"You know, Ron, that when you take a test, you aren't supposed to literally 'take the test.'"
Ron moaned and slapped the bundle of paper against his face. "Ouch. I know, Kim. I know! It was an accident! Barkin was yelling at me, and I had all my homework on his desk, and then you were yelling at me, and that freshman's nosebleed was just getting worse—I still claim no responsibility whatsoever for that—and… I just grabbed everything and ran!" He smacked himself again; it kept him from accidentally seeing the questions. Not that he needed to see them. To his surprise, he had actually enjoyed Ethan Frome.
Kim sighed and grabbed the test from him. "It's okay. I'm sure Barkin will understand. But right now we really need to—" She jumped backwards into a flip as Shego sprang down with her hands already glowing like cheap bug zappers. "Just put the test back in your bag! We'll return it later!" She deftly parried a blow from Shego.
No, it probably wasn't the right time to worry about having accidentally stolen a test. Here they were in Drakken's lair, plans—just as stolen—for a death ray some random and well-meaning scientist had invented in need of being returned. But here the test was, still in his hands…. "Barkin is going to think I'm cheating, Kim!"
A whirling kick from Shego sent Kim crashing into a table. A quick recovery and Kim was on its surface, arms and legs ready to jump back for an attack. "Ron, it's really not the time! Really!"
Kim didn't understand. She never understood. "If he flunks me, I'm not graduating! Do you realize that? Do you not care?"
Now the table was on its side, Kim and Shego next to it, locked in an uncharacteristic grapple. "Does he never stop talking?" Shego asked.
Barkin was going to hate him for this. Ron was sure of that. Barkin was going to kill him. Why did he have to find out now? He had opened his backpack to put in the plans Kim had found lying on the now-Shego-shredded table, and there it was. Barkin's test for the novel Ethan Frome. What this unit's grade depended on. He now knew what to study. But he hadn't read the test. And he wouldn't. He would be honest this time! But Barkin already hated him. Barkin wouldn't see it that way. And Kim didn't care.
Of course, Kim was busy knocking Shego into a wall.
Maybe Barkin didn't realize the test was missing yet….
"Give me those papers, Kimmie!" Shego snarled. Her glowing fist swung towards Kim.
Ron sighed and shoved the test and the stupid death ray plans into his bag. Maybe he should help Kim out this time.
Steve Barkin hated tests. He hated writing them, he hated giving them, he hated grading them. Heck, he still had nightmares from assessment class in college. Why, oh why had he entered the education field? It was much too painful. He should have stayed in the military. He had been rising through the ranks. He could have been someone. He could have…
Wound up in charge of a bunch of whiney soldiers who had no clue what they were doing.
At least high school had tenure.
He picked up his mug and took a sip. Bad coffee. Teachers' lounge coffee was the worst. He usually kept a can of Folger's in his office, but that idiot Mr. Adams in the math department had stolen it. Again. People were so irritating. He took another sip, pretending it was something from Starbucks, and picked up another essay. Ethan Frome. Wow, but that had to be the worst novel ever written. Why did he teach it? Why? He himself hated it. Why did he have to spread the misery to the next generation?
Because that is what teachers did.
It was Possible's essay. How had she manage to make Ethan Frome perky? Somehow the perkiness did not make it any more enjoyable. He gave up half way through and gave her a 95. Possible was decent on her essays, and that was good enough for him.
The military had been so much more interesting.
So had today, technically. Stoppable had darted into his office with an overfull backpack. The straps broke, hit a chair, which hit the bookshelf, which knocked out some books… which some freshman had slid on upon entering the office five minutes later, sending his face right into Stoppable's shoulder. Now blood was all over Steve's copy of Ethan Frome. And he still hadn't heard back from the hospital.
Stoppable caused everything. Good kid, Steve admitted. But wow… the kid had to have some sort of curse on him. Or something. Stoppable had come tearing right out of the office just as Steve had come around the corner with coffee. Kid had taken one look at him, screamed, and ran the other direction.
Why did teaching put one in the middle of insane adolescents?
Stoppable's was the next essay. Wow. It actually looked like he had thought about this one. Apparently Stoppable had read the book. It was worth a B. Probably Stoppable's first in this class. He didn't finish reading it, either. Or the next. Or the next.
Why was this all so boring? Why was he here?
Bad days were not good on teachers. It was seven o'clock at night. He could be home right now. Watching television. Eating a Ramen stir-fry.
Steve suddenly wanted to cry. Sometimes he did that, when he was alone. Then he realized how positively idiotic it was and would then invite the Campfire Girls paintballing. He had that much to look forward to.
Paintballing with ten-year olds. He slammed his face into the desk. His life was a mess. Maybe he needed to date more. Yes, that was it. His only female contact was teachers, students, and Campfire Girls.
But where was he supposed to meet anyone?
Crap. He was feeling sorry for himself again. Now he would have to initiate paintball this weekend.
He shook his head and took a huge swallow of coffee. "You're losing it, Steve. You're losing it. You're still in charge. Remember that. You have some classes and the cheerleading squad. You don't need the warfare of the military." There. That made him feel somewhat better.
Except sometimes he wanted warfare.
Okay. The multiple-choice test. He had the master around here somewhere. He needed to go make copies. Another trip to the copier and…
There was another stack of papers with the test. Huh?
Blueprints of some sort.
What in the world?
The door slammed. Steve jarred his head up. There didn't seem to be anyone…
There was a flash of green, and the papers were ripped form his hands. "I'll be taking those, thank-you very much!"
Steve looked up.
It was a woman. Or a mess of green and black. Apparently both. But a woman. She looked familiar. Had done something to his car once upon a time. And she was holding those odd papers.
She smiled at him. "That was an easier than I thought."
Steve did not return the smile. "Who are you?"
The woman seemed about to make a retort, but instead glanced at the clock and sighed. "I work for Kim Possible's arch enemy. You're her… teacher or something, aren't you?"
He hated the way she talked. It was like she was… degrading the entire teaching profession. "Steve Barkin. And I have a lot of power at this school, so the moment I figure out how you got in here… and do those even belong to you?"
"These? Oh, they're just plans for a death ray."
Death ray. That could not be a good thing. He had been too much involved in Kim's deeds. But Kim wasn't here. "I don't think I can let you build a death ray."
She laughed. "I won't be building it. This moron will. So if you excuse me, Mr. Barkin, I'll be on my way…"
He wasn't sure where it came from. But it was there in his mind: a flash from the war, the rush of battle, the thrill of the attack. He didn't have a weapon, but he had a red marker. And the next thing he knew, he was blocking the door. "No death ray will be built by anyone while I'm alive," he muttered.
The woman blinked. Then laughed again. "You're kidding me, right?" She dropped the death ray plans to the floor. And to Steve's horror, her hands went green. Not just green. They enveloped themselves in bright green fizzing clouds.
And he knew that could not be good.
"What exactly are you?"
"Fine. I'll introduce myself. Shego. Now get out of my way." She lunged at him.
He screamed and slid from her path. Like a coward.
The door was now half off its hinges, and a steaming hole gaped from the middle.
His office door. His office door. He felt more adrenalin rush in, and he jumped to his feet.
One of this woman's, Shego's, hands was on the doorknob. Like there was a point in opening it. She stared back at him. But the surprise didn't last long. "You're really going to continue this?"
He ripped the cap from the marker. "Don't even think about leaving, sister."
She rolled her eyes. "You're as bad as Possible. Look, they stole the plans I rightfully stole, and somehow or another they wound up on your desk. I won't hurt you if you just let me leave."
He was in the jungle again, in uniform, gun in hand. This was an enemy. This was power. There could actually be a fight there. He could take out this Shego lady. He could be victorious. He could save his country once more. He could be more than just Mr. Steve Barkin, teacher.
He threw the marker aside. He could fight just fine with his fists. He still worked out every morning.
Her fists lit up again. "Bring it on, teacher."
He let out a battle cry. "You will not say 'teacher' as an insult! There is more to being a teacher than… boredom and burnout! I have power!"
She laughed. "Whatever. Show me what you have, if you're so mighty!"
"Oh, I could," he said softly. "I could. I was in the military for years. I can bench press 300."
That seemed to impress her. "Nice. So show me."
Here it was. Save the world. Take out one of Possible's enemies. Get a break from tests. Yet he wasn't moving.
"Scared?" Shego asked.
There was no point to this. He shook his head. Oh, it was painful. "Sorry. But… I just can't hit a woman."
The glowing fist thing went away. "Huh?"
Why did it have to be a woman? "If your boss had sent a real man in here, I could have taken him out."
"Are you saying I'm not a challenge?"
Power women. They were awful. "No, I'm not saying that. There were women in my unit. And I coach cheerleaders. I have all respect for women. I just have to curse my inborn chivalry."
"Hmm." She nodded faintly. "I don't mind a little chivalry from time to time. The guy I work for is a moron. It's not that I'm a woman. He's just an idiot. I have to do all the work for him."
Barkin forced a laugh. "You should meet the superintendent of my district. Even the principal here. It's all about power for them. They take all the power, and it's no wonder nothing is left for the average teacher."
"Ugh. I can imagine. But it's probably no worse than being a sidekick. You teachers have it easy. You know what? I don't even know why I'm here." She gestured at the plans. "I know for a fact that thing will not work. I don 't know why I bothered to come after it. All I do is work, and it's meaningless!"
"Exactly!" Steve said. "I have all these students! I teach and teach and try to be there for them, and they all just ignore it! I'm worth nothing to them!"
"You know, maybe we are on the same foot. I mean, you seem like a tough guy. I'll give you that much. At least you have had training."
This Shego wasn't too bad-looking, Steve thought. "But I guess I do find some satisfaction in this job."
Shego glanced again at the clock. "You know what? Give up your chivalry for five minutes and lets spar. That way I can tell my boss Drakken I did something while I was here."
That was still respectful of women, Steve thought. He'd go easy on her and not let her know. She was… sort of cute. "I still won't let you get those plans."
"I'll tell Drakken Kim Possible intercepted them."
"Is it so hard, Ron, to keep the test and the plans separate in your bag?" Kim asked. She hated being in the school when it was closed. Hated it.
"I'm sorry," Ron repeated for the hundredth time. "I was in a panic, I didn't want to get caught and I just sort of threw everything on the desk… what am I going to say if he's in there?"
"I'll talk to him about tomorrow's practice, and you hunt for those blueprints. Or we could—" Kim froze.
Ron followed her gaze. Drakken's door was a mess. "Looks like Shego beat us."
"Barkin better be okay." Kim broke into a run.
"That test had better be okay!"
"Can you forget the test for two seconds and—" She screamed.
If Barkin were dead, the test would be cancelled. Which would be bad considering he knew the test. He reached the doorway, and screamed himself.
It was Mr. Barkin and Shego. Not fighting, Barkin alive. Shego just sitting on the desk, laughing.
Barkin and Shego were having teachers' lounge coffee together.