It happened, as such things always do, with brutal suddenness.
"Last day of school, and double-cheese pizza day!" Ron crowed as he sat down at the lunch table, his tray stacked high with slices of his second-favorite food. "It is a good day to be Ron Stoppable!"
"Cheese!" Rufus squealed in agreement, hopping onto the table and grabbing a slice.
"You know, girlfriend," Monique said, laying a hand on Kim's shoulder. "It wouldn't make you a bad GF if you fled the scene before it gets ugly. You have your own appetite to consider."
"No, it's okay, Monique," Kim said, deliberately focusing her attention on the other girl as Ron swallowed a slice whole. "We all make allowances and adjustments for the people we love." She blanched as Ron unhinged his jaw again. "I just haven't decided if I'm going to allow or ask for an adjust on this."
Monique nodded. That was wise. Which made her think that Kim's mother was probably the one who'd said it first. "So what're y'all doing this summer?" She asked, changing the subject.
"Well, we're going to cheer camp again," Kim began.
"At Wannaweep," Ron moaned, actually losing the rhythm of his eating for a moment. "We return to the place of eeevvillll."
Rufus whined in agreement.
"Ron, the last two times we've been there, you've been the one to save us. You keep saying that Wannaweep is the one place that you know the score, so why are you so scared of it?"
"Because sooner or later, my luck will run out," he answered grimly.
"Uh-huh, uh-huh," Rufus agreed, nodding with his whole body.
"The evil of Wannaweep is too great to be overcome." Ron finished.
Kim just looked at him for a second, then turned back to Monique. "Other than that, pretty much same old, same old."
"Freak-fighting, world-saving, naco-eating, and shopping at Club Banana?"
"That's the – " a familiar four-note beep sounded, and Kim pulled the Kimmunicator out of her backpack. "Go, Wade."
"Kim! You need to get out of there! Now!"
"What's the sitch?" She asked, rising from her seat. She'd rarely seen Wade look this frightened, not even when the Diablo had been trying to smash him. The emergency had to be dire.
"No time to explain, just run!"
Ron had already scooped up Rufus and started for the door. Monique, sensing their urgency, got up and started following them.
That was when the cafeteria's outside doors blew in off their hinges.
Of course, everyone did. After a moment of stunned paralysis, the students of Middleton High, half-blind and –deaf from the blast, began a panicked, stumbling stampede for the exits.
That stampede was cut off before it could even really begin when red-garbed syntho-drones began to pour in through the doors.
"Nobody leaves!" A familiar voice called. "I want the princess to have plenty of innocent bystanders to worry about."
"Shego," Kim hissed, turning to face the hole in the wall where the outside exit had been, her fists raised.
So it was. Instead of entering like she usually would have, springing to the attack like a cat, the green woman strode in like a conquering general, flanked by a guard of syntho-drones. Drakken followed in her wake, looking even more cowery than usual. In fact, the blue scientist looked genuinely reluctant to be there.
Shego's hand was already flaming as she raised it and pointed at Kim. "Come quietly, Princess," She said, raising her other hand and pointing it in the general direction of the other students. "Or it's not just you who'll wish you had."
Kim stood her ground and said nothing, her mind racing. Her enemies had put innocents in danger before; that was part of what made them villains. They'd even taken hostages before – the occasion that stuck out in her mind was the time with the Seniors and the hypno-disco-ball, and the party full of European dignitaries. But she couldn't remember any of them ever actually using hostages against her. Not unless you counted Eric, which she didn't. Her hostage-sitch negotiation skills usually involved crawling through air vents.
A heavy, sour ball of fear settled in her stomach, although she kept her face steady. She didn't have a lot of options, and none of them were good. She might've actually considered surrendering, if she'd believed for a second that doing so would guarantee her classmates' safety.
"Tick-tock, Kimmie," Shego taunted, the fire on her hands flaring higher and spreading past her wrist. "No battle suit this time, so you can't return anything I serve at you. Of course you can dodge, like you always have before – " She grinned, a sharp-toothed grin, as malicious as a cat toying with a mouse. " – but I think your little friends might catch some shrapnel."
That was what Kim was afraid – no, terrified – of.
"What?" An indignant voice screeched suddenly.
Startled by the interruption, all heads turned toward the source of the voice.
"You're telling me that this is all about her? My lunch got trampled and I got cement-dust in my hair and it's all about her?"
"Actually, you have promising careers as hostages and human shields in front of you," Shego said, turning her attention back to Kim. "But she's the only one here who actually matters. Now shut – "
That did it. "I…don't…think so!" Bonnie shouted, swinging her leg up in a perfect cheerleading high kick into the chin of the syntho-drone in front of her. The drone's face was shoved halfway back into its head, and it staggered back a few steps.
In that moment, the students of Middleton High sixth period lunch realized two things that had already occurred to Bonnie: 1) the hulking figures blocking the doors held no weapons and 2) there were only a few dozen of those hulking figures against nearly two hundred of them.
With that, the rumble was on.
"What the hell are you doing?" Shego shrieked, turning fully toward the students and syntho-drones, her flame halfway up her forearms.
"Uh…Shego," Drakken said timidly. "Things are starting to get a little out of control, here. Maybe we should – "
"Maybe you should shut up," she snapped.
"Yes ma'am," He squeaked.
Ron took advantage of the distraction to flip a table up onto its side and pull Monique down behind the makeshift barricade. She went willingly. Kim ducked in with them.
"Okay, Ron, I'm going for Shego. You show the rest how to fight syntho-drones, and then get them out of here. Something's weird about Shego, and I don't want to take any chances."
Grabbing a kiss for luck, Kim leaped out from behind the shelter and charged across the room, hoping that Shego would stay distracted. Within arm's reach, Shego's advantage was minimized; the fewer blasts she had to dodge the better.
"So how do you fight syntho-drones?" Monique asked, huddling closer to Ron as the sound of explosions started to come from the other side of the table. She so wasn't suited for this freak-fighting thing.
Lessons were very much needed. Despite their superior numbers, the fight wasn't going well for the Middleton High students. The syntho-drones were stronger and faster than human, and they were virtually immune to blunt trauma. The one Bonnie had kicked was back in the fight, its face back to its original shape. Brick had already landed several blows that would have left a human being out cold on the floor, all to no effect. He had now joined several of his fellow football players in trying to form a line of scrimmage, to open a way through to the doors by main force so at least some of their fellow students could escape. It wasn't working. Tara was dragging Josh Mankey away from the fight with the left side of his face bruising black and his eyes rolled back in his head.
"You fight them like this," Ron said, taking hold of Rufus's tail. The naked mole rat instantly went rigid, his limbs splayed. Then Ron drew back his arm and threw his friend like a shuriken.
If syntho-drones could hold grudges, then the one that Bonnie had kicked surely was. It was coming after her hard, and it was all she could do to avoid getting smashed like Josh had. She was ducking, dodging, and weaving, trying to avoid punches and kicks that were coming much faster than she would have expected from such a massive, bulky-looking thing, when something pink hit it in the face. The syntho-drone staggered back away from her, and for a second she had no idea what was going on. Then the pink thing sunk its claws into the syntho-drone's face and bit down hard, and she realized what had happened. Then a fountain of green goo erupted from the syntho-drone's ruptured mask, and she realized why it had happened.
"Syntho-drone number seven-six-three will terminate operationnnnn"
She wasn't particularly happy that the green goo landed all over her, but she was too glad that her attacker was collapsing into an empty rubber suit to even complain.
She saw Rufus crawl out from under the fallen syntho-drone. Before he could attempt to scurry away through the surging brawl, she reached down and snatched him up. "Oh, get up here before you get stepped on, you gross little thing. I'm already covered in slime – you can't be any worse."
Did that freaky little thing just talk?
No time to worry about that. As Rufus mounted her shoulder, she shouted to the rest of the cafeteria: "Cut them! We need to cut them!"
Kim had fought Shego dozens of times. Enough that she was pretty sure she'd learned the older woman's moves, her style. Shego had done the same with her, of course. That was why their battles were such intricate dances of feint, dodge, and block, with few blows truly landing – and the fight often ending with the first one. They were both master martial artists, experts at the science of causing devastation with each strike while avoiding being struck themselves.
It was also part of the reason that Shego had had so much trouble with Kim during the Diablo fight: with the battle suit, the girl hadn't needed to dodge her flaming hands; she could block and retaliate. The change in tactics had thrown Shego off.
Now Kim was finding out what it was like. The green woman's arms were sheathed in flame to the elbows, which was bad enough – more to dodge, harder to block. But worse, instead of the usual dance, the usual strategic chess-match, Shego was just trying to smash her. That could have been a benefit: Shego was using few of her moves, using far more blocks than dodges, just taking hits as they came in. The problem was that none of those hits, neither the ones she blocked nor the ones she just took had anywhere near the effect they should have. A kick to the face that should have ended the fight just bloodied her lip. A hit to the leg that should have paralyzed it made her stagger for a second or two. A hit to the stomach bent her double for about half a second. Worse, she was no slower than she'd ever been, but she seemed much stronger.
Kim was entirely on the defensive. It was a bad place to be. Shego was backing her across the room, destroying furniture with each swing.
"So what's the plan this time, Shego?" Kim asked, ducking a flaming slash that took a chunk out of a concrete column on its way past. "Cloning me again? Did Drakken come up with something that wouldn't dissolve when somebody spills their soda on it?"
"No plan, Pumpkin," Shego said, drawing back her plasma-wreathed claw for a blow. Kim snatched up a tray and blocked it, but the tray was destroyed in the process. "Just payback."
Kim backflipped over a table, then flipped it up to put a wall between them.
"Oh, it would've been more fun if you'd come with us, given us time to work on you – "
Kim's blood went cold.
"But I'll settle for crushing you right here and now!"
She split the table in two with one slash and kept coming.
"Cut them! We need to cut them!"
Doug Rourke was one of the thugs of Middleton High. Truth be told, it was more menacing appearance and reputation than anything else. It was hard to be an actual thug in a school that contained both Steve Barkin and Kim Possible. Still, he was carrying something in the pocket of his black leather jacket that would have gotten him in serious trouble with both of Middleton High's defenders if he'd ever even threatened to use it.
That was okay. He'd never really wanted to use it. He just liked having his butterfly knife with him. It made him feel like more of a bad-ass. Seemed like the time had come, though.
He pulled the knife out of his pocket, flipped it open, and slashed at the nearest red-suited figure. He caught it on the arm, and it immediately began to spew something that looked like runny snot.
"Syntho-drone number eight five nine will terminate operrraaatiooo"
"She's right! Cut 'em! Cut 'em!"
For one brief, shining moment, the members of the Math Club – and the compasses they had in their backpacks – were heroes.
But just knowing how to hurt the syntho-drones wasn't enough. The syntho-drones were still stronger, still faster, still better fighters. The students were being driven back, scattered throughout the cafeteria. Dozens of them littered the floor – some unconscious, some injured and groaning. Ron had charged into the fray, but he wasn't nearly help enough – he still had to fight his way through to a Math Club member before he could even get his hands on anything sharp.
But there was one other factor that hadn't yet come into play.
Felix Renton had been in the bathroom when Shego had blasted her way into the lunch room – less than five minutes ago, though none of the participants in the desperate battle would have believed it.
It had taken a few moments to arrange himself and get back in his chair – his dead legs made things that would have been absurdly simple for his classmates more difficult than they suspected – but then he'd burst out of the bathroom at a full charge.
He'd needed to take to the air immediately, or he never would have been able to get through the stampede of students fleeing the lunch room area and the marching, red-suited…soldiers?
No. He joined the battle just in time to hear the shouts of "Cut 'em" and see several of the "soldiers" collapse into piles of green slop.
Good. No need to hold back, then.
A freshman named Ben Lear was bracing himself for the pain as a syntho-drone raised him up off the floor by his lapels and drew back its fist – then a steel claw burst out of drone's chest, dripping slime, and Ben fell to the floor.
Not taking the time to question the source of his good fortune, he scuttled away and looked for a table to hide under.
"Do you know how long it took to fix my hair after what you did to me?" Shego demanded, slashing again. Kim dodged. "Especially with what they've got available in prison?"
Kim dropped beneath Shego's next slash and swept her feet out from under her. "Don't GJ prisons have a men's wing?" She asked, coming back to her feet and taking a guard stance as Shego rolled and came back up. "You could have had some of your fellow inmates give you some conditioner."
"You set me up with a syntho-drone. I owe you."
Felix hit the lunch room like a storm front, his tentacles lashing wildly, slicing and puncturing syntho-drones with each pass. He broke the phalanx in front of one of the doors in seconds, and students began to pour out.
The syntho-drones, trying to obey their orders (and preserve their own existence, the prerequisite for successfully obeying said orders) tried to push the students further into the lunch room, but only succeeded in scattering the fight. The Bricks, Rons, Bonnies, Moniques, and Dougs of the school swarmed each syntho-drone under in groups of six or more, holding them down and stabbing the goo out of them with whatever sharp things they had at hand, while the Ben Lears made their escape.
Kim flipped over the serving counter into the kitchen, half-expecting Shego to simply smash through the steel and concrete barrier. But no, Shego flipped over it as well.
But before the fight could resume, they both heard the sounds of the battle change: cries of fear and pain changing to shouts of triumph; one syntho-drone after another announcing their termination; the hum of Felix's engines; Drakken shouting "Shego!"
"No!" Shego shrieked, hearing the sound of her victory slipping out of her fingers. She spun around and fired a blast that sheered away one of Felix's engines.
Felix worked his chair's controls grimly as he tried to pull it out of its spiral. It wasn't going to work. He was going to hit hard, and he'd be lucky if he came out of it with the same number of functional limbs.
Time to bail.
"Help!" He shouted as he unlatched his flight-safety belt. The chair spilled him on its next roll, and he tucked his head into his arms and waited for the pain as the floor shot up to meet him. Instead, two big arms plucked him out of the air.
"I gotcha, little buddy."
Felix had just enough time to look up and see Brick's face, cheerful in spite of its black eye, before a syntho-fist slammed into the side of his head and everything went black.
The syntho-drones, having recognized that Felix was the greatest threat to their continued functioning, did not compute that the threat had been neutralized. That threat needed to be eliminated. They tried to pull him out of Brick's arms, but the big boy simply hunched himself around the smaller one protectively and refused to let go, even though that meant he couldn't defend himself when they started to pound on him.
"Yes!" Shego hissed, unholy satisfaction replacing the frustration that had been in her voice a second before.
Then Kim hit her in the back of the head with a frying pan, and she dropped to the floor, making no sounds at all.
Kim dropped the pan – there was a soft thump and a semiconscious grunt instead of a clang – and started running. She didn't have time to waste on a personal duel right now. She flipped back over the serving counter and raced across the floor. Then, when she got close enough, she launched into a series of handsprings that carried her into – and through – the group of syntho-drones that were so determined to beat Brick and Felix to death. The drones scattered, thrown and flipped and knocked away. Swarms of other students fell on them before they could recover.
"Thanks, Possible," Brick gasped.
"No big, just – "
A scream of rage sounded from the kitchen, and the serving counter exploded. Shego strode through smoking ruins – the smashed concrete, the twisted metal, the glass that had melted and run like ice. Her flame was creeping past her elbows now, and – the hell? – her eyes were glowing?
"Just get Felix out of here!" Kim shouted, pushing Brick toward the now-clear doors.
"Right! Good idea!"
He took off as Kim turned to face Shego, ready to start dodging blasts. Instead, Shego raised a blazing hand and pointed. "Get her!" She shouted. "I'm not playing duck hunt this time!"
The remaining syntho-drones – all seven or eight of them – broke off the fight and charged at Kim, obeying their new order. Kim leaped high to kick and spun low to sweep. She threw, she flipped, she dodged. Syntho-drones went flying in all directions, over and over again, but still she was in trouble. She had no means to hurt them, and syntho-drones didn't get tired. And if they caught her, Shego wouldn't have a moving target anymore.
Then, suddenly, one froze and collapsed in the midst of reaching for her. Monique stood behind it, her Club Banana clothes torn and the right side of her mouth badly swelled, but grinning anyway. One of the math club's compasses was in her hand, dripping syntho-goo from its pointy end. "I think I'm getting the hang of this freak-fighting thing," she said.
"Good," Kim said. "Because there's more of it to do."
And there was. The syntho-drones she'd just thrown were picking themselves up again.
"Possible!" A voice called.
Kim turned to face it. She knew Doug Rourke by sight and reputation, but no more. He was holding something shiny and rectangular in his hand.
"Catch!" He called.
The object flipped through the air, then smacked into her hand. She folded it open and grinned. "That's better," she said, settling down into a surprisingly competent knife-fighter's stance.
Just because she didn't choose to use certain skills often didn't mean she didn't have them.
The syntho-drones charged again…or tried. Many of the students had fled when Shego had turned her troops' attention away from them. But there were those who had not. As the syntho-drones did their best to obey Shego's orders, Kim slashed, Monique – and Bonnie! – stabbed, and the other students swarmed them under.
Then the ground and walls started to explode with green fire.
"No!" Shego shouted. "Not this time! You don't get away this time, not after that crack about conditioner! I don't care who I have to go through, you're going – "
Something hit her upside the head. Something hot and slimy, something that smelled vaguely like microwaved dog food.
"You can stop it with the pot-shots now!" A familiar voice called.
Some more of the dripping grey slime hit her, this time in the shoulder. This suit was ruined. It was in her hair, the stink would take days to wash out. Hot grease dripped down her neck.
She could feel a roar, deep and guttural, starting deep in her chest as she turned toward her tormenter. "Rhhhaaa…"
Ron dug the ladle back into the pot of mystery meat that he had grabbed from the kitchen. Who knew this stuff would ever actually be good for something, even if it was just for chemical warfare? He saw Shego turning toward him and he raised the ladle for another throw…then dropped it again.
Actual fire was pouring from her eyes, and as she opened her mouth to roar, green light was rising up her throat.
"KP," he whispered in a voice that had no air in it. "KP, help. Sidekick in trouble."
"…aaaaaggh!" Shego raised her flaming arms.
Then something hit him, hard, and he was skidding across the floor and he hit something else and just before everything went dark, he could have sworn something exploded.
Someone was shaking him.
"Ron! Ron, wake up!"
"I can't go to school, mom, I'm sick, I have a headache…"
Then Rufus was tugging on his ear, squeaking "Kim! Kim! Kim!"
That woke him up. He sat up abruptly, nearly throwing Rufus. The sudden move nearly made him pass out again, but he closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, and the dizziness passed.
Then he opened his eyes, and wished he had passed out again.
An entire wall of the cafeteria was gone. In its place, a huge pile of rubble sprawled out into the parking lot. Some of the cars had been smashed by debris, but others had been flipped over and thrown by the force of the blast itself.
"Come on, Shego! We need to go, we need to get out of here!"
Drakken was physically dragging Shego out the gaping hole in the wall, hoping that their hover-saucer hadn't been damaged by the blast. He'd never seen Shego put out so much power at one time – never imagined she could, actually. But it seemed to have cost her. Her fire was out for the first time since they'd landed, and she seemed dazed. What's more, she looked…different, somehow.
"What happened?" She asked. "What's happened here? What's going on?"
"We attacked and blew up a high school!" He shouted. "They don't send teenagers or Global Justice agents when you do that! They send men with machine guns and planes with bombs! We need to get out of here!"
Shego looked around at the damage, horror on her face. "We did this?"
"Well, you did most of it, but that's not the issue right now…"
"I did this? My God, what have I done? Was anybody hurt?"
Drakken finally figured out why she looked different. For some reason, her eyes had turned brown.
No time to ponder that. He shoved her into the hover-saucer and leaped behind the controls. She was in no condition to drive right now. But he could answer her question.
"Yes," He said.
"Ron?" Monique was kneeling at his side – she was apparently the one who'd been trying to wake him up. She hooked an arm around his shoulders, helped him stay sitting up. "You okay?" She asked.
"I guess so," he said. "Where's – "
"Can you stand up?"
"In a second. Why?"
"We need your help, Ron – you and Rufus." She pointed at the pile of rubble.
"Kim is under there."