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PART V: War of the Worlds (3/3)

--

The younger Shego stirred in her sleep restlessly. Her dreams were filled with scenes of fire, torture, and the psychotic leers of people she thought she knew well. A world was bathed in flames, green flames, and she was standing above it all, making the fire dance in parades for her enjoyment. Then like a candle in the breeze, it was all suddenly snuffed out by a great, gloved hand that closed over the entire world and crushed it in its palm. The hand then opened and scattered the remnants to the breeze while an uneasy voice cackled in the night.

Breaking through the veil of nightmares and dreams, Shego slowly rose to consciousness. The ceiling and dull light of the bedroom came gradually into focus followed by the rest of her senses. She could see the small lines of light across the ceiling from the gabs in the blinds, smell the slight burning odor from the radiator fighting off the spring nighttime chill, hear the sounds of people breathing, feel the body pressed against her, taste--

Shego's eyes rapidly widened and she nearly leapt to the ceiling in her leap to get out of the bed. She stared back at where she had slept with panicked eyes as she saw the smaller form there, laying on top of the covers, wearily raising her head with its mop of red hair to look at Shego through bleary eyes. She was still completely clothed but that hardly made any of it better.

"What the hell?!" yelled Shego. She tried to piece together a better question but her brain was still spinning out of control. "What the hell?" she repeated, loudly, but not as loud as before.

The young Kim Possible double, Cassie, got a confused expression on her face with a furrowed brow and slightly lidded eyes. "I was lonely," she said slowly.

"What the hell?" Shego said for a third time. By now the Kim Possible from her world was raising her head from the other bed in the room. Kim looked at the scene with Shego angrily yelling at what looked like one of her double's lying in her bed. Kim tried to create a plausible scenario in her mind where this could have occurred and failed utterly. She stared in rapt attention instead.

"How did you even get in here?!" Shego yelled, feeling like she had suddenly lost control of her entire life.

"I stole a keycard from the security desk," said Cassie, motioning with her head to the nightstand where a yellow card was lying.

Shego stared, stunned. A tiny voice in her head complimented the girl on breaking in better she'd ever seen her own Kim Possible do, but that voice was quickly and summarily beaten down and torn apart by the rest of her mind. "No. No, no, you do not do that, that is..." Shego shook her head. "No! You do not cuddle up to your... uh... If you are lonely find a pet or... a Stoppable or something, but you do not come to me!" She had finally finished a sentence and wanted to feel like she was being firm and definitive but her brain was carefully unraveling inside her skull and that was making it hard to think clearly about this.

Cassie looked slightly down. "I was alone... when I'm alone I think about..." she trailed off.

Shego could sympathize, her own demons chased her relentlessly and if she could avoid them she would do anything-- No! She climbed into her bed! This was on the far extreme of not right!

"Then go to a bar!" said Shego, exasperated. "Or hang around the city or... something! Don't come to me! I'm not good company."

Cassie looked up to Shego. "I thought you might be lonely too," she said.

Shego stared blankly at the girl, then deflated. "Just... go get some breakfast or something." Cassie continued to stare at her expectantly. Shego rolled her eyes. "I'll be along in a while."

"Okay," Cassie nodded and hopped off the bed. She waved casually to Kim then skipped out of the room. A moment later the sound of the door opening and closing was heard.

Shego stood for a second then collapsed into her bed, burying her head in the sheets. This is why she was never kind to people, they started to get crazy ideas in their head.

"Were you just in bed with a version of me?" asked Kim, hesitantly.

"What the hell!?" yelled Shego into the bed in frustration.

--

Dr. Kim walked into Will Du's office to find him staring at the screen in his desk, completely unmoving. "Good Morning, Will," she said as she slipped into one of the chairs opposite the desk.

Will said nothing.

"Will?" asked Dr. Kim. She waited a second then slowly got up out of her chair and moved closer. She reached out and gently shook his shoulder.

"Yeaaggh!" Will burst as he suddenly jerked upright and looked around, blinking his eyes quickly. "Wha?" he looked up at the doctor, standing beside him. "Kim?"

Kim smiled slightly. "You alright?" she asked reaching down to gently take his hand and feel his pulse.

Will pulled his hand away and nodded quickly. "Yes, yes, I'm fine. Sorry, I must have dozed off for a second." He blinked deliberately a few more times and looked down at his monitor. He pressed a button and the screen faded away.

"Have you been getting enough sleep?" asked Kim as she felt Will's forehead.

Will brushed her off again and motioned for her to go back to her seat. "I'm fine, really," he insisted. "I just didn't get any sleep last night, I was working on something that didn't give me the opportunity."

"You should take a break, then, and at least get a couple hours of sleep," said Kim. "Working through the night and then doing a full day afterwards is going to seriously affect your perception and judgment."

"I'm fine," Will said again. "Please, sit down. I'm going to be fine, I've done this many times before."

"Do you always fall asleep halfway through reading a report?" asked Kim, finally sitting and crossing her legs. She had an accusatory stare.

"Look, I'll take a break at lunch and catch a few minutes rest," said Will. "Happy?"

"Not particularly," said Kim, crossing her arms now. "But you're the boss."

"I'll be fine," Will said once more, apparently trying to convince himself more than Dr. Kim. "What can I do for you this morning?"

Kim reached into her pocket and pulled out a small rectangular object about two inches long and half an inch high. "Cassie's test results," she said.

"'Cassie'?" asked Will taking the rectangle and resting it in a bold white circle off to the side of his desk. The circle glowed after he put it down and then his screen in the desk came back to life.

"That's what she calls herself," said Kim. "There are several genetic diversions from the standard model for counterparts to me, so she may not actually be a Kim Possible. Maybe a sister or some close genetic relative. Or she is a Kim-type and whatever happened to their world caused some DNA mutation to occur. That's not likely though, most of the time we see that the person affected ends up a mess just a few minutes before they end up dead."

"How is she otherwise, then?" asked Will looking at the screens of medical data.

"Healthy, far as I can tell," said Kim. "Still a little low on essential minerals and vitamins but that will balance out in a day or so of good eating."

"What does she remember?" asked Will, closing the report and then copying the contents of the data drive into his records.

"Not much," sighed Kim. "We talked a bit about it, but she's either repressing the memories or was simply unconscious for most of it. She says she remembers the day before and the day after but not what happened to kill everyone. Apparently it happened nearly overnight."

"If it was the void beam, it would have been instantaneous," said Will. "But I've never heard of it doing this to a planet. Decimating the population and boiling the oceans... it's so strange. And why did she survive when everyone else died?"

"I don't know," said Kim. "There's nothing medically different from her to explain it."

Will shook his head. "Well we can't send her back, she'll die for sure. Let's have the psych team talk to her and I'll see about getting her set up in Middleton."

"One other thing," said Kim.

"Hmm?" asked Will.

"She's taking a liking to Shego," said Kim. "She clearly views her as a protector or guardian."

"Shego? Our Shego?"

Kim shook her head. "The new one. They were together when I found them and Cassie insisted that Shego stay with her."

Will laughed. "I'm sure Shego took that well."

"She did, actually," said Kim. "I'm not sure why but they get along quite well."

"You get along well with Shego," said Will. He began typing on his desk, writing up a requisition form for housing.

"Not at that age I didn't," said Kim. "But, I guess it's just how quickly they became friendly that surprised me. I've never known any Shego to be particularly kind to strangers."

"They come in all kinds," said Will, whimsically. "Thank you for your report."

Dr. Kim nodded and stood as Will continued typing up the requisition form. She waved and turned, heading to the door the office. When she reached it, it rapidly opened on its own and she had to backpedal to avoid getting hit in the chin.

Dr. Kim looked down at the form who quickly swept past and recognized her younger counterpart, the Kim they retrieved from 233. She watched, curious as Kim stormed up to Will's desk in a huff, but quickly decided that anything she would get that upset about could have collateral damage and turned away, reopening the door and slipping through.

Kim, the younger one, looked down at Will who was still typing on his desk. After a few seconds, she cleared her throat dramatically.

"Kim," said Will. "What can I do for you this morning?"

"Did you tell Shego she could stay here?" asked Kim, pointedly.

Will slowed his typing then looked up to stare into Kim's eyes. "Is she not allowed?"

Kim opened her mouth but hesitated. She hadn't meant to imply she was keeping Shego from doing anything. "O-of course she is."

"Then there's no problem," said Will, looking down again.

"Yes, there is," insisted Kim. "Because she's planning on staying."

"Is she not allowed--" started Will, but Kim cut him off.

"Yes, yes, I get it," Kim waved her hand. "But ... why did you offer it to her? You didn't ask me."

"Do you want to stay?" asked Will, looking up again.

Kim sighed. "No," she said drolly. "People will worry about me, and I have to find Ron."

"Then I don't understand what the problem is," shrugged Will. "You don't want to stay, she does, I'm setting it up for her."

"The problem is that she shouldn't," said Kim. "She... doesn't feel safe, and I get that, but you're giving her an easy out instead of making her face her fear."

"And your solution is to drag her through a dozen more worlds until she finally learns her lesson?" inquired Will.

"N-no," said Kim. "But... she's just hurt. She needs to feel strong again, and she'll get back to her old self."

"A criminal?"

"Dammit, Will, why are you twisting my words?" Kim said angrily. "Since when are you my enemy?"

Will stopped typing and gently folded his hands. "I'm not your enemy, Kim. To be fair, we've only known each other about three days so I'd like to think I'm a good acquaintance. But you just came in here and accused me of essentially stealing your friend, and I'm not quite sure what response you were expecting."

Kim looked to the side and frowned.

"She has the right to make her own choices, Kim," said Will. "Even if that choice is to take the easy way out."

Kim looked down slightly.

"And I didn't offer her anything," continued Will. "She found out on her own, probably by noticing how many duplicates we have around here. She asked for the truth and I gave it to her, then she asked me if she could stay. I did nothing to break you two up."

Will stared at Kim as she looked down and breathed slowly. "It seems you knew she was unhappy," he said. "Did you talk to her about it?"

Kim shook her head. "It's not the sort of thing she talks about."

"Then you had to see this coming," concluded Will. "Maybe not here, but eventually... people don't put up with being unhappy for long."

"She's better than that," said Kim.

"You wanted her to be better than that," said Will. "Not everyone can do what you do."

Kim slowly turned her head to look at Will. "I'm sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have accused you of anything."

Will nodded and smiled slightly. "Its fine, Kim. I didn't intend to cause any trouble between you and Shego. We're still working on making your gate opener. As soon as we were done we were going to give it to you so you could be on your way."

Kim nodded. "I know. You've been a big help. I just didn't expect to keep going without Shego."

"You two weren't friends before you got sent out here," said Will.

"That doesn't change the fact that we are ... better acquaintances now," said Kim.

"Heh," Will laughed softly. "Kim's and Shego's have the most unusual relationships."

"I've depended on her more than once out there," continued Kim. "I don't know..." she trailed off.

"You don't have to leave," said Will.

"I can't just stay, I said that already," Kim answered quickly.

"Not forever," said Will. "Six months from now we'll have proper propulsion on the Argo and we'll be able to follow the trail of the dimensional drill right to the end, one jump. You can hang around until then or join one of the gate teams and we'll drop both you and Shego back home when we find it."

"Six months?" asked Kim. "I can't..."

"You think you'll get there on your own before us?" asked Will with a smirk.

Kim stared.

"You don't have to make a decision now," continued Will. "We'll still need a day or so to get the rest of the gate generator together. And, for what it's worth, I really am sorry that being here caused problems for you and Shego."

"I'll... think about it," said Kim. "Your offer."

"Please do," said Will. He smiled. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

Kim sighed quietly then shook her head. "Thanks for... listening."

"My pleasure," said Will. He tapped his desk again and the screen came to life once more.

--

Shego leaned on her palm as she watched Cassie eat her breakfast in the Agency's cafeteria. The younger girl was eating pancakes again, though it was at a slightly more appropriate time of day. Shego wasn't all that hungry but had played with a grapefruit for a few minutes before giving up and pushing the bowl aside.

"You okay?" asked Cassie, putting her fork down.

"I'm not hungry," said Shego, looking away.

"You're uncomfortable," Cassie noted.

Shego looked back with a raised brow.

"Sorry," said Cassie.

"What the hell?" asked Shego, with nowhere near the volume or intensity she that spoke those words that morning. "Breaking into my room? That's just creepy."

Cassie cast her eyes down and to the side and said nothing.

Shego grumbled something then looked in the opposite direction and sighed. "I know you've been through a lot. But you're clearly a strong kid. You're better than that."

"It's the dark," said Cassie.

Shego turned slightly back towards her, but not enough to look at her.

"It reminds me of that empty planet," continued Cassie. Her voice was soft. "Where I could only count down to the day I would run out of food or water and die. Terrified of and praying to see another person again at the same time, unsure if they would come to save me... or they caused this and wanted to finish the job."

Shego looked slightly down. She remembered the dark as well. That prison cell where she was all but naked, bleeding, sitting on the cold stone floor waiting for death to claim her. Terrified that the door would open again and Drakken or Monkey Fist would come in to torture her again. Praying for release...

Shego shivered, then slowly turned back to look at Cassie. Her eyes widened when she saw her looking down and tears dripping from her face. Shego bit her lip and held her breath. Cassie looked up and Shego could see her reddening eyes. "But you saved me," she sniffled. "And brought me here where there are people and doctors and-- and I don't want to cause you trouble but every time I close my eyes I feel it again; a deep cold in the center of my chest that won't ever go away." She broke out into barely restrained sobbed and covered her face with her hands.

Shego glanced around and noticed they were attracting a little bit of attention. She stood and moved slowly around to Cassie and put an arm around her, urging her to stand. "Come on, lets get out of here," she said. Cassie stood but didn't stop her sobbing and Shego gently led her out of the cafeteria.

When they were in the quieter halls she took her aside to a small vacant lounge area with a window looking out of the building towards the rest of the Agency campus. "Shhh," Shego softly sounded as she sat Cassie down. "Listen. It's... It'll get better." She rolled her eyes at how lame that sounded.

Shego gently reached up and pulled Cassie's hands from her face to look at her. "Hey," she whispered. "That... darkness is part of you now, and it will always be a little bit uncomfortable, but it gets better. You're safe and there are people everywhere; good people who will take care of you."

Cassie looked expectantly up at Shego.

"Well, other people," Shego added quickly.

"You're leaving?" asked Cassie as she rubbed her eyes.

"I'm--" Shego was at a loss for words. This was snowballing into somewhere she didn't want to be. "Not... necessarily. But -- I'm not your sister or anything, there are other people better equipped to take care of you. I'm just... er, someone who's been through something similar and I don't want to see you get hurt more."

Wait, Shego thought. That wasn't what she had meant to say. She didn't care what happened to this girl, right? She's just some bizzaro Kim-clone. It was getting to the point she couldn't trust her own mouth anymore.

"You understand?" asked Shego, unsure of what she was hoping for clarity on.

Cassie frowned. "You don't want me around anymore," she said.

"I didn't say that," Shego quickly supplied, hoping to avoid another crying session. "Though if we can avoid you showing up in my bed, that would be ideal."

"So I don't have to go?" asked Cassie.

"You... It's... not up to us, in any case," Shego struggled. "We're both stuck here for now, and when that changes we can... well, it ... will change and it will be what it is... when it is." Smooth work, Shego, she thought sardonically. "Okay?"

Cassie nodded, though whether it was from comprehension or just because it was expected at the time, Shego couldn't be sure. She had rubbed the tears away by now, though the redness in the younger girl's eyes was still obvious. Shego shook her head with a sigh.

"You look terrible," she said plainly. "Go wash up, I'll wait here."

Cassie nodded again then slowly stood up and walked off towards the restrooms. Shego took her seat and leaned her head back as she let the energy drain from her body. Somehow all this nonsense seemed more troublesome and stressful than the good old days, when she was a world renown criminal pursued doggedly by every local police as well as INTERPOL and occasionally 'teen hero Kim Possible.'

Shego cursed to herself. She was never one to plan more than a few moves in advance, anything beyond that often fell apart before you got near. But given the chaos in her life right now, it seemed like she needed one. Yes, she was planning on staying, but what was she going to do? Would the Agency just let her be a thief again? If it didn't involve travel between worlds the Agency didn't seem to care, but she shared a face with several other people they'd set up, would they get annoyed if she became a criminal in this world?

Furthermore, did she really want to go back to that? Sure it was easier than dimension hopping, but that didn't mean it was she really wanted. She looked upon her life with nostalgia because now it had changed dramatically, but what was so nostalgic about constantly being chased by police?

Freedom was her gut response, and was generally the explanation she gave for anything she did that was illegal. She didn't want to be tied down by the world's rules, and she didn't care to slowly kill her soul with the grind of a daily job. She wanted to have fun. Taking what she wanted and flipping off the world was fun. Sitting at a desk typing for 9 hours of the day was not fun. Simple equation.

Except, if she had to plan, where were those lives going to? She knew where freedom led, she experienced it first hand in that world they initially went to. A dystopia. Sure she was in charge and had all the power but she had to be blind! How could that world be preferable? World domination was worthless if you let the world go to hell after conquering. She was the ruler of essentially nothing, lord of the flies.

But the soul sucking desk job was completely unappealing to her. There had to be a way to mix them, a way to get what she wanted without giving up what she cherished most. She needed a way to be free and fun and physical without having to sacrifice the future in the process. Freedom with just a few rules to guide her and keep the world safe while she had fun. Like a ... guard ... but for the world instead of some guy. A sort of --

Shego sat up with a start, her body going rigid and her heart racing at the thought that she was just about to have. Everything in her mind and heart rebelled at the next word in that stream of consciousness and she had to concentrate to keep herself from lashing out in anger. She gave that life up already, it made no sense to go back to it now. She knew it led nowhere but annoyances and impotent anger. That's what happened the first time anyway. What could possibly make it end up any differently? That life was filled with pompous, self-aggrandizing, thick headed morons who had to tell you every step along the way how much better they were than the people they fought. What hope was there for people who lived like that?

"Shego."

Shego jerked her head to the side as she suddenly felt the presence of someone standing very close to her. She looked up expecting to see Cassie but instead she saw Kim. Her Kim. The one who'd been traveling with her all this time.

"How long have you been standing there?" asked Shego, a little unnerved that she got so caught up in her own mind that she didn't hear Kim Possible of all people walk right up to her.

"Just a second," said Kim softly. "You looked lost in thought."

"I was just..." Shego shook her head. "What do you want?"

"I'm sorry," Kim said. "For getting angry with you last night. And for not stopping to talk."

"Talk?" asked Shego.

"About you... what you were going through," she said. "I know it must have been ... it's unimaginable to me what happened to you in that first world. I've always felt that way. But... I didn't think you would want to talk about it. You've always seemed like a 'stiff-upper lip' type of person."

Shego slowly nodded. "I wouldn't have talked about it to you," she said. But I should have, she thought.

"I figured," said Kim. "But, I was trying to keep more from happening to you. I didn't really succeed there."

"You can't protect me," insisted Shego. "I don't want your protection."

"I know you didn't, but I felt responsible." Kim looked down. "Like I'm the one who put you through all that. I wanted to make it up to you."

"You didn't put me through this," said Shego. "Drakken's idiotic device would have blown up if you were there or not."

"But I could have stopped it," said Kim.

"No, you couldn't have," insisted Shego. "Stop trying to put this on your shoulders. We both know who's really a fault here. It's me."

"No, Shego, you're not--"

"I let Drakken build his machine, I plugged it in wrong, and I fought you to keep you from stopping Drakken; all of it by choice. My choice."

"You couldn't have known," said Kim.

"I could have," said Shego. "I've known Drakken long enough to know he's trouble, but I didn't care. All the trouble he's caused. He did it because I protected him. Me. And you know where that would have led? Well, of course you do, because we went to that world. A world where I got what I wanted and ended up with just what I deserved. Hell."

Kim looked at Shego with wide eyes. She looked horrified. Shego nodded defiantly. She finally realized exactly who she'd been traveling with and it's left her speechless. Shego thought it was nice she could still surprise the little cheerl--

And suddenly Kim was holding her. Hugging her, actually. Shego didn't know what to do.

"It's not your fault," Kim said, holding her tightly. "I've told you before, and I'll keep telling you as long as you need to hear it."

Shego closed her eyes. For once she pushed down her tendency to shove Kim away and let herself feel the warmth of the embrace. She was strong, independent, and didn't need anyone to coddle her or compliment her. Other people needed that, weaker people. And yet...

Being independent meant being alone. Which wasn't so bad most of the time but there were others, like what Cassie explained, when the solitary coldness was crushing. Being independent meant freedom, the freedom she desired so much. But it also meant never having anyone else to rely on, never being able to relax, always being vigilant. It was tiresome. And dragged on day after endless day.

So when she opened herself up to the embrace, she let herself feel again what it was like to not be alone, and was startled to find its warmth invigorating. By letting someone else hold some of her burden, she was increasing her freedom, not limiting it. She could do more if others could watch her back when she was in danger. It was so simple she could cry for not having thought of it before. Complete independence was a cage, not an open field, a cage that needed someone else to open.

Hesitantly, Shego lifted her arms and wrapped them around Kim. She felt stupid for hugging someone randomly in the lounge of some building but ignored it. She wanted to feel supported. She wanted to feel wanted. The world can be damned, she just wanted freedom from her life, and right now, at this moment, this was it.

Eventually, though, it started to feel weird, and Shego could no longer ignore her impulse and she gently released Kim, allowing the redhead to step back slightly. She no longer looked horrified; she looked concerned, but not pitiful. And she looked slightly happy, which Shego didn't understand but didn't mind.

"Are you okay?" asked Kim, after a moment.

Shego considered the question. It was a deceptively complex thing to ask. Her answer, she decided, had to be equally cryptic. "I will be." Despite herself, she started to smile.

Kim nodded. "Will has offered to let us both hang around for a while until they finish their ship," she said. "Then we can use it to go right to the drill and then home without any of the worlds in between. I was thinking it's not a bad offer. We could relax or help the agency a bit for the next six months then grab Ron and Drakken and go home." She looked at Shego. "What do you think?"

Shego thought about it for a moment then suddenly brightened and nodded. "Whatever you think is best, I'll come with you either way."

Kim was startled. "What... I think?"

Shego nodded.

"You're not going to--" started Kim.

Shego stood up and smirked. She patted Kim on the shoulder. "This is your show. I really don't understand the whole dimensional crap, I really haven't been paying attention. You have. So you tell me what we should do. I don't mind."

Kim slowly recovered from her shock and awkwardly nodded. "Okay... then we should stay and wait for the ship."

"Alright," confirmed Shego.

"..." said Kim. "That's it?"

"That's it."

"No arguing?"

"Do you want to argue?"

"No."

"Then that's it."

Kim stared.

Shego raised an eyebrow in a sly fashion.

"Huh," said Kim, noncommittally.

Cassie returned at that moment and Shego over at her with a smile. "Are you okay?" she asked instinctually then laughed when she realized what she'd done.

Cassie nodded.

"Hi there," said Kim, looking at the suddenly confused Cassie.

"Right, you two haven't properly met yet I guess," said Shego. "Kim, this is Cassie." She looked to Cassie now. "Cassie, this is Kim." She looked to her once-rival. "My friend."

Kim, who had been looking at Cassie, suddenly looked to Shego, startled. She quickly hid her expression behind a smile and a greeting to Cassie. Shego quickly realized she could get a lot of mileage out of shocking Kim with kindness, and maybe that would be just as fun as when she got back to teasing her. Either way, things were going to change between them. She was committed to it.

--

Will Du watched over the IDM room through the window in his office. It was late again, close to midnight, and he figured he'd once again lose precious sleep tonight. This time, fortunately, there was nothing clandestine going on. The nightly off-world shipment from P3X-917 was delayed by a breakdown of their truck that then had to be repaired. They were on track again but still wouldn't be gating into the IDM until just after midnight.

Will made it a habit of always being on-site when there was a scheduled gate in, just in case something went wrong. It was a little micro-managing of him but it made him feel more at ease. Anything could come out of a dimensional gate, and he wanted to be there if something unexpected did. Unfortunately that meant every time a shipment was delayed he had to stay up late to monitor it.

Sipping his coffee, Will watched as the yawning machine operators were slowly bringing in the supplies and cargo containers to take the shipment from 917 off the campus and to their buyers. 917 was delivering precious crude oil today, which mean that there was a few people from Exxon hanging around to monitor the delivery. The Exxon corporation had supplied the oil recovery equipment free of charge to the Agency in exchange for an exclusive sales contract with them. Will could hardly care less who he supplied the oil to but his government contacts had put a lot of pressure on him to pick a 'favored' supplier.

The black gold was the real reason that Congress and the President tolerated Will Du's Trans-Dimensional Facilitation and Transportation Agency despite the enormous risk. With access to hundreds of worlds, including many branches completely devoid of human life, Will was able to promise almost limitless supplies of natural resources. He only had to make a brief reference to oil and the US government was ready to ignore almost any transgression to get it hands on the dwindling resource.

Of course, that was more than fifteen years ago, more than enough time for Congress to get used to the weekly shipments and forget what life was like before the Agency was supplying their lifeblood. They were starting to get nervous again, which was why he wasn't surprised by Ron's update earlier in the evening that Washington was poised to rush in and dominate the Agency after they heard him hint about war. Apparently in the three letters long dictionary of Congress, 'war' came a little higher on the page than 'oil.'

A knock at his door caught Will's attention and he turned to see Agent Gordon from TDF Team 3. Will waved him in and the agent came to stand beside Will, looking out the window. Gordon shook his head.

"A lot of activity for this late at night," he said.

"There have been a lot of unique things happening lately," said Will. "Though I doubt you came to state the obvious."

Gordon turned toward Will and nodded. "Yes. We've been... monitoring some military radio chatter."

"That's not a good sign," Will sighed.

"Nothing definitive, but a lot of equipment is being amassed to the base outside Middleton," said Gordon. "Could be help, could be a forceful request to stand down."

"We life in interesting times," said Will.

"I'd prefer a little less interesting, sir," said Gordon. "Any news from Washington?"

"More of the same, I'm afraid. They're not sure yet if they like us fighting a war on our own or at all. They could very well be moving to stop us."

"What do we do in that case?" asked Gordon.

Will laughed. "Pray."

A muted alert sounded from Will's computer, notifying them that a dimensional gate was opening from an off-world source. Gordon glanced once at the computer then down at the IDM as the staff was quickly running to their stations to monitor the void bridge.

Gordon frowned slightly. "Something wrong down there?" he asked.

Will checked his watch and shook his head. "They're just a little early," he said. "Well, earlier than their most recent itinerary. It seems our off-world workers need a refresher in protocol. I'll--"

Will didn't get to finish his sentence, however, because something exploding in the IDM room and blowing out all the windows -- including Will's office window -- cut him off with a rain of shattered glass.

--

Shego immediately sat up when she felt the rumble and Kim and Cassie were quick to follow suit when the secondary shaking followed. They were all in Kim and Shego's room in the living room portion of the studio and immediately went quiet to listen for more.

"You guys felt that?" asked Shego, looking to the window and hoping for rain. It was a clear night.

"Twice," said Kim.

Cassie nodded.

They were silent for another minute. Then the loud alarm sounded and they all stood with determined expressions on their faces. Kim and Shego looked at each other and nodded. Then Shego looked at Cassie.

"Stay here," she said. "We'll check it out."

Shego and Kim ran to the door then paused and turned to see Cassie behind them. "Stay--"

"Like hell," said Cassie, in a surprising burst of cheekiness. "I'm not going to be protected either."

Shego let herself laugh briefly, surprised by her own traits being exemplified by the girl, then pulled open the door. "Your choice," she said in return and ran out. Kim and Cassie quickly followed into the hall.

"Are we heading towards Will?" asked Kim as she ran alongside Shego.

"Yeah," nodded Shego. "I get the feeling he never sleeps. Let's check his office."

The trio burst through the door onto the glass skybridge then slowed as they looked up to see the cloud of smoke pouring out of the embarkation building. Off to the side they could see cars with sirens alongside military hummers heading towards the building from a barracks on the other side of the Agency campus.

"That can't be good," said Kim.

"Let's go," insist Shego as she started running again. A moment later Kim and Cassie followed.

--

Will heard ringing in his head as he tried to roll over to stand but found his body was being stopped by something and his head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds. He opened his bloodshot eyes and looked around. The lights on his ceiling were alternately shattered or pockmarked with pieces of glass from the window. All of them were out, and the bright white light in the room was coming solely from the IDM outside.

He looked down to see that parts of the ceiling and his crumbled desk were covering him, pinning his chest to the ground and keeping him from rolling. Where the glass desk top was pinching his torso he could see his shirt was red and dripping onto the floor beneath him. He couldn't feel anything wrong, but a person in shock rarely does.

"Gordon!" Will shouted as some of the ringing in his head died down. He looked around to see if he could spot the form of the soldier but his point of view was blocked in several directions and the blue uniform was nowhere to be seen.

He put his hands on the desk and tried to lift it. His arms stung and he could finally feel pain across his chest as he pushed with all his might. The redness on his shirt suddenly started to spread much faster but he ignored it as the thick glass started to move. Just a few inches he needed to pull himself out from under it. Sweat beaded on his brow as he struggled to get the desk just an inch higher.

Gunfire exploded from outside the window and several shots hit the ceiling of Will's office, startling him into dropping the desk which slammed loudly back onto his body then cracked diagonally from where the near corner struck the floor. Will screamed as the pain of his shattered ribs finally reached his brain. He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood as he tried to bear through the pain and black spots in his vision.

More gunfire sounded from below and quickly devolved into a firefight that Will hoped meant the security teams had arrived and were dealing with ... whatever it was that just came through the gate. He heaved several breaths but could almost feel his mind numbing from the pain.

"GORDON!" Will yelled again. The man had to be somewhere; he was standing right next to Will when the glass exploded. Unless he fell out, he had to be in the room. The question was where.

The sound of glass being crushed under foot caught Will's attention and he tried to whip his head around to see from where. "Gordon?" he asked again, trying to see the source of the sound which seemed to be directly behind him.

"Oh my god," a woman's voice said in shock.

"Who's there?" asked Will.

"Will?" another woman's voice shouted out. The sounds of glass cracking got faster and louder and suddenly Shego appeared in Will's vision. "Crap," Shego said looking at Will.

"What's going on? What can you see?" said Will quickly.

"You're a mess, man," said Shego, kneeling down to get a grip on the desk top.

"Not me! Outside! What's going on in the IDM room!?" yelled Will.

Cassie came over to the other side of Will as Kim walked behind Shego to the large hole that used to be a window. They were a couple stories down from the medical area, only two floors up from the floor of the IDM room. Kim peered out cautiously, perfectly aware that even if the gunfire below was not directed at her, a shot could easily go the wrong way.

She looked over the edge then quickly pulled herself back in and looked wide-eyed over at Shego.

"What is it?" asked Shego.

"What did you see?" asked Will urgently.

Kim frowned. "MFRs. A lot of them."

Shego darkened. "The nerdlinger."

"The Grand Commander?!" said Will.

"Cass, help me pick up the table," said Shego gripping the desk top with her hands. "On three. One, two, THREE!" The two girls lifted the table and slid it off Will who quickly began bleeding quickly onto the floor. Shego quickly pushed her hand into the red, wet mess on Will's chest trying to staunch the floor.

Will grit his teeth from the pain but tried to sit up anyway. Shego emphatically pushed him down again.

"Lay still," said Shego. "We need to find a doctor."

"Just cauterize it," said Will, looking intently at Shego.

Shego glared at Will. "You're an ass. You've got internal bleeding, if I stop up the surface you'll just bleed into your chest until you die."

"I'm going to die if you leave it, so just do it!" yelled Will. "Go deep."

Shego carefully raised her hand, and then slapped him. "Stop being such a martyr." She then pulled on Will shirt until it ripped and quickly tied a bandage around his chest, pulling it tight. Will yelped in pain and dug his fingers into Shego's arm as she tied the knot. "There, that'll at least slow it until we can find someone." Shego looked down at the rest of Will's body. "Looks like your leg is broken too."

"Great," Will groaned as he tried to get up on one foot.

Cassie moved some of the debris in the office then gasped. "There's someone else here," she said.

"Gordon!" Will said and tried to hobble over to Cassie. Shego quickly grabbed him and helped him over, but despite the rush, they saw there was nothing to be done when they saw him. Gordon was lying on his back with a shard of glass through his chest, his eyes staring vacantly upwards. Will shook his head and turned away. Cassie bent down and closed the soldier's eyes.

Shego, though pulled Will to the side and stared at him. "You had to know this was a possibility," she said forcefully at Will. "What's your safeguard? How do we stop them?"

"We can spike the gate from the alternate site," said Will. "It'll force it to shut down, then we can use the barrier to prevent anyone else from coming through. Be we gotta deal with what came through traditionally."

"Traditionally?" asked Kim from the window who was now peering down from a corner.

"Guns," Will said plainly.

Kim shook her head. Below, the firefight was not going well for the Agency as the MFRs, who were substantially more bulletproof than the agents, were marching forward almost unfazed by the fire. A few MFRs had fallen from enough bullets but there were at least two dozen MFRs on the floor, and only two on the ground.

"What alternate site?" asked Shego.

"There's another Agency building in Upperton," said Will. "Uses a smaller singularity as a gravity source. The original Pan Dimensional Vortex Inducer is there. We just have to contact them."

Shego narrowed her eyes. "How?"

--

A few minutes later the firefight had quieted. The MFRs, still marching through the vortex, were securing the large, circular IDM room and all its entrances and exits. The long array of broken windows stretching up the inside of the building couldn't be easily patrolled so several MFRs had begun scaling them and releasing the nanites in their bodies to begin repairing the glass and closing the entry points with something stronger.

Then, apart from the distant sounds of billions of nanites chewing on glass, there was nothing but the sound of the whirling dimensional vortex. Then, a figure emerged from its swirling depths. It was a woman, or at least would easily be confused for one. She stood tall, with dark short hair, a leather coat over a blood red top, and black stiletto heels, and strode comfortably into the IDM room as if the carnage left by the firefight was her native habitat. She looked around deliberately.

She stepped equally on, around, and through the blood and bodies on the floor over to a working computer console. Her hand shimmered slightly and she placed it directly on the keyboard of the console. Tiny, silvery tendrils snuck out from her fingertips and entered the keyboard. A moment later the screen then lit up and began opening up windows and programs in rapid succession until finally a series of windows opened and connected the computer to the Agency central records database.

The woman closed her eyes as the screen displayed that a file transfer was occurring. Several silent minutes passed as the agonizingly slow connection poured data directly into the woman's viral network. Finally the transfer completed and the woman pulled her hand away from the computer and watched as the silvery lines retracted back into her skin. She smiled dangerously and then licked her lips amorously.

She then reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out a handheld rectangle that was mostly occupied by a color screen. She pushed a button on the device and a few minutes later the screen showed the face of her master.

"It's true, isn't it?" said Wade, the Grand Commander, on the screen. "I can see it on your face."

"Aww, you ruined my fun," pouted Athena. "I was going to build up to it."

"Just give it to me straight," said the Commander.

"Yes, sir," nodded the woman keeping her playful smile. "This is the so called 'Agency' that's had us under house arrest for twenty years. They've been afraid of you for a loooong time. Longer than you've probably been alive."

"How is that possible?" asked Wade.

"Time travel," purred Athena. "Someone traveled back from a future where you ruled the multi-verse and told them to be afraid and keep you locked up. They didn't do a good job, though."

"Time travel," said Wade in awe. "I suspected it was possible but couldn't prove it. The barrier must have prevented us from doing that too. Hmm... I'll have to reopen that line of science."

"There's more," said Athena enticingly.

"More than the map data?" asked Wade.

"Much... MUCH more," said Athena, looking up at the IDM spinning in the center of the huge room.

"Tell me," said Wade with an evil grin.

--

Shego shuffled with Will on her shoulder into the hallway outside his office when she saw the MFRs start scaling the walls. Kim and Cassie quickly exited beside her. "Kimmie, take Will up the infirmary. I'll see about sending a message."

Kim shook her head. "No, you take him upstairs. Cassie and I will contact the alternate site."

"We don't have time to argue about this," said Shego.

"I agree," said Kim. "So don't."

"Kimmie..." started Shego.

"Oh, god, you two will fight about anything," groaned Will. He used his good leg to stand up and reach out towards Kim. "Kim, help me to the infirmary, odds are you'll be able to figure out the medical equipment better than her. Shego, the communications locker is one floor down in the equipment bay, south-east corner. The password is 7-6-2-2-9-1-1. When you contact the alternate site tell them 'Foothold Scenario.'"

Shego helped Will into Kim's arms. "Got it. Come on, Cassie."

Kim frowned at the turn of events but still looked up at Shego. "Be careful," she said.

Shego looked back meaningfully then turned and ran towards the stairs down with Cassie following behind her. Kim then looked at Will with a sour expression.

"What?" asked Will. "I'm still in charge here."

Kim rolled her eyes and began walking Will towards the stairs going up. "Tell that to Wade."

--

Cassie and Shego entered the equipment room cautiously. They hadn't seen any of the MFRs on their way to the room but that didn't mean the drones hadn't reached the area ahead of them. Quietly creeping into the room they saw that it was about fifty feet wide by a hundred a seventy feet long, lined with ten rows of lockers keeping all manner of gear from tactical vests and boots to flashlights and rope and finally motorized carts and tents. The only thing the room appeared not to have was guns, which was something Shego wished she had given the circumstances.

They walked quickly but quietly along the wall down towards the lockers at the end. Shego figured one of the clusters in the back right corner was what they were looking for and headed right for it. Cassie stayed a few steps behind her, keeping constant eye on their back.

They were about halfway down the longer wall when they heard the sudden crash of the door behind them. They both turned in time to see an MFR walk into view at the far end of the row and raise its gun.

"Look out!" yelled Shego as she pushed Cassie towards the lockers and then dove for cover. The two girls rolled out of view in different directions between the brakes in the lockers, but as Shego emerged from the other side she saw a second MFR walking down the row. As that drone began firing Shego pulled her head in and pressed her back into the side of the row of lockers, trying to keep herself from being struck by the hail of bullets on either side.

"Well, this is grand," muttered Shego as she blindly tossed a few bolts of green flame around the corner at the MFRs. It would take more than a few lucky shots to take them down as she knew from the fight in the SynerTech Tower. She needed a plan. "Cassie, are you okay?"

The sound of gunfire replied and Shego doubted she'd even hear Cassie's quiet voice if she had said anything back. Shego looked up at ceiling above the lockers. It was tall, at least fifteen feet up, but the lockers went most of the way up. Shego stretched out her leg to see if she could span the distance between the end of the row of lockers she was behind and the next set of steel boxes. She could barely reach it with the tip of her foot, which wasn't a good sign. She'd have to vault it.

Shego glanced around the corner again and had to dodge back a microsecond later to avoid getting a bullet between the eyes. Those MFRs were slow but they had fantastic aim. She kept her back pressed against the lockers and she raised herself up on her feet. She looked across the room through the lined up breaks in the lockers and didn't see Cassie anywhere. She hoped she was okay, but there was little to do about it now.

Breathing deliberately once, Shego leapt up towards the next row of lockers, planted her foot on smooth side of the row, pivoted, and then did the same on the row of lockers she had previously had her back to. Her foot slipped slightly on the smooth surface but gripped enough to let her do it again and vault back and forth between the two rows of lockers until she reached the top and threw herself up onto the top of the lockers.

Immediately the MFRs to either side of the row of lockers began aiming for her as she was visible to them and an additional MFR two rows over since she was so high up. She dashed down the tops of the lockers towards the back of the room, jumping over the gaps between the rows, before finally reaching the back wall and sliding down in front of the far row of lockers to the concrete floor again. She breathed deeply as she kept herself hidden from the MFRs and looked around.

The back lockers had been shot up pretty badly and Shego hoped that the communication locker, wherever it was, wasn't similarly damaged. She scanned the far row of lockers; hoping one of them would stand out in her eye. They all looked the same. None seemed unique enough to indicate a 'communications locker' behind it. Shego wished she'd asked for better directions.

Shego sighed and leaned against the lockers she was using for cover. It wouldn't be long before those MFRs reached the end of the room, even at their snail's pace. She had to think of how to get rid of them. She opened the locker in front of her and looked inside. Climbing gear was inside. A box of carabineers, pikes, rope, and hammers were inside. She rustled through it and pulled out a hammer and a rope... then, on consideration, she took a pair of pikes as well, and then shut the door. She looked at the equipment in her hand. Now what?

The gunfire stopped from down the row and Shego imagined the MFRs had given up shooting and were now just walking down the rows of lockers, ready to bury a few slugs in the first thing they saw that moved. She tried to think of how to use that to her advantage. She glanced once down the row of lockers to either side and saw an MFR in both rows about halfway down the room. Shego cursed to herself.

Shego looked again at the materials in her hands. She began tying the rope to the hammer and slipped the pikes under the waistband of her pants. She glanced again down the row of lockers to her side and eyed the row beside the MFR. She doubted this would work but she had to try. She quickly ducked out and flung a small fireball at the lockers beside the MFR. The ball flew down the row and struck the center locker, leaving a grapefruit sized hole in the top most door. Shego stayed behind cover for a moment as the MFR fired down the alley again. When the gunfire ceased she stepped out swinging the hammer on the end of the rope and flung it down the row of lockers at the hole. With an auditable clang she heard it strike the locker and a series of follow-up sounds meant it fell into the locker like she'd hoped.

The MFR returned to firing down the row of lockers. Shego wondered if those things ever ran out of bullets or if those stupid nanites just generated more. She gripped the rope tightly, pulling it taught around the corner, confirming the hammer had been sufficiently wedged inside the locker. She wrapped the rope down under her elbow and then, putting her foot against the locker she'd been using for cover she began pulling with all her might.

The sound of creaking metal echoed through the room as the lockers strained against Shego's pull. She redoubled her efforts all the same pulling harder and getting slightly more give from the rope. The MFR beside the row of lockers continued to fire, either because it didn't know what else to do or to try and hit the rope. Shego ignored it and pulled, feeling more creaking metal.

Finally Shego cursed then ducked out into the alley between the lockers again and threw several fireballs at the base of the row of lockers she was pulling at. The green globules of fire impacted and melted the bottom of the metal lockers, finally causing them to bed and twist. With a terrible sound the lockers finally passed the tipping point and began to fall. The MFR beneath them didn't let up on his gunfire until he was crushed beneath the falling metal, finally stopping the endless fire.

Shego sighed, which was all the time she before the other MFR suddenly turned the corner at the end of the row of lockers and was less than a foot away. Shego's mind spun as the MFR raised its gun, already firing.

Unable to get away, Shego ignited her hands and reached for the gun, hoping to melt it before it was brought to bear. She stepped forward to grab the metal which immediately began to melt under her hands. But not before one bullet tore through her thigh where she stepped up to the drone. Ignoring the piercing pain in her leg, Shego melted the rifle in the MFR's hand. Not missing a beat, however, the MFR threw the melted gun away and grabbed Shego's shoulders, lifting her off the ground and throwing her into the back of lockers opposite their fight.

Shego hit the ground hard and spat blood. She felt her vision swim for a moment but did her best to ignore it and focus her attention on the MFR who was stalking closer. Pushing herself to her feet -- and limping slightly from the pain in her leg -- Shego turned the flames in her hands up full blast and threw herself at the MFR.

The robotic man was far more massive than Shego and didn't fall at her tackle, only stumbled. Shego reached for the machine's arms and tried to burn through the fake flesh and make it to the precious hydraulics inside but the MFR was far stronger and quickly broke her grip, leaving the plastic skin only blackened and slightly melted. With a twist the MFR threw Shego again, over the row of lockers and into the wall on the end. The reinforced wall broke less of her impact than the lockers, unfortunately, and Shego saw stars as she hit the hard concrete.

Shego's head was spinning and her leg was throbbing with pain, which was not an excellent situation to be fighting in. She considered her options and pulled out the pikes she'd put in her pants. They were paltry weapons, probably less effective than her fire, but that took effort to maintain and she was starting to get tired.

The MFR stepped into the row against the wall and Shego watched him swiftly close the distance. It was reaching out with its large hands, probably preparing to crush Shego's skull. She gripped the pikes in her hands tightly. She would put up a hell of a fight first.

The MFR got within reach and was about to reach for her when suddenly a axe rose up from behind it and hacked at its skull. The MFR staggered for a moment, off balance, but that was enough time for the axe to swing again and embed itself in the MFR's neck. The metal man now spun to see Cassie standing behind him with a serious look on her face. She only gave the MFR a second to consider its options before she leapt forward, scissor-kicking him in the head and knocking it clean off, finishing the job the axe started.

In a shower of sparks the MFR collapsed to the floor in a motionless heap. Cassie dusted her hands and walked up to Shego, offering her a hand to get up off the floor.

Shego looked at her in awe. "There was a third one..." she started to say, but Cassie shook her head and motioned across her neck.

"You already..." started Shego looking over to see some sign of the third MFR's body. She looked back quizzically at Cassie. "How?"

Cassie shrugged. "Come on," she said, waving her hand at her again.

Shego took it this time and let herself be dragged to her feet. Her leg throbbed from the bullet so she steadied herself against the wall as she stared at Cassie, still amazed. After a minute or so she regained her posture and turned to look at the back of the room. She'd looked back there before and didn't see the communications locker, she wondered if Will was wrong.

The two of them moved towards the back corner. Shego stood as Cassie started checking through all the lockers to see if what they were looking for was inside.

Shego stared at the lockers, something was wrong, she was sure. What was different? Well, the lockers were a different height, she noticed, shorter than the other rows. And a different color. They appeared entirely out of place, in fact, the more Shego looked at them. She hobbled forward and opened one of the doors. The inside was filled with rope. She searched the inside of the locker but it felt normal.

She stepped back again and looked. Then she reached out for the door, gripped it hard, and pulled. The locker -- just the one she was holding -- slid forward slightly. Shego blinked. She pulled again and the locker slid out some more.

"They're not connected," said Shego to Cassie. "Help me pull them out of the way." Cassie came over and together they pulled each of the lockers out of the way, exposing another locker behind them, with a heavy metal door flush with the wall and a keypad on the front.

"Stupid," said Shego, shaking her head. She typed in the numbers Will had recited to her earlier and the door unlatched coming slightly open. Cassie stepped up and pulled the door the rest of the way revealing a computer integrated into the inside of the safe with a screen and phone beside it. Shego reached out and picked up the phone, which immediately began to ring.

--

"Please, just lay down," the nurse told to Will for probably the twentieth time. He was in the infirmary with Kim, a few on staff nurses, and the night watch doctor. While they were thankful the medical staff had not run immediately after the firefight started, Will was starting to act erratically and it was causing problems with the nurses who were conflicted about forcing the man who signed their paychecks to do anything.

Finally, Kim stormed up and held Will down forcefully. "Stop moving," Kim ordered.

"We need to find out what happened to Shego," Will insisted. "They're in the IDM room we can't just leave them there. We have to flush them out."

"We are not doing anything," said Kim. She looked at Will's pale face and slowly moving eyes. He was suffering from major blood loss and the fluid bag connected to his arm wasn't going to cut it for long. "Where did that doctor go?" Kim called out.

"He's prepping the OR," said the nurse. "We're short staffed at night and we lost a few nurses who ran when the battle started."

"Well, tell him to hurry!" said Kim. She noticed that Will was no longer putting up much of a fight and she let him go. He was still breathing and slowly blinking but it looked like it was taking all his energy to do that.

"Kim..." said Will faintly.

"Shhh," said Kim. "Don't talk."

"Save them," Will insisted.

"I will," nodded Kim.

Will nodded slightly then closed his eyes. Kim quickly felt his pulse. It was weak, but still there.

The nurse soon came and did the same. "We don't have any more time," she said. "Help me bring him to the OR."

Kim nodded and helped lift will onto a gurney and held his IV bags as the nurse began wheeling him out the room. They got into the hallway when suddenly a trio of MFRs came around the bend and started marching towards them.

"Woah," Kim said pulling back on the nurse to stop her from wheeling forward. "Other way! Other way!"

The nurse saw the MFRs and began pulling the gurney backwards with Kim's help. They got several steps back before another trio of MFRs appeared behind them. Both Kim and Cassie froze and looked back and forth between the two sets of three drones closing in on them.

When the MFRs were a few steps away they slowed and stopped, standing in a circle around the nurse, Kim, and the gurney. Kim looked around, puzzled. Then she heard the loud click of heels on the tiled floor.

"Kim Possible," said a woman's voice from beyond the MFRs. "We meet again."

Kim watched as a thin woman with dark black hair walked around the MFRs and stood in an open space in the circle of drones. "Athena," said Kim, darkly.

"It hasn't been that long," said Athena. "But it seems like a lifetime ago."

"Cut the clich├ęs," demanded Kim. "Why did you attack this world?"

"Mostly revenge," shrugged Athena. "They trapped us for twenty years without ever telling us why. The Grand Commander felt we deserved at least an audience to air our complaints about that."

"You killed all those people," said Kim. "The Agency never did that to you."

"So?" asked Athena. "What does that matter?"

Kim shook her head. "You're as sick and twisted as your creator."

Athena beamed. "Thank you."

"So what's next?" asked Kim. "Going to take over? Dominate the world then all the other worlds?"

"Whatever the Grand Commander wants," said Athena. "Though right now, he wants you."

Kim swallowed. "Me?"

"You have information on something we've become very interested in."

Kim frowned. "What?"

"The Dimensional Drill," smiled Athena.

"I don't know anything about it, other than it blew up," said Kim quickly.

"You know more than you think you do," said Athena. "And I know it's still out there sitting on a yellow brick road. But, we're going to spend some quality time together until I'm sure I know everything you know."

Kim breathed shallow. "Fine. But don't hurt anyone else."

Athena laughed. "What? You're bargaining?" She laughed again. "My dear, I'm going to do what I want whether you want me to or not. But it's so cute of you to think that you have a say. So... Kim Possible of you."

Kim glared at her, but Athena just grinned.

"Take her," she said, turning on her heel. "And kill the other two." She quickly walked away, her heels echoing in the halls. Two MFRs quickly stepped forward and grabbed Kim roughly, lifting her off the ground despite her struggling, and began carrying her after Athena.

"No!" yelled Kim. "You have me leave them alone! Athena! ATHENA!"

Behind her there was a shriek, then a sudden burst of gunfire, then nothing but the sound of boots against the floor. Kim couldn't turn in the vice-like grip of the MFRs but knew what had happened. She hung her head and began to cry.

--

Shego and Cassie ran into the armed unit as they returning to the area outside the IDM room. There were at least two dozen men in uniforms, soldiers as far as Shego could tell, standing out there. They quickly grabbed Shego and Cassie, despite their protests, and brought them outside the building where an even larger collection of soldiers were standing. Finally they were brought to a mobile command post and ushered inside.

The command unit contained a simple conference table with nicely adorned walls of flat panels and computers. Several people were typing rapidly away at the computers while a collection of older men were standing around the table. One of the men turned to look at Shego and Cassie were brought in.

"Shego," the blonde man said. "I'm glad you alright."

"Ron?" asked Shego as she walked up. "What, you brought the whole army with you?"

"As much as could be spared," said Ron. "This was expected to happen eventually. Unfortunately it happened an hour earlier than we were prepared for. What's going on in the inside?"

Shego sighed. "It's a bloodbath," she said without reservation. "The whole IDM room is shot up, the MFRs are killing everyone they see -- wait, why are you asking me? What about Kim and Will?"

Ron stared. "They weren't in the residential building," he said. "Are they inside the Embarkation Building?"

"Yes!" Shego said loudly. "They were heading for the infirmary. Didn't you get them?"

"The MFRs are blocking access above the 3rd floor," said Ron. "We didn't want to push forward until we had a better tactical--"

"GO GET THEM!" yelled Shego.

"It's not that easy," said Ron. "The MFRs are tougher than normal soldiers and we don't know the situation inside the IDM room. We could lose a lot of people trying to rush in when it might be better to cut our losses."

"What does that mean?" Shego narrowed her eyes. "'Cut your losses.'"

"Ahem," an older man cleared his throat and stepped forward. "General Cleotus Dobbs. What Mr. Stoppable is referring to is destroying the Embarkation Building with the enemy in it."

"Over. My. Dead. Body," Shego said viscerally. "Kim and Will are still in there and who knows how many others!"

"We do know how many others," said General Dobbs. "We have infrared scans that can show us human body heat signatures in the building. Apart from the soldiers in the lobby and second floor there are only three. There's someone on the sixth floor, the fifth floor, and in the IDM room."

"That could be Kim, Will, and a doctor," said Shego. "You can't kill them."

"Those robots are powerful fighting machines," said General Dobbs. "If they decide to march out of that building we will have to take drastic measures to contain them and there is no telling how many more will pop out of your little gate."

"None," said Shego. "The gate should be spiked, there shouldn't be any more."

"How?" asked Ron.

"There's an alternate site," said Shego. "They were able to spike the gate from there and put up the barrier to prevent anyone from entering or leaving."

"An alternate site?" asked Ron. "With a gate machine? I've never heard of this."

"Will said it's somewhere in Upperton. He had me call them and tell them to disable the gate," said Shego. "So there, there's no more coming. Just what already came through. Call off your bombers."

"What came through may already be too much," said the General.

"Fine," said Shego, pointedly. "Just give me a chance to go in and save Kimmie. If I die, then you can bomb the crap out of the place."

"That's not a very --"

"Good, we're agreed," said Shego. She turned and began limping out.

"Now, wait a minute!"

Shego ignored the call and left the trailer. She stepped down onto the pavement and looked around. A hundred soldiers out here just shooting the breeze because they're too afraid to face the scary robots. Pathetic. She turned to face the building and began moving forwards.

Cassie was beside her in an instant.

"I'm probably going to die here," said Shego. "Maybe it's best if you sit this one out."

Cassie shook her head. "I'm coming with you," she said.

"I figured you'd say that," said Shego, sighing. She put her arm around Cassie and leaned on her slightly. "At least help me walk."

Cassie nodded and helped her move towards the building. The soldiers quickly realized what was going on and stared in awe. Two girls, one injured and the other not yet seventeen were about to walk into the battle zone and face the enemy by themselves.

A soldier left his group, picked up his gun, and started to follow. Then another one. Then a third. Then more...

--

Kim struggled against the iron grip of the MFR, still crying as she yelled. "You bitch!" she screamed. "Let me go!"

"Please, Kim, you're making a scene," said Athena from the working console in the IDM room. Her silvery spindles were snaked into the keyboard again and she was quickly going through screens and files.

"I'm not going to tell you anything!" yelled Kim. "So you better kill me too!"

"That won't be productive," said Athena. She tilted her head. "It seems someone else in playing with our game. Interrupted our gateway and blocking incoming gates."

"Hah!" laughed Kim. "Not so tough after all!"

Athena smiled. "Kim, these people know more about dimensional travel than anyone else in this area of the multi-verse, and have strived to keep the tightest grip of control over it. But they had one glaring flaw to all their hard work." She pointed up at the glowing IDM above them. "Everything depends on that and the Agency keeping control of it. They tried to prepare for someone taking over this room but they couldn't really, because they could never get over their dependence on that." She laughed. "So foolish."

Athena looked back at the monitor for a moment then looked up at the IDM. "Ah, it's almost entirely self-sustaining, perfect." She raised her hand an the silvery tendrils snaked back into her fingers. "Now let's deal with you."

"I'm not telling you anything," sneered Kim.

"You still don't get it," said Athena. "You don't have a choice."

"You'll have to kill me," said Kim.

"No, I won't," Athena shook her head. She walked up to Kim and raised hand to cup the red head's face. "Such determination will be delightful to break."

Kim tried to bite Athena's hand but she quickly pulled it away before the teeth could make contact.

"Ah, and yet so primal," smiled Athena. "I'm always looking for new experiences, you know. New ways to expand, to... grow my influence and knowledge. I'm still learning after all."

"Go to hell," spat Kim.

Athena ignored her. "But you know, no matter how hard I try I just can't reach that human feeling. Somehow all my simulations and bodies just don't feel quite right. So much tweaking is needed. What I need is... a guide."

Kim practically growled at Athena, who leaned in close. "Yes, a guide, Kim Possible," said Athena. "Will you be my guide?"

"NEVER!"

"It will be fun," said Athena. She reached out and held Kim's face in her hands, this time keeping a tight grip to prevent her from breaking free. "We'll learn how to be human together."

Kim felt pricks and sharp stabs at her face under Athena's hands. She tried to shake loose.

"Just you and me, Kim," Athena said softly. "Intimate."

Kim felt something tearing at her skin and she struggled to get it to stop. Something was digging into her skull.

"One mind."

It felt like spiders dancing on her brain, prickling and poking in and around her skull. It was agony, invading her body from every direction.

"One body."

Kim couldn't stand the feeling behind her eyes and screamed at the top of her lungs until her chest felt it would burst.

Instead the entrance to the IDM room exploded inwards. A flood of soldiers suddenly plowed into the room and took up cover behind consoles and panels and machinery, peeking out around them with their guns aimed at the group of four MFRs holding Kim and Athena, the latter of which almost looked as if she was kissing Kim.

"Let her go!" yelled Shego, standing in the open with her fists ablaze with green fire.

Athena then went limp and fell to the ground with a heavy metal thud, much to the surprise of Shego. She watched the still form of the robot for any sign of trickery as she spoke. "Kimmie? Are you okay?"

There was no sound for several moments and Shego eventually tore her eyes away from the lifeless body to look up at Kim. She was moving her head slowly around in a lethargic manner, her eyes looking to be rolled up into he head. Shego imagined she'd been drugged.

"Kimmie! Come back to me, now, don't care what they drugged you with," said Shego. She took a step closer to the group of MFRs and the two in the rear suddenly raised their weapons and stepped one step forward. The plethora of guards behind Shego also began aming their weapons but Shego waved them down. "Wait! Don't shoot, you'll hit Kimmie!"

"Unnggg," Kim groaned suddenly.

"Kimmie?" called out Shego, standing still so as not to provoke the MFRs.

"OOhggg... I feel weird," Kim said, slowly raising her head. She blinked several times and tried to focus on Shego. "Is that... Shego?"

"Yeah, it's me," Shego said, smiling. "We're going to rescue you, just hang tight. We'll get you free."

"Rescue?" asked Kim lethargically. She blinked several more times before focusing again on Shego. "There's no need. Release me."

The MFRs holding Kim released their grip and she fell to the ground on top of the body of Athena. Kim slowly picked herself up the and, using the MFR behind her to support her, got back to her feet. "Oh, this is so weird."

"You're telling me," said Shego, frowning. "Just... uh, come this way slowly and we'll get you out of here."

Kim looked at Shego then looked down at the body of Athena. She kneeled down and pushed the body over so it was lying on its back. She stared at the body for a few moments, considering something, then held out her arms over the body then moved the arms over her own.

"Kimmie, what are you doing?" yelled Shego nervously.

Kim then reached down and pulled the leather coat off of Athena's body with a little bit of effort. It got stuck at one point and she leaned back to pull on it so that when it finally came free it snapped back at her and she fell on her butt. She laughed at the antic afterwards.

"Okay something is definitely wrong," Shego muttered behind her to the soldiers there. "Let's try to take out the MFRs around her."

"The ricochet may hit her," warned the private behind Shego.

Kim finally got back up to her feet and swung the jacket around, putting it on. "Ah... we're the same size even, I knew we were a perfect match," she said. She held the coat against her body in a comforting manner. Then she straightened and stood proudly over the body of Athena.

"Wow, I never would have expected this," said Kim. "It's going to take me a long time to get use to it."

"What are you talking about, Kimmie?" asked Shego.

"Ohh, Kimmie's not here right now," Kim said with a smirk. "But if you leave a message with Athena, she may get back to you when she returns from oblivion."

Shego's jaw dropped. "No..."

"Oh yes," smiled Athena in Kim's body. "And this body feels oh so delicious."

"LET HER GO!" screamed Shego.

"Hah, fat chance," said Athena. She tried to walk seductively back over to the console, swinging Kim's hips a little too far to appear smooth. She pressed a button on the console and the IDM suddenly lit up brightly.

Shego shielded her eyes from the light as she stared at Athena/Kim smiling brightly beneath the IDM. An arc of blue-white light suddenly burst from the globe and created a giant swirling vortex in the room. The MFRs then walked over to the globe that contained the IDM and began to disconnect it.

"Don't you dare leave here with her!" yelled Shego.

"You heroes always think you have a say in the matter," said Athena. She slowly walked backwards towards the vortex. "But you never really do."

"Athena!" growled Shego.

The IDM suddenly lurched from its base and began to roll off its pedestal. The band of four MFRs caught it and slowly walked towards the wide vortex.

"If you want to stop me, just stop me, Shego," said Athena. "I'm right here, I have no weapons, and your green magic will easily burn through this flesh and bone. Go ahead. Do it." She smiled wickedly.

Shego grit her teeth and felt tears well up in her eyes. "Please don't take her," she said softly.

The MFRs rolled the IDM through the vortex then followed after it. Athena stood before the giant tear in space-time and bowed politely towards the soldiers. "Thank you for your hospitality," she said. Then she turned and skipped through the vortex.

"GGGGGGRRRRRRRRRR!" growled Shego as she ran headlong towards the vortex as fast as she could, closing the distance in a moment before leaping for the open maw... and watching it close a microsecond before she reached it. She landed on a pile of broken computers and debris from broken walls. Then she lit her fists up and began pounding on the pile and the floor, smashing everything around her in fury and tears.

Then a minute later, another vortex opened, a smaller one, and a woman came flying out of the center of the maw and landed on the ground near to Shego's tantrum. The vortex closed as quickly as it opened behind her.

The woman slowly picked herself up and looked around, locked eyes with Shego who was looking at her with an indecipherable expression. The woman stood and walked over to her. "You're Shego, right?" she said.

"Yeah," said Shego in a hoarse voice.

"I'm Dr. Robin Chen." The woman pulled a rectangular device from her pocket that looked like a PDA and handed it to Shego. Shego hesitantly held out her hand and took the device from her. On the screen was a small map that looked like the BODAR maps she'd seen in Will's office before. It showed many, many more dots on it than the ones in Will's office, and had a faint white trail from dot to dot.

Shego looked up at the woman. "What--"

"That's where you have to go," said the woman.

"Why?" asked Shego.

"Because that's the only way you'll be able to stop her. Stop the virus."

"The virus?"

"The Grand Commander's virus."

Realization dawned in Shego's eyes. "Athena."

--

TWO WEEKS LATER

Ron looked out over the slowly rebuilding IDM room from the office that once belonged to Will Du. He felt terrible sitting here, in a office he never wanted, replacing a man he felt he never should have. Doing a job he never asked for.

"It'll be okay, Ron," said Dr. Kim sitting on the edge of the desk beside him. "You'll do fine."

"I'm not sure anyone should do this," said Ron. "Look at the trouble it's brought us. The death it has wrought."

"Someone has to," said Kim. "Why not us? That's always been my belief."

Ron smiled slightly. He took his wife's hands and held them. "I know. I just hope my best is good enough."

--

Shego strapped on the vest and the belt full of supplies. For once she was going to go into this properly prepared. Too many weeks of traveling by scrapping together anything she could find, finding money where they could, staying in the worst motels in existence. She was done with that. This was no longer going to be an accident. This was a mission. A mission to save Kim.

And possibly the world. Or many worlds.

Cassie pulled her vest tight and began lacing up her boots. Shego looked at her sadly. "You still sure you want to come along?" asked Shego, knowing the answer already.

Cassie nodded.

Shego sighed. She came over and sat down beside Cassie. "It would kill me if you..." she couldn't even finish the thought. How this girl wormed her way into her life in only two weeks more closely than Kim ever did was completely beyond her comprehension. She didn't really know much about the girl, other than her slavish devotion to her and the strange way she made her feel better when she was around.

Cassie patted Shego on the shoulder and gave her a kind, friendly look. She would be there, she wouldn't die, was what the look said. And Shego could believe it somehow.

Shego stood and nodded. "Let's go."

--

Ron stood in the embarkation room with Shego, Cassie, and Dr. Kim. He was handing over a few pouches filled with precious metals. "These should help you out with your currency problems. Cash, we've found, is not universal but you should be able to sell these."

Shego nodded and pushed the pouches into her bag.

"Replenish your medical supplies if you use them," said Dr. Kim. "But I hope you don't have to."

Shego nodded and looked up to Ron and Kim. "Listen," she said. "Thank you. For everything you've done for us. I don't say that... well, ever, but I should."

"I'm sorry that Kim got caught up in trouble with our world," said Ron. "As soon as we finish the Argo, we'll be out there to help." He hesitated. "It's still not too late, you know, you could stay until we finish..."

Shego was already shaking her head. "The map says I have about two dozen jumps to get where your Shego was, that's probably a month, month-and-a-half of travel. I can get there way ahead of the Argo at this point. I can't wait any longer."

Ron nodded. "I understand."

"Did Dr. Chen ever say anything else about what happened to Shego?" asked Shego.

Dr. Kim shook her head. "No, she says she can't say anything. I don't know why and she won't tell us why. I hope... someday that you can."

"If I find her, I'll bring her back," said Shego.

Dr. Kim looked somewhat sad but then smiled. "Thank you."

Shego looked to Ron. "We should get going."

Ron reached into his pocket and pulled out the rectangular device. It'd been polished and repaired from when Robin brought it back, hoping to last the entire trip to wherever it was Shego needed to go. "It's programmed to follow the trail left by Shego. No need to set a destination, it'll automatically take you forward. Remember, one trip per day, it needs 24 hours to recharge."

"I remember," said Shego.

"And be careful with it," said Ron.

"Yes, Dad," Shego said drolly.

"Fine, fine," said Ron. "Good luck."

"Safe travels," said Dr. Kim.

Shego nodded.

Dr. Kim and Ron filed out of the embarkation room and closed the door behind them. Shego pressed the button on the rectangular device and in an instant a blue-white vortex of energy appeared. She and Cassie stared into it.

Cassie looked up at Shego who appeared just a little nervous. She reached over and held Shego's hand.

Shego looked down at her hand, then up at Cassie.

"We'll get her back," said Cassie.

Shego looked surprised then calmed and turned back to the vortex. "We will."

Cassie stepped forward, gently pulling Shego along until both were swept up in the vortex that closed behind them.

Outside the embarkation room, Ron and Dr. Kim watched as they left then turned away. There was much to do, repairing the IDM room was only part of it, as they were without an IDM to put in it. Then there was the matter of finding a place for all the US military troops that were now residents of the campus. And the integration of the generals and--

Kim and Ron paused and then suddenly turned back to see a girl standing behind them. She was short, with long brown hair tied in a pony-tail and wearing a uniform of colored in black and gray with a green trim. She stared impassively up at them.

"Fayt?" Ron said impulsively.

The girl sighed. Ron Stoppables always recognized her for some reason, even if they'd never met her before. It was such a pain.

"You know her?" asked Kim, confused.

"I... think so?" said Ron. "I'm not sure how... or why."

"It doesn't matter," said Fayt. "What matters is that this is the biggest mess I've seen you fools make in like... ever."

Ron blinked. "Um, what?"

"Four worlds? Seriously? Do you know how hard it is for to fix four worlds at the same time?" asked Fayt, putting her hands on her hips. "I'll be lucky if my brain doesn't come shooting out of my nose when I'm done."

Ron's jaw had gone slack by now and Kim's eyes probably couldn't have gotten any wider.

"Who are you, again?" asked Kim.

"At least you didn't invite them to come back," said Fayt, rubbing her temple.

"How did you get in here?" asked Ron.

"The same way I always do," Fayt explained as if she were talking to a child. "From right angles to reality. You wrote it, after all."

Ron's face suddenly flashed with recognition. "Oh ... y-you're!"

"Nobody," said Fayt in a strange way.

"No! No, no, you're... you're..." but the light in Ron's eyes had started to fade already and in a moment he blinked and looked around. "What... what was I saying?"

Dr. Kim looked at him and shrugged. "I don't think you were saying anything."

"Oh," said Ron, confused. This was a natural state for him, so he quickly regained his composure. "Well, I guess we need to set up some interviews for the general. He wants to 'get to know' the staff." Ron rolled his eyes.

Dr. Kim sighed. "Sure he does, and next he's going to replace my field nurses with MASH."

Ron shook his head but smiled as they walked out of the IDM room. It would be tough, the next few months, but they would face it together.

Just like they did every problem.

--

END of BOOK I.

--