Something warm moved and pressed itself against her body. The stirring caused Shego to open her sleepy eyes and rub them. Adding to the discomfort of having just woken up were her damp pillow and shirt. She blinked and tried to roll away, but realized that someone had wrapped their arms around her waist and buried their face into her shirt. Rubbing her tired eyes again, she glanced downwards and saw a messy mop of red-hair snuggling even closer to her body.
"Kimmie…" the name escaped Shego's lips softly, barely loud enough to be called a whisper. A void started opening inside her as recollections from the prior night flooded into her consciousness, the ache slithering its way from her mind to deep within her heart. Shego reached up and rubbed her eyes once again as tears threatened to spill forth.
"I'm sorry…" Shego whispered. Wrapping both arms around the younger girl, Shego squeezed her and pressed her face against Kim's hair, taking in the comforting scent of her shampoo. "Kimmie, I'm so, so sorry…" she whispered again as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore the gnawing pain inside her heart.
She felt Kim stir in her arms and reluctantly pulled away. Deciding not to disturb the younger girl's sleep any longer, Shego carefully pried Kim's arms from around her waist. As soon as she got free, Shego slid away to sit on the edge.
Feeling the sudden loss of warmth, Kim started writhing in her sleep, her face contorted in anguish. Shego's face contorted in sympathetic pain as Kim's arms reached out futilely for something to hold on to. "No, dun go…" she mumbled in her near wakeful state, flailing about in a manner sickeningly familiar to Shego. The older woman winced at the emptiness in Kim's plaintive voice, wanting nothing more than to lay back down and embrace her agonized friend, but knew she had force herself to get up.
Looking around, Shego spied one of Ron's old jerseys and picked it up, trusting it into one of Kim's hands. The red-head immediately pulled it close to her chest, nuzzling her face into the numbers on the back. The scent of her boyfriend seemed to calm her down a great deal, though her free hand did reach out as if still searching. The questing hand finally grabbed onto Shego's pillow and pulling it close, nuzzling both the pillow and the shirt much like she had the former thief's bosom earlier.
Shego watched the younger girl with a sad grimace, sighing lightly. Shaking her head, she softly murmured to the girl, her voice almost breaking, "I'm sorry, Kim…" She hesitated for a moment before leaning over to brush her lips gently against Kim's cheek. "I should wake you, but… It hurts less when you're asleep"…"
As silently as possible, Shego slipped out of Ron's bedroom and tiptoed her way down to the kitchen. Glancing out the front window, she noted that Mr and Mrs Stoppable had yet to return, and had not even stopped in the prior night. Their new Volvo was still gone, and no tracks marred the six inch deep blanket of snow in the driveway. And Hana would be at Mrs Stoppable's sister's place…
Shego sighed, turning from the living room and looking around the kitchen. She walked to the cupboard, numbly opening it to grab and open a bag of coffee. She poured some into the coffeemaker's basket and filled the water reservoir. With a defeated air, she turned the coffeemaker on before slumping heavily on one of the dining chairs. She nestled her head in her arms, drawing a breath and letting it out in a long, desolate sigh. Even though she knew that Kim was staying in Ron's room, the house felt so big and empty.
She clenched one fist at her temple and slapped her open palm against the stoutly built table, the force enough to make the tabletop buckle briefly. She relished the brief stinging that shot from her palm to her elbow. Anything, she thought. Anything would be better than this feeling tearing up my guts…
The doorbell rang jarringly through the nearly empty home, causing Shego to jump. The sound, while bringing with it the promise of a brief respite, also brought the dread fear of horrible news from the hospital, which unsettled the mint hued woman to the core.
Shego looked up at the kitchen clock. It was barely even seven A.M. Despite her ragged feelings, she dragged herself to the front door and cracked it open slightly, a blast of freezing air making her shiver despite her unnaturally high body temperature. "Yes?" she croaked, her dry throat still reeking of morning breath.
Will Du stood at the front porch, a few flakes of the light snow that fell in his coal black hair. Shego blinked twice; something seemed very wrong with the picture before her. Suddenly it dawned on Shego that she had never seen Will dressed in civilian clothing before. Gone were his Global Justice jumpsuit and dress shoes. Instead, Will was dressed in a pair of beige cargo pants and army style boots.
She continued her brief, but thorough observation, noticing through the half opened zipper of his plain, practical looking winter jacket a tee-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the United States Army, which drew a quizzical arch of an elegant eyebrow. Completing the unusual picture was the fact that he carried an olive drab duffle bag that was a common sight among men returning from the service. And those who were remobilized.
"Du…" Shego remarked with an upraised eyebrow. "I don't recall Global Justice ever having a casual Friday, though I think they'd frown on the army chic…"
"Shego, we hav'ta talk…" Will cleared his throat as he looked over his shoulder, then grimaced as he realized his accent had slipped, before continuing in a slightly more measured tone. "To talk. Could you let me in?"
"Oh…" Shego stepped aside to let Will walk into the living room. "What are you doing here?"
Will glanced briefly out the front door before shutting it. Silently, he bent down to take his boots off, then removed his jacket, hanging it on the rack next to the door. With a determined stride, he stalked purposefully over to the front window and drew the curtains closed before turning to face Shego.
"Wow… Paranoid, much, Will Douc-…?" Shego bit out sarcastically, but stopped mid-word as his actions confirmed her sarcastic comment. The mint-hued woman's eyes widened slightly as Will opened the duffle in a surprisingly fluid motion, pulling out an attaché case.
"Shego, I know you and I have not seen eye to eye," Will finally said with an apologetic grimace, opening the attaché case and activating what Shego realized was a white noise generator. "But we had better put aside our differences for this," Will took a breath, contemplating for a moment before continuing. "After all, many things have happened in the past twenty-four hours that you should be aware of."
"Right, Gemini attacked GJ HQ, I get that… It's big…"
"No, that was done forty-two hours and thirty seven minutes ago… This is bigger than that, much bigger…" Will corrected her in his best professional tone. "One thing is that Dr Director is still missing. We have seen no sign of her and Gemini has given no indication that he has captured her. We have no idea what has happened to her so far, and even after having dozens of agents, as well as Wade and Rufus, going through the security feeds, we have found no trace of her. She was in the base for one moment, and when the attack happened, she simply disappeared. Along with several vehicles, some of which have recently been heavily modified…"
"Betts… Gone?" Shego slumped onto the couch as she looked at Du in surprise. "Fuck the materiel; But Betts, just… Gone? Did you check her place? Anything?"
"While I would like to forget about the materiel, I should let you know that some of it was modified for GJ by Edward Lipsky… If an escaping WWEE goon or escaped convict stole the modified vehicles, they could cause an incredible amount of damage…" he sighed, nodding as Shego nodded her understanding. "Exactly… As for Dr. Director? Not a single trace of her, Shego" Will said evenly, looking her squarely in the eyes. "It is possible that she was somewhere in Section 12 where the tunnel collapsed…"
"Don't, Du," Shego snapped, "I don't need any more news like that…"
"I hope to Hell that's not the case, either, however… We must keep ourselves open to that possibility if we want to find her…" Will pressed with forceful sincerity, causing Shego to raise an elegant eyebrow in surprise. Will paused for a moment, waiting to continue until Shego nodded in understanding, "However, that and the disappearance of Dr. Director is the least of our concerns right now."
"Let me guess," Shego muttered sarcastically, "This is where the other shoe drops, isn't it?"
"Yes," Will answered simply, "Her superiors from the United Nations Security Council are furious that an attack like that has been carried out on GJ HQ, and it doesn't look good for Dr. Director that she isn't around to answer their questions. To further exacerbate things, the attacker is her own brother, who somehow managed to get the necessary codes to…"
"That's bullshit!" Shego raised her voice angrily. "Are they suggesting that Betts was the one who let Gemini attack the GJ HQ?"
"At least that's what the officer debriefing me was trying to insinuate, or asking me to imply…" Will replied grimly. "I think they're trying to find dirt on her, any of her own wrongdoings, missing paper clips or anything of that sort to implicate her and make her the fall guy for this attack. A target of convenience, if you will…" Will sighed, shaking his head, "Shego, we know that Gemini has to have had inside help! And it doesn't look good for Dr. Director that she isn't around to defend herself against these allegations."
Shego gritted her teeth as she contemplated the disappearance of her friend. "Dammit, Du," she growled before thumping her hand on the couch. "So what happens next?"
"The UNSC decided that the best course of action, considering the enormity of the situation, is for Dr. Director to be suspended until this incident has been thoroughly investigated."
Shego swore vehemently for a good minute, reaching for the most obscure obscenities she could think of before managing to calm herself down. "Suspended?" Shego echoed in disbelief. "That's ridiculous! Then who is going to run GJ? You?"
"No..." Will shook his head. "As you can see, I'm in civvies. Well, close to 'em, anyway." He chuckled and scratched the back of his head for a moment, before sighing and continuing. "I've been suspended pending a full investigation as well…"
Shego fell silent as she looked at Du. "Why?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Du explained. "Officially it is because I allowed GJ HQ to almost be taken over on my watch. Unofficially, I think it's a combination of my close work relationship with Dr. Driector and…" He reached into his backpack and pulled out a manila folder. "Because of this…"
"What is it?" Shego took the file gingerly and opened it to reveal official looking document with a United Nations cover page.
"It is something that Dr. Director has been working on for months. It is your unconditional pardon, and full record expunging of your felony records…" Will began, noting the shocked look on Shego's face. "Dr. Director had these papers drawn up months ago, not long after you rescued Kim. Signed by various heads of state, and endorsed by the UNSC, it means that you are a free woman."
"Free woman?" Shego's voice trembled with disbelief. She hadn't been a free woman since… "I have some pretty harsh felonies…"
"Your record as a mercenary in the employ of a mad scientist still stands, as well as a few assault charges. You're now listed as a former bodyguard and petty thief in the employ of Dr. Drakken."
"Um, petty thief? I stol-…" Shego asked incredulously.
"Yes. Your big felony thefts have either been recovered, or destroyed, and since pretty much all of the destroyed thefts were black projects…" Will shrugged slightly, a smirk marring his professional mask. "Also, with you being classified as a body guard, and the fact that you've never killed or seriously injured anyone other than Ms. Possible, who also signed the documents asking for your pardon, the assault charges were mostly dropped, though a few were kept on your record for consistency's sake. You also helped, and have been listed in the GJ database as a permanent member of, Team Possible, as well as a teacher that has already achieved her tenure. Congratulations on that by the way."
"Thanks," Shego replied in a dry tone, rolling her eyes slightly.
"Well," Will smirked at her, "That was, essentially, your community service. And based on that, those crimes are, at worst, misdemeanor charges. Now you have a chance to walk freely, vote, rely on your civil rights and even own a firearm if worst comes to worst… And you can do anything legal that you want without Team Possible babysitting you…"
"But… How?" Shego stammered as she looked at the official seals and signatures. "Why?"
"How?" Will shrugged. "Kim Possible isn't the only one with favors. And Dr. Director must have gone through a lot of favors to get these drawn up for you. As for the why, let me put it this way: before the attack on GJ HQ two nights ago, I did not believe you deserved a full pardon, not until you had paid for your crimes. I honestly didn't know as much about your record as I just mentioned to you, to be honest."
He chuckled ruefully as he continued, "Even GJ's second in command wasn't privy to everything, apparently… But that aside, after what you did Saturday morning in rescuing one of the only organizations that keep the world safe from megalomaniacs? I feel that it is my duty… No, my honor to hand these papers to you."
"Oh… Wow…" Was all Shego could say as she scanned the documents again. Yes, her name was there, and the dates, and she was completely absolved of felonies, but… "What did you mean when you say that you were suspended because of these papers?"
Will gave Shego a long, hard look, before speaking. "Dr. Director wanted to wait until you did a more… Public world-saving deed. She had planned on presenting these letters to you officially so the public wouldn't crucify you for walking down the street. However, things have changed so rapidly that I don't believe you'd be safe without these papers…"
"What do you mean, Will?" Shego asked tensely.
"After Dr. Director was suspended, Global Justice needed a new leader at the helm," Will responded quietly. "And because it normally takes years to train a candidate, the UNSC had no choice but to bring in GJ's previous leader, Director Alan Grant."
"He was the leader during my stint at GJ, wasn't he?" Shego asked.
"Yes, but y'were still green, which's why ya didn' know 'im all that well," Will replied, as anger broke into his normally cool composure. Taking a deep breath, he slipped mostly back into his restrained tone, "Grant and Dr. Director never saw eye t'eye. Dr. Director was more of a believer in villain reform. She believed in giving people a second chance." He paused as the palest of grins appeared on Shego's face, and smiled himself, coughing subtly. "Actually, it's not that hard to see why she believed that… Especially when y'consider that her brother and her best friend were both villains." Will looked directly at Shego as he said his last sentence, nodding when the import of the comment struck home.
Shego coughed nervously and looked away, a reddish hue burning her cheeks. "Anyway, more about this guy?" Shego tried to ignore his gaze.
"Grant's methods, to say the least, were questionable. He believed more in shootin' first and askin' questions later," Will explained. "While his methods may've been crudely effective in preventing the villains from taking over the world, he drove the villains deeper underground, and drew out the true psychopaths, the ones that made gigaton bombs, multi-terawatt gamma lasers, that kinna thing… As well as leaving behind a large amount of collateral damage which the UNSC could no longer tolerate. Samantha Sites, and those that died in the shop with her, were the last straw…"
A hiccup got stuck in her throat as Shego opened her eyes wide. "Sam? What does she have to do with him…"
"Grant…" Will paused, sighing as he looked away from Shego. "Keep in mind, this is hearsay, but… He was fully informed of the situation, and gave the approval the NSA wanted to take out the target with their pet black-ops sniper…" Will explained as calmly as possible. He looked at Shego before softly saying, "I'm sorry, Shego, I truly am… Grant was, somehow, involved in whatever it was that NSA wanted hidden, but we have no proof of it…"
"Dammit," Shego gritted her teeth as tears welled up in her eyes. The memory, as fresh as the day it happened, sprang to the forefront of her mind, forcing her to grab the couch to support herself on suddenly unsteady knees. "Dammit…"
Will fell silent for a moment, giving Shego time to absorb this new revelation, to let the old wounds tear open and bleed, he hoped, a little cleaner. Maybe he should have kept this piece of information to himself. But regardless, she needed to know what was going to happen next. It was essential.
"Shego," Will interrupted her thoughts. "It is important that you know this. Whatever you do now, do not break any laws. Don't give GJ any excuse to lock you up. No matter what." Shego glanced up at Will in confusion, and he sighed heavily. "I'm not sure, but from what I gather, Grant is somehow very interested in you. I don't know why, all I know is that when he found out about this pardon, he was outraged and wanted to destroy it. But I managed to steal this out of Dr. Director's desk before Grant could do anything, as well as deliver it to the appropriate offices before Grant could strike it down. Considering the clout of those supporting your pardon, even if they wanted to keep you a villain, the UNSC would have to accept the pardon, and, well…"
"That's why he suspended you…" Shego finished the story for him. She looked at the man with renewed eyes. Gone was that ramrod-straight cockiness of his, rather his eyes belied something more. Not just the eyes of the glorified policeman she had always seen, but something more… A soldier… Like Simon… She nodded in sudden understanding, and accepted the new image she had of Will, that of an older and wiser man, tempered with the knowledge that sometimes bad things just happen to good people without any rhyme or reason.
"That's why he suspended me," Will repeated solemnly. He sighed as he leaned back in his seat.
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Two things…" he said as he ticked him off on his fingers. "First, I'm reporting into my handlers in the government… People who don't want Grant doing the shit he did before. Then I'm going to look for Dr. Director," Will sighed, shaking his head. "She's out there somewhere, and I believe… I know she's innocent. And when I find her, I am going to help her clear her name."
"I'll help you…"
"No, Shego," Will startled her with the firmness in his voice. "Stay here with Kim, be there for her, Ron, their families… Like I said, Grant is very interested in you for some reason… Don't give him any excuses to lock you up."
"Damn," Shego slumped back in her seat and rubbed the bridge of her nose. Things just kept getting worse and worse.
"Anyway, on an unrelated note," Will continued. "The attack on GJ HQ wasn't severe. We had a few casualties, but minimal. And during the attack, a few villains escaped, notably, Drakken, Dementor and Motor Ed… I know you have history with them, so I thought you'd want to know." He shrugged slightly, before adding as an afterthought, "There may have been others, as the head count was still going on as I left, but…"
"Thanks…" Shego mumbled, sounding subdued.
"I'd better leave now," Will stood up and proffered his hand. Shego eyed it hesitantly for a moment before reaching out to grasp it. As Du shook her hand, he remarked honestly, "Shego, you were an asset to Global Justice, and are one to Team Possible… Saturday morning proved that beyond a doubt, and I would like to say that I was wrong, and Dr. Director was right: sometimes, people do deserve a second chance."
Biting her lower lip, Shego replied sadly, "But at what cost? I keep hurting the people around me…"
"I'm truly sorry about Ron," Will offered. "But Shego, Ron was saved because of you, not hurt because of you. Don't blame yourself for what happened to him. Blame the person who almost killed him with her own hands."
"Yeah… Fuck, you think I don't know that?" Shego growled and turned away from Will. "It's just… I should have done more… I shouldn't have left him alone…"
"Don't think too much of what should have or should not have been," Will remarked with a sigh. Looking at Shego's stoic face, he touched her shoulder and spoke, "Shego, I need to leave. But let me also say that I could not wish for better people than you or Team Possible to stand by me that night."
Shego shivered a little at his touch and kept her eyes firmly fixed on a small smudge on the carpet. It took all her strength to not cry again. Feeling Will's hand falling away to his side, Shego gave a little grunt, something just to clear her throat. She could hear Will stepping away, before he paused and walked back.
"Shego," he said softly, waiting for her to look at him and the device that looked like her attaché case. "As soon as I deactivate this, only you can reactivate it. I have a feeling you may need it. It's keyed to your genetic signature, fingerprints and plasma… I had Wade scan your case so it wouldn't raise suspicion." Shego nodded in understanding, waving Will to shut the machine off. He did so and turned smartly, walking to the front door before letting himself out. Even with her arms wrapped around herself, she felt cold and alone. That gnawing void was still there, eating her insides away slowly and making her feel sicker by the moment.
She bit her lip until she could taste blood, the pain a welcome relief to the nauseating feeling inside her. Anything just to ease some of the pain. Anything…
"Is he gone?"
Shego jumped in surprise at the raspy, harsh male voice that suddenly interrupted her thoughts. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she glanced up, trying to fix an angry scowl on her face as she turned to face the intruder. "Who the fu-…"
Her question was cut short as she looked at the bedraggled mess that had dragged himself into the kitchen. His orange prison jumpsuit was caked in a mix of mud, blood, concrete dust, grime and snow to the point of being mostly gray. His face was in even worse shape, the left side covered with a mass of contusions and bruises, his almost signature scar barely visible. He was clearly favoring his right leg more as he limped forward, while ignoring his swinging left hand that sat at a twisted angle, belying a dislocated or broken elbow. But despite all the injuries, the blue-tinted skin was a dead giveaway.
"Drakken?" Shego exploded in shock. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Shego…" he croaked hoarsely, straining his parched throat. "Need your help…"
"I'll say…" Shego remarked snidely. Despite the fact that he had cloned her and engaged in sexual relationships with the clone, and as a result, violating her in some twisted mad scientist way, she checked her anger and went into the kitchen, grabbing the first aid box from one of the cupboards. "God, Dr D… You look like Hell, what happened to you?"
Drakken shambled over to one of the chairs in the living room and gingerly sat down. Every sudden movement caused sharp pain to lance up his left arm. He winced as he settled down, doing his best not to cry out. As Shego gingerly knelt next to him, she examined the injured arm. Knowing enough about injuries from her time as both a hero and villain, she gingerly felt the tender area, testing to see if there was any further serious injury.
"Leave my arm alone!" Drakken rasped as he coughed violently, which Shego ignored, moving her gentle probing to his wrist. "Shego… I need your help."
"Sure you do, considering your elbow's dislocated, and the wrist may have broken bones" Shego growled as she got up to find something hard to brace the broken arm. "Dr. D, in case you haven't realized, we're through. I don't work for you anymore."
"I know," Drakken pleaded. "But… But… If you help me, I'll tell you why Director Grant and Lieutenant Colonel Thropy are so interested in you."
Shego stood rooted in place for several long seconds, stunned at the offer. Slowly swiveling her head to look at the blue man, she felt a low throaty growl from the back of her throat. "I remember now!" Shego started to raise her voice. "You knew that bitch of a woman! I saw a picture of you and Miss A together! Wade showed it to us!" Towering over the hunched man with her hands crooked like claws, she lit up her plasma, leaning in to catch Drakken's eyes. "Tell me! What the fuck is your relationship with that woman?"
Drakken started stuttering for a moment, holding his good hand up to shield himself from the venomous look Shego was giving him. "Tell me!" she roared again at the top of her voice. "Tell me everything you know about that woman! I am going to kill her and…"
A soft, gentle hand placing itself to Shego's shoulder restrained her. She whipped around in surprise to look at Kim, with her tousled bed head, looking sadly at Shego. Wordlessly, the younger girl leaned forward and hugged her, pressing her body tightly against Shego's. "Sheila, he's hurt…" she whispered. The quiet words and the embrace took the wind out of Shego's tirade and she let out a long sigh of frustration before leaning back slightly into the embrace.
"Kim…" Shego sighed.
"It's okay, Shego," Kim mumbled softly. "Give him a chance to explain."
"I…" Shego casted Drakken a deadly glare which caused him to wilt slightly in his seat. She shrugged off Kim's arms and went to the kitchen to search for something she could use as a makeshift split.
Kim stood where Shego had a moment earlier, her arms crossed as she stared down at him. "Drakken," Kim began in a serious voice. "Tell us everything you know."
"Not until you promise to help me!" Drakken countered.
"Fine," Shego grumbled as she returned from the laundry room, a broken broom handle and a towel torn into strips held tightly in her hand. "What do you need from us?" she asked as she began splinting Drakken's wrist.
Drakken silently watched Shego as she worked. As she finished and stood, he stared closely at Kim and Shego both for a moment before puffing up a little to his request. "I want you two to rescue Sheegsy."
"You want us to break Sheegsy out of GJ prison?" Shego yelled incredulously. "Are you out of your fucking mind? There's no way I'm going to commit another crime for you. I just got a pardon!"
"Pardon?" Kim asked in surprise.
Shego nodded over to the manila folder sitting on the coffee table in the living room. "It's there," Shego remarked wearily. "Full unconditional pardon. Something Betts wanted to give to me, but she's gone now…"
"Disappeared…" Shego glowered at Drakken. "I've already wasted the last three years of my life being your crony and the last thing I want to do is throw everything that I have now away so that you and Sheegsy can…"
"Wait!" Drakken interrupted her as the shock of her statements wore off, "She's no longer under Global Justice's jurisdiction… Colonel Thropy, her people, they… They took her away."
"Miss A?" Shego and Kim echoed together. "Why?"
"Because…" Drakken pulled at his collar nervously. "Because of what she is… She's a successful clone…"
"What does Miss A want with a successful clone?" Shego asked suspiciously.
"It's… Part of the reason why Director Grant is interested in you," Drakken offered meekly. "And how I know Colonel Thropy. You knew me when I was a budding mad scientist trying to take over the world, right? But before that, I was just a scientist working for the military…"
"Get to the point!" Shego ordered.
"One of the things I was working on was Project Kismet," Drakken began, casting nervous glances at Shego. "It was a program to map and record the brainwaves of a human test subject. The potential was endless, we could do things like treat PTSD, Alzheimer's and a variety of brain-deteriorating syndromes just by simply copying the brainwaves back into the human test subject and…"
"Wait a fucking god damn minute here, Drew…" Shego cut him off with a snarl. "You're telling me that you made a fucking copy of my mind and gave it to Sheegsy?"
"Ah… Maybe?" Drakken offered weakly. He winced as Shego raised her fist to give him a few more additional bruises to his face where the skin still looked untouched.
"Wait a minute," Kim placed her hand on Shego's and gently pried her fist open, unconsciously tangling her fingers with the older woman's. "So what does Director Grant want with that technology, and how would grabbing Sheegsy help, and what does Shego have to do with all of this?"
"If you promise not to hit me…" Drakken said in a surprisingly even tone, his eyes filled with an unusual mix of strength and fear. Much to his chagrin, Shego only grunted, showing no signs of absolving him from any further pain. He sighed and continued, "After finishing my work on Kismet, I found out the real purpose of the project… Which brings me to Colonel Thropy… Parallel to the project, the military had been trying to physiologically enhance their solders, make them stronger, faster, invulnerable, with rapid cell regeneration to quickly recover-…"
"Like every other military in the world," Shego interrupted as she rolled her eyes.
"Yes, and they've succeeded," Drakken explained, his voice starting to rise in pitch as he spoke faster. "Through the use of… Various techniques, including nanobots, recombinant gene modification from some of my early work on clones as well as others, they… They managed to stimulate the necessary hormone glands in the body to enhance the necessary growth factors, to build strength, speed and faster regeneration."
"Don't tell me," Shego muttered, "You had a hand in the nanobots, too?"
"Yes," Drakken admitted easily, "And some of the cloning work… The nanobots were only used in the first stage, however, to modify and 'fix' some deficiencies, then were flushed… But it was more than enough. The modifications kept the soldiers on the edge, in top fighting condition… With one fatal drawback…" He fell silent for a moment as he took a deep breath. "The changes to the body came with huge psychological stress. Symptoms were increased aggression, disobedience and psychosis in the test subjects..."
"So the project was a huge failure?" Kim asked, finally realizing that she had grasped Shego's fingers. Feeling the older woman preparing to let go and strike at Drakken, she increased her grip, keeping the older woman's hand firmly in her own. She almost winced as Shego squeezed her hand harder as she tried to keep her anger in check.
"Not entirely," Drakken conceded with a sigh. "They had five quasi-viable test subjects… And then Colonel Thropy volunteered, and became the most viable, indeed, the only successful subject…"
"Quasi-viable? Succesful?" Shego raised her voice furiously. "That fucking batshit insane bitch is viable?"
Drakken squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. "The last of the quasi-viable subjects was killed by Colonel Thropy five years ago…" Drakken said softly, shaking his head. "His loyalty was to his military oath, not the group that had… Arranged for this… He tried to live up to that oath, and ended up taking a store in Go City hostage with a bomb strapped to his chest… He carried a hard drive with all the data out with him… His name was Simmons, and he was a good soldi-…"
"What?" Shego's growled question made Drakken's head shoot up. "About six feet tall, maybe two hundred twenty, sandy blonde hair, hazel eyes, good looking if he didn't look half crazy?" Shego asked with an intensity that frightened Drakken and Kim both, her hand squeezing Kim's painfully.
"Shego!" Kim called out, squeezing back hard. Shego glanced at her, relenting her grip enough that it was no longer painful. "Let him speak!" she pleaded with the mint-hued woman, who nodded and glanced back at Drakken.
"Well?" She asked simply.
"I… Yes, that was him…" At Drakken's simple declaration, Shego seemed to deflate, and Kim had to let go of the older woman's hand to put a supporting arm around her.
"No…" Shego whispered, starting to zone out as memories flooded back into her conciousness, before Drakken's next words snapped her back to reality.
"He was actually about three hundred and ten pounds… Part of the process made his muscles and bones denser… He was almost as strong as a chimpanzee, which are about one hundred percent stronger than humans." He glanced at his mint-hued former employee as another growl started in the back of her throat, his pleading, surprisingly calm words somehow helping her to keep her anger in check.
"Shego… I don't know what bearing that information has on what I'm telling you, but that's what I was told about it. I was slated for… Decommissioning, along with the rest of those involved in the project. Except, apparently, for Colonel Thropy. Her psyche was least affected by the changes to her body and she has, obviously, been active on the field since. But the other twenty-seven were institutionalized, and those kind of statistics deemed the project a failure."
"Then what does that have to do with Kismet?" Shego asked dangerously.
"Project Kismet was supposedly a workaround for that problem," Drakken remarked. "It was supposed to reinsert the entirety of the soldier's psychological profiles, their memories, to be blunt, back into their bodies after they had gone through the physical upgrades…"
"Fuck…" Shego let the curse leave her lips. "So Grant wants to make supersoldiers. Why?"
Drakken could only shrug a little, as he held onto his broken hand carefully. "Who knows? To take over the world?"
"So where do I come in then, beyond the fact that this project took something more important than my own life from me." Shego asked, not sure if she would like the answer to that question.
"Ah… Did you ever wonder why I paid you so much?" Drakken asked cautiously. "Or why you were doing jobs that were nowhere close to worth the amount I was paying you?"
"The thought did cross my mind…"
"Before I was slated for decommissioning, I stole the data for Kismet and made it look like a virus had destroyed everything back on the military mainframe," Drakken began sweating, realizing that despite everything, Shego was still his physical superior, and could hurt him easily if he angered her. "But I needed a place to hide the data for the project… I took an ad out in the paper, not knowing about the underground, the In-Terror-Net, or any of that… And your contract only said no cloning, and with the threat of both hero teams and the government…"
"Don't tell me you fucking did it…" Shego's eyes opened wide as realization struck her. "You didn't…" She could feel Kim quickly wrapping her arms around her waist to stop her from committing murder and mutilation in Ron's living room.
"It was the safest place?" Drakken offered weakly as he coughed. "Besides no one would suspect that I had used memory engrams to store state secrets in your head…" He yelped in pain as Shego threw a bolt of plasma that singed his legs, leaving a trail of wispy black smoke. "I'm sorry! I didn't know where else to…"
"Sheila," Kim tried to calm the older woman down, wrapping her arms around Shego's so the older woman could not use more of her plasma on the injured man.
"So now you're telling me the whole reason that Grant wants me is that he wants to cut into my fucking head to read your science project?" Shego screeched in fury. She struggled to break an arm free from Kim's grasp, loosening the red-head's grip enough to point at her own head. She would have lunged at Drakken and tore his throat out with her teeth if she had to, but Kim kept on pulling her back, while pleading with her to remain calm.
"You're not the only one in danger!" Drakken raised his indignant voice, after he was decently sure that Kim had got the older woman under control. "They've got Sheegsy now and Colonel Thropy almost captured me! If not for Stoppable…" He angled his head towards Kim.
"What?" The mention of Ron got Kim's attention as she suddenly looked at him with deadly intent. Even Shego stopped her struggling, as the two women scrutinized Drakken closely. Kim breathily asked, "What did Ron do?"
"He bumped into Colonel Thropy when that… Monstrosity was dragging me into the hangar and stopped her from kidnapping me," Drakken explained worriedly, rubbing the side of his forehead. "I was still groggy when she dropped me on the floor and fought Stoppable…"
"Wait… She fought Ron? Alone?" Shego asked in horror, the fact that Drakken had remembered Ron's name barely registering on her confused, infuriated mind.
"Yes… He told me to run, to, quote, 'Get the hell out of here, Dr. D!', unquote…"
"And you just left him to fight her alone?" Shego screamed, lighting up her freed hand. "Let me go, Kimmie, I'm goin-…"
"Stop it, Sheila!" Kim pleaded, finally grasping Shego by the mid forearm and pulling the threatening hand down. "I'm sure he has a reason!" She turned her head from Shego to Drakken, her jade green eyes intense as she continued. "He'd better…"
"I do…" Drakken offered in a strangely contrite tone. "I'm not proud, but I… I helped to create her, I know what she's capable of at full strength, and she claims to have been given just that." At Shego and Kim's confused glare, he sighed. "To make sure she was fully in their control, her handlers in the government… Lessened her… Dropped her to roughly sixty-five to seventy percent of full capability…"
"But… That means…" Shego whispered, a horrified, open mouth stare replacing her angry glare she had held a moment earlier.
"It means that despite Stoppable's… Startlingly increased capabilities, and strength…" The sudden confusion in Kim and Shego's eyes gave Drakken pause, and he sighed, explaining what he had seen to them. "Shego, Miss Possible… He was leaving craters in reinforced concrete walls and deep dents in bullet resistant, reinforced doors… He put his arm through a thirty pound chunk of concrete she threw at him… And she still defeated him. Obviously, or he would be here." Drakken sighed as Kim's expression darkened, and Shego's began to cloud over again. "Um, pardon the callous sound of this but… Is he alive? Or alright if he is?"
"He's in a coma no thanks to you!" Kim growled, and Shego now found herself containing Kim, barely stopping the red-head from lunging at Drakken.
"I told you, Miss Possible," Drakken said in a surprisingly even tone, "That he asked me to escape… I made the same suggestion back, but he shook his head, and waved at me to go… And I'm no fighter, as I'm sure you and Shego know all too well." He wiped gingerly at his face with his free hand. "I'm almost glad that he's hidden so much of his capabilities away… I don't understand why, but he has… Luckily for all of your foes," Drakken added with an almost clinical detachment. "He managed to hurt her before I got out of earshot, and as I mentioned, he was putting craters into reinforced concrete walls. Nonetheless, Colonel Thropy redirected or dodged almost all of the strikes I saw him deliver… I couldn't imagine what would happen if he unleashed that on a normal person."
"What are you talk-…" Kim started, but Shego interrupted her.
"At the warehouse, Kimmie…" Shego whispered, "He dropped over forty feet from the skylight we came in through without harm, and he kicked ANThropy hard enough to throw her twenty feet through the air and dent a shipping container…"
"Yes," Drakken agreed, "I could see him capable of that now… But, to continue… After I got away from the battle, I managed to crawl away and escape in one of the hoverjets… I honestly thought he'd try to escape, considering his normal role with your team, Miss Possible…"
"Damn you, Drakken!" Kim howled, slipping from Shego's slack grip and landing a good left cross to his jaw. The blow wrenched his head hard sideways, her blow hard enough o have split her knuckles. Drakken whimpered in pain as he nursed his sore jaw, shying as far away as he possibly could in his seat from the vengeful woman. Kim's booming voice echoed throughout the house, "It's bad enough that you didn't bother to help, but you abandoned him without even trying to let anyone know? Ron's almost dead because he saved your sorry ass, you ungrateful, bastard! I'm going to beat the living shit out of you and I'm going to…"
"Kimmie!" Shego raised her voice as she quickly wrapped both arms around the younger woman, restraining her arms again and pulling her back across the living room. It was a vicious struggle; Kim trying to reach Drakken with all her strength and pummel him to pieces, while Shego fought her own instincts to do the same as well as trying to stop Kim from hurting the beaten, near defenseless. "Kimmie, that's enough, he gets it!" Kim screamed into her ear, finally getting the older woman's attention.
"Sheila…" Kim muttered as she turned to the woman she regarded as her best friend with teary eyes. With a pained voice, she cried out in despair, "Ron's almost dead and it was all for your piece of shit ex-boss… And he left him there to die…"
"Shh… Calm down, Pumpkin," Shego cooed gently as she stroked the younger woman's back. The older woman leaned her head down, burying her face into Kim's hair and bit down hard on her lip. The pain was a brief, but welcome relief to the torrent of emotions threatening to drown her.
"It's just not fair…" Kim whispered to herself between sobs. "Just not… Fair…"
"I know…" Shego grimaced as they held onto each other tightly. "I know…" Shego glared at Drakken for a moment, who had the decency to look away, shame clearly visible in his hunched frame…
Shego sat numbly in the front passenger seat while Kim drove her car, the Sloth, to the hospital. The older woman was leaning her head against the window, casting her eyes to the sky deep in thought. She was confused, torn and hurting, and she had no way of seeing the end of the pain. The conversations between Du and Drakken had been bad enough, but having to hold back Kim, the last person she had expected to attack an injured man, bothered her. For more reasons than were readily apparent, or that she was prepared to admit to herself…
"Sheila…" Kim finally broke the silence, drawing Shego's gaze to her own. "I'm sorry for… lashing out like that…" Shego nodded with a noncommittal grunt, knowing that she would have done the same had the situation been even slightly different. "Look… Is it okay if Drakken stays at Ron's place for now? He's got no place to go, and I'm not sure if we should hand him over to GJ seeing how everything has suddenly changed… And... If that's not alright, I'll talk to my mom and see if he can stay at our place…"
"Mmm…" Shego mumbled as she turned away from Kim and looked at the streets passing by. "I don't care…"
"It's up to Jean and Ethan, of course, but if not there, but like I said, my parents might put him up…" Kim sighed as Shego shrugged listlessly in response. Shaking her head despondently, she gently turned the steering wheel, guiding her car into the hospital grounds. "C'mon Sheila, I know things are bad now. But mom said that Ron's doing much better… His vitals picked up this morning and he's definitely mending…" She found a parking spot and brought her car to a complete stop before pulling on the handbrake.
Shego only let out a guttural grunt of assent as she unbuckled the seat belt and opened the car door. She barely gave Kim a glance as she got out of the car and slammed the door shut. After making sure her car doors were locked, Kim dropped the keys in her purse and hurried along on the heels of the raven-haired woman who briskly walked towards the hospital entrance.
"Sheila…" Kim called after her. "I miss Ron as much as you, too. He's my boyfriend, you know?"
Turning on her heels to look at the red-head, Shego let out a long-drawn sigh. "Kimmie… It's just… I don't know… I can't forget about it or move on… Ron's up there, lying in bed and no one knows for damn sure when he's gonna wake up again." Shego viciously stabbed her finger in the direction of the hospital. "I'm not sure if I can trust myself to hold back against Drakken until I know that Ron's all okay again."
"I know, but" Kim started, only to be interrupted by Shego pointing a finger at her.
"And what about you?" She queried, "Can you trust yourself? I'm not the only one that tried to attack him, and you succeeded!"
"I…" Kim started, then looked down in shame, making Shego regret her hurtful accusation, "I know, Sheila… But… We'll have to try… And we're going to have to rescue Sheegsy," Kim added, her tone soft and hurting as much as Shego's.
"Why bother?" Shego sighed tiredly. "Drakken can just clone another one of her…"
"That's a very selfish thing to say," Kim shook her head, letting her own anger show. "After all the times you got angry because someone cloned you, and your solution to this problem is just to clone someone else…"
"So what do you want me to do?" Shego retorted.
"Save her! Save Sheegsy! After all, from your own mouth, she is your sister!" Kim shot back.
Shego stood there numbly in the hospital parking lot as she gazed upwards at the room she supposed must be Ron's. "I don't know if I want to," Shego said softly.
"I'm just sick and tired of screwing up," Shego replied as her voice started rising in frustration. "Just so… Sick and tired of fucking up every single goddamn thing in my fucking life!"
"Sheila," Kim reached out and touched her shoulder. "C'mon, you don't mean that. You know that if it were you in her position, you would want her to come and rescue you. She's your sister, and seems to look up to you…"
"Dammit," Shego cursed again. "Look, I can't even save Ron, what makes you think I can save Sheegsy?"
"You saved Ron, remember?" Kim barked at her. "Your first aid when he started bleeding in that corridor saved his life! Mom, the ER doc, even the Army medics said as much. Besides, Sheegsy's counting on you."
"I… Look, I'll think about it after we visit Ron," Shego offered. "I just want to see him first…"
"Sure, me too, Sheila," Kim nodded her head. The two women started walking towards the front doors of the hospital, when suddenly there was a commotion and two nurses and several security guards ran out the entrance and started looking around the front of the building.
Startled, they hurried towards the reception and saw the tall, elderly head nurse there yelling into the phone. "I don't care whether you have to change the bed pans or not, I want every spare member of the staff not in trauma care, critical care, surgery, or surgery prep searching right now!" She listened to the phone for a moment, before raising her loud voice even further, "I don't care! This is an emergency! A patient from the critical care unit can't just slip out from under our noses!"
Glancing at each other, Shego and Kim started to have a nagging feeling in their hearts that their day was about to get worse. As one, they broke into a run for the elevator. Stabbing the button frantically, they waited for the elevator to arrive before Shego suddenly broke to the left and pushed open the door to the emergency stairwell.
Kim followed suit, bounding after the older woman two steps at a time as they raced for the fifth floor where Ron's room was. As they sprinted down the hallway, they almost ran into a nurse who yelled at them, but the two barely stopped to apologize. Fear gripped Kim's heart as she rounded the corner to Ron's room and saw Mr and Mrs. Stoppable standing outside Ron's room, next to her mom and another bald doctor who was trying his best to calm them down.
"Where the hell is my little boy?" Jean Stoppable raised her voice in despair.
"Ma'am, I assure you, we are doing everything we can to find him…" the bald doctor tried to talk her down, just as Kim and Shego reached the group.
"What happened?" Shego asked, as she panted breathlessly. "What's going on?"
"Ron's gone…" Anne Possible said slowly.
"Gone?" Shego felt her knees go weak. Slumping, she reached out to place a hand against the wall to steady herself, before echoing numbly, "What do you mean gone?"
"Look, Miss," the bald doctor tried to reassert control of the situation by showing that he is in charge. "I'm talking to the parents of the patient, and I must insist that this is a private matter for family…"
"Ian," Anne replied coldly. "I think you better answer her question, or else you will find yourself down in the ER pretty quick."
"Uh… Anne…" the bald doctor, Ian, stammered as he glanced nervously at her. "This is a family matter…"
"Just tell us what happened?" Kim pleaded as she held Shego's hand, fearing the worse.
"Miss…" Ian started before he was aware that five pairs of eyes were looking at him with cold-blooded murder on their minds.
"Dr. Mason," Jean said firmly, "Kim is his boyfriend, and Sheila is basically part of the family, don't draw this out any more than it has to be!" Shego opened her mouth to protest, but a sharp look from Jean silenced her as Dr. Mason relented, glancing nervously between his patient's family and friends.
"Okay… It's like this… I did my rounds this morning about nine fifteen A.M., and I tended to Ron Stoppable in here. When the nurse came in to check on him at ten A.M., he was missing…"
"Missing?" Kim echoed. "As in?"
"We have no idea," Ian shrugged helplessly. "We've raised the alarm already, but no one has seen anyone wheeling any patient out of this hospital… In fact, he has got to be in this hospital and…"
"Ian, tell me how is a patient that is placed in a chemically induced coma able to get out of bed and play hide and seek with the hospital staff!" Anne demanded, letting a little bit of anger seep into her otherwise professional demeanor. "Nurse Dhatri confirmed the dosage and comatose state when I got her-…"
"I don't know and that's what we intend to find out…" Ian interrupted as he nervously started pacing.
"Excuse me, if I may…" A tall, tanned Japanese man said softly as he stepped from Ron's room, his accent barely noticeable. He wore his hair in an impeccably wild style, a leather jacket that was unzipped over a tailored set of dark blue dress shirt and black slacks, as well as what appeared to be engineer's boots. As he raised his head, Kim suddenly let out a small gasp.
Kim and Shego looked in surprise at Jean. "You know this asshole?" Shego immediately questioned, as she sized up the new interloper. "Yamada-san?"
"He… Ah…" Jean glanced over at Ethan briefly before letting her eyes settle on Hirotaka. "He's a friend… Of the family…"
"But… But… You went to my school!" Kim burst out in anger, as she stepped up to the calm and collected man who hardly batted an eyelid. "When Ron went to Ya-… You're Yamanouchi?" Hirotaka looked at Kim levelly, his neutral, half-smirking expression not giving her a satisfactory answer, "If you're not, then who the hell are you with?"
"That's exactly what I want to know too…" Shego muttered to herself as she cracked her knuckles, hoping that tearing the slight smirk from off his face would bring some kind of release from the stress building up within her.
"Hold on, Shego, Kim," Jean placed both hands on their shoulders and pulled their tensed bodies back. Ignoring the two fuming women, she looked closely at Hirotaka and asked softly, "If you are here, then you must have something to do with my boy's disappearance…"
Hirotaka gave a slight nod in silence, before remarking casually. "The transfer papers are in the good doctor's office, and anything I may have to say should not be so… Public." He glanced around to settle his point to them, before slipping back into the ICU room.
"Ian, check that, if you would?" Anne asked in a strained tone, and Ian excused himself to confirm the Japanese man's claim, hurrying towards the elevators.
"Is he okay?" Jean asked as she closed the door behind her as Kim, Shego, Anne, and Ethan formed a semi-circle around the young man occupying their attention.
"He will be," Hirotaka nodded his head again. "Master Sensei sends his regards and gives his assurance that Ronald-sama would be extended the best medical treatment that Yamanouchi can offer."
"Oh… Thank god…" Jean finally breathed a sigh of relief as she turned towards her husband and embraced him, finally feeling a great weight lifted from her shoulders. Turning to the man, she thanked him. "I know you'll do the best you can for Ron, thank you."
"Hold up a minute here!" Shego hollered as she stabbed her finger inches away from Hirotaka's face who barely even flinched from the intrusion of personal space. "I want to know who the Hell this guy is, I want to know where the Hell Ron is, and I want to know what some prep school in rural Japan can do that the highest tech hospital within fifteen-hundred miles can't!"
"Shego, Kim," Jean finally breathed with relief. "It's okay… Ron's going to be okay…"
"How do you know that?" Shego asked loudly. Shego continued after a brief pause, her voice desperate and frightened. "How the hell am I suppose to know anything if no one fucking tells me what's going on? I want to see Ron, and I want to see him now!"
"Ron's at the Yamanouchi school…" Kim said evenly, her eyes narrowing at Hirotaka, "After all, that's where Ron went last year for his student exchange program, but it's a lot more, isn't it, Hiro?"
"Great, let's go…" Shego muttered as she gave Hirotaka a dirty glare. "Where is it?"
"It's…" Kim's shoulders slumped a little. "It's in Japan. I'm not sure where…"
"Fine," Shego sneered. "Just call in a favor and have Wade fin-…"
"Shego-san… If I may interrupt," Hirotaka spoke calmly, too calmly for Shego's liking, cutting her tirade short. "Ronald-sama did ask me to leave you two a message."
"What message?" Kim and Shego asked in unison, earning a raised eyebrow from Anne and Jean both.
"He left this note for you…" Hirotaka lifted a small folded piece of paper from his pocket, and before anyone could say anything, Shego suddenly lunged forward grabbed his collar with her right hand and shoved him into the room's instrument wall, sending an oxygen cannula and several body monitoring attachments flying. She cocked her cocking her other elbow beneath his chin and applied just enough pressure that the strange Asian man would start to feel his airway being cut off.
"Shego!" Kim screeched in horror. "Let go of him!"
"No!" Shego gritted her teeth as she glared daggers into the unflinching man. "He's lying! He's been telling us nothing but lies ever since he got here! There's no way Ron could have left us a note; he was in a chemically induced coma…" Growling throatily, she demanded, "I want some answers now! Who the fuck are you? And where did you take Ron?"
With barely a show of effort, Hirotaka gripped her hand and pushed it aside, lithely slipping out of her chokehold. He quickly took a step back and gently rubbed his neck. "Perhaps, I should make myself clearer, Shego-san…" Hirotaka spoke with a bow. "Even though Ronald-sama, as you and Possible-san say, is in a chemically induced coma, the brain is still alive, functioning and most importantly, communicating."
"That's not possible… All higher brain functions are suppressed in a chemically induced coma…" Anne replied, with an odd look on her face.
Hirotaka just gave a shrug, "Maybe you're right. But Ronald-sama has been communicating with Master Sensei, and it has been decided between the both of them that it is best for him to seek the care and hospitality of Yamanuchi."
"Communicate how?" Kim asked.
"I… Don't know," Hirotaka faltered a little. "It is only a technique known by the masters who have transcended their mortal flesh."
"C'mon, Kim!" Shego raised her voice angrily. "You seriously can't be buying this bullshit! He's clearly hiding something and spoon-feeding us all this crap and he's lying through his teeth…"
"Maybe if you would give me a chance," Hirotaka again proffered the folded note, "You'll find that these are really Ronald-sama's words."
"Fine!" Shego snatched the note out of his fingers, and opened in carefully. Her eyes scanned down the page and read.
To Kim and Shego,
I'm sorry for leaving without goodbye, but I really have to go. My training has been incomplete, and because of that, I couldn't be the sidekick you hope me to be. Master Sensei says I must overcome by myself if I'm gonna be whole again. They'll also be finishing my training, I guess… But I have to ask you the hardest thing I've ever asked: do not come looking for me. I can't tell you why, but it's important, okay? I'll be fine, I promise! Besides, Rufus is here with me and he'll make sure I'm ok. I will call you as soon as I am better.
Shego, I have never asked anything of you, but for this one. Please take care of Kim, and promise me that you'll watch her back for me. I trust you.
"It's Ron, isn't it…" Kim whispered softly, as she blinked twice at the note in Shego's hands. "With Rufus' handwriting…"
"Yeah…" Shego tilted her head back and inhaled deeply, letting her shoulders slump a little. She blinked hard and tried her best to fight down the bitterness in her throat.
"So when is he coming back?" Kim asked Hirotaka, "What's going on that he can't tell us, huh?"
"Kim-san, I do not know the answer to that."
"At least, he's going to be okay, right?"
"I… I truly don't know. That, you will have to ask him, when you see him."
"Sheila? Mom?" Kim asked, turning from Hirotaka, looking for an answer that neither woman could give. She rushed forward and buried her face in Anne's shoulder, sobbing as she asked, "What… Why doesn't Ron want us to look for him?"
The question struck a deep chord in Shego, and she found herself turning away, tears of her own fighting for release as she asked herself the same question…
Alright, first off, the both of us have to apologize… But we do have at least passable reasons for the delays. For one, Noob has been sickeningly busy with work, and unfortunately, his work involves a lot of writing, and not the fun, entertaining kind the both of us like to deliver to you, the readers. Dry and often near novella, and in some cases, full blown novel size technical, boring tripe. On top of it, he's been working often six and a half, or even seven days a week. Kinda hard to enjoy writing for entertainment when it's also your job, and you have no chance to write for your own entertainment.
And kgs-wy is guilty of work related delays as well. He's a car audio/video entertainment and security installer, working on average six days a week at longer than banker hours. In other words, in before nine AM, off after six PM. And it's both physically and mentally demanding work, to boot.
Granted, these could be looked at as excuses, but they're very solid reasons for the delays in the works coming out. However, we've gotten this done, and most of Book 3 plotted out, some sections of the first few chapters actually written. Unfortunately, the linking of those chapters, and some of the minor, but very, very important parts of those chapters, have yet to be written.
As well, chapter six of Mismatched is over 70% done, and chapters seven and eight (of eight or nine chapters…) are plotted out. So, hopefully, we'll have Mismatched done before Christmas, and Book 3 well under say. :3 Anyway, here's to everyone hopefully enjoying the outro for The Human Element, Book 2, and to everyone hopefully enjoying what we have in store for you in Book 3. It's gonna be one Hell of a ride!