Chapter 16

Deep within the forgotten ruins, the stale air hung as thick as the darkness. No one had set foot within the stone halls for centuries until this day. Green light illuminated the fixture before the young woman, dust lazily drifting past. She scrutinized every part and mechanism to the trap left behind to protect the treasure that rested not even a n arm's length away. Satisfied with her assessment of the challenge and her intended plan, the thief steeled herself for action.

Suddenly, a thud that was felt more than heard reverberated throughout the structure. The young woman rolled her eyes when her companion called out that they had to go. Sighing, she threw a blast of energy at the base of the pedestal, sending the treasure skittering across the floor. Breaking into a run, the thief snatched it up and secured the item into her satchel without breaking stride.

The two figures raced up the twisting hallways as debris and dirt rained down around them. As large pieces collapsed in their path, they slid under or hurdled huge blocks and ran along the wall when necessary. Balls of jade energy were sent flying ahead to further illuminate the corridors and destroy blockages.

As the two began smelling fresh air, they hurried their steps to finally find the patch of sunlight that shown on the ground like a beacon for the deep shaft they had used to enter the ruins. With no time to use their ropes to ascend, the young man slid around to position himself to catapult his companion. With a flare of blue energy and her exceptional jumping skills, the woman made it halfway up before having to leap from wall to wall. Her partner was not far behind, using cross beams and jutting rocks to flip and launch himself towards the opening. They collapsed several yard away just as a plume of dirt erupted from the hole.

"Who's bright idea was it to go tomb raiding?" Shego panted, catching her breathe.

The blond man wheezed. "You were talking about kind of missing stealing stuff for Dr. Drakken, and I mentioned this place since it reminded me of helping archeologists with Kim."

"Got it, we're both idiots that don't know how to accept a good thing," the former villainess chuckled. "Hard to believe we used to do that kind of thing all the time."

"Point of fact, Kim and I used to do this on a weekly basis. You just used to sashay your way through high-tech security systems," he teased.

The young woman smirked and looked askance at her companion. "Been thinking about my sashaying, have we? That why Mr. "One-With-The-Shadows" set off the self-destruct?"

"Usually works better than a cold shower," he quipped.

"Jerk," she threw out, swinging her arm out in a vain attempt to hit him.

"So, how many pieced did you end up with? I got away with five."

"Hah, thief beats ninja," she hooted. "I came out with seven. Losing your touch, hero?"

Ron smiled, seeing the brunette trying to do a little dance where she was laying. "Au contraire, the villain winning just means act one has closed. The hero rises to win after the big fight scene."

"That's only true because the villain gets bold and keeps going. Hand me my laurels, for I shall sit upon them."

"Well, that's a shame. You picked up swordsmanship a lot faster than I expected. Act two was going to give you a chance to put those skills to the test."

"I guess I could be persuaded," she replied coyly.

"I'm sure we can negotiate something. Besides, this aught to be fun," Ron grinned.

Shego looked across the large field that would be the scene of battle in a few hours as the sun rose. She fought the urge to light up her eyes so she could see better since it would give away her position. "This aught to be fun," the young woman mumbled mockingly. "I could still be in bed, warm and asleep."

A figure approached from down the hill behind her and gave a slight bow. "The preparations are ready, Lady Chloe. Do you have any final orders?"

"No, we will proceed as planned. It looks like the assassin team hasn't been caught, and all you guys can advise about his tactics is that he surprises you by doing what you do not expect. I will join the center forces, and you will take over as field commander for the duration."

"As you command," the young man bowed again. "Some squires await in your tent to assist with your armor. As a reminder, you are not allowed to use your powers in this exercise."

"I remember," the brunette confirmed. "Let us just get this over with," They started back down the hill. "Good luck out there."

The predawn light was still just over the horizon as Shego's unit took their place almost a hundred yards away from the opposing camp. The young woman felt an excited nervousness she hadn't experienced for a long time. Even with only getting a few hours sleep, the exhilaration of testing her combat skills filled her with energy and made her feel like her old self.

Reverting to habits, the brunette scanned the camp, used to reading the darkness from long practice. She smiled at the thought that this time it would be her infiltrating the lair. Shame she hadn't thought to rib Stoppable about self-destructing the ruins. Maybe next time.

Uneasiness started pulling at her attention as the former villainess scanned the camp again for what was ringing her bells. The fires looked warm and inventing but were kept low to hide troop numbers and movements. But she never saw any shadows block the light; the expected sounds and smells of breakfast weren't making their way downwind to them as dawn swiftly began pushing back the night.

Before she could put together everything, the sounds of battle erupting from behind them reached their ears. Orders were being repeated down the lines, and the platoon started a quick walk back. No sense killing themselves before the enemy does.

As her forces reached the main skirmish, Shego waded into the fray with her sword and shield. After quickly dispatching the first few soldiers she reached, the young woman had to reign herself in from leaving the rest of her teammates behind. Training with Stoppable, she had always felt slow and ungainly when sparring; though she hadn't given much thought to the fact that the scores where fewer and farther between. Here, the young warrior felt like her old self. Dancing with her opponents and playing with them like a cat. It almost felt like they were holding back for her, but she knew her features were hidden beneath the armor.

After having lost count on how many soldiers she had defeated, the young woman finally saw her target. The man had chosen to wear his kingdom's armor, but he still went without a helmet. Like herself, the blond easily cut down all those that went against him with his bo staff while yelling out orders. Taking her chance, Shego rushed towards him, taking out soldiers as she ran past. As her silent attack came down, the larger man deflected the swing but missed the counterattack as she continued by. Spinning on her heels, the brunette roared as she came at him again, their battle like an elaborate ballet of strikes and blocks. Feeling she needed more speed, the villainess used one of her retreats to attack another combatant and steal his sword before taking him down. Now armed with two swords, the young woman rejoined with new vigor. Though they now moved faster, neither was any less focused.

Frustrated, Shego tried everything she could think of to get past the range of the staff to no avail. Thinking she saw an opening, her blade flew out; but she was stopped short by the blunt shaft of her adversary's weapon pressing into her throat. "You lose," Ron stated.

"Check again, pretty boy," the young woman replied, poking him in the ribs with her sword through one of the thin gaps in his armor. "Now, you have to cut that stupid beard."

"That was only if you won, and this is a draw," the young man rebutted as they put away their weapons.

Shego ripped off her helmet and upper armor revealing her glistening torso, beads of sweat sliding down her toned muscles, with only heavy bandages binding her chest covering her. "That's bullshit, and you know it. Besides, I would have won if you hadn't been using that stupid staff. Who uses a staff in a real battle?"

"Apparently, I do," Ron replied, walking away while the fighting continued around them.

The brunette matched step with him, not noticing the men getting taken out as they slowed to gawk at her exposed flesh. "You said you taught me the styles I'd see in battle," she accused him.

"I said I would teach you the weapons you'd most likely see in battle," the blond informed her as they separated around a skirmish. "You have to master what you have and be prepared for any kind of weapon you may come against."

"At least I still have my guy leading; my side can still get the victory," she argued.

"My second is just as good as him, and why aren't you wearing your underarmor? It's there for your protection." Ron asked disapprovingly.

"Because it makes me too hot, and I don't really need it with my powers always giving me resilience," the woman growled.

"You are an insufferable woman," he groused.

"You're still cooking me dinner tonight for not losing the exercise."

"Is this supposed to be different from how I cook dinner all the time for you gracing me with your presence each day?"

"Yeah, because I almost graced you with an ass-kicking," the brunette grinned.

"Insufferable," he muttered.

A/N_

Took a while to get this out. Had to rewrite most of it due to a hardware issue with my laptop, so I thought I'd lost the work. Turned out that the hard drive didn't have any retaining screws and had just slipped out a little. Going to try to have the next chapter out faster.