Interlude the final

I thought my life was perfect.

I had two unconditionally loving parents. I had a committed and sensitive boyfriend who not only was the Homecoming King but the star running back, winner of the coveted Ron Eng award. I graduated from high school with honours and was well on my way to a fast-tracked double-degree at one of the most prestigious colleges in the country.

So why was I so unhappy?

I didn't know myself because... well, I didn't know myself.

I hit college and was slapped in the face with a pretty good dose of real life. People didn't care who I was, only what I could do for them. The Dean caused all sorts of rubbish nonsense when I ran out of his pet philosophy class to save the world. Water under the bridge; that stuff's over... but the scars are still there. And suddenly, I realized, I didn't know who I was.

I'd been known as the girl who could do anything for so long that I never stopped to wonder what it was that I wanted to do. I felt cornered, trapped by my own ego and the expectations of others. I felt a stranger to myself, suddenly, for once. I was on my own, facing competing philosophies of people who didn't have an inkling of empathy or compassion, treating others as simply a bit-player in their own ego-centric sitcom... and I began to wonder, what if they were right? Was I suffering from a messiah complex? Was I just a puppet to the whims of others? Was I being used and exploited?

I was so absorbed in denying these questions that in my blind optimism, I didn't even realize my boyfriend was having troubles of his own. And I thought I could fix it if I gave up my V card. The girl who could do anything could also do dumb.

In some way, I guess I deserve what's happened. I needed time to myself and I needed time to think. I needed time to... come to grips with, well, myself. To know who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.

It's taken a while, but right now, there's only one thing, well, person... the girl who can do anything wants.

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I thought my life was locked-down.

I was making millions in a cushy job that had me doing the least amount of work, and gave me the excuse to steal stuff or beat the crap out of people. I was welcome in the most exclusive clubs and celebrity hot spots. I was as exclusive as the word could get. I was on top of the world... and had no where to go.

In those lonely nights in the lair, after activating the fifty-six security features in my room and lying on the black satin sheets on my king-sized bed, in the dark, I could admit the truth.

I was trapped. Trapped by my choices, trapped by my foibles. I had nowhere to turn, no place to call home. I had hit the pinnacle of everything I'd ever wanted but it felt pyrrhic. I could have anyone, and I meant anyone to warm my bed,... but my heart was still lost, lost and alone. I thought no one could reach me, nothing could tame the wilderness of me, that no one could or would ever understand... the things I'd done, or give me a second chance.

Boy was I glad to find out I was wrong.

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Chapter Twenty: Bondage

Blood and Bondage

by sweetPixiesmile

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Ron swam as hard as he could, the oxygen gauge on his face plate still a comforting transparent neon green. He glanced back to reassure himself that the Yamanouchi ninja had followed his direction and allowed himself a self depreciating smile at his own hypocrisy; he was the one not following orders. Team Possible had always been at its best thinking on their feet in the field. But then, Kim had always been his role model, and the heroine had always told him that he needed to trust his instincts more. It was he advice that now had him swimming into the veritable jaws of danger. Water that could boil him to the bone in a matter of seconds, if the pressure didn't turn him into minced meat in the first place. Six miles underwater was no place to get excited or scared, and Ron was engaged in death-match wrestling bout with both. For some reason, his heart kept telling him that he needed to head down towards the Science pod. His mind told him that he was crazy.

The rising clouds of metal and dirt boiled up from tall tubes of solidified minerals, obscuring his vision. He continued to make his way down the main structural pylon that held the different pods of the lair together and also housed the cargo and personnel elevators. Trying to stay calm as a soft chime pinged in his battlesuit's helmet, Ron fluttered fins attached his feet, keeping his hand close to the lair's outside wall, crawling along the metal shell. The pressure of the water that had been blowing against him lightened and he relaxed, thinking he had crawled into a sheltering shadow.

There was an unexpected shift in the water around him and a sudden current hit him in the shoulders, tearing him away and down into the murky, terrifying blackness below. He tumbled, panic rising as he was was pulled along, a small insignificant piece of jetsam pulled along by the monstrous power of the thermal cross-current. An intersecting cross current jerked him side-wise snatching him as if in a colossal game from the grip of the first and hurled him further. Up, down, left and right fled from his gibbering mind, completely losing any sense of direction in the murky blackness. His pulse hammered in his ears. His breath wheezed from between his clenched teeth. He was going to die.

He was going to die.

But in his mind's eye he saw an image, one that he did not expect. Without a second thought, he curled up, ignoring his disorienting trajectory, gripping his legs tightly, his knees hard against his face plate, into as tight a ball as he possible could force his trembling muscles. He could feel the pressure on him lessen, the super heated water sluicing around him and he cried out as he struck something, a sharp blinding smack near his left kidney. Somehow, and Ron couldn't even understand how he'd accomplished it, his hands shot out to grab a hold of whatever it was he'd run into, the red trim on his suit sparkling a deep crimson hue as the suit transferred power to the microscopic servos that helped solidify his grip. After what seemed an interminable amount of time, the thermal current eased.

As the pressure lifted, his body drifted, buoyed by the super heated water around him. He kept gasping, his pulse pounding in his ears as he realized he was safe for the moment. He took a moment to run through a meditation that Yori had taught him.

Yori! Even now he didn't know why it was her face that came to mind when he thought that he was going to die. He forced the panic and terror down. He needed to be strong now. He needed to do the extraordinary, even without the mystical monkey mojo backing him up. The training that Master Sensei had put him through will finally pay off. He didn't know what the kind old man had been guiding him to, but he was just as determined to find out as he was to find Yori.

"Uh, guys?" Ron gasped out.

No response. He couldn't twist around; his back hurt too much. He reached around his body, his questing fingers touching his utility belt, his fingers touching the sharp corners of cracked and broken shards of a small tiny box fixed to his red utility belt.

"Aw man!" He slowly spun himself, moving his hands in the figure eights that Kim had taught him when they were just six. She had done it because she was already going for her first adult levels and Ron was still stuck with the kids; she wanted her friend to keep her company as she pushed through the child levels and into programs that teens still struggled with. Pain shot through his back with every movement, but was starting to numb from the constant sensory barrage that wracked him as his body adjusted. He paused to take give himself a quick once-over. Oxygen levels now at forty percent. Power was still at an amazing eighty percent. He'd have to get to a more secure location before he could run the suit's status and repair functions.

He looked up and grimaced at the dark above him. Had he travelled so far that he couldn't see the lair anymore? He couldn't see anything, and his heart rate rose again. Even as a child he'd been afraid of the dark, but really it was fear of the unknown. Years of being Kim Possible's sidekick had taught him that shadows were no more scary than the henchmen or spinning tops of doom that lurked within, but now, here in an environment so foreign and so dangerous, the old fears were resurfacing, like so many other things.

You can take the buffoon out of the sitch but you couldn't take the sitch out of the … never mind. No time to be wandering. He turned on a light on the side of his helmet but with no result. He then looked at the obstacle that he'd run into, slowly rotating, and his eyes widened.

He had run into some sort of metal pole. A sharp dent skewed the entire assembly to the side. Ron considered. Something manufactured meant that it had to be attached to something else. He turned off his light to conserve power and, hand over hand, he made his way painfully in one direction, the pain in his back shooting spikes down into the sole of his feet with each movement. He wasn't even sure which way was up at this point, but was gratified to see the circumference thickening. A good sign.

He kept his pace up, trying not to breath too hard. He bit back a yelp when his head jammed into something rock hard, nearly jarring him loose from the metal pole. He shook his head, turned on his helmet lamp and turned upwards. What he saw made him gasp in relief. It was the smooth shell of something, the welded panels stretching beyond the range of his light. He put his hand on the hull.

He ran a hand across his right forearm as he'd seen Kim do on her own battlesuit; a red keyboard glowed on his suit in response. He pressed the status button and a display came up on his face plate. A paired schematic of a human shape appeared. One of the shapes, marked with the text "BACK" had a large red area on the torso, with a pop-up box beside it that read "SQUIRT Communications Array Offline."

Great. Could anything get worse?

At that moment, a panel opened with a bone jarring twenty feet in front of him opened, light spilling out, and three heavily suited orange figures festooned with lights climbed out. They all held large, long shapes that ended with barrels. Ron sighed.

Me and my big mouth. Gotta stop sticking my foot in it.

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The ride was turbulent, but not the worst that Will had ever experienced. Designed to withstand the herculean forces of solar winds, gravity exit velocities and the ultimate pressures of vacuum, the SHOCC pitched and yawed without a single groan of protest.

He studied the hologram before him hovering over a portable version of the war chest, watching as the five carriers represented by blue triangles made their way through what looked like an oddly shaped shifting copse of glowing crimson trees, slipping past the billowing and boiling chimneys that spewed magma heated water, blackened by minerals and sediment.

Betty was slouched in her relaxed thinking position; to anyone who didn't know her, they would have assumed she was asleep, like a warrior at rest, awaiting the call to arms. Will knew better. Although her body was composed, the woman's mind would be racing through scenario upon scenario and considering, evaluating and discarding possible responses.

The squad leaders expected stiff resistance, given the combat reports from the Omega Facility attack and the zombie like state the henchmen had exhibited, all with identical wounds to the back of their necks.

The carriers were moving into position. Will checked his chronometer.

This was going to be an extremely high-risk venture, and the two hundred things that could go wrong in his analysis had kept him reaching for meditative exercises he'd learned long ago as a child in the forests of Vietnam. He swore he could still taste the stinking salty tang that fateful day as he listened closely to his grandfather's soft, whispered instructions, moving in slow sweeping motions as he smoothed the dirt covering the antiquated bouncing-Betty, eyes wide, ears straining for the silent Khmer terror squads.

"Sir," said one of the operators, "we have confirmation that the end game gambit has been deactivated. The hostages are not in hand. Infil team reports that the majority have already been executed, with key targets now in transit." The man hesitated. "I think they said Team Possible is in pursuit."

Shit. The mission was already taking a turn for the worse, if the civilian body count had already spiked without there being any formal engagement. That was going to be additional fodder for the United Nations oversight committee, Will thought to himself.

"Tell Yamanouchi to rendezvous with the assault squads as planned."

"Sir," the man acknowledged.

"All squads. Pandora, ordinance code Pandora." Betty raised her head as she spoke, staring across the war chest with an unreadable expression, her eye hidden by the the combat visor. "Acknowledge."

Will licked his lips as the strike teams radioed in their acquiescence. Betty had just authorized the use of lethal force. He would have advised against having two modes of ordinance, since it meant the standard load-out would at worst be cut by half, lethal to non-lethal. He knew it would mean the agents would opt to carry extra ammunition, slowing them, and potentially confusing clips; in the heat of battle, it could be the difference between life and death. But given the situation, he was glad he hadn't pressed his point prior to the briefing. He stared at the clock, the seconds ticking away and cleared his throat as the clock flipped to thirteen-one-five before thumbing the general channel.

"Orpheus, I repeat, Orpheus."

The blue triangles swooped in.

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"My babies," wailed the portly woman as the Orange jump-suited men guided her gently but firmly through the airlock. Avery clutched Amy's hair, steadying herself from her perch on the woman's shoulder, but her attention wasn't on the sobbing woman or the Orange Prisma agents, but on a certain naked someone. A someone who had shadowed her Mother and herself as they had been escorted inexorably to the waiting submarine.

Rufus was torn. He could sense the presence of his friend and master, like a tickling of air along his sensing hairs. But seeing Avery being taken from the lair, from him, into a place where he couldn't know her fate... the agony was written on his tiny, wrinkled face. With a single backward glance, he made his decision.

Timing his jump, he leaped onto a cargo sled as it passed him, and he slipped unnoticed between the crates. He turned a mournful eye back as the sled slipped into the airlock, but when he turned back, he could see the profound relief and trepidation that trembled in the Ferremole's tentative, grateful smile.

Ron would understand.

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Shego could barely keep up with the speeding red-head as the girl sprinted, trailing a sparkling trail of blue neon as the battlesuit added power, following the path the green coloured henchman had indicated. She wanted to hug the speedy cheerleader, or get the girl to calm down and calling to the teen hero had not elicited a response. And that was when she heard the sharp staccato of gunfire. GJ was beginning their assault right on schedule. It was Team Possible that was behind on their timetable. Not good, she grimaced. If she was to catch up to Kim, she'd have to do... that. Without another through she threw herself forward into a low crouch.

Plasma flared from her feet with each stride, a sharp report echoing into the nightmarish twist of pipe lined corridors. She was using her ability to generate plasma from any part of her body. In this instance, it was a sharp thermal spike that generated a concussive force to propel her faster. She began a long legged loping stride, her comet powered muscles bunching and flexing. Her head just cleared the cramped corridor's ceiling and in a few concussive steps, as Kim ran full tilt around a corner, the ex-villainess bounced off the wall and reached the girl's side.

"Kim," she shouted as her hand clamped down on the panicked hero's shoulder, swinging the redhead around. The pale, tear streaked visage that greeted her, and a sudden overlayed remembrance of jet black hair and lovely almond shaped, chestnut coloured eyes superimposed itself over the the blazing sea foam. Kim slipped loose of her grasp as the dark haired woman shook herself to dispel the illusion.

Shego cursed and lunged after the woman.

In another few steps, she caught up to Kim again, who had stopped at the spot where the schematic ended in Wade's map. There was dimly lit corridor that ran far enough that they couldn't see the end as it curved down and to the left.

"Kim, be careful!" Shego said, putting her hand on the girl's trembling arm. The redhead shrugged her off and sprinted down the corridor. Another whisper of memory wafted by, a lithe twisting figure that eluded her younger grasping hands.

"Fuck," Shego cursed under her breath, following in Kim's wake.

Twenty paces in, there was a muffled crumpling noise, the floor reverberating enough to knock the two women to the ground, coming to a screeching jarring stop against the outside shell of the corridor. Behind them, metal squealed and twisted, steaming water gushing in from what once was the solid walls, now twisted together by the titanic forces.

"Run!" Shego shouted as the super boiled water almost immediately evaporated, filling the corridor with super heated steam. She jumped to her feet, hauling the hero up and the two sprinted into the darkened corridor. If the entire corridor collapsed, the current might damage their suits or run them onto something jagged and unfriendly. If that happened, they would be flash boiled.

Ten paces later, the lights went out.

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The three men were wearing bulky armoured atmos suits. Bright lights set inside their helmets illuminated their strained, stubbled faces, as deepwater LED flood lamps shone before them. The backs of their arms also had focused beams of light, which played back and forth as they conversed among themselves.

Ron had held his index finger to the "STEALTH" button for three agonizing seconds on his forearm control before it activated and he faded from sight.

Awesome! I'm like Predator! With a sudden jolt, he felt a surge of relief and as sense of power and control. This is so cool. and useful too since he still hadn't mastered the ninpo technique of fading from sight like the other ninjas.

He floated straight to the men who stood on the hull, upside down, their heavy boots somehow adhering to the surface. Was it Ron that was upside down, or were they? He wasn't sure. As he approached, he realized that he wouldn't be able to hear what they were saying and with Wade's SQUIRT system destroyed, he wouldn't be able hack into the local communications channels, let alone call for help.

The men were gesturing at each other as they talked. It struck Ron as if he was watching a silent movie. The one in the lead pointed at the pylon that Ron had struck. The three men hefted their long-barrelled, gun-like devices and began to make their way towards him. Ron had a brief moment of panic as the three goons headed his way as he considered his detectability. He recalled how there was a strange ripple effect in games and in movies and wondered if he needed to swim away from the headlamp or arm lights that waved wildly around as the suited men approached, then he thought back to Kim telling him about her fight with Warmonga when she had briefly volunteered to be Drakken's sidekick when he had fooled her into thinking that he was The Great Blue. Even a battle hardened alien like Warmonga had not been able to detect the heroine when she activated her invisibility.

The three men finally arrived at the pylon and the leader floated back the way Ron had come. Ron frowned, when it had appeared that he had only travelled twenty feet as the man stopped and examined the dent, floating around the long metal cylinder. He returned, directing the other two men with gestures and pointing at the foot of the metal shaft and after flipping down darkened visors, they placed the nozzles close to the base of the cylinder and triggered the devices. Ron flinched away as blinding light appeared from where the sticks contacted the metal.

Sticks... were those stun sticks? he wondered to himself. His visor dampened the brightness emitted by the sticks as the men cut the metal shaft from the base. He glanced back at the entrance the men had exited and swam towards it.

The portal was swung wide open, the hatch secured to the hull.

Ron considered his next move. This place wasn't on the schematic that Rufus had sent using Wade's special Department of Defence satellite feed. After a moment of thought, he called up the display of the map, wondering if his suit had traced his unexpected swim. The dot placed him in the middle of a dark expanse. Nothing. He zoomed out and eventually the lair appeared, a almost four hundred feet above him. He was so far from the lair, near an enemy base. He could still do some good, he considered.

His decision made, he swam up into the open hatch and into a metal corridor that was ringed with lights. The hatch at the end of the corridor was Shut with what appeared to be magnetically sealed locks. Ron sighed. He'd have to wait for the goons to finish whatever it was they were doing and sneak in when they returned from their work. He swam back and peeked over the edge of the external hatch. The men had just finished their cutting. almost imperceptibly at first, the cylinder began to float free, trailing long coils of wire. The leader hobbled under as quick as he could manage with a hydraulic wrench and twisted free the connectors before pulling the wiring apart. The other two men walked a short distance away as another hatch opened, this time lifting out then sliding back along the shell. Each pulled disk with a handle fashioned on one side and a glowing orange yellow crystal on the other and pointed at something inside. With a familiar orange yellow glow emanating from the disks, another cylinder lifted out of the shell. Turning slowly, the men carefully lifted out a new pylon and brought it to the exposed cut. The leader donned a large bulky glove from his belt and carefully reached inside the glowing zero gravity shield, gingerly pulling the cables free and attaching them. They then put the pylon in place as the leader began welding. After a moment one of the men holing the pylon in place switched off his beam and began welding opposite of the leader. Finally all three completed the weld. They stood around while the leader was speaking and gesturing, probably to henchman control, Ron thought. White light ran from the base of the pylon and raced along it, disappearing in the murky, turbulent dark.

After a moment, the three men began making their way towards the hatch and towards himself.

The goons walked to the lip of the hatch and reached in, gripping inset handles and flipping inside. They placed their feet against the wide threshold of the hatch as it swung closed. Ron swam up to the leader as the man turned around and waved a hand in front of the man's face and grinned when the man didn't respond. He made a few goofy faces, and almost laughed when the man gave no reaction. He. gave a mischievous grin and swam behind the man next to him and lifted the other man's hand to smack the leader in the behind. The leader turned angry eyes on the surprised subordinate and gave him a furious stared full of terrible promise.

The water was pumped out and as the water disappeared through vents near the men's feet, Ron made sure he was behind them; he didn't know if the invisibility would be affected by the water that beaded his suit, but best not to tempt fate. With a clank and a whir, the above hatch opened and as a ladder was lowered into the lock, Ron looked up and saw plenty of piping. Excellent! she crouched and closed his eyes.

He'd seen Yori and the other Yamanouchi students walk on air and if this was going to happen, it was now or never. He'd never been able to do what Yori had told him, namely to feel his own flow of chi. It had always been masked by the writhing coiling of the mystical monkey power. He concentrated, exhaled as the men clambered up the pipe as fast as they could in the awkward and bulky suits. He couldn't find the itching slithering power of the monkey madness but he felt something else, a small wiggling feeling inside his head, inside his heart. Instead of straining, he relaxed further, reaching for what felt like a Naco coma, the times he'd binged so much that his brain had completely ceased to function on a conscious level from a cheese induced haze. And as his mind cleared of his guilt and desperation, suddenly, the wiggling connected and his feet and hands tingled. Ron exhaled and opened his eyes... and jumped.

Clang!

He fell back, his head throbbing and struck the floor with a thump. Above him the hydraulic driven inner hatch closed and locked with a hiss and a clang.

There was a momentary flicker before the lights went out.

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She should have known.

When the lights went out while they were still forty feet out from the hatch at the bottom of the decline, she felt a shiver of intuition. Princess's nerdlinger friend had created a work of art; as the light died, phosphorescent night vision flickered to life on their helmet screens, everything bathed in a strange green glow. Kim's lithe form sprinted in front of her, the splashes of her footfalls spraying up in iridescent bursts as the girl ran for the hatch.

"Comin' through!" Shego yelled as they reached the metal portal. Kim immediately jumped out of the way as the ex-villainess charged forward and delivered a double fist strike right next to the wheel. The portal rang like a gong, their bodies absorbing the reverberations. The hatch squealed, the massive hinges bending under the blow, caving in as the edges caught. Shego and Kim both spun in mirrored tandem, delivering perfectly executed spinning reverse roundhouse kicks directly adjacent to the first strike and the portal popped through, the sealing edges cracking and tearing free, the dented disk bouncing several times before crashing into a console of computers. Inside there was the flicker of fire and with a quick simultaneous nod, the two women leaped through the door, Shego sliding through crosswise to the right side, Kim crossing behind her and moving left.

The room was filled with broken and static displaying monitors. Electrical fires were burning wildly at several consoles in what appeared to be a control room, complete with several larger monitors that had come loose of their wall and ceiling moorings and we hanging haphazardly, their fractured screens casting flickering patterns. The women cased the room, Kim continuing left along the curve of the dome shaped room and Shego moving in the opposite direction. The floor was canted downwards; Kim was moving towards the bottom while Shego approached the top. Water was still flooding in. Shego noted the quickly rising water level; the light was starting to fade as the water doused the fires.

Unable to wait any longer, she rushed over to the portal, picked up the three ton disk with a grunt and lugged it over to the threshold. She jammed the portal back in and performed a quick weld, her display flickering against the sharp brightness of the melting metal under the high intensity plasma arcing between her index and middle fingers. The trickle of scalding water slowed, then stopped. When she turned, Kim was on the far side, just finishing her circuit of the large room. But something else caught her eye. Something in the water. A short, squat figure, with a gleaming hand, pointing a silver finger with a retracted tip at the oblivious redhead.

Time slowed as comet powered adrenalin flooded into Shego. Electric green power drove a shiver of dread scurried along the comet reinforced nerves. Memory, long forgotten, rose in her power induced haze, superimposing upon reality.

"Kim!" Shego screamed.

The hero and the superimposed memory flipped backwards without a hand plant towards the charging woman as fire and smoke belched, the index finger spitting cone shaped projectiles in rapid fire. Three missiles passed harmlessly by. One struck Kim in the side, spraying circuits from her utility belt, the blue trim flickering and dying. The impact spun her past two more missiles before, another hit her square in the stomach.

The teen hero folded over in a jumbled slump.

The shadow shrouded lanky form sprawled backwards in a twisted heap.

The green woman reacted unthinking, her hands glowing bright, as she stared at the surprised shock on Kim's face, the sea-green eyes dilating with pain

Kim mouthed a round silent "oh".

Shego's pulse thundered in her ears, her vision blurred red, wavering in a sudden tidal wave of fury. She staggered as she turned to face the short, maniacally grinning man.

The human body can produce approximately eleven thousand watt hours, although much of it is insulated into minuscule micro-volts. Shego's electrical potential had once been measured at just over two million volts, and that was when she was still in Team Go, seven years ago, a teenager trying to find herself in the midst of personal turmoil against a backdrop of a suffocating hero image.

Gemini's eyes glittered like wet stones as he turned, his rocket finger tracking toward her as the air around her crackled and hummed. Her hair rippled as if struck by a sudden steady breeze. Green light spilled from her eyes, two glowing beacons of bright green. A bright viridian corona spiked, casting star shadows around her clawed hands. The memory of those words goaded her.

Gemini threw up his hands, squinting against the brilliant twined flames that threw themselves forward simultaneously.

A deafening crackle split the moist air at the passage of a massive green bolt flew from Shego's forcefully thrust hands. Pipes burst and cables snapped, console screen burst from the resultant heat, wiring insulation melting and baring sparking currents. Sparks rained down, leaving carbon singe marks, but somehow, floated away from the glowing woman and the collapsed figure she stood before.

The beam impaled Gemini in the chest.

For a full three seconds, a small piece of the sun found itself over sixteen thousand feet below sea-level.

When Shego came to her senses, she had fallen to her knees, her hands curled into clenched, shaking fists, spasmodically twitching before her. The acrid smell of burnt metal filled the air. Beside her, Kim lay curled around the spreading red that seeped from her torso in a fearsome puddle.

She suddenly realized what she had done, and she wanted to vomit. Even before, she had never lost control like that.

"I had to Kim, I had to... I had to..." she was mumbling, unable to bring herself to touch the injured hero who lay, groaning, her hands clutching her abdomen. She couldn't bring herself to look at the body lying mere feet from them.

"Sh'go," Kim moaned.

"I- I'm sorry Kimmie, please... please don't,... I had to..."

Kim swallowed before reaching out a hand and touching the comet-powered woman's arm. She flinched at the red-head's touch.

"S'kay, Sh'go," Kim gasped out. Her words were preceded by another low guttering cry. "Sh'go... Sh'go... you... need... take out... the missile." The glowing green eyes flicked up to Kim's face in terrified realization. Gemini's finger missile had not detonated. There was a live warhead lodged in the red-head's stomach.

"I can't Kim! I can't..."

"Passage blown... no way down... c'n see mag wave... right?" Shego stared at the hero in disbelief. How had the woman known that she could see magnetic waves? It was a skill she used to locate and identify passive and active security measures; electrical currents produced minuscule magnetic fields, but her sensitivity was so acute, she could detect even the slightest variations within a hundred yard radius. Fast moving projectiles generated fields strong enough from kinetic displacement to be easily visible.

"But.. but Kim..."

"Claws... good enough." Kim's hand clutched Shego's arm. "You gotta!"

She stared into the hero's agonized and determined expression and nodded.

"All... alright Kim. Just... just lie flat."

Kim groaned as she turned onto her back, releasing the mint-green woman. Immediately, Shego reached up, placing her thumb and index finger on the red-head's temples and a spark jumped imperceptibly, straight through Kim's frontal lobe. The tormented lines on the woman's face relaxed and her hands slipped to thunk on the metal floor.

She took a deep breath, trying to settle her nerves, then stared at the wound, her mind feeling for that presence. The missile was self propelled and although it had started slowly, it had flown very fast; the projectile should have picked up some sort of residual electrical charge. She closed her eyes and put her hands flat against Kim's stomach, reaching deep inside herself, trying to ignore the gnawing, debilitating terror that wriggled and writhed against her control. For long moments, she could see nothing. Her frustration rose as she desperately tried to relax and focus, like trying to see a thee-dimensional image hidden in a confused mosaic pattern.

I can't do it. I can't find it!

She tried to ignore the warm slick wetness that throbbed against her hands. She tried to forget that Kim's life depended on her, of all people. She thought she was going to fail when suddenly, the finger missile snapped into focus. And she knew.

I can do this.

With her eyes still closed, Shego shoved her fingers deep into Kim's belly before she lost the image. The fingers went in with a sickening squelch, right up to her last knuckle. She smoothly drew out the rocket and stumbled to her feet. Staggering a few feet away and set it slowly on the ground. What she saw when she turned made her shiver with dread.

Blood was now leaking from Kim's wound steadily. She rushed back to the wounded hero's side.

"No, no nonononono!" Shego's hands were frantic as she smoothed the hair from Kim's pale face.

Okayokayokay... pressure... stop the bleeding... Shego didn't want to see the gaping hole in Kim's stomach as she pressed her hands over the scorched cloth. Bright red blood seeped slowly but steadily between her fingers.

Kim's battlesuit had never had to deal with a full trauma like this before; Shego's own cuts back on the oil rig were nothing compared to a finger missile to the gut. The battery had taken a direct hit, but the unexploded middle finger rocket was lodged deep inside the girl, and the blue sparkle along the electric blue trim was despairingly absent. There would be no emergency pressure or medication now.

"Shit... shit shit shit!" Shego cursed. She couldn't move the girl, and with the corridor collapsed behind them, there was no backup.

"Not g'd... huh?" Shego started, and saw Kim watching her. She looked back down quickly, still not able to meet the hero's gaze. She studied the flow of blood seeping between her fingers, all dark and sticky. Had it stopped a little?

"Yeah, Princess... it's not looking good." For a few long moments, they were silent, but for the occasional pop as another console screen popped from heat and Kim's laboured breathing.

"'S alm'st way... I wan'ed to go..."

"Almost?" Shego blinked furiously, her eyes suddenly burning.

"G'rl... of m' dreams... on mis'on... doin' g'd... just... didn't f'gure... th' smell..."

"The... smell...?" Shego's head whipped around and stared at Kim, but the sea foam eyes had closed. It was then that she noticed.

The heat from the flames was heavy and thick.

The stench was thicker.

She turned her head slowly towards the body that lay nearby. She recognized the smell.

"What,...?" her eyes clouded in confusion. Gemini's body didn't just smell of death induced bowel release. It smelled... like... like... Shego's eyes widened in shock and confusion. She knew of only one reason why a recently destroyed body might smell like a months old corpse. "No... no, it can't be..."

And out of the dark, a voice spoke, spiking her horror to incomprehensible levels.

"Oh, but it is, Sweet-pea."

Shego didn't want to look. She really, really didn't want to see if it was real. But she couldn't help it as her eyes travelled from the months old corpse to the dark figure that emerged from the recesses of the opposite airlock.

It was a malignant darkness that oozed across the floor. Shego let go of Kim's injury and wrapped her arms around the slim waist, pulling her desperately as she scrambled away from the sinister aura as it pushed into the remains of the control room. Kim groaned as Shego dragged her across the floor, her arms holding the red-head as she pushed frantically at the floor with her bodysuit's stealth-padded soles. A whimper of terror escaped her writhing lips.

A booted foot nudged Gemini's body.

"You know, I've never had to keep one of my drones animated for so long. A bit rancid now," the smile made Shego shiver. "Still, useful in getting things done."

The figure, tall, and dark and glowing with destructive malevolence paused in the middle of the control room, the bright electrical fires unable to penetrate the dark glow. Hands on his hips, the tall, emaciated, desiccated face broke into a fierce maniacal grin.

"Miss me, Sweat-pea?"

She was suffocating. She couldn't breath. Her limbs wouldn't work. Her head was tingling so much she couldn't think. What came out of her lips was a dreadfully small, lost sound.

"D-daddy?"

The man walked casually toward her as she scrabbled backward, awkwardly holding Kim to her chest and shoving with her feet.

"You know, honey," the man grinned, "this feels awfully familiar, doesn't it?"

She fetched up against the bulkhead of the control centre and clutched the bleeding red-head to her.

"What was her name... what was it...? Ah!" he snapped his rotten fingers. "Mayumi, wasn't it?"

The name was like being shot, like Kim had been just moments ago. Shego whimpered, suddenly felt very cold and very small.

"But..." he drew out the sound. "There's a big, big difference this time around."

"This... this time," Shego croaked a reply, nonplussed.

"Well, yeah, Sweet-pea." He stooped down, his ugly, puss-glistening face just inches from her's. "You can save her."

"What? How?" Shego glanced at Kim's face, the girl's breath coming in fitful pants.

"Ah-ah-ah," the dark man waved a finger under her nose. "That would be telling, and really, you know me. I won't do anything that won't help me. So I'll give you one guess what I want from you."

Shego couldn't forget, no matter how much she had tried to run from it.

"You... want... me."

"And only you. I mean really, your brothers are more powerful or smarter, but then they have their... issues. You, on the other hand,... the pragmatist, the warrior. Small wonder I named you out of all shi-go, the great hand of death."

"No... no... I won't. I can't!"

"I don't think you understand the stakes here, Sweet-pea. You don't want to save your brothers from me?" He stood up, and folded his arms across his cavernous chest. He glanced down as Shego clasped the redhead tighter. "Or save your lover?" Shego's rocking stilled, her face shadowed.

"What... do you mean?" she choked out. "Kimmie's... I can... save... her?"

"Oh sure, but it better be soon," the man waved a hand dismissively. Shego surged to her feet, Kim falling in a groan. Her fists, glowed brightly as she drove herself against him. A flare of darkness held her at bay. She screamed and snarled, her claws attempting to find purchase against the aura, but it held her fast. The shadow gently and inexorably wrapped itself around her neck, fading to reveal an arm, protected against her razor claws and blistering fire.

"Listen. Now!" He roared into her ear, each word emphasized by a bone rattling shake. Shego stilled under the intense stare of the man's single eye, her father's single eye."I will tell you how to save your... paramour, but you know what I want, don't you." He pulled her close, the exposed nasal passages under the flap of skin that was almost a nose glistening. "And you keep your promises, don't you, Sweet-Pea? Just like mommy."

"What... do you... want...?" Shego's muscles bunched and strained as she attempted to pull the hand from her throat.

"Oh, the same as the last time," his voice, insouciant and bored, "what I've always wanted, my dear."

"Spell it... out... freakshow..." Shego gasped out. Her father jerked her close and he said, singsong in her ear.

"Join me... as my heir..." He cocked his head. "Or really, an heiress, to the throne that I will forge in this world."

"Fuck that! I'd never, not in a million!" Shego resumed her struggling.

"Really? Not even to save your bitch?" With a crowing laugh, the glowing black aura threw Shego to the floor. She twisted neatly and rolled with the fall, coming to her feet, her hands blazing a bright green.

"Go ahead! Attack me! Try it! But my glow has become more powerful than you can even imagine since we last met, my dear. Attack me now," he turned back to her and pointed at the figure breathing shallowly on the cold metallic floor, "and your precious Princess will bear the price." The comet-powered woman's face twisted with agony, her breath coming hard and fast, faster and faster, until it built to an ear-splitting roar. With all her might, she roared, her arms wide, her back arched.

The green blaze winked out, and Shego bowed her head, her black hair falling to curtain her face.

"Fine. You win," her shoulders sagged in defeat. She knelt by the rapidly paling girl, the blood a large pool beneath. She drew the girl's head into her lap, brushing away loose hair from her face. "Tell me what to do."

"Call me daddy first."

"Fucking tell me!" she screeched, her head whipping up. One leprous eyebrow rose.

"And say please." Shego shut her eyes, slowing her breathing.

"Please... Daddy... tell me how to save Kim," she grated out. And as the man's booming laugh rang in to small confines of the spherical room, she closed her eyes and bowed her head again. "Please... please tell me how to save her..."

"Let's board the Leviathan," the man said after the metal of the stressed control room groaned in a heartbeat's hesitation. "It wouldn't do to have us both boiled alive by lingering here too long. I'll tell you how when we're... safer. And make it snappy, Sweet-pea. She's getting pretty pale." With looking back, the hideous presence slunk back through the airlock. The massive portal began to swing shut.

Shego stared into the thick throbbing darkness and without a second thought, surged to her feet, with Kim in her arms. Red dripped from Kim's wound onto the floor, leaving a crimson trail behind as Shego carried the limp hero into the waiting darkness, the external airlock closing with an awful clunk as final as anything Shego had ever heard.

The hot water leaking from the welded door washed away the stain of Kim's lifeblood, boiling away any sign of their presence, as if they had never existed.

* KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP ** KP *

A/N: This concludes the first book of the series. WOW. It's taken so long to finish this, I'm feeling kinda giddy about it. I wrote this on my Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the Samsung plug-in keyboard and using Quickoffice Pro, the best document app on Android hands down! I hope to get a laptop this November and resume writing, or I might try putting Android on my old netbook.

Anyway, thanks to you, the reader for your infinite patience both for how long it's taken to get here and with my mistakes in grammar, spelling, plot, diction... well just thanks, ok?

The next story has me changing my mind on a daily basis as to the title, but the front runners are "Of Tears and Terrors," "Of Humility and Horror" and "Of Sins and Sacrifice." I promised some people to finish Blue Jeans so it'll be a while before I do.

Thanks again!