The Claws of the Kitten
PART ONE - The Cat Comes In
The Possible Home, Middleton, Colorado, Late April
BEEP! BEEP! BE-BEEP!
Kim Possible, teenager, cheerleader, top-rank high school junior and occasionally world-saving hero, took three quick steps across the room to her bedside table and picked up the Kimunicator. She flipped it open and spoke to the young, cheerful face of Wade Load, pre-teen PhD, computer master and technical gadgetry designer, that was on the screen.
"Hi, Kim! I've got a request for you, from the Global Justice Network. They want you to help protect the Star of Ireland at the Field Museum in Chicago, tonight."
"The Star of Ireland?" Kim prompted. "What is it?"
"The only diamond ever found in the entire world to have a pure emerald-green color. It was found in South Africa eight years ago in the Kimberley diamond mines," Wade explained. "A special exhibit on gems will open at the museum tomorrow. The Star of Ireland is part of it, and Global Justice has heard that some collector has offered a cat burglar ten million dollars if she can get it for him. The museum guards will watch the outside of the building to spot anybody trying to break in, but GJ would like you to cover the display room inside tonight, in case she slips past the guards and gets into the building in the dark."
"Wade, you said 'she.' You mean that this cat burglar is a woman?" In the screen, Wade nodded while he took a sip of his ever-present cola.
"Yep. A young French lady who goes by the name of 'La Chatonne.' She's supposed to be the grand-daughter of 'La Chatte,' who was a super cat burglar in Paris about fifty years ago."
"So, she's sort of carrying on the family tradition, huh? Can you find any pictures or a description of her?" Kim inquired. "What's her M. O.?"
"There's almost nothing on the web," Wade answered. "Like most cat burglars do, she wears an all-black outfit, but with a face-mask that looks like a cat. According to the GJ file they sent with their request, La Chatonne only started stealing things about fifteen months ago." Wade shrugged helplessly. "Other than that, it's bupkis."
Kim frowned and then nodded once. "Well, I just finished dinner, and there's no school tomorrow, so, sure, Wade, can do! Let me check to see if Ron can go - ."
Wade looked smug as he interrupted Kim. "I already checked with Ron, and he can go. I figured you could make it, too, so I told him to go to your house for the pick-up."
"Cool! What's our ride?"
"Global Justice is sending a hoverjet to pick you and Ron up." Wade glanced up at the clock. "It'll arrive outside your house in eleven minutes."
"Thanks, Wade. As usual, you rock!" Kim snapped off the Kimunicator, changed to her mission clothes, and hurried down the stairs from her loft room to the Possible family kitchen.
"Mom, Daddy? Ron and I have a mission tonight. A Global Justice hoverjet will be here in four minutes to pick us up," Kim explained. Her father lowered the evening newspaper, while Tim and Jim looked up from their desserts, and Ann turned from the sink where she was loading the dishwasher with the supper dishes.
"Where is it this time, Kimmie-cub? Half-way around the world again?"
"It's not that far, Daddy. There's a special exhibit of rare gems opening tomorrow at the Field Museum in Chicago, and it may get robbed tonight."
"Ah, Chicago. The home of the White Sox!" James Possible smiled at his wife as he spoke, while she smiled back and said, "Go, Cubbies!" Kim's parents grinned at each other in shared amusement.
"Chicago?" Tim mused, and then added, "The Bears!" Jim dropped his voice an octave and said, "Da Bulls!" They exchanged a 'high five' and chorused, "Yeah!"
"Oh, Kimmie-cub, while you're in the Field Museum, remember to take a look at Bushman," said James Possible. "That African gorilla is quite a sight to see."
"I will if I can, Daddy. G'night, Mom!" Kim kissed her mother and hurried out the front door, to find Ron Stoppable, her BFBF, side-kick, below-average high school student, school sports mascot and expert distraction, already waiting on the sidewalk.
"Hey, KP, all set to spend another night stopping the bad guys?" Ron was in his mission clothes, with Rufus, his pet naked mole rat and close companion, looking out of his favorite pocket in anticipation of an evening of fun.
"All set, Ron." The hoverjet came floating out of the sky, settled down on the street in front of the Possible home, and a door swung open. Kim and Ron boarded, sat down and strapped in, as the hoverjet lifted off again.
"Next stop, Chicago. The home of the Blackhawks! Boo-Yah!" Rufus echoed his master with a naked mole rat's cheer. Kim rolled her eyes in dismay. Did everyone she knew follow a different Chicago sports team? This sitch was starting out a bit weirder than some.
The Field Natural History Museum, Chicago, Illinois, That Night
James Possible had been absolutely right. The mounted form of Bushman was quite a sight. The big gorilla stood on all fours in a simple glass case so that visitors could look him directly in the eye. The case obviously could never have prevented a live gorilla from breaking out, and the specialists who mounted the specimen had made him look amazingly life-like.
"Wow! You half expect to see him blink!" marveled Ron. Rufus had run up to Ron's shoulder, taken one good look through the glass at Bushman, and immediately dived back into his favorite pocket. Kim silently agreed with the mole rat. That gorilla was so real-looking it was spooky. And it seemed to be affecting Ron's composure.
"Ron? Are you nervous about being this close to a big monkey?" Kim gently asked.
"No, I'm not nervous! Why should I be nervous? Everything's fine, KP, I've got everything under control."
Kim nodded and smiled slightly. "Well, come on, Ron, let's get back upstairs, check the special exhibit, and pick our spot to watch it. Anybody planning to steal that diamond won't announce their arrival."
"Okay, KP. You know, just once it would be nice if a crook came in with a brass band or something," Ron remarked. "It's always the same 'sneaky - sneaky' business." Ron looked back twice at the gorilla in the case as they headed for the stairs. It hadn't moved . . . had it?
At the top of the stairs they entered the exhibit on Africa in general. Kim and Ron walked the short distance to the main hall, which stretched the length of the building, from north to south, and towered three stories to the roof.
"The exhibition is in that room across this hall," Kim said. "We'll go along the walls around the main hall, so we can stay in the shadows."
Ron nodded. Out in the main exhibit hall they'd be spotted at once by anyone who might be hiding in the building, so they walked up the west side of the hall to the north entrance.
"KP? I'm getting a little freaked out by this place," said Ron. "All these exhibits with stuffed animals, with those glass eyes, looking at us." He let his gaze roam over the main exhibit hall floor. "That gorilla downstairs was bad enough, but out there, those two elephants . . . are you sure they don't move, sometimes?" He gazed at the exhibit in the middle of the hall, which consisted of two full-size elephants fighting each other. "Should I throw them some peanuts to keep from being stepped on? I like pancakes," Ron added, "but I don't want to look like one."
Kim didn't answer at once, for what Ron had said brought her own feelings to the fore. A natural history museum at night isn't exactly the most normal place you could be. It's full of shadows that can hide a lot, and frequently do. The stuffed animals seem to be watching everything, and the mounted skeletons seem almost alive. Kim and Ron moved quietly toward the special exhibit hall, passing the huge skeleton of a Tyranosaurus Rex that stood near the north end of the main hall, where they paused to scan the area.
"Kim, how did they know that this is the skeleton of a lady dinosaur?" Ron's question was so unexpected that Kim had to mentally shift gears before she replied.
"A lady dinosaur? What do you mean, Ron?"
"Well, this label here says this thing is named 'Sue,' and that's a girl's name, so it must be a 'she,' right?"
Kim reined in her exasperation before she answered her partner. "Ron, they call it 'Sue' because the scientist who found the skeleton was named 'Sue.' Nobody knows if this T. Rex is a 'he' or a 'she.'"
"Oh." Ron gazed up at the great creature's skeleton again. "Anyway, it sure has big teeth!"
"Head in the game, Ron! Come on."
At the entrance to the special gem exhibit, Kim pointed out a locked metal box mounted on the wall beside the door.
"The controls for the special alarms are in there, Ron, but we don't have any way to turn them off, reset them or trigger them. Do you think Rufus could get inside it and set it off if we have to?" Kim looked down at the naked mole rat as she spoke.
"Piece of cake, KP. Here, Rufus, ol' pal. Think you could get in there and hit the alarms if we need 'em?" Ron lifted his little pink friend to the box as he spoke. Rufus studied the metal box, shifting his head to judge the size of the air vents and then gave them a 'thumbs up' and chirped, "Okay!"
"Good," said Kim. "Now, Ron, if this La Chatonne does show up, you have Rufus trigger the system. That'll bring the guards inside on the double."
"You got that, Rufus? An extra helping of nacos for a good job, buddy," Ron asked his small friend, receiving a nod in reply.
Together Team Possible moved a short distance away from the gem exhibit and took up station behind a low display case. They could see the approach to the gem exhibit and the door itself, but remained hidden in shadows. It was a good place to wait and see if the reported French cat burglar would show up.
About an hour later there was a low sound from the roof over the main exhibit hall. Kim shifted her position to take a look and saw that a piece of the glass in a skylight seemed to be missing. She tapped Ron on the shoulder, put her lips to his left ear, and whispered, "She's here, Ron. Stand by for action!"
As Team Possible watched in silence, a long rope came down from the main exhibit hall ceiling, the end of it touching the floor just outside the exhibit hall with the gems in it. A moment later a figure dressed in a black all-over outfit came gliding down the rope. The whirr of a mechanical device could heard. The person on the rope dropped lightly to the floor, like a cat jumping out of a chair. Something remained on the rope, about shoulder-high.
A power-lift device that will let her down and pull her up the rope! Kim thought. Cool! I wonder if the Global Justice R & D people can make me one of those?
Swiftly and silently the visitor flitted across the floor from shadow to shadow, using every scrap of cover to mask her movements. If they hadn't seen her arrive, Team Possible might not have noticed the intruder at all.
Boo-Yah, thought Ron, this lady is good. But she'll find that KP is better!
They silently followed the stranger up to the entrance to the special exhibit hall, where she stopped to examine the security system panel. Kim gave Ron's arm the special squeeze that meant 'showtime!' and moved in on their target.
"Don't you believe in using the door?" Kim's voice broke the silence, and the black-clad figure spun around, falling into a combat stance as Kim and Ron stepped into the light. They could now see that, along with a black, close-fitting coverall, this person wore a mask that covered the nose and upper face, and was shaped like the face of a cat. The figure spoke in a female voice, with a distinctly French accent.
"Hah! C'est l'équipe Possible."
"We know who we are. You're La Chatonne, I suppose?" Kim replied as she shifted to a fighting stance and moved to one side of the black-clad figure.
"Yeah, it's polite to identify yourself when you're being busted," Ron added, moving to the other side to split the thief's attention.
"Je m'appelle La Chatonne, M'sieur et Mademoiselle," the lithe figure replied. She shifted into English. "I am 'The Kitten.' And you are interfering in things you should leave alone."
"Would that be a catty remark, KP?"
Kim didn't answer Ron's whimsical question, but lunged forward at La Chatonne instead. The cat burglar flipped to one side and threw a kick at Kim, who easily dodged it. Kim reversed and met her opponent's counterattack, dropping to the floor and lashing out with her legs to knock her over. But La Chatonne leaped to one side and made a countermove herself.
For several minutes Kim and La Chatonne fenced, in an elegant display of martial arts techniques, but neither could land a disabling blow. Ron was so amazed by their moves that he stopped looking for openings to take down the intruder, and just watched the fight. He'd never seen Kim up against such a skillful adversary as this before, not even Shego. It's almost like a dance! Ron marveled. You'd think they had rehearsed this!
"Ron! Hit the alarm system!" Kim shouted, as she did a flying kick that sent La Chatonne down and skidding ten feet across the smooth floor. Ron immediately ran to the wall panel for the alarm on the special exhibit hall and held his pet up to the vent.
"Rufus! You're on, little buddy!" The naked mole rat slipped between the louvres and a moment later the emergency lights came on in the museum. What sounded like a foghorn, an air-raid siren and a submarine diving alarm all promptly began shattering the silence in an all-out, no-holds-barred, 'who-can-make-the-most-noise?' contest.
La Chatonne rolled over, sprang to her feet, leaped to the lifting mechanism on the rope and triggered it. The device rose up the rope until the cat burglar was about fifteen feet above the museum floor, where she stopped briefly and looked down at Team Possible.
"You have stopped me this time, Kim Possible!" she shouted over the alarm sounds. "But do not cross the path of La Chatonne again, for if you do, you will only fail."
Kim held a combat stance in case the figure came back down. "Why wait? We can do round two right here and now."
Instead of bringing her back down, the device hoisted the cat burglar up to the roof, as she called back, "You have been warned . . . ! "
"As if that's not a cliché," Ron remarked to Rufus.
The alarms continued to wage war on the ears of anyone who wasn't deaf. Kim checked the door to the gem exhibit and saw that it was undamaged. At least the nimble and capable cat burglar hadn't taken anything with her.
The alarms suddenly cut off and the silence came back from wherever it had been hiding. Moments later, a group of museum guards poured into the hall.
"Aww, man! I just hate it when the bad guy gets away," Ron grumbled. "It's worse than when Bueno Nacho runs out of nacos." Rufus made a "Get away — bleah!" sound in agreement.
"Forget it, Ron, she didn't get the Star of Ireland, and that's what we were here to protect," Kim reminded him. Then she turned and spoke to one of the museum guards.
"She came in by a rope from the skylight. Nothing was taken, but I'm afraid the thief got away," she reported.
"That's all right, Miss Possible. So long as the gems are safe, it's not a total failure. We'll protect things now, and bring in a repair crew for the skylight." Kim frowned for a moment, then pulled out the GJ signal beeper and called for their ride.
"Okay. Come on, Ron, we'd better get back." With Ron and Rufus in tow, Kim headed out the door, to where the GJ hoverjet would pick them up and take them home.
As they waited, Ron realized than Kim was upset. She paced back and forth, as if she had so much energy that she could not remain still.
"What's wrong, Kim?" Ron asked. "Sure, she got away, but we stopped the robbery."
"That guard!" Kim snapped. "He said this wasn't 'a total failure!' Ron, I don't like to be told we didn't do a good job."
"Well, KP, that La Chatonne character has a lot on the ball," Ron remarked. "Outside of you and Shego, I've never seen anybody with moves like that gal had." A moment later Ron realized he had not helped the situation a bit, as Kim turned and fixed a steely-eyed look at him.
"Oh, really? Thanks for the comfort, I don't think!" Kim was gazing at her partner and friend in a less-than-friendly manner.
"Ahhh, well, I just meant that she's good . . . almost as good as you are, KP." Ron verbally executed damage control on the situation, and mentally kicked himself for not realizing Kim was really upset about the cat burglar's escape.
Kim's shoulders sagged slightly, and at last she nodded. "Yeah, she's good. Real good! But the next time I meet that French feline she will not get away so easily." Kim considered the matter and then added, "In fact, Ron, she will not get away at all!"
The Global Justice hoverjet chose that moment to arrive, landing on the pavement in front of the museum steps. Without any more words, Kim and Ron climbed aboard, and headed back to Middleton.
Middleton High School, two weeks later, mid-May
"Hey, KP! Anything new about the French feline?" Ron asked, as he met Kim at her locker, between classes.
"I hope so. Wade's been searching the Internet about her for me." Kim opened her locker and was greeted by Wade's cheerful face on the screen of her two-way TV set.
"Hey, Wade! What's up?" Kim and Ron spoke in unison. Ron immediately looked at Kim and said, "Jinx! You owe me a soda, KP."
Wade grinned and cleared his throat to regain their attention. "Kim, you asked me to keep checking for stuff on La Chatonne, and I've found two more items."
Kim smiled like a hungry shark. "Something about where she lives, maybe?"
"No such luck. But I traced two heists she's pulled. The first was six weeks ago, when she stole a 20 bill from a money museum in Ottawa, Canada. The second was - "
"Wait a sec," said Ron, "she stole just one 20 bill? That's pretty small change."
"Not this one, Ron. During World War Two the government had the word 'Hawaii' printed on paper money for use in Hawaii, so that if the Japanese took over the islands the Treasury could refuse to honor those bills." Wade glanced at a secondary screen and then looked back at Kim. "This 20 bill was one of those 'Hawaii' bills, and it was in almost perfect condition. The going price on the collector's market would be at least 50,000."
Kim's eyebrows went up in surprise, and Ron gave a whistle of amazement.
"Man, I take back what I said," Ron remarked. "That is not small change!"
"What was her other heist?" Kim asked.
"A rare Civil War cavalry carbine was taken from a big gun collection in Indiana, three days ago. It was something called 'a coffee-mill Sharps.'"
"A gun combined with a coffee mill? That sounds sort of weird."
"It would help you to keep the coffee for yourself on a cold morning," Ron observed.
Wade took another sip of his cola. "Back in 1864 somebody had the idea of putting a grinding mill in the butt of the Sharps Model 1863 breech-loading carbine, so the troopers didn't have to carry extra equipment to grind up any grain or coffee beans they found while they were foraging on raiding missions. Here's a picture of one." He quickly tapped his computer keyboard, and a picture of a cavalry carbine with a metal crank handle fastened to the right side of the butt appeared on the monitor screen.
"It not only sounds weird, it looks weird, too," Kim said, pulling out the books for her next class as she spoke.
"It was a bad idea, all right," Wade replied. "The crank handle got in the way, the soldiers hated the guns, and most of them were scrapped or converted into regular carbines pretty quick." The picture of the carbine was replaced by Wade's image. "That's why there's only about ten original examples left today."
"And collectors will pay big bucks for one, right?" Ron asked.
"Right! That's probably why La Chatonne took this one." On the TV screen Wade looked at Kim quizzically. "You really want to bust her, don't you?"
Kim nodded. "Like you wouldn't believe, Wade! Let me know if you get anything on where she might be, okay? Now, I have to get to class."
"Back to the grind, eh? You have my sympathy. Talk to you later, Kim! Bye!"
"Gotta scoot, KP. Bueno Nacho after school, okay?"
"Okay, Ron." Kim closed the locker and headed for her French class. She was really working hard to ace the course. One of these days it would be very useful to be able to speak good French. And I'm gonna be ready! Kim said to herself.
End of Part One
Author's Notes: The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, does have a mounted Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that is named 'Sue.' Bushman, the gorilla, lived in the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, for many years, and was a major drawing card for visitors. After the gorilla died his skin was mounted for display in the Field Museum, exactly as described.
The 'Hawaii' money actually existed during World War Two, and such bills are highly prized by currency collectors. The 'coffee-mill Sharps' is a real weapon, and very, very few originals are known to exist.
"C'est l'équipe Possible" means "It is Team Possible."
"Je m'appelle La Chatonne, M'sieur et Mademoiselle" means "I am The Kitten, mister and miss."