-It would hardly be fair, much less congruent, to make such a leap in the story of the lives of Kim, William and Kimi without leaving a few footprints, and taking a few snapshots in the chasm that leap traverses.-
-Author-

Kimi was an instant hit with anyone who laid eyes on her - especially because of the allure of her eyes - the reflective silver streaks against the azure blue background of her irises gave her eyes a sparkling appearance in sunlight, and picking up on any available light at night, made her eyes appear to "glow" in all but total darkness, not unlike those of a cat. A picture William had taken with his digital camera caught just the right angle, the silver radiating outward from her pupils gave Kimi an almost regal appearance, and coupled with the smile on her tiny face, produced a reaction of wonder and an immediate love from anyone who viewed it.

William had taken about a week after the birth of his daughter, and then returned to work - tired, but extremely happy and proud. Kim's pregnancy had been quite an adventure for the both of them - happiness about breaking new ground for a Celler - and at the same time apprehensiveness about facing the unknown - the undiscovered country that was the first fruit of a union between a Celler and a Flesher. Kim and William couldn't have been happier with the result - their gift to the world - their only gift of this nature, for try as they might, they would not produce another offspring. Their existing gift was warm, outgoing and endearing.

Kim stayed at home for a little over two months to recuperate, and to spend time with her newborn daughter. A few days a week she would log into work and help with various duties, further acquainting herself with procedures and preparing for her venture into her supervisory position. Kim's first day back to work after Kimi's birth was on Monday, June the 14th, to begin her week's training for her new position as supervisor - but this event was preemptively eclipsed the preceding Friday, when she brought Kimi in to show her off to her coworkers at Meridian.

It was as if a celebrity had walked into the Processing department, with people crowding to get a good look at Kimi. Several of the women asked to hold her, and she seemed comfortable being handled by so many strangers. Another beneficial effect of Kimi's visit was the members of the Board being convinced to incorporate a daycare department into the company, which cut down on mothers having to miss work because of other arrangements falling through; now many infant and pre-school children spent their days with their mothers only a moment or two away.

From nearly the very beginning of her existence, Kimi marveled those around her with her development. Her first words came at the early age of six months, uttering "Mama Mia!" in response to a popular commercial for D'Angelo's Italian restaurant. A mere three months after that, she was composing simple sentences. At one year of age, when most children were just learning enough about their abilities to sit up without support and pull themselves to a standing position, and saying "mama" and "dada," Kimi was already walking about the house, and often when returning home, Kim and William were treated to their infant daughter blurting out a tiny, exuberant, "Hi!" and an energetic wave as they passed through the door, as if Kimi were greeting the house.

When checking in on the daycare one day to take Kimi to lunch with her, Kim got another developmental surprise from her daughter. In the center of a group of children was Kimi, now a year-and-a-half old - reading a storybook to the others. Slow, and stumbling over the larger words, Kimi was determined to conquer and tell the story to her playmates - and they sat, hanging on her every word. Even one of the daycare workers was enthralled by Kimi's ability and commitment to her task.

Kimi's intellectual development continued at a record pace, reading articles from the newspaper to her parents in the evenings at two years, pronouncing even the more challenging words slowly, but with accuracy. She began to grow a fascination with pencil and notepad shortly after that, and by three had been enrolled in kindergarten with children a year or two her senior. Kimi was entering into the realm of cursive writing when her peers were still largely unable to print their own name. She also took to drawing, sitting with a pad, studying items of furniture and other things around the house, then presenting her renditions to her parents, who didn't have to feign surprise at her grasp of scale and perspective. Her crowning achievement just before her fourth birthday was to spend a couple of hours capturing the image of a sleeping Angel Mist slumbering on a corner of the couch.

Kimi had become an inquisitive child, and her advanced intellect and gifted abilities only supplanted her curiosity. Often were the times that Kim or William would be drawn into conversations with their daughter, sometimes for the entire evening, about current events, or deep and spirited discussions about a classmate, events at school, or creative arrangements concerning chores for the weekend. Kimi had even earned a nickname of sorts, coined by Marcy - "Ki" - like "key" - for short. She instantly fell in love with the moniker, and her parents and closest friends adopted it. Kimi advanced to a school for gifted children by age five, and continued to keep up with the quicker learning curve, even with classmates older than she was. In time, those classmates learned to respect and even trust in her skills, coming to her with problems they had with learning a subject or researching assignments.

Along with the growth of their child, Kim and William were presented with changes and events in other aspects of their lives. Donna Collins, whom Kim and Tina met during the first day of training class, and was engaged to be married during the summer after Kimi's birth, had a falling out with her fiance, Randy, after an incident during a spring picnic at the end of March, hosted by the company he worked for. Donna discovered him in a rather heated moment of passion with another woman. That heat was answered with Donna's own heat of rage. She immediately went back to their house, and began throwing all her fiances belongings onto the yard and driveway - including his clothes, his computer and an antique accordion given to him by his grandfather. When Randy returned home, he was met by Donna - who was armed with a baseball bat, which she employed to break out every window of his Volkswagon Jetta, which reeked of the perfume his clandestine encounter was wearing. Donna then called the police to have Randy removed from her property.

Donna sank into a deep funk for the better part of a year, speaking only minimally to friends and coworkers, who pledged their belief and support to her. The most ardent of the people who refused to give up on Donna was Ben Aaronson, whom she, Tina and Kim had also met on their first day of training. Ben always greeted Donna with a kind word, no matter her mood, and always offered a sympathetic ear, whether she was in the mood to talk or not.

As Donna began to lift from her social isolation, she realized how true Ben was with his offers of condolence, concern, support, and friendship. They began to talk quite frequently at work, and it eventually expanded to outside of work. Nearly two years after the breakup with Randy, Donna surprised everyone with an announcement of her engagement to Ben, and they were married the following spring, enjoying a honeymoon in Cairo, Egypt by invitation of Ben's grandparents. They found the experience and the country so beautiful, they vowed to return - in fact, two years after they wed, Donna and Ben moved to Cairo, with Ben taking work as a programmer at a nearby military installation, and Donna opening a small restaurant on the outskirts of Cairo.

Donna and Ben were not the only couple to hear wedding bells during this time - the year after this marriage, Marcy Alvarez announced the engagement to her now-longtime boyfriend, Lupe Delgado, with the wedding coming shortly before Donna and Ben moved to Egypt. Marcy and Lupe pulled out all the stops with a traditional Mexican ceremony, complete with translators for their English-speaking friends. Their honeymoon was a bit more "traditionally" American, with a two-week stay near Niagra Falls. On their return, Lupes love for cooking continued with his restaurant in the Market Square - a much easier effort now, with Marcy's added support and part ownership in the business. Marcy continued at Meridian on the Board of Regents. The crowning moment of their union came a little over a year after their wedding, with the birth of a daughter, Valencia.

A little over five years after Kimi's arrival, a vacancy opened in the Board of Regents when the chairman, Michael Hawkins, was struck by a rare, debilitating form of arthritis, leaving him all but unable to walk. He cashed his stock options, collected his severance package, and retired on a tidy sum to live out his years in Arizona. A vote was taken, and a decision was made for Cheryl Carter to move to the position of chairman, having been on the Board longer than any other member, save Michael. This left a void in the staff of the Board which stood for nearly a year. Applications came in from offices throughout the East Division from supervisors and officers in other branches, all stating their case as to why they should be admitted to the Board, and how they could further help the company, once installed in that lofty position.

The most vocal case for the Board candidate was waged by Marcy Alvarez. She recounted time and time again how William, once appointed to head Processing's restructuring six years before, had put his all into not only seeing the project through, but also into incorporating ways to save the company money while doing it; and after, in day-to-day operations. From his beginnings with Meridian, William showed a commitment to his work - and to Marcy's work, often without her asking him - and, after his marriage to Kim and the birth of their daughter, a commitment to family as well.

William's model for streamlining productivity while increasing revenue had been adopted by nearly every Meridian branch, and was about to be launched in the head office in Los Angeles. If there was a more perfect candidate to become part of the most important decision-making entity in Meridian East, and possibly the entire corporation itself, Marcy did not know their name. In late September of that year, a vote was held by the Board - and William Hodge was appointed as the newest member.

William's move left the position of Head of Processing open - and from every employee - the only name that was brought up when asked about a replacement was "Kim Possible-Hodge." William underwent agonizing temptation in keeping from sharing the news with his wife. About a week later, Kim was called to the Board Meeting Room, where an offer package was made to her, complete with all the fringe benefits. Tina Drexel, without whose help and commitment, Kim could not have advanced as she did, was promoted to a new position, that of Director of Data Flow. Her job was to make sure that client information from branch offices flowed quickly and smoothly into the Processing department, and to track down and free up bottlenecks when and where they occured. Tina was answerable only to Kim.

With the combined salaries and stock options, Kim and William were now millionaires.

Kimi was approaching seven years of age, and was quickly growing. One spring afternoon, after Kim had brought Kimi home from school and had laid down for a nap on the couch, she was awakened by a commotion from the basement. Rushing downstairs, Kim discovered her daughter standing in the middle of the floor of a room they had converted to an exercise area, belting out short gutteral screams. "Ki, what's wrong!??" she asked, concerned.

"Nothing, Mom," came the reply. "I was just practicing yelling like you do when you do Karates!"

It gave Kim an idea. She set about getting the proper documentation from a local dojo to become a licensed instructor, and on Kimi's seventh birthday, began to teach her the lunges, punches and kicks associated with those "Karates" yells. Kimi dove into the sport with her all, begging her mother for lessons during the least moment of spare time, and graduating through the first three belts - yellow, orange and blue - within her first year, via tests given at the dojo. By the time she was nine, Kimi had begun studying and researching the methods and theories of advanced Kempo Karate, and had graduated to her green belt at the "teen/adult" level - her technique and power far above that of her peers at the "junior" level, thanks to her mother's insistence on perfecting and polishing moves and sequences.

The point that Kim and William were most impressed with, and the one they stressed the most, was that Kimi was free to study and gain as much martial arts training as she could physically handle - as long as she kept up her commitments with school. While not a straight "A" student, Kimi kept high marks in all her classes, the highest in math.

Kimi continued in her studies, learning the basic tenet of Karate - not that it was a way of bullying people or "showing off" - but rather a way of developing and keeping a high level of fitness, both physical and mental, and defending oneself in a fight, should the situation ever arise - and that Karate itself, like most martial arts, had originally been an art, rather than a fighting style. Kimi was fascinated at how fluid her movements could become just from using parts of methods learned - and by how much power she could unleash from her body, when applying the right leverage.

Sometimes during impromptu sparring sessions, Kimi would try to sneak in an unrehearsed move, which was usually met with skillful defense by her mother/sensei - until Kimi snuck in the side lessons of "speed striking," taught to her by a brown belt student from the dojo - a technique to build hand speed to where a student can land up to 10 or more strikes in a matter of a few seconds.

The first time caught Kim unaware, and Kimi landed a rather forceful blow to Kim's midsection with the heel of her hand, knocking the wind out of her. It was then that Kim made the decision to further her own Kempo skills, and begin the studies for her black belt. Through their learning/teaching experience, the two had formed a tight and loving mother/daughter bond - but after the incident with the sneak attack, Kim vowed that her daughter would never lay a hand on her again unless she allowed it.

While Kim furthered her own skills, Kimi went to the dojo to meet her after school to graduate to an Advanced Green Belt, and to begin her weapons training, particularly in the art of the Escrima - twin sticks about three feet in length, used both for defense and as a fighting style, coupled with low kicks meant to strike at an opponent's legs and feet. Kimi opted not to study attack techniques with other weapons, but rather focused on defense against knife attacks, and those such as staffs and chains. At twelve, Kimi tested for, and graduated to, her Advanced Purple belt - five levels from 1st Degree Black belt. As a present for her thirteenth birthday, and for her years of commitment and determination to excel in martial arts, Kim treated her daughter to an appointment at one of the more prestigious hair salons in Eastgate.

With the progression of the years, Kim bore out an interesting side effect from her long-term existence in the Flesher environment - a slight aging. The fourteen years since Kimi's birth added a few years to Kim's physical makeup, as well as two inches to her height, now at five-feet, seven inches. A routine checkup with the doctor revealed that Kim was now physically the equivalent of about 23 years of age - a thankfully slow progression. Kim's work to expand her martial arts limits paid off just before Kimi's fourteenth birthday - achieving her fourth-degree black belt. At the same time, her daughter celebrated her birthday by passing the test for her red belt - a mere two steps from becoming a black belt in Kempo Karate.

As she grew into her teen years, Kimi became a near splitting-image of her mother in size, height and stature, save her eyes and her new hairdo - which up to now, had been in the style of Kim's, albeit shorter, about shoulder length - but she took the opportunity on her thirteenth birthday to change it to ultra-short, near shaved at the neck, sweeping upward to a cascade of brilliant auburn bangs which hung past her eyes when let down, but she usually brushed it in a long sweep to the side.

Kim and William could not be more proud of their daughter. Along with the physical attributes from both of them, Kimi had apparently also been bred with the ethics and commitment they shared and exhibited. When Kimi put her mind to a project, she didn't let lack of interest creep in and disrupt her efforts. She not only focused on her schoolwork, but on other pursuits - and had gone just as far as her mother had in Karate, before Kim's thrust into her black belt. Kimi had a nearly constant rappore with her parents, complete with witty puns and wordplay, which kept everyone in a light and jovial mood.

Kim and William were watching their daughter grow up and live a normal life, and counted her and themselves lucky not to have to deal with any of the potential problems that they were expecting during her childhood. This was further insulated by the decision not to tell Kimi of her mother's origin, or how she came to be in the Flesher environment. This was not done out of shame of Kim's beginnings and her travels to her present, but rather for their daughter's future - to erase the possibility of any self-doubt germinating in Kimi's mind about her appearance or abilities, which in turn might sabotage her self-confidence, and the confidence in her mother and father, whom she idolized for all of her nearly fifteen years...

Steel Swan

1. The Birds and The Bees Were So Cake

Thursday, March 7
4:48 PM.
"Remind me to call Tina again after dinner and thank her for jumping into all that extra work," said Kim as William turned the corner onto their street.

"Oh, I think in a way, she's thanking you, too," William said. "I mean, the bonus you gave her after her trip to Springfield...they told me later that she wouldn't leave without a 'yes'."

"Yeah...thanks to her, we now have all of southern Missouri, not just Kansas City and St. Louis. That's why I gave her the bonus. She went above and beyond in convincing those insurance carriers we'd do right by them." Kim turned and reached for a large sack in the back seat. "She went above and beyond on Ki's birthday present, too," she said, pulling a shimmering black silk karate uniform part-way from the sack. "This has to be the most beautiful Gi I think I've ever seen. Ki will just love it, but I doubt she'll want to spar or practice in it."

William smiled as his wife slowly slid her fingers along the gold trim adorning the arms of the uniform. "Now I'm wondering who will be the first to try it on," he snickered.

Kim responded by breaking into a giggle. "Hey, we already share some clothes. Who could blame me???" then, "I'm kidding...I'll ask before I try it on."

They were both laughing softly as William brought the car into the driveway. Kim put the Gi back into the sack and rolled it closed. They heard the TV as they walked to the front door. "Hmmm," Kim said quietly, "I would have thought Ki would still be at the dojo. She must have left the TV on." She opened the outside door and started to put her key in the lock, when the sound of the TV came through more clearly:

:::Ron...an evil whacko is in the Dairy State with a giant laser drill! I'm going...and I was hoping you'd come with...:::

Kim's expression instantly changed to one of worry and concern as she turned to her husband, grasping his forearm. "Oh no," she uttered softly, her brow furrowing as her grip tightened. "That's...that's Bueno Nacho...Ki must have found the--"

Kim was stopped by William's arm around her shoulder. "Okay....we knew this would probably happen at some point...just that this was not the way we had envisioned Ki being...introduced to it...the best thing to do now, is to prepare for the worst - and hope for the best."

Kim looked into William's eyes for a moment, looking for strength...and trying to keep hers from glassing over. She dropped her head, sighing, then put on a happier face, hiding her apprehension - and turned the key in the lock, opening the door slowly.

Kimi was curled into a corner of the couch, as if in retreat from the television. She had a pillow embraced across her chest, and a bag of mostly-uneaten microwave popcorn was on the cushion beside her. She was riveted to the screen, mesmerized, oblivious to the opened door as the episode continued.

:::Mom, reassure me...I just had a fight with Ron...he was all high-horse because I failed on work...and I really need to stop Drakken, but....Ron thinks I quit because I can't take him being good at something, which would be way pa-thetic...:::

"Hi, Kiiiii," Kim drew out in a cheerful, yet slightly uneasy tone as she entered the living room, sneaking a quick sideways glance at the TV. "Maybe I should expl--"

Kim was cut short as Kimi jumped with a start against the arm of the couch, her feet pushing out, sending the popcorn bursting across the couch and spilling onto the floor. Her eyes were wide as saucers and were teary at the corners as she clutched the pillow tighter.

Kim immediately drew back a step from her daughter's reaction, then tried to regroup. "Ki...we have to talk..."

Kimi slid up the arm of the couch, sitting astride it, one foot dropping to the floor. "No!" she shouted, her voice spewing an air of disbelief and a feeling of betrayal. "It's all about we don't have to talk. All I want to know is what THAT is--" she thrust her arm at the television, her finger snapping straight out, pointing at the screen:

:::No big...going organic was a total no-brainer, heh:::

"--and what YOU are--" Kimi turned back to her mother, her voice now beginning crack in and out of a broken falsetto as her emotion poured through. "--the hell with that...what am I!??"

"You're our daughter," William interjected. "Our beautiful, wonderful, talented daughter."

"We were going to tell you about this..." Kim added, "...when you were...older...and more ready."

"R-Ready???" Kimi stammered, canting her head at an angle, causing a tear to change course and stream slowly along her cheek. "Ready for what? To find out my mom - or who I thought was my mom - is a--"

"--a Celler," Wiliam cut in again. "And she's very much your mother."

"A what?" Kimi blurted. "I've always liked cartoons, but I never thought I WAS one!"

Kim bristled at that word and set her gaze at her daughter. "Kimi...Hodge..." she said with a note of unexpected, yet restrained anger in her voice, "I don't ever want to hear that word come from you again. You're NOT a cartoon...and neither am I!"

Kimi said nothing, but threw her finger at the TV again:

:::Okay, points for a bizarre hiding place...:::

Kim again took a step toward the couch, her expression softening, her eyes dropping to the floor occasionally. "Ki...I can see you're already jumping to conclusions. Let's sit down, and we'll tell you the whole story...from the beginning. We love you very much...and we don't want you to start thinking the wrong things about this without hearing us out." With this, she eased slowly onto the couch as William sat on the arm near his wife, and motioned for her daughter to join them.

"The wrong things???" Kimi shot back. "I don't know if I can think ANYTHING right now!" She slowly brought her other leg over the couch, moving to stand, and sweeping her hair from her eyes. She continued in an excited, nearly hysterical tone and pace. "I've been watching this tape for nearly an hour, and wondering if I'm even real! I thought about going outside and jumping off the roof just to see if I wouldn't get hurt! I'm wondering why I've never heard a ricochet noise when I take off running--"

"Kimi, STOP IT!" Kim burst in, her voice now rising in pitch with emotion. "For the last time, you-are-NOT-a-cartoon! Now sit down and let's talk about this."

Kimi responded by sniffling and slowly backing away from the couch toward the hallway, holding her hand up. "Nope....can't," she said, walking backward down the hallway toward her bedroom door. "I have to call some of my friends--" she put one hand on the door frame, and wiped away a tear with the other, her gaze never leaving her mother "--and ask them if I seem to STRETCH WHEN I MOVE FAST!!" She shrieked the last, and punctuated it with a hard slam of her bedroom door.

Kim stared down the hallway for a few seconds, and then slowly turned to look at William. "Maybe we should have told her in the last year or two." Her eyes began to glass over as she continued. "Maybe we're going to lose her trust..." Kim's gaze shifted toward the floor. "Maybe we're going to lose her respect..." She then turned to her husband again, who had taken note of her now-evident tears, and had placed his palm against her back, rubbing slowly.

Kim stood and embraced William, falling into open crying. "Maybe we're going to lose our daughter!" She wept against his chest, clutching his shirt and upper arm - then suddenly, "I feel sick," she said, and left his embrace, running for the bathroom.

William stood alone in the living room, still registering the events of the last few minutes, and what it might mean to the future of his family. He walked over, picking up the remote for the VCR.

:::--and the Kingdom of Drakkenville will be born! Say it with me - 'Drakkenville' - does that have a nice ring to it?:::

William pressed "stop" and sat on the couch letting the remote and his hands fall to the cushions, thinking for a moment about what Kim said...and how much of it might come true - and how much would prove to be fearful - and tearful - overreaction.

7:21 PM.
William quietly entered the bedroom and sat on the bed, gently stirring his wife who, after vomiting into the toilet for nearly 20 minutes, had laid down and cried herself to sleep. "Kim? Are you feeling any better? I reheated some of the roast and potatoes, if you feel like eating something..."

Kim slowly turned to face William. Even in the unlit room, the light from the hallway showed her face was streaked and reddened. "Hi," she whispered, lifting her head from the pillow slightly and managing a wan smile. "I'm not really hungry...but you can save me a small plate. I might eat something later...have you talked with Ki?"

William shook his head slightly. "No. She hasn't even been out of her room since this afternoon." Kim's head sank back to the pillow and she exhaled a slow, resigned sigh. William slowly brushed his fingers through the hair near her temple. "She's got her stereo on low. I was going to ask her if she's hungry, too. Maybe she might want to talk a bit. I'll let you know." Even in just the moment he caressed her, Kim was already drifting back into slumber. "...rest, hon," he said, and slowly rose from the bed, edging the door nearly closed.

William then walked past the bathroom to the halfway point in the hallway. To the right was his home office - to the left, Kimi's room. He leaned to the door and heard music still wafting from Kimi's stereo. He gently rapped the back of his hand against the door. "Kimi?"

For a moment - nothing. Then, slight sounds of stirring and a foot landing to the floor.

William knocked again once. "Ki? I reheated last night's dinner, and was wondering if you're hungry."

The stereo volume went down a few notches, and William heard his daughter take in a long slow breath, then an equally slow exhale, as if she were debating food for a moment and had come to a reluctant decision. "No," a soft, slightly weak response came from the other side of the door. "Not right now...but thanks."

William's face fell a little. "Okay," he replied. "There's a lot left if you change your mind later."

"Thanks, Dad. I might sleep for a while. I don't know."

"'K. I'm going to have a plate, and then watch some TV."

"'K."

William softly padded down the hallway, and took a left into the kitchen. The entire house seemed empty this evening, compared to the normal conversation and banter between the three of them at dinnertime. For a moment, it reminded him of his nights alone in the apartment near Brookings Market Square - back then, so many years ago...the solitude seemed a comfort; his compensation for dealing with the outside world - but tonight, even with the increased space in the house near Mason Park, the silence seemed oppressive and close, like the humidity on a hot day in July.

It was as if William not only shared, but could actually feel inside himself the turmoil that was affecting Kim and Kimi. He sympathized with Kim's shock and dismay that Kimi discovered the tapes containing episodes from the show with no explanation or even preparation to view what was on them, and the further shock at Kimi's reaction - definitely not the expected one. William thought about how they might have presented Kim's past to their daughter at an earlier age, given her intellect - but even at that, telling a child that one of her parents is a character from an animated series, and that she inherited at least some of the physical traits of that parent was something that might have been impossible to "cushion" or present gently. But the most difficult situation to deal with would be exactly what happened - for Kimi to discover the secret herself, with no one there to even try to explain...and as time went on, and she viewed more of the tapes, it only served to fuel the frustration and the shock.

Wiliam took an oven mitt from a hook on the stove hood and opened the oven, reaching for the pan of roast and potatoes and setting it on the butcher block. He then turned to the microwave behind him, setting a bowl of carrots for "2:00" and starting the oven. He opened a cupboard to his right and retrieved a plate - then went to the utensil drawer next to the sink for a serving spoon, a butter knife and a fork. William brought the plate next to the pan and scooped out a serving of the russets, mashing them with the fork and, using the spoon, letting a spoonful of the juices from the roast soak into them. He then cut into the tender roast and moved a portion to the plate, cupping his hand underneath to catch any drippings. He took the knife and retrieved the butter from the counter, slicing into it, and letting the slice melt over the potatoes. Just then, the high-pitched beep from the microwave prompted William to turn and get the carrots, spooning a portion of them onto his plate and cutting a slice of the butter to marinate them as he set the plate on the kitchen table and went to get a can of Coke from the fridge.

William sat and cut his fork into his roast, bringing the bite to his mouth, still impressed with Kim's cooking skills after all these years. The roast was done to perfection, even after reheating. Kim had originally let the meat soak overnight in a mix of root beer and seasonings before going into the oven for the better part of the day. The taste had a bit of a smoked flavor, with just a hint of sweetness from the root beer - neither of which overpowered the hearty taste of the roast itself. The potatoes were quartered lengthwise, browned at the corners by the juices from the roast, and were tender and permeated with the meat's essence. The carrots were coated in a thin glaze of brown sugar, slightly sweet to accent the flavor of the vegetable.

William ate slower as he thought about how Kimi would often hover around Kim as she cooked, asking questions, gaining culinary knowledge, tips and tricks, and offering help with meals. The karate lessons were the most bonding experience - both physically and mentally - that William had ever seen between two women, especially a mother and daughter. He then thought about the incident just hours before; Kimi's sudden reaction to her mother after discovering and viewing even part of the tapes; Kim's persistent askance of her daughter to hear her out, now that at least part of the story was told - albeit the wrong part to have been told first; Kimi's own persistence, letting her emotion rule her common sense in the face of a situation that, to most people, would have no common sense to apply; his wife's disappointment and fear after seeing her daughter defiant, even angry in her disbelief.

William eventually picked his way through his meal, rinsing off his plate and covering the rest of the food, placing it back into the refrigerator and turned off all the lights in the kitchen except the small light over the sink. He then went into the living room and flipped through a couple of programs, but just could not focus on any plotline or situation the channels offered. After nearly an hour, William picked up the remote for the VCR and pressed the "play" button.

:::Wade? Where are you??:::
:::Not important. Kim's in trouble! She found Drakken inside a giant cheese wheel - but I lost contact. She needs help - your help:::

"I don't know what help I can be right now, Wade," William replied to the TV, "other than just to be here." With that, he pressed the "stop" button and turned off the VCR and the TV, placing both remotes on the coffee table. He then stood up, stretching. William knew that Kim knew her daughter better than anyone, even him...and that she would not have reacted to Kimi's outburst the way she did if there was not the possiblity of even some validity to it becoming harmful to their relationship. But in the back of his mind, William put stock in Kimi's advanced intellect and quick grasp of things that seemed far-fetched at first glance. He tried to ease his mind by putting trust in that aspect of his daughter - and further strengthened those thoughts as he walked quietly down the hallway, unbuttoning his shirt as he prepared for bed.

10:54 PM.
A slow, crooning song by Kimi's favorite pop group, Nytra, greeted her from her short fitful nap. She turned onto her stomach and, grabbing the remote from beside her on the bed, turned the volume down until it was barely audible; then flopped over onto her back, rubbing her palm across her forehead, trying to hold back a small, focused pain between her eyes. Kimi tried to determine if it was from the stress of the afternoon, of from lack of food. Her stomach served to further blur her thoughts.

"Okay, Ki," she said in a low voice, "take a little stock here. Basically? My life is upside down and headed into the ocean." She punctuated this by sitting up and lowering her head into her hands, her elbows resting on her knees. "Boy, it's all about bombshell," she sighed into her palms. "The person on who I depended for so much, the person I call my mother - it could be that...that person isn't even a real person! And what's even more wrong - it's all about I might not be, either!" She accented her frustration by putting her foot under a pair of shoes on the floor by her bed, and kicking one across the room, where it landed on a large maroon beanbag chair in the corner. Kimi raised her head and held an arm out in front of her, folding her forearm back toward her, twisting it slowly so she could study the skin. My skin is a lot like hers, she thought...and if she's a cartoon, how could I not be?? After all, I was sprung from her loins...which brings up another dilemma - how can a cartoon even give birth, much less be in the real world???

Kimi reached under the edge of her bed and slipped on her pair of "Jimmy Neutron" slippers. "It's not as if I don't like cartoons," she said softly, crossing the room to her desk and picking up a picture of the three of them, taken when she was about 11 - William to the left of the photo, Kim to the right - and Kimi in front, grinning wildly, the silver in her eyes glinting from the studio flash, "it's just that I never thought I could actually have been one all these years - or even my mother!" She pulled the blue high-backed chair out from the desk and flopped into it, placing her feet on the desk as she reclined, her eyes never leaving the black-framed picture. Kimi gave a long, heavy sigh and thought to herself, even if I am a cartoon, I do have a lot of friends at school and at the dojo...but I can't talk to any of them about this! They'd either think I was crazy, or just hang up and never talk to me again. Not even Frannie would buy this one. I can't even talk to Dad - he's in love with her! He MARRIED her, for Nytra's sake!

She sighed again, still looking at the photo, her brow lifting a bit from resigned frustration. "Life was diamond until this kicked down the door and moved in," she said.

Kimi paid special attention to taking in the image of her mother in the photo. Kim was dressed in a white French-cut cotton blouse with chiffon ruffles at the sleeves and collar, and a dark blue pair of dress slacks. William had on a maroon polo shirt, which seemed to accentuate the color of his wife's and daughter's hair, and a pair of non-faded jeans. Kimi was seated in front of and between her parents and wearing a dark green t-shirt - a gift from the dojo for her advanced accomplishments - which read, "My Mom Gave Me My Green Belt" in a neon-green lettering.

As she studied the difference beween her mother's eyes and her own, Kimi slowly reached over and pinched her right forearm. "Okay...it's all about ow," she said, rubbing the spot. "I don't think ink and paint has pain properties." She then stood and flopped onto the bed again, on her back, holding the photo above her, staring at it intently. She devoured Kim's image with her eyes. As she did, she wondered if Kim also felt pain. Emotion would come easy to a cartoon, she thought. After all, it's acting. She then remembered the times during their sparring sessions when she would make more than light contact, and how Kim would react. Was that acting, too? Kimi then remembered the night she knocked the wind out of her mother with a surprise application of the "speed striking" she had learned. Kind of hard to "act" getting the wind knocked out of you, she thought - and so quickly - no time to prepare to "act" that.

Kimi's hand holding the photo flopped down onto the bed, the photo sliding a few inches away. Her other hand once again grasped her forehead, feeling the still-present tension there. This was suddenly joined by a slight wrenching in her stomach. She stretched until she once again grasped the photo, bringing it to her view. "Okay, 'Mom'," she said, moving to stand, placing the picture on the desk, and turning off the stereo before grasping the doorknob to make her way to the kitchen - and then the living room. "It's all about research and roast."

1:27 AM.
Kim stirred slowly from a deep sleep and glanced at the clock. Ohhhh, man, she thought. I'm going to be useless at work tomorrow if I don't get some more sleep. That thought was instantly preempted by thoughts about the recent crisis between she and her daughter.

Kim sleepily rose to a sitting position, looking over at her sleeping husband. Normally, William would without hesitation do everything within his power to help her get through any emotional crisis - but this was a crisis dealing with the bond between a mother and daughter - and try as he would, and through no fault of his own, William wouldn't have much to contribute as far as mending the potential breech. Kim started to analyze the events from the last evening, and how she might begin the process of not only explaining what her daughter had discovered, and how to now make sense of it to her - but how to repair the damage that had already been done to their friendship and bond.

Kim's thought processes were preempted again by an empty gnawing in her stomach. "Ugh," she muttered, rubbing her midsection. "I have to eat something...but I don't want to risk a repeat of yesterday evening. Maybe if I just had some of the carrots...and a little tea with honey in it--"

Her thoughts were further interrupted when she thought she heard the TV in the living room;

:::So...I think Brick Flagg is hot!??::
:::It's true! She just said it herself!:::

Kim turned her head in the direction of the hallway and saw a light on in the living room, casting against the wall through the partially-open bedroom door.

:::RON!?!?? You ferociously misquoted me!!!:::
:::Whoa - I may have done a tiny bit of rephrasing...but, come on! You'd think a crime-fighting cheerleader...would give a more interesting interview:::

"All The News," Kim sighed the title of the episode to herself. "Ki is watching tapes again." Her eyes fell as she stood, and she slid her hand over her complaining stomach again. "Maybe I can sneak in and just get some bread and butter."

1:29 AM.
Kim slowly made her way into the hall, being careful not to make any quick movements or let the bedroom door make any noise. She stayed close to the wall that would adjoin to the entry of the kitchen. As she moved, she watched her daughter, who was again on the couch, again embracing one of the pillows that was normally on the corner of the cushions. Kimi's stare was intent on the television screen - yet without the look of slight horror that she held the previous afternoon. Kimi had fixed herself a plate of the roast, with some carrots and a small amount of potatoes.

Kim edged along the wall until the TV was visible to her. The episode was showing Kim and Ron walking through the cafeteria with their lunch trays, with Bonnie Rockwaller and Amelia suddenly crowding around Ron after learning that he had landed a job with the school paper;

:::Ron! You're sitting with us!:::
:::I'm having a little get-together tonight. No biggie - just fifty of my closest friends...you have to do a write-up for the paper.:::
:::...I do??:::
:::How else will the social outcasts know what they missed??:::
:::You...could invite them...:::
:::Ahh, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You are -so- funny!:::

Kimi burst into a quiet, subdued laugh herself at the scene - which in itself served as a lift to Kim's heart. "And kind of cute," Kimi said quietly at the screen as Ron walked off with the two other girls.

:::Check ya later, KP - duty calls:::

Her daughter's reaction to Ron caused Kim to utter a small breath of a snicker herself. She then froze as she realized her laughter. Kimi's head instantly snapped to the right at the sound.

They spent a short moment looking at each other. Much of the smile she had from the scene in the episode drifted away, leaving barely a smirk with the discovery of her mother. "Hey," she spoke first in a subdued voice.

"Hey," Kim replied, not exactly sure how to respond to the mix of signals coming from her daughter.

"You feel any better? I heard you yesterday." then, "The roast and stuff should still be hot, if you can eat."

Kim again brought her hand to her stomach. "I'm a little better...and with yesterday's food long gone, I am a bit hungry. Is there some carrots left?"

"Tonnage," Kimi said, cutting into a slice of the roast. "You always make enough veggage to cover at least two meals."

"'K," replied Kim, and she started into the kitchen as Kimi brought a bite of the roast to her mouth, turning her attention back to the TV. Kim watched her daughter as she continued to view the episode, "All The News," in which Kim deals with Ron using a misquoted statement during an interview for the school paper to gain fame, while at the same time working to stop Adrena Lynn, who was the star of an "extreme" adventure show, using faked stunts to garner an even bigger audience.

Kim took a bowl from the cupboard and a fork from the drawer, then dug the serving spoon into the large bowl of carrots, which were still quite warm from being reheated. She sprinkled a bit of salt over them, and set them on the counter as she reached for a glass and poured some apple juice from the refrigerator. She leaned to look over the half-wall into the living room to see to what point the episode had progressed;

:::Ron...get over it already:::
:::Sorry, KP, but discovering that your action hero is a big fake is not something you just "get over":::
:::...and this from a wrestling fan?:::
:::I don't get the connection...:::

Kimi let her head fall back against the back of the couch at this. "Hell-oooo," she said at the screen, "Time for a V-Clue...it's all about DUUUUHHHH, Ronald!"

Kim suddenly backed up, setting her bowl and glass on the counter by the refrigerator, opening the freezer and sticking her head inside, trying to hide her sudden fit of giggles. I think she's actually crushing on Ron! she thought. She composed herself, picked up her food and started into the living room, taking a chair across the room, near the other end of the couch. Kim was still cautious, even with the positive signals she had received in the past few minutes. "How long have you been watching?" she asked quietly.

Kimi turned her attention slowly from the TV, as if not wanting to miss an important part of the episode, her eyes flashing to the wall clock on the way. "Couple hours, I think," she said, trying to avoid sounding attached to the show. Her attention immediately went back to the TV as the "peep-peep-be-deep" of the Kimmunicator came through the speaker;

:::What up, Wade?:::
:::It's your brothers...:::

The scene switched to a doctor's office, with Kim's brothers in the show, Jim and Tim, in various bandages;

:::You were doing WHAT!??:::
:::Bungee jumping out of a blimp...like Adrena Lynn. Only we didn't have a blimp...so we used the roof...and we didn't have a bungee cord...so we used yarn:::

Kimi turned to her mother. "Are those really your brothers?"

Kim was taken off guard for a second by the sudden inquiry from her daughter, who just hours before, didn't seem to want to have much of anything to do with her. She quickly caught herself, and tried not to sound too eager, internally fighting the urge to burst out and dive into telling about the Celler environment. "Nope," she replied rather coolly, matter-of-factly, "they're actors in the show, same as I was."

Kimi canted one eyebrow at her mother. "What? Actors? C'mon...I know how cartoons are made--"

"Now you're getting the right idea," interrupted Kim. "The show is a cartoon. But we're not."

"Paaauuuussse," Kimi drew out, holding her hand up. "Cartoons are drawn. The images are put onto cels, then they're colored, so it looks like film."

Kim's expression slowly drew into a knowing smile, her eyes narrowing slightly. "Look at other shows. Are those drawn on cels, too?"

"Nooo...all about film," Kimi said with a knowing tone to her voice. "...you know...cell--" She caught herself in the middle of the word "--uloid....."

Kim's response was a slow nod, her smile a bit wider, as Kimi's expression muddled a bit - then slumped into a pout, as if a part of the theory she had formulated during the time she was watching the tapes was just sunk. Kim canted her head the slightest bit. "You pinched yourself yet?"

Her daughter replied resignedly, "...yeah."

"Ow?"

"Ow."

"Still confused?"

Kimi nodded slowly.

Kim sighed slightly, mostly as a sign of relating to Kimi's present situation. "Ki...you'll never understand by trying to figure it all out yourself...even as smart as you are. You have hardly any of the information. And once you find out the truth, it all makes so much sense, you'll never believe that you were once skeptical...like you were yesterday afternoon." Kim's head dropped a bit, her eyes remaining on her daughter. "Like you are right now."

Kimi said nothing, but her eyes shifted a few times between her mother, the TV, and the floor. This marked the start of a pregnant silence between the two, the tension seeming to thicken to Kim with each passing second.

Kim decided to dive into the abyss before she exploded from suspense. "So," she uttered rather timidly. "...you wanna hear...?" Kimi was looking at the screen;

:::Oh, Kimmie - your boyfriend called while you were out:::
:::He's NOT my boyfriend!:::
:::...that's not what Ron said on the Ron Report...:::
:::Urrgh!:::

Kimi's gaze didn't waver from the television with her first response - "Nope," she said, her voice with a slight indifference.

Kim's heart teetered on the precipice of defeat. Kimi's voice was the lifeline. "Not from way over there," she said, patting the couch cushion beside her, turning toward her mother with the slightest hint of a smile crossing her face.

Kim couldn't stop the tear from escaping along her cheek as she moved to the couch and sat. She waited with a polite tension as Kimi reached for the remote and muted the sound on the TV. "So," she said, turning toward her mother, giving her entire attention, "...Cellers?" she said, pointing first toward the TV, and then Kim.

"Sooooooo Cellers," Kim replied smiling, cautiously feeling the weight of the earlier rift between she and her daughter beginning to disintegrate, and hoping that relating all to her would shatter the rest.

Kimi's eyes narrowed toward her mother, and her nose wrinkled ever so slightly - a sign that Kim learned early on meant that she was interested. She said all she needed to with the request: "Tell me."

Kim proceded to tell her daughter everything about the Cellers and their environment over the better part of the next two hours; the Cross Agents, and their mission; the negative connotation of calling a Celler a "cartoon"; the Resonance Conduit - the doorway that makes the Cross possible; how Crosses are chosen, researched and planned; the fragrance that each Celler chooses for their Cross; the ritual and incantation that initiates the crystal given to each Cross recipient; how all the items coincide and interact to initiate the Cross; the self-sustaining termination, or SST, that was the result of Kim's cross immediately after her marriage to William.

Kim showed her daughter the paper Wade had sent so many years ago with technical information on the Cross. She showed Kimi the case with the items from the Cross. She even showed her the necklace made from the cap of the crystal. Kim didn't leave out a single detail - even telling the story of her friendship with and the untimely fate of Angelica Guardia - one of the three original Cross Agents - and the person responsible for Kim and William meeting on one cold December night. Kimi sat with her head resting on her hands - as if she were five years old again, listening to her mother reading the most incredible fantasy tale she could find.

3:38 AM.
"So," Kimi asked slowly, still trying to absorb all that had been revealed to her, "...the...Cellers...are on a different plane, but the basic enviro is similar?"

"Nonononono," said Kim, shaking her head. "Exactly opposite. The same plane - but the enviro has differences."

"Aannnd," Kimi asked with a bit of caution, "all Cellers are...real?"

"Very," smiled Kim. "You mean you actually thought that I might not be real??"

Kimi's gaze shifted to the floor. "I'm not sure it was...that. It was just - I don't know, like...you look like...well...there you are on the show...and here you are here...and you're all about...you know...look the same, and...I don't know," she fidgeted a bit, "the cartoon is all about...save the world...a cartoon thing...then while that was wrapping itself around my cortex, you were all about...you know...walk in the door, 'Hiiii,'...I looked at you, and I looked at the TV, and it was all about...the same."

Kim couldn't help but to giggle softly. "Yeah," she said, "...gee, just like everybody else....right?"

"Yeah but," responded Kimi, trying to justify her first reaction, "they're like...you know...not animated characters and..."

"Remember back when we first started full-contact sparring?" asked Kim.

"Yeah."

"Remember the first time I smacked you?" she snickered.

"...yeah."

"Was that real?"

"All about."

"...want another one?" Kim teased with a silly grin.

"It's ALL about NO," Kimi burst, holding up her hand. "It takes 'no' to an art form!" Kim giggled again as her daughter continued, putting her finger across her chin. "Let's see, how would the diamond Kim Possible put it? 'SO no'!"

Kim laughed out loud, putting her arm around Kimi. "Usually that's, 'So not,' but your way works here." She then placed a hand on each of Kimi's shoulders. "So you're not freaked about your mother any more? I just heard you call me 'diamond'."

Kimi looked into Kim's eyes, searching for a second, as a kind of last assurance. "Now that I know everything...and I know who you are and where you came from, and how that relates to me and who I am--" she paused for a beat and said the last with a warm tone to her voice and a wide smile "--so not!"

They both burst into warm laughter. Then a tear of relief formed at the corner of Kim's eye. "Let me see if I can put it like you would," she beamed. "It's all about I love you, Ki," she said as they embraced.

"Awwww," Kimi purred. "Flawless diamond perfect, Mom."

Kim clutched a little tighter, feeling lighter than air from this revelation to her daughter, and the result. She felt as if the only thing that could strengthen and tighten their bond - was time. And now, there was no longer anything that could become a potential barrier or hinderance to that time.

Ki broke the hug first, reaching for the remote and pressing "play," then taking the mute off the TV. "So Mom...you know all these other, people, in the show, right?"

"Know them, worked with them for years, and still keep in touch with them," Kim nodded as the tape started again;

:::Kim...the only thing down this road is the old Middleton Fairgrounds:::
:::That...and Adrena Lynn:::
:::That place is haunted! Plus, I lost like, ten bucks trying to win a stuffed hippo:::
:::Too bad, Ron...if it weren't for you and your stories, we wouldn't be here:::

Kimi motioned toward the screen. "Your...sidekick...Ron...is he that lead off the show, too?"

Kim gave her daughter a quizzical look. "...lead? Oh, you mean like dense?"

Kimi's response was to wave a finger back and forth in the air, then touching Kim between the eyes. "...and then a Clue Bee flew in and stung Mom!"

Kim playfully swatted at her daughter's hand. "No, he's not dense at all. It is acting, after all..."

"...so he's kinda cute...and smart..."

Kim burst forth with a sudden titter. "You ARE crushing on Ron!"

"Yeah but he's crushing on you!" Kimi said in defense, "so it's all about worthless...unless..."

"...un-less..." Kim drew out, knowing where her daughter was headed.

"Well, there are too many tapes to watch in one night...does he...wear the diamond?" Kimi raised an eyebrow.

A rather confident, authoritative expression crossed over Kim's face as she sat up very straight, looking Kimi in the eye. "In the entire five-year run of the series, Ron and I did not have a romance on the show."

Kimi's eyes narrowed at her mother, unfooled. "Ah-haa...on the show..."

"That's what I said."

"...but off the show..."

They stared at each other for a second - then Kim drooped her head. "Busted. A short romance..."

"Soooo Mom-busted," added Kimi with a smirk.

"Yeah. But it started to affect the show...so we ended it on the friendliest of terms." then "But don't mention it around your father. He doesn't know."

Kimi nodded in agreement.

:::No, please! This ride always makes me throw up!:::

Kim and her daughter both burst into laughter, falling into each other's arms.

Friday, 6:48 AM.
William reached to turn off the alarm and settled back onto the bed. Friday. The Bell Lap of the work week. The last door the student opens before bursting outside the school , free. William sat up and reached for his glasses. He turned to see if his wife was also awake. The other half of the bed was empty. Either Kim is already up or is sleeping on the couch, he thought as he rose. He quietly opened the bedroom door and peered down the hallway, spotting part of his wife's mane of auburn hair draped over the arm of the couch. William smiled to himself, and padded down the hallway, wondering if she felt any better.

What greeted him was Kim sleeping on the couch - and Kimi stretched out beside her, with Kim's hand resting on her waist. William picked up a small note on the coffee table:

-W,

Ki and I were up all night talking. I told her the whole story and she's just peachy with it. Everything is (as our major cool daughter would say) "diamond". We're going to play hookey today after we wake up - hehehe. We trust you'll make the appropriate V-mails to school and work.

Love,
K&K

P.S.: Shhhhh.....-

William chuckled to himself, moving quietly to the counter between the living room and the kitchen, and taking a pen from a cup holder, scrawled a reply:

-K,

Done and done. Keep the cell open, I'll call later and see what you two are up to.

Love,
W

P.S.: Even if the rift was short, it's good to see you and Ki where you belong - close to each other-

to be continued...