Welcome to the fourth edition of Guess the Author. I am your humble host, Jason "Zaratan" Jones, and I come to you 11 tales from a wide variety of authors to dazzle your senses.
Yvj won last time, oh so long ago, so this intriguing topic, soap opera, is all his doing. On the other hand, it looks like a LOT of people had a lot of fun with this one.
The rules are simple. Read through all the stories, and then try to guess which of our amazing authors wrote that particular story. Write out your responses to me, Zaratan, by either PM or by email at zaratan4 at hotmail dot com, and the one closest, getting the most correct, wins and gets to select our next contest topic.
And now, for our list of authors, in alphabetical order;
Remember, match as many stories as you can with these authors, happy reading, and good luck to you all!
…x x x x…
The Wrong and the Sickness Part One
It had all started, Kim reflected much later, when she'd had Wade handle the pre-wedding blood test...
"Uh, Kim?" the preteen genius's voice was a little squeakier than usual as it emerged from the Kimmunicator's speakers. "About that blood test?"
"What blood test?" That was Ann Possible, poking her head through the open door into Kim's bedroom – and if Wade's voice was abnormally squeaky, Kim's mother also sounded oddly strained. "I thought you were going to let me handle that. I've already got—"
"Yes, well," Kim said quickly, "you're already doing so much for the wedding, I thought I'd save you the trouble. It's not like there's anything funky about my blood, right?"
A throat-clearing noise squawked across the Kimmunicator frequency. "Well, actually . . . there kind of is."
Abruptly, Mrs. Dr. Possible was halfway across the room, her hand reaching for the Kimmunicator's Off switch – but Kim caught her mother's wrist with an instinctive kung fu move, and held on. "Mom," she inquired, in a tone she was more used to using on Drakken and Shego, "what is it you're not telling me?"
As suddenly as she'd swung into action-mode, Kim's mother deflated. "I hoped you'd never have to know," she said. "That I could just put that night behind me forever."
Kim's eyes narrowed. "That night? What does that have to do with my--?" She broke off, her eyes widening. "Oh my God. You mean . . . ?"
Tears pooled at the corners of Ann Possible's eyes. "I'm afraid so, Kimmie. I never meant to betray your fath—James," she said, "but he swept me off my feet, showered me with roses, plied me with champagne, and – I couldn't resist. It was just that one night, three weeks before James and I were married. You arrived nine months later to the day."
"But – but that doesn't mean . . . does it? That I'm not? That Daddy isn't?"
"I've tried to tell myself that for years," her mother said, sighing. "But when I finally worked up the courage to do the tests, I couldn't hide from the answer."
Kim swallowed. "Does . . . does he know?"
"James? God, no – it would shatter him. I've been . . . massaging your medical records since you were three. Till now, no one's found out, I'd swear it."
"Till now," echoed Kim. "So – who was it? One of Dad's classmates?" A look of utter horror crossed her face. "Oh, God, not--?"
"Drew?" Ann laughed weakly. "Good Lord, no. No, not a classmate. But you do know him – it's one of the other reasons I never told you. I was afraid he'd take you away from us—from me."
"Never," Kim said, trying to sound as if she believed it. "Not in a million years. But if it isn't Drakken, then . . . ?"
Mrs. Dr. Possible took a deep breath. "The one man on the planet who might have been able to steal you away from us," she said. "Senor Senior, Senior."
…x x x x…
Madness, Drew Lipsky reflected much later, was vastly overrated – especially when it was mostly a cover for something much more complex.
Deep in the innermost reaches of his lair – locked in his private sanctum, safe from Shego's taunts – Dr. Drakken waited.
Then – without warning, out of the silence – a communications screen woke to life, though the figure that appeared was cloaked in shadow, its voice disguised by an electronic scrambler.
"Scythe to Drakken," said the voice. "Acknowledge."
"Drakken here," replied the blue-skinned scientist nervously, one hand absent-mindedly turning his glass of cocoa-moo in place.
"Your rubberizing ray was destroyed," Scythe said in an implacable tone, "and the girl still lives. You have failed me again."
With an effort, Drakken drew himself up in his chair. "The ray was built to your specifications," he said, "but the design was flawed. The interphase module was calibrated for helium-dichromate reactions, which caused a cascading induction overload." He spoke evenly, his tone markedly different from the half-maniacal, half-childish voice he ordinarily affected.
Scythe's silhouette cocked its shadowed head very slightly sideways. "I will require your logs to check that analysis. And the girl?"
"Uploading now," Drakken said, touching a control on his desk. "As for Kim Possible, she fell into the pit of giant Saturnian flytraps as planned."
"Why was she not consumed?"
"She released a cloud of anti-pheromonal mist," Drakken responded, "that apparently masked her presence, giving her time to escape the plants' tendrils and activate her grapple gun. The mist is a new weapon," he added, "not part of her known arsenal. However, its composition has been analyzed, and the information added to her profile."
"Can the flytraps be mutated to resist its effect?"
Drakken frowned. "Unknown," he said. "If so, I would need several months to clone and propagate a new strain in sufficient numbers."
The synthesizer registered the Scythe's response as half rumble, half buzz. "Too long," the silhouette said, "at least for the near term. Pursue the matter at tier three priority."
"Understood," said Drakken. "Are there new instructions?"
The Scythe was silent for a moment, then said, "Smartsilk. Dr. Caroline Rochet at the Middleton Institute of Technology has developed a synthetic thread with unique bio-electrical properties. With the proper transmission equipment, the wearer of clothing incorporating smartsilk can be paralyzed or physically controlled. If a line of such clothing were introduced into Club Banana or Smarty Mart . . . ."
"An army of teen zombies at my command!" For the first time in the conversation, Dr. Drakken allowed himself a touch of maniacal glee. "Perhaps even Kim Possible and the buffoon!"
The short bark of laughter that burst from Drakken's speaker system was colder than Arctic ice. "Especially Kim Possible and the buffoon," Scythe said. "In fact – there is a small quantity of prototype thread in Dr. Rochet's office, and I am told that alterations to Miss Possible's wedding gown are not yet complete. That would seem to present an opportunity."
"And I do so enjoy weddings," said Drakken. "Opportunity indeed!"
The silhouette tilted its head in what might have been a smile. "So be it. I am sending security specifications for Dr. Rochet's lab now, as well as notes on the thread's properties and a possible transmitter design. This project has tier one priority."
Drakken glanced at a smaller monitor and nodded. "Data received."
"Then you have your orders. Scythe out." The comm screen went dark.
Drakken briefly studied the material his mysterious patron had sent, sipping his cocoa-moo thoughtfully as he read. "Virtually foolproof," he murmured to himself. "And almost childishly easy to engineer. There's no doubt this time. Kim Possible is finally doomed."
He drained his glass, shut down his workstation, and went looking for Shego.
…x x x x…
Desire, she reflected much later, was a dangerous emotion – especially when paired with the power to make one's desires reality.
"It is destiny," the tall but curiously stooped man told the slim, black-clad girl, "and not merely because your power calls to his. She is a dilettante, an amateur – a mere prototype. You are what she was meant to be, and—" he paused, grimacing slightly, "you are who he is meant to have. Only you and he can unite the ancient powers at last."
The girl regarded the older man skeptically. "So you say. But if I am truly all that you believe, why wait until now to speak of these things?"
"I only learned the truth quite recently," he responded. "She who created you passed away scarcely a month ago, and only then did her lawyers send me the sealed files she left behind. You have seen them yourself now; the genetic records leave no doubt."
"What of his feelings for . . . her?"
The older man grinned wickedly. "As far as he is concerned, you will be her. A few small changes to your outward appearance will work wonders – and once he is yours, nothing will separate you."
"Yet she must not be harmed."
"Any harm she suffers she will bring upon herself; for that, neither you nor I can be responsible."
The girl gave her visitor a long, dark look. "Very well," she said. "It will be my honor to marry Ron Stoppable a week from now."
And silent as ghosts, Yori and Monkey Fist slipped away from the Yamanuchi School, heading for the landing strip where Monkey Fist's jet awaited them.
…x x x x…Part Two
Kim stared at her mother in shock. "You're telling me my biological father is – Triple S?"
Ann Possible sighed. "I'm afraid so."
"But that's ferociously wrong! I mean, that makes Junior my – half-brother?"
The Kimmunicator beeped sharply. "Uh, actually . . . no, it doesn't," said Wade's voice. The boy genius sounded apologetic but firm. "At least not according to your blood work."
Kim's mother regarded Wade's image sternly. "That's impossible. There was never anyone else – only Ricardo, and only that once. And I should think I ought to know."
Kim's head was spinning. "So what does the blood work say? That Dad's Dad after all?"
Wade shook his head regretfully. "Weirder than that, Kim. After I got the first results back, I ran a full DNA profile – and then checked your mom's medical records from when she was carrying you."
"You did what?" demanded Mrs. Dr. Possible. "Those are private!"
"Maybe," Kim shot back, "but this is me we're talking about, and I think I'm entitled. What'd you find, Wade?"
"I'm getting to that," Wade said, "but you two had better sit down for this, because it gets really strange."
Kim plopped down on her bed; her mother settled into the chair at Kim's desk. "All right," Ann Possible said, "let's have it."
"I wouldn't believe this if I hadn't seen the records – and I mean all the records," Wade told her. "Your doctor back then covered her tracks really well, but she didn't go back quite far enough."
"Covered her tracks?" Kim's mother echoed. "What tracks?"
Wade was looking impressed despite himself. "It must have been insanely cutting-edge at the time," he said, "but she was switching parental DNA in the womb. As near as I can figure out, Kim was Senior's daughter for all of about a week – and then Dr. Hall switched his genome out and replaced it."
Kim's face went pale again. "Dr. Hall? You mean – DNAmy?"
"Her mother, actually," Wade said, "Dr. Deirdre Hall. Apparently mad genius runs in the family."
Mrs. Dr. Possible blinked. "Good Lord. I had no idea – she'd retired by the time the Tweebs came along. Just as well, by the sound of it."
"Back on track, Wade," said Kim. "If Dad's not Dad, and Senior's not Dad, then who really is my dad? Genetically speaking, anyway."
Wade took a deep breath. "Remember, I'm just the messenger . . . ."
"Get on with it!" said both Possible women at once.
"All right," Wade said, "but don't say I didn't warn you. According to the DNA match, Kim's biological father is – Montgomery Fiske."
Kim didn't quite faint, but she did wobble. "Monkey Fist? As in, Ron's arch-nemesis? With monkey hands and feet?" She glanced nervously at her own hands.
"Relax, Kim," said Wade. "Your Fiske genes date from long before he had that done."
Kim was still wobbling. "My father is Monkey Fist. Ron is so not going to understand this."
"It will be all right," Ann Possible said, reaching out to her daughter. "It has to be." She gathered Kim into her arms, rocking her gently – but Wade, on the other end of the Kimmunicator connection, saw the older woman's lips move in a silent murmur: Dear Lord, what am I going to do about James?
…x x x x…
"Well?" said Dr. Drakken, stepping back so that Shego could admire his handiwork.
Shego eyed the mannequin critically. "I don't think it's quite your style, Dr. D. The blushing-bride look just does not work on you, and white isn't really your color."
"Your words hurt, Shego," Drakken told her. "Nor, as you very well know, did I have you, ah, borrow Kim Possible's wedding dress so I could wear it."
"Doy!" Shego said. "So what did we steal it for? It looks just like it did when I brought it in."
Drakken grinned. "Looks can be deceiving, my dear," he said. "If you'd care to try it on, I'll be happy to demonstrate the, ah, improvements I've made."
One of Shego's hands flared green. "There is no way you're getting me into a wedding dress. Especially not her wedding dress. Even if we did wear the same size, which we don't."
"It was just a suggestion," Drakken said hurriedly. "A very unwise suggestion. Fortunately, the tests and simulations have all been most successful; the puppetronic command unit works perfectly." He held up a compact device that closely resembled a video-game controller.
"Oh, joy," Shego said, sounding bored. "In that case, what do you need me for?"
"To return the dress, of course. Little Kimmie will look lovely in it on her wedding day, don't you think?"
"Return the—wait, you're going to turn the Princess into a sock puppet during her wedding?"
"Something like that," Drakken said. "After all of the dreams of mine she's interrupted at the critical moment, it only seems fair to interrupt one of hers."
A dangerous smile began to spread across Shego's face. "You've got a point there, Doc. And I always have liked crashing parties."
"Well, then," said Drakken, pressing a button that sealed the mannequin, dress and all, into a transport cylinder, "you'd best be off. We wouldn't want Kim Possible to mislay her wedding dress, now would we?"
"Absolutely not," Shego agreed. "On my way." She slung the cylinder easily over one shoulder, spun on her heel, and strode quickly out of the lab. Drakken stood watching as the door whooshed closed after her – just as a small round hole opened in the floor behind him where he'd idly dropped the puppetronic command unit, swallowed the device, and snapped closed again.
"Dear me," he said a moment later, "where did I leave that command unit? Ah, well, not to worry, I still have the spare." He drew a second, identical-looking device from a pocket of his lab coat, twirling it in his hand and whistling as he headed for the commissary to fix himself a glass of cocoa-moo.
…x x x x…
Ron Stoppable had stopped at the Middleton Mall food court for lunch after picking up his tux – it wasn't Bueno Nacho, but it was on his way home, and there was too much else to be done before the wedding to detour, even for a naco-chimurrito combo meal. He had just dropped the wrappings from his Pumpernickel Pickle Pike Platter into a trash bin when he spotted a familiar wave of bright red hair on the far side of the court.
"Kim!" he called across the atrium, hurrying toward her as he spoke.
She looked up, startled, as he approached. "Ron-s—sweetheart! I thought – there's so much to do before tomorrow! Should you – shouldn't you be at home?"
"Heading there now, fiancée-of-my-dreams," Ron replied, dropping a light kiss on the top of her head, then cocking an eyebrow upward as he glanced at the tray in front of her. "Whoa, sushi? Didn't think you went in for the raw fish."
"I'm – expanding my horizons. Slowly," she added.
"Good for you, KP," Ron told her, his hands lightly caressing her shoulders as he stood behind her, "but you've got to be careful about sushi. Nibbling Ninja? Not so much with the freshness. And it'd be bad form for the bride to spend her wedding day in bed with a wobbly tummy."
The object of his affections sighed and pushed the tray away. "Good point," she said. "Next time I will be more careful."
"You do that, KP," said Ron. He was silent for a moment, though his fingers kept gently massaging her shoulders. "You nervous about tomorrow?"
She gave a weak, quick laugh. "Of course I'm nervous! All brides are bundles of quivering emotion before the wedding." A pause. A small, hopeful smile. "But it will pass. And then there will be other kinds of quivering."
Ron gulped. "That reminds me – gotta run. More errands. Love you!" And he gave the bemused redhead a quick but firm peck on the lips before making a dash for the parking lot.
Only after Ron was completely out of sight did the man in the long coat emerge from the side corridor leading to the restrooms and slide into the seat across from the red-haired girl. "You see? All will be well. He suspects nothing – and he accepted you without question."
"That is true," Yori admitted, "but I still have much to learn. American-style contractions especially. And," she added, eyeing the tray still sitting on the table, "I should not have chosen the sushi. Ron . . . was correct about the freshness."
Monkey Fist merely grinned. "But you are ready for tomorrow, yes?"
Yori sighed. "I am a bundle of quivering emotion," she retorted. "And the best way to cure that condition is to complete tomorrow's ceremony."
…x x x x…Part Three
Tradition might have dictated that on one's wedding day, the groom ought not see the bride before the ceremony. But it was also tradition for Ron Stoppable to drop by the Possible household for Saturday breakfast, and given a choice between wedding folklore and food, Ron – to absolutely no one's surprise – chose food.
"Bon-diggity as usual, Mrs. Dr. P," Ron told Kim's mother, polishing off a second plate of brain-shaped waffles.
She smiled at him, spatula in hand. "Thank you, Ronald. More eggs, Kimberly?"
Kim shook her head. "I'm stuffed, Mom. Any more and I won't fit into my dress."
"Well, if you're sure. Nana?"
As Ann Possible circled the breakfast table offering seconds, Kim turned in her chair to face Ron. "We need to talk," she said softly, "in private. There's something—"
Ron blinked. "Um, isn't the in-private stuff supposed to wait till after the ceremony?"
His fiancée blushed. "Not that kind of something. Treehouse in ten?"
"Treehouse in ten," Ron agreed.
Exactly ten minutes later, Ron climbed up and clambered into the treehouse. "So," he asked, "what's the big secret?"
Kim tried to glare, but the expression collapsed into frustration. "This is serious, Ron," she said. "And it really is a big secret. You can't tell anyone else – most especially not Dad."
Ron blinked. "Whoa there. This isn't a black-hole-type secret, is it? You haven't--?"
"No, I haven't," Kim told him, "any more than you have. It's not me – it's Mom. Only it sort of is me, too . . . darnit," she said, throwing up her hands, "this is way complicated."
"Slow down, KP," Ron said. "So it's a Mom-thing but not a Dad-thing, and a you-thing but you haven't . . . ." All at once, the metaphorical light bulb went on. "Ohhh! You mean – your mom did the wild thing with – somebody else?" He gulped. "I am so not sure I want to know this."
Kim gave him a pleading look. "I wish I didn't have to tell you," she said, "but I do, because it is partly about me. And it's kind of – awkweird, too." As quickly as she could, she spun out the story for Ron.
"So genetically," she finished, several minutes later, "my parents are Mom and – Monkey Fist."
Ron eyes went very wide. "Monkey Fist?" he echoed. "But you don't have monkey hands and feet!"
Kim giggled, but it was a high-pitched, half-hysterical giggle. "It happened way before DNAmy did that. Still," she added, reflectively, "it would kind of explain the mad kung fu skills."
"Could be," Ron said. "So what are the rules for something like this? I mean, technically, you're the blood kin of my evil arch-nemesis – does that mean we have to duel to the death or something? Because that would be sick and wrong."
"Totally sick and wrong," Kim agreed, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "But this still changes everything. Maybe I'm not a monkey girl, but I'm still . . . his girl, and look how he turned out. And there's probably some prophecy about how I'll betray you and steal your mystic monkey power, or we'll have freaky monkey babies, or – well, something!" The floodgates broke, and she crumpled onto the floor of the treehouse, sobbing.
Ron stared at hs fiancée silently for a moment, then cast his eyes heavenward and said very, very softly, "Why did it have to be monkeys?"
Then, however, he took two steps, lifted Kim up by the shoulders, and folded her firmly into his arms. "Kim, Kim, Kim," he said gently into her ear. "You are not a freaky monkey girl. You are not the subject of an evil monkey prophecy. And you are not Monty the Monkey's anything, except maybe his second-worst nightmare after me. You are Kim Possible, you can do anything . . . and that includes getting married to a weird blond guy with a naked mole rat and maybe some mystic monkey powers that he never really wanted anyway. Are we clear on that?"
A heavy, labored breath whooshed past Ron's own ear, and Kim lifted her head off of his shoulder. "You really still want to do this?" she asked, her voice quavering.
"I really do, KP," he told her firmly. "What DNAmy's mom did to your mom was completely and totally wrongsick, but it's not your fault, it's not your mom's fault, and it doesn't change who you are. And," he added, "if we're going to get to our own wedding on time, we'd both better go start getting ready. That sound like a plan?"
"Sounds like a plan," Kim agreed, reluctantly detaching herself from Ron's embrace. "But after the honeymoon, remind me to track down Dr. Hall Senior and kick her mad-scientific butt halfway to China."
"Got it," Ron said. "Now let's get moving, before your dad decides we're jumping the gun and fires up one of his rockets."
Kim laughed – a genuine laugh this time. "Race you!" she said, and leaped for the ladder.
…x x x x…
Kim slipped her feet into the silver-chased white slippers, stood up, and pirouetted. "How do I look?"
"LTMBBBITES," responded Monique. "Like the most bon-diggity beautiful bride in the entire state, that is," she translated as the aforementioned bride waved an amused (and white-gloved) hand in her direction.
"Spoken like the most gorgeous maid of honor ever," Kim retorted.
"You got that right, girlfriend," Monique said. "This outfit looks entirely too delicious to be a bridesmaid's dress. Whose favor did you have to call in to pull that off?" While Kim was in classic bridal white, Monique's dress was purest silver in color, though the fabric was textured so that it merely seemed to glow gently rather than giving off a blinding metallic reflection. The design was a simple sheath slit from the hemline to just below the knee; above the waist, a glittering jeweled silver choker secured triangular front and rear panels that left Monique's arms and shoulders bare. For the ceremony, a slender teardrop of twinkling forest green gleamed at the chest, but both girls knew it could be easily zippered out later to create a strategically sensual keyhole bodice suitable for livelier evening affairs.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Kim told her. She wasn't sure she believed it herself – and she probably wouldn't have if she hadn't seen Rufus sketch the outfit himself, drawing on a leftover Bueno Nacho napkin.
Her own dress was a different matter; it had been her mother's, and her maternal grandmother's before that. Despite being nearly eighty years old, it too was classically simple; glistening layers of snow-white silk, very lightly accented with hand-stitched lace at the collar, bodice, and shoulders, the neckline a modest scoop. The original veil had been lost some time after her mother's wedding, so Nana Possible had contributed hers, which sat on the desk next to Kim. The elbow-length white gloves were new – and as for "something blue", well, that was for Ron to appreciate come nighttime.
There was a knock at the office door, and Monique went to answer it. Deciding the wedding's location had been a challenge, given the need to accommodate both Ron's and Kim's backgrounds, until Kim's father had settled the matter by suggesting the Space Center. The ceremony itself would take place in the center's planetarium, almost literally under the stars, and empty offices had been turned into dressing rooms for the two halves of the wedding party.
"Who-hey! Ah-ch--!" Monique's exclamation was abruptly cut off, and Kim turned toward the door – to find Shego muscling through it, with Dr. Drakken bustling along behind her. Monique, meanwhile, was sprawled on the floor, a spray-mister dropped carelessly beside her.
"Oh, don't tell me," Kim said, taking a careful step backward; her grandmother's wedding gown had definitely not been designed for combat, and she wasn't ready to sacrifice it just yet. "If you wanted to be in the wedding party, Shego, you should've said something."
The mercenary grinned, acknowledging Monique's sleeping form with a quick tilt of her head. "If I'd known the outfits would be that hot, I might have. Relax, Princess -- I don't want to ruin that dress any more than you do."
"Oh, really? Then what are you two doing here?" Kim demanded.
Drakken smiled, holding up a device Kim didn't recognize. "Just conducting a little test," he said, and pressed a button.
"Test? Of wh--?" Abruptly, Kim's entire body tingled and stiffened, and she found herself cut off in mid-word, completely unable to move.
"Well, what do you know," Shego said. "Instant action figure. Looks like the puppet-whatsit actually works."
"Puppetronic Command Unit," Drakken corrected. "Thanks to the smartsilk thread I added to your wedding dress, Kim Possible, I can control your every move." He made a small adjustment to the controls, and Kim's jaw tingled and unfroze. "Now don't scream, my dear, or I'll just have to paralyze you again. Oh, and one other thing: it is possible to freeze a body so totally that it stops breathing and pumping blood. I lost two synthodrones that way last week."
Kim didn't scream, but she gave Drakken a glare fiery enough to melt half of Antarctica. "You do realize if you sabotage my wedding, Ron's liable to let his inner Zorpox go all evil on you?"
Drakken shuddered, but then took a deep breath. "The buffoon is not our concern," he said. "Bring her, Shego – our patron is waiting."
Kim had just time to get out "Patron?" before Drakken twitched the controller again, silencing her, and no amount of willpower permitted her the slightest motion as Shego picked her up, turned her sideways, and carried her out of the office as if she were a golf bag.
To her surprise, the duo didn't take her out of the Space Center. Instead, they slipped quietly along a series of empty corridors until they reached a rarely-used freight elevator. Shego kept Kim turned away from the controls, so she couldn't tell what button Drakken had pushed, but the descent took almost a full minute.
They emerged from the elevator into a large, dark chamber. A Darth Vader-like synthesized voice rumbled out of the shadows: "Set her on the platform." A series of tightly focused lights marked a path to a slightly raised square illuminated by a bright overhead spotlight, and Shego easily hauled Kim to the designated spot, setting her in place as if placing a doll atop a wedding cake.
A pair of monitors lit up beyond the platform, one showing the Space Center planetarium and the gathered wedding guests, the other a view of the parking lot. Off to one side, just barely within Kim's field of vision, another overhead light flicked on, revealing a tall black-cloaked figure whose face was obscured by a flowing hood. In one hand, the stranger held a compact wooden rod, from one end of which a narrow, razor-sharp blade curved in a three-quarter circle arc to end in a needle-pointed tip.
From within the hood the electronic voice sounded again. "Greetings, Kimberly Ann; I am the Scythe." Lifting his weapon hand, he made a very small gesture toward Drakken, who again adjusted the puppetronic controller to permit Kim to speak.
"Creepy special effects much?" Kim said. "So not impressed. Let me guess, you're the supervillain in charge of Halloween?"
The Scythe gave a brief laugh. "Hardly. I am the hand of truth and the end of lies – and today, it shall be your lie that comes to an end."
Kim's eyes widened slightly. "Been there, done that, returned the battlesuit," she said, though she was certain that wasn't the issue the Scythe had in mind.
"Enough," the Scythe responded. "Dr. Drakken – I require the command unit."
The blue-skinned scientist swallowed nervously but obeyed, crossing the chamber to where his cloaked co-conspirator stood. By the time he reached the dais, the Scythe had slung his weapon over a shoulder, then reached out with a gloved hand and plucked the puppetronic controller from Drakken's fingers. Then Drakken scurried back toward the elevator, while the Scythe stepped down from his platform and strode calmly to Kim's.
As he walked, he expertly manipulated the command unit's controls. In response, Kim's head turned more directly toward the wall monitors, her left arm lowered until it hung straight down, and her right arm rose, bending at the elbow, her outstretched hand opening – all while Kim herself watched, a prisoner in her own body, utterly unable to resist.
"Now," said the Scythe as he reached her side, "the instrument of your fate." Smoothly, he unslung his namesake weapon from his shoulder, lightly set the handle in Kim's open palm, and made a series of careful, precise adjustment with the puppetronic unit – closing her hand over the scythe in a firm grip, then lifting it by degrees until Kim's fist was nearly in front of her face and positioning the sweeping, curved blade so that it very nearly encircled her slender neck, scant inches from her skin.
Finally the Scythe stepped back, apparently satisfied. "When the time comes, Kimberly Ann," he said, "your lie will end by your own hand."
"You have got to be kidding," came Shego's voice from where she stood near the elevator. "That's way past wrongsick into whacked. Princess, let's get you out of here." The mercenary was outside Kim's field of vision, but she could hear the sound of Shego launching herself into a handspring—
—followed by a heavy thud as the Scythe flicked two small switches on the puppetronic command unit. "I think not," he said, his gravelly electronic voice sounding almost amused. "Your interference was foreseen and planned for. I would not attempt that," he added, "unless you wish to join your employer's synthodrones in oblivion."
The Scythe calmly turned back toward Kim. "There is no escape, Kimberly Ann," he said. "Your ending is about to be written."
…x x x x…
Outside the Space Center planetarium, Kim Possible's wedding party huddled nervously, waiting for the bride to emerge from the ladies' room.
Inside the ladies' room, the bride whispered just as nervously into the nearly invisible microphone hidden in the lace that edged her veil. "Something is wrong!" Yori murmured. "Kim Possible had already vanished when I arrived at the robing room – and Monique thought that Shego and Doctor Drakken had been there! You said that she would not be harmed!"
Monkey Fist's voice crackled softly into her ear. "If those two bumblers are here, it is none of my doing – and as we both know, their odds of actually defeating Kim Possible are practically nil. That they appear to have distracted her from attending her own wedding is merely our unexpected good fortune. I trust your own masquerade is proceeding in good order?"
"It seems so," Yori replied. "But this American-style wedding attire is very – constricting." It was also, she had to admit, curiously attractive; Fiske's monkey ninjas had been spying on the preparations for weeks, and had supplied him with enough information to have Kim's wedding ensemble copied down to the last detail. Between the duplicate costume and the alterations to her hair and skin tone, Yori was now Kim's near-perfect double; indeed, according to the records Monkey Fist had shown her, the two of them had apparently been twins of a sort from the beginning. And while she did not fully trust Fiske, two things were certainly true: joining his genes and Ron's would end the feud between Monkey Fist and Yamanuchi once and for all – and she could not refuse the opportunity to bring about such an ending, especially not by fulfilling her own heart's desire.
"This is a wedding, not a Tai Shing Pek Kwar exercise," Fiske snapped over the voice link. "Time to get on with it!"
"As you say, Lord Fiske," Yori murmured. Straightening, she drew as deep a breath as she could given her attire, brushed a hand across her skirts, and glided out of the restroom.
"About time, girl," Monique told her. "Let's get this done before Blue Boy and his girl wonder show up again."
"Yes," Yori said. "It's time." She waved Tara and Joss forward as the Tweebs opened the planetarium's main entrance doors. Organ music rolled outward, echoing from the state-of-the-art speaker system, as the bridal procession made its way up the isle to the center of the domed chamber, where a space had been cleared for the principals to stand next to the massive star projector. Above them, a spectacular starscape shone brightly down, wheeling slowly as the bride-to-be approached Ron's side. Glancing up to admire the spectacle, Yori reflected that it also represented a bit of good fortune; controlling the complex projection system meant that Mr. Dr. Possible could not walk his daughter down the aisle and give her away – and that meant her masquerade didn't have to pass the scrutiny of Kim's own father at close range.
She gathered her thoughts as she reached her place next to Ron, hoping that the vows she'd memorized hadn't been modified in the two days since Fiske's monkey ninjas had borrowed and copied the texts from Kim's bedroom. A few minutes from now, she thought, I will be married to Ron Stoppable, and nothing will ever come between us again – not even Kim Possible.
…x x x x…Part Four
"Who is that?" The Scythe gestured unnecessarily at the planetarium monitor as music poured from concealed speakers
Kim – her eyes fixed immovably on the screen courtesy of the paralyzing smartsilk technology – was wondering the same thing. Whoever it was, the dress she was wearing looked like an exact copy of Kim's own, and her hair was exactly the color of Kim's, though the other girl's was swept back where Kim had styled hers in a more rounded wave. The overhead angle of the Scythe's surveillance camera was such that the Kimpersonator's face wasn't visible, but no one in the planetarium seemed to be concerned, so her disguise was evidently good enough to fool Kim's friends and family.
And Ron, she thought. Whoever that is, she's about to marry Ron.
From somewhere behind her, Dr. Drakken spoke. "I haven't the faintest idea," he said. "She must have arrived after we did."
A desperate thought flashed across Kim's brain. "Whoever she is," she pointed out, "she is so not me – and that means she's pulling one whopper of a lie. If you're really about taking down liars, you might want to do something about that."
There was a momentary silence. Then: "Her turn will come," said the Scythe, "but only after you have felt at first hand the pain of a lie fully told. Watch now, and learn."
Kim restrained the moan that threatened to escape her throat; most likely it would only prompt the Scythe to silence her again. And hard as she tried to close her eyelids against the scene unfolding on the monitor, her frozen muscles would not respond . . . .
…x x x x…
Upstairs in the planetarium, the ceremony was reaching its climax. Ron had actually stopped registering the words as Rabbi Katz and Kim's pastor, Reverend Carpenter Book, began leading the couple through their vows; he was coasting in a wondrous emotional haze, just aware enough of his surroundings to respond on cue at the appropriate moments.
"The rings," came Reverend Book's deep, cultured voice, delivering one such cue, and Ron reached down as Rufus scampered forward with the little cushion. He plucked one of the gold bands from its place, then began to straighten as Rufus turned to hold the cushion out toward his bride—
--and sniffed, and wrinkled his tiny pink nose at her long-fingered hand, and sniffed again.
And abruptly jumped backward toward Ron, squeaking two outraged words.
It took the phrase a moment to register on Ron's brain. As it sank in, Rufus scampered around him, dodging as the bride rather awkwardly knelt and tried to snatch the second ring from the cushion. Ron blinked. "Rufus, that's—" But before he could get the word "Kim" out, his eyes locked with those of the girl he was in the process of marrying – and the look of utter alarm he found there shattered the remains of his reverie. Beyond all logic, Rufus was right.
He took a step away from her, unconsciously adopting a combat-ready stance. "Yori! Where's Kim? And what's this about?"
She lifted her hands in a gesture of puzzlement. "Beloved," she said, "on my honor, I know not. I know only that she is not here, and that I am yours always and forever. Will you not accept me, my beloved, as the partner Fate has chosen for you?"
Ron simply stared at Yori for about three seconds. "Do you get Agony County in Japan?" he asked. "Because you are so channeling their dialogue right now." He blinked, experiencing another light-bulb moment. "Which kinda makes sense, actually, because we've had the unspeakable secret plot, and a riff on the baby switch plot, and this just has to be the wedding-from-heck plot. Which means," he added, eyeing Yori critically, "that you must be either the evil twin or the psycho killer who's had plastic surgery . . . ."
Yori glared back indignantly. "I am not evil, and I have not had plastic surgery!" Before she could deny being a psycho killer, however, a new voice cut in.
"Actually," it said in a dry British accent, "this is the marry-her-now-or-my-monkey-ninjas-will-rend-your-guests-limb-from-limb plot. Which would you prefer?" As Monkey Fist leaned casually against the wall near the planetarium entrance, a squadron of monkey ninjas leapt onto the backs of the three innermost rows of seats.
"What have you done with Kim?" Ron demanded.
"Nothing whatsoever," Fiske replied, shrugging. "Perhaps she merely had cold feet."
"That's impossible!" Ron snapped back – then paused. "Hey, wait, that must mean we're doing the kidnapped-bride plot too, and if you didn't grab her – Wade! See if you can get a fix on Kim, now!"
The boy genius, who was also one of Ron's groomsmen, blinked and pulled a Kimmunicator-sized device from within his tux. "On it!"
…x x x x…
Kim and her captors had been watching the monitor with rapt horror as the wedding ceremony careened crazily off course. The Scythe's audio pickups weren't sensitive enough to pick up Rufus's exclamation, but Ron's exchange with Yori and Monkey Fist's arrival both came through all too clearly.
When Wade produced his tablet computer, however, the Scythe drew a sharp, electronically scrambled breath. "No," he said. "Rescue cannot be permitted. Goodbye, Kimberly Ann." His gloved hand closed around the puppetronic command unit . . . .
. . . . but at the same instant, a three-beat pneumatic phuut! sounded behind Kim, and a familiar, fully human voice cut across the Scythe's.
"I don't think so, Scythe." Dr. Director's tone was crisp and confident, but as the GJ leader spoke, Kim felt her right arm – the one holding the scythe to her neck – erupt in pins-and-needles tingling. The weapon shivered in her grip as her arm began to vibrate, shuddering microscopically closer to her skin, then jerking just as slightly away. The effect persisted for perhaps ten eternity-spanning seconds before Kim saw the Scythe's controller shiver, heard it emit a sharp buzz, and watched as the hooded mastermind angrily cast the device aside. In the same instant, the paralysis that had held her immobile for nearly an hour vanished. Kim now had full freedom of motion.
Her right arm's natural response was to drop down and toward her body – propelling the inner edge of the scythe she held inexorably toward her throat.
Her survival instinct's natural response was to fling the weapon away from her like a Frisbee – a motion guaranteed to slash the dagger-sharp tip of the curved blade straight through the back half of her neck.
But even as the Scythe electronically screamed, "Die, Kimberly Ann, die!", Dr. Director whirled into view in front of Kim, gripped her wrist in one hand, and carefully pried the weapon's polished wooden stock from Kim's fingers with the other. Just as efficiently, she drew the blade carefully sideways, expertly sliding it clear of Kim's neck before tossing it to the floor with a clang. Kim spun to her left, finally able to confront the Scythe face to hooded face, though she found herself struggling to remain upright; her muscles, weary after being stretched taut for so long, wanted nothing more than to relax.
She was, however, just in time to see three varicolored forms collide, as the Scythe was tackled from two different directions. Will Du, in Global Justice maroon, hit the mastermind below the knees, while Shego, quick as green-and-black lightning, arrowed into his shoulders. Before the cloaked villain could so much as squeak in protest, Shego had flicked a plasma bolt outward, vaporizing the puppetronic controller the Scythe had discarded. "And if you even think about trying the other one on me," the mercenary purred to Dr. Director, "I'll bribe the buf—er, Stoppable's little pink playmate to hot-wire your underwear so you can see how you like it."
"Other one?" Kim echoed.
Dr. Director chuckled, unhooked a second puppetronic controller from her weapons belt, and casually flipped it upward; Shego grinned and incinerated the gadget with a second perfectly aimed bolt. "As expected," the GJ leader said, "both units shorted out due to frequency interference. We were aware the smartsilk project had been compromised," she added. "Fortunately, our operative was able to supply us with a sample command unit and a general idea of the enemy's intentions."
Shego and Kim both followed Dr. Director's unpatched eye as its gaze fell on the blue-skinned figure huddled against the wall near the elevator. "Drakken?" they said in unison.
"Jinx, you owe me a soda!" Kim instantly piped.
"Soda?" Shego retorted. "Princess, you ought to play for higher stakes. Besides, we're getting sidetracked. Blue Boy was working for you?" she asked Dr. Director.
"That's correct," came the reply. "We've been aware of the Scythe's operations for some time, but had very little knowledge of his motives or true identity. Speaking of which," she said, "Agent Du, if you would?"
By this time Will Du had securely restrained the Scythe's wrists and ankles; now he reached up, pushed back the black hood, and lifted the snugly fitted helmet beneath it away from the mastermind's head.
Kim gasped – and, for the first time in her life, fainted. Dr. Director caught her as she crumpled from the combination of shock and muscle fatigue. Even Will Du looked startled, but he recovered quickly.
"Dr. James Timothy Possible," he said, "you are under arrest."
…x x x x…
Montgomery Fiske glared at Ron across the planetarium. "You already have a willing bride," he said, gesturing at Yori. "Two would be superfluous, there are your guests to consider, and you are, after all, a trifle outnumbered."
Ron was still getting used to the idea of Yori as Kim's near-perfect double, but he knew a majorly tweaked expression when he saw one. "Not so outnumbered," the willing bride told Monkey Fist. "Two against – forty-eight? I would say that is almost even."
Fiske shook his fist at her. "Traitor! And your count is off by one master of Tai Shing Pek Kwar."
Ron's eyes flashed neon-blue as he detached a gleaming stickpin from the lapel of his tux. "Let's see whose count is off," he said, adding in a much softer voice, "I really hope this works. Lotus Banana Crate!"
The Lotus Blade glittered, pulsed, and expanded into a glowing twenty-four-cubic-foot produce crate brimming with perfectly ripened yellow fruit. "Lunch break!" Ron yelled, and began tossing bananas to the nearest row of monkey ninjas. Yori gave Ron a disbelieving stare, then shrugged and reached for a bunch herself. In short order, the entire troop of monkeys was busily (and messily) absorbed in devouring bananas, crowding around – and into – the crate in order to do so. In moments, Ron had a crateful of monkey ninjas rather than a crateful of bananas.
He glanced at Yori. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I believe so, Ron-kun, but the higher mathematics hurt my brain."
Ron smiled faintly, set a hand on the back of the crate, and murmured, "Lotus Stickpin!"
The legendary weapon flared brightly – and shrank in a heartbeat back to its stickpin form, monkeys and all, leaving behind just two bedraggled-looking monkey ninjas who'd fallen backwards out of the crate just as Ron had commanded it to change form. The duo looked shamefacedly at Monkey Fist, squeaked, and dashed at top speed out of the planetarium.
"Two against one, Monty," Ron said, ignoring the faint blue shimmer his hands were giving off as he thrust the stickpin back into his lapel. "Why not quit while you're behind?"
Fiske made a tut-tutting noise as he strode down the aisle toward Ron and Yori. "Ah, but it would be such a shame to ruin that gown," he said – then made a swift sideways turn, one arm pulling Mrs. Dr. Possible out of her seat while the other went around her neck. "Not to mention your friend's mother's whole day. Now, I believe the two of you have a ceremony to complete?"
"You're right, we do," said a voice from the doorway. "Oh, and Yori? Don't worry about the dress; I've still got the original right here."
"Kim!" shouted Ron, "Boo-yah!"
"Miss Possible!" That was Monkey Fist, whirling to face Kim, who was standing just inside the planetarium entrance, flanked by Dr. Director . . . as well as Shego and Dr. Drakken. "Kindly do not interfere, or your mother will suffer for it."
"Don't push me," Kim told him, looking even more majorly tweaked than Yori had earlier. "I am so not in the mood. Besides," she added, a mischievous gleam in her eye, "you do want grandchildren someday, don't you?"
Fiske blinked. "Indeed," he said. "Which is why—aggggghhh!" He dropped to the floor, knocked unconscious by the kick Yori had landed on the back of his head. Her copy of Kim's wedding dress was now torn from the hemline nearly to the waist, but Yori was smiling – a slightly tearful smile, but a smile nonetheless.
"I think we must talk, Kim-san," she said. "But not until after the ceremony." Then she stepped around Monkey Fist's collapsed form, helped Mrs. Dr. Possible – slightly dazed, but unharmed – back to her seat, and found a place of her own several rows back.
Two uniformed Global Justice agents followed Kim and her odd entourage as she walked a little unsteadily down the aisle, scooping up Fiske's body and silently carrying the martial artist out of the planetarium. Ron's eyebrows went up as Drakken and Shego slipped into seats just behind Yori, but Kim mouthed "Later," he shrugged, and took Kim's hand as she joined him in front of Rabbi Katz and Reverend Book.
"Now," he said, in a greatly relieved tone, "where were we?"
…x x x x…
Breakfast at the Possibles' home the next morning was a sober affair. Yori and Dr. Director sat at one end of the table, and both Wade and Monique were there as well. Mrs. Dr. Possible had yielded the kitchen to Ron, taking a chair next to Kim. After a brief discussion with their sister, Jim and Tim had gone off with Nana to the Pancake Palace, leaving the principals in the previous day's adventures to themselves.
"So as it turns out," Wade said, "you two really are twins – Dr. Hall simply got you mixed up when she did the genetic substitution."
"See, I knew it was the baby-switch plot!" Ron said.
Yori nodded slightly and swallowed a bite of cheese blintz. She had restored her hair to its normal raven-black, but it would take several days for her skin to resume its almond tone. "She told Sensei only that I was the child of an English lord – but my true father, it seems, is an evil billionaire."
Mrs. Dr. Possible sighed gently. "He wasn't always evil. Someday, maybe . . . ."
"The way ironic bit," Kim observed wryly, "is that Monkey Fist actually gets what he wanted. His grandkids really will inherit Ron's mystic monkey power. Eventually," she added, glancing from her mother to Ron and back again.
"What about your . . . dad?" Wade asked. "That whole side of it is way, way creepy."
"Not to mention wrongsick," Ron added.
Dr. Director nodded soberly. "He's in the psychiatric unit at Global Justice," she said. "I'm afraid it's going to take a long time to bring him back."
"He must have known what I'd done from the first," Ann Possible said. "If only I'd admitted it, we might have worked things out without – all this drama."
"Drama is right," Monique put in. "I can't believe he actually created Dr. Drakken as a front man to take Kim down."
"Well, more or less," Dr. Director said. "Drakken – or rather, Lipsky – didn't exactly resist the prospect of taking over the world, and I don't think he ever realized just who 'the Scythe' really was until we unmasked him. But he knew long before we did what the Scythe was up to, and after awhile he started getting nervous about his patron's fixation on doing away with Kim. Drakken has been feeding us information for over a year now, and this weekend it finally paid off."
"And Shego?" Monique asked.
Kim made a derisive noise. "Shego is a royal pain in the rear – and she got away clean last night. Still, with Drakken out of business, she should be less trouble for awhile."
"We can only hope," said Dr. Director as the Possibles' doorbell sounded.
"I'll get it," Ron said, heading for the front door.
A few moments later, he returned toting a good-sized carton. "Delivery guy," he puffed, setting it on the floor next to Kim's chair. Only after both Wade and Dr. Director pronounced the container free of explosives or other trigger-devices did Kim pull a multitool from her pocket and slice open the packaging to reveal . . . a dozen bottles of carefully packed Dom Perignon champagne.
"That's the '82," Dr. Director breathed, "one of the really excellent vintages."
Kim frowned. "Was there a card?" she asked Ron.
"Card? Oh, here," he said, handing her a sealed cream-colored envelope. She slit it along one edge, tugged out the card, flipped it open – and went totally silent for a long moment.
"Spill it, girl!" Monique said. With a bemused gesture, Kim handed her the note, written in bold emerald-green ink:
Congratulations – and condolences. Have some of this on the honeymoon; trust me, Princess, it's a lot nicer than soda, and the vacation will do you good. Till next time.
It was signed with a single, broad-stroked S.
"Shego?" Ron said, peering over Monique's shoulder. "Sending you a case of Dom Perignon?"
"Very expensive Dom Perignon," Ann Possible added. "Probably sto—"
"Fully paid for," Wade said, looking up from his tablet computer, "including double-express overnight delivery. I just backtrailed the order."
"Wow," said Monique. "Just – wow."
Kim's gaze shifted thoughtfully from the card to the case of champagne to Ron. "You know," she said, "you're about five years behind on sodas yourself."
"True," he replied. "Suppose we discuss that on the honeymoon – over champagne?"
Kim grinned at him. "I think that can be arranged."