Welcome back to The Ronless Factor. Yeah, I know what you're all thinking, what is Zaratan doing putting this up, this isn't his story, let's tar and feather him for daring to copy Scoutcraft Piratess. Now, before you do anything drastic which will require me shaving my head to get that awful mess out, it's all right. Due to time constraints that were unavoidable, Scoutcraft Piratess was unable to continue this great and amazing tale.

When I was updating the new Fannie Awards C2 (be sure to check that out, all the nominations are listed there for your reading pleasure), I noticed this story was absent. Needless to say, I almost panicked, as this was one of my favourite stories! After spending some time trying to find it, hoping it might have been renamed, I contacted her, and she told me she pulled it down because she didn't feel she could finish it. So, I asked if I could finish it, and she was more than happy to let me. We discussed a few things, and found ourselves on almost the same wavelength for where the story should go. So now, I shall be bringing you this tale, with the full blessings of the beautiful and talented Scoutcraft Piratess.

So stay locked into your seats, this will be a very fun ride!

Oh, and I own squat, whatsoever. Even these early chapters are not mine. Disney owns the characters, Scoutcraft Piratess owns the story concept, I'm just posting and playing with them. The early chapters will just be tweaked for some minor mistakes from the original (for some reason, the apostrophes and quotations got doubled in the copy she sent me).


Late. Beyond late, when the word succumbed to the definition of a city not large enough for rampant nocturnal wildling of glitz and lights and not small enough for hickish delight in music thundering from a pickup into the darkness as a prelude to an addition to the epic legends of cow tipping. That time of night had rolled around, past 10:00 PA announcements when the mall and every other business closed their doors in school-night obedience and the only exit in a labyrinth of gates was through the food court just around the corner from the mall theatre.

Not that Ron cared to be driven like cattle with the other late-night moviegoers. Sometimes it wasn't worth the trouble of even wanting to rebel. If he could be capable of that incessantly bad attitude. That didn't matter; the wonders of Middleton could only include so much.

He slid, with a bumbling mix thrown into grace, past the half-opened gates a couple of bored mall guards were waiting to completely close, imitating with pointed fingers the atomic ray gun antics of the movie's final scene. Or the part four scenes from the end. Or perhaps it was the opening sequence. Eh, it didn't matter either. It was all in the name of the genius glory that was Deathship Invasion IV. Besides, Rufus, perched on Ron's shoulder, was doing the exact same thing. Though with not nearly the same skill that was only given to humans like Ron. Yet the naked mole rat was still managing to aim those invisible laser bullets into Ron's skull, perhaps out of revenge for the thought. Oh well. Ron imitated the sounds of weaponry, or how they might have sounded had the ATM been a viable victim. "Boo-yah, that was even better than the first three!"

Monique nodded in dazed amazement, happily crumpling the mouth of the half-empty popcorn bag in the way only a true closet sci-fi action fan girl could. "That it was, my friends. That it was."

True appreciative taste was apparently lost on Kim. "As you have informed us too many times to count in the last five minutes, Ron." Her leg stumbled forward in sleepwalker motion, shaky as the rest of her, catching steady only with the surefire balance that comes from cheerleading and saving the world.

It would have been almost nice if she had fallen, rang out the tiny portion of Ron's subconscious not yet consumed with evil aliens and super ships. Almost nice, in practicality. If it had happened. But maybe, if he had moved quickly enough, and it had happened, he just might have been able to catch her, swinging her into one of those awkwardly sweet half-hugs…

He shook his head, throwing off the image. It wasn't like that, not really. It was Kim. Just because in some weird way she was now his girlfriend there was no reason for association to flail out and render her weak. Not that much had changed. Everything but titles was the same. Though, sometimes…

Kim continued talking, just past the mix of a yawn and a sight with a quick glance at the food court clock. "I can't believe how… early it is! Only eleven fifteen!" She shook her head, an effort of too much energy. "That movie you both enjoyed so much seemed way too infinite. Five hours. It felt like five hours! Not two!"

Monique let out a derisive laugh that echoed through the emptying court and tossed a few kernels of popcorn at Kim. "You are no fun whatsoever, Kim! No fun! But that was a most excellent suggestion! Ron, you're with me on this?"

"Oh, yes!" He knew exactly what she was getting at. Five hours of Deathship Invasion.

"Five glorious hours of Lt. Degas and Merdinciliv of the Kogors!" Monique shrieked, throwing out her arms in imitation of Julie Andrews on a mountain.

Rufus echoed with a cheer, and Ron joined her in a high-five. "That would so rock!"

Kim buried her face momentarily in her hands. "Why me?"

Hmm. The excitement twisted in an attack from responsibility. Now that they were "together", was he required to be less irritating to her? As much as she said it was just her, there were always those moments when he would find himself acting out on purpose. Just to get a reaction. But it wasn't his fault she had been outvoted in the movie choice! Still…… He draped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer until she was just nestled in the way that fit. "But KP, you're the one that said we should go do something together. That wasn't a date. With all three of us!" He gestured at Monique, who gave a wave. After tossing more popcorn.

She sighed, with a definite aura of stubbornness, and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I know what I said. I'm very aware of what I said. Though, somehow, I don't think you and I walking together is going to help Monique's conscious. I mean, she's trailing behind, all uncomfortable."

"She is?" In an upsurge of guilt, Ron whipped his head around.

She looked fine. More than fine. Though he would, too, if he were the one in charge of the leftover popcorn. "Don't worry about me, girl," she sang. "I'm doing this on purpose. It's not even been two weeks, and I'm still getting my thrills out of you two."

Good enough of an explanation if there ever was one. "See, Kim?" The comment seemed to tell all, at least to him, as he looked back around just in time to keep from running Kim and himself into the door. Not that she wasn't already preparing to open it.

But if all was explained, what was that last microsecond of a look they exchanged?

Eh, girls. Go figure.

He had Kim, and that's what mattered. As psychotic as she seemed at times. He had her, and hopefully that would last for a very long time.

The night air, black and thick and just the right amount of warm, rushed into Kim's face like an old-time swamp cooler as they stepped out into the parking lot. She breathed it in and let it run like lemonade through her lungs. Medicine after the disease of that stifling theatre and stupid movie. Why had she agreed to that movie? It had been pretty much settled, between her and Monique no less, that the movie selection would be a chick flick. As girls they would enjoy it, and poor Ron would just have to suffer, sign of his denial of the fact that all boys have a soft spot for at least one chick flick out there. But then, while checking the times, Monique had stumbled upon that…… freaky alien blow-em-up movie, and that other side of her tore out in the aftermath in the Jekyl/Hyde potion of movies and brothers.

Oh well. Kim nestled further against Ron's shoulder, thinking again how great this was, how comfortable it felt. Like she belonged. Which she did. And always, always would. At least, that was how it seemed to her. Didn't matter. She had already reverted to seven year-old status and had an imaginary wedding played out, complete with cake and the cute little girls in frilly gowns that would help serve treats at the reception. Silly of her, she admitted even to herself, but she had earned it, after all those years and then for the simple fact that… this… hadn't even been two weeks. Not two weeks since a prom night of melting robotic boyfriends and attacking kiddie meal toys. And… everything else. She had a right to be silly; Practicality would come soon enough.

She stared drowsily into the parking lot, black and grey from lights and the blue flashing thing of the mall police. Almost romantic in its desolation, with only a few cars scattered here and there. Strange how the scarcity made it even harder to find Monique's Rabbit.

"Where did I park?" Monique muttered.

"Over there!" Ron exclaimed suddenly, pointing out to halfway across the lot. Sure enough, there was the faintly red outline of the Rabbit.

"Dang. I was kinda hoping someone would steal it so my parents would buy me another car." Monique dove into the usual game of finding-keys-in-messy-purse. "That thing is such a piece of junk."

"At least you're the first one to own a car," Ron replied in a voice that did not work hard to cover jealousy. "I still have to deal with the stupid scooter."

Kim considered saying that the scooter was fine, but that would be a downright lie.

Monique gave a tiny "Yay" as she pulled out her keys. "We can now go home!"

"Can't we stop at Bueno Nacho first? They're open late…"

"No, Ron. Kim, tell him he can't go."

Kim gave him a playful elbow in the stomach. "No. It's a school night, and I have to be there early tomorrow anyway."

He moaned, characteristic of a sad puppy. So pathetically cute.

Kim rolled her eyes, faking a sigh over the laugh she wanted to give. "We can go tomorrow. I promise."

"Here," Monique said, tossing the keys over to Ron. "I'll let you go start the car. You love starting the car."

Kim instantly felt a rush of cold as his arm pulled from around her to catch Monique's key ring.

"Yes!" he exclaimed, causing passerbyers to stare, and broke into a run toward Monique's car. "Come, Rufus! We have a car to start!"

Kim watched him go, preferring to take in the sight before actually continuing the trek. "He's so cute sometimes."

Monique shrugged and laughed, falling into place beside Kim. Just like old times. "He's just easily amused. I mean, I was done with the thrill of being allowed to start the car by the time I was, oh, nine."

"Same here." Kim grabbed the bag of popcorn from Monique and pulled out a greasy handful. "But hey, if he enjoys it."

"It works, though. Somehow. If you had any idea how cute you two look together, oh girl. It's just grand."

"And I agree."

Moment of necessary girlish laugher. Dang, she was silly.

"So you didn't really mind this excursion?" Kim asked, shoving the bag back. "I can't eat too much of this stuff. But please say you didn't mind. I mean, it's not like it was before anymore."

Defiantly Monique shook her head. "No way! Kim, you two are pretty much acting like how always have. Except for the arm-around-the-shoulders bit. And even that's not too far off. So I was basically treating the whole thing as old times while still squirming in my inner hopeless romantic delight."

"Really?" Could it be so simple? "You're not just saying that?"

"What did I just say?"

"I don't want you to feel third wheel or anything."

Monique shoved another handful of popcorn into her mouth, hesitating only to chew and swallow and avoid tripping over a rock. "It's… it's not that."

Kim froze, almost tripping over the rock herself. Keep walking, she told herself. Keep walking. "What do you mean? You said you don't feel like a third wheel?"

Monique rushed for more popcorn.

"Monique!" Kim yanked the bag away, it all exploding in a volcano of salt and butter. "You can't be doing this to me! Tell the truth!"

Monique was lying, at least partly. That much was clear. The inherent panic in her brown eyes beaming over a nervous smile. "Well, I kind of do."

Great. Kim had just ruined everything by dragging Monique along as a date chaperone. "Why didn't you say anything?"

Monique protestingly linked her arm around Kim's, grabbing the popcorn bag in the other. "Because… because it's not enough to matter, Kim! You and Ron are two of my closest friends. I love hanging out with you guys. And I'm still geeking out about you two finally getting it together. If you want the whole truth about how I feel, it's nothing personal."

In a flash of understanding and memories from those days proceeding the prom, Kim understood. "You feel horribly single, don't you?"

"You read me way too well."

"It's my job as best friend. What about Brick?"

"Brick?" Monique's eyes widened in possessing humor to match the radiating sarcasm. "Brick Flagg? You know perfectly well about that, Kim. The great affair that lasted two days. Are you aware of the size of his brain? Are you even aware?" She marched on, nodding in satisfaction. "Though he is pretty cute. But I like to imagine myself deeper than that."

"You are, Monique," Kim assured her, meanwhile kicking herself. "I apologize for cheering you and Brick on. What in the world does Bonnie even see in him?"


They had reached the car. High beams were on, attracting bugs, and Ron stood posed against the Rabbit, looking for all the world as if he had succeeded in Nascar. "Who's the man tonight?"

"You stuck a key in, turned it, and gave it some gas," Kim said as dryly as she could fake.

"Hey, it's harder than it looks!"

"The rodent helped, I imagine," Monique said, climbing into the driver's seat.

"Rufus is great help," Kim replied. Just be casual. She sauntered around the car. Still very casual. He wasn''t picking up on it yet.

Though his eyes were following her. In just a moment it would click with him… And just as his eyes lit up in horror, she had the door open in a grand cry of "Shotgun!"

"No!" He threw himself at the passenger side door, just as she slammed it before him, face against the glass in horrible expressions.

She laughed and blew a kiss.

"Okay! I'll take the back! I promise! Just let me in."

She bent the seat back and opened the door, curling up as small she could so he could jump through. She was not giving up her seat. As much as he wanted to sulk. "I love you."

"Yeah, yeah."

She knew him enough. He was just playing. The grin was even there; Ron would never learn to hide that. He swung his knee into the back of the seat. He just had to pick the side she was at.

"Knock it off, you two," Monique commanded in the snootiest voice imaginable. "Or you''ll both be walking. And I mean that."

Ron rammed the seat again. "She started it, Mommy!"

Monique laughed again and put the car into gear. "So, Ron, what was your favorite part? I mean, after the alien/clone spawn ate that lady…"

Kim nestled back into the seat, reaching out only to fiddle with the radio, as much as it work. This wasn't so bad, was it? In fact, it was downright nice. No matter how Monique felt. Well, Kim was her friend, and she could do something about that. But right now, Monique was being a good sport about everything. Their own little cheerleader. Every relationship should have one of those. And this still wasn't a date. Just three friends, after a miserable movie, driving home. She hadn't even been called out to save the world that day. Relaxation.

Ron groaned at Monique's love of the itty bitty romance there had been. "You know, that just put Rufus to sleep." Through the rearview mirror, Kim could see him gently sliding the naked mole rat into his pocket. So sweet.

Was she ever going to get over this twitterpation that had consumed her since prom?

"Hey, all action flicks need romance," Monique said. "Curse these four-way stops. Kim, did you not manage to pull that much chick flick out of the movie?"

"I would have preferred the other."

Not much time was given to chick flick conversation. Ron brought up something about the origin of whatever alien race had been discussed, and Monique pulled through the four-way stop.

Something was wrong.

"Their military was so much better trained it wasn't funny. Just because they had the better spies…"

A car coming up at the right intersection. Hooray for four-way stops. But…

"Those spies completely wiped out the crew! They rocked!"

How long did it take to pull through a intersection?

Monique had seen the other car, as well. Her hand clutched the steering wheel, and Kim felt the distinct impression of the Rabbit speeding up. "What the heck is that jerk thinking he's doing?"

"Monique," Kim heard herself beg. Meaningless. Just words. Monique was already driving.

The other car flipped around the corner, not stopping. Lights flooded the mirrors. Lights coming up Kim's side.

Much too fast. Like all the lights and special effects that stupid movie could dish out to the real world.

Monique swung the wheel to the left.

Not far enough.

More light, resounding like sun in the din of metal against metal. The seatbelt clutching at Kim's chest, much too painfully.

A thousand times fighting all the evil villains could throw at her and then a car crash…

The world went black.


Author's… umm… Reposters Notes – I'll be updating the previous chapters every two days. This will give me a chance to update my own stories while this one goes back up, while still providing the story to everyone at a decent pace. That will give me almost a month to get my feet wet on this, and work on the new chapters for this. Hopefully, everyone who enjoyed this story and faved it can find it again, as well as the continuing story once my chapters start flowing in.

A special thanks again to Scoutcraft Piratess, for allowing me to do this.