NOTE: This story is sort of like an anime movie that exists parallel to the TV series. This story is set sometime late in the first book of the Possibility Engine series but does not directly correlate to any existing gap in time in that story. This story should be enjoyable without having read Possibility Engine as any relevant facts from that story are explained in the narrative below.
NOTE 2: I still don't have an editor (though I'm looking for volunteers!), so please forgive any typos I've missed. As I often joke to my friends: "Authors tend to be terrible writers."
A Possibility Engine Side Story
By Adam Leigh
The swirling vortex gobbled them whole and shunted the two women across the dimensional void and into the colorful, psychedelic tunnel that carried them between worlds. The younger of the two women, Kim Possible, was starting to get used to it by now. She'd always been an avid participant in extreme sports and the experience, though unique, could be compared to bungee jumping or sky diving for the first time. After the initial nausea of feeling your legs give out from under you everything else was just the constant pressure of wind against your face until the inevitable, and often sudden, drop onto the ground in the new universe.
Shego, the other woman traveling this plumbing between realities, was not adjusting so well. The first time she was spat out of this disgusting luminescent lower intestine she found herself flying head first into hours of torture by her former moronic comrades. Just the memory of that was enough to unnerve her each time the vortex opened, and while she nearly succumbed then to the endless physical pain, it hardly compared to the horrors she'd seen in nearly every world after that one. Her own universe was enough of a pain, but to see infinite varieties on that theme where, in each one, her counterpart seemed to making more and more foolish mistakes was psychological agonizing. She knew her companion on this journey was only thinking about the good they could do, but Shego didn't feel the least bit guilty by filling her mind with prayers that the next world would be the last.
The trip between dimensions was never very long and had always been filled with silence between the two travelers. They'd gotten in the habit of holding hands while going through the vortex after a prior world ended up flinging them to opposite sides of a city. It was not a preferred situation for either of them, seeing as they had been, only weeks earlier, mortal enemies. But neither of them had been spared deep wounds from the alternate realities they'd seen and the small bit of warmth between their palms was incredibly comforting. It was a sign that, for all the pain that may come to them in the next world, at least they were bearing it together.
Kim felt how loose Shego's grip was and gently squeezed her hand. Shego looked up, with a strange sideways look on her face. "It's going to be alright," Kim said, trying to be comforting.
"I don't need your platitudes," snapped Shego, instinctively. Kim knew that every conversation had to start this way, lest Shego believe she was starting to soften which was a state she viewed similar to death.
Kim ignored the shard, recognizing it for what it was, and pressed on. "We have to be getting closer to Drakken by now, we're barely spending any time on each world. Maybe he'll be in the next one. Then we'll maybe be able to get the remote, find the Dimensional Drill and send ourselves home."
Shego's lips turned into a grim line and she hung her head. "That's a lot of maybes. What's more likely is that we'll find another horrific bizzaro-world where the meteor that hit me as a kid turned me into a giant snake and I started eating children or something."
"I'm sure in such a world I'd have long since stopped you," said Kim.
"That's not comforting," said Shego angrily. "None of this is comforting so you should stop trying. I'm not a pouting child, I don't need mothering." With a scowl she turned her head away from Kim.
Words were rarely a safe bet with Shego, there was always a way she could turn them against Kim or on herself if she was feeling particularly nihilistic. Kim knew better than to try when Shego had put her walls up. She still felt bad for her reluctant companion, and decided that the best way to get past her defenses was through action. She squeezed Shego's hand again then held it firmly.
Shego did not look back in response, but she slowly looked down then up ahead at where they were traveling. It wasn't much, but Kim believed it helped.
"What the hell?" Shego said, in a confused tone.
Kim looked up to see the bright glowing ball emerging from the end of the vortex and heading towards them. It seemed to be spinning and leaving a faint blue trail as it sailed towards them like a comet. Shego's grip on her hand suddenly tightened as Kim realized they were aiming for a head-on collision.
"Look out!" Shego called as she yanked Kim's arm pulling her towards her. The way they flew through the vortex was largely unknown to Kim, and she wasn't sure if the action would pull the two of them to meet in the center, fling Kim towards Shego, or, in fact, do nothing at all. She was ashamed that she never tested it before but all thoughts about it vanished as she collided into Shego and the two of them drifted to the side of the tunnel just milliseconds before the comet would have struck Kim right in the head.
Spinning over one another, Kim and Shego held on as a shockwave from the blue ball pushed them hard against the wall of the vortex which felt like scraping against concrete before finally calming and letting them drift back towards the center of the tunnel. Kim was breathing hard, holding tightly onto Shego and wondering if their trans-dimensional trip was just moments from being cut brutally short. She looked up to see if Shego was okay but the older woman was staring behind them towards the now distant comet with a wide-eyed expression.
"Shego?" asked Kim, alarmed. "What's wrong?"
Shego opened her mouth slightly then closed it short afterwards. Repeating the action twice more she finally found words to say. "It was me," she said. "I was inside that thing."
"You saw inside as it flew past?" asked Kim, confused.
"I was definitely inside, flying like I was in control of it," said Shego. "I looked ... I was smirking, like I'd figured something out." She looked down to stare into Kim's eyes.
"We know other worlds have figured out how to do dimensional travel," said Kim. "We probably just passed one."
Shego looked up ahead. "Do you think she just came from where we're going?"
Kim shrugged. "We're probably going to find out."
Both stared ahead as the tunnel suddenly narrowed and they saw the swirling, white light at the end.
In an explosion of light, Kim and Shego found themselves thrown out of the glowing portal and onto hard pavement, not an incredible improvement over being shoved against the side of the dimensional vortex, but at least they stopped moving afterwards. Releasing the grip on each other for the first time since the glowing, flying alternate-Shego inside the tunnel, they flopped apart, Kim on her back, and Shego on her stomach. Shego saw nothing of interest in the black pavement, but Kim's skyward view showed the large teeth-like obstructions of building and skyscrapers around them and the blue sky beyond.
"I think we're downtown," said Kim, calmly.
A loud horn almost deafened her and she sat up immediately to see they were lying in the middle of a street, surrounded by traffic. Kim quickly reached over to grab Shego's hand and stood up, trying to pull her along.
"I'm just going to stay here, I think," Shego muttered to the pavement.
"Come on," groaned Kim pulling again on Shego's arm. This time she stood up and followed Kim to the curb amidst the latter's endless apologies. Eventually traffic resumed and they started looking around.
"Definitely downtown," said Shego.
"Elm and Main," said Kim looking at the signs against at the cross street. "East side."
Shego looked back and forth at the building, cars, and even the advertising on the sides of cabs and buildings. "Doesn't look all that different at all," she said.
Kim looked around for a convenience store and spotted one across the street. "Lets check the papers," said Kim, heading for the crosswalk. Shego nodded absently and followed, noticing how everyone was staring at Kim and her like they were aliens.
"I think we might be a little famous here," said Shego as they reached the other side of the street. "Everyone's staring at us."
"We just were lying in the middle of traffic a minute ago," Kim said. "I'd be staring as well." She got to the doorway of the store and picked up a paper from the stacks sitting there.
Shego glanced up behind the cashier who had noticed them but was busy tending customers. "It's late afternoon," said Shego. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small watch she'd pilfered in an earlier world and set it to the proper time. Setting her watch had become a daily experience since, for some reason, every time they entered a new world it was a different time than the one they'd left. She wondered if it was because of the time they spent in the vortex or if the universes were just maligned.
"So which one of us is the psycho this time?" asked Shego, pocketing her watch again.
"Er... I guess you, kinda..." said Kim, frowning.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Shego, walking around to see the article Kim was reading. It was a front page story showing Shego and a skinny teen with short red hair looking satisfied as police raided what appeared to be one of Drakken's lairs. "Is that Stoppable?"
"No," Kim shook her head. "Article says his name is 'Ken' Possible. Maybe I have an older brother or something."
"And I teamed up with him to beat Drakken?" asked Shego. She tried to get angry but this had happened way too many times now. "Eh, could be worse."
"I wonder where I am," asked Kim, flipping through the paper.
"Hey!" the cashier finally spoke up, having exhausted her line of customers. "This ain't a library! You buying that, or what?"
Kim looked up, surprised, and quickly closed the paper. "Sorry," she said, replacing it on the stack and ushering Shego out of the store.
"We're going to need valid cash again," said Kim.
"Yeah, I saw the money the cashier was using, it looked kinda bluish," said Shego. "What do we have left to pawn off?"
"Not much," said Kim as she took off her backpack and rummaged through it. They'd gotten in the habit of keeping easily sellable items with them to trade for cash whenever the world they entered used different money. It was Shego's idea, and quite a good one in Kim's opinion, but their initial stash of goods she'd stolen, which led to quite a fight between them. That was several worlds ago, though, and since there was no way to return the items, Kim decided to simply bear through it and ignore where it all came from.
"Do we still have the old coins?" asked Shego.
"Nope, got rid of those in 'backwards pants world'," said Kim.
"You mean 'pretty-boy Drakken world'," corrected Shego.
"You call it what you want to call it, I'll continue to pretend I never saw Drakken in that world," said Kim, shivering. "We've got the jade statues and the silver medallion."
"On a downtown pawnshop you'd better go with the medallion," said Shego. "The raw value is more and that's all the shop will care about."
"Alright," said Kim. I'll take care of cash, you find us a place to lay low until the batteries on the TDF recharge."
"You know, we really should be switching roles, I'd definitely get us a better deal at a pawn shop," said Shego.
"I'd prefer not to resort to your tactics if possible," said Kim, turning away. "Meet back here in an hour."
"Oh, come on, I don't use violence for everything," said Shego as she watched Kim walk away. "Hmph."
Shego looked around and checked the skyline for a recognizable building. As much time as she spent in Middleton fighting Kimmie before they got stuck on this stupid quest, she never really spent any time learning the layout of the city. There were so many better places she'd been to remember anyway, like Rio de Janeiro, Tuscany, or Maui.
Noticing the tall tower of the Four Seasons, Shego headed in that direction. Kimmie would never agree to staying there and Shego doubted they had the money to, but there were a number of business firms in that area and large companies always attracted hotels.
As she walked, something dragged on Shego's mind. There was something wrong about this place, something she couldn't put her finger on but continued to tickle her brain annoyingly. She tried focusing on every detail around her, hoping to find the inconsistency that was bothering her. She checked the signs and stores, restaurants, people in cars and cabs, even the cuts of the suits on the women walking past...
She hesitated, mid-step, and looked around slowly. A couple women stared at her for a few seconds but mostly kept walking. She was approaching the financial district of the city, where the exchange and banks were mostly located, and most people were in a bit of a rush. Such was city life. Like wall street, the place was always crowded with stock brokers, financiers, and executives. When the market closed at four, the streets would become flooded with businessmen, hopping on the subway or buses on their way home to their houses in the suburbs.
It was just past four right now, and Shego realized what had been bothering her. The streets were getting crowded with businesswomen. Women. Not men. Political correctness aside, playing the stocks had always been a male dominated business and the ocean of suits that exited the exchange was a common sight. For some reason, though, in this world, it was mostly women. Men were there, of course, but in a vast minority to the businesswomen.
Shego shook her head. It was a strange difference to notice, but the more she focused on it, the more prevalent it became to her. Had there always been so many hair stylists and manicure shops in the financial district? Did woman cabbies always outnumber male ones?
Recovering from the realization, Shego smiled slightly. This was clearly a female dominated society. She wasn't sure if she should be happy about it, as it seemed as though what had happened was a simple reversal, a gender swap with women in men's roles but still doing the exact same actions, but her gut reaction was that she should be. How long had history allowed women to be downtrodden? It was a little vindicating that there was a world out there where the reverse had happened.
She wondered to what extent the gender swap had affected her own life in this world. Clearly, she was still a woman, the newspaper article attested to that. But, then again, Kim's brother was with her, so maybe he was the heroic one in the family. It was strange, but Shego didn't mind. It would be a little fun finding out the differences in the next twenty four hours, a welcomed reprieve from the worlds of evil Stoppables, insane, suicidal Shegos, and oddly morose Kimmies.
Shego strode forth, continuing towards the Four Seasons when she heard the somewhat distant popping sound. It was familiar, like the sound Kimmie's grapple hair-dryer made when she fired it. But Kimmie's new grapple gun, the one she got from the Nerdlinger in the fist world they went to, didn't sound like that. She turned to look where the sound came from.
A second later she saw the tall, thin, smirking boy flying at her with an arm held out. She didn't have enough time to react and suddenly she was flying through the air, being held with one arm by the surprisingly strong, lanky looking red-headed teen.
Kim did not get the money she wanted for the silver medallion, and was annoyed by the feeling that if Shego had tried they would have gotten more. Still, she knew that Shego probably would have threatened the woman working in the pawn shop, and that would not be good for keeping a low profile. At least the pawn shop gal threw in the copy of today's paper for free when Kim inquired about it. She'd already seen the front page but was curious if deeper in the paper held more secrets about this world.
Leaving the shop, Kim shoved the cash into her pocket and looked at the paper as she headed back to the meeting spot. She had finished quickly and would have at least thirty minutes until the hour she gave Shego was up so she decided she would spend the time finding out more about the world. The article on Ken Possible and Shego continued on page four of the main section so she started there.
Apparently Ken and Shego had confronted Dr. Drakken building a device designed to steal people's memories and give them to him, thereby increasing his knowledge a million-fold. Kim considered that to be just about on par with Drakken's usual zaniness, which was good. Closer to their own world made things a lot easier. There was an inset picture of a dark haired, scowling woman with a scar named Debra Lipsky that looked familiar to Kim. She wondered if Drakken had a sister in this world much like Kim apparently had a brother. She tried to find a reference to it.
Her mouth dropped when she found it earlier in the article. "Debra E. Lipsky, aka Dr. Drakken" it had said. Kim boggled. Drakken was a girl in this world? Does that mean Drew had a sister who went evil before him or...
Kim re-read the article looking clues she might have brushed over the first time. Every reference made to Ken indicated he was the 'teen hero' of recent news but made no reference to Kim herself. Was she simply not a heroine in this world? She examined further. She noticed references to Shego were brief, as if she was only a bystander, and no mention was made of her history of crime or relationship to either Drakken or Ken.
She flipped through the paper for related articles. On a big headline, Kim knew, newspapers usually printed corollary stories that related to an element or two of the main article. She found an article on Drakken that made her head spin.
Debra Lipsky has long plagued Middleton and the world at large since she first gained notoriety as a co-conspirator in the trans-genetic catastrophe nearly fifteen years ago where Lipsky and associate Adam Hall created the unstoppable "X-virus" causing mutations in over 80 of the world population and nearly 99.5 of the population of the United States. Debra Lipsky and Adam Hall -- then named Drew and Amy -- created the virus supposedly accidentally in an attempt to create a bioweapon with gender specific effects. In the chaos following the widespread gender-changing mutation of the virus, Lipsky and Hall escaped prosecution. Hall was later apprehended nine years later and Lipsky was brought to justice yesterday...
Kim blinked at the words but found them too ridiculous to comprehend. 'Gender-changing effects'? How is that even possible? It had to be a joke newspaper, thrown in by the pawnshop woman for Kim's weak attempts at haggling. She considered throwing the paper in a nearby trash can but stopped as she realized that the paper she picked up in the convenience store was the same. Was it possible she'd gotten two joke papers in a row?
No, that was too improbably to consider. Even when the alternative was 'gender-changing viruses.' Kim rose the newspaper again and scanned it briefly to confirm the crazy story. The first sign she saw was references to 'Madam President' in the political section, then she noticed references to Jacqueline Hench, president of Henchco, and finally when she saw Senorita Seniorita Senior she had no choice but to accept it.
She sat on a public bench and tried to let the information sink in. Fifteen years ago, Drakken let loose some virus that changed the genders of the entire population of the US and most of the world. It was entirely in the realm of the Twilight Zone but given she was dimension hopping, Kim didn't find it too impossible to consider. That meant that the article about Ken Possible and Shego was about her and...
Wait. Why was Shego still a girl? She was older than Kim so she had to be around when the virus got loose, but somehow she was unaffected. The article said that only 80 of the world population was changed, maybe Shego was part of the 20 that escaped the effects?
Kim considered that again and thought of the article. It was written as if the newspaper had known nothing about Shego, as if she was some newcomer to the scene. Wouldn't a person immune to the virus have warranted some further mention? The only explanation was that they didn't know she was immune which meant they didn't know she was born a girl.
Kim thought back to their trip to this world and her eyes widened.
She wasn't immune, she just wasn't here. Kim looked at the picture in the paper again. There was no outward sign, but it had to be. The Shego in the article had to be the other dimensional traveler!
The skinny boy dropped Shego gently on the roof of a nearby building and then held her gently, looking at her like she was some shiny bauble recovered after long years of being lost.
"You came back!" said the red-head with a smile.
Shego looked at the guy's hands on her shoulders and shrugged him off, stepping several steps back. "What the hell is your problem?" she snapped. "You just like grabbing women off the street? Touch me again and I'll snap both your arms." Shego was nearly growling in anger. She did not want trouble in this world. She was ready to have a good time here. Then this kid had to ruin it.
Shego frowned as she looked at the kid more closely and realized who it was. "You're Ken Possible," she said simply. She realized what had happened and her scowl slightly abated. "And you've got me confused with someone else."
"Please, I'd never forget what you look like," said Ken, looking at her intently. "I just saw you yesterday anyway. You're Shego." His smiled turned slightly thinner. "You said you'd never be back."
Shego shook her head. "That wasn't me," she insisted. "I've just got one of those faces and familiar looks. I'm not this Shego that you know."
"Why are you saying that?" asked Ken, frowning. "Wanda tracked the opening into our universe, I know you just arrived."
Shego looked back at Ken in surprise. "You can track dimensional travelers?"
"Just the opening and closing of gateways into our world," said Ken.
Shego stared off to the side. "You mean the Shego you know was also a ... oh, that makes sense now. The other Shego was just leaving."
"Other Shego?" asked Ken, confused.
"Apparently there's more than one of me moving across dimensions," Shego mused. She looked at Ken. "I'm seriously not the Shego you know. I'm sorry."
Ken looked down. "Oh," he said softly, then turned away. "I'm sorry for grabbing you off the street, then."
Shego was surprised at how sad looking Ken appeared. She was about to snap at him for his actions but felt like if she did it would crush him. "It's fine," she said instead with an annoyed tone. "I guess we look exactly alike and I'm going to assume here that she would NOT have been as surprised to be grabbed by you."
Ken smiled weakly, looking back. "Probably," he said.
"Oh, so you just grab people off the street for fun," accused Shego.
"Not everyone," he admitted, sticking his hands in his pockets as he turned back. "When Shego... that other Shego left, it... I asked her to stay. She said she couldn't."
"She was trying to get back to her home world," said Shego, nodding.
"Yes, and she had no control over when she came or went," said Ken. "She could feel that she was about to be pulled out of the world and knew she wouldn't be back. I was asking the impossible."
"How long was she here for?" asked Shego. She was curious about the other traveler, although her hope that somehow the other Shego had a way of getting home quicker had already been crushed. Still, she wondered if any other incarnations of herself handled the trip better.
"A couple months," said Ken.
"Months?" said Shego, surprised. "Made herself right at home, didn't she?"
"She was... welcome to," said Ken quietly.
Shego narrowed her eyes as she started to pick up on the overtone of this conversation. "Oh, god," she spat and shivered.
"What?" asked Ken, looking up.
"You two weren't... you didn't... please tell me it didn't happen!" pleaded Shego. "The dignity of Shego's across the worlds are at stake!"
"What do you mean?" asked Ken.
"Oh, this is worse than turning into a snake," muttered Shego.
"You've been turned into a snake?"
"What? No!" Shego began pacing the roof. "Just... you know what, don't tell me. I don't want to know. Plausible deniability."
"You're more uptight than she was," commented Ken.
"Don't start with me, Kenny," Shego waved her finger at the boy.
Ken smiled slightly. "You're cute when you're frustrated. Do all Shegos give play names to their enemies?"
"Oh, so she was your enemy?" Shego raised her eyebrows. "That's a relief."
"Well, not my enemy, really," said Ken. "But she did talk of length how her 'Kimmie' was a pain and it is entirely improper for me to try and get close to her."
"So you didn't get close to her, then?" asked Shego.
"I thought you didn't want to know," said Ken. "Plausible deniability."
"I changed my mind. So spit it out." Shego glared at him.
Ken looked down slightly then back up to meet eyes with Shego. "We worked really well together, better than I ever did with Rebecca, and she became... very important to me. But, I... never got the impression I was the same for her."
Shego took a slight step back at the seriousness and weight in his voice, like every word took a mountain of effort to speak. She said nothing in response.
"This must be incredibly award for you," said Ken. "Hearing me speaking about a version of you from another dimension."
"You get used to it," Shego said softly.
Ken looked away at the horizon. It was after five o'clock now and the sun was starting to set. "In your world... I'm still a..." he trailed off.
"Yeah," nodded Shego. "You're still a hero in my world, but a girl."
Ken sighed. "I always wondered what it would have been like, growing up as a girl instead of a boy."
"Really?" asked Shego, surprised.
"It's... lets say it's a common thought among women in this world," said Ken. "What's your Kim like?"
"Annoying," Shego said instinctively.
Ken laughed. "You're so alike, it's incredible," he said. "I can't believe you're from different worlds."
"Who? Me and the other Shego?"
"It's a coincidence," said Shego. "Believe me, I've seen enough other Shegos to know I'm not the most common version of myself."
"Isn't it strange though, to realize that?" asked Ken. "I mean, apart from realizing there are other universes with you in them to begin with, but then to discover you're the oddity, that it was more common for things to turn out differently?"
Shego looked back at him. "That's how you feel, don't you?" she asked.
Ken opened his mouth then smiled slightly. "Yeah, pretty much. Hearing from two Shegos now that in their world I stayed a girl... it makes me envious of their more normal lives."
"The other Kim's are far from normal, believe me," said Shego. "Hey, I'm sure the other me asked, but, where is your Shego?"
"My Shego?" asked Ken with a grin.
"You know what I mean."
"As far as I can tell, there is no native Shego in this world," said Ken. "If there is, she's definitely not a thief-slash-ex-super-hero."
"Is that how I described myself?" asked Shego.
"Not in those words, but I summarized," said Ken, smirking.
"Great," Shego shook her head. She looked down off the edge of the building then checked her watch. Kim would be waiting for her now.
"How long are you going to be here?" asked Ken behind her.
"Just the night," said Shego, not turning back. "We leave tomorrow afternoon."
"You have control of where you're going?" asked Ken.
"Not where, but when," said Shego. "We're looking for someone and if he's not here, we can't waste any time."
"We?" asked Ken, suddenly propping up.
"Dammit," Shego cursed to herself.
"Someone is with you?" Ken continued. "Who?"
Shego turned and looked back at Ken with a serious expression.
"It's me, isn't it," said Ken, reading Shego's silence.
"Not exactly," said Shego.
"I have to meet her," said Ken. He ran over beside Shego and looked down over the side of the building. "Where is she?"
"You really shouldn't," said Shego. "Meeting your counterpart has never been as good an idea as it seems."
"You're only going to be here one day, this may be the only chance I get," said Ken. He turned to look at Shego. "This will be my only opportunity to know how I would have turned out if I had been a girl."
"I really don't understand your obsession with being a girl." Shego shook her head again. There would be no avoiding this as even if she said no, he'd just follow her. "Fine, but don't say I didn't warn you." She pointed down the street. "We were going to meet up over there right about now."
"Come on," Ken said, eagerly. He pulled out his grappling hook and pointed it at a flagpole. He put his arm around Shego and fired the grapple.
Kim paced back and forth at the corner, attracting not just a few stares. Shego was late and Kim was starting to worry. It wasn't an uncommon state. Since they'd started crossing dimensions they'd gotten into a disproportional amount of trouble compared to the amount of time they'd been traveling. Most of it happened when they were separated, but it wasn't like Kim could keep Shego on a leash. The more that Kim pressed for them to stay together, the more Shego insisted on being apart. Ultimately the only way Kim could keep track of her was to deliberately suggest they separate and set up meeting times. At least then they'd be able to keep track of each other at set periods of time.
Still, finding out the world was gender bent disturbed Kim more than the expected. Odds were there was a Shego out there, now male, and that front page article was probably going to get their attention. Would the Shego of this world come running to see what happened? Or would she not even care? It was impossible to tell.
There was a sudden commotion nearby and Kim turned to see what it was, hoping it wasn't Shego. To her dismay it was, but not in a situation she felt was too problem inducing.
Shego landed gracefully beside Ken Possible, Kim's double in this world and the latter simply stared at her. Kim knew what he was thinking because she was thinking it earlier. Here was a person who had lived her life but as the opposite gender, how different was that?
To his credit, Ken took it well. "At least I turn out pretty hot," he said.
Shego looked at him like he was a cockroach. "Do you hit on every pretty girl you see?"
"Only the ones that are single," said Ken.
Kim started to smile. For some reason she found this entire situlation hilarious and she couldn't fathom why. Drakken violated every person in the country and forced them into a life radically different than the one they'd been in and she was laughing about it. Was that strange?
"See, she's got a good attitude about it," said Ken, seeing Kim's smile.
"Well, she's you," said Shego.
"Exactly," nodded Ken. "Wow, I thought this would be way more weird than it is. I guess it helps that we don't look anything alike."
"I wouldn't say anything," said Kim. She tried to get her smile under control. "Do you... remember what it was like when you were a girl?"
"When I was three? 'Fraid not," said Ken, shrugging. "It was a lot easier for kids to adapt than the adults, naturally, but as it turns out even if people identify with their gender, they don't necessarily remember themselves as a particular gender. After a while people just started remembering themselves as they were, before and after the virus."
"What virus?" asked Shego, frowning. "What are you two talking about?"
Kim looked at Shego. "He wasn't born a guy, Shego," she said. "Fifteen years ago Drakken did this to everyone, switched their gender."
Shego stared at Kim blankly. "No way."
"It was an accident, apparently."
"Oh, well, that sounds a bit more believable then," said Shego nodding to herself. "Drakken could never do anything this significant intentionally." She paused. "Does that mean Drakken is a girl too?"
"Yup," nodded Ken. "Not a very good looking one, either."
"Do you have his libido?" asked Shego of Kim. "Because you hide it well."
"He's overcompensating," said Kim, with a smirk. "Trying to appear more manly in front of me."
"You're the one I was trying to freak out," said Ken, frowning. "It's no fun if Shego's the only one who gets flustered."
"Wow, and here I thought a male Kim would be less annoying than a female one," said Shego. "That was a big mistake."
"Did you find us a place to stay?" asked Kim, sighing.
"No, I was grabb--" started Shego.
"Course she did," interrupted Ken. "You guys will stay with me."
"Uh..." started Shego.
"You're only staying one night," said Ken. "I'm sure mom and dad would die to see you. Come on!"
"It might cause trouble--" started Kim.
"Great, let's go," interrupted Ken again. He put an arm Kim and Shego's shoulders and started guiding them down the street.
"Kim," said Shego. "Your double in this world is apparently a dog."
"Hrmm," grumbled Kim.
Dinner at the Possible's was surprisingly enjoyable for Shego. Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Possible were used to having Shego around as the other version of her had been hanging around with Ken for the last month. She found herself thankfully largely outside the focus of attention at the table. And Ken's twin younger sisters were quite polite to her.
Kim, on the other hand, could not say the same thing. She was grilled about her love life from first her 'mom' (who was actually her dad) then about her school life and heroics from her 'dad (who was actually her mom) and finally about the Tweebs by the twin girls at the table who were surreally well mannered and kept freaking Kim out by being polite instead of running rampant.
When it was all over, Ken had a huge grin on his face as he sat in the living room in a chair while Kim and Shego sat on the couch.
"That was pretty mild," said Ken. "I expected Mom to blow a gasket when you said you were dating Rebecca."
"Ron," corrected Kim, holding her head in her hands. "That was so surreal."
"Rebecca is dating Ben, that's all," said Ken. "I guess things didn't exactly switch places in your world."
"Ben?" asked Kim, thinking for a second. "Oh, god... you mean Bonnie. Now I'm never going to get THAT thought out of my head either."
Shego laughed. This had all be incredibly entertaining to her. Not only did she avoid much of the questioning, but watching Kim's face grow more and more pale with each revelation about this 'world' was clearly worth its weight in gold. She'd have to remember as much of this stuff as she could to use as ammunition later. Kim will never win an argument again.
"Shego, can you help me with something?" a voice came from the kitchen.
"What?" asked Shego.
"Go help her," said Ken.
"You -- err, the other you -- used to help her prepare food for tomorrow," said Ken. "Mom's probably hoping she can get one more night out of it."
"I don't cook," said Shego darkly.
"It's not cooking, it's separating lettuce or something while talking, it's nothing that's going to damage your reputation," said Ken.
That explanation did not appear to appease Shego.
"Come on," said Ken, putting his hands together in a pleading fashion. "Just go along with it."
"Absolutely not," said Shego, standing. "I'm not that other Shego and I'm done being confused for her."
"Then at least go tell her no," said Ken, defeated.
"Fine." Shego turned on her foot and headed for the kitchen.
Once Shego was out of sight Ken looked to Kim. "She'll end up doing it."
"Why?" asked Kim.
"Because mom is very clever," Ken smirked. "Shego will be okay, though. At least, the one I knew was."
Kim looked at Ken carefully. "Did you... care about her?"
"Who?" asked Ken.
"The one you knew," Kim used his words.
Ken thought about it for a moment. "Yeah, a lot."
"No," Ken shook his head. "I think maybe... well, it could have been just me. But she didn't seem to mind the attention."
"A woman never does," said Kim grimly.
"Don't be harsh on her," said Ken. "She found it very hard to separate me from you. I couldn't ask for more than I got."
"Except you didn't get very much," said Kim. "I'm sorry, for what it's worth."
"She didn't have control over her departure like you do," said Ken. "Maybe if she did, she might have stayed a little longer. And then... well, it does no good thinking about it now." He looked coldly to the side. "She's gone."
Kim felt sympathy for her counterpart. It was an incredibly odd situation, one she never would have thought could ever happen under normal circumstances. But these were far from normal. She wanted to say something encouraging, but there was nothing she could conceive of. The multi-verse was vast, the odds of him seeing her again were slim to none.
"She hated it when she got here, you know," said Ken. "She'd been pushed back and forth between dimensions probably half a dozen times before showing up here and each time she got more and more angry. All she wanted was to go home." He sat up a little bit and looked back at Kim. "But, just before she left, she said she was sorry she had to go. That means something, right? She probably cared about too, right?"
"Ken, just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I necessarily understand Shego any more than you do," said Kim. "I barely understand the one I've been traveling with for several months now. Of course, there could never be anything between us like what you were looking for."
"Because she's a girl," said Ken.
"Because we're nothing alike," said Kim. "I don't know what it is you found in common with Shego, but I don't have it. We're constantly at each other's throats."
"It doesn't look that way to me," said Ken.
"That's just because I've figured out the hard way what sets her off and try hard to avoid those things." Kim shook her head. "Trust me, as soon as we get back home, I expect she'll run off to the opposite side of the globe just to get away from me."
"That's a shame," said Ken sitting back in his chair. "You're more alike than you think."
"Why would you say that?"
"Because you and I are very alike," said Ken. "Only one chromosome apart, after all."
"And one virus," said Kim.
"Right," nodded Ken with a smile.
Kim sighed and leaned back on the couch. Then she frowned. "The tweebs," she said.
"Er, your sisters," said Kim. "They're girls."
"Yes, they are," said Ken. "Also, the sky is blue."
Kim frowned. "No, no, don't you get it? I have brothers, not sisters. But they were born after the virus. Why is their gender opposite?"
"They were born that way," explained Ken. "They didn't change."
Kim stared ahead, piecing her concerns together. Something was bothering her and it struck her in the pit of her stomach. "When the virus first was released, were any babies affected by it?"
"Yeah, everyone was," said Ken. "Newborns through to the elderly, though I read some of the oldest people affected didn't survive the mutation."
"What about unborn babies?" asked Kim. "People seven or eight months pregnant."
"Once the virus entered the bloodstream, unborn babies were just as susceptible as newborns," said Ken. "Why?"
"Then your sisters could have been brothers originally but the virus changed them long before they were born or even the first sonogram was taken," said Kim. "It would mean the virus is still around."
"I wouldn't think so," said Ken. "Shego wasn't affected and she was here for a month. Besides the CDC said the virus ran out of hosts and died out a long time ago."
"How would you know, though, if a baby's gender could be changed before proper sex can be determined?" asked Kim.
"Easy," said Ken. "The other 18 of the planet that managed to quarantine themselves. They came out of quarantine after the CDC said the virus was gone and they didn't change."
"Maybe they were immune," said Kim.
"And nobody in the US was? That seems unfair and unlikely," said Ken.
"There has to be a reason people are still the wrong gender," said Kim.
"No there doesn't, our world is different than yours," said Ken. "The odds simply could have played out differently for the twins."
Kim shook her head. "Something is wrong about this."
"You and Shego are fine," said Ken. "Isn't that the best indicator that the virus is gone? You're ME, and I was susceptible. You couldn't be immune."
"What's the incubation period?" asked Kim.
"I don't know, this all happened when I was a child."
Kim thought about that. "Your mom would know," she said.
"You mean dad," said Ken.
"Right, whatever. Whoever is still the doctor in the family." Kim stood up quickly then froze and started to topple to the side. Ken leapt over the coffee table and caught her in his arms.
"Kim!" he said, alarmed. "What's wrong?"
"Ooh..." moaned Kim. "I don't feel so good." She put her hand to her forehead. "Everything is all spinny."
"Kim!" repeated Ken. "Kim. Look at me. Focus on me, don't pass out."
"I'm not... sure I ... can do that..."
"DAD!" Ken yelled out. "Kim! Come on, stay with me."
But Kim was already unconscious.
Kim opened her eyes slowly and immediately felt like crap. She felt like she had the flu with a cold, plus chicken pox and malaria all at once. Not that she knew what malaria was like, but she figured it was something like this.
Looking around she saw some blurry figures and blinked several times to clear the grime from her eyes. Ken's dad was sitting beside the bed taking her blood pressure. Kim couldn't even feel the strap on her arm.
"I feel terrible," Kim managed to say slowly.
"Try not to move," said Ken's dad. "You have a fever but it should pass soon. The lethargy will also pass after your nerves finish knitting."
"Nerves?" asked Kim, confused. "What happened?"
"You're experiencing the first stage of the X-virus," said Ken's dad bluntly.
"What?" Kim's eyes went wide and she moved to sit up then collapsed roughly back onto the bed. She felt her insides twist and turn like a ocean was trapped in her chest. However she was feeling before, now she felt three times worse.
"Easy," said Ken's dad, gently brushing the hair out of Kim's face and patting her softly on the shoulder. "It's better to just ride it out without moving, or you might hurt yourself. You'll feel better in a couple of hours."
"No," said Kim. "I'm a girl. A girl!"
"I know," said Ken's dad. "I was once too."
"No... I can't become a guy," Kim cried. "I can't go home like that..."
"Shhh," hushed Ken's dad. "There's nothing that can be done right now."
"Noo..." Kim said over and over again to herself.
Ken's dad stood and shook his head sadly.
"How is she?" came a muffled voice from outside of Kim's field of vision.
"Not well, she's clearly at the end of stage one," said Ken's dad. "She's definitely been infected."
"How many stages are there?" asked the voice.
"Three," replied Ken's dad. "After this one ends she had between six and eight hours before stage two begins, then four hours until stage three. By that point, she'll indistinguishable from a man. Probably look quite a bit like Ken, too, except for the hair."
"The transfusion didn't work?"
"No. I'm not sure we could have gotten enough in time, it would have been a better vaccine than a cure if it was going to work at all."
"Let me see, her."
"I don't know if that's a good idea," said Ken's dad.
"Get out of the way," the voice said more forcefully.
A blurry form walked into view and Kim squinted until the figure came into focus. Then Kim's eyes went wide in horror.
"Shego?" asked Kim.
The completely unaffected and still female Shego looked down at Kim. "You look like crap," she said.
"How...?" croaked Kim.
Shego shook her head. "Don't know. It probably has something to do with my meteor power."
"Gotta... be... a cure," said Kim.
"They've been looking for one for fifteen years," said Ken's dad. "No luck yet."
Kim closed her eyes sadly. "Find... Drakken."
Kim heard movement nearby then suddenly someone was holding her hand, gently squeezing it. "You bet your life I will," she heard Shego say.
Shego and Ken stared into the screen of Ken's computer in his room. It was currently showing a young African-American girl with shoulder length hair tied in a ponytail behind her and a pair of narrow rectangular glasses. She was wearing a green t-shirt with a yellow star on the center of the chest.
"She's gone," said Wanda, pushing her glasses up on her nose. "I'm in the police database right now and I see the check in papers, the filing, and the start of the arraignment process but then it just stops and suddenly she's not in the system anymore."
"What do you mean she's not in the system anymore?" asked Shego, angrily.
"Someone removed her and, probably, removed her from the jail as well," shrugged the girl on the screen. "I'll see if there is any transfer papers in the federal databases."
"Good idea," said Ken. "This reeks of government."
"I can't imagine she escaped," said Shego. "The Drakken I know couldn't get out of a paper bag without someone helping him."
"She has a lot of enemies," said Ken. "The whole world is pissed off at her for the most part, any number of people could have invaded if they heard she was going to be stuck in once place for a few days. The only reason she's stayed out of custody for so long now is because she's damn good at running and hiding."
"That sounds familiar," said Shego. "I can't believe you didn't catch her before yesterday, though. Kimmie nabbed him at least one out of every three times she ran into us."
"You don't exist in this world though," said Ken. "So Drakken never had anyone to hide behind and, thus, was quicker to run away. I imagine your Drakken had faith in your abilities considering what an incredible fighter you are."
Shego narrowed her eyes. "If you even think about hitting on me in this situation--"
"I get it, I get it," Ken held up his hands.
"Okay, I got something," Wanda said, looking up. "It looks like orders were sent to have Drakken moved to a CIA facility, but they never took ownership of her."
"What does that mean?" asked Ken.
"The papers were drafted, sent to Middleton, but Drakken never arrived in Langley. Someone intercepted her."
"Dammit," scowled Shego. "That little weasel!"
"Any clue who has her?" asked Ken.
"The CIA is looking into it right now but they don't have a lot of clues at this time. They've pinpointed the location she was intercepted, but it looks like the assailants dropped in and left by air, which is hard to track."
"Do you have air traffic records for the time of the attack?" asked Shego.
"Downloading them now," said Wanda with a smirk.
"She's good," said Shego to Ken. He smiled in response.
"It looks like a slow moving craft had a trajectory towards the attack location when it passed by the monitoring tower in West Virginia," said Wanda. "It showed up again heading northwest passing over a watchtower in Kansas."
"Somewhere west of Kansas?" asked Shego. "That's the best you can do?"
"Of course not," said Wanda. "By correlating this information with satellite imaging and a precise heading and speed of the craft odds are that whoever they are, they're here."
The image on the screen changed to show an image of a small landing pad nestled in the mountains. "It's an abandoned air force facility in the Colorado mountains."
"Any idea who's squatting there now?" asked Ken.
"Our old friend," said Wanda. "Professor Dementor."
"Figures she's behind this," said Ken. "She never did forgive Drakken for what she did."
"I doubt anyone has forgiven her," said Shego.
"No, she's not just angry," said Ken. "She's obsessed with getting revenge on Drakken."
"That... doesn't sound good if we need to see her alive again," said Shego.
"Then we better get going," said a strange voice from behind them. Ken and Shego turned to see Kim coming up the stairs into the room. She looked a little taller than before, and her jaw was a little squarer than before but otherwise she didn't look much different.
"Are you alright?" asked Ken. "You should be lying down."
"The first phase of the change is over," said Kim. Her voice was slightly deeper as well. "I've got eight hours before phase two starts. I expect to have Drakken by then." Kim was frowning deeply and looked furious.
"That doesn't give us a lot of time--" started Shego.
"Then we better hurry," snapped Kim. She turned and started down the stairs again. Ken and Shego looked at one another once then quickly followed afterwards.
The jet was thin, sleek, and very, very fast, and it cut through the upper cloud lining like a hot knife though butter. Inside the silvery jet Ken, Kim, and Shego were sitting, anxiously anticipating their destination. Shego was piloting, for as much as the jet needed to be piloted, while Kim and Ken were studying the satellite photos that Wanda had provided.
"All right, tell me the truth," Shego finally announced. "There's no way your sisters just had this thing lying around, what is this jet really used for?"
"Don't look at me," said Ken. "You should see some of the stuff they randomly produce to help me on my missions."
"You can't build a super-sonic jet in your basement," said Shego, irritated. "They had to have help. Was it your mother or what?"
"I'm sure mom had a hand in this, especially in regards to the fuel," said Ken. "But the twins have been building things like this for as long as I can remember. They built my first car."
"Mine too," said Kim, absently. "Well, the tweebs did."
"A car and a jet are very different," said Shego.
"Not to them, honestly," said Ken. "If it's mechanical, they make it a point to study how it works. I think they've been secretly consulting with mom on the designs for the Deep Space Station."
"This is surreal," commented Shego.
"This is surreal?" said Ken. "And all the crazy things you've seen so far are not?"
"..." said Shego.
"What time is it Shego?" asked Kim, interrupting the feud.
Shego checked her watch. "An hour after midnight," she said.
"I've only got five hours left at most, how far are we from the base?"
"It's about an hour out still," said Shego. "We'll still have plenty of time."
"Ken, what's Dementor like as a threat?" asked Kim. "Serious, moderate or Frugal Lucre?"
Ken rubbed his chin. "Probably moderate," he said. "Drakken and Fiske have always been the biggest problems, then Seniorita and Dementor below them. She's bound to have an army of henchwomen though."
"The real question is whether Drakken is still alive," Shego called back from her seat.
"Oh, she's definitely still alive," said Ken. "Dementor is nothing if not sadistic. She'll be looking to torture her." He shook his head. "I just hope she doesn't break her before we get there."
The jet, while faster than anything Shego had ever flown, was far from quiet and even with it's VTOL abilities, by the time the silvery plane touched down on the landing pad, henchwoman were pouring out of the facility.
"So much for subtly," said Shego as she turned off the jet and reached for the latch on the door. Kim grabbed her hand before she could open it.
"You remember the plan?" asked Kim.
Shego smirked. "Of course I do." She pulled on the door latch and as the light from the floodlamps on the landing pad poured in she dove out of the opening and rolled to cover behind the jet, barely being missed by the dozens of shots from the henchwoman's energy guns. Kim was next, while the women were distracted, and Ken followed on her heels heading gunning right for the nearest henchwoman. Ken's punch knocked her off her heels and to the ground.
"Go!" yelled Ken as he dove into the crowd of enemies, fists swinging. He was a expert martial artist and fast on his toes. By keeping himself surrounded by henchwomen, he got them to hesitate from using their guns unless they hit each other. That gave him the advantage he needed to go on the full assault.
As he knocked down three more henchwoman he saw Kim and Shego race behind the crowd, their presence largely forgotten, and vanish into the facility. He wished all his plans worked out this well. Now he just had to avoid getting killed in the fight. There were about ten henchwoman to one of him.
Perfect odds, in his opinion.
Inside the facility, Kim and Shego raced down a corridor leading to a big hanger. Wanda had gotten them schematics for the facility out of the air force's data repository and gave them a path that should take them to all the likely locations Drakken could be held at. Turning the first corner, however, Kim and Shego ran headlong into a group of four henchwoman who were waiting for them.
The first woman rushed forward to put Kim into a headlock while the two behind her began attacking Shego. The last one went to grab Kim's legs in order to left her off the ground and cart her away. She realized that such a maneuver was a mistake, however, when Kim noticed her coming and scissor kicked her to the chin. After hearing the unnerving snap of bones Kim reached up to get a grapple on the women holding her, but couldn't get a good hand hold.
Shego was surprised at how much she was being pushed back by the two woman. They were clearly well trained in combat, one using a modified boxing technique while the other was clearly a martial artist.
"You two are definitely a cut above the typical henchmen I'm used to dealing with," Shego smiled as she was being pressed. She then quickly blocked a punch from the boxer and grabbed the arm of the martial artists. "You go girl," she said before sweeping the legs of the marital artist and sucker punching the boxer. She followed up with a kick to the boxer to take her down and faced off the martial artist, who had already regained her footing.
Kim, meanwhile, was struggling heavily with her attacker. Kim's taller, awkward body was throwing off all her coordination and she was surprised at how the henchwoman kept throwing off her attempts to grab back. Finally, Kim noticed the woman on the ground with the broken jaw trying to stand again and she took the opportunity to kick off of that woman's chest, slamming the woman holding her into the wall, finally dislodging herself from the grasp.
Spinning to the side away from the woman Kim took a judo stance and as the woman went for another grapple Kim ducked under and used her momentum to throw her down the hall and into the woman Shego was fighting. The two henchwoman collapsed in a heap and Shego looked up at Kim, annoyed.
"I had that handled, you know," she said.
"Sure you did, babe," said Kim with a wink.
Shego blinked back. "Did you just wink at me?"
Kim blanched and put her hand over the eye that had just winked. "We need to hurry," she said quickly and then turned to continue down the hallway.
The two ran quickly down the halls into the main hanger, hoping to find Dementor and Drakken there but only discovered a dozen henchwoman and a multitude of experiments but neither Drakken nor Dementor. As soon as they ran in, the henchwoman began to charge.
Kim pulled out her TDF Kimmunicator and consulted the map on the screen. "Two possibilities, left and right," she said to Shego. "I think we should split up."
"I got left," said Shego as she took off to the left. Half of the henchwoman altered their charge to follow.
"Then I guess I got right," said Kim. She dashed off to the right as the rest of the henchwoman tried to cut her off and grab her. Kim thanked her suddenly longer stride length as she outran them to the hallway running right, crashing through the doors there and continuing running. The army of henchwoman behind her would easily overwhelm her, but she just had to reach her target first.
Kim ran through the hallways as the cacophony of footsteps behind her grew louder. Every side hallway ended in a door but Kim quickly discarded the ones that were open with lights off, and looked for the larger, occupied offices. As the henchwoman began to gain on her she heard a sound and felt something whizzing past her ear. She glanced back to see they had pulled out their energy guns and were trying to get a bead on her. She ran closer to the walls as the sharp corners offered her a bit more cover that way.
Eventually she saw the large staging room that was the target on this side of the base and gunned it towards the double doors. She felt the sizzling air of the shots that were barely missing her but made it to the doors before the army and quickly closed them behind her. Glancing around the room she noticed a nearby table and quickly pushed it against the doors to keep them closed. As the first of the henchwoman on the other side reached the doors the table lurched slightly away and Kim knew it wouldn't hold for long.
"Well, well, who do we have here?"
Kim turned immediately to look behind her at the rest of the room. The staging room was large, at least twenty yards long and probably five yards wide with a tall ceiling that showed the bare stone of the mountain around them. Per the schematics, the room was originally a munitions area where soldiers would gear up prior to departure, but it had been cleared of most of its supplies and been replaced with several tables filled with dozens of gadgets Kim couldn't identify and probably hundreds of beakers, test tubes and flasks in a giant chemistry experiment.
At the far end of the room from the door that Kim had entered in stood a series of metal tables on which the woman Kim recognized as Drakken was tied. She was surrounded by at least six fully armed henchwoman and a tall, very busty woman in a dark red and brown uniform wearing a black mask with a hole in the back where long, dark black hair spilled from. Kim guessed the statuesque woman in red was Dementor, although there was absolutely no way she would have recognized her going from the appearance of the Dementor she knew.
"A red-headed woman?" said Dementor. She had a thick German accent as she spoke. "I'm not sure we've had the pleasure of meeting."
"Let Drakken go, Dementor," Kim said, trying to sound authoritative.
"And who are you to be making such demands?" asked Dementor. She was holding a needle in her hand but put it gently down on a metal table and began walking slowly towards Kim. "An admirer of the vile Drakken behind me, perhaps? But no, I saw you arrive with the great 'hero' Ken Possible. I can only assume then that you are some pesky do-gooder."
"She needs to turn over her knowledge about the X-virus so a cure can be made," said Kim.
"The X-virus?" asked Dementor as she approached with a wry smile. "That, my dear, is fifteen year old dead news. What is done is done, the virus is gone, and by now any cure would be just as damaging as the virus was itself."
"I'm surprised to hear that coming from you, Dementor," said Kim. "I heard you loathe Drakken for doing this to you."
"I do," said Dementor. "But only because of his wretched timing. You see, I was in the middle of an experiment when I felt the effects of his virus. In the fever throws of stage one of the infection I destroyed my zero point trans-energy facilitator and, in the subsequent explosion, mangled my own body."
Kim blinked. "Well, you look great now."
"I appreciate the compliment," said Dementor. She had now gotten right up in front of Kim and was looking down at the shorter woman. "But that body died and I was only able to survive by transferring my mind to this body using a prototype mind swapping machine I'd been developing."
"What happened to the mind that was in this body?" asked Kim.
Dementor shrugged. "Meh."
"Let him go, Dementor," Kim continued to demand. "The virus still exists and we need a cure."
Dementor laughed. "You are hardly in a position to make demands. You are alone, I have four armed guards in the room with me, and a dozen more outside."
"I won't let you kill him," said Kim, seriously.
Dementor smiled and bent over to look directly in Kim's eyes. "Feel free to try."
Kim looked down meekly, then looked back up with a smile.
A distant explosion echoed from behind the door and the room began shaking violently throwing Dementor off her balance. "What was that?!" she demanded. A second later the lights flickered and went out. Kim rushed forward from where she remembered Dementor standing and punched her in the face. The satisfying thump of her body hitting the floor was enough confirmation for Kim to turn to where she remembered the guards standing.
Secondary explosions could be heard in the distance as Kim quickly followed the path she'd made in her mind. It was pitch black save for a few glowing flames from Bunsen burners that barely lit up the tables they were on. Still, the map in Kim's mind led her true when she moved to strike a guard and felt her fist catch the henchwoman's jaw. The other guards, hearing the attack, were on the ready but Kim was already moving away from where she was to circle the tables and get behind the other three guards. Feeling where each table ended and the next began, she backed around until she could hear the heavy breathing of another guard. With a quick jab, she caught the guard in the side then grabbed her shoulder to line up a punch to the face that took the guard out cold.
With two guards down Kim felt around for the table holding Drakken.
"Watch where you're grabbing!" a voice complained as Kim felt down Drakken's legs to find the restraints.
Across the room, the door that Kim had blocked with a table started to glow green around the edges. As the glow got brighter it cast a better light across the room and Kim was able to see the restrains on Drakken better without feeling for them.
Of course, it also helped the guards see where she was. They rushed her as soon as they could make her out and Kim was forced to leap over the table Drakken was lying on to get out of the way. The guards began firing toward Kim who had to dodge both the shots and the debris from the tables of chemicals behind her. She had no idea what was in those beakers but knew she'd probably be better off not getting it on her.
Just as Kim dodged another shot from the guards, the glowing doors at the other end of the room exploded inward and the green light bathed the room. In the door was Shego with her hands brightly glowing as she strode over the unconscious henchwoman to enter the room. The guards in the room kept fire at Kim but a moment later Shego shot balls of green fire from her hand that struck the two guards and knocking them to the ground.
Kim stood up straight again and looked back over at Shego, who looked eerie in the green light.
"Took you long enough," said Kim.
"Hey, it wasn't exactly easy planting those explosives without the henchwoman noticing," shouted Shego.
Kim rushed over to finish untying Drakken. Afterwards she grabbed her by the collar and began running for the door.
"Hey, easy on the fabric," complained Drakken as they ran.
"Dementor give you any trouble?" asked Shego as they ran.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," said Kim, then added, "Though your timing was perfect."
"And you still complained!" shouted Shego.
Kim laughed as they headed for the surface again.
Ken was tying up the last of the henchwoman when Kim, Shego, and Drakken came running out. They stared in shock when they saw the pile of bodies.
"You took care of all of them?" asked Kim.
"Hey, I'm no slouch in this hero business," said Ken. "I see you found our golden gal."
"I am not that old," complained Drakken.
"You ready to go?" asked Shego.
"Ready when you are," said Ken.
Ken turned back to the jet and Shego started following then paused when she realized she didn't hear Kim following her. She turned back to see Kim with her hand to her head and teetering slightly, only keeping upright from her vice-like grip on Drakken's shirt.
"We got trouble," said Shego as she turned and started running back.
Finally Kim couldn't keep her legs beneath her and toppled to the ground, releasing her hold on Drakken. She moaned on the concrete platform as she clutched her head in pain. Drakken took a discrete step away from Kim and towards a path leading into the woods when the ground beside him suddenly exploded from a green bolt of fire. She looked up at Shego as she held a burning finger pointed at her.
"Don't get any clever ideas," said Shego. Drakken nodded quickly in agreement.
Shego kneeled down beside Kim and pushed the latter's hands away to feel her forehead. "She's burning up," she said quietly.
As Ken reached them and grabbed Drakken, Shego lifted Kim and began carrying her back to the jet. Ken tied Drakken up and shoved him in the back then carefully took Kim from Shego's arms and laid her down. Shego hopped into the pilot's seat and launched him into the sky as fast as the human body could stand. She set a course back to Middleton and engaged the autopilot.
"Alright, Drakken, time to speak up," Shego said, climbing out of her seat to face their captive. "She's going through the X-virus mutation and you're going to tell us how to reverse it."
"What?" said Drakken. "Do you think if I knew how to stop the X-virus I would have let it turn me into a woman? It was an accident!"
"You still made the virus," said Ken. "You have to know something about it."
"I know that it couldn't possibly have taken this long to affect her," Drakken motioned with her nose towards Kim. "What is she? Eighteen? Nineteen years old?"
"She's been under quarantine," said Ken. "She only got exposed to the virus this morning."
"Are you serious?" asked Drakken. "For the very first time?"
"Yes," said Shego. "Does that make a difference?"
"Well... in theory, while you're still being mutated it's possible to make itty-bitty changes in the mutating cells to have it follow a different path, even make it try to attack the virus itself." Drakken shrugged. "At least, that's what Amy said."
"Adam Hall?" asked Ken.
"Yeah, her, him, whatever," Drakken shook her head. "But you'd need a example to follow, someone that hasn't had their insides all goobered up by the virus to use as a guide."
"Can you do it?" asked Ken.
"Nope," Drakken shook her head.
Shego's hands flared once with green light. "Don't make me force you..."
"No, no, it's not like that!" said Drakken quickly. "I don't know how, only Amy .. er, Adam, could do it. That was his expertise, not mine."
Ken pulled out his pocket PDA. "Wanda, we need to find Adam Hall right away!"
"I thought you might," said Wanda on the screen. "Here are the coordinates where she's located. I've sent a message to the...er, director of the facility there so they should know you're coming."
The screen went blank then was replaced by the coordinates. Ken held it up to Shego who quickly snatched it and hopped back in the pilot's seat to change course.
The armed soldiers were all over them as soon as they landed on the tiny airstrip apparently surrounded by nothing at all. They trained their guns on everyone in the jet and quickly took Drakken into custody before wheeling out a gurney and strapped Kim to it. The bed was wheeled away quickly and into a small shack on the side of the runway but the remaining guards kept Shego and Ken from following. Based on the size of the shack and the number of guards who ran into it with the gurney, there was either a tunnel in that small building or it was significantly larger on the inside than the out.
After the gurney and soldiers disappeared through the doorway, a single man of small stature with short brown hair and an eye-patch over one eye walked deliberately out of it and towards Ken and Shego. When he reached them he looked them up and down once then addressed Ken.
"Ken Possible, I presume?" asked the man.
"Yeah, that's me," said Ken, annoyed. "Where did they take Kim? We should be with her."
"We need to have a little talk first," said the man. "Do you know where you are?"
"The middle of dead eye-patch wearing man town if you don't cut to the chase," growled Shego. Ken looked at her with surprise but then composed himself and looked back to the short man.
"This must be a secret military facility of some sort," said Ken. "Given the soldiers and the fact that you're keeping Adam Hall here."
"We are a secret facility, but we're not affiliated with the US Military," said the man. "We frequently work with them, however we answer to a higher, global authority."
"The UN?" asked Shego.
"In a way," said the man. He held out his hand to Ken. "My name is Dr. Bruce Director, and this is a facility operated by Global Justice."
"Oh, duh," said Shego shaking her head. "GJ. I should have recognized the uniforms."
"Hmm," said Dr. Director looking at Shego. He turned back to Ken. "Your rather resourceful contact told us the situation and we've already got Dr. Adam Hall prepped and ready to help."
"No offense, but I doubt she's helping you out of her own good nature," said Shego. "What is she getting out of this?"
Dr. Director turned to face Shego and took a breath. "The reason why I've stopped you out here because I don't understand who you are."
"Me?" asked Shego. "I'm Shego. Why does that matter?"
"It matters because we already have a guest here by that name," said Dr. Director. "And she, like you, is immune to the virus."
"What?" asked Ken. "You have... there's another Shego here?"
Dr. Director nodded. "It is quite a quandary, actually, because she looks just like you and claims she has no sisters."
Shego looked surprised at Dr. Director then began to frown. "What do you mean, she's a 'guest here'?"
"Please, before I can say any more, I need to understand," said Dr. Director. "Who are you and what is your relation to the Shego we have here?"
Shego glanced towards Ken then back at Dr. Director. "Are you going to help Kim?"
Dr. Director sighed. "You don't play this game very well. Fine, yes, we are, as I've already said, in the process of helping your friend."
"You need my blood to use as an example," said Shego. "Since you haven't taken any yet, I'm assuming you can't be doing very much for her."
Dr. Director made a small smile. "You're smarter than her."
"Who?" asked Shego.
"The one we have here," replied the small man. "Now, for the last time, I can't let you enter until you tell me who you are."
"I am exactly who I said I am," said Shego. "I'm Shego. Just from an alternate reality to the one you have here."
"Alternate reality," repeated Dr. Director, playing that over in his mind.
"I should be covered in void particles," said Shego. "Junk from the vortex tunnel that got stuck on me as I went through. If you know what those are, they're an easy giveaway for people from another dimension."
Dr. Director stared at Shego's face, studying it in silence.
Then, he snapped his fingers. One of the guards around them stepped up and approached Shego. He pulled out an empty syringe and looked to her face. "Please roll up your sleeve, I just need a small sample."
Shego hesitated then pulled on her sleeve exposing the vein in her crux of her arm. The soldier carefully swapped the area and took a sample of blood before turning, saluting to Dr. Director, then running back towards the small shack.
Dr. Director continued to stare at Shego for a few moments more before turning back to Ken. "We've been meaning to contact you for some time, Ken Possible," said Dr. Director. "Your heroics are quite noteworthy and I think you could benefit from a relationship with Global Justice."
"I'm not going to talk about this until we know what's going on with Kim," insisted Ken.
"Very well," nodded Dr. Director. "Please follow me." He started walking towards the small building. Ken and Shego looked at his back with raised brows until the soldiers around them gave them gentle nudges and they realized that the 'please' was just a formality. They fell quickly in line with the soldiers and marched after Dr. Director.
Ken and Shego sat in the waiting room after having been given the brief tour of the medical facilities at GJ and briefly got to see the operation room though the observation window where Kim was being treated by Adam Hall. The process, or what little they were allowed to observe, looked like a mixture of blood filtering and some sort of strange MRI machine that glowed an unholy light. The strange procedure combined with the involvement of Dr. Hall did little to comfort them.
There was a collection of magazines on the table in the room as if they were in a dentist's office. At first Ken and Shego scoffed at the attempts at the mundane but as the minutes stretched into hours eventually they picked up each of the magazines in turn.
Finally, when the magazines had exhausted their entertainment value, they tried to find positions on the uncomfortable furniture to get some rest. By Shego's watch it was probably past dawn already, not that you could the sky anywhere in this underground installation.
Eventually, Shego found a position curled up on the couch that wasn't painful and Ken sorted to resting on his back on the table. They both laid there and tried to get some rest. Despite the long night without sleep they found it hard.
"Why did you help us?" asked Shego after a half hour of failing to try to sleep.
"Why wouldn't I?" asked Ken without turning his head.
Shego laughed briefly. "That's definitely a Possible's answer."
"It's in our nature to help people," said Ken with a smile. "I'm pretty proud of that."
"It gets you into a lot of trouble."
"Just leaving the house could get me into a lot of trouble. We all decide the level of risk we're comfortable taking on." Ken turned his head to look at Shego. "Just like you decided when you became a thief-slash-ex-super-hero."
Shego smiled but said nothing.
"I guess, apart from that, though," continued Ken, "I dunno. I know you're not her... the one I cared for, but, helping you and Kim makes me feel like she's as far gone as she is; like I have a chance of seeing her again."
Shego looked away from Ken's eyes which seemed to be trying to peer within her soul. "You could come with us you know," she said suddenly, surprising even herself with her words. "We brushed paths with her on our way here. It's possible we might run into her again."
Ken smiled weakly. "Thanks," he said softly. "But you know I can't. The X-virus is still around. If I leave I'll take it with me and every world I visit will end up like this one."
Shego frowned and shook her head. "Drakken cursed your planet in more ways than one."
"It's a good thing we're not the standard in the universe, then, right?"
Shego looked away and the two of them said nothing again for several minutes.
"She'll be okay," Ken said softly. "We're a little reckless, us Possibles, but luck is usually on our side."
"The devil's luck," said Shego. "It won't last forever."
"It'll work this time, though," said Ken. "You'll get her back again, as a girl."
Shego turned away from Ken. "She's not mine, I don't care what happens to her. It's just easier doing this travel thing with her since she knows more helpful people than I do and she's a good distraction in a fight."
"Hah," Ken laughed dryly. "Now I understand where that tactic came from." He chuckled a few times then looked at Shego's back. "Generally speaking, people who don't 'care' about others, don't tend to worry about them as much as you are."
"I'm not worried about Kim," said Shego sharply.
"Yes, and I'm sure you nearly killed Drakken on that jet for karmic reasons."
Shego growled deeply.
"I don't get it," said Ken, ignoring the sounds. "What is so terrible about admitting you care for Kim or me for that matter?"
"Because we'reenemies," said Shego pointedly.
"That's a completely arbitrary distinction," said Ken. "The first time you met, what happened? You were probably protecting Drakken because he hired you and Kim was after Drakken because he was doing something stupid. Right?"
Shego did not respond.
"Just because you sometimes have to sail against the wind doesn't mean the sail and the wind are mortal enemies." Ken shrugged. "In fact, the sail is generally pointless unless the wind exists."
Shego turned again on the couch to look over at Ken. "Just to be clear," she said forcefully. "In your analogy, which one of us is the pointless one?"
Ken refused to respond to the jab. "All I'm saying is that it's pretty obvious you care for each other. And no amount of you claiming otherwise can change that. Enemies just don't fly frantically across the country to save each other from illness. Enemies don't depend on one another to back each other up in a fight. Enemies simply don't work together without trying to figure out how to stab the other guy in the back when everything is over. But you know who actually do frequently do all those things? Friends."
Shego grit her teeth at Ken. "All I'm trying to say is that if you don't shut up now I'm going to introduce your head to the ceiling." With that, she turned her back to him again and tried to get some sleep.
It seemed like no time at all had passed when the doctor stuck her head into the waiting room and quietly coughed. Shego quickly sat up and focused on the nurse and a few moments later Ken rolled off the table and onto his feet.
"I'm doctor Kathy Winter, I supervised Dr. Hall's treatment of Ms. Possible," said the doctor.
"Did it work?" asked Shego. "Is she... still she?"
"There were a number of oddities that appeared during the procedure," said Dr. Winter. "But Dr. Hall seemed confident that they were normal and proceeded as planned. Ms. Possible has still not entered stage three of the virus's mutation after eight hours, that's twice as long as the typical incubation period, which leads to believe the treatment is working."
"So she's all right?" asked Ken. "She's back to normal?"
"Come see for yourself," said the doctor. "She's in the recovery ward." The doctor turned and led the way out of the waiting room. Ken and Shego followed close behind as they walked down several corridors before reaching the recovery ward. Kim was the only patient in the room, silently sleeping in a white bed against the wall.
Ken and Shego walked slowly up to her and as soon as they got close they could see her soft lines and the feminine shape beneath the sheet. Her chin had rounded back to its original shape and her jaw line had become soft again such that she looked as she did when she first arrived.
Shego sighed in relief. "She's okay," she said with the smallest of smiles. Ken noticed it anyway, but at the moment, Shego didn't care.
Kim stretched by the street in the morning light in front of Ken's parents' house. It was a slightly cool morning, but that only helped her wake up and she was glad for it. She was glad for a lot of things, not the least of which was that she was still a girl, despite this entire dimension conspiring to make her otherwise.
Still, almost becoming a guy, as strange as it was, and seeing herself as if she'd grown up as a guy, was kind of liberating. So many of these different worlds they'd been to showed her to what extents she could descend to while having the same background and youth and only differing by one event in the recent past. It was like the universe was trying to warn her that one false step from good and open path could lead to disaster.
But then, here she was, in a world where her counterpart had an entirely different life, a life as a boy instead of a girl, and here that boy was, fighting villains and doing good for the world just like Kim had always aspired to. It was comforting in a way she couldn't describe. There may be any number of things that could screw up her life from this point forward, but at least she knew now that you could replace whole sections of experience in her life and what she was inside, at her core, would remain complete the same.
Kim started jogging down the street, slowly at first, then building her speed over each section of road. She still felt a little awkward in her old body. Even though it had only been for a brief period of time, she'd gotten used to her longer legs and now, ever so slightly, missed them. She liked being taller and able to run faster. Too many of her enemies towered over her and it was empowering to feel that extra height. But she couldn't pick and choose what she kept from the X-virus, it was an all or nothing affair.
Rounding the first corner, Kim started to pick up speed. She was feeling better now, more normal, which was what she needed before continuing the journey. She and Shego had pushed themselves so hard to move through each world as fast as possible that they had nearly burned out. She hated to think what might have happened if she hadn't succumbed to the X-virus and been forced to spend a week in this world.
By the second corner, Kim had reached the speed she wanted to maintain and easily jogged down the street. It was still fairly early, so cars were few and far in between, otherwise Kim would have run on the sidewalk. She looked at the houses and the random, scattered people talking the dogs out or doing a morning jog like Kim. The neighborhood looked exactly like she remembered it, which was strange considering the huge difference between this world and Kim's own.
Past the third corner, Kim was starting to build up a sweat, but she knew she had to complete this lap as well as another three after it to reach two miles so she ignored any fatigue she was feeling and pressed on. She found herself thinking about Ken and mysterious other dimensional traveling Shego. She wanted to believe that there was really something between them, Ken and the other Shego, so she felt comfortable helping him find her without the nagging feeling she might be helping an obsessed stalker find his prey. Ken seemed like a nice enough guy, but crossing the dimensional void was monumental task only to find out she wanted to be just friends.
Coming up on the fourth corner and the completion of the first lap, Kim saw someone standing by the house watching her. As she came near she saw it was Shego, looking a little groggy -- Shego was clearly not a morning person -- but awake and watching her. As Kim moved past Shego started running alongside her.
"Good morning," said Kim, pleasantly.
"You get up way too early," mumbled Shego.
"You didn't have to get up. I'm just trying to readjust to my body."
"Okay, you've officially been back to normal for over three times as long as you were half-a-guy, how much longer do you need to adjust?"
Kim laughed. "Actually, I was just thinking we should get moving again."
"Good," nodded Shego. "Because if Ken tries to hit on me again I may very well kill him."
"Try not to kill alternate versions of me," said Kim. "It's a little unnerving."
"Then you should make sure he's warned of the consequences," said Shego in an ominous tone. Kim laughed again all the same.
"You're sure in a good mood," commented Shego.
"I'm feeling much better, actually, than I have since we started," said Kim. "It was nice to just live in one reality for a while."
"It'll be nicer when we find our way home."
"Oh, come on, you can't tell me you haven't been feeling better recently," said Kim. "I could see it easily on your face."
Shego looked away as she ran.
"Hiding it won't help," smiled Kim.
Shego looked back but instead of smiling or embarrassed she looked conflicted. "I have been ... feeling more at ease," she admitted.
"See, there you go," said Kim.
"Mostly..." continued Shego. She looked into Kim's face. "Mostly because I've realized what's worth worrying about."
Kim looked surprised. "Really? What do you mean?"
"I mean-- WOAH!" Shego couldn't complete her thought as she tripped on a water drain cover and fell on her face. She growled in frustration and punched the cover with her fist covered in flames leaving a small melted dent.
Embarrassed and angry, she lifted her head and pushed herself onto her knees. She found Kim standing beside her holding her hand out. Shego looked at it as if it were an alien then gave Kim the same expression.
"Come on," Kim said encouragingly, holding out her open palm. "I'm going to go anywhere without you."
Shego blinked. "Of course not," she said slowly, as if realizing it for herself. "Because we're working... together."
Kim smiled. "That's right. Besides, it's least I can do after you did so much to look after me when I was sick."
Shego reached out and took Kim's hand and the latter carefully helped her up. They stood face to face and Shego slowly opened her mouth.
"I think we should help him," she said.
Kim cocked her head to the side. "Who?"
"Ken," said Shego. "He has a nerdlinger of his own. Give the TDF designs to her, let her figure out how to build one for him. At least then he has a shot at finding her."
"It's not a good idea," said Kim. "The virus could get out to other dimensions."
"He knows what's at stake, Kim," said Shego. "He won't go unless its safe. He'll find a way to neutralize the virus and by then I think he should have the ability to find her."
"He'll be searching for you, you know," said Kim. "Not exactly you, but a version of you. That doesn't bother you?"
Shego stared back at Kim. "No... not really. Not anymore."
Kim looked back at Shego for a minute before smiling warmly. "Okay," she nodded. "We'll do it."
Shego nodded back, although she wasn't sure what she was nodding for.
"Why don't you go see if you can get Wanda up on the computer? I'll be in after I finish another lap. Then we'll get ready to leave."
Shego looked conflicted for a second then turned and headed back towards the house. Kim watched her go, smiling, until she vanished into the building.
Kim's mouth slowly turned into a frown and she raised her hand up in front of her face. Her fingertips felt like they were tingling. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the very end of each of her fingers on her one hand. She could almost see the little sparkling nerves on the surface of each tip and, in her mind, she forced the sparks out of her hand and into the air where they turned into heat.
Kim opened her eyes slowly and saw the five tiny, green fires, one dancing just on the tip of each of her fingers. They flickered and popped quietly, glowing dark green in the center and lighter at the edges. It was unnatural the way each one danced, but entrancing.
Suddenly conscious of where she was, Kim quickly made a fist with her hand and the fires all were snuffed out, leaving only the smallest plume of smoke in their wake which immediately vanished into the wind. Opening her hand slowly, Kim saw nothing different. No scorch marks, no burns, and no melted skin.
Kim lowered her hand to let it hang by her side as she looked back towards the house wondering if Shego was watching. Did she see? What would she think if she did? Would she accuse her of stealing? Would she hate her?
She can never know.
"It's probably only temporary," Kim told herself quietly. Shaking the dark thoughts from the surface of her mind, Kim turned to continue her jog. Only one lap was done and she needed to do two more before the looming clouds turned to rain.
Author's Postscript: This story puts the pieces in motion in order to set up the events that occur in Episode 4 of Apocolocyntosis. Not to give anything away, but the Shego that was racing away at the start of this story is the same Shego in Apocolocyntosis after having put on the Mantle of Tenoch at the conclusion of Dissappearing Doctor.
You'll find eventually that everything I write is in some way connected...