Author's Note: I am finally glad to present to you my new story set well into the future of the "Resolution" universe. It is twenty-four years later. This first part of this initial chapter will primarily set up the world for the characters in this future time, so there's a lot of background information to absorb. Then the chapter will proceed on with the storyline, which integrates Kim, Ron, Tara, and Kevin into an adventure which sets the stage for the eventual realization of the Prophecy which has touched all of their lives. Even so, this is also going to be a Christmas story, as you can tell from the title, although you will see how that happens towards the end. As always, it's the relationships between these great characters that will always bring me joy in writing about them.
And the Gifts of the Magi Will Abound
based on Campy's story "Mating Games", Disney's "Kim Possible",
and my story "Queen's Gambit Accepted"
An Essential Ronness Love Story
©Copyright by Jeriddian 2007
Disclaimer: Kim Possible and all related characters are property of the Disney Channel.
Also based on the first three seasons of the television series
FanFiction Rating: T
Chapter One: Into the Storm
Dr. Tara Monroe came through the front door of her home feeling completely exhausted. The traffic had again been murder in the Middleton snow, and she couldn't help thinking how the drive home from Team Possible Headquarters was becoming worse and worse every winter. She was sure it was because the population of the city had grown steadily ever since she and Kevin had returned from their training several years back and it was telling in the congestion on the roadways, though at least they didn't have to worry about smog as the vast majority of cars now were powered by fuel cell technology. Letting out a sigh, she tossed her remote control for the vehicle onto the hall table in the foyer and set her purse next to it, heavily dumping her patient charts and journals right beside them. Her husband always kidded her about that, saying there was no reason to lug all that paper around when it was readily available on the computer, but she just smiled and didn't argue the point. She found she could concentrate better if she read the technical stuff associated with her job in hard copy. She headed into the kitchen to see about the evening meal, but got buzzed on her communicator within three steps of making it there. Pulling it out, she smiled as she saw who it was and punched the call button. Her day immediately was brightened when Kevin's face appeared on screen.
"Hi, honey. Everything okay there?"
"Sure thing, Kevin.", she replied, "Just got home. About to start dinner."
"Did your car run okay?"
"Yeah. The mechanic said the fuel cells actually were the problem after all, and that the hydrogen collectors just needed cleaning. Looks like he was right."
"What about the On-star system?"
"They have to replace the module, but didn't have it in stock. It'll be in by next Thursday."
"Good. Listen, honey. I hate to do this, but..."
Initially apprehensive, she suddenly remembered, sighing as she said, "Oh that's right, you're on call."
"Yeah. Sorry. I'll have to miss. I just got a beep from the cath lab. Baker's got an acute MI that he's had on the table for an hour, trying to clear the LAD. Looks like it might have ruptured, so I got to go in now. Probably won't be home 'til late."
Tara looked blankly at the screen, slightly annoyed that the one day she had let the housekeeper/cook off so that she could make the meal for the family herself wasn't going to happen the way she wanted. Of course, she should have remembered he was on call. She felt particularly peeved too, because she really did enjoy cooking.
"Have the kids come home yet?"
"Any minute now.", she mildly groaned, crestfallen, "Jill had cheer practice and James had an extra orchestra rehearsal for the Christmas show. They should be on the bus by now."
"Hmmm.', Kevin mused in that familiar worried tone of his, "Have they worked out the bugs in the busing autopilots, honey? I really worried about that since that Lowerton bus crashed last month. I don't like the kids riding on them while that's a problem."
"Well, that was a fluke, dear. Remember?" she said, "The bus driver should have been on board just in case. For some reason the autopilot malfunctioned and took off without her. The thing got twenty blocks before it got confused at that interstate ramp and shut down. It's no big now, and the program was suspended pending further study."
"So the buses have real drivers again?"
"Good. Okay, honey. I'll try to get home as soon as I can. With that new stereotactic magnetic bottle heart pump, it should cut my OR time in half. At least I hope so. I won't know until I get in there. Love you."
"Yeah, I hope so, too. Love you too. See you later."
His image flickered off. She hoped that the new technology really would shorten his delay. She so wished he could be home for dinner. Some cardiovascular surgeons actually started to leave the patients on the new heart pumps overnight and operate on them in the morning, but Kevin always felt that was too dangerous to wait that long. The studies had not yet proven it was safe to do so despite the anecdotal reports. However, she still had to feed the kids, and at least they would be able to eat together with her.
She entered the kitchen and looked around in pleasure at the clean surfaces, thankful that Sophie, their housekeeper and cook, had done such a good job cleaning up before leaving the day before. But then she always did. 'The woman is a saint', Tara thought, remembering how dedicated Sophie had been, working for her and Kevin for the last seven years. She pulled out the baking sheets and bowls she needed to prepare the Chicken Cordon Bleu she had planned, along with Green Beans Almondine and garlic mashed potatoes. Smiling to herself, her anticipation grew, knowing she was going to enjoy doing this the old fashioned way, by hand. And actually, she didn't mind doing the cooking because of how much she enjoyed it. It was just that her work prevented her from doing it on any kind of a regular basis.
Yes, her work was the important thing, considering how important it was to the whole world of medical research, not just to her. She really did marvel that she was able to achieve her life's dream, in more ways than one, making her wonder how all the changes the world has gone through weren't able to disrupt her life, one she considered almost idyllic now. She had the perfect job, the perfect family, the perfect husband and lover. If all she had were Kevin and the kids, being a housewife and mother would have been enough, but she was thrilled at being a physician, even in these trying times of the profession.
Twenty four years ago when she graduated high school she had no clue what her life would have been like now. Prepping the cooking pans, she reflected on how the technology race had forged on with steady and impressive speed, not only in such things as the magnetic bottle heart pump Kevin now used, but also many other things; computer controlled houses which had drastically cut burglaries and even violent crime; the perfecting of fuel cell technology which had virtually replaced the power plants of all private vehicles; experimental auto-piloting of cars and trucks, possibly signaling a further decline in auto traffic past the one that occurred ever since Global Justice style transport tubes were expanded out to the public sector for public transport, though only in the bigger cities for now. Stabilization of the world's economies finally became possible as the Chinese eventually went to a socialist/democratic system of government which handled their dominating economic power a lot better than the old communist ways, with the Indian and Brazilian economies trying to keep pace, and through it all the United States still staying neck and neck because so many other world economies were based on the dollar.
And what made it possible? 'What else?', she thought, 'Possible made it possible.' She smiled, mentally patting herself on the back a little for her not so original wordplay. But it was true. The world was safer, and that was what allowed the progress to happen. As she and Kevin had been blessed to succeed so well in their professions and their personal lives, the same was just as true for Kim and Ron. She had been supremely successful as the dominant force in international law enforcement for the past twenty-five years. It had been so wonderful working with her organization through Team Possible Medical Center. Although technically they were her bosses, the two of them never interfered at all in her work, and they were all close friends ever since senior year of high school. That made the difference. As much as things changed, there was still the constant of these people in her life, the family that she loved, her friends like Kim and Ron, her children, Kevin...
She turned her thoughts back to the matter at hand, dinner. So far, the kids hadn't called in on their communicators, so she didn't anticipate any last minute catastrophes from them. Pulling open the refrigerator, she took out the chicken breasts and laid them out on the island. She could have used the "sub-molecular particle selective microwave temperature control oven", better known as the "smart nuke" as the proper title was such a mouthful, to do all this in half the time. It was capable of bombarding the food with certain frequencies of microwaves that affected only certain types of molecules like protein, fat, and carbohydrate, such that the oven could actually be manipulated to improve the taste. At least that's what the ads said. But she really like doing things the old fashioned way. Contrary to those appliance ads, she was sure that using an old fashioned convection oven definitely made the food taste better, even though the kids always said they couldn't tell the difference.
"Visual on.", she said, "Internet news. Channel 1425."
The voice activated forty-two inch screen came on supplanting the view outside the kitchen through the bay windows. She still marveled at how the crystalline technology allowed the LCD screen to be molded into a translucent block of glass-like material that was the bay window itself when it was turned off. You couldn't tell the difference between the display and any of the glass that surrounded it. Power was fed to it by laser beams of a frequency with harmonics in the non-visible range coming up through the glass panes below the display, contained completely within the glass itself, the power supply that actually produced the energy carrying lasers installed inside the wall beneath the window. This was a relatively new safety feature. The glass prevented any accidental contact with the beam and the burns it could cause, as well as being designed to almost completely contain the beam and not allow any of it to reflect outside the glass and possibly damage people's vision. Breaking the glass or even scratching it triggered a fail-safe shut off circuit that cut off the power beams immediately. The only drawback was that it was somewhat of a pain to replace if it malfunctioned. Nothing was visible of the display itself until it was actually turned on by verbal command, and the power lasers were invisible. The newscaster came on as the introductory music died down.
"...and today is December 21, 2031. In our top story, President Yu held a top level cabinet meeting today following her successful trip to the Middle East to negotiate the new peace treaty between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Tensions have always remained high between the three states ever since the conclusion of the third Arab-Israeli War of 2018, and terrorism has continued to plague peace efforts since then. President Yu, in the third year of her administration, continues to push for a peace plan that will ultimately nullify the tensions in the region made worse by the sudden economic devastation caused by the advent of widespread hydrogen energy technology which has now made the West almost completely free of its need for energy from oil..."
"About time.", Tara muttered to herself, "and at least the terrorism was contained."
Then she laughed, suddenly remembering the President's election campaign motto. "Yu for You!". So lame, she thought. Not that it mattered to her, since neither Tara nor her husband voted for her.
As if in answer, the newscaster continued, "In an associated statement, Secretary of Defense Stellman attributed much of the success of stemming the tide of global violence to continuing efforts by US military forces, the CIA, and specialized professional groups such as Global Justice and Team Possible. The Secretary noted that without them, the powder keg that is the Middle East might never have been brought to the peace table."
'Duh!', Tara thought with some real irritation, 'And still the world really doesn't know how many times Kim really saved their butts!'
She prepared the breading as she thought back to how much of an integral part of the control of world terrorism really was due to Team Possible's presence. Once Kim had finally defeated Drakken for good and turned Shego back into a hero and ally, the world's super villains were quickly routed and the majority were now permanently jailed, many now too old to capably take up their old ways any more. A few managed to slip away, but they were unable to seriously attempt their plans of world domination like they had before, not with Team Possible in full force as it was now. Kim then turned her attention more to terrorism and had been instrumental in bringing that under control more than any other organization, but one would never know it from listening to the media.
Politics always reared its ugly head in situations like this. For example, even though Kim Possible was the primary player who captured Bin Laden in 2010, not in the least the sum of her many other accomplishments, Team Possible simply never got the recognition as the lead unit for that operation, nor in the war on terror as the other government agencies were always taking credit where they could, earned or not. That's what Kevin always thought and said. Ron himself agreed with him on that point and had always wanted to make an issue of it with the press and the government. But Kim nixed that idea, not wanting to get into any confrontational situations over what she considered a minor issue. As long as it didn't interfere with the outfit's operation or funding, she was content with the fact that at least the people in the "business", so to speak, knew the truth. Still, Tara was also irritated that Kim wasn't being properly recognized.
Tara knew all this because she was very much in the loop in Team Possible. It was necessary that she be included in top level briefings as Chief of Medicine. She had been a staff physician at Team Possible Medical Center ever since finishing her training. As the primary leader of the medical floors and intensive care units, she had to attend those briefings in regards to Team Possible operations to insure medical needs were covered during missions. She had specialized as a pediatric oncologist, but gladly hired on to head the Internal Medicine Department at the medical wing of Team Possible's headquarters complex by Kim soon after she arrived there. Her residency had been a combined Pediatrics/Internal Medicine program after which she specialized in Hematology/Oncology. It was a good opportunity as Kim's mother had continued her role as Chief of Staff there and had developed the Team Possible Medical Center into a top notch, internationally known institution of cutting edge medical treatment. It was a plum position to have. Kevin also hired on as a staff cardiovascular surgeon, although his principle practice was developed at Middleton Medical Center.
'My God.' she said to herself as she reminisced, marveling at it all, 'Twenty four years since graduation together at Middleton High.'
She started cutting the chicken breasts as she thought back over those years. She and Kevin had gone to Dartmouth, marrying at the end of their freshman year, graduating, then going on to Stanford Medical School. Jill was born just as they finished medical school, James coming four years later, well into into her second fellowship. Kim and Ron started at Middleton University before transferring to upstate New York, both of them graduating there. She and Ron married just after their college graduation in a ceremony that was beset by the press, one of the disadvantages of their fame, of course. They almost eloped, but made a deal with the photographers and reporters to allow them to cover the wedding as long as the honeymoon was off limits. The boys were born two years later, followed by the girls four years after that. Despite their being apart, Tara and Kim still maintained contact, and when Tara accepted the position at the medical center eleven years ago, Kim was among the happiest to see her come back home. Their friendship was reaffirmed and strengthened as they worked together and watched their kids play with each other over the years.
Now, Kim's boys were eighteen, freshmen in college at Middleton University, and K-J and Mim were fourteen, in ninth grade at Middleton High. The thought of K-J made her laugh to herself as she opened a can of green beans. Of course, they called her that to keep her from being confused with her mother, and like their mother had been before them, both of the twins were standout freshmen cheerleaders at Middleton High. The children grew up happy and healthy, the boys staying true to their Possible roots with their hare-brained rocket science experiments reminiscent of their uncles and their grandfather. The girls seemed to be a little more staid like their grandmother, although K-J really had turned into a mini-Kim all her life. Mim wasn't really far off from that either, although she did have a tendency to be more thoughtful and less headstrong than her older sister.
Even so, the girls were always adventurous, sometimes to their mother's chagrin, like the time they were three years old and they heard the ice cream truck roll by when Kim had them in the tub, bathing them. Kim had only turned her head for a second before she realized they had bolted out the door and onto the street, chasing down that truck. Even then their athletic abilities were showing up, and Kim was hard pressed to catch them after first snagging a couple of bath towels to take with her. She caught up with them just as they startled the ice cream vendor with their pleas for double dippers in their birthday suits. Kim quickly put the towels around them, her face red in embarrassment, hurrying them back inside while roundly scolding the girls. Tara grinned, remembering how put out Kim was about it back then. These days she loved to tell that story to people much to the twins' aggravation, although there was some reason she never told the story with her own mother within earshot. Tara couldn't figure that one out, but she did have a sneaking suspicion of a similar episode in Dr. Possible's memory. Thinking back to the girls, she remembered they were always quick learners, and true to their philosophy, Kim and Ron were adamant about training their children in gymnastics and cheer, as well as the sixteen styles of Kung Fu that she had ingrained within her. That was something Tara always knew Kim had somehow mastered, but she never really understood exactly how she had done it.
She chuckled softly at the memories as she drained the green beans. Ironically, the girls were actually proving better than their older brothers when it came to their martial training. As could be expected, they all took after Kim and dove right into it with enthusiasm, and the competition between the siblings, though loving, was fierce. And now, the girls were starting to upstage their older brothers, much to their irritation. She pictured in her mind's eye how they worked out in the gym at Team Possible headquarters under Ron's tutelage. The girls enjoyed their superiority, but the ironic thing was Kim and Ron had allowed the boys to go on missions since they were thirteen, but still would not let the girls go at age fourteen, even though they were better, which put the girls out a lot. They tried to argue that even Aunt Jos had gone on big missions at their age, as well as their own mother saving the world even younger than that, but Kim and Ron wouldn't have any of it. Tara had thought sometimes about playing devil's advocate by taking the twins' sides if Kim ever asked her advice because she thought they had good heads on their shoulders. But after all was said and done, the decision still belonged to their parents.
Unfortunately, the subject of Kim's daughters arguing with her only made her think about her own daughter. She lost her smile as she prepared the butter and the ham, her thoughts turning to Jill. Tara still thought her life was as perfect as it could get. However, lately there had been a snag, if you could call it that.
'If only Jill had as much good sense', she thought.
At sixteen, Jill Guberman was almost the spitting image of Tara at that age, but with Kevin's greyish eyes. Her platinum locks were just as striking as her mother's though straighter, and as long as her mother's had been at her age. Tara's hair was now cut to a more manageable shoulder length. Jill's hair reminded Tara so much of her friend Jess' luxurious mane at times. The problem with Jill was she had turned into a real spitfire and had become aggravatingly headstrong and disobedient. Lately, she had been cutting some classes and getting into some minor trouble at school. Even more troubling to Tara was the way she argued and rebelled against her parents when they tried to discuss it with her, and when they became exasperated and tried to discipline her, even grounding didn't seem to have any effect.
It might not have been such a problem, Tara thought, if she and Kevin weren't so involved in their work. In the beginning, Jill had always made time when the children were small, when she was in training, but once they got into school and she began her work in earnest in private practice, she began to delve more into research, her great passion. This took more time away from her being with the kids, but it didn't seem to be problem. They were growing up, being more capable and able to take care of themselves in school and with their responsibilities. It wasn't an issue. But lately she began to wonder with all the trouble Jill was having if maybe it was.
There had been minor problems of this sort earlier on, as could be expected with children, but began in earnest when she had started dating one of the basketball players, which bothered Tara tremendously. Neither she nor Kevin liked the boy when they met him the one time she brought him home. He was a snob if ever they saw one, a definite "food chain" type, in her mind. She never let it be known to her daughter how it brought back too many painful memories of what happened to her when she was Jill's age. She wasn't able to hide it very well, which only confused Jill as there was no way she could understand her mother's turmoil. Kevin knew exactly what was going through her head and her heart, but did not intervene. He felt Tara had to choose when and if she would say anything. Still, the girl didn't understand her mother's anxiety about the boy, and this only intensified her rebellion towards her parents. The one small comfort Tara had was that she was sure the relationship hadn't gone too far. But she just didn't know what to do about it. Although she thought she would tell Jill what happened to her when she was old enough, Tara still hadn't done it. Kevin began to wonder if she ever would. Of course, he was leaving it up to her to decide when, and he did emphasize to his wife that he thought she needed to tell her. But it was a subject Tara felt extremely uncomfortable thinking about, much less discussing. Now, she was forced to mull that decision over again as her attention was distracted once more by the news on the display.
"In sports today, the Seattle Seahawks will play their night game against the Tokyo Blue Dragons in a battle that will decide the Far Eastern Conference title for the WFL. The Far East expansion team has made the fastest climb in recent years towards the Super Bowl title of any team in the league. Ever since The old NFL Europa folded back in 2007, the creation of the new WFL and its new attempt to make American football a global sport has been the best chance for the new league to gain a worldwide fan base. Turning to other sports news, a representative for the Denver Nug-"
The communicator beeped, startling her out of her fugue. Idly, Tara wished it was one of the special ones used by Kim and the military, not the less powerful commercial units marketed by Wade fifteen years ago as an answer to combining all communication devices, essentially knocking the old I-phone, I-pods, and Blackberry out of business. She actually did have a military grade one which Kim had given her, but it was only to be used in emergency situations. Most people her age would still call it a cell phone, but it was so much more than that now. Since it was Wade's invention, he stayed with the common name 'communicator', and it caught on. Often, the younger crowd would shorten it to 'com'.
'Oh, well.', she thought idly, 'It certainly has made him a multi-billionaire like Ron.'
She tapped the screen, turning it on. It was Jill. Since she was grounded, she was supposed to report in every time she went somewhere.
"Hi, honey.", she said smiling, "Cheer practice go okay?"
"Yeah, just fine, mom.', the teen said sullenly, "Just calling to let you know I'm coming home now. I'm about to get on the bus."
"Okay, I'm putting dinner in the oven. Should be about ready by the time you get home. Where's your brother?"
"He's already on his way."
"I see. You're taking the late bus, then. You seem kind of down, honey. Anything going on?"
"No, nothing.", she said, but obviously something was bothering her.
Tara didn't press it. She knew her daughter and even with the strain in their relationship, it wouldn't be surprising if she didn't eventually bring it up at some point. Jill wasn't the type to bottle things up.
"Well, I'm glad you checked in. I'll see you when you get home, okay?"
"Yeah, bye.", she replied, and the image clicked off abruptly.
Tara put the communicator away, bothered by the terse disconnect. She turned her attention back to the chicken breasts, stuffing them with the ham and the butter. The news channel anchor continued to drone on.
"...long time veteran forward has been out of action for almost three weeks. He hasn't played in their last eight games due to reported illness although no formal announcement has been made. An attempt was made by this station to get a statement, but it appears he is unreachable at this time. Of course, his privacy is jealously guarded by both himself and the team, and little more information has come to light. In other news, the Denver Avalanche has announced their star defenseman will probably be out for the season as a result..."
The front door opened and closed. Looking up, Tara saw her twelve year old son come through the kitchen heading straight for the fridge.
"Hey, James.", she said smiling again, "How was practice?
"It was okay. I think we finally got that medley of carols down."
"The one with Chestnuts in it?"
"Yeah. It should rock now!", he said enthusiastically.
Tara grinned, wondering how that phrase managed to survive in teen vocabulary for three generations.
"What's for dinner?"
"Chicken Cordon Bleu.'"
"Hmmmmm!", he said enthusiastically, "You do that better than Sophie!"
"James, how can that be?", she said looking at him in amused puzzlement, "You're always telling me you can't taste any difference between smart nuke and hand made."
"I dunno.", he replied, looking at her with an innocent expression, a milk moustache on his upper lip from the glass he poured himself, "Yours just tastes better."
Tara rolled her eyes and laughed.
"Well, don't tell Sophie that. She's rather proud of her cooking."
"Sure, Mom. Jill told me to tell you she's on her way."
"Yes. She commed me a few minutes ago. Why didn't she come with you on the regular bus?"
"Uh, I think she was having a talk with her boyfriend."
"More like an argument, I'd say."
Tara grimaced, knowing now why Jill had taken the later ride, and maybe why she was so terse.
"Anything I should know about, James?"
"Nah. Just the same old moopy stuff. Hey, Mom! Are you up for a game tonight? I want to try another opening."
"If we have time, son. We'll see. I'm hoping your father will make it home at a decent hour."
His face fell slightly as he moaned, "Again?"
"Yes, James.", she said, "You know how our work goes. Sometimes we have to do this to take care of the patients.
"I know.", he pouted, "It's just so lame, him not being here all the time."
Now that was a term that really made her smile. Somehow it has survived the generational change too.
"I am so getting too old.", she mused to herself.
But it bothered her that he just reinforced what she was thinking, nonetheless. She became serious again and told him, "It is not lame, James. It's what we do. We've explained this to you and your sister before. And by the way, he does make it home on time rather often, I might add. Now dinner will be ready in about an hour. Go ahead and get washed up."
He finished his milk and set the glass in the sink.
"Okay, mom. I'll set up the board, too."
"Good enough, son. Use your great-grandfather's set."
She smiled to herself again as he skipped out of the kitchen and went upstairs. She had made a point of teaching both of her children how to play chess. They were actually very good at it, too, although Jill had lost interest about three years prior. Of course, that was not unexpected. Tara didn't try and make her stay with it, knowing exactly what she was going through.
She finally finished breading the chicken breasts and placed them on the cooking sheet, then prepared the vegetables. Just as she set them to heat up, she heard the front door open and close again.
"Jill?", she called out, "I'm in the kitchen."
Her daughter came into the kitchen, holding her books in front of her, a very sour look on her face. Dumping them onto the dining room table, she sat down rather dejectedly in the nearest chair. She was wearing her cheer uniform, and Tara noted once again how it had changed so little from the days when she wore one. True, the styling was different, but the basic cut of the cloth, the skirt, and the top really hadn't changed all that much. And it really did look good on her. Tara was glad her daughter had inherited her looks.
"Dinner's just about ready, honey. Why don't you go ahead and get cleaned up?"
"In a minute, Mom. You're making the chicken again?"
"Yes. Is that okay?"
"Yeah, it's fine. Has Dad made it home yet?"
"No, honey. He's on call. There's an emergency bypass he has to do."
"So he won't be here?", she asked in monotone.
"'fraid not, honey. How come?"
"Nothing.", she mumbled in reply as she got back up, gathered her books, and headed towards the stairs to her room.
Tara sighed. Jill seemed to have an easier time talking to her father of late when she had problems, and she didn't really mind, but she still wished she would open up more with her.
"Are you having problems with your boyfriend?", she asked, trying to draw her out.
Jill looked up at her accusingly from the kitchen entrance, "How did you find that out?"
"Your brother mentioned seeing you having an argument with him at school today."
"Hmmph! Little brother needs to keep his nose out of my business!"
"Jill, he wasn't snooping or anything."
"I don't want to talk about it!", she snapped, quickly exiting the kitchen and heading upstairs.
Tara stared at her as she left the room. Jill was pretty upset about something all right. Only the sound of the video display interrupted the stillness as she paused in her cooking to wonder why.
"...and in the Colorado area, a cold front is headed straight out of the north bringing with it strong cloud cover and a high probability of snow. Blizzard conditions are likely over the next five to seven days, and this could be one of the most severe storms seen in the region in many years, but it should clear to bright and sunny skies, and the skiing conditions should be excellent..."
"Viewer off.", she said, depressed and no longer interested. The screen disappeared back to the clear window pane overlooking the view of the back yard as she resumed her preparations of the food. A quick glance at the back yard showed her the beginnings of a light falling of snow coming down. The temperature had not been too cold, but she knew it would quickly drop now. Thinking back to Jill, she knew she was finally going to have to sit down and talk to her about this boyfriend of hers. She was even more torn about whether or not to tell her what happened to her back in high school. But whatever the problem was, they had to resolve it one way or the other, and telling her might help. Jill had been far too troubled, lately...
Dinner was quiet for the three of them, which was exactly what Tara didn't want. It was uncommon enough for them to all have dinner together since both she and Kevin had such busy careers, though early on it wasn't that way. She had taken time off to stay with the kids and raise them back then, but once they started school, she had gone back to the work she loved, getting involved in her main field of study which was primary brain tumors in children, and she thoroughly enjoyed her work. Thanks to grants made available through Ron's Bueno Nacho—Bueno Kids Foundation, she had become a major contributor to research in the subject.
Her mind wandered. She especially had contributed to one particular field which dealt with potentially life saving treatment of refractory cases of certain types of brain tumors which had failed initial treatment strategies. That reminded her. She had those journals to read tonight. It might help to give her ideas to gaining the only thing she needed to complete that line of research, which was a much larger grant. She had been angling for one over the past two years, but without success. If she could get it, the needed capital could fund the breakthroughs she was sure she could achieve in treatment of primary brain tumors in children. But one and a half billion dollars didn't just hang off trees (unless you listened to Kim's father. He certainly liked to tell that story a lot.), and even Bueno Nacho had a hard time coming up with that kind of money. She had worked closely with Ron to secure the money, but for the last two years, they had only been able to raise a little over a quarter of it.
Recently the contributions had been drying up too, as they had pretty much exhausted their contacts. The research was so important to her because it would finally give her the tools to possibly get as much as ninety percent cure rates of the vast majority of these deadly cancers. This was unheard of in medical circles and if she pulled it off, it would be an incredible medical miracle. Even Ron got intensely excited about it, boasting that Tara would get a Nobel Prize for her work, but she dismissed that as unimportant. 'Unlikely too', she thought to herself. She just wanted to get her chance to complete the dream of her life's work, to be able to help these unfortunate children. But in the end, what it boiled down to was the technology, and that always cost money, and a lot of it.
She thought back to Jill, concerned about the cost of her pursuing her career goal meaning less time for the children. When they were young, she had not thought it to be a problem. The children were happy, growing, expanding their minds in different ways and activities, not wanting to be so closely supervised by their parents, wanting their independence. Now she wondered again if that had been the wisest course of action. This night seemed to underscore that. While James had been conversant enough. Well, two sentences was conversant for him, it seemed, especially when he spent most of the time just stuffing his face like any twelve year old boy would. Jill had sat quietly through the meal, idly toying with her food and only occasionally taking a bite of the chicken, a dish she normally had enjoyed very much in the past. When it was over, she silently helped clear the dishes from the table and placed them in the sonic cleaner. Tara still had the habit of calling it the dishwasher although it was entirely new technology using ultrasonic vibrations which cleaned everything without any need for detergents. Tara was always amazed at how they managed to keep from breaking even the most delicate china, yet still clean it so well.
When James asked about the game, Tara quietly said yes, all the time still looking at Jill, worrying about her state of mind. As her daughter trudged up the stairs to her room, Tara could only watch impotently, then turned her attention to her son. He had set up the chess board in its usual position in their den before the fireplace.
She sat down and looked over the pieces, and a warm feeling came over her, as it always did every time she saw them. A little more yellow, yet more inviting with age, the hand carved chessmen her grandfather had made her never failed to cheer her up. Like old friends, they seemed to look up at her with smiles, reminding her of some of the most wonderful times in her life, not only with him, but also with her husband. Briefly she looked up over the mantle of the fireplace to the old display case hanging there, the one Kevin had made for her in high school which had memorialized her grandfather. The old varnish had actually grown shinier with time and regular polishing. Everything within seemed to remain ageless, except that last letter he wrote her, the two pages of which had slowly yellowed to a glowing golden color in the firelight.
On the mantle were three trophies. One belonged to Kevin, who had won the New England Open of 2009. The other two were hers, for the New England Open of 2010 and the US Open Championship in 2011 in the first year of medical school at Stanford. They were rated grandmasters then, but afterwards chess had to take a back seat. They played very little once medical school started, much less did any other activity. Kevin had once remarked that 'medicine is a very harsh taskmistress', a statement his father has actually made. She couldn't have agreed more. Now, they were no longer anywhere near grandmaster level, but could still be quite formidable. Tara and Kevin both were proud they could pass on their love of the game to their children. To their great pleasure, they enthusiastically took up the game, and James was the top player at his middle school.
He started off with what appeared to be a new version of the Caro-Kann Defense. Tara groaned. She could barely remember that opening. There were about eight variations and she could recall none of them except the classical, and that one just barely. She played on gamely, able to initially get positional advantage. But she was too distracted, too worried about Jill, and it wasn't long before James was able to trap a pawn and take that advantage away. She tried to shake her mind loose from the cobwebs of her worry and concentrate on the game when she heard a car door slam outside.
She turned and looked at the front door saying, "Is that your father? He must have finished fairly quickly."
But then the whine of the car's electric motor seeped through the door, and Tara realized it was her car. Quickly she turned to the hall table and saw that her remote control was missing.
"Jill!", she yelled, jumping up from the chair and running for the door. Just as she threw it open and went out into the swirling snow, she saw the tail lights disappear out of the driveway.
"Damn it, Jill!", she yelled, then went inside and slammed the door shut.
James had stood up, his eyes showing worry, "What'd she do, Mom?"
"She drove off!", she replied angrily as she fumbled around in her purse for her communicator.
"But she's only got a learner's permit. She can't drive alone."
"I know that, James! Now do me a favor and put up the chess board and go to your room. I'm going to try and talk to her."
"Not now, James! Please! Do it!"
Frustrated, the boy did as he was told.
Finding the communicator, she quickly dialed Jill's number. As she waited for it to ring, she started to hear music coming out of Jill's room, and it sounded like her ring tone. Running up the stairs, she entered her daughter's room to find her communicator sitting on her vanity, ringing away.
Disgusted, Tara shut down her own unit. Jill knew she would try to call her, and obviously didn't want to talk. 'But why didn't she just not answer it instead of leaving it?', she thought. She went back downstairs and tried to think about what to do. Kevin was probably still in surgery. Then she thought, 'her friends'. She went back up to Jill's room and picked up the communicator, starting to thumb through her phone number banks. Soon she found what she was looking for, Jill's best friend, Karen Jensen. She dialed the number.
"Hello, girlfriend! How's it going?"
"Uh, Karen, this is Mrs. Guberman."
There was some surprise on the other end as the image of the surprised brunette teen came up, "Oh! Mrs. Guberman. Uh, sorry about that. I didn't expect you to call on Jill's com."
"It's okay, dear. But I really need your help right now. Jill's driven off in my car and I can't get a hold of her. She left her com here in her room. Can you tell me where she might be going?"
There was some hesitation on the other end, "Er, I'm not real sure, Mrs. Guberman."
"Please, Karen, she's alone and the weather is starting get real bad."
There was a sigh, then, "Well, my guess would be she went to see Jeff. They had a real scorcher of an argument today. I think he might have dumped her. Did you say she was alone? Driving alone?"
Tara closed her eyes and grimaced in frustration. Jeff Masick was the basketball player she had been dating.
"Yes, Karen. She's driving alone. Do you know where she might be meeting him?"
" Oh my God. I can't believe she did that. Uh, there are several places she might be at, but they usually meet at the Bueno Nacho close to school."
"Okay. Thanks, Karen. Please, call the rest of the squad and tell them they need to find her. This blizzard is going to be dangerous and she's out there by herself."
"Sure thing, Mrs. Guberman. I'll start calling now."
"Thanks, dear. I'll be in touch."
"Yes, ma'am", she replied and cut the connection.
Tara went downstairs again and gathered up her coat. She was sure she could get Kim or one of her boys to give her a ride when she heard a motor whine in the drive way. Excitedly she rushed to the door, hoping to find Jill had come back, but it was Kevin, finally returning home from surgery, still dressed in his scrubs and an overcoat.
Noticing how distraught she looked, he frowned and asked, "What's wrong?"
Quickly she relayed the events of the night to him and then told him where they might find Jill. Swiftly he turned back around and got into the car as Tara called upstairs and told James she and his father were going out to find his sister and for him to stay at home. Activating the computer at the door, she issued verbal instructions to it on securing the house, then went out the door and got into the car. The snow was coming down harder and visibility was getting to be a problem. Kevin couldn't go too fast, and it still took them forty-five minutes to get to the restaurant. When they got there, they entered and started looking around. It was still a teen hangout as much as it had been when they were in high school, although the place had gone through a couple of renovations since then. They searched each booth until they came to one with several boys wearing letterman jackets, laughing and joking. One of them was Jeff Masick.
He looked up, and lost his smile, remembering the one night he had met them had not turned out too well.
"Uh, hi, Dr. Guberman. Dr. Monroe."
By the look on Tara's face, the other boys gathered pretty quickly they weren't invited for this conversation, and they slowly drifted away until only Jeff was left sitting there.
Tara came right to the point, "Have you seen Jill?"
"Yes, ma'am. She left here, like, ten minutes ago."
"Do you know where?"
"No, she didn't say."
"What were you arguing about?"
His face grimaced, "Look, Dr. Monroe. I think Jill's a sweet kid and all, but, well, she's just not my type, you know. I don't want to hurt her. I was trying to let her down easy."
"So you broke up with her. Is that why she's so upset?"
"Yeah. I didn't think she'd take it so hard. I mean she really kind of freaked out."
The kid could see Tara was angry, but couldn't understand why. He was sure she didn't want him dating her daughter. He thought she'd be happy. Instead, the woman was really upset. Tara was thinking how she knew his type through and through, and she just couldn't believe Jill didn't see him for what he was. Jeff became worried as Tara's stare took on a harsher light.
"Was there something I could do.", he started.
"What was it you were expecting from her?", she interrupted, "To put out?"
The boy's face clouded over with contempt, "Hey lady, I don't need this. There's lots of girls out there who want to go out with me. Most of them are a lot more fun, too."
Tara's face went white with rage. She slammed her fists down on the table and angrily stared him down. Everything went quiet inside the restaurant. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared back at the table where they were. Her face inches from his, he quickly backed down in shock at the virulence of her action, scampering back into the far end of the bench seat as he tried to avoid those ice blue eyes burning laser beams into his face. Kevin held on to her arm, as if to keep her under control.
"Tara.", he said, "Tara, come on. There's nothing more to be gained here. We've got to go find her."
Still staring at Jeff, shaking hard, she hissed at him, "You stay away from my daughter! You hear me?"
He didn't answer, trembling from her raw emotion. He just nodded his head a couple of times.
Slowly she stood back up from the table, her eyes never leaving his until she turned and walked swiftly out of the restaurant, Kevin following her. They got back in the car and as they buckled in, Kevin asked her.
"Okay, what was that about?"
Tara stared straight ahead, mentally controlling her fury
"You weren't there." she finally answered, "but that's exactly what he said when I broke up with him that summer."
Kevin gazed at her for a long moment before responding, "Oh."
He wasn't going to touch that one right now. She rarely brought him up, and he knew better than to push it now, especially with Jill lost out there somewhere. He started up the car and drove out on the street.
"Okay, where to?"
With another deep sigh she said, "Let's try the parents."
They called both sets of parents to see if Jill had contacted them, but they hadn't heard from her. Tara told them they would call back and keep updating the situation as more information came in. She pulled out Jill's com again and tried all of her other friends. None of them had seen her either. The wind had started to pick up, and it looked like the blizzard was about to hit Middleton head on. The snow plows had not made it out yet, and it was a miracle that they were able to navigate the roads any better than they could. Somehow they made it back home. They were crushed to find Jill hadn't returned.
Once inside, Tara said, "I using it, Kevin."
Kevin looked at her steadily, 'I think you should."
Tara went to the master bedroom and opened up a drawer in the night table on her side of the bed. Rummaging down, she pulled out a white box and opened it, revealing a standard Team Possible military style Kimmunicator. Kim's people now used the wrist models, and the old handheld units were relegated to emergency purposes like this. Kevin sat down beside her as she activated it. They heard the standard four beep signal and the screen flashed on.
Wade Load looked at them sipping on his traditional slurpee, frowning slightly in puzzlement with his grin.
"Tara! Kevin! It's been a while!", he said in his deep bass voice and smiling.
Then his smile dropped, "Oh! You're using the emergency unit, I guess I should ask what's wrong, huh?"
"Wade, Jill's missing.", she replied, her face strained, "I need to talk to Kim."
Alarm filled Wade's face, as he started hitting keys on his keyboard.
"Okay. Let me get hold of her. I'll get back to you in a minute."
The screen flashed off. Thirty seconds later, it beeped and came on again, Kim's face and red hair filling the screen, a look of concern on her features.
"What's the sitch, Tara?
"Oh, Kim! Jill's gone missing!"
Rapidly she recounted the night's events to her, just as she had with Kevin.
"She must be really upset, Tara.", Kim finally said, "It sounds like she's not thinking straight."
"She doesn't have her com with her, either. I guess she didn't want me continually trying to ring her when she took the car."
"Can you give me the ID number to the On-Star. We can track her down that way."
"No, we can't, Kim. It's non-functional. I've been trying to get it repaired , but the main computer module part isn't in the dealership yet."
Kim was silent for a moment, "Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"
"No. I'm sorry, but we've tried all her friends, my parents, Kevin's parents... ...Nobody's seen her."
"Uh, did you ever put a microchip in her?"
"Of course not!", Tara answered, "That's unethical."
"Yes, of course.", Kim muttered back, "Sorry, had to ask."
"It's okay, Kim. I know you're trying to help. What now?"
Kim grimaced, "It looks like we do this the hard way. How long has she been gone?"
"Probably about two to three hours now. But I am really worried about her being out in this blizzard."
"Yeah, me too. Okay, three hour maximum means she couldn't have traveled more than a hundred miles in this weather. We'll start the search patterns immediately."
"How hard will it be?"
Kim looked back Tara grimly, "I won't lie, Tara. With this blizzard coming in, it will be like trying to find that needle in the haystack. Let's just pray we get lucky. I know this is hard on you, but right now, I want you guys to get some rest tonight. I'll send a chopper to pick you up first thing in the morning. This blizzard is going to hit us like a sledgehammer, and I don't expect the plows are going to be able to get out for some time. Nobody's doing any driving tomorrow."
"You'll start looking now?", Tara said tearfully, unable to hold back any more.
"I already gave the orders, Tara, when Wade told me she was missing. The rescue choppers are going out as I speak. Now get some rest. I'll contact you on this unit if I find out anything."
The Kimmunicator went blank. Tara stared at it for several seconds as the tears flowed down, then she broke down sobbing into her husband's arms.
Chapter Two should be up in a couple of days or so.