Beginning Flames

Enter the Sexist Ricardo

I woke up slouched over the desk, my cheek planted into one of the book pages. The sun was peeking in through the window and it shone right in my eyes, making me blink a few times. I stretched a little, then rubbed my sleepy eyes. The smell of cooking food wafted through the air, and I instantly recognized one food that would send me to Heaven: bacon. Oh, how I love bacon. Being a meat-eater, I would eat meat until the day I die, and you could never turn me vegetarian or vegan. Nothing against the two, really; it's just that we need protein to stay healthy, and without protein, we'd look kinda... sickly. A slight turn of the head and Espio came in with a plate.

"Good morning," he said.

"Morning, Espy," I said with a yawn.

"You fell asleep reading your book, it seems."

"Yeah, I just had to check it out. I guess even Immortals make stupid mistakes as we do from time to time. Not so different from us." I smelled the air again. "Why do I smell good smelling food? That smell never wafts in this place."

The ninja chameleon put the plate down in front of me. Scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausages were on the fragile, usable disc. I felt my mouth begin to water. "You've been progressing well in both your training styles, so I thought you deserved a little reward for your hard work."

"Aw, thanks so much, Espy. I haven't had any of these in a long while."

"I'm sure. However, you might want to eat it fast."

I raised an eyebrow. "Why is that?"

"Hey, Charmy, smell what I smell?" Vector said from upstairs.

"It smells really good!" Charmy replied.

I gulped. "Uh-oh."

"Exactly," Espio confirmed.

At that moment, Charmy and Vector came at me full speed, chanting 'Food, food, food!'. As soon as they lunged for me, I grabbed my plate, jumped on the desk, and quickly jumped into the air, flying to the other side of the room, landing perfectly on my feet with catlike skill. Vector and Charmy on the other hand nearly toppled over when Vector tried hurdling over the desk and Charmy fell underneath the croc's stomach.

"That's gonna hurt tomorrow," Vector groaned.

"Vector, you're crushing me!" Charmy gasped. "I can't breathe!"

"Your reflexes have improved very well," Espio praised me.

"Thank you," I said. "After all, I did learn from the best."

A modest smile appeared on the chameleon's face. Then, there was a knock on the door. I set the plate down for just a moment to answer. It was a red gorilla with a peach-colored muzzle wearing a business suit, his eyes as black as coal.

"Uh, may I help you?" I asked.

"Yes, I'm looking for Vector the Crocodile of the Chaotix Detective Agency," he replied.

I took a closer look at him. He seemed normal, but something about him rubbed me the wrong way. Oh, boy, this guy looks like bad news. Better send him on his way. "I'm sorry, but he isn't here at the moment. If you'd like, I can take a message and make sure he-"

"You're lying."

I shook my head in surprise. "What? No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are. How I know is your tell."

"My tell?"

"Yes. You look me in the eyes a brief moment after you size me up, and then you try to intimidate me with those eyes of yours to get me to run away. So... where is he?"

Wow. He's like Sherlock Holmes in gorilla form. Regardless... "I'm not the type who's gonna rat my boss out, so you can just pack up your bananas and leave, you... you... monkey." I was about to close the door on him, but he was quick and held the door open.

"I'm afraid, my dear, that's not going to happen."

I looked behind me, seeing Vector brush himself off. "Uh, Boss, we got trouble here."

"What is it?" Vector asked, approaching the door. As soon as he saw the gorilla, a vicious snarl formed on his face. "Oh, fuck," he muttered.

The gorilla grinned. "Hello, Vector," he calmly spoke.

"Ricardo. Never thought I'd see your ugly mug around here again."

Ricardo chuckled. "Still the jokester as always." He turned his eyes to me. "I see you've got yourself a trophy girl. What is she, your cheerleader?"

"Excuse me, but I'm a part of this agency as a detective," I said coldly. "So don't you make any sexist remarks, statements, or call out any sexist stereotypes. Got it, pal?"

"Oh, a smart one. Still, looks beat all. Now, allow me in."

"No way am I-"

"Let 'im in, Kid," Vector interjected.

I was about to oppose, but Ricardo let himself in. I pulled Vector aside. "What's the deal with this Ricardo guy that's got you steamed?" I whispered.

"Let's just say we're longtime enemies in a longtime war that's never gonna end," he replied. "Fucking bastard thinks he's better than everyone else."

"Yeah, I can tell. Is he some kind of sleazy businessman, or..."

"Later, Kid, later." He turned to Ricardo, who laid on the couch relaxing and eating my breakfast. "So, Ricardo, what brings you to my neck of the woods?"

"What, can't I visit an old friend without my motives being questioned?" the gorilla nonchalantly asked between bites of bacon.

"Cut the crap. Now why are you really here?"

Ricardo gulped down his food and let out a deep sigh. "See, my business has been suffering a lot lately, and I'm losing money by the minute."

Business tycoon. Of course.

"I needed some way to gain back my profits and finally be rid of my top competitor, but I didn't know how to do so. But then, I heard from an anonymous source that you have a female working in your office."

By anonymous, he probably means Eggman and his little robot servant.

"What could you want with our Kid?" Vector questioned, not letting his guard down for one second.

"I need her if she's capable enough, to perform a... certain task for me," Ricardo replied.

I raised an eyebrow. "What sort of task?" I asked.

"I fear that my rival is behind the source of my profits going in the toilet. I invited him over for a drink tomorrow, and I need you, girl, to pose as my new maid and seduce him."

"Remember what I said about the sexist remarks," I growled.

"I'm not asking you to get touchy-feely with him. I just need you to work him over enough to get information from him, to get him to reveal secrets of his success by any means necessary. Do you accept it? I promise your reward will be great."

Work a case by myself? I don't know, something just doesn't feel right about this.

"Do we have a deal or what?"

"Don't do it, Kid," Vector whispered harshly. "He's only gonna end up screwing you over, reward or no."

I looked between him and the gorilla, the decision coming to mind. "I'll do it," I said.

"WHAT?!" Vector yelled.

"Excellent," Ricardo applauded.

"But on one condition."

"Condition? What condition?"

"You allow my friends to come along."

The gorilla sneered at my teammates. "Them? Why should I even consider?"

"See, Vector's been trying to find a hardcore solo mission for me to go on for a while, and the three have to observe me from afar and not interfere to see what course of action I take during this time. I think this is the perfect mission for this experiment. Isn't that right, Boss?" I looked back at the croc, who was stunned in silence. He shook his head to focus, getting in on the act.

"Yeah, that's right," Vector said as confidently as he could. "We could pose as your security guards or somethin', the boys and I. Whadda ya say, Ricardo?"

Ricardo merely stared at us, time seemed to have slowed or even stopped. He, then, let out a defeated sigh. "Very well. They'll... accompany you." He got up off the couch, heading to the door. "A limousine shall come and pick you up tonight." He stopped at the door, appearing to be waiting for something. He cleared his throat, looking at me as he did so, his eyes moving from me to the door.

"Your arms or hands aren't broken," I said, arms crossed.

He huffed and opened the door himself. "You may act all tough, but you need to mind your manners while you're in my estate." He slammed the door behind him.

I waited a moment before exclaiming, "Ooh, the nerve of that ape! I should've punched him right in that simian face of his!"

"But you kept your cool and got us the case of a lifetime!" Vector laughed, taking me by the shoulders. "Where'd you come up with that amazing lie? Ah, who cares! We're gonna be rich! It's about time I got my due!" He let me go and was whooping, hollering, dancing, and laughing about, making Espio, Charmy, and I confused.

"What the heck's wrong with Vector?" Charmy asked.

"I'm... not sure," Espio answered. "This is strange, even for him."

"Vector, what is it about Ricardo that makes you hate him so much?" I asked the happy croc.

Vector stopped dancing, his face turning serious. "You really wanna know?" he asked.

"Well, yeah. I mean, what's the deal?"

He let out a sigh. "It's a long, sad story. That's all you need to know."

What's sad about it? It's not like at some point he and Ricardo were... A thought popped in my head. "Were the two of you... best friends?"

His eyes widened with surprise. "How'd you know that?!"

I shrugged. "I don't know; it just came to me."

"You're right, ya know. Ricardo and I were best friends. Then something happened, and we swore we'd never have to see each other again. The end."

"But what exactly happened?"

The croc shook his head. "Nope, not sayin' anymore."

"Alright, I understand." He really doesn't wanna talk about it. But I respect his decision to not tell.

Later that evening, the limo did arrive and took us to the outskirts of Mobotropolis. There was nothing but land for miles. Charmy got bored after being all excited about riding in a limousine for the first time and fell asleep on my lap. Vector sat across from me and was snoring. Espio sat next to him, trying to meditate through the crocodile's loud snores, but when the limo would make a right, the sleeping Vector would lean on him and the ninja chameleon had to push him off. As the land zoomed by, I let out a small yawn. But I had to keep my eyes open, just in case I were to see something interesting.

"How much longer do you think it is to Ricardo's estate?" I asked Espio. "I'm seeing nothing but land."

"I'm not entirely sure," he answered as he tried to hold the croc upright. "We've never been this far outside the city before." He glanced back at the sleeping croc, let out a sigh, and moved out of his seat, letting Vector fall over. He then sat next to me. "You'd think Vector would stay awake to see what his rival's estate would look like. Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

"I got us into this, and I'm gonna see this through to the end." I yawned a little louder, without intending to do so.

"Why don't you sleep a little while?"

"So that Ricardo can get his mitts on me when we get there while I'm asleep? Hell no!"

"I'll make sure to wake you up before that happens."

"Okay then, Espy. I'm counting on ya to do so." I closed my eyes for, literally, a brief minute before the limo came to a grinding halt, making my eyes pop open. "Are we there?" I got up, placed Charmy on my seat, and shook Vector a little to wake him up. "Vector. Vector."

No response.

"Hey look! A million dollars!"

"Where? Where?" Vector woke with a start. He sat up and stretched. "Are we there already? Time just flew on by, didn't it?"

"That's because you were asleep for most of the drive," Espio answered. He gently shook Charmy, who woke up in a sleepy daze.

The limo door opened, everyone piled out and then stared in awe. The building was HUMONGOUS. It looked like a mansion and half of another mansion that was piled all together. There was a small stairway that led just to the front door, and at the top stood Ricardo, who was very... delighted to see us here - and I guess by us, I mean me.

"Finally, you're here," Ricardo spoke as we reached the top of the stairs. "About time. You remember what the plan was, right, girl?"

"I have a name, and yes," I said with a small growl. "I'm supposed to pose as your new maid and seduce your business rival when he arrives here tomorrow, for you invited him over for a drink."

"Very good. This shall be your uniform." From behind his back, he pulled out a hanger, and on the hanger was a French maid outfit - pantyhose and French heels included. I felt my eyelid twitch in irritation and anger.

"Hey Vector, isn't that the same outfit we made Espio dress up in?" Charmy asked.

"I think it is," Vector spoke, trying not to laugh.

"Remember what I said about the sexism, pal," I growled at the gorilla.

"Now, follow me," Ricardo said. We followed him inside and the inside was marvelous. It looked like the inside of a castle, maybe even better. We took a turn into a hallway, Ricardo stopping at a door. "This shall be your room, girl."

If he calls me 'girl' one more time, a head's gonna roll...!

"Now if the... gentlemen will follow me." The gorilla led the Chaotix away from me, leaving me alone. I opened the door, and the room was lovely. A queen-sized mattress with one of those privacy curtain things, a walk-in closet, and a little porch to look out from outside the window.

"Even though Ricardo's a sexist dick, this room is divine," I said to myself, and then threw myself on the bed. It was so comfortable and felt like a cloud of cotton candy. My eyes slowly closed, and I went into dreamland.
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