Disclaimer: I do not own Kim Possible, any of the other characters from that show, or those from any other media I may reference in my stories.
This is a story set in the 'His Honor' universe, and begins two and a half months, roughly, after the end of that story. Drew Lipsky is still Mayor of Middleton, and Kim Possible is still in therapy, though only monthly now. And this is by her choice.
She and Ron still have a 'Dream-Link' that allows them to literally share their dreams and nightmares, with Kim still possessing the control device to switch it on and off.
Bonnie has seriously mellowed out, but doesn't deny the possibility of 'Dark Bonnie'(Darth Bonnie?) returning. She's now actually treating Tara as a real 'best friend', rather then as a syncophant.
Shego is no longer green, and her powers are much 'smoother' in appearance. She's no longer going to therapy. She is still palling around with Bernadette Barr, Kim's one-time babysitter(and Ron's, Bonnie's. Etc.) and current school nurse at Middleton High. Shego went a long time without having a real friend her own age, and is enjoying the experience again. She is still frustrated as to what role some kind of 'behavior control' that was used on her influenced her life path.
Kim is currently on the outs with Global Justice, and her scope of operations has been diminished, since she no longer feels it's safe for the rides Wade arranges for her to carry her some places. It bothers her, but she has just cause to doubt GJ. And Doctor Director can't tell her the whole truth, and isn't sure it would, or should matter to Kim even if she could.
So, on with our story. As I've said before, in my universe(s), the TV episodes are stories written by Ron Stoppable based on 'real' missions, but altered for content, and occasionally made up out of whole cloth. This naturally gives me the option of completely ignoring some stories that were, um...better not go there. I do try to include elements of all of them, but I just can't come up with a 'realistic', relatively speaking, version.
Hopefully, this story will remain under my control, and not run away from me. I know I have many doubters out there, and they have every right. I mean, look how far I've gone with just this part!
It was Mid-March. Somewhere, Spring was springing. But in Middleton, Colorado, there was three inches of snow on the ground, and more falling.
In the Possible house, the three male members of the family sat around the kitchen table, James Possible reading his morning newspaper while his sons noisily disposed of their breakfast. A crutch leaned against the table next to him. Kim Possible meanwhile was pacing back and forth as she talked to her best friend on the phone.
"Listen Mon, the trunk's insulated, we can stick the Tweebs back there and you can have the back seat." Kim ignored the dual 'Heys!' from her siblings, but she couldn't ignore her father's voice. "Kimmie-cub, let's not hear any more of that! The trunk may be insulated, but it has poor air circulation, they might suffer from oxygen deprivation."
Kim made a face at her brothers, "Well, maybe we can tow them behind the Sloth on a sled, or skis...Eep!" She had begun sarcastically, but then stopped as she saw the widening grins on their faces.
"No skiing on public roads, boys!" Anne Possible stated firmly as she swept into the kitchen. She chose to ignore the stereo 'Aw, Mom!' that came from her sons as she bent to kiss her husband on the cheek. "How's the knee feeling, Dear?"
James grimaced and moved his leg slightly. "Still very painful. I guess I'll have to accept that I'm not as young as I used to be."
"You're lucky you didn't tear something, Jim! And as to being older, you never were very good at slam-dunking, Dear!" a poured cup of coffee now in her hand, she bent to whisper in his ear, "At least not on the basketball court!"
Kim had no idea what caused her father to snap his newspaper up to conceal his face, and was fairly sure she'd be weirded out if she did, so she turned her back and continued talking to Monique. "Well, I don't intend to ruin our friendship by having you sit in the back with the Tweebs...I could ask Ron to, but the last time I did, he pouted for two days."
"No worries, Girlfriend!" Monique replied, "I'll call Bonnie up and see if she can swing by. She's already going to be giving Tara a lift...Oh! I'd better call her now, and catch her at home before she leaves, no way I want to have her trying to use her cell while driving in this weather. And by the way, why are we going to school in this? No snow days left to use up?"
"No idea, Mon, but that could just be it! I'm not happy about it, either, but I do need the days, with all the ones I missed while trying to get my head straight, and heal my shoulder." Kim flinched as her brothers both rose from the table and dashed past her.
"You're worried about days? Kim, you're a straight 'A' student, I think you can be forgiven if you take one too many days off. Besides, if we take another snow day now, they'll just have us make it up in June, anyway!"
Kim sighed. "Mon, the rules say if you miss too many days, you fail the year, I don't want an exception made for me." She looked at the wall clock. "Got to go, I need to get my stuff together and get the Tweebs loaded. Then go pick up Ron. Knowing him, he'll be out at the sidewalk far too early, and three-quarters frozen by the time I arrive."
"Or still in bed, maybe?" Monique quipped. Kim shook her head, grinning, even though Monique couldn't see her. "Got to call Bonnie, Kim, see you at school!"
"'Kay, Bye, Mon!" Kim put her phone away and dashed over to plant a kiss on her father's cheek. "Hope your leg feels better, Dad!" She did the same for her mother. "Bye Mom, hope you have a good day at work."
Anne looked out the window critically. "I'm on call to help in the ER if they get slammed, and the weather might lead to that." Then she frowned. "In fact, I wonder if it's wise to have school at all today?"
James looked out the window as well. "Hmm, what does the forecast say?"
Kim shrugged. "They say it might not stop until this afternoon, or even early evening. But there's no word on cancellations yet." She gave them a smile. "But don't worry, I'll get the Tweebs to school safely!"
"And home again?" Anne asked her, tongue-in-cheek.
Kim shrugged. "Only if you insist..later!" She left the kitchen calling for the Tweebs to get their backsides in gear. After she was gone, Anne turned to James, a concerned look on her face. "Who makes the call these days, as far as canceling school? Jean Stoppable isn't filling in as acting School Superintendent anymore, is she?"
Her husband shook his head. "No, I'm fairly sure they found another interim Superintendent until Steve Barkin decides whether to take the job."
Putting her used coffee cup in the dishwasher, Anne shook her head. "Well, I can't say I think much of his or her judgment, that's all I can say." She gave her husband a kiss and a stern look. "Now you be careful on that knee, Jim, I don't want to see you wheeled into the ER, you hear?"
James gave her a hearty grin. "Oh, no worries, Darling! I'll be fine, I'm more worried about you driving in this weather! You take care, and come back home safely!"
Several minutes after Anne left, a steady beeping noise caused James to scowl. It was coming from a small wall mounted console. Sighing, he got up and used his crutch to reach the console, where he stared at it for a moment, trying to recall exactly how his sons had wired it up. Then a faint humming noise, steadily increasing in volume, caused him to turn and peer out the back window. Where he was rewarded with the sight of one of Doctor Drakken's hovercraft, a small covered model, descending to land in his backyard.
Curiosity aroused, he headed to the back door and opened it just as Drew Lipsky reached it from the other side. "Well, Mister Mayor, to what do I owe the honor?"
"James.." Drakken responded as he stamped snow off his boots before entering.
He looked around the kitchen then up at the ceiling as he entered. "Nice repair work, I must say, no evidence at all of my last visit." He commented. He was referring to being shot down by WWEE on New Year's, and crashing into the roof of the Possible home. He had been protected by a force field, but the one for Shego's seat had malfunctioned, and she had been severely injured, something Drakken was still guilty about.
"Ah, yes, the contractors worked wonders." James responded cheerfully. He gestured for Drew to take a seat. "Coffee? I know you prefer hot chocolate, but all we had seemed to vanish the last two days. The boys, you know?"
"No, no, don't bother." Drakken replied as he took the offered seat. "You should probably get off that leg, and I had my fill before leaving the lair. Whatever did you do to yourself?"
James sank down into his own seat, blushing faintly. "Basketball." Was all he said in reply.
Drakken's eyebrows rose. "Again? I would have thought you got that out of your system at M.I.S.T.!"
James chuckled a little self-consciously. "Well, you know, trying to regain our youth and all that." He picked up his coffee cup to take a sip. "Now what did you want to talk about?"
Drakken gave him a wary look. "First, I'm going to have to insist you put your coffee down, James."
James eyebrows rose. "Oh? All right." He put his cup down. "Okay, go ahead."
Now Drakken looked nervous, licking his lips and casting a brief glance out the back window as if considering flight. "James...James, I'm going to be a father."
After a brief period of silence, Drakken's stomach growled. "Ah, well, while you're digesting that, I'll make myself some breakfast."
Some ten minutes later, the sound of the front door opening caused Drakken to look up from the stove. The sound of running feet charging up the stairs along with an excited babble told him that the twins were home. Moments later, Kim appeared in the doorway. And her jaw dropped. "Drakken! What are you doing making scrambled eggs in our kitchen, and what did you do to my Dad!"
Fluffing the eggs(And wearing an apron belonging to Ann), Drakken shrugged. "Oh, that's just a case of brain-freeze. The good news is, a transplant probably won't be necessary." He looked back over his shoulder at her. "Now that I think of it, why were you out at all? Wasn't school canceled?"
Leaning to peer into her father eyes, Kim shrugged. "Yeah, but we were halfway there when the announcement came over the radio."
"Hmmm, I'll have to look into that, the weather forecast clearly indicated heavy snowfall." He turned from the stove with his breakfast plated, and took a seat at the table. He peered curiously at James. "Hmm, this is a long one. Last time I saw him like this was when Ann told him you were on the way."
Kim nodded. "I vaguely remember something like this at the hospital when the doctors told him Mom had had twins. Then Nana took me out for ice cream to help get over my disappointment that they were both boys. So happy when they told me what 'twins' meant, then the crash." She looked curiously at Drakken "You were still friends then?"
"Not as such, no." Drakken replied, "But, we were still in touch, and I think he tried to rebuild the friendship. That was before.." he indicated his face, which was a light shade of blue, indicating that he hadn't gotten any sun lately.
"I've always wanted to ask whether you're still trying to find a cure for that." Kim asked as she rose and headed for the fridge.
Drakken scowled. "Not in some time, I thought it went well with my 'villainous' persona, and really didn't have time for it. Or so I told myself." He saw Kim taking a bottle of juice out. "May I have some of that to wash this down, Kimberly?"
Kim shrugged. "Sure." She took out two glasses out and filled them two-thirds full, then returned the bottle to the fridge. She put one glass in front of Drakken, who nodded gratefully, then resumed her own seat. "What exactly did you tell Dad, that caused this?"
"Ah, well, first I'm going to have to insist you put your juice down." But before a puzzled Kim could comply, her wrist Kimmunicator went off. She activated it. "What up, Wade?"
"Kim! There's been a terrible accident in the mountains! A bus carrying part of a college ski team slid off the road into a ravine! The road below has been partially blocked by a snow slide, and the weather is too bad for a helicopter to get up there!"
Kim had shot to her feet. "Do you have a way to get me and Ron there?"
Wade suddenly looked uncomfortable. "Um, the only thing I can thing that would work is a GJ aircraft." He winced a little as he awaited Kim's reaction.
Kim grimaced. Then she began to nod, before Drakken spoke up. "That's not exactly true, Kimberly. I can fly you up there." Kim vaguely noticed Wade's shocked look on the little view screen as she thought about it. Very briefly. "Wade, call Ron, tell him to get his gear on, I—we're on our way!" She signed off, and turned to dash from the kitchen. "Give me ten minutes!" She shouted back.
Drakken resumed eating, and managed to finish up just as the girl ran back into the room, downed her juice in one long pull, and nodded at him. "Ready!"
The pair headed out the back door, and silence reigned within the kitchen for a few moments. The sounds of the Tweebs storming down the steps and out the front door were still echoing through the house when the silence was finally broken.
"You're going to be a WHAT?"
A very disgruntled Bernadette Barr trudged up the steps of her new home, a condo on the West side of Middleton. She'd moved out of the guest house on her family's estate, having spent her last night there the previous night. After dropping off the last of her belongings that morning, she'd gone on to school to be ready before the first bell rang. She too had been surprised that school hadn't been canceled earlier, in fact the day before.
Now she unlocked her door and stepped into her house after wiping her boots off on the mat, and took a deep, cleansing breath...and smelled coffee. She blinked in confusion for a moment, then a knowing look came to her face. "Shego! I haven't even slept a night in my new home, and you've already broken into it?"
"Meh! You break a house in your way, I break it in mine!" Came the reply from her kitchen. Bernie followed the voice, and beheld the woman decked out in one of Bernie's robes, with a major case of bed head. "Oh, terrific! You've even slept here before me!"
Shego fixed her with a bleary eye. "Thought you were moving in yesterday, I showed up with a housewarming present. When you weren't here, I was too wiped out to fly back to the lair, sorry."
"Are you okay?" Bernie had removed her gloves, and now stepped up and felt Shego's forehead. The woman recoiled slightly, but Bernie kept her hand pressed to her. "You're a little warm, even for you." She noted worriedly. Then she scowled suspiciously, "By any chance would it have anything to do with the aforementioned 'housewarming present'?"
Shego seemed to cringe a bit. "Yeah, well, I had a few things to forget about my trip, and no one to talk to, so..." she shrugged.
"You could have called..would have called, if you really wanted to talk, Shego." Bernie replied bluntly. "So, what about your trip don't you want to think about, or talk about?"
Shego delayed her reply as she filled her coffee cup, then turned to face her friend. Her robe wasn't tightly belted, and something drew Bernie's eye even as Shego responded. "Can't really discuss it, I signed a paper, or bunch of papers promising not to." Then she noticed where Bernie was looking, but willfully decided not to react.
Bernie met her gaze. "But whatever it was led to you getting beat up?"
Shego snorted. "This? This is not beat up! This hardly calls for notice, in my opinion."
"Really?" Bernie crossed her arms. "Prove it, show me what you don't think is 'beaten up'."
Shego's smirk vanished, and she stood there for a minute, uncertain. Then a mild look of belligerence crossed her face. "My ribs are fine, fully healed! I just bruised...fine, look!" She shrugged the robe off. "See, I''m fine!" There was a fist sized bruise below her right collarbone, the edge of which had been visible before, and a smaller one high on her right arm. But Bernie didn't take her eyes off Shego's face.
"Not hardly. Turn around." Shego glowered for a moment, then relented, turning around. Bernie's eyes widened. "Okay, that is a stab wound, or I've never seen one!" She moved closer to look at the still very visible wound. "And it had to have come damn close to your kidney!"
Shego responded in a subdued voice. "I'm fine, Bernie, it's healed. Enough for me to fly home, anyway." Bernie scooped up the robe and put it over the other woman's shoulders. "Is that your opinion, or the doctor's?" she asked gently.
Drawing the robe around her shoulders, Shego replied "I know how my body works, better then any doctor over there, I repeat, I'm fine."
"Your fever makes me doubt that just a bit. I think you should go back to bed, get more rest." She leaned on the kitchen counter, arms crossed again, and regarded her friend with concern. "I mean it, Shego. Was whatever you got from this trip worth it?"
Shego smiled faintly. "A full pardon for all crimes committed in the British Isles and all Dominions of Her Britannic Majesty's Government? I think it may have been."
Bernie's eyes widened. She had pretty much assumed it had been something illegal, and felt immediately ashamed. "Wh—what did you have to do for that? Was it something major, or did you just not have any serious crimes there?"
That actually caused Shego to chuckle. "'Serious'? Yeah, I did some serious stuff there!" She looked at Bernie seriously for just a moment. "However, for the record, I did not ever take a shot at the Crown Jewels! They have a very serious attitude regarding those, and I didn't want the heat that would have brought down on me! As to what I had to do...well, like I said, can't go into details...let's leave it at this, I had to do something I loathed, play the bait."
Bernie scowled, thinking. Then she nodded. "Let me guess, for one of the people who were hunting you when you were incapacitated, and we spent those two weeks with the Seniors, hiding from them?"
Shego hid her surprise at the accurate deduction well. "And working on our tans, of course!" She responded glibly. Then she frowned and looked at her arms. "Lost most of mine, though, seems to fade quicker then it should. Definitely need to schedule another hop to the islands soon. Want to come, or are you likely to get canned if you miss more time?"
Bernie smiled and shook her head. "Actually, no. To getting canned, that is. In fact, Loretta Load wants me to consider giving up my job to the woman she found to fill in while I was gone. Old friend, took nearly a decade off to concentrate on raising her kids, Loretta got her back in the game, and she liked it. Still talking about the details, though. And it's not like I need the money that badly, after all."
Shego nodded in understanding, then a curious look appeared. "Who is richer, your dad, or Paisley? They're the top two money people in the Tri-Cities now, right?"
Bernie nodded. "Now, yes. After Mister Johansen died. Not sure who's richer, Paisley Pickles took a major hit after the German Gherkin scandal, and lost some revenue, but he had a good lead before that. You know, once upon a time, it was the Rockwaller and Geary families on top."
"Really? What hap-" Shego was interrupted suddenly by the sound of 'These Boots are Made for Walking' coming faintly down the stairs. "Ah, that's my cell, hang on!" Shego set her coffee down and headed upstairs. Bernie, moving to the bottom of the steps, soon heard her end of the conversation as she answered the call. "Hello? Oh, hi, Doctor D, just got back...no, not at the lair, but I can buzz over there real fast...yeah, it's up and running, last I knew..." Bernie had started up the stairs as soon as Shego mentioned going out. "Yeah, I'll get it, and be right there!"
Bernie entered the bedroom as Shego scooped her discarded clothes off the floor. "You're going to wear those? Where's your luggage?" The nurse asked as she headed for her closet.
"In my hovercraft, hadn't meant to spend the night." Shego replied as she stepped into her underwear. She seemed to have shaken off whatever ill effects she'd been feeling, but Bernie doubted her fever had simply gone away.
"Well, you'll need something warmer to wear then that, try these, they should fit!" Bernie tossed Shego a pair of jeans and a padded flannel shirt. The thief caught them, hesitated as if about to protest, then shrugged and began pulling them on. Bernie meanwhile grabbed a pair of hiking boots from the closet floor.
"I won't need those..." Shego started to say, then stopped and frowned as Bernie sat on the bed and began taking her current footwear off. "What do you think you're doing?"
Bernie gave her a look that brooked no arguments. "Unless Doctor Drakken has gone back to evil and you're helping him with some diabolical plot, I'm coming with you, you need looking after!"
Doctor Drakken had flown an enclosed two-seat model hovercraft that morning, so things were a bit cramped on the way to the mountains. There was some space behind the seats, and Ron was crammed into it, though Kim had offered to take the spot since she was smaller and more limber. Ron had of course refused, and now sat crossways in the space, trying to find things in the backpack he was half sitting on.
Kim's backpack was on the floor at her feet, while her climbing helmet was in her lap. She had just finished fixing a luminous ring to it, and was now affixing a small headlamp as well. Drakken was concentrating on his instruments, since visibility was very poor.
"I still think...where'd this come from? I still think we might consider the offer from that newslady, KP." Ron commented. "I mean, showing them around the Upperton lair on camera isn't such a bad idea, and we'll get paid for it...Um, Doctor Drakken, is there a window I can open back here? Found something I mislaid on the last mission."
Kim's nose wrinkled as Drakken replied "That would be littering, Ronald. You should...oh, that is rank! Very well." He pushed a button on the console and a blast of cold air ran through the vehicle for a moment. "All gone!" Ron announced, and Drakken pushed the button again, closing the small port.
Without taking his attention from his flying, Drakken asked,"I hate to mention it, but would that be a souvenir from your little Caribbean adventure?"
"Yep!" Ron answered first, "A jerked-chicken Naco! Had to substitute on a few ingredients, but the one I ate was fantastic! Wish I hadn't forgotten the one I brought back for Ned to try, though..."
Kim rolled her eyes, then turned to Drakken. "No point in you not mentioning it, our little debacle has been all over WhoTube!, after all."
"Yes, rather excessively so." Drakken replied dryly. "Not to mention Summer Gale doing a recap of it every time she mentions you in a story now. You save those school children in Mississippi, she has to mention how she hopes it's helping you forget your humiliation. You stop Eddie from breaking his gang out of prison, she has to say at least there's one villain you managed to hang on to. The woman is insufferable!"
Kim wasn't sure how to reply, she still wasn't used to Drakken 'defending' her, so to speak. But Ron, having finally located the lamp for his helmet, cut in. "And now she's going to write Adrena Lynn's 'story' if she gets paroled next month. Besides, it wasn't Kim's fault that mission was a bust, it was all mine."
Kim sighed in exasperation, this wasn't even close to the first time she'd heard this. "Ron, you didn't know the microphone in the DJ's booth was live!"
"Yeah, but it was a ferociously bad idea to tell an island full of Carnival goers in costume that there were a thousand microbombs disguised as costume beads in circulation! And when you said we had the detonator, so everything was all right, what did I say? 'But Kim, what if he has a back-up detonator?'!"
"And the beads went flying..." Kim muttered. "And the bombs were only nuisance devices, they wouldn't have hurt as much as a wasp sting." She explained to Drakken. "Besides, I bet half those people weren't scared of the bombs, they just liked having the excuse to get naked, or nearly so!"
"Just half?" Drakken quipped with a raised eyebrow. "And you still have no clue who this 'Griefmeister' is?"
Kim shook her head. "Other then the fact he has a lot of money to spend on these pranks of his, likes to spoil people's fun, especially on holidays, and he's pretty agile, nothing! Oh, and major religious holidays and the Fourth of July are off-limits, or so he claims. And he said he doesn't do New Year's since few people would be sober enough to remember things afterwards." She shook her head. "I was so close to getting him!" An angry look began to take over her face.
Ron decided it was time to change the subject. "How are things down at the Mayor's office, Doctor D?"
"Oh, they're talking about the Tri-Cities Trauma Center, even though ground won't be broken on that for another year. And preserving the 'Battle of Middleton' monument. Councilman Hoard is giving me grief because I agreed with the proposed site of the Trauma Center, which isn't within Middleton's city limits. He seems to think I'm some kind of traitor for not fighting to have it located where we can claim it as our own, so to speak."
Kim nodded. "They already asked Mom if she was interested in running it, but she turned them down. She's a neurosugeon, and not a great administrator." Kim smiled, "Or so she told them! Anyway, she thinks they only want her for her name value."
"Battle of Middleton?" Came from a puzzled Ron, "When did they have a battle in Middleton, and what monument?"
Kim twisted in her seat to fix him with a puzzled stare. "Ron, that little cement plinth with the brass plaque on it in the park? The one you stood on top of once, thinking it would let you fly your kite higher then Walter Nelson?"
Ron's face went blank for a moment, then a smile spread on his face. "Ah, gotcha, KP! Forgot about that...heh, that was when you got so mad at me, you kissed Walter, and..."
Kim waved her hand dismissively. "Right! Let's just forget the subject came up, and get our game face on, Ron."
"If you want to know more about the battle, Ronald, ask Steve Barkin." Drakken advised, "His family, along with the Gearys and the Rockwallers, had a personal stake in the so-called 'battle'." As he said this, he reached under the dashboard, and released a fold-down screen, which lit up as it locked into place. Kim leaned close to peer at it. "FLIR?" She asked.
"Enhanced FLIR, actually." Drakken replied. "Those must be the emergency vehicles, held up at the snow slide. And that looks like another bus, above the slide."
"There were two buses." The voice of Wade Load came from somewhere. "The first one was full, with the rest of the people and the gear in the second. The people in the first bus didn't see the accident, and didn't realize anything was wrong until they had been stopped by the slide. Some of them tried using cellphones to call friends in the second bus, no responses, that's when they notified the State Patrol." Drakken looked about, briefly disconcerted, then shook his head.
"Wade, did you hack Doctor Drakken's communications system?" Kim asked in a mildly annoyed tone. Normally, of course, she wouldn't be the least bit tweaked, but it seemed a bit rude at the moment.
"Yep!" Wade replied unabashedly, "Can't seem to break the habit!"
"There appear to be some people hiking up the road, Kimberly, probably from the first bus, going to try and help. Doesn't seem likely anyone got around that slide, even on foot. But how do we spot the actual accident site from up here?"
Kim suddenly pointed at the screen. "There's a vehicle parked at that bend in the road, that's a good bet." Drakken nodded and steered that way. Down between the mountains, visibility began to improve a bit. "There's a very faint heat source down there in the ravine, that must be it!" Kim declared.
"I hope it's more then just the bus's engine." Drakken muttered. They were descending directly towards the source when Drakken suddenly brought the craft to a sudden halt, muttering a curse under his breath. "Trees too thick right there, and it looks like telephone or power lines running up the canyon are in the way as well!" Kim nodded, she could just make out the towers carrying the lines in question on the FLIR. "Put us down on the road, then, we'll rappel down." She said.
A small cluster of college students bundled against the cold looked up as the hovercraft descended. Kim was not happy to note that the vehicle they'd seen was an SUV belonging apparently to a TV news service, as there was a camera crew and a reporter standing next to it. They blocked the logo on the SUV's side, so Kim couldn't tell who they were. "I just hope they know well enough to stay out of the way, but how likely is that?" But in fact, these people were to surprise her.
The first surprise was when she recognized the tall reporter. "Samantha Leo?" She asked Ron quizzically as she helped him struggle out of the back of the hovercraft. Samantha Leo was the mother of Gina Leo, a freshman at Middleton High that one of Kim's brothers just might have taken an interest in. She was also a former professional volleyball player, both indoor and beach varieties.
"Huh?" Ron looked to see what Kim was talking about, and just missed losing his balance and falling to the road. "Oh, yeah, she's working for a cable news network, can't remember the name...maybe she was covering the ski competition?"
Kim nodded as she snugged the straps on her backpack. "That's probably it." She set off towards the obvious gap in the guardrail, where most of the students were clustered. They regarded her with a variety of emotions, hope being prominent. Though she was embarrassed to note some awe as well.
They stepped aside to let her up to the gap, and she peered into the gloom below. It was a steep incline, not a vertical drop, she noted, which raised some hope. If the bus had fallen all the way to the bottom, then there was no chance anyone had survived. But she couldn't see the vehicle, either, though she could see where it had sideswiped one or two trees on the way down, removing large swathes of bark from them.
Kim shifted to mission mode. "Okay, Ron, let's get the ropes anchored and the rest set up, I'll go down first."
"No chance we can get down there in the hovercraft?" Ron asked hopefully, even as he began to follow Kim's instructions. His girlfriend shook her head. "Too many trees, Ron, and then there's those power lines." She pointed upwards where the cables passed through the upper branches of the trees highest on the slope they intended to descend.
"Kim." Kim turned to find Samantha Leo behind her, "Do you want to anchor your lines to our car? We can park it closer to the break in the rail and make it closer then anything else you could use." Kim noticed with some surprise that Samantha's cameraman stood back by their vehicle, a good ten yards away, rather then being right at her shoulder. The girl nodded. "Please and Thank You, Ma'am." Samantha nodded and hurried back to talk to her crew.
Once the vehicle was in place, and Kim had discussed whatever help the students who had returned to the crash site might render, and the two teens had double-checked each other's harness and gear, Kim began her descent. The slope was steep, but not steep enough not to have accumulated a fair depth of snow, making footing treacherous. A great deal had been displaced by the bus's passage, but not enough to make Kim less apprehensive.
At least as far as she could see, the bus had managed to stay on it's wheels, but beyond the curvature of the slope she suspected it had overturned, if not tumbled, the rest of the way to the bottom. "Unless it hit a tree stout enough to stop it, that's one hope." She thought. Then there seemed to be a whisper in the back of her head, "They're all dead." She frowned, shaking her head, then continued downwards.
As she reached the farthest point visible from the top, she saw a smaller tree, broken and bent, with much of the bark on the upwards side stripped off. The bus had probably hit it square and snapped it, but not cleanly, then ridden over it, certainly lifting the front of the bus clear of the slope. And when it had cleared the tree...Kim fervently hoped it hadn't managed to tumble end-over-end, though that was unlikely. "They're all dead." The whisper came again, and she shuddered. Where was that coming from? Why was she thinking it? It might be true, but such a thought had never occurred in her mind in such a manner.
Another thirty feet, and she saw the bus. It lay on it's side at the bottom, broadside to the slope. With the snow still swirling past her, she couldn't make out whether there was smoke rising from it. Several but not all of the window frames on the upwards side were empty. And there was no movement. "They're all dead." It didn't seem to be a whisper this time, it sounded a bit louder in her brain. She set her jaw, and continued down.
It then occurred to her that she wasn't letting anyone above know what she'd found. Her helmet had a built-in microphone, and she muttered a mild curse for forgetting. "Ron, Wade, I see the bus. It's in one piece, laying on it's side about forty to fifty feet farther down. No movement. It's not a vertical drop, so the impact may not have been too severe." Both of her friends acknowledged, then she was surprised by another voice, Doctor Drakken's.
"Understood, Kimberly. Shego should be here in about twenty minutes with a larger hovercraft, capable of accommodating stretcher cases. We also have word that the rescue crews may get here in as little as thirty more minutes." Then he added, "You're not the only one capable of hacking someone else's communications, young Load!"
Kim smiled briefly as she thought of the expression Wade probably had on his face right then, but immediately the smile gave way to grim resolve as she started the last part of her descent. "They're all dead." "Stop it!" she snapped, then blushed as she realized she'd spoken aloud, if only in a fierce whisper. "Great! Now I'm talking back to myself! Maybe I should ask if Shego's bringing a straitjacket with her!" She shook that macabre thought off as she reached a point just short of the bus. It wasn't a school bus, but a big rental of the kind used for large tour groups.
There was a little dull heat radiating from the vehicle, most likely solely from it's engine. She looked for an easy way to get atop the vehicle, but it was obvious she'd have to climb up, or enter through the windshield or rear. She disconnected her climbing rope. If she had to enter from the top, she'd use a shorter line. She then circled towards the front of the bus.
The snow was deeper at the front, and she saw that the windshield had indeed been shattered. She carefully stepped inside, turning her headlamp on. She saw the driver's body, huddled on top of the front door, and knelt to take his pulse. Nothing. "They're all dead." This time the words seemed to echo in her mind.
There were three people piled on top of each other in the first set of seats, which she had to clamber over a partition to get to, which separated the front passenger seat from the stairwell to the door. It took an effort, but she managed to check all three. Nothing again. "They're all dead." She literally growled this time, and moved on. She faintly heard noises caused by Ron reaching the bottom of the slope.
"He doesn't need to see this." she thought. She called out to him. "Ron, hold position by the climbing ropes until I locate any survivors, 'kay?"
He didn't question her. "Got ya, KP." Kim took a deep breath and proceeded. She checked seven more people by the time she reached the midpoint of the bus, the insidious thoughts continue to sound in her head. She was beginning to breath in shallow gasps that had nothing to do with exertion, and a blank expression began to appear in her eyes.
After the next two corpses, she abruptly noticed that there was blood on her hands, having had to remove her gloves to check for vital signs. It was tacky, and she suddenly stopped and stared at it, and her gaze seemed to grow farther and farther away.
"They're all Dead..."
Well, that's the start. Heck of a place to leave Kim, but...
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