In the year following the completion of Steel Swan and the Celler Trilogy, I have had several requests from reviewers here and in other forums and communication to continue composing stories within the scope of what I have termed the "Hodgeverse." I have also received requests to attempt to further cement the existing works by tying up some of the "loose ends" which the Trilogy appears to have left in the minds of some readers.
Since completing SS, a few concepts have crossed my mind for a fourth installment in the lives of Kim, William and Kimi. But none of them have gelled with the depth and solidity of the original concept which grew from the single story Anything is Possible and expanded into Life With Kim, and on into Steel Swan.
The idea of "tying loose ends" appealed to me much more, and even more as I reread the stories, to form a sort of closure - and, in my opinion, to do the series more justice than would risking "spreading things too thin." So it is this venture which I shall present to you.
A small caveat: this is a short offering - an epilogue, if you will - which attempts to clean up some of the hanging threads in the Celler Trilogy. If you go into this without having previously read The Celler Trilogy (Anything is Possible, Life with Kim and Steel Swan), this story will seem, at best, disjointed and nonsensical. It is recommended that those of you treating this as a stand-alone story should read the stories that preceded it, in order to have a firm grasp on the premise of this one.
As has always been throughout the entire Celler Trilogy, Kim Possible and related established characters are the property of Disney. All original characters, the premise of the story and the concepts of "The Hodgeverse," "the City of Eastgate" "the Cross Agents," "the Resonance Conduit," "the Celler environment" and "the Flesher environment" are created and owned by myself.
Saturday, July 13th, 2019, 6:21 PM.
From the moment of their reunion after Kim walked through the door of William's room in the psychiatric facility, the two were inseparable. Even while William sat at the desk of the facility administrator filling out his release forms, his smile was clear evidence of his happiness - being free of the nightmare his entire family had been plunged into a month before - and was further fueled by the again-present and long-missed warmth of his other hand still clasped in Kim's.
As they exited the hospital, William stopped for a moment outside the front doors to take in the sensation of the Eastgate Saturday summer evening - the first exposure he had had to the outside world - and to reality in general - since his self-imposed sentence in the psychiatric facility nearly a month before. A smile and a gentle tug from Kim, and the two continued to the street, where Mark had been waiting next to an Air-Force blue Pontiac Hydroja.
Upon recognizing the large Captain, it was difficult for William to restrain his emotion in thanking Mark, not only for the tremendous effort he put forth to help return Kim to safety - but for his innovative circumvention of the limitations of the pact written to restrict military action - and for the confidence he had in employing and training Kimi to bring the rescue about.
As they met, William engaged Mark in an emotional embrace. "Captain, I don't think there's any way on Earth to even begin to thank you for everything you've done for us...for our entire family."
As they parted, William again reached to place his arm around Kim. Mark looked at the couple and each of their smiles, adorned with tears of happiness. "Knowing that the three of you are healthy and safe and seeing the two of you back together...I don't think I could ask for more thanks than that," he said. "And actually, I have to extend quite a few thanks to your daughter for what she did to help me as well."
William gave Mark a slightly puzzled look. Kim turned to him. "You and Mark have more in common than you know," she smiled. "He's also married to a Celler. One of my good friends, in fact."
William turned, giving both of them a grin. "I'm glad we have a lot of time now," he said. "The story around this past month is sounding longer with each minute."
Mark and Kim both chuckled at this. "And thanks to our precious daughter," beamed Kim, "time is now something we have no end of."
"Yes, time is now a boundless resource," said Mark. He opened the rear door of the Hydroja, and Kim and William slid inside. Mark went around and slid behind the steering wheel, starting the car. "Quite a lot of things are now boundless," he said as they pulled away from the hospital, "including my respect and gratitude for Kimi."
A thought struck William. "Another of the 'boundless' things is probably the dust in our house about now," he said. "I can just imagine what it looks like after three weeks with nobody living in it."
"Nope," grinned Kim. "I had a conversation with Marcy after we touched down in Eastgate. She and Valencia have been keeping up on most of the housekeeping on the weekends, after she found out that Kimi had left. The house is just fine."
"I'm looking forward to meeting Marcy," said Mark. "She sounds like the kind of family friend no family should be without."
William reached forward, patting Mark on the shoulder. "I think I can speak for all three of us when I say that you're very, very much that same kind of friend," he said.
"I'll soo second that," Kim perked.
Mark beamed into the rear view mirror at the two. "I'll add that you're quickly becoming the family that no friend should be without," he said. Both Kim and William nodded their approval with a soft laugh.
En route to their house, Kim and William began to exchange with Mark their renditions of the events of the last 30 days. As they related their actions and thoughts, one grim, yet now slightly ironic commonality emerged which, now that the danger had passed, actually served to strengthen the growing bond between the Hodges and the large Captain:
-The hour of the deadline had presented each of them with the indelible thought that it was "the end."
Now that all the ominous and imminent ends were swept from each of their lives, they felt they could freely recite their innermost feelings on the concept of those endings they were sure were then inescapable, but were now little more than flittering threads in the rended fabric of a bad dream.
Saturday, July 13th, 6:41 PM.
As they rounded the corner onto their street, Kim's face began to melt into another wide smile, her eyes sparkling with tears of joy. "That's Marcy's car," she said, pointing to the dark blue Honda H-FCV parked in front of their house. As they passed the vehicle, Mark gave a couple of quick toots to the horn as he wheeled into the driveway. A head immediately popped up in the driver's seat of the Honda.
Kim had opened her door almost before Mark brought the car to a stop and she got out, immediately turning toward the street. At the same time, Marcy leaped out of her car, running toward Kim. The two women met near the end of the driveway, locking into a solid, tearful embrace. "Mi Dios!" Marcy burst through her joyful crying, clutching desperately onto Kim. "Yo estoy tan contento verle vivo y bien!"
"Maybe I was gone too long," laughed Kim. "For some reason, I seem to remember you speaking more English."
"What?" perked Marcy. She then giggled. "Oh...I'm so excited to see you! I said I'm so glad to see you alive and well."
"I thought it might be something like that," Kim smiled, "and boy, am I glad to be both!" With this, the two again laughed, slipping into a tight hug, rocking slightly.
Mark and William had exited the car and were moving to join the women. Marcy turned slightly, squealing in delight and reaching out an arm to gather William while still holding onto Kim. "It's wonderful to have you both back," she said.
Kim couldn't help but utter a quick giggle. "And Himself is just one razor from being all the way back."
Marcy turned to Kim. "I don't know...I think you should let him keep the 'shipwrecked on a desert island' look...the beard makes him look a bit more--"
"Scratchy?" Kim interrupted. Marcy gave her a strange look, then a giggle. "Hey, you don't have to kiss him," added Kim.
"The promise of a clean-shaven face was a strict stipulation of my release," smirked William, smoothing his fingers along his now bushy jawline. "And now that I'm not spending every day and night in air conditioning, I don't think I'll miss it."
Kim motioned behind Marcy. "There's someone I think you'd like to meet," she said.
Marcy turned around. Being about an inch shorter than Kim's five-foot seven-inch frame, she couldn't help but be introduced to the center of Mark's chest as the six-foot six-inch man took a step toward her. "Marcy, how do you do," Mark said warmly, extending his mammoth hand. "I'm Captain Mark Broderson."
Marcy looked nearly mesmerized by the man's size. She reached out her hand for it to be enveloped. "Caa-Cap'n Mark?" she stuttered, then shook his hand, trying to recompose. "I'm-- I'm Maaaarcy Alvarez-Delgado--" She suddenly huffed through the rest of a breath "--mierda santa, y-you're way up there."
Mark couldn't help but to burst into laughter. "I'll take that as a positive greeting," he said. "It's good to finally meet the best friend of the Hodges."
Marcy's reaction to this was a mix between a wide grin and a bit of a blush. "Oh trust me," she said, "it's positive. Anyone who did for Kim what you did deserves nothing less than my complete respect. You'll have to pardon me...I...I was a little caught off-guard by your big tallness--uhh, your tall bigness, I mean--"
Kim giggled, taking both Marcy and Mark by the arm. "Dazed much?" she tittered to Marcy. "Let's get inside. I have been just aching for some real food, and I'm more than ready to whip it up."
William clapped his hands together. "No hospital food."
"Your yen for cooking will have to wait until breakfast," said Marcy. "Lupe is sending dinner from the restaurant for all of us." She shot another look at Mark, then immediately reached for the cell in her shirt pocket, flipping it open and pressing a button to speed-dial. "Lupe? Mande algunos burritos extra. 'La Marca' se parece a él podría comer un caballo. Si, cinco, bebé. Bye-bye." She flipped the cell closed and returned it her pocket, trading it for a house key and passing it to Kim. Kim shot her an inquisitive look as she slid the key into the lock. "I called for culinary backup," Marcy smirked, tipping her eyes in Mark's direction. "More burritos than I had originally planned on."
Kim leaned to Marcy. "I've known you long enough to learn at least a little Spanish," she whispered. "Did you just tell Lupe that Mark was as big as a horse?"
"Nooo," Marcy countered in whisper. "I'm having Lupe send some extra burritos. I said Mark looks like he could eat a horse."
The two women broke into a poorly controlled giggle as Kim pushed the door open. She and Marcy entered first, followed closely by William, with Mark bringing up the rear, ducking his head slightly as he passed through the doorway. Kim looked around as she passed through the living room. "It's like we never left," she said, smiling. "Marcy, the place looks just wonderful."
"Nothing at all, Kim," Marcy said with a "pshaw" motion of her hand. "It was the very least I could do for your family. But I can't take all the credit...I kept up with the vacuuming and such, but Valencia did all the dusting and the windows."
"Like mother, like daughter," William commented. "Everything sparkles." He then turned to Mark and motioned in the direction of his office down the hallway. "You said you wanted to see the case I had made for the items of Kim's Cross."
"Yeah!" Mark perked. "You said you even put the mirror in there. I wanted to see if the outline in your mirror after you broke the crystal looks anything like mine did...though I actually had to break two crystals." Both men and Kim laughed softly at this as the men walked into the hallway.
Marcy turned to Kim as she reached into the refrigerator for a container of apple juice. "Do I take that to mean that Mark has had an experience of his own with a Cross, too?"
"Married to one of my good friends in the Celler environment," said Kim as she poured the first of three glasses of juice, passing one to Marcy. "I'd like to meet her soon, now that I know she's here, too."
"I didn't think to ask you on the phone," Marcy said, taking her glass, "but I meant to ask you about Kimi. You said that she wouldn't be home until Tuesday night. Is she going through some de-briefing or something in Cairo?"
Kim poured her glass of juice and crossed into the living room, retrieving the gym bag she had brought with her. "No," she said. "Mark will be handling any de-briefing that Ki would have to go through." She then placed the bag on the kitchen table and opened it. "And I can call Ki if you want to say hi."
Marcy's eyes widened as Kim pulled the Kimmunicator from the bag. "That looks just like the communication thing you had on the show."
"Hehe," Kim tittered. "It is from the show...and right now, it's the quickest way to reach Ki until she gets back."
Marcy's expression shifted into mild puzzlement as Kim pressed the blue center button to activate the device. The screen flickered for a second, then shifted into a view of Kimi at a desk, wearing white overalls and the same floppy purple hat she had earlier. She was playing a game of backgammon. "Hey Mom!" she perked into the screen as she reached for her dice. "You guys home yet?"
"Just got in," said Kim. "We're still getting settled. Someone is here and wants to say hi." With that, she passed the blue device to Marcy.
Marcy broke into a wide smile as she looked into the screen. "Ki! Hi! It's good to see you!"
"Aunt Marcy!" Kimi perked. "All about hi!"
"I met your folks here when they pulled up. You should be part of this grand reunion. The house is all smiles again."
"I'd like to be there, Aunt Marcy," said Kimi, "but I have to wait until late Tuesday night."
"New moon," replied Kimi. Marcy slowly shifted her eyes to Kim. Kimi giggled through the Kimmunicator. "You haven't told her yet, have you Mom..."
"I thought I'd leave that little factoid to you," Kim smiled, motioning Marcy back to the screen of the device.
Kimi's smile widened. "Look who's all about cleaning my clock in the 'gammon," she said, reaching toward the screen.
The Kimmunicator's view slowly slid to the right of Kimi as a pair of dice bounced onto the board. At the other side of the table, a small pink rodent smiled and waved at the screen. He then looked at the board, throwing his arms in the air. "Mmm, doubles!" he squealed and reached for a piece.
Marcy shot a look to Kim. "Rufus?" Kim nodded in response. "Did Rufus cross somewhere near where Ki is?"
Kim contained another giggle. "Not until she does," she smirked. "Actually, she's bringing him with when she crosses back."
"Crosses--" Marcy started, turning to look into the Kimmunicator again, "but isn't that--" She then said in a hushed tone, "Ki? Are you in the Celler environment?" Her head shot to Kim. "How--"
"All about," beamed Kimi.
"Thanks to the protection of her Celler skin and eyes," Kim said, "oh...and the strength of the portal she used to send Drakken and Shego back...after she rescued me, of course."
"... Rescued you?" asked Marcy. "But I thought she was with her Grand Aunt Julie in Phil-- She was in Cairo all this ti--? And she can come back okay?" Marcy's amazed look shifted several times between Kim and the blue device. "I think I have days of story to catch up on," she said.
"All about days of happy endings," said Kimi. She then looked at the board. "Ack! It's all about slaughter. Rufus is diamond in 'gammon, Aunt Marcy. I can't wait to let him go against the people at Mom's 'gammon club the Monday after I get back."
"I think I'll be looking forward to that," Marcy said, "and I know I'll be looking forward to when you get back. Dinner will be here soon, Ki. I'll let you get back to the battle...and it's good to see that you're as safe as your mother is."
"Thanks, Aunt Marcy," Kimi waved. "Yeah, I think this game is all about over. Love you...later!"
Rufus leaned over the board, looking into the screen. "Luego," he perked.
Marcy burst into laughter. "You taught him that!"
"Nope," Kimi giggled. "Rufus is all about knows some Spanish already."
Rufus confirmed this with a wide grin and a "Si!"
The image on the screen went blank, and Marcy handed the device to Kim. "Ki rescued you?" she asked, astonished. "Did you have any idea she was coming?"
Kim sat at the table, placing the Kimmunicator near the center and reaching for her glass of juice. "Absolutely less than zero," she said. "After I was grabbed out of Donna's restaurant, I was pretty much out of it the whole time. They had alcohol around me 24/7...I don't think I even knew where I was until I walked outside the building shortly after Ki shooed me out so she could activate the portal."
Marcy thought for a moment. "I spent the night with Ki after William had checked himself into the psychiatric facility...to stay with her," she said. "That next morning, there was a phone call. It was Mark, asking for Ki. She was still sleeping. I talked with Mark for a few minutes, then told him to call back later that morning. Ki and I were to have dinner together Saturday night. She said she was looking forward to it, but she wasn't home when I stopped by to pick her up. That's when I found a note she had written saying she was going to spend some time with her Grand Aunt Julie in Philadelphia." She thought for a few seconds more. "Mark must have picked her up either Friday or Saturday."
"About 5AM Saturday morning, actually," said Mark from the doorway. "It wasn't me who picked her up, though. She called me about 3AM that morning...I arranged for a couple of men to bring her to the Air Base near Willow Grove. Meanwhile, I was on a Scramship from Cairo to meet her at the base."
William entered the kitchen, crossing to the refrigerator. "Would you like something to drink?" he asked Mark.
"Ice water sounds good, thanks," said Mark.
William got a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with ice. He took a pitcher from the refrigerator and poured water into it, bringing it to Mark. Mark took a long drink. "I'm glad all of you are here together," he said. "It gives me a chance to tell the three of you what an amazing friend and daughter you have in Kimi...not only in her being the first born from an inter-environmental relationship, but in her senses and abilities. I've never met anyone like her...and I'm not sure I ever will again."
William slid a hand over Kim's shoulder, which she softly nuzzled her cheek against. "That seems to run in the family," he said.
"The only thing I don't understand," asked Marcy, "is why Ki had to even think about trying to save Kim. I thought the military was usually involved in hostage situations of an international nature."
"They are," Mark said, his expression falling a bit. "But, as a result of a pact between the Cross Agents and the United Nations, military forces in the Flesher environment are restricted in matters involving elements of the Celler environment. It was originally written about six years ago in order to avoid potential clashes or other misunderstandings between environments...and to smooth and further the process of integration and acceptance."
Marcy shook her head slowly. "Figures...silly bureaucracy precludes common sense. Things like that never foresee the potential negative or even dangerous consequences their very actions can bring."
"You know what they say," Mark said, "...and now, the statement has even more weight with me...'Hindsight is 20/20.' I only wish now that I had learned that with the first lesson shown to me about the misdirection of the pact." Marcy appeared a bit perplexed until Mark continued. "I'm sorry Marcy, I'm leaving too many holes here. My wife is a Celler. She was killed in a bombing in Cairo about a year after I co-wrote the CENAP Pact with the Cross Agents. That's when I should have realized the mistakes I had made in the wording of the pact, and in underestimating the power and ramifications those words might have."
Marcy's brow furrowed. She reached for Mark's hand. "My God...I'm...I'm so sorry..."
Mark patted Marcy's hand, smiling. "Thanks, but...don't be. She returned here a little over a week ago...it wasn't until a talk with Ki about a dream she had with Angelica that I even knew it was possible for Celler iterations to return after their death in the Flesher environment."
Marcy's jaw dropped. "Okay...I don't know if I'm out of line in even thinking this," she said, "but...if a Celler...'iteration'...can return here...what made it that much more important to save Kim?"
Kim turned to Marcy, patting her hand lightly. "Reiteration...uhh, the reformation of a Celler in either environment...can only happen if an iteration still exists in the opposite environment. Drakken and Shego had done away with my Celler iteration just before they hacked the Cross to here." Marcy looked into Kim's eyes which, at that moment, held a strange warmth that Marcy could even feel in her heart. "Right now, you're looking at the only 'Kim Possible' in existence," she grinned. "I have to get a DNA sample to the Celler environment in the next few days, so my Celler iteration can be reestablished."
Mark turned to each of them as he continued. "Ki also said that you two still have, err, 'conversations' with Angelica, too...and she told me exactly what Angelica said I had to do to bring Melfina back here. Like I said...you have one amazing daughter." Kim and William both broke into smiles as he finished.
The doorbell interrupted their conversation. Marcy rose, crossing into the living room. "That'll be the food. I'll get it."
William rubbed his palms together. "I've gone so long without real food, I think I might even be brave enough to try some of that extra hot sauce Lupe makes," he said.
Kim gave a quick giggle at her husband's comment, and turned to Mark. "Marcy's husband owns a Mexican restaurant near here," she said.
"Mexican?" said Mark. "Mmm...been a while since I had good Mexican food...but I'm definitely going to pass on the 'hot sauce.' Kimi said the chicken fast food place at the Air Base in Willow Grove is similar to the one she goes to here. She had me try some of their chipotle dipping sauce. It...wasn't something I'm going to try again soon."
"Ki just loves most hot stuff," William said, "but even she isn't adventurous enough to use the hottest sauce from Lupes place."
Marcy returned to the kitchen carrying a large bag and was accompanied by Karen from the restaurant who was carrying a second bag. "Are you guys badmouthing the 'Don't Go There' sauce again?" Marcy tittered as she set her bag on the table. "You're going to scare Mark away from it. Maybe he'll like it."
"Actually, I think Ki beat them to it," Mark said as William rose to get plates and utensils from the cupboard. "She talked me into trying some chipotle sauce at the fast food place on base. I nearly chugged my entire drink after one bite."
"Chipotle?" said Marcy. "It's tasty...but compared to 'Don't Go There,' it's kind of weak, heat-wise."
Karen reached into her bag for a container. "I brought plenty of all three sauces." She then turned to Kim. "I'm glad to see you're home again, Kim," she smiled.
"Thanks Karen," Kim returned with her own smile. "I'm home and among friends. Nothing could feel better."
Marcy had peered into both of the bags. "Burritos...enchiladas...tamales...lots of tacos...even some flan." She took a pen from the table and a piece of paper out of one of the bags, signing it and handing it to Karen. "Karen, make sure you tell Lupe this is great as always...and tell him I'll be by before close"
"Will do, Mrs. Delgado," Karen said, beginning to edge toward the door, "and welcome home again, Kim."
"Thanks again," Kim replied, "and tell Lupe we all say hi and thanks for the food." As Marcy saw Karen to the door, Kim rose and took the plates from William as he came to the table and she began around it, setting them down. William was close behind with a fork, spoon and knife for everyone.
Marcy returned to the table and began to dig into the bags, passing out food. "William, I know you're a burrito man...and Kim, I know you just love tamales..." She then turned to Mark. "I have lots of all the stuff I named off, Mark...what would you like?"
Mark glanced at his watch. "Marcy...everything just smells great, and I still haven't had anything for supper...but for me, eating now would be like eating in the middle of the night. Put me down for just a taco...and I might have room for another, but we'll see."
"There's an eight-hour difference between Eastgate and Cairo," said Kim. "This is like, 3 in the morning for Mark."
Marcy reached into the bag and placed two fair-sized tacos on Mark's plate. "I'll err on the side of size," she smirked. "I'm sure you'll like the first one enough to want the second."
Mark opened the paper wrapper around one of the tacos and took a deep breath of the aroma that flirted his nose. "Judging by how good this looks and smells, you might just have a safe bet," he said.
When she was sure everyone else had food, Marcy reached into one of the bags for an enchilada, took her place at the table, and unwrapped her meal. "If you don't like really hot sauce," she said to Mark, "the 'mild' has a good zest to it, and a slightly sweet taste." Mark reached into the container near him for a packet of the "mild" sauce, opening it and dribbling a bit onto his taco.
William cut into his burrito and brought a bite into his mouth. "Aww, yeah," he drew out in a low moan. "So not hospital food."
Marcy retrieved a packet of the hottest sauce and dripped it across her enchilada. "Mark..." she asked, "I know there are rules on what you can tell civilians about what happened on Kimi's mission...but there's something I've been curious about, the more I find out about what went on this past month..." She cut into her food and readied a bite. "Please tell me if it's none of my business, and I'll understand, but...with all the restrictions this pact you mentioned places on the military...how did you get around that to train Kimi for this? And what did you do to train a fifteen-year old to go on a dangerous mission like this?"
"When I first thought about formulating mission to rescue Kim," Mark started, "I went through the files of a few non-military people that I knew about, thinking they might be able to pull this off. But as I went through their files, I saw that most of the training they'd gotten over the years would have qualified as 'military training' under the rules of the pact...so that eliminated them as resources I could turn to. Using them would have been a direct violation of the pact."
Kim and William both worked on their meals, but Marcy had laid down her fork, raptly listening as Mark continued. "As I kept searching for a solution, my mind kept going back to the night Kim was abducted, and I was called in on the investigation by Ben Aaronson, a friend of Kim and William--"
"Ben used to work with us here along with his wife Donna before they moved to Cairo," Marcy added.
"Yep," said Mark. "He works on the base there now, and he knew better than to involve the local police. He called me and I got a small team together to check it out. That's the night I met William...and Kimi. She jumped in almost from the moment I walked through the door...and she was actually the one who found how Kim's abductors got into and out of the restaurant. That's when I found out about her karate skills...and about what a head she has on her shoulders."
Kim and William's hands found each other on the table. "Another trait that runs in the family," said William.
Mark smiled and continued. "The more I thought about Kimi's abilities, the more impact it made on my mind. The night before I called her, I spent about three hours going through the CENAP pact, looking for anything that would preclude Kimi from being able to do this. Not only was she a non-military entity under the pact...but nothing she'd already learned in karate could be considered as 'military training.' Late that night, I tracked down her skillsheet by finding Kim's name and the dojo she's registered under--"
"Wait," Marcy interjected. "I know that Kim is an instructor, but she doesn't really give lessons to anyone other than Kimi. I mean, I didn't think she really did any 'official' instructing for anyone else. How did you find Kimi's skillsheet from Kim's name?"
"You're right, she isn't listed as an active instructor," said Mark, "but anyone who completes the instructor courses goes onto a National Registry of Instructors, whether active or not. It was fairly easy to find her from that list. Actually, the listing shows that Kimi is her only 'official' student, even though she's not an active instructor. Anyway...even on that Tuesday when I called Kimi, I didn't pressure her into doing this...I told her how things stood at that point, and the actual lack of options open to us...and I explained the concept thoroughly to her. I gave her until that Saturday to decide whether to go or not. It was close to noon on Saturday in Cairo...very early Saturday morning here...when I got the call from Kimi telling me that she was willing to go through with the training. We worked for about three weeks on advancing her karate skills, and working with firearms--"
"Firearms?" Marcy cut in.
"--firearms loaded with powerful tranquilizer cartridges," Mark said. "Not one of the CENAP restrictions. It gave Kimi the supplemental weapons she needed to be able to go through the mission."
"I probably had the same look on my face that Marcy just had, when I saw Kimi with a pistol strapped to her side," Kim said, giggling.
"She did well with that pistol, too," Mark added. "I was impressed with how quickly she adapted to that part of her training...and she used it well on the mission. Out of ten guards, we found nine sleeping soundly."
"...Nine?" asked Marcy.
"The other one was apparently someone she had an encounter with the night the family arrived in Cairo."
"Remember the incident at the airport that I told you about?" said William. "It was the guy who had grabbed Ki outside of the terminal. He was tied in with the abduction."
"He was the only casualty in the entire mission," Mark said. "And from what the recovery team said, it looked like his death was the result of a fight he had with Kimi. We found a small sword with his prints on it. We think he must have tried to engage Kimi."
Marcy's expression changed to one of concern. "Could...could Kimi be...charged with anything because of that?"
"The death of a combatant who was part of a terrorist cell that was planning Kim's murder?" Mark scoffed. "Not a chance. Kimi is squeaky clean." At this, a proud smile crossed Kim and William's face.
Marcy sighed a mix of relief and slight bewilderment at the prospect of a myriad of details. "Our dinners are going to get cold if I ask you guys every question that I have...but I still want to get filled in on as much of this as you are able to give me. What are your plans for tomorrow?"
"We'll be in New York for a large part of the day," Kim said. "Mark has asked us to appear before the United Nations, as part of presenting his case for the pact to be repealed, or at least reformed. So if anything like this ever happens again, the rescue won't have to involve family members."
Marcy turned slowly to Mark. "Think they'll agree to something like that?" she asked.
Mark's face spread into a grin. "I helped put the CENAP together," he said, "I should know how to take it apart." The entire table laughed softly at this. Mark then turned to Kim. "I'll be staying at the hotel near the airport tonight. I'll be here a little before 9 AM tomorrow to take you to the airport. The meeting before the General Assembly is at noon. We'll have a little time to go over what we're going to present to them." He then took another bite out of his taco, chewing then swallowing. "I forgot to tell you," he said to Kim, "we're going to have a little bit more help when we get there...one of the prime Cross Agents...the very one who helped me put CENAP together. You remember Misty Visione'..."
"Remember?" Kim perked. "She's a good friend. I've talked to her several times since coming here, but I haven't seen her in years!"
"Another plus to the trip," Mark smiled.
The four returned to their meals. Mark made specific comment to Marcy about how good the tacos tasted, adding that he wouldn't mind partaking of Lupes cuisine again soon.
Marcy reached for Kim as they neared the front door. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you're home again...both of you," she added as William approached to join them. "Any idea what time you'll be back tomorrow from New York?"
"The presentation before the Assembly should take no more than about a half-hour," Mark said. "Even with fielding questions, we should be out of there by about 2, and be back at the airport here around 4...5 at the very latest."
"I'll give you a call when we're back home," said Kim. "But this time, dinner is on me," she added with a grin.
Mark gave a sudden quick chuckle, causing Kim and Marcy to turn to him. "The military calls the evening meal 'supper'," he said. "The noon meal is 'dinner.' I can't tell you how many times Kimi and I went 'round and 'round on that concept...I would ask her, 'What do you feel like for dinner?' and she would immediately fire back, 'some lunch'." This brought laughter from the four of them. Mark then looked at his watch. "Well, I should get over to the hotel, make a few calls, do a little work and grab a few winks. Technically, I can actually 'sleep in' a bit tomorrow."
Marcy took Mark's hand into hers. "I know you've probably heard this about a hundred times already..." she said, "but I want to go on record as saying that I don't think there are words one can find right away that can express proper thanks for what you've done for Kim...for this entire family."
Mark said nothing immediately, but motioned a hand in the direction of Kim and William, who were holding hands. "Sometimes, words aren't necessary," he said, smiling. "I think that this picture speaks more to me than any words could ever say." As if on cue, Kim and William both slid an arm around each other's back.
"And when Kimi comes back on Tuesday," said Marcy, "the picture will be complete." She moved to take them both into a hug. "Welcome home again, guys. I'm headed to the restaurant, and then for home."
"It was good to meet you, Marcy," said Mark, "and thanks for the meal. Tell Lupe he's quite the cook."
Marcy had no response but to throw her arms around the large Captain. "Thank you, Mark," she said. "I can't say that enough. Thank you...for everything. You're truly a breed apart when it comes to getting things done. And you're welcome to come to the restaurant for a full meal on the house any time you're in town."
The four exchanged their good-byes, and Marcy and Mark went down the walk to their cars. Before they got in, each of them looked back to the house, to a sight that both of them, in their own way, were hoping to see return to a reality;
Kim and William Hodge, standing arm in arm in their front doorway, waving.
The reunification and return to life of the most unique and special family either of them had ever known.
Kim came from the kitchen with two glasses in hand, walking down the hallway to their bedroom. She stopped just inside the doorway and edged the light on with an elbow. She set the glasses down on the nightstand on her side of the bed, then turned and slowly took in the room for a moment. Home, she thought. Not just another reminiscent fantasy dreamed up to pass the time when I wasn't trying to think of a way out of my clear plastic prison. Not just another delusion to keep me from screaming my lungs out and trying not to dwell on the fate slithering toward me like some...death-time-snake thing.
Kim took a drink of her juice, savoring the taste as the cold liquid slid into her throat. It's real, she thought. It's real, and it's here in my hand...in my mouth...and I'm drinking it. I can smell it. I can taste it. Apples. Cold, sweet apple juice and I'm drinking it. It's not my mind trying to disguise the lukewarm water the guards forced me to drink with my meals. I don't have to disguise this to keep from throwing it up along with the bland gruel they fed me. It's real...and it would actually matter if I dribbled a bit out of my mouth, unlike the water. If this cup fell out of my hand, I would drop to the floor and suck it out of the carpet rather than let a single drop go to waste.
Kim bent slightly to set the cup on the nightstand. As she did, her other hand drifted across the deep blue fabric of the bedspread. Her fingers lingered for a few seconds, as if they were caressing the welcome presence of a lifelong friend. This is real, too. It's not my mind trying to imagine the soft bedspread covering the stiff vinyl on the chair I spent a month tied to. She pressed slightly against the spread with the flat of her hand, turned, and softly sat on the bed. It's something I no longer have to dream up or remember. It's here. It's real. The house is real. My husband is real...and alive...and home--
The last of this thought brought Kim to her feet. She padded into the hallway, knocking softly on the bathroom door. "Honey? How's it going?"
"Funny you should ask," the response came from the other side of the door. "All shaved off, but still a little rough...to me, anyway. I was looking for an oil or lotion or something that could smooth out the skin on...my..."
Kim had opened the door as William spoke, and the look in her eyes at that moment nearly froze his speech. She said nothing, but was drinking in the vision of her now clean-shaven husband.
Anything Kim might have thought to say right then was throttled by the sensory torrent pouring over her. Before her was a sight she had thought for nearly a month that she would never again have the privilege of seeing; William Allen Hodge in boxer briefs, clean-shaven, no shirt.
William looked to the counter for just a second to reach for his glasses - but was stopped as Kim reached for him. Her hands slid along his newly-bared cheeks, straightening his head until his eyes locked on hers. Their next move was nearly simultaneous, as if it were orchestrated; William moved to take his wife into his arms - Kim locked one hand around the back of William's neck, her other hand still against his cheek.
Kim used the leverage to lift from the floor, her legs wrapping around William's waist as their lips met. She took in a breath as William's arm slipped upward along her back, gathering her closer and clutching a fistful of her t-shirt as it went, pulling it from beneath the waistband of her jeans.
Their sudden passion spoke for both of them from that point. Their lips were never given the option of parting as William moved slowly through the doorway of the bathroom and turned in the direction of their bedroom with Kim warmly entwined to him.
After a month apart from each other - a hiatus each was sure would become distressingly permanent exile - the two souls, one from each environment, were once again absorbed and melded into one another, stirred into that re-ignited molten intimate waltz of fervent desire.
Kim and William lay still in the bed of the darkened room, their bodies enlaced in a loose inter-environmental lover's knot for what seemed like a long while, each feeling and welcoming the ebbing heat from the other. They felt and listened to each other's heartbeat - both of them swearing that the steady rhythmic beat from the other was now one of the most beautiful sensations they could interpret as another form of reminder of their love. Their hearts were welcoming each other back to the life they had so sorely missed.
It was as if those hearts were throbbing out a Morse chant to one another - "Welcome home. You belong nowhere else."
William made a slight movement of his left arm from around Kim's lower back, his intent to reach over to his nightstand. This slow motion was immediately answered with a quiet, smooth "Hmm-mmm" against his chest.
William lightly stroked his fingertips over Kim's temple. "Just setting the alarm for tomorrow, hon," he said. "I'm not getting up."
"You're not getting one inch away from me, Mr. Hodge," Kim said softly, cuddling further against her husband. "Not tonight."
"You know...I think you just read my mind before the thought even came to me," said William. "Don't worry...I have no plans of even trying to get away." With that, William tapped buttons on the clock radio until the alarm setting read "7 AM." He pressed another button to return the display to the time, and then returned to his previous caressing soft embrace, his fingers lightly brushing the small of his wife's back and silently giving thanks for every second of the sensation.
Kim drifted her fingers over William's chest and slowly turned her head until she could make out the barest outline of his face, lit by the display of the clock. "William?" she asked, "I need to ask you...a strange question...and I think by asking this, it might help me to understand and deal with the same thing from my perspective." She slid her hand along William's chest to lightly rest on his shoulder, near his neck. "Honey...this past month...what was it like for you...? What went through your mind?"
William softly patted his hand against Kim's lower back as he thought for a moment, reflecting on the recently extinguished horror that had filled his days. When he spoke, his tone was low and measured, as if still in awe of how the events of the past month so completely overran his and his family's life. "In one way," he started, "it almost felt like waiting out the last part of a death sentence...like waiting for 'the end'...the end of nearly everything I had known and had come to love about you, and with you..."
"...yeah," Kim affirmed softly. "While we were flying back from the Air Base, Marcy said on the phone that she was told...as Drakken and Shego's 'deadline' came near...when you thought that I would be...you made an attempt on your own life..."
William's eyes fell in the darkened room as the memory of that moment came back to him. "I...feel like I should apologize for that, somehow. In that room, I had no word...no way to know for sure what was happening...only what would happen, based on what I knew at that point. My thoughts during that time were mostly focused on the...bottom line. My mind kept pushing at me, thoughts of a 'life' without you in it. I knew that that couldn't possibly be a 'life' that I could face at all...I presented myself with a sort of 'alternative'." He heaved a slow sigh. "I thought that...that I could 'wait for you on the other side'...I thought of nothing else...not even about what Kimi would go through if we were both gone." Now William's face fell. "I'm sorry, Kim," he said softly. "I almost feel now that doing that would have...let both you and Ki down."
Kim brought a finger up to lightly caress William's lips. "You don't have to apologize. This is just another of the many, many reasons why our being married is so right, and has been so right," she said. William moved his hand to Kim's face to bring her eyes to his. Kim didn't give him a chance to question or respond to her statement without clarifying. "I...actually went though almost the same thought process," she said, "...when Wade first told me that Ki had been pulled into the portal that would send Drakken and Shego back...it went through my mind. Ki was gone...and I thought that if you knew I was gone...life wouldn't appeal much to you. At that moment, after thinking all that...it didn't appeal much to me either." Now it was Kim's turn to lower her eyes. "I...was just ready to wash away in the alcohol Drakken had set up to kill me at the stroke of Midnight. It was actually something that Wade said to me that snapped me out of it."
The two then closed for a warm embrace, their bodies warm against each other. After a moment, William asked, "did you go through the Five Stages at any time?"
Kim looked up at her husband in puzzlement.
"It's from a book I read in high school," William explained. "It's called 'On Death and Dying.' It was written by a psychiatrist...she described the five 'stages' of grief felt by someone who is dying. Or in this case, I guess, someone who is facing the death of someone close. The five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. In this past month, now that I look back on it, I can recognize going through each of the stages. Denial that this kind of a horrible thing was happening to you...to our family. The anger at various things and people, that I blamed at the time as being the reason we were going through this. The bargaining...trying to...rationalize or think up some sort of deal or compromise. The depression...not being able to bear or face what was happening. And finally, the 'acceptance' that there was nothing that I could do to change it...that's when I came up with the, err, 'bargain' of meeting you in death...somehow...I thought that would be the least I could offer."
William's words hit home with Kim immediately. "What you went through in a month," she said, "I went through in about a minute, after Wade said that Ki was drawn into the portal. I went through all the thoughts you just described...and when I decided to just let the alcohol take me, it was similar to what you were thinking at about the same time." She thought for a moment. "The length of time doesn't matter...this terrible thing we both went through...in the end, it brought us to the same conclusion...the same thought."
There was a short moment without a sound, which William chose to break with, "Kim? The last month...what was it like for you? What did they put you through?"
Kim settled her head against William's chest. "It was like a cage," she started. "An enclosure made of clear plastic that they kept me in the entire time. After they dragged me through the wall in the restaurant, they tied me up. One of them had a bottle of alcohol. They used that to keep me too weak to fight back. They put a blindfold over me...I kept drifting in and out of consciousness from the bottle being so close. When I remember waking up, I was in the enclosure. I don't remember how I got there, or being tied up...or even where I was. They had my hands tied to the chair I was in...not that it would have mattered...there was an open bottle of alcohol in there with me...if I hadn't been tied up, I couldn't even find the strength to stand up, much less try to get out."
"You were in there the entire 30 days?" William asked rather incredulously.
"Yeah," Kim continued. "When I first opened my eyes, there were Drakken and Shego on the other side of the plastic. There was a speaker, so I could hear what they were saying...and I guess they could hear me, too. I was fed two or three times a day, but it wasn't them...it was always one of their guards. Drakken and Shego didn't take any chances getting near the alcohol fumes...I heard them leave the room while I was being fed, and the guard always closed the door to the enclosure. They fed me this awful oatmeal-like stuff...it almost tasted like...soggy cardboard."
William hugged his wife. "That sounds...horrible," he whispered.
Kim's voice lowered as she recounted further. "Sometimes, Drakken and Shego would just sit there, making cracks about my coming demise...sometimes, they just laughed. I knew they were laughing at me...but I could barely lift my head to look, and my eyes were usually too blurry from the alcohol to see." Kim caressed William's shoulder softly. "Sometimes, when I was just semi-conscious...I could tune them out...but...I couldn't tune out the screams..."
"You...Ki...even me...I heard...all of us, screaming...not the kind of scream like when you drop something on your foot, or when you're scared. The kind of tortured scream when...like if you were to watch someone you love fall off a building or get hit by a car. The kind of scream that comes when something you love dearly comes to an end...just like that...and you know there isn't a thing you can do about it."
In the time spent in the psychiatric facility, William had never experienced the kind of inner screams that Kim just described - but he knew exactly where they would have come from inside. Without hearing them himself, he did know exactly what those cries sounded like. His only response to Kim was a low, soft, "Yeah," and an assuring hug.
"One thing I do remember...every time I heard Drakken and Shego's laughs...there was...an anger inside...and it would get just a little bigger every time I heard them." Kim then shifted slightly in her husband's caress. "After Ki got me out of the enclosure, I had time to sit and think...and my anger just...burned all the more. When Shego came back in the room, and I saw Ki unconscious...that was it. All that anger...it just burst loose...on Shego. I almost didn't stop."
Kim moved the pad of a finger lightly against William's chest, tracing small patterns. "Now...all the screams are gone," she said. "All the cruel, hateful laughing is gone. Now...it's so peaceful...it's so calm inside--" With this, Kim embraced her husband warmly "--and outside." She then settled further against his body. "I don't know about you," she cooed, "but I wouldn't mind falling asleep just like this."
William settled back onto his pillow, sliding his arms further around Kim. "Once again, we've arrived at the same conclusion."
"Welcome back, Mr. Hodge."
"Welcome back, Mrs. Hodge."
Early on Sunday morning, as promised, Mark arrived at the Hodges' driveway a bit before 9 AM, in full military dress. He and William loaded two small bags into the trunk of Mark's Hydroja, and they were on their way to Eastgate Airport, where a military Lear jet was waiting. It took barely an hour to fly to JFK Airport outside New York City, where the three were transferred to another of the Pontiac hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, this one also adorned with the Air Force insignia. They traveled to Manhattan Island, and through the front gate of the 18-acre United Nations complex.
Sunday, July 14th, 11:07 AM.
1st Avenue and E. 46th St.
Eastern Manhattan, New York City, NY
In front of the United Nations General Assembly Building
The Royal Blue Hydroja pulled to a stop at the curb in front of a low, long, building with a front of limestone, and a slight curve to the roofline. A large dome shape topped the middle of the structure.
A small number of men in light blue shirts and dark blue pants approached the vehicle and stopped in a two-by-two formation on the sidewalk beside the car. Each wore a crown-brimmed cap similar to those worn in the Air Force. "Wait until I get out," Mark said to Kim and William. "They'll open the doors for you two."
Mark exited the vehicle and closed his door, opening the rear door and retrieving an attaché case, then moving to the sidewalk. As if choreographed, two of the men simultaneously moved to the Pontiac, each opening a door. The one at the front door offered a hand to Kim as she stepped out. "Good Morning, Ms. Hodge," he said. "Welcome to United Nations soil. We will be your escort detail for the afternoon." The man at the back door greeted William in a similar fashion. The two men then closed the doors and stepped back in two-by-two formation with the men who remained on the sidewalk.
Mark handed his keys to one of the men who got into the Hydroja and pulled it from the curb. Mark then walked to join Kim and William. He motioned a thumb back at the three remaining men. "UN Police security detail," he said. "Misty's request to the UN Charter for the day...guess she doesn't want to take any chances."
William took a slow look at the skyline of the city across the East River. "We don't really do a lot of traveling," he said, "but this is the second time we've been in New York City in a month."
Mark turned and placed a hand on William's shoulder. "That's Queens," he said, motioning to the buildings across the river. "That's New York City--" he then motioned to the sidewalk on which they were standing, and then to the structures in the UN complex "--but this is not." Both William and Kim gave him a slightly puzzled look. "The land that these buildings sit on is officially designated as international territory, even though it sits in the middle of New York. It belongs to every nation in the world."
Kim brought Mark's attention to the large, towering glass-and-marble building a bit to their west. "Shouldn't we be going to that building?"
"Nope," replied Mark. "That's the UN Secretariat Building. It's mainly for administration." He then pointed back to the relatively low building they had pulled up to. "This is the General Assembly Building. This is where we wanna be."
Kim's attention was suddenly caught by an array of poles that ran along the entire length of the building. "Look...at...all the flags," she said haltingly, tapping William on the shoulder and pointing to the tops of the poles.
"One for every nation in the UN," Mark said, "from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. 191 of 'em."
Kim gave Mark a sly smile. "I don't see the Celler flag..."
Mark stammered for a response. "Well, I-- uhh, I'm sure there's an explanation for--wait...the Celler environment has a flag?"
"Sure!" Kim beamed. "Just like any other place." She then giggled. "Just because you've never seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist." Kim then held up her hands, as if laying out a design on a canvas. "Imagine a large circle of bright yellow, framed by the orangish-brown rings that appear at the beginning of most 'Merrie Melodies' episodes from the 1940's. That's the flag of the Celler environment," she finished with a broad, proud smile.
"You learn something every day," Mark smiled. "And for the record, I think there should be a place for that flag, now that I know that one exists. That's actually something that the CENAP Pact was meant to be a step toward...acceptance and inclusion between environments."
"Kim has mentioned the flag in conversation a couple of times," said William, "but I still have yet to see it. I'd like to someday."
Kim pulled a bit on William's arm and pointed to the far east corner of the building. "Look at the size of that gun!" she said, pointing to a sculpture of a revolver over ten feet tall, the end of its barrel twisted into a knot.
"That's a gift to the UN from a sculptor," Mark said. "I think it's called, 'Non-Violence'."
" Neat concept," Kim drew out in a breath. "Where were these guys when I needed them?"
Mark chuckled softly. "The UN's military has no offensive capability. They're mostly just peacekeepers. But even at that, the UN forces are held under CENAP, just like the military of every nation." He then motioned to a large entrance at the center of the building. "Let's get inside," he said. "I still have to get together with Misty and compare notes on the presentation I've written."
The three then moved along the walk to the glass-enclosed entrance to the building, flanked by the three men in uniform. They walked through a pair of doors and a walk-through scanner into an open atrium adorned with polished panels and patterns of various metals, expanding upward for several floors.
William pointed out a huge ring of polished chrome suspended from the ceiling, with a large gold sphere seeming to hover just above it. Kim took in a breath as she looked up to the structure.
"That's the Foucault Pendulum," one of the uniformed men said. "It was a gift from the Netherlands to the United Nations over 60 years ago. It actually gives proof of the rotation of the Earth. The direction that the sphere swings around the ring changes throughout the day. It takes a little over 36 hours to complete a cycle."
Kim then looked over to a series of portraits hanging along a long wall. "Those are the portraits of all the Secretary Generals of the UN since it first started in 1955," the man said.
Kim turned to William. "This might be an interesting place for Ki to visit," she said. "It would further her education--" She was cut off by a voice through the intercom:
:KP and Entourage, please report to the Concourse Level Information Desk...KP and Entourage to the Concourse Level Information Desk:
"I'll give you three guesses who requested that page," smiled Mark as he pointed to a large counter near the center of the floor, and to a slightly short woman with shoulder-length brunette hair standing in front of it, dressed in a burgundy pantsuit, "and the first two don't count."
Kim's jaw dropped as she looked to the counter. "I don't have to guess!" she burst, breaking into a run toward the counter. "Misty!" she shouted, her voice reverberating through the atrium.
The two women locked into a tight embrace as they met. Misty curled her fingers through Kim's hair as they hugged. "Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes," she said. She pulled back to arms' length, looking Kim up and down. "You look great...even after what you've been through the past month. The Flesher environment has done you nothing but good. Say, you look...taller. Are you doing something different with your hair?"
"It's not the hair," Kim giggled, blushing slightly, "but yeah, I'm taller. Two inches taller."
"I think this is the first case of Celler growth as an effect of long-term exposure in the Flesher environment," said Misty, "but then again...you have been here longer than anyone else ever has. The next longest Cross would be Jasmine from the 'Aladdin' series...but she's been here about seven years less than you have."
"I remember you talking about her on the phone a couple of times," Kim said. "Is she still working at an animal shelter in San Diego?"
"That's her," Misty smiled. "She really likes her work, too."
By this time, Mark and William and the uniformed escort had joined the two women. Kim turned, wrapping an arm around her husband. "Misty, you remember my husband, William..."
Misty gathered William into a hug. "You bet I do," she chimed. "William is well-known in the Celler environment...even if he's never been there."
William wrapped his arms around both of the women. "It's hard to forget the woman who chauffeured us to our honeymoon years ago," he smiled. The three laughed at this.
As they parted, Misty turned toward Mark. They stood for a short moment in front of each other as Mark set his attaché on the floor. Misty's eyes glassed over slightly. "And this is soon to be known as another one of the most famous, if not the most famous Flesher among the Celler community." She then moved to take the lofty Captain into her arms. "Hiii, Mark," she drew out, her voice wavering slightly. "You've made us all proud with what you've done, and what you're doing now. Thank you...thank you for everything."
"I think I should be the one doing the thanking," Mark replied, returning the hug. "You cleared the Cross for 'Fina's return during a time when the Resonance was sealed from traffic. I was just doing what I had to do to save a life, and do it in a way that got around that mistake of a pact..." Mark brought a hand through his hair. " I should have acted to rectify it long before it took something like this to prove to me just how much of a mistake it was."
"It's not your fault," Misty said, "...and the fact that everyone is alright should be enough proof to you that you've been given a chance to show to the Assembly what a misstep the pact turned out to be." Misty's eyes fell a bit now. "Don't forget...the Cross Agents readily agreed to the pact, too. Nobody knew, Mark...nobody could have foreseen something like this...but it's all over now...and everyone's alright." She motioned to the attaché on the floor. "Let's go get ready. I've been waiting to read your presentation to the Assembly."
One of the men in uniform raised a hand in the direction of a hallway to the left of the counter area. "There is an office reserved so you can prepare. Someone will come and let you know when the Assembly is in place."
"I'm just lucky it's ready at all," said Mark as he picked up the attaché and the group began to walk toward the hall. "I had originally put in to appear before the UN when Kim was first abducted. I wanted to try to get CENAP rescinded so I could put together a military mission to rescue her. It was my 'Plan B' in case Kimi's training didn't work out...but the further along she got, the better I felt about it. I ended up rewriting the entire thing during the last week or so of her training, and finished it up just last night. It's still a request to rescind CENAP...but now it has the rest of the story. I think including what Kimi had to go through to save her mother will give a little more weight to the request."
General Assembly Hall, Second Floor
A soft knock came at the office door. "Captain Broderson? The Assembly has been reading the background documentation Ms. Visione requested be distributed, and they are ready for you and your party. We'll be escorting you to the staging area when you're ready."
"Thank you," Mark replied to the door. "We'll be just a moment." He closed his attaché and stood.
Misty straightened a group of papers she was reading and closed the folder they were in, handing it across the table to Mark. "I don't know how this could miss," she said. Kim and William both nodded their agreement. "If you want my opinion, I think you've got a career as some sort of writer, if or when you decide to retire from the military."
Mark smiled down to the brunette as she stood. "Thanks, but...my only literary talent is in getting information or a point across...and, I don't deal well with negative criticism of my work," he added a smirk as Kim and William moved to stand. "Besides...there's still a good market for investigators in the private sector."
Mark then looked to each in the group. "Ready?" Everyone nodded their reply. "Ooo, I almost forgot," he said quickly, "Kim? I'll be wanting that Kimmunicator I asked you to bring."
Kim reached into her purse, producing the blue communications device and passing it to Mark. She pointed out a small plug in the bottom of the device. "Here's the external jack," she said.
Mark took a quick look at the plug - then turned the device to face him and pressed the button to activate it. The screen filled with an image of a medium-blue wall with a single chair sitting in front of it. "Uhh...guys?" he said toward the screen. "We're about ready to go here."
The picture jiggled slightly for a second - then a slender woman leaned into view, her face framed by long locks of wavy blonde hair and topped by a baseball cap, turned backward. "Hey Captain," she said. "Sorry. I was just making sure the webcam was secure."
Kim tipped her head toward the screen at the voice and broke into a wide smile. "Tara? Hi!"
The blonde perked. "Kim!" she exclaimed. "You look great! Congratulations on getting away from Drakken and Shego."
"I actually have Ki to thank for that," Kim said. "...Ki...and 'Cap'n Mark' here," she finished with a smirk.
"Your-daughter-is-wonderful," said Tara. "She already had quite a name around here, even before saving you...and then she came here! Now she's got another name...'Ki Possible!"
Everyone broke into laughter at this. "She said something about that when I talked to her after she first got to Wade's," Kim said. "Say, see if she wants to do a spinoff series of the show!"
Tara burst into laughter. "Well, she's already got star status here," she said. "She's downstairs with Monique, getting a drink. How long before you need her on camera?"
"I'd say no more than ten minutes," Mark said. "We're just walking out to the Assembly."
"I'll have her here and ready, no problem," Tara replied.
"Okay...see you then," Mark said, pressing the button to shut off the device. He then turned to Misty, Kim and William. "Let's go make things the way they should be."
The group moved from the office to meet two uniformed men in the hall, and they walked back into the large concourse area, to an elevator. As everyone stepped inside, one of the men pressed a button on the panel, closing the doors. "There are seats set up just to the right of the dais," he said. "The rest of you won't have to stand the whole time while the Captain gives his presentation."
The elevator stopped and opened to a short hallway with a small table just before a double set of doors. The uniformed men exited the elevator first, taking up positions on either side of the doors. One of them tapped a small communications device on his shoulder strap and spoke into it.
Misty turned to Kim and William as they exited the elevator. "We'll take the seats as we walk onto the platform," she said. "Mark will take the dais directly, and he'll motion to us as he wants us to join him." Kim and William both nodded.
A voice came over a small overhead speaker above the doors, and was also heard over larger speakers beyond them--
:The Assembly will now recognize Mark David Broderson, stationed at Cairo West Air Base outside Cairo, Egypt, and an officer in the Special Forces of the United States Air Force as a member of the 14th Special Investigations Unit, and Ms. Misty Visione, an emissary representing the Celler environment and Director of the Primary Cross Agents...They are accompanied by Ms. Kimberly Possible-Hodge and Mr. William Hodge:
Mark took a quick look over his uniform, tapping a corner of one of the two rows of medals bars which adorned his chest just below his left lapel, then slipping the Kimmunicator into the inside pocket of his jacket. He took a breath and huffed it out through pursed lips. "Here we go," he said.
Misty brushed a tiny piece of lint from his shoulder. "You have a solid case to present to the world, Mark," she said. "I'm sure they'll see things as you and I recognize them to be now." With this, she reached up and placed a small kiss on his cheek.
A small smile of raised confidence formed on the tall Captain's face. He turned to one of the uniformed men and nodded once. The men reached for the levered handles and stepped through the doorway, moving to the edge of the door and holding it open as the four passed through.
Each of them took in a silent gasp at what lay beyond the doors. They entered a gigantic open auditorium, a massive expanse large enough to fit several football fields and a ceiling several stories above them. The walls were panels of several shades of dark woods, adorned with murals. They rose to the ceiling, dotted with lights. An enormous dome looked directly over the platform they were walking toward, rising another 20 feet above the ceiling.
Misty, Kim and William reached three high-backed chairs sitting on the platform. Each of them took a seat, Misty sitting furthest to the left, with Kim on her right, and William beyond that. As they sat, Kim reached for William's hand.
Mark continued to a large dais made of dark mahogany. Behind the dais sat another platform where three gentlemen were seated. Behind this was a gold panel at least 25 feet wide, which extended from floor to ceiling and contained a large symbol of the United Nations - a graphic of the world as viewed from the North Pole, wreathed in two olive branches.
The uniformed men who had accompanied them from the office closed the doors and walked onto the platform, taking positions about ten feet on either side of the dais. Mark set the folder he was carrying onto the dais and as he opened it, his image appeared on two large screens located on each side of the gold panel at about the same height as the symbol.
Mark located a small jack jutting from a small panel on the dais. He pulled the Kimmunicator from his jacket and then the jack from the panel, plugging it into the bottom of the blue device. He then set it on the dais to the left of his folder - and looked up to the mass of delegates in the rows of seats that filled the rest of the floor. He spoke, his voice deep and clear as it carried through the overhead speakers:
"Mr. Secretary General...Mr. President...distinguished delegates...ladies and gentlemen...thank you for allowing us your time today. We are here to speak on a matter which carries importance not only with the people whom it most affects...but with nearly all the people of the world...whether they realize its impact on them or not.
"In the 18th Century, black people were a part of American history...even though they were brought here not of their will and forced to work without pay or recognition. They were not seen at that time as 'real people.' The Constitution of the United States at that time enacted a section called the '3/5 Compromise,' which counted blacks as being only '3/5 of a person.' The reasoning behind the Compromise was merely for counting blacks as slaves, for tax purposes. Even though blacks were in America, and were part of American life, they were not seen as 'real people.' They had none of the rights or protections of other Americans of different color and descent.
"In the mid-19th Century, the United States was torn in two by the turmoil of a civil war. During this turmoil, and as a result of his championing over it, the then-President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, worked to abolish slavery, the concept of not counting blacks as 'real people,' and extending to them the same rights accorded to all other Americans. From this effort, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were ratified, rescinding the laws which restricted both the standing of blacks as being 'real people,' and their right to vote. As a result of this, blacks were recounted as 'real people.' They were allowed to integrate into the populace of the country, and live their lives to the fullest extent that their newly found rights and protections gave them.
"Since then, the countries of the world have melded into the body I see before me today...a body formed as a result of rectifying the turmoil we know as World War II, and formed to prevent such horrors from being repeated. A body which is comprised of, represented by and encompasses nearly every nation on the globe. It is a body which does not seek to empower itself above or exclude any nation, but which seeks a central forum, if you will...a forum in which the issues within the globe are discussed with the intent and goal of rectification of and agreement on those issues. It is this forum which was forged to bring the world forward as one into the finish of the 20th Century, and to centuries beyond.
"As we entered the 21st Century, there were those of us who were first introduced to another nation - a nation new to us, but a nation with long standing as part of the world in which we live. Even at that, it stood as a largely undiscovered country. Since our introduction to it, there have been many of us who not only embraced the very fact that it existed, but embraced its inhabitants as the 'real people' they are. Most of the rest of the world has been, and even now remains unaware of the 'reality' of this undiscovered country - even though its inhabitants have been a part of us for many, many decades - and now, even live, work and love among us. From our first contact with them, they have embraced us and our existence, without the first reservation or hesitation toward integration. This 'undiscovered country' I speak of, which has been right in front of us, to an extent, for decades...is the Celler environment. For most people, their only exposure to it has been the cartoons we see on our television screens. In reality, however, the exposure in parts of the world, to a now steadily-growing sector of the populace, has gone far beyond that of the boxes in our living rooms." With this, Mark motioned to his right to the others seated next to the dais. "I would now like to introduce Ms. Misty Visione, one of the people who has worked for over 30 years, and still works every day in the process of introducing people to the inhabitants of this 'undiscovered country'."
Misty stood and walked to the dais, pulling a paper from the pocket of her pantsuit as she approached. Mark slid his folder slightly to the left on the dais and moved to the side as Misty stood before the microphone. "Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen...thank you for allowing us to appear before you here today. With your permission, I would like to present some facts to the Assembly. At first hearing, some of these facts may seem out of the norm...they may even seem far-fetched...but they do not appear that way now to those of us who have experienced them."
She opened the paper on the dais, and continued. "As Captain Broderson first explained, Cellers consist of the characters contained in the cartoon shows seen on television, and other 'animated' films. They are not, as had been widely thought and explained for reasons of logistics, merely 'drawings,' but are every bit as real as the people you meet and work with every day."
Misty motioned to Kim to stand and join her at the dais. Kim rose, looking over the expanse of delegates, now with every eye on her as she walked to Misty's side. As she stepped to the dais, her image came onto the large screens overhead, which produced a low buzz of talk throughout the delegations on the floor. Misty offered a small gesture of reassurance, placing her arm around Kim. "This is Ms. Kimberly Hodge. Some of you, some of your children, or even some of your parents, may recognize her as 'Kim Possible.' She was the main character in the television show of the same name, the production run of which ran from 2002 to 2007...and, she is also a person living in Eastern Pennsylvania. As can be seen before you now, Cellers do exist. The only things preventing them from being a part of nearly everyone's lives are, as would be guessed, acceptance of the fact that these 'cartoon characters' exist outside of television screens, and are an actual physical presence...just as much as any of the actors in movies and other shows on television or theater screens.
"As with any other regional or territorial name to differentiate countries, both the place that we know, and the place that Cellers know as 'home'...have different names. For purposes of clarity, the existence we know now - where we live, work and play...is referred to as 'the Flesher environment.' The people you have been around all your lives are known as 'Fleshers.' To make a distinction...the existence--" she motioned again to Kim "--where these people live, work and play...is referred to as 'the Celler environment.' Its inhabitants are known as 'Cellers.' If you will note in your documentation packs distributed earlier, there is a process by which Cellers move from their environment into the Flesher environment. This process is known as the Cross. It stands for 'Cross-phasic Replication over Sympathic Systems.' This process involves a mirrored surface, by which the Celler makes the transition into the Flesher environment."
Misty now adjusted her paper slightly. "The first Cross occurred on February 4th, 1986. This process has increased in number since then. As of the last count, done on July 1st, 2019, there are now a total of 78,462 Cellers living in the Flesher environment, in various locations around the world." This caused another low buzz among the delegates for a few seconds. "They live here, they work here, they move through their lives here, just as every one of you. Kim has worked in an insurance company in Pennsylvania for nearly fifteen years, and holds the position of Head of the Processing Department. She earned that position through hard work and commitment - the same hard work performed by anyone else who achieves.
"Kim's Cross occurred on the night of December 8th, 2002." Misty then reached behind Kim to motion to William, who approached to join them at the dais. Misty placed her hand on William's shoulder as she continued. "About six months after that, she and Mr. William Hodge were wed...the very first wedding between a Flesher and a Celler. They are a very happy and loving couple. Loving to the extent that, nine months after their wedding, they gave birth to a daughter...the first, and to our knowledge, only instance to date of offspring from an inter-environmental marriage." She moved to the dais. "This is their daughter, 15-year old Kimi Hodge."
Mark reached over and pressed a button on the panel the plug came from. Misty pressed the blue center button on the Kimmunicator. There was a flit of static - then the large twin overhead screens filled with Kimi's image, seated in the chair in front of the blue wall. Another wave of conversation buzzed through the delegation. "Because of the inter-environmental mix of her parents, she has traits of both environments. Even though she has a similar appearance to her Celler mother," Misty added, "she was born and raised here in the Flesher environment...just as any of your sons or daughters. This is also listed in your documentation packs, and can be taken as further proof of the physical existence of Cellers."
Misty leaned toward the blue device. "You're live, Ki," she said quietly. With that, she folded the paper she had brought, slipped it back into her pocket and moved away from the dais, making a gesture to the seats. Kim and William also returned to their places to the right of the dais.
Mark stepped again to the dais, sliding his folder back to the middle. Kimi's image remained on the screens as he spoke:
"In the spring of 2013, a motion was brought before the 72nd Session of the Assembly which first attempted to establish the existence of the Celler environment, and its inhabitants' interaction with the Flesher environment. The resolution was No. 2013-106...otherwise known as CENAP...the Cross-Environment Non-Aggression Pact. It placed restrictions on the military factions of both environments from taking action on behalf of the other. It was mainly written to confirm difficulties in the logistics of crossing environments. It was originally meant to...smooth...the action of acceptance and integration between environments. At the time of first engaging in co-writing CENAP, I was aware of the existence of Cellers...but I had not met one. The extent of my interactions was through Ms. Visione's actions as a liaison for the Celler environment, and telephone conversations with some members of the Celler community. I had not met one...but I was still sure that Cellers were 'real people'.
"A little over a year before the CENAP resolution was voted on and passed...I had a first-hand exposure to Cellers. On the night of March 11th, 2012, a Celler woman by the name of Melfina crossed into this environment, and we were introduced. Later that year, Melfina became my wife."
Mark's expression now changed slightly, his brow furrowing a little. "As we are all aware, the world has a long history of groups bent on making a point to the world...and using terroristic violence as their primary mouthpiece to drive home their point, whatever it might be. The instances of this terror in modern times range from the killing of the entire Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972, to the Sarin gas attack on a commuter train in Japan in 1995, to the attacks in 2001 which destroyed both of the World Trade Center towers in the very city that surrounds this complex, to the bombing in the TWA terminal in Chicago's O'Hare airport in 2006. While on vacation in Cairo in the month of June of the same year CENAP was passed, I was personally introduced to this terror...my wife Melfina was killed in the bombing of a small market. She was not the intended target of the bombing, but she paid the ultimate price none the less. It was this incident which fueled my further efforts and accomplishments in the area and art of criminal investigation." Mark paused as another spate of conversation swept the floor.
"In early June of this year, the Hodge family also came face to face with this brand of terror. During a family trip to Cairo, Ms. Hodge was abducted and held for ransom. Our first thoughts were that a local terrorist faction was behind this action...but none of the 'traditional' motives fit into the scenario. A couple of days later, we were informed by an intelligence contact in the Celler environment that, about a month before the abduction, one of the scheduled Crosses was...breached...hacked, if you will...by dark elements from the Celler environment. The Crosses are normally blocked from such elements entering this environment. Their sole purpose in making the Cross was to do away with Ms. Hodge. And, as this was a matter involving a not only a Celler hostage, but hostile factions of the Celler environment as her captors in the Flesher environment, the incident immediately fell under the limitations of the CENAP Pact with regards to the option of use of the military toward a resolution. To sum up? My hands were tied in the matter from a standpoint of the initial resources available to myself."
While Mark spoke, the audio channel of the Kimmunicator was still open - and as she listened to the Captain recount the horror that visited her family, the effect became plain in Kimi's face, both on the screen of the small device on the dais and the large screens overhead. She looked a bit away from the webcam, her eyes becoming slightly glassy, and her brow lowering somewhat.
Mark continued. "Both Ms. Visione' and myself were among the senior members of the staff that drafted the CENAP Pact. As such, I hold strong knowledge of the Pact and its intent, as well as what is and what is not covered under its scope. The day after the call from the Celler intelligence contact, I combed through CENAP very closely, looking for a solution that would not violate the very pact that I took part in drafting. The solution that came to me was actually very similar to what would have been formulated, had the military option been plausible...a small force, well-versed in martial arts for close combat, and possessing the ability to use non-lethal arms in neutralizing members of the captor force.
"A day after going through CENAP'S parameters, I found exactly what was needed. The subject was a non-military entity, and was already well advanced in the art of Kempo Karate. The only other thing was training in the area of firearms...which the subject adapted to with amazing speed and comfort with the weapon of choice...a pistol firing cartridges filled with a strong tranquilizer...a weapon not within CENAP restrictions.
"The training was completed within three weeks...and the subject embarked on a mission to gain entry into the location of the captors...defeat them...rescue Ms. Hodge...and send the hostile Celler elements back to their own environment...and to justice. The subject engaged and neutralized ten guards armed with pistols and knives...and a sword. The subject defeated this force single-handedly. The subject then proceeded to neutralize half of the hostile Celler threat, and free Ms. Hodge. With the help of Ms. Hodge, who is herself an accomplished fourth-degree black belt in the same art of Kempo, the subject neutralized the rest of the Celler threat...and then single-handedly activated a portal to send them back to the Celler environment.
"As a result of activating the portal, the subject was actually drawn into it. This action, were it to be even attempted by you or I, or any other Flesher, it would be immediately fatal. The subject is not able to be with us at this time, because of the unintended and unforeseen effects of the portal's activation. The subject was safeguarded from the effects of going through the portal...because the subject, as a consequence of genetics...has been blessed with the same skin and eyes possessed by Cellers. The subject that took on ten armed guards and two Celler villains...defeated them all, single-handedly...and rescued her mother--" The conversation among the delegates started at this point, and began to build as Mark turned slowly, sweeping his arm up in the direction of the large overhead screens "--is her fifteen year old daughter...Ms. Kimi Hodge."
The floor came alive at Mark's revelation. Many of the delegates switched between talking amongst each other at a feverish, amazed pace and looking up at the image of Kimi on the screens. Mark's voice rose above them. "Because of CENAP," he said, "this young girl was her mother's last hope against evil." He then swept his arm in Kim's direction. "Because of CENAP...the military of not only the United States...but of the world...was powerless to take any action to save this woman. Because of CENAP...this entire family was subjected to the ordeal and imminent threat of penultimate horror against them for weeks longer than they should."
Mark now lowered his eyes to the dais in front of him. "When I took the action to co-write the CENAP Pact...I was doing what I thought at that time was the right thing...and stood behind it, and its consequences. When I took the action to train Kimi to combat her mother's captors...I was doing what I thought at that time was the right thing...and stood behind it, and its consequences. Both I and Kimi were given the chance to make right--" he swept his had to Kim again "--and you see the consequences now before you." Mark now lifted his head, seeming to look to the very back of the hall. "I accepted responsibility for CENAP when I helped to write it, with the intent to make right. I accepted responsibility in the mission to train Kimi, with the intent to make right. I took these actions, knowing the fact that Cellers are 'real people'...as real as anyone else is. Knowing and realizing what I do today - that which I did not know or realize then - I now ask this Assembly to accept responsibility...to focus on the intent to make right...and to acknowledge that Cellers are real people. I ask this Assembly to make right by rectifying a mistake, and rescinding Resolution 2013-106. Rescind the Cross-Environment Non-Aggression Pact. Remove the possibility of a family member again taking an action that should rightfully be taken through the same processes that, by right, every other person on this Earth is entitled to. The Cellers on our television screens are every bit as real as any of the other actors on it...and it is time they be given the same rights and protections as every one of us. It's time to count them as what they have been all along...'real people'." Mark looked to the dais again, closing his folder and slipping it under his arm. "Mr. And Ms. Hodge, Kimi, Ms. Visione and I thank the Assembly for this time, and your consideration."
With that, Mark turned off the Kimmunicator, putting it back into his jacket pocked, and turned to his right. The two uniformed men walked off the platform toward the double doors and opened them. Kim, Misty and William rose from their chairs, preparing to follow Mark as he passed. As Mark reached them, his eyes never wavered from the doors they had come through. The group was within a few feet of the doorway when they were stopped by a sound - a sound that they hadn't expected--
A couple of the delegates were applauding.
Mark and Misty turned their head to the delegation floor. As they did, a few more delegates joined in the applause. It continued until a large number of the delegation was engaged in applause, a few of them even standing as they continued to clap.
Kim and William slid an arm around each other as they took in the sight. Mark turned to look at them - then at Misty - as he felt her hand warmly closing around his.
As they walked through the doorway, Misty suddenly reached to fold her arms around Mark. "Wow," she burst as she hugged the tall Captain tightly, "I just-- wow. They were applauding you! That was just incredible."
"I don't think it was me they were applauding," Mark said.
William reached for Mark's hand, shaking it. "Very moving speech," he said. "For those few moments, you were the voice of an entire people."
"I just hope it made the case to them," said Mark.
Misty looked at Mark, motioning her hand in the direction of the Assembly hall. "Are you kidding? You rocked the house! I wouldn't be surprised if they made a motion to vote down the pact this month!"
A knock came at the double doors. One of the uniformed men opened the door slightly and was handed a slip of paper. He unfolded it, reading for a second, then turned to the group. "A few of the delegates have some questions concerning the presentation," he said.
"I can field those," said Misty. She then tipped a finger in the direction of Kim and William. "I think there are some people wanting to get back to their home."
"Thanks Misty," Mark said, passing her the folder he was holding. "You have my cell number if you need any help."
Misty turned and drew Kim into a hug. "Welcome back again, honey," she said. "I'll be talking with you, probably tomorrow. I'll be back in Eastgate by then."
"Really?" Kim mused.
"Well, yeah," Misty replied. "Who do you think is bringing back the crystal and stuff for Kimi's Cross on Tuesday?"
This produced a giggle from Kim. She placed a finger on her forehead. "Oh yeah...doi."
Misty reached for another hug. "I'll talk to you then, kiddo."
Kim suddenly jumped a bit as she felt a twinge at the top of her head. She pulled from the hug rather abruptly. "...ow?" she said, rubbing at her scalp. She then looked to Misty, who was now holding a strand of Kim's auburn hair between her thumb and forefinger.
Misty reached into her jacket pocket for a small plastic bag. "Sorry about that," she smirked, "but...I believe you were aware of the need of a DNA sample to reestablish your Celler iteration..."
Kim rubbed a finger along her head. "Yeah...I just wasn't aware of the pain--" she lowered her brow, wincing slightly "--or the sneakiness." Both Mark and Misty burst into laughter at this.
William leaned over to Kim, placing a soft kiss on the top of her head. "Let's go home," he said. "I'll take a couple of hours and kiss it all better."
Kim suddenly turned to Misty. "Can I give you a list of places to pinch me?" she said, tipping a thumb back to her husband. "I want to take aalll the advantage of this offer that I can!"
Misty leaned against Mark, laughing helplessly. "I th-think you better get these two back to Eastgate before they spontaneously combust."
Mark chuckled. "Let's go catch a plane, guys," he said, then turning to Misty. "I'll talk to you tonight, if nothing else comes up." He, Kim and William then started for the elevator as one of the uniformed men spoke into the comm device on his shoulder to call for their car to be brought around.
Mark drove to JFK Airport, where they boarded back onto the military Lear jet. Due to a slight scheduling delay in the control tower, it was near 2PM by the time they departed for the return to Eastgate.
Eastgate Airport, Runway 22 East
The Lear slowed at the end of the runway, preparing to turn onto the approach to a terminal to the north.
"Okay, I got one," Mark said. "What about the fight in the movie, 'So The Drama'? The big brawl on the chandelier in the 'Bermuda Triangle' night club?"
"Nope," Kim smiled broadly, "no wires there, either."
"What if you would have fallen off the chandelier?"
"A large array of mats on the floor."
"Haaa," Mark drew out with a grin, shaking his finger. "I've got you there. I've seen that movie. The overhead shot when you swing out over the edge of the chandelier, you can see the floor below. There aren't any mats."
Kim smirked. "You mean you saw the matte painting overlay that was put over the mats in post-production."
"Sooo, you really weren't 50 feet in the air?"
"Hardly," Kim snickered. "More like 15."
"But even so," Mark countered, still smiling, "a fall from that height, and you could have easily been injured."
Kim giggled a little harder now. "I can see I'll have to remind Melfina when I see her to catch you up on the differences between the Flesher and Celler environments. There isn't anywhere near the mass that there is here. Watch the movie again...there are several times during that fight that I land flat on my back on the floor. If there was much mass there, I would probably still be in traction."
Mark looked toward his hands as he slowly passed them across each other. "Ooo-kay," he acquiesced, "so you did all your own stunts...and there were no wires or other safety measures..."
Kim shook her head slowly, still with a wide "I win" grin on her face. "Nooo, I never said that. I did my own stunts...but there were some that required safeguards. For instance, remember 'Monkey Fist Strikes'? There's no way I would have done the fall off the mountain in the beginning or the fall into the spiky pit without wires and a harness."
William leaned past Kim to Mark. "Don't feel too bad," he said. "Even after sixteen years of marriage, I'm still learning things about the Celler environment. It's not something you completely absorb in a month or even a year."
Kim turned to William as the cell in Mark's jacket rang. "Why don't you make a copy of that paper that Wade sent you when we get home? Mark could get a lot of information on the Cross from that."
"Good idea," said William.
Mark opened his phone, bringing it to his face. "Broderson."
A female voice came through the phone, loud enough for Kim and even William to hear. "Mark! Don't you dare let that phone out of your sight."
Mark gave Kim and William a look out of the corner of his eye, sure that they had heard Misty's tone, rather excited and slightly short of breath. "Not a problem," he said. "I always have this within arm's reach. Everything okay there?"
"Okay?" Misty replied. "After you left and I went back out to the floor, there were about a bazillion questions for me. I didn't get out of there until about 2...and they've been talking ever since then. I got a note a few minutes ago from one of the escorts. Mark...I think they're really revved up about this. When are you having dinner?"
"I'll be at Kim and William's," said Mark. "I'll be having supper there."
"I might be here a while longer," Misty said, "then I can head over there after I get a plane back to Eastgate."
"Call me when you know when your flight is scheduled to arrive," Mark said. "I can have a car waiting to bring you here." He then covered the phone and turned quickly to Kim. "About what time?"
"Sometime between 6 and 7," said Kim.
Mark turned back to his cell. "Supper between 6 and 7. We'll save you a plate."
"Sounds good," said Misty. "I'll probably be leaving here around 4...I can certainly make the--" she was interrupted "--just-just a second Mark," she said. There was a quick sound of paper - then a drawn-out "Whooaa," from Misty. "Mark...I just got another note," she said eagerly. "Looks like I might be bringing something else back with me."
"An answer. There's a motion on the floor to start a vote on rescinding the CENAP Pact within the next 20 minutes. They're going to vote on it today."
To be continued...