No math was harmed (or used) in the making of this story.
Solve For X
"The Quantum Eradicator," muttered Doctor Drakken, "A weapon of such magnitude as to possess the ability to deconstruct life on the cellular level, turning every living thing in its path into a pile of discombobulated proto-life." The notion of that much raw power raised his fist with shaking triumph. His voice grew with each word. "Positioned at the top of Mount Trinity, the Quantum Eradicator will force the Tri-City area to surrender to me, until…until…" Then he paused. His fist and face dropped simultaneously. "…until Kim Possible comes to ruin everything."
"Hey, Blueberry," a dark voice hollered from down the row of cells. "Why don't you take your Quantum whatsit and cram it?" Cheers rose up from the cell block at the suggestion, accompanied by rattling bars and cat calls. "It's after hours. Shut the hell up!"
Drakken rushed to his cell's bars. "You cretins," he bellowed to the darkened corridors. "Twenty years from now, you'll all still be pulling bank jobs and jacking cars. And do you know where I'll be?" He pressed his face into the bars. "Top of the world, that's where! And I'll keep every last one of you on display for my amusement, so just back off!"
The night guards put an end to the jail's shouting matches with threats of fire hoses and solitary confinement. Drakken peeled his face from the bars and grumbled his way back to the wall, stopping to pick up his broken piece of chalk. Crude scrawling waited on his wall right where he had left it. Circuitry layouts, housing designs, and energy matrix theories surrounded his pride and joy: the Grand Master Plan Equation.
Adaptable to nearly any plan, the GMPE would (upon completion) provide him with a mathematically-derived plot guaranteed to take over the world. The equation stretched from one corner of his meager cell to the other. It included global economics, the progression and availability of technology, manpower, military emplacements and holdings, even weather patterns, and every other variable Drakken could think of that might possibly affect his dreams of global domination. Everything he needed, boiled into components he could plug information into…save for one.
X. That horrible, wretched, meddlesome X. How he loathed that letter. The mere mention of it clenched his innards into a tight knot. The sound of its smug voice chilled his blood. Its flippy, fiery hair sent him into hysterics on sight. Every other variable in his equation had fallen into line after months of intense study, but not X. It didn't matter what math he threw at it, or what plan he fit his equation to; X kept ruining it every time.
"Psst. Hey, Doctor D."
The whisper from his window snapped Drakken's frayed nerves. He shrieked and stumbled back, landing on his bunk. His darting eyes spied a pair of green dots glowing on the opposite side of his window bars. The emerald stars narrowed at his theatrics. "Shego," he hissed, "You know I hate being scared like that."
Even cloaked in shadows, the unrepentant sneer on her face was clear to him. "Yeah," she said. "Pretty inconvenient for a coward, I'd say." Shego waited a beat, and then asked, "So?"
"So can we bust you out of here already?" Her question detonated between them with force enough to make Drakken cringe and shush her. The last thing he needed was an intervention from the guards. But as was too often the case, Shego would not be shushed. "I come here every Friday night like clockwork. I've been coming here for the past three months to break you out, and every time, it's the same answer:"
"I'm not ready yet," Drakken harmonized with Shego. His voice rang with stubbornness to stand against her sarcasm. "And that hasn't changed, so I'm staying here."
Shego growled in frustration. The green pinpricks outside the window flared into twin torches. "You are such a bonehead. Only you would lock yourself in a prison."
He turned back to his calculations. "I find that this place provides me with the one thing I need most of all."
A brief flash of emerald tore his gaze from the wall again. The bars over his window broke away between her glowing fingers, falling into her waiting hand so as not to make a commotion. The bio-plasma burned only as long as needed, eluding unwanted notice. "What's that," grunted Shego as she shimmied through the window, "Skinheads beating the crap out of you in the shower? Because all you had to do was ask."
Drakken cocked an irritated brow. "Motivation," he snapped to the lithe hips wriggling between the broken bars. "Being in this detestable domicile puts me in exactly the mindset I require to—"
"—create the perfect plan to conquer the world and defeat Kim Possible, blah, blah, blah." Shego made herself comfortable, lounging on his bunk with her hands laced behind her head. "Seriously, you've been at this for months. You lost two whole weeks after that one guy cracked your ribs for calling him 'uncouth.'" A snicker escaped her sneer at the memory. "Isn't it time to get back on the horse?"
Drakken's scar purpled and his scowl deepened. "Why? So I can wind up here again? No." He shook his head and walked to his wall. His powder blue fingertips brushed the cold stone, smudging a portion of his equation. "No, Shego. The key to success lies in completing this equation. I know it. I'm sure of it!"
Shego stared at his handiwork. The meaningless numbers and symbols made no more sense to her after a long moment of boring analysis. It seemed impossible to the warrior woman that mere mathematics could conquer the world, Drakken knew. She always relied on impulse, power, and skill to solve her problems. Impressive assets all, they never gave Shego the direction she needed to succeed in the long run. She couldn't understand, and said as much; "Looks like an equation to me. You're all set. Let's go build your Ray de Jour and hold a continent hostage already."
"Patience, Shego. The GMPE is nearly complete. There is but one obstacle remaining." Drakken's pensive pacing along his wall ended in the middle, where the obstacle sat in haughty indifference of his hatred. With shaking hand, he dragged his chalk across its crisp cross, smearing chalk with angry strokes. The variable's girth tripled beneath his hand. "One problem," he grumbled. "One fault," he growled. "One insignificant, pathetic, bothersome, whelp of a setback," he roared.
"Shut up!" someone from down the cell block shouted. A chorus of agreements rang out.
The cot creaked at Shego's sudden absence. "Doesn't take a genius to figure out what that X is," she quipped, joining him in front of the wall. She stood in quiet contemplation of the equation a moment. Drakken could almost hear the snide comment waltz into his cell and climb onto her lips before she said it. That didn't make it any less irritating. "This seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through just to wind up having the Princess hand you're your own head."
Drakken felt none of his usual ire at her sarcasm. Instead, the truth she spoke echoed across an empty void carved out inside of him. "I grow weary of failure, Shego," murmured Drakken. "I've devoted my life to evil. Everything I've ever done has been in service of my dreams of world conquest…"
"What about the mini-bar in that giant robot?"
"All right," he admitted, "That was for Drakken." He grew somber again. "But what good are dreams if all they do is let you down?" A sigh. "Perhaps it's true. Perhaps it is time I gave up at last."
Shego awkwardly patted his shoulder. "C'mon, Doctor D," she said, hesitating. Ill equipped and unused to being the comforting one, she tried nevertheless. "You're great at evil. You can't quit."
He glared at her, to no effect. "You only say that because I'm your meal ticket."
"Yeah," she said with a shrug. "But it doesn't mean I'm wrong. I mean, look at your last plan." Shego led him back to the cot and sat him down, then preached to her captive audience, "You built one of the best evil alliances ever. And…Oh, and you even got them to work together…to a point."
"To a point?"
She shifted uncomfortably. "Well, they all tried to hire me out to betray you." Quickly, she added, "But I didn't. You've still got me. And you came…so close to beating Possible, you really did." A forced, faux smile broke her lips for the grand finale of her pep talk. "Right?"
Drakken's scowl lessened. "It was a pretty good plan," he said, "Wasn't it?"
"Totally," Shego lied. "I mean, that part with the underwater farms? Whew!"
Mounting confidence brought Drakken back to his feet. "And I did capture Kim Possible, didn't I?"
"Completely at your mercy," agreed Shego. In a hopeful voice, she asked, "Can we please escape now?"
Drakken continued, oblivious. "Kim Possible sat trapped and quaking in fear," he crowed to an unseen choir, "Mere moments from facing her own doom!" But an unseen weight infected his triumph, dropping his voice into the basement. "But then she broke free and thwarted me."
The bunk squealed with his collapse, and then again when Shego joined him in disgust. "So close," she moaned. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Shego, I threw everything I had at that redheaded meddler. She beat me with a calculator, a stand-in, garden variety twins, and that buffoon…whose name escapes me. But all the same!" Drakken pitched his chalk across the room in a tantrum. "How could a cheerleader and her groupies be all that?"
Shego answered with a long sigh. She leaned forward and steepled her fingers together, twiddling her thumbs. A ruminating stream rushed behind her eyes. Her mouth parted, closed with hesitation, and parted again. "Look," she said reluctantly, "If you tell anyone I said this…I'll kill you. That's a fact." Green power pulsed around her fist in a brief promise of pain for any of his indiscretions. "Look, the Princess is spoiled, and she isn't nearly as good as she thinks she is. But she's still good. She'd have to be to beat me."
"I suppose so," sighed Drakken.
"And even when you get her," continued Shego, "Those sidekicks of hers pull her fat fanny out of the fire." She twisted her hands together, scowling. "It's so irritating."
"Yes," he agreed again. Then his dull voice broke with dawning warmth. "Yes," he echoed himself, "Yes, they do. When you catch her off her game, her cronies save her. And you never catch her off her game…you have to hit her where it counts."
Shego watched his excitement explode into childlike delight. He scampered off the bunk and retrieved his broken chalk. His sleeve turned ashen as he cleared his precious equation, a wall's worth of white, and began reorganizing its meaningless symbols. "Uh, sure. Wasn't that important?" she asked.
"It's simple, Shego," he muttered into the wall. Clacking chalk flew across the wall, possessed of an end not even Drakken knew for certain. "No matter how complicated it becomes, all mathematics boils down to one simple task: solving for variables. Unknowns. And behind all the tricks and techniques, there's only one way to do that."
Shego rose from the bunk as Drakken's scribbling ceased. The mass of numbers and letters had become something else entirely, something even Shego could recognize. Everything sat on one side of the equal sign, save for a single, solitary symbol. "What're you…"
"You place everything you have on one side of the problem," he announced. "You isolate the variable. And then you eliminate it."
"I don't get it. You're going to beat Possible with math?"
Drakken whirled upon her, brimming with that old and annoying vigor that Shego knew all too well. Something dead inside of him leapt back to life with a vengeance, lighting a fire behind his eyes. They burned like embers in the dank cell. "Don't get lippy, Shego," he chided her in a refreshed voice. "And fetch the hover car." A grim smile broke out on his serpentine features. "We have far too much work to do to waste time lounging about here."
Shego snorted. "And what's first on the agenda, oh Motivated One?"
He cast one last glance back at his equation. His smile grew. "Higher math," he told her.
The Power of Friendship