciously. He hadn’t told anyone about the wallet. He certainly hadn’t told anyone that he liked dinosaurs. He knew that he hadn’t bought it, and he didn’t know anyone that did spur of the moment gifts. Perhaps a gift from Beast Man? He’d really been angling for a promotion lately. Skeletor tucked it into his belt, called for Panthor, reaching out for where the saddle normally hung.
Skeletor howled in rage. Within seconds, his bedroom was suddenly full of attentive minions looking for something to attack. “My saddle is gone! Where is it?!”
Trap-Jaw shifted nervously and looked at Evil-Lyn, who looked at Mer-Man, who looked at Screeech sitting on his perch. Screeech blinked and pecked at the wall, ignoring Mer-Man’s pleading expression.
“What are you waiting for? Find it or I’ll throw you all into the bottomless pit!” They shuffled off in all directions, studiously looking everywhere in case the saddle suddenly appeared.
Beast Man stayed behind and held up a worn-in saddle. “Is this it, boss?”
“No, you flea-bitten fool! My special occasion saddle is missing. Keep looking!” Skeletor hissed. But the minion management panel at the conference had suggested praise helped keep minions loyal and goal-oriented. “Beast Man, that wasn’t your worst idea,” he ground out.
Beast Man grinned proudly, carrying the saddle back to wherever he’d found it. Skeletor angrily rubbed his temples and thought about where his saddle might be, or who might have taken it.
Carmen hadn’t intended to do much thieving but how could she resist when everything was just lying around unguarded? The libraries had been fortified and the museum district had a guard or two but really, they might as well have invited her to walk on in and take everything. It was too much temptation, she needed to get back home before she completely burned her welcome here. She checked for any news from the villains back home, but they still seemed angry. Assistant Mayor Bellwether had tweeted some particularly horrifying threats to anyone who didn’t return her Night Howler gun.
Carmen tapped her fingers thoughtfully against her coffee cup. She was going to need a patsy to take the fall for this one. There was no way to easily transition back to Earth without something to keep assorted gumshoes and villains from trying to track this back to her. Damn her incredibly talented and easily bored nature! She downed the rest of her coffee and left the internet café. Of course it was just a café now, she’d stolen the entire He-fi network on her second week in Eternia.
She wandered through the main square and past the museum district, which looked a little emptier than usual, but she’d gotten a look at a sculpture in the art gallery that she wouldn’t mind taking home. Maybe a little light theft before she started looking for a fall guy. She’d had her eye on “Sculpture of a Man” by Sculpture-Man. Eternians really had a gift for language.
She’d planned to steal just the one piece, really. But why steal that piece when she could steal the entire museum district?
Skeletor was reading about the latest spate of thefts in Eternia when Trap-Jaw alerted him that He-Man was posturing outside Skeletor’s door with Teela at his side. Skeletor slouched irritably on his throne and waited for someone to let He-Man in. As if he had nothing better to do than address that bowl-cut sporting buffoon.
“What do you want? And be quick about it!”
“SKELETOR!” He-Man bellowed. “Return the museum district at once! The children are missing a field trip and I will not have their education hampered by your nefarious doings.”
“Curse you, He-Man. I didn’t take the museum district. What would I want with a pile of dusty artifacts anyway?”
“Nice try, Skeletor. I saw you there on dinosaur day. If you didn’t take the museum district, as you claim, then who did?”
Skeletor crossed his arms. “I’m not one of your do-gooder pals! Solve your own mysteries. And everyone likes dinosaurs, you dolt!”
Teela looked at He-Man and shrugged. “He’s got a point. Everyone does love dinosaurs.”
He-Man ignored her. “I’ve come retrieve what you’ve stolen and bring you to justice.”
“What is it you think I’ve stolen, He-Man?”
“Most of the museums, the Sunstone, the spring in the Valley of Power, my baldric, every loincloth in all of Eternos, the bottomless pit.” He-Man lowered his voice to a harsh whisper. “You even stole my theme song! Now at the end of each adventure, nothing happens! It just ends!”
Skeletor rolled his eyes. “You pea-brained boob, I cannot believe –“ Skeletor paused. He could admit that he hadn’t taken them and He-Man might go away, but then everyone in Eternia would know that he'd been outdone by a no-name thief. Well, whoever it was causing chaos wouldn’t get away with it. Or rather, they certainly would get away with it, but they’d be doing it under the close supervision and management of Skeletor! He’d claim responsibility now and track them down--surely they’d see reason and work for him. The Power of Greyskull could be his! “-I can’t believe it took even a simple lummox like you this long to figure it out!”
He-Man nodded in that unbearably disappointed way. “Then come with me and face the consequences for your crimes.”
“I think not, you moralizing moron!” Skeletor slammed on the throne trap door button and dropped down into the secret passages beneath Snake Mountain.
He-Man’s voice floated down after him, “I’ll get you, Skeletor!”
“Mer-Man!” Skeletor yelled, taking off his hood and cape. Mer-Man appeared at his side looking cautiously pleased to have been called for. “Grab some disguises, we’re going to find that thief!”
They visited the scene of every crime, starting with the remaining museums. Mer-Man had absolutely been the wrong choice to take as a lackey on this outing. He kept looking forlornly at the gift shop.
“Stop your sniveling at once, you aquatic imbecile! You can work on your postcard collection after we finish our search!” Skeletor hissed, tugging at the drawstring of his hoodie.
Merman gave a bubbly sigh and resumed searching for clues.
The museum turned up no leads of the thief’s whereabouts, nor did the ice cream shop where every flavor except bubblegum had been stolen. The laundromats of Eternos, the Valley of Power, the Temples of the Sun… no one had seen anything.
Carmen shadowed the two of them from a careful distance. Awww, Skeletor looked sort of sweet in that oversized hoodie and flip flops. Mer-Man’s poorly fitted baseball cap barely fit over his ear flipper things. Skeletor grew more frustrated the longer he and Mer-Man went without finding someone who’d seen her or who could even identify what time of day something had been stolen. Who did he think he was dealing with? An amateur?
Skeletor was brooding on the steps of one of the laundromats. He looked so adorably incompetent. It didn’t hurt that he wore that loincloth get up, either. Not that she could completely see his butt, but all signs pointed to a nice one. Carmen sighed. She always was a sucker for a cute butt. That was how she’d ended up stealing the statue of David. Skeletor looked like the ideal patsy to pin all her thefts on, but she could throw him a bone, if only because of that cute butt. Carmen pulled her trench coat tighter around herself and headed off to Castle Greyskull.
The following morning, Skeletor blearily got out of bed and headed to his throne room. He hadn’t noticed his throne room was quite this crowded before. He also hadn’t noticed a fertile hillside valley with a lake in his throne room. That was definitely new…
“EVIL-LYN!” She appeared at the doorway, looking warily at the changes in the throne room. “What is the meaning of this? Did you let Mer-Man redecorate?”
“As if I would let that web-fingered freak touch the décor of Snake Mountain. You’ve seen his room,” Evil-Lyn sneered.
Skeletor frowned. “Good. I shall look into this then. And stop insulting Mer-Man, it’s bad for morale!”
Evil-Lyn’s eye twitched “…Certainly. How perceptive of you.”
“I know. I am an excellent manager! Now, begone from my sight!”
Evil-Lyn turned stiffly and walked out, leaving Skeletor standing alone at what looked very much like the Valley of Power, now located inside his throne room. What sort of magic was this? Skeletor tested the water with a hand. Surely no one could steal and hide the valley itself. But it felt like the water in the Valley of Power. He stepped a foot into it and shivered--it was surprisingly soothing after the week he’d had. He took off his hood and walked out into the water, submerging himself in it.
Carmen stepped from the shadows and seated herself on the now vacant throne. She’d hoped for an opportune moment to persuade Skeletor that taking the blame was in his best interest, but this was interesting as well.
Skeletor surfaced and flung his head back, water sheeting off of him and glistening on his purple skin. His fluffy loincloth underwear clung to his behind. Carmen nodded--she’d guessed right. That was an excellent butt, round and taut like a perfectly ripe peach. Skeletor idly waggled his fingers through the water until Carmen spoke up, “Do you like what I’ve done with the place?”
Skeletor gasped in shock which turned to indignation and fury when he turned to look at her seated on the throne. He tried to storm out of the water, but the resistance slowed him down to a sloshing jog. He grabbed his cloak and threw it on but it soaked up the water on him immediately, clinging to him like a second skin, making him look even more like an Eternian Mr. Darcy. Carmen sighed dreamily.
“Who are you? How did you get in here?! GUARDS!”
Carmen stepped lightly off the throne and held up his old wallet. “You don’t want it back?” Skeletor’s eyes widened. Or Carmen thought they did. His facial expressions were a little difficult to read.
“You! You’re the mastermind behind all of these thefts!?”
Carmen tipped her hat back to wink at him, “Mastermind, huh? You really do know how to make a thief blush.”
“You took my wallet!”
“I borrowed it for a bit. It’s how I ended up following you home. Don’t tell me you aren’t pleased to see me? Here, take this, don’t want you to catch a cold.” Carmen took off her trench coat and draped it around his shoulders, tracing their broad strength at she went.
“Pleased? PLEASED?! Do I look pleased to see you?”
“It’s hard to tell with that… stern face of yours,” Carmen ran a finger under Skeletor’s chin.
Skeletor crossed his arms defensively over his chest, “You won’t charm your way out of this! If you don’t return my things to me this instant and help me defeat He-Man, I’ll make sure you live to regret it!”
Carmen grinned, “That sounds fun and all, but how about I just give you what you want most and you do me a little favor?” She took a step towards him.
Skeletor backed up, bare legs bumping into his throne, “Y-Yes? What do you have that I could possibly w-want?”
Oh, this was too easy. She gave him a little push and he unbalanced, ending up awkwardly seated on the throne and looking up at her. She brought her lips close to his ear, “The Power of Grayskull.”
Carmen had returned everything in Eternia to its rightful place and left him with a stack of villainous belongings on the condition that he claim it was all him. Skeletor hadn’t retained the Power of Grayskull long, but only because that dratted He-Man had shown up and taken it back. He certainly been surprised to learn that the Power of Grayskull was a pair of well-fitted dress pants, an object literally unheard of in all of Eternia.
The other villains at the conference had been giving him dark looks since the welcome speeches. Palpatine had already Force-shoved him into the buffet table and claimed it was an accident. Perhaps he'd made the wrong call when he’d agreed to take the blame. Herr Starr was seated intimately close to Assistant Mayor Bellwether and cracking his knuckles thoughtfully as she whispered to him and pointed at Skeletor. He could only hope he’d be fortunate enough to land another punch on Rasputin before the conference was over.
He felt his cell phone vibrate and flicked open the text alert.
CarmenSexyDiego: Check your pocket
Skeletor patted his loincloth to find his wallet gone. His phone buzzed again.
CarmenSexyDiego: Thieves gonna thief! Luckily for you, there’s a very special reward for my capture. Catch me if you can 😉
Skeletor smirked to himself and texted back: This gumshoe demands a clue.
CarmenSexyDiego: I’m somewhere warm enough that I’m not wearing anything under my trench coat. Get on the case.
Skeletor hurriedly pocketed his phone and made his way out of the banquet room, smiling blithely at villains as he passed. Let them try and ruin this weekend. He had a thief to catch.