Chapter Eight - Balance of Power

            "We'll be back in a minute," Kim's parents had said. Well, a minute was all the tweebs had needed to start World War III.

            If Kim had thought her brothers might be deterred a little bit by the heavy dose of grounding they'd received after their antics at the basketball game – which she had – she was dead wrong. With a frustrated growl, she ducked under another flyby from one of the dozen or so radio-controlled aircraft now buzzing through the house. From within the confines of their room, the tweebs had launched a whole new brand of troublemaking… though it had been conveniently timed for just after her parents had left to run some errands.

            A cloud of miniature jets assaulted her wherever she went, and had even kept her corralled away from her brothers' room for the time being. Kim Possible could do anything, certainly… but not necessarily as quickly as she liked. "When I get my hands on you two…" she grumbled for the umpteenth time as a helicopter nearly gave her an unwanted haircut. She took cover under the kitchen table to try and think.

            Her plotting was quickly interrupted by the doorbell. "Just what I need," she muttered. Dashing out at a sprint, she headed for the front door. A reflexive chop managed to down one of her brothers' squadron of annoyances, but she didn't waste time celebrating the small victory.

            When she reached the front door she pulled it open, and without even taking the time to register who was on the other side, reached out and yanked them inside, slamming the door shut before any of the tweebs' air force could escape. Throwing her back against the door and slumping down, panting, Kim could only hope she hadn't given some Jehovah's Witness a brute-force welcome.

            "Well, good morning to you, too," Lynx said, rubbing the back of his neck and smiling wryly. He had managed to roll to his side to avoid getting a rather rough introduction to the wall.

            Kim gasped and flushed in embarrassment, covering her mouth with a hand. Part of her had expected it to be Ron at the door, and even some strange solicitor would have been better than this. It was only the second time Lynx had been to her house, after all.

            "Sorry about that," she apologized in a rush. Any further explanation was cut off by the uncomfortably low pass of a one-hundredth scale 747.

            "Well, that sure explains a lot," Lynx said, watching the plane pass around the corner and turning back to regard Kim with a bemused look.

            "Yeah," she agreed. "You caught the tweebs in an awfully good mood last time you were here."

            "Maybe, but after what we saw at the basketball game, I can't say I'm completely surprised." He rose to his feet, only to be forced to sidestep a space shuttle.

            "They could have at least given me a minute to get dressed," Kim said sourly, frowning at a biplane as it puttered slowly overhead.

            Looking at her instead of the aircraft, Lynx blinked, as if he hadn't really seen her until just then. (With a miniaturized Smithsonian exhibit traveling through the house, it wasn't exactly odd.) Kim was still dressed in her morning clothes: barefoot in baggy sky-blue sweatpants and her favorite purple tank top with the green heart.

            "Er, I didn't mean to come by at a bad time," Lynx said, his ears reddening slightly.

            "Hm? Oh, don't worry, the tweebs holding an air show is positively quiet by our standards," Kim said, not quite accurate in her guess of his meaning. "C'mon," she said, not waiting for a reply. She grabbed his wrist and tugged him with her, leading them towards the pull-down stairs to her room. "Let's get somewhere safe before the tweebs start loading these things with miniature missiles."

            When they were in Kim's room, she closed the trap door behind them, relieved that none of Jim and Tim's air force had managed to follow them up. She flopped down onto her bed with a heavy sigh.

            Lynx, meanwhile, was standing next to Kim's computer, possibly feeling even more awkward than he looked. He sat down on the edge of the desk, and was either giving the room an appraisal worthy of a health inspector, or simply trying to look everywhere but at Kim herself.

            "So, what're you here for?" she asked, before the silence could become noticeable.

            Looking intently out the window, he made to reply, but stopped, and gave a sniff of laughter. "I knew when I got here, but with such a… unique welcome, I'd almost forgotten."

            "Yeah, sorry about that," said Kim. "I figured it was Ron stopping by, like he always does. Of course, when I didn't hear the crash of breaking furniture after I tossed you inside… well," she shrugged, and laughed.

            Lynx smiled without looking at her. "So he hangs out here a lot?"

            "Yeah. He spends almost as much time here as he does at his house." She studied him closely, but he either didn't notice or was avoiding her gaze too skillfully. It was a coin toss on that count, so she decided to go ahead and flip. "Why do you ask?"

            He finally glanced over, but just as quickly looked away. "No reason, really," he said, just a bit too casually. "It was easy to tell when I first met you that the two of you are all but joined at the hip. In a good way." Lynx finally turned his face to her, wearing a wistful smile.

            Kim sat up on her bed, hugging her legs and resting her chin on her knees. "You know, you don't live long with two troublemaking younger brothers and spend your spare time fighting crime without a keen sense of perception," she said, giving him a pointed look.

            His smile wavered, but he held her gaze. His twin forest-green eyes were locked on hers unblinkingly. He seemed to be gathering his resolve for something.

            "I'm not someone who's ever made friends easily," he began bluntly, and Kim realized she was being shown an unaccustomed level of trust from her new – and until now, carefully reticent – friend. "Even before we moved, I didn't have many people I spent time with. In fact, I've been here barely more than a week, and you… Ron too, perhaps… are the best friends I've ever had. To be honest, for a while after I realized it, I wasn't sure exactly what that meant."

            Now that he had finally started talking, it was Kim who suddenly felt like looking away. Lynx's gaze was just so intense all of the sudden. Surprisingly, she didn't feel uncomfortable, only a bit taken aback. If Ron had a serious side, Kim had never seen it (which meant Ron didn't have a serious side), so she was adapting to having a friend as austere as Lynx just as he was adapting to… having a friend, apparently. They were both doing a bit of trailblazing at the moment, but it was not in either of them to back down from a challenge, once offered.

            "I could say something dramatic right now," Lynx went on, his words suddenly tempered with one of his lopsided smiles, "like 'I wanted to come here to thank you'. But it'd be as false as it was trite."

            "So why are you here?" Kim asked, honestly curious. "If it's not the drama, then what is it?"

            He studied her for a moment, and then spread his hands out in a shrug. "I was bored, and for the first time ever, I realized I might have someplace to go to not be bored at."

            Silence reigned for a moment, then just as quickly disappeared in a burst of laughter from the both of them at the absurdity of it all. Thirty seconds ago, the room had been filled with air so thick it was as if the world was ending. But simplicity is the best remedy to tension, and what could be simpler than Lynx DeWard just wanting to hang out with a friend?

            Of course, Kim was quick to realize that it wasn't going to be like when Ron always came over. GWA reruns, hide-and-seek with a naked mole rat, and hourly trips to Bueno Nacho were not likely to be the order of the day. Until Ron himself showed up, of course.

            "So, did your little epiphany come with any suggestions?" Kim wondered.

            The smile he gave her was so positively devious, the sight of it set her heart racing like the thrill of a mission. "How about we pay a visit to Jim and Tim?"

                                                                                                                                 -- --- --

            It was only an hour or so later that the doctors Possible returned home, to find Kim and Lynx on the living room couch. It wasn't brain surgery to see the smiles they were holding back, nor did it require rocket science to notice the definitive flush in their faces from recent laughter. If they didn't know better, the two adults would have almost thought the teenagers had been up to something.

            "The twins didn't cause any trouble while we were out, did they?" Mrs. Possible asked as she hung up her coat.

            "No big, mom. They're just as grounded as when you left," Kim replied.

            "Well, maybe just a bit less," Lynx put in. Kim had to bite her lip to stifle a laugh.

            The doctors shared a look, but the house was still in one piece, so whatever had happened could wait… a little while.

            "So, Lynx, are you and your family getting settled in okay?" asked Mr. Possible.

           "Just fine, Dr. Possible," he said respectfully. Then he gave Kim a quick, mischievous glance, and continued, "You could say we've had a smooth landing here in Middleton."

            Their daughter had to clap a hand over her mouth to hide her smile.

            Mrs. Possible raised an eyebrow. "I'm going to go check on Jim and Tim," she said, a little warily. The two teens shared another look, but made no move to stop her.

            "Well, Lynx, I'm glad to hear you're getting used to our little piece of the world," Mr. Possible said conversationally. "It's a nice, quiet place to be… well, when Kimmie isn't out saving the world and the twins are asleep, that is." He took a seat in his armchair, eyeing the younger man appraisingly.

            "Even awake, Jim and Tim aren't too bad," he replied. "Well, nothing that can't be handled, at least."

            Mr. Possible chuckled. "Oh, after ten years, we're all out of illusions about keeping those two little balls of rocket fuel under control," he said as he unfolded the newspaper. "They're like a pair of supernovas; all you can do is watch and hope they burn out before they turn you into free-floating atoms in their catastrophic wake."

            Mrs. Possible reentered the living room just then. She was walking with a distracted air, looking quite perplexed.

            Her husband drooped an edge of the Science and Technology section when he heard her come back. "All quiet?" he asked.

            She could only look, head slightly tilted, at Kim and Lynx. "I'm almost afraid to ask…" she began hesitantly, "but what did you two do to them?" That got Mr. Possible's full attention, and he lowered the paper to his lap.

            Kim folded her arms and leaned back into the thick cushions of the couch. "It's surprising, really, just how much getting beaten at your own game takes out of you. Don't you think, Lynx?"

            "Yes, very surprising," he agreed, folding his arms and leaning back into the cushions.

            The doctors Possible shared a look that bordered on alarmed.

            "Dear, what's wrong with Jim and Tim?" Mr. Possible ventured cautiously.

            "They were both sitting quietly on their beds, hands in their laps," she replied, her voice split between awe and confusion. The two adults turned to look at the pair of teenagers, who were now examining the ceiling with an air of innocence.

           "Some tactics are best left in the hands of those that best employ them," Lynx said cryptically. "Beyond that? Well," he gestured to Kim, "she can do anything, after all."

            "You know, I might have to change that one of these days," said Kim. "By now, it really ought to read 'We can do anything'."

            The doctors Possible still did not look satisfied. Their unspoken question hung in the air, until Kim looked at her parents, put on her most dazzling smile, and said, "My dear, sweet brothers have finally met their match. Just one more victory for Team Possible."

                                                                                                                                -- --- --

            "It is the single most critical component in my scheme for world domination!" Dr. Drakken proclaimed with utter conviction. "It is the item that will ensure our victory better than any common weapon ever could!"

            "And why haven't we used it before then, hmm?" Shego wondered idly.

            Drakken was stopped short mid-triumphant rant. He blinked, and paused thoughtfully. "A valid question, Shego," he said at last. "But one to be answered at another time.

            "Now, I must have total silence while performing this operation. A single sound from any of you," he said, looking around the room at the collection of servants, as well as the small army of henchman recently added to their lair's décor, "and that unlucky individual will have just volunteered to test my new torture chamber."

            "Ah, doc, the torture chamber doesn't get installed 'til Tuesday," Shego pointed out lazily.

            "Well, fine, first they'll test my dungeon, then the torture chamber!" Drakken corrected.

            "And the dungeon doesn't get built 'til Monday," she added, continuing to carve her nails without missing a beat.

            Dr. Drakken stamped a foot. "So maybe I'll just give them one of my harsh talking-tos, then!" he fumed.

            Shego paused her filing and looked at him with a quirked eyebrow. "And we all know how intimidating those can be," she replied sarcastically. Syrup had never dripped so thickly.

            "And don't you forget it!" Drakken snapped back, oblivious all the same. "Now, where was I…? Oh, yes! A single sound from any of you, and the consequences will be severe indeed!" He clasped the all-important item he had waxed rhapsodic over in his left hand, and reached out with his right to punch a button on the nearby wall, which was set next to a single, bulbous cylinder. With a beep, a protracted hiss, and a cloud of steam, the covering plate of the cylinder opened to reveal its contents.

            "Now," Drakken whispered, biting his lip. He prepared to make the all-important final touch that would guarantee his victory. "All I have to do is—"

            "Doc, what did I tell you about clones?!" Shego exclaimed. Whatever was inside the cylinder had drawn her attention fully away from her nail file.

            Drakken stopped his movement and wheeled on her, his nostrils flaring. "Silence, Shego! You could have ruined our entire operation! If not for your years of loyal service as my evil sidekick—"

            "Which you're in danger of losing permanently if you don't explain this in about three seconds, blue boy!" she snarled, a feral sneer on her face.

            Drakken gulped, with a pointed glance at the wicked-looking clawed gauntlets clenching and unclenching methodically at his companion's sides. "Now, Shego, calm down! This is not a clone! It's not even a syntho-chemical duplicate," he explained quickly as she took a menacing step towards him. "I only borrowed your appearance for the effect!"

            She stopped short in her advance. "The effect?" Shego repeated, in a tone that implied that Drakken's next words would either sufficiently calm her, or entice her to see how quickly she could make him run away.

            "Of, course, Shego!" He turned and spread an arm, showman-like, to indicate the contents of the cylinder. The wall-mounted container held a single occupant: a woman, identical to Shego apart from a much shorter crop of jet-black hair and a modified bodysuit, which was black and blue instead of black and green. "I give you the new member of our evil team: the S-Model cyber-synthetic android! Made in the image of the single most formidable and imposing person I could think of," he concluded, oozing charm as he turned back to her with a look that was one part hopeful, two parts fearful.

            Shego was looking up and down at the android thoughtfully. She was no longer brandishing her claws, which was definitely a good sign. "Not a clone? At all?" she asked at last.

           "Not one bit. No Shego DNA whatsoever," Drakken assured her. "It's made in your image, only your image, and that because there isn't another person out there who can look so vicious and so stylish at the same time. You fit the bill perfectly."

            "Flattery will get you nowhere, doc," she replied, surveying her duplicate. "Well, I stand corrected. It'll get you your life."

            "So you like it?" Drakken asked hopefully.

            She smiled. "When have you ever known me to be modest?"

            Drakken nearly deflated in relief. "I'm glad. I didn't think I'd be able to replicate your enticing nastiness without resorting to facial cloning – which I didn't do!" he was quick to assure, "in favor of simply hiring a decent sculptor. Judging by your reaction, he did a fairly good job of recreating your likeness."

            "Any resemblance to the original is purely coincidental!" a henchman quipped stupidly.

            Shego lazily raised an arm and sent the offending bungler flying across the room with a blast of green energy. She brought the hand back and examined her nails closely. "You heard the doctor. Quiet while he's working," she said.

            Drakken grinned and got back to work. "This is the final, delicate operation that will mean my S-Model android will be complete," he whispered, biting his lip nervously. Bringing out a wide, doughnut-shaped object, he tore a thin gray strip from an end he pulled free of the roll. He took the strip and applied it delicately around the upper ankle of the android. With a final, careful pat to secure the addition, he stepped back quickly.

            The figure shuddered once, twice, and finally its eyes opened. They, too, were identical to Shego's. The android moved haltingly for a moment, stepping down from the slightly upraised cylinder to the floor below. It moved around, as though working kinks out of its limbs, and every movement became more smooth and lifelike. After a moment, only the hair and different color tunic could have identified it as anything but Shego herself; that, the rigid stance, and the vacant robotic expression.

            Dr. Drakken hopped about, clapping giddily. "It works! It works!"

            Shego was observing her synthetic replica carefully. "Now, Doc, I hate to put down such a good-looking creation, but I would swear you've tried the synthetic warrior bit before, with no luck."

            Drakken's celebrations were stopped. "Well, yes, the Bebes definitely left something to be desired," he admitted. "But this model is cyber-synthetic, not cybertronic."

            "English, please," Shego sighed, her voice tinged with exasperation.

            "It's part biological, part artificial, with no hive-mind or self-defeating directives," he explained. "It won't turn on us, won't blow herself up because of any logic loops, and it certainly won't fail to defeat Kim Possible and her goodie-two-shoes squad!" he said happily.

            "You're sure about that?" she asked doubtfully. The first movements of their new ally had looked almost rickety, nothing near what it would take to defeat Kim Possible, or even her new tag along, Lynx.

            "Oh, don't worry about that, Shego. Android!" Drakken barked.

            "Ready for command," the replica intoned. Its voice was a hollow, monotone mimicry of Shego's, bland and lifeless.

            "Provide a demonstration of your abilities!" Drakken brought out a control pad and hit a large, red button. A door opened from the ceiling, and down dropped a mannequin of Kim Possible, hanging flaccidly by a rope.

            "Affirmative," the android replied. It waited until the mannequin reached the floor. With no pomp or circumstance, no buildup-vibration like its inferior Bebe predecessors, the android charged with blinding speed and laid into the dummy. With a blinding array of chops and kicks, the Kim look-alike was already missing both arms and both legs in the span of a second. With a bright flash of green light from the android's hand, the rest of the dummy dropped to the floor as a pile of blackened cinders.

            "It's programmed with all your styles and techniques, along with a pair of your plasma gauntlets," Drakken said, rubbing his hands together sinisterly.

            Shego frowned. "Yeah, nice and flashy," she said doubtfully.

            Drakken looked at her with mild confusion. "You don't sound convinced."

            She sniffed. "It's just what we need, more mindlessly loyal hoodlums," Shego groused, casting a pointed glance over her shoulder at the gaggle of henchmen.

            Dr. Drakken grinned evilly, with a low, sinister snicker. "On the contrary, Shego." He produced a second, smaller handheld control. "You've seen nothing but the base programming. The real genius of this model is not fancy coding or a sleek new look…" he dramatically hovered a finger over one of the buttons. "It's a little something I borrowed when our friend Dr. Freeman wasn't looking – well, I stole it when he was out to lunch one day, actually – and modified with my own evil flair." He pressed the button.

            The android began shaking and spasming with a chorus of beeps and bells. For a second Shego thought something had gone wrong, until she saw that Drakken's grin was as dastardly as ever. The replica slowly stopped its contortions, like the slow recession of a wave, until it stood still once more.

            But it was not quite the same. Where before the android had been at rigid attention, stiff-limbed and silent with a vacant, artificial emptiness to its eyes, now she blinked, looking around, up, down, at her hands and body, as if seeing everything for the first time. At last, her eyes rose to take in Drakken, Shego, and the group of henchmen huddled cautiously behind them. Her eyes narrowed appraisingly.

            "Just who are you?" Her voice had changed as well. It wasn't nearly as close to Shego's as the rest of her; it was softer, and filled with quiet cunning. Shego could sound dangerous and intimidating if she wanted to (which was quite often, admittedly), but her replica sounded like the terrifying whispers small children hear from beneath their beds in the dark of night.

            "I am Doctor Drakken, and this is Shego," the mad scientist introduced, his eyes glinting with malicious mirth. He was well pleased with himself.

            "Nice to meet you, doc," the android replied coolly.

            "I'd like to welcome you to our humble abode," he continued, waving at the cavernous expanse of their lair behind them. "And, as I'm sure your programming has already told you… welcome to our team."

            Her eyes narrowed, piercing Drakken with their intensity. The scientist gulped and tugged at his collar, for a split-second fearing that something had gone wrong with his modifications.

            "Fair enough," the android said at last, with a curt nod. "Looks like teaming with you will at least give me something fun to do." She slowly turned her head, surveying the lair closely, taking in the sights, sounds, and details down to the last air vent.

            "Hey," Shego barked, interrupting her duplicate's survey, "you got a name?"

            The android continued the slow arc of her eyes until she regarded her twin. A small, dangerously wicked grin spread across her face. "Just call me Avarice."

.

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*A/N* - I realize this chapter has been a long time in coming. Too long… but that is neither here, nor there. Suffice to say it is here. Or is it there?

Am I alone in thinking the recent episodes of Kim Possible are getting progressively more like bad episodes of Star Trek? It seems almost as if they've run out of ideas that don't involve radical sci-fi technology, and even the good jokes are getting a little sparser every week. Oh well. Maybe if I were a writer or director I'd have the right to complain, but for now I'll just sit in my rocking chair, soak my teeth, and thump my old walking stick on the front porch while I moan about the "good ole' days". This would, of course, require a rocking chair, a front porch, an old walking stick, and the loss of all my current teeth, which at the moment are perfectly well attached. But that, as they say, is life.

Life also entails periodic dropoffs in the quality of certain fanfics. Now, I've always hated how hard it is to be objective about one's own work, but this was the first fic I'd written that I could actually go back, read, and laugh out loud at. I also noticed that the last couple chapters haven't been up to that standard, and I finally ended up pegging it to my own sentimentality. There are certain ideas for scenes and subplots that I get which I just grow too attached to in the envisioning to leave out, much to the sufferance of my overall work. In the past, such instances have resulted in the premature demise of each of my fanfics; when I lose the flow of the story to slip in my little pet projects, I lose track of – and consequently, interest in – the story itself. Since I have a rather illogical predilection against simply abandoning such divergences, I leave myself only one option: to plow ahead until I get back to the original flow and heart of the story.

This is, perhaps, the most significant thing I've learned about myself as a writer during the process of fanfiction… Even the best of ideas doesn't always have a home in the story. If, or – hopefully – when, I ever make the leap to a more professional degree of writing, deciding what is and is not worth including will likely be the most difficult process I ever have to endure. Because, whether I like it or not, these little gallivants will no longer be something I can afford.

But that is neither here, nor there.