Author's foreword: Before anything else, let's take care of the obvious. I do not own Kim Possible or any of the other characters appearing in this tale. This story is not intended to generate profit, I wrote it simply for the enjoyment of telling a story and, hopefully, for your enjoyment in reading.
Some background: this is the third story in my 'To the Mat' story line. As such, I have made some significant alteration to the show's canon. You, the reader, will find this story much more understandable if you read the previous two stories before continuing with this one.
Important news before reading: This story takes place during the summer between the main characters' high school graduation and their first years of college. As such, they are becoming more adult and their interactions are also becoming more adult. While nothing in this story is graphic, some of the characters will have honest discussions about their relationships. I'm not pushing the rating but I want you to know before you read.
Now that all warnings and legal issues are taken care of, please enjoy…
Chapter 1: Prelude
Mark didn't know what he should do. When he took this job as a dock guard, he thought he'd see a lot of boring nights wandering around the docks and sharing stories with sailors when he made his rounds. During his time in the guard shack, he hoped he could get a little bookwork done towards his college degree. For the last several months, things had worked out exactly the way he had hoped but tonight he faced something…odd.
He had made the early rounds of the docks just before sunset, swapped some stories with the deck guard on a newly docked freighter, then returned to the guard shack for a little studying while his partner walked the rounds. (Mark always found listening to a sailor's stories, followed by studying psychology, an interesting combination.) When his partner, Trevor, returned, Mark had put on his heavy coat and gone out into the night to walk the rounds again. That's when he came across the footprints, outlined in water on the dock's wooden surface.
Mark had never put much faith in Bigfoot sightings, even though he lived in Seattle. Still, he could hardly refute what he was seeing; a trail of massive footprints leading along the dock. Mark wasn't a very large man, wearing a size nine shoe. However, when he placed his foot next to one of the prints, the wet outline was easily twice the length and girth of his foot. Mark figured that one of the sailors, on one of the docked ships, was playing a trick on him so he backtracked the trail, to find the ship it came from. Here, he had another surprise.
The footprints didn't lead from the gangplank; they originated on the dock about halfway down the ship's length, well away from any gangplank. The edge of the dock also had a massive, wet handprint. It was almost as if some…giant…had crawled out of the sea, onto the dock and walked away. Mark grabbed his ledger and reviewed the information about this ship. It had come from that island where the industrialist, Mr. Loward, had tried to take over the world a few weeks ago. Reviewing further, Mark learned that the ship was loaded with the trashed remains of the robots Loward had built to spearhead his conquest.
Mark recalled the news stories. An international team and removed and destroyed all potentially dangerous technology from the…Lowardian Walkers…on the island, leaving behind tons of very high quality steel. Some company back east had bid the highest for the salvage rights and this ship had shown up early this morning, loaded with the metal. Unfortunately, they had only managed to offload about half of the load before some scheduling mistake with the railroads left the longshoremen with nowhere to offload the rest. With no more railcars scheduled to show up until morning, the ship's crew locked it down for the night. Now, it looked like at least one of the crewmen had decided to have some fun at the naïve, young guard's expense. Mark smiled and shone his light onto the nearby portholes, hoping to catch snickering sailors watching him. Seeing no faces he turned back towards the dock then spun back when his flashlight's beam illuminated something…different…on the ship's hull.
While the longshoremen hadn't managed to unload all of the ship's cargo, they had managed to unload enough so that it was now riding higher in the water. In this gap, between the 'before and after' waterlines, the moss and other marine growth had been disturbed in one spot. It almost looked like a vaguely man-shaped figure had been stuck to the hull, abrading the general junk that collected on the hull and preventing any more from accumulating. Focusing his flashlight, Mark noticed that several holes had been punched along one of the seams. Judging by the posture and position of the 'muck silhouette' that would make the holes…fingerholds?
That couldn't be the case! That vague outline had to be at least nine feet long! Sure, the freighter was double-hulled, so the bilge pumps would easily keep up with the minor leakage from the holes but really! Had someone planted this 'evidence' to make him think that some nine-foot tall man had ridden the ship's hull underwater to the Port of Seattle, before using the cover of dark to climb onto the dock and walk, barefoot, away from the ocean? Mark decided to follow the trail again, this time in its direction of travel. He was sure that he would find a smirking (and maybe drunk) crewman, wearing fake, giant feet and laughing at being caught.
For the first time since taking this job, Mark was happy about the damp night air; it kept the fading trail from drying completely. The perimeter fence was close to the sea at this point, so he only had to follow the trail past a warehouse and an equipment shed, then over two sets of railroad tracks, before approaching it. There he found, not a drunken crewman, but a hole cut in the chain-link fence! Without any further hesitation, Mark pulled out his radio and called in the incident. It was one thing for a crewman to play a prank on him, but once the prank involved violating the fence's integrity, it became serious. It was Mark's job, as a guard, to report such violations.
Still, why would a crewman cut a hole in the fence? Maybe he was jumping ship but if that was the case, why go to the trouble of laying out the weird footprints? Wouldn't a deserter try to avoid attention? Something very odd was happening in Seattle.
He stood at the doorway and looked into the dim room. The only light came from the hallway behind him, leaving much of the room in darkness. The floors, and a good deal of the walls, were covered with dark purple mats, making the room even darker. Still, even if he hadn't just walked here, he would have recognized the room by the smell.
Although the Middleton School District's custodians had done their usual, good job of cleaning this room when the season was done, even the best cleaning couldn't remove the sweaty smell for very long. Dozens of sweaty young men had thrown each other to the mats, had grappled and struggled on the mats, forcing their sweat into the mats' fibers. You could scrub the mats down repeatedly and within days, they would begin to emit the sweaty smell again.
While the scent wasn't exactly potpourri, it still brought a smile to Ron's face. It was this room, and the contributions he had made to the sweat-pool, that had done so much to put him where he was at this time. He leaned against the doorframe, his graduation robes rustling slightly with his movement. Shortly into his junior year of high school, he was a slacker; there was no getting around the fact. Yet the Yamanouchi School, backed up by this room, The Pit, had changed him.
He heard a steady, light tread approaching from down the hallway. While he wasn't exactly seeking privacy, there weren't too many people he wanted to share this moment with. He had a reputation for being a little bit…odd…and if someone saw him staring blankly into the Pit; it would cement his reputation.
"Saying goodbye?" The voice that asked the question belonged to one of the few people with whom Ron felt comfortable sharing his current, odd reflections.
"Kind of," Ron admitted, turning to look at Oscar Williamsen. "It's kind of hard to describe."
"Let me guess," the other young man leaned against the hallway wall and looked towards the ceiling, scratching thoughtfully at his chin. "While you aren't going to miss the starvation dieting and doing sprints until you're ready to pass out, you're going to miss the swagger. You're going to miss walking around the school knowing that you're one of the guys that put yourself through what we did, every day."
"Ah…that's part of it," Ron admitted.
"Add to that, you're kind of thanking this room, sort of a way of thanking the wrestling program, for…molding…you just a little bit. You learned lessons about hard work, determination and sacrifice," Oscar stopped speaking for a moment to smile at Ron. "That's saying something, considering what you do with Possible."
"So you don't think I'm weird for saying goodbye to the Pit?" Ron had to ask.
"Of course I think you're weird," Oscar insisted, with a slight smile. "I'm weird as well. Why do you think I'm in here at this moment?" His small smile grew into a wide grin, "after all, I have a girlfriend who, in my opinion, is every bit as drop-dead gorgeous as yours."
Ron couldn't help but chuckle. Ron thought that Kim was the hottest girl on the planet and Oscar thought that Cindy was the hottest girl on the planet. Like Oscar said, they were both correct. Ron took a moment to study his friend. While Ron had become the Ultimate Monkey Master, he had to admit that Oscar looked much more simian than he did. The other boy was perhaps a half-inch taller than him, and somewhat broader. What really stuck out about Oscar, however, was his arm length. Oscar Williamsen had an orangutan's build. When he stood in a relaxed pose, his hands hung down almost to his knees.
"Anyway," the other boy continued. "This goodbye doesn't have to be permanent. We're both going to college in state. We can come back and work out with the team, over the winter semester break."
"That's true," Ron mused. He remembered, fondly, the squad's last workouts before the winter break. Dave, who was now in a collegiate wrestling program, was home for his semester break. He had worked out with the team and had checked up on everyone, particularly Ron.
"Of course," Ron pointed out. "You'll show me up big time. I don't think Upperton U even has a wrestling program, so there's no way that I'm going to be able to get in much mat time."
"Ah, you'll stay in shape," Oscar brushed it off. "The word is that Upperton wants to challenge Montana in Division 1AA and they're hoping you'll run them into contention. Football will keep you in condition and coming back to work out with the squad will be a good way to get back together. For now, you might want to head out of here and look up your girlfriend. It wasn't really nice of you to leave Kim facing the reporters on her own."
"Actually, I was doing her a favor," Ron told him. "Most of the serious type of reporters had already asked their questions. The ones that were left were from the gossip magazines and shows. The more I stay around them, the angrier KP gets."
"I'm not following that one."
"Okay, a lot of the reporters for the more reputable shows ask KP things like where is she going to go for her secondary education, what's she going to major in, what she wants to do after college, those sort of things. They also want to know if we're going to keep doing missions into college."
"That sounds reasonable," Oscar nodded. "They're reporters, after all. They need things to report."
"When I'm with her and those reporters are talking to her, everything's badical," Ron continued. "They want to know about me, as well and that always makes Kim happy. They also want answers to their questions, and that's something Kim and I can handle. The gossip crowd, on the other hand, doesn't work that way."
"I've never really gotten into those shows," Oscar admitted. "Mainly because I'm usually to busy to watch them. I've also never really much cared for those types of magazines, but I don't see why they would make Kim that mad. I mean, Cindy absolutely hates the rags but what's the harm from a magazine that dedicates most of its content to pictures of girls, who have less body fat than I do?"
"It's not the pictures of the girls that bother Kim," Ron chuckled. "It's the fact that these reporters aren't very interested in what Kim considers important. They don't want to know about how we took down the latest bad guy or how we rescued someone; they want to know about her cosmetics and hair care products. When they ask her about her future plans, it's never about her choice about colleges or the degree she wants to pursue; but her romantic life."
"They still can't grasp the fact that her romantic life consists of you?" Oscar asked.
"I don't think that they want to," Ron explained, with a frown. "Let's face it, I'm not what you can call a golden boy and lots of those reporters want to be the one to break the news that she's dropped me and taken up with some celebrity or social powerhouse, forming the newest celebrity power couple. They like to tell her about the guys that have expressed interest in her, hoping that she'll make some remark that they can interpret as her being interested right back. I've learned that if I stick around, they get more pointed, trying to get a reaction out of her, or me."
"She doesn't like them putting you down in front of her?" Oscar prompted.
"Yea, and most of them interpret her temper as denial. The more forceful she is when she tells them that she's with me, the more they say that she's compensating for the fact that she really isn't all that interested in me."
"You don't seem to be all that upset about it anymore," the wrestling champion noted.
"I'm not," Ron told him, with complete confidence. "I know I'm not the cutest, the smartest or the buffest…"
"Is that even a word?"
"I'll use it even if it isn't. I don't see any of the English teachers around. Anyway, KP and I are an item and if she ever wants to call it off, she'll just tell me." Ron frowned again.
"You think she's going to call it off?" Oscar asked, catching Ron's expression.
"No. But I'm worried that she's going too much the other way," Ron answered. "I mean, I want to be close to KP for the rest of my life but I have to wonder if she's selling herself short by going to Upperton U to stay with me."
"She's already informed you that she isn't, hasn't she?" Oscar's question was almost as much comment as question.
"Ooooh yea," Ron grimaced, remembering the volume Kim used when Ron had questioned her choice.
"Let me give you another perspective," Oscar offered. "I'm not saying that Kim couldn't have gotten into several, more prestigious universities. Now, Upperton's law program isn't anything to sneeze at, so it isn't like she's slumming. Now, there's more to secondary education than just the academics. She'll be able to continue her cheerleading and some of her volunteer activities. Now, we add you to the mix. She's comfortable and relaxed when you're around, that will enhance her education. I'm willing to bet that she'll learn more, at Upperton with you, than she would at Oxford without you."
"I didn't think that future engineers were such philosophers," Ron grinned.
"We all have our moments of weakness," Oscar grinned back. "But we have a couple of pretty girls waiting for us and I'm willing to bet that Kim's finished with the reporters. Let's just say our good-byes and be on our way."
"Okay," Ron agreed. He stepped away from the wall, turned back to look into the Pit again and stood straight, as if he was giving a presentation in one of Barkin's classes. "Thank you, Pit," he said. "Thank you for watching me drive myself to collapse day after day. Thank you for the crooked nose and the pulled muscles that I never knew I had. Thank you for making me laugh at the idea of a 48 hour fast."
Now, Ron's voice dropped in volume, showing true gratitude rather than sarcastic humor. "And thank you for showing me that I could make something of myself if I worked at it. Thanks for the friends I made both on this team and among my competitors. Thanks for the memories." Ron stepped away from the door, to be replaced by Oscar.
"Thanks for two good years," the other boy said. "Thanks for helping me fit in at the new school. Here's hoping that I'll be able to come back here ten years from now and know that theses past two years weren't the team's glory years; they were the beginning of something special. Here's hoping I can come back someday and mold the next generation."
"Have we been weird enough for one day?" Ron asked his friend.
"It's impossible to fit too much weirdness into a day," Oscar informed him. "But I think I got most of it out of my system. Why don't we look up our girlfriends and our folks? I'm sure there's going to be lots of celebrations taking place."
The two young men walked through the gym and out to the stadium, where they were soon mingling with friends and family.
Green eyes opened to greet the late afternoon sun streaming in through the bedroom window. Shego kicked the light sheet off of her, sat up and stretched, before reaching behind her to pat the other side of the bed. It was empty, as usual. This prompted the mercenary to smile, not because she enjoyed waking up alone but because it meant that Monty was already up and busy.
Shego threw on an oversized shirt and made her way to the kitchen, where a full pot of coffee was waiting for her. She could never fault Monty's manners; he was always considerate and organized. She prepared a cup of coffee and set about fixing breakfast for herself. Breakfast in the afternoon was one of the perks that came with being a smuggler. Since she and Monty did most of their 'work' at night, they tended to wake up late in the afternoon and go to bed shortly after sunrise. This still gave them plenty of time to devote to their other activities. For Shego, this meant intense physical workouts and martial arts training. For Montgomery, it meant illicit archeology.
The green-hued supervillain considered her current situation while she ate breakfast. The few weeks that had passed, since the big showdown on the island, had been good for her and Monty. Shego's enhanced healing had quickly gotten her back on her feet and back to work. Shego was an enforcer without peer, able to keep both the band's employees and rivals in line. Monty, for his part, turned out to have incredible organizational skills. Shego always had to laugh when she considered this; Monty's teachers and tutors had prepared him to manage his English estate. Those same educators would probably be highly shocked to learn what he was managing now. Still, the skills proved most beneficial. The old man running the smuggling band believed in paying his valuable underlings well, and Shego and Monty had become very valuable.
Shego put her breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and wandered outside to check on her lover. With their increased income, the couple had started to stock their home with more luxuries. They could have afforded more but they knew better than to flaunt their wealth. While they could have afforded a pair of sports cars, they preferred to share an SUV. While they could have sold their small house and moved into a small mansion, they preferred to simply fix up the small dwelling with a few luxuries like central air conditioning. Their frugal living not only kept their profile low; it allowed them to build up a couple of Swiss Bank accounts. Both Monty and Shego knew that the criminal's life would compel them, at some point, to flee for their lives. When that day came, they would be able to draw upon the wealth they were now accumulating.
Still, even with their thriftiness, they had managed to build an enjoyable life. Their property was on Huehuetenango's outskirts, far enough out of town to avoid truly crowded conditions but close enough to take advantage of the city's services. There were a few neighbors, most of whom worked for the same smuggling band as Shego and Monty. Because of this, there was a welcome lack of questions.
Shego stepped out of the house and made her way towards Monty's work shed. She shuddered as she walked across a plank bridge, over a small stream. Upon their return from the Pacific, Monty must have had some pleasant memories involving Amy's ranch back in Wyoming. The rogue archaeologist had spent a full week building a dam across the stream, then lining the resulting pond's bottom with gravel. The result had been a swimming hole very similar to the one he had produced up north.
The very next morning, after leaving the smuggling band but before dawn, the two decided to indulge in a little 'tension relief', much like they had in the Wyoming creek. The warm, tropical water had felt heavenly and the gravel bottom had been wonderfully clean. The two had skinny-dipped for just over an hour, before the dawn's first glimmer prompted them to take their activities indoors…
Where they had promptly freaked out when they discovered all of the leaches clinging to their bodies. The term squeamish usually didn't apply to Shego, but that little incident had her making sounds that would have put an air-raid siren to shame. It was truly fortunate that the few neighbors in the area were aggressively non-curious. She had almost been angry enough to beat Monty to a pulp, her rage focused on the nearest target (other than the leaches, she had taken great delight in incinerating the loathsome creatures.) If strangers had seen her, butt-naked and in hysterics, she would have probably maimed them.
Crossing the bridge, she came to the conclusion that she needed a little work on her temper. Back when she worked for Drakken, her rather…okay, her extremely volatile temper had been an asset. Dr. D gave the orders and she made sure that everyone jumped to obey them. Since none of the henchmen knew when the 'green, psychotic attack-bitch,' (a term she actually enjoyed) would go postal over a minor infraction, they all made sure to get their jobs done. As for her other…associates, they were only temporary dalliances and she had never cared if she scared one of them off. They did what they were supposed to do and that had been enough for Shego. Now, things were different.
On the professional side of things, both she and Monty were assuming significant responsibilities within the smugglers' organization. As such, she had to think about maintaining capable employees. Flying off the handle for trivial reasons wasn't a good way to do that. Sure, she could still use her temper as a motivational tool, but she had to know when to blow up as well as how to blow up. As for the personal side…
She didn't want to drive Monty away. In her honest opinion, she would probably do just that if she ever adopted some sort of 'patient good girl' attitude, but she had to admit that the random temper tantrums would probably send him packing, eventually, if she didn't get a grip on them. The leach incident hadn't really been his fault; he had been caught just as much by surprise as she had been. She hadn't thought about any unpleasant residents in the stream, so she really couldn't blame him for not thinking that far ahead. Again, she would have to learn when to blow up, and to what degree.
The sound of children's voices interrupted her musings, as she approached the work shed. This was another thing about Monty that caught her by surprise. While he could, at times, be as sarcastic and short-tempered as she was, he had almost limitless patience when archeology was concerned. When several of the neighborhood children started bringing him old artifacts, instead of chasing them off, he explained what the artifacts were called and how the ancient people used them. When some of the kids showed an interest in the ancient peoples, their own ancestors, Monty showed them the proper way to excavate sites and restore the artifacts. What was more, he didn't swindle the kids. When the children wanted to sell what they found, Monty only kept a twenty-percent cut for himself.
Shego shook her head slightly, Monty made a killing on the high-profile artifacts the adults brought in but he seemed to be trying to instill an honest passion for the plain tools and implements the kids found. Shego reached the door and sure enough, four kids were in the shed with Monty. She watched him scrape dirt away from a piece of stone, explaining his technique to the kids, before putting the stone on the table.
"Congratulations," he addressed one of the kids. "It appears that you found an axe blade. This isn't a weapon, it was a tool."
The kid looked somewhat disappointed by this but Monty continued quickly, "although tools aren't as exciting to find as weapons, they teach us more about the people who made them. For instance, we can see that the blade had a great deal of wear. Clearly, whoever made this tool used it a very great deal. This isn't the sort of artifact that a private collector will pay a great deal of money to display in his home, but a museum will pay a reasonable fee, if you want to sell it."
The boy nodded, enthusiastically.
"Okay, did you write down the day you found this, as well as sketch out a map, like we talked about earlier?" Monty asked. The boy handed him a piece of paper.
"Very good," Monty nodded, after a quick examination. He quickly labeled the piece of stone and filed the paper the boy had handed him. "I'll make some inquiries and let you know what I find out." The boy absolutely beamed.
Shego stepped back from the door, not wanting to disturb this moment. She had no interest in archeology, but she didn't begrudge Monty, or the kids, their enjoyment. She didn't know why the kids loved finding old junk as much as they did and she didn't know why Monty enjoyed teaching them about it. Maybe it was the fact that only children could pronounce some of the terms he used.
She honestly liked the life that she and Monty had forged for themselves and she looked forward to an even better life in the years to come. The only problem was that somehow, whenever she watched Fiske sharing his wisdom and passion with the kids, she felt that there was something missing in her life.
Since you're reading this, I'm assuming that you've decided to read this, my latest offering. Thank you very much. I would like to offer my fondest thanks to Joe Stoppinghem, for taking time away from his own writing efforts to beta for me.
Until my next update, best wishes;