Knowledge of the events of POSSIBILITY ENGINE is not required, though recommended.
Sandra's hand lashed out like a whip and wrapped around Herman's forearm, gripping it tightly, and let out a peal to the ceiling tiles as if it were her own arm being crushed in the vise-like grip instead of her husband's. She thrashed about on the bed as the nurses in the hospital tried to hold her down and keep her from hurting herself. The screams lasted for over a minute before passing, and her hand finally loosened its death-grip enough for Herman to gently pull his arm free.
Sandra panted between contractions and looked through bleary eyes at her husband who could only furrow his brow in worry. She didn't need to say it again, it was clear to everyone in the room without her insistence: something was wrong.
A nurse stuck her head into the delivery room briefly and said the words they'd both been waiting on. "Doctor Kierson just arrived."
Herman looked over in time to see the door close, the nurse having already continued at the breakneck pace the hospital typically worked at, even at two-thirty in the morning. His muscles tensed, as if about to move, but he stood his place.
"Go," a weak croak from his wife caught his ears. Herman turned to see her looking up at him. She seemed so weak, so frail right now, a startling contrast to her normal, emboldened self.
Herman nodded, not one for many words, and quickly moved out of the room. The hall wasn't as busy as it was six hours ago when the labor pains started, but there were still several nurses walking around with clipboards. The noise of the emergency room – which never ceased to be busy – could be heard echoing down the hall in one direction. Herman started to jog in the direction of the sound, which also was where the nurses station was.
"Where is doctor Kierson?" Herman asked the male nurse at the desk when he arrived.
"The doctor just checked in, and he'll be with you shortly, Mr. Goren." The nurse barely looked up. This was clearly routine for him, but Herman didn't want to be told that. His wife was going through the worst pain in her life in the other room and there was nothing routine about that.
"Please, tell him to hurry," Herman insisted.
"He will be with you as soon as he can," replied the nurse. Again, not even a glance up. Sure, Herman had been here for six hours now and they all were aware of what was going on with his wife, but at the least they could show a bit of respect. He was placing his wife's life in their hands for crying out loud!
"Mr. Goren?" a deep voice said. Herman looked up to see Dr. Arthur Kierson, the old, white haired, tall and thin doctor that was his wife's obstetrician. He was walking around the nurse's station and heading towards him.
"Doctor!" Herman said with relief. He didn't know what was going on, really, or if the doctor would be able to help, but he felt slightly more at ease knowing he was here.
"It's going to be alright, Mr. Goren," said Dr. Kierson with a smile. He looked tired, probably as a result of being tossed from bed after midnight, but patted Herman on the back reassuringly. "Let's go see what we've got on our hands, okay?"
Herman nodded and walked alongside the doctor back towards the delivery room. Dr. Kierson had a way of making things seem less out of control and Herman liked that. He disliked surprises and panic, and this whole pregnancy had been too much of both. Things weren't like this on their first child, Herman Jr.
Sandra's screams were heard before the two men reached the room again and they quickly ran to cover the remaining distance. Herman burst through the door first as he was a little lighter on his toes than the older doctor, and was quickly by his wife's side. He gently tried to ease her by stroking her hair but the pained look on her face and tears on her cheeks made it clear it wasn't working.
"Doctor," Sandra cried. "What's happening?"
The doctor, however, had his back slightly turned towards Sandra as he was talking to one of the nurses who had been on duty since the labor began.
"How frequent?" said Dr. Kierson to the nurse.
"About every five minutes," the nurse replied. "They're timed with her contractions but even in-between the heart rate is still high."
"Prepare her for an epidural and –"
"Doctor, she's already had one," interrupted the nurse. "There was no effect."
"Has anyone checked for breech?" asked Dr. Kierson.
"The on-call did and said there were no signs."
"Alright, let's get an ultrasound and see if we can't see any more," said the doctor. The nurse nodded and quickly left the room.
"Doctor..." started Herman, but he was interrupted by Sandra screaming in agony again. She was gripping the bed tightly and twisting her body as if her muscles were ripping her apart. Herman nervously chewed on his fingernails.
"Doctor, she's fully dilated," another nurse said loudly after the contraction ended again. Dr. Kierson pulled the nurse aside and talked with her quickly and beyond the ability for Herman to hear, then they both quickly ran out of the room.
"Herman," Sandra said. She was exhausted and the look of anguish in her eyes said she knew that the hard part was still coming up. "What's going on?"
Herman took her hand and held it gently. "I don't know, pumpkin," he said. "They looked worried when they left."
"Where's Junior?" asked Sandra.
"You remember, we left him with your parents," said Herman. His wife was so amazing, so strong and brilliant compared to him, it pained his heart to see in her in such a delirium.
"Oh... right," she said, and looked around at the collection of nurses who were trying their best not to stare. Sandra just shook her head in response. "They don't know what's wrong."
"The doctor will figure it out," Herman said quickly, too quickly in his mind. He had no idea if the doctor could do anything, but he didn't want his wife to worry. "You'll be okay."
"I don't get what we did wrong," Sandra said, looking up at the ceiling.
"Shh, we did nothing wrong," said Herman quietly. "We did all the same things we did with Junior."
"Then what happened?" asked Sandra. "What happened?"
Herman didn't know what to say, which turned out to be unimportant because Sandra tensed up and began to scream in pain again. She tightly held Herman's hand.
The doctor swept into the room quickly while Sandra was still in pain and he began ordering the nurses around. They began picking up odd items and moving equipment around the room.
"What's happening?" asked Herman.
"We're going to deliver the baby," said Dr. Kierson as he gently pushed Herman to the side behind the back of the bed. "Something is clearly not normal and we need to be prepared for anything. So we're going to take her to the OR. You'll have to watch from outside."
"No, no, I need to be with her," said Herman angrily.
"You can't, we need everything to be sterile in case we have to operate," said Dr. Kierson softly and put a hand on Herman's shoulder for emphasis. "We'll take good care of her, and you'll be able to see everything from outside."
"We're ready to move her, doctor," said one of the nurses.
"Go ahead," said Kierson. He looked to Herman. "Come with me and I'll take you where you need to go."
Herman was led from the room and ushered quickly to a narrow hallway beside the operating room. The doctor left him as soon as they arrived and, a few minutes later, he saw his wife and the team of nurses rush into the room beyond the glass. He could hear very little but the grimacing face his wife periodically made had told him that her pain hadn't gotten any better. In fact, the duration of her screams seemed to be getting longer.
As Herman watched the nurses crowded about and obstructed his view of what was happening. He caught a glimpse of the doctor making motions towards Sandra and the other nurses a couple of times, but then his line of sight would be masked again.
It seemed like eternity passed while he stood there, helpless and waiting, but then, suddenly, it looked like all the nurses took a step back in unison. Then, after a second, they slowly crept forward again and clustered even more tightly around the doctor.
Sandra was still for several minutes at that point, her ragged breathing the only movement that Herman could see. He looked back at the crowd and suspected that the baby had been born but was confused at how little the group was moving.
Just as Herman finished that thought, the crowd parted and the doctor looked over toward Herman with a startled look on his face as he held something wrapped in a pink blanket that was slowly moving. He looked towards one of the nurses and nodded. That nurse then quickly left the room and appeared in the hall beside Herman.
"You can come in and see ... the baby," the nurse said. She had an odd look on her face as she spoke, as if her rhythm had been greatly disturbed. Herman simply followed her back into the operating room where the doctor had now moved beside Sandra to show her the blanket. As Herman approached he saw she was crying again.
"What's wrong?" asked Herman as he reached them.
"It's probably temporary," said the doctor immediately, like he had rehearsed it. "But there's a slight discoloration of the baby's skin."
"Discoloration?" said Herman, confused.
"She's... green!" Sandra said as she cried.
"What?" Herman was confused. He moved closer and looked at the baby being held stiffly in its mother's arms.
The tiny figure had a scrunched up face and was slowly moving all its limbs around with its eyes barely open. All of the child's skin was a dark green, almost as if the baby had been dunked in paint just after having been born. A tiny tuft of black hair was on its head.
"I don't understand," said Herman as he looked. "How?"
"I'm not sure," said the doctor. "But considering the... discoloration, she's otherwise healthy, as far as we can tell."
"Healthy? She's green!" said Herman loudly.
"Well, apart from that, I said," reiterated the doctor. "I can't imagine why it happened, but it might just be temporary and it'll fade in a few days."
"Might?" shouted Herman. "What if it doesn't?"
"Well..." started the doctor, but then he just trailed off.
The newborn started to cry at Herman's yelling and Sandra tried to shush the child with little effect. The baby's crying started to get louder.
"What are we doing to do with it then?" asked Herman. "That's not something that won't be noticed!"
"Please, calm down, Mr. Goren," said the doctor as he held his hands up.
The crying then got even louder and started to take on an unnaturally high pitch.
Herman and the doctor quickly covered their ears at the sharp screech. "What is that?" yelled Herman over the cry.
The cry reached its peak and suddenly the lights in the room exploded, raining bits of glass and plastic down on the room and immediately blanketing it in darkness save for the light coming in from the windows and the glow of the monitoring equipment in the room.
The baby stopped crying and began to giggle.
"What was..." Herman started to speak but was transfixed by the sight of the baby.
The doctor shared his stunned expression. "My god."
Beneath the blanket, the baby had started to glow.
POSSIBILITY ENGINE II:
THE DEMON OF GO CITY
TWENTY FIVE YEARS LATER
The alleyway was narrow, squished between two tall buildings barely far enough apart to drive a bicycle through, dirty and dark thanks to the towers on either side blocking out the sun. It would have been a perfect place to land if the tear in the fabric of the universe didn't eject Shego and Cassie with the force of jet engine. Shego barely got a look at the dank crevasse before the side of the building was rushing up at her and she had to flail about not to break her nose against the red brickwork. Instead she slammed her shoulder against the hard wall and rolled down to the ground, landing in a heap. Cassie didn't fare much better but managed to push herself away from the wall enough to land beside her traveling companion rather than on top of her.
As the vortex swallowed itself up and vanished, the two trans-dimensional travelers laid in the street, groaning softly in pain.
Shego, the more experienced of the two, picked herself up first and rubbed her head as she looked around. The alley was indeed dark and narrow, but at least it was entirely unpopulated. That would save them from having to come up with explanations as to where they had just come from. Worlds that hadn't discovered inter-dimensional travel tended not to believe that they had just traveled through the nebulous Void in pursuit of an insane AI that had possessed their friend, Kim's, body. Shego herself had a hard time believing it herself and it had happened right in front of her.
Placing a hand on Cassie's shoulder, Shego looked down at the younger girl. "You okay?" she asked. Cassie was face down in the alley but she nodded her head all the same. Shego smiled, never one for words that one was.
Shego unsnapped one of the pouches on her vest and pulled out the TDF, the tiny device that opened the portals between worlds and tracked the signatures of other dimensional travelers. She pressed on the screen and it came to life, showing the current status of the device. The screen displayed the picture of a battery and said the words "Battery Charging."
The small device always said that after a trip through the void. The miniature batteries on the thing only ever maintained enough charge to open a gateway once and then needed to charge for twenty four hours. On a few instances, she'd found ways to speed the process along, but without a life threatening situation at hand she preferred to leave it alone. If the TDF broke for any reason they could end up trapped and that was too big a risk to take lightly.
With a swipe of her finger, Shego activated the other features of the TDF and pressed the 'SCAN' button. Although the battery for opening a gate needed to charge, the other functions embedded in the device drew substantially less power. The screen turned black and shows blue letters that said "SCAN IN PROGRESS."
Shego returned the TDF to her pocket and then reached out to grab Cassie's backpack.
"Come on," Shego grunted as she lifted the smaller girl back up to her feet. Cassie was shorter and slimmer than Shego's athletic form, with a frock of beautiful red hair she kept in a ponytail most of the time. She blinked her green eyes and looked up, surprised at Shego's emerald ones. Then she smiled warmly and stroked the back of Shego's hand. It was her typical expression of gratitude.
Shego felt her face flush slightly and she quickly let go of the girl who gracefully turned on her feet to face her. Shego was still not comfortable with how clingy the girl was when it came to her, especially since she looked like – and probably was – a copy of Kim Possible.
Shaking her head, Shego motioned towards one end of the alley. "It looks like that's a major road," she said.
Cassie turned to look, nodded, and started walking in that direction. Shego put her hands in her pockets and followed.
They emerged onto a busy street that looked pretty normal – by Shego's home dimension's standards in any case – with a level of technology that seemed comparable to what she was used to. She sighed in relief. No flying cars, shock troopers, or mandated uniform policy meant hopefully the changes in this world were minor. Maybe it would be a world where she'd managed to keep her face out of the paper and they'd finally get some time to relax.
They walked down the street, keeping their eyes open for any obvious signs of what sort of changes they were in store for. As far as they could see, there was nothing blatantly different from Shego's home world. The people they passed were dressed normally, the cars looked as expected, and even the signs and slogans seemed to match.
When the street they were walking down met with another, even larger road, Shego stared up at the skyline and blinked in surprise. The Silver Tower could be seen poking its nose up over the row of office buildings in front of them.
"Oh, we're in Go City," said Shego. She looked up at the road sign at the corner. "Main and Bloomberg. We should be able to take this all the way up to city hall."
Cassie turned back towards Shego, looking with a quizzical expression.
"Well, I don't suppose we need to go to city hall for any reason, I was just sayin'," offered Shego. "I wonder if my brothers are still active in this world."
Cassie looked across the street and then pulled on Shego's arm gently. The taller woman looked down and saw the girl pointing at a small, dirty looking shop opposite them on the road. It was a pawn shop, or at least appeared to be one.
"Right," nodded Shego. They needed to visit pawn shops on each world they went to in order to get a hold of some of the local currency. Even on the worlds where the differences were relatively minor, there was always some quirk with the coinage that led to problems. Thanks to the Trans Dimensional Facilitation Agency, they had a large bag of various pieces of gold and silver jewelry to pawn off to get cash. While they'd put a significant dent in it since leaving the Agency several worlds back, they still had more than enough to get enough money for a hotel room and some food.
When the lights changed, the two crossed the street quickly and headed into the shop that was named "Simon's Gold and Silver." Inside it was just as small and dark as it looked, with many plastic shelves showing a variety of mismatched trinkets and toys and a long, lit display case with haphazardly tossed necklaces and rings inside. An older man with a black beard and a flannel shirt was sitting on a folding chair behind the counter watching a TV that was mounted on the wall on one side of the store.
The man looked at Shego and Cassie briefly then turned back to his TV.
"Turn around," said Shego and then began opening the backpack Cassie was wearing. She reached in and tried to be discrete about pulling out a handful of the jewelry from the bag. It wasn't often pawn shop owners cared about where the stuff you were selling came from, but if it appeared too suspicious they might question whether the jewelry was genuine or not. Doing some quick sizing, Shego pulled out a couple necklaces that were generally the same size and a few simple rings made of gold. Satisfied, she zipped up the backpack again.
Shego laid out the items on the counter between her and the bearded man. He looked a little annoyed to have to look away from the television but reluctantly stood up and examined the assortment. He placed a jewelers loop in his eye and looked closely at each of the times. Shego wondered if it was for show given there were few if any actual jewels in the pieces. After a few minutes she realized it was probably so he could give that dissatisfied grunt after looking at each necklace to set the seller's expectations low.
"This is it?" asked the man. Now that he finally spoke Shego realized he had an accent that sounded Pakistani. She could sort of see the heritage in his face now that she knew what to look for.
"Yeah, that's it," said Shego, folding her arms. If the guy was going to try and play rough with her, then she would do the same.
"Ehh, I can give you one twenty-five for the necklaces, and another eighty each for the rings."
"Eighty?" said Shego. "You've got to be kidding me. Those rings easily weigh more than those necklaces, too."
"Rings are only good for scrap," said the man. "Necklaces I can resell. They're worth more."
Shego raised her brow, skeptical. "Two hundred for the necklaces, and one fifty for the rings."
"That's a joke," scoffed the man. He folded his arms now. The two looked like angry statues guarding a pharaoh's treasure. "One twenty five for the necklaces, but I can go up to one hundred on the rings. No more."
Shego took a deep breath. "Those necklaces—"
"Uh, Sheg—um, I mean, uh..."
Shego looked over at Cassie, surprised at the number of syllables she spoke in a row even if none of them were really words. The girl was staring up at the TV on the wall with her mouth slightly open. Shego followed her eyes upwards to see what had caught her attention.
On the screen there was a protest going on, hundreds of people holding up signs and yelling in the streets in front of what looked like Go City Hall. The headline on the bottom on the screen read "'DEMON' RIOTS HEAT UP". Some of the signs being held said things like "KILL THE DEMON" and "NOT HERE, NOT ANYMORE."
Shego frowned. "What's going on?" she asked. The riot was not far from them but she didn't understand why Cassie was so interested.
"You haven't heard the rioters today?" asked the man with the beard. "I can't leave my apartment without running into those jerks."
"What 'demon' are they talking about?" asked Shego, still watching the screen. The video had cut to some pre-recorded scenes from the senate.
"You're joking, right?"
Shego turned to look back at the man. Her expression was every bit as serious as she could make it
"The Demon of Go City of course," said the man. "Congress postponed their decision again yesterday and then went on vacation or something."
"Recess," said Shego absently and then looked back at the TV. "There's a demon in Go City?"
Then the video changed to show archival footage of the demon. A date on the corner of the screen said it was from last August Shego squinted to make sense of the blurry and shaky scene of several SWAT teams firing into a cloud of dust and debris. Then green shots of light flew out of the cloud and stuck the SWAT team, sending them flying out of frame. The SWAT team scrambled in response to take up new positions. Then the demon walked out from the cloud.
Shego's own jaw dropped then. The 'demon' was her. On the television, a younger version of Shego was glowing entirely green and shrugging off bullets from the SWAT team that were just melting when they got near to her. The demon on screen then raised her hand a dozen green balls of energy exploded from her palm, blowing up the barricade of SWAT vans and police cars. The flying debris obstructed the camera for a second before it suddenly went to static.
"Th... that's the Demon of Go City?" Shego said, her voice hollow.
"Of course!" said the man, looking at Shego like she was stupid. "What are you, from Mars?"
Shego turned her back to the TV and looked at the man stoically. "Fine."
"One twenty five for the necklaces and one hundred for the rings," said Shego. "It's fine. Give me the money."
The pawn shop clerk looked Shego strangely again then slowly began packing up the jewelry and placing it in a zippered bag in the register. He counted out the payment in twenties and handed it over to Shego. She took it and shoved it into her pocket quickly.
"Come on," Shego said quickly as she walked past Cassie heading for the door. Cassie wordlessly followed behind.
When they reached the street Shego immediately became nervous. There were so many people on the street. Would any of them recognize her? Confuse her for the demon?
"We have to hide," said Shego, her eyes darting around the street. "I can't be seen."
"No buts!" Shego snapped at Cassie who retreated slightly at the scolding. "That Shego was killing SWAT team members and blowing up buildings! I'm not going to get a single second to explain myself if they think I'm her. We need to vanish!"
Cassie seemed on the verge of saying something again but instead looked down and then nodded.
Shego ran through possibilities in her head of where to go next. "We need to stay away from high profile places. No big name hotels or places that ask questions." She looked down Main Street and nodded. "Okay, I know a place we can go, assuming it still exists in this world." She began quickly walking.
Cassie followed behind, keeping just a step behind Shego and constantly looking around to catch anyone staring too closely. They got three blocks before a beeping sound emitted from Shego's vest.
Shego first looked startled, then unsnapped her vest pocket and pulled out the TDF. She'd forgotten she'd set it to scan before they entered the pawn shop. She looked at the screen:
"4 GATES DETECTED"
Shego frowned. Four? That wasn't normal. Usually there were signs of three gates in any world they visited. One was for their entry and two were for the Elder Shego's entry and exit that gave them the map for this path through the multiverse. Four was one more than was supposed to be there.
Shego stopped walking and wiped her finger across the display to bring up the detailed results. A wireframe map of the city appeared and four dots showed up, three red, one green. The three red dots were signs that someone entered the dimension, the one green dot was a sign that someone left. The decay on two of the gates clearly meant they were used together. One of the gates was nearby and very new, according to the TDF, which belonged to Shego and Cassie.
And one of the gates was several miles north and was about two weeks old.
Shego looked at Cassie. "There's another dimensional traveler here," she said.
Wade Load stood outside the Costal Technology Research Facility by the seaport in Go City and waited impatiently. The COTEF building had been his home for almost two years, ever since he left Middleton, but he still didn't feel safe standing alone in the shipping district when it got dark. At least he knew the security cameras had him in their sights in case anything happened, but he would have much preferred sending out a drone or just leaving a videoscreen out here than standing in the dark.
But no, Wade lamented, 'protocol' had to be followed. That meant he had no drones to send out, he couldn't spend any money on additional video monitors unless it was explictedly stated in his project's budget, and meeting with faux dignitaries like the arriving DARPA Chief had to be conducted in person. It was such an antiquated way of working that it riled Wade up just thinking about it. If there wasn't so much at stake here he would have left minutes after being hired.
He sneezed and rubbed his nose ruefully. He had to take his mind off of his grievances or he'd get too worked up to give his pitch and miss his opportunity. This was his chance, in his estimation, to finally voice his concerns to the DARPA Chief about the facility and maybe fix things around here. He only had a few minutes during their walk from the front door to the containment facility where Dr. Whitmeyer would be and he had to make them count.
Wade reached into his pocket and pulled out his Electronic Tablet. It was the one piece of advanced technology he could bring into the COTEF building after he demonstrated how much of a time saver it was. Ironically, if their concerns were around security and controlling information flow, then the last thing they should have let him bring in was his eTab. Nobody in the facility really understood how powerful Wade had built the device to be and he wasn't particularly inclined to let them know.
Running his fingers along the screen of the eTab, Wade called up the colorful charts and graphs he had prepared. He'd need them to explain his case quickly. He knew people liked flashy charts, especially those affiliated with the government.
A car pulled onto the long drive up to the facility and Wade did his best to stand straight and tall. He was still rather short, being only sixteen, and a little overweight, but he had put on his best slacks and shirt today, hoping to make more of a professional impression. The large black car pulled up to the front door and came to a stop.
The rear door of the car opened and a middle-aged man with slightly graying hair and wearing a pinstripe suit stepped out, straightening his jacket as he did so. On the other side of the car another door opened and a short-ish woman with black hair got out. Wade didn't wait for the woman to walk around the car and instead moved right up to the man.
"Chief Fuller?" said Wade as he held out his hand. "I'm Wade Load, Assistant to the Icarus Project Director. It's a pleasure to meet you."
The man looked slightly startled by Wade but quickly recovered and shook the outstretched hand. "Hello, son." Wade tried not to grimace at immediately being belittled by the Chief calling him 'son.' Due to his age, Wade had run into that a lot and he knew he shouldn't take it personally, but it was the wrong impression he was trying to give.
"Dr. Whitmeyer is inside, sir, if you'll come with me," Wade said, trying to return to professionalism.
"By all means," nodded DARPA Chief Fuller. He motioned slightly to his left as the woman with black hair came up beside him. She was also dressed in a nice suit, though with a skirt instead of pants. Her eyes were green and she had a round, cherubic face. "This is my assistant, Miss Seely."
"Ma'am," said Wade curtly. He turned and motioned with his hand. "This way, please."
The three headed for the door which Wade opened with his cardkey, holding the door open for the other two. Beyond the door was a long hallways leading to the facility proper and while it looked generally nondescript, there were several security measures embedded into the walls including metal detectors, sonagraphs, and other active sensors designed to fully record and document every person who entered or exited the facility.
While they walked, Wade turned slightly towards the Chief and cleared his throat. "Sir, while we're walking, I wanted to express my gratitude at DARPA's continued support of our containment unit. We certainly couldn't keep all this running without you."
"Of course," nodded Chief Fuller. "We do have a vested interest in what you are containing."
"I understand, sir," nodded Wade. "Though, I wanted to also tell you -- in case you haven't been informed formally, since I know how sometimes information gets lost in the reporting structure and things may inadvertently be flagged as non-essential – through no fault of yours or probably your people – I can certainly understand why they might be seen as insignificant and it really all goes back to the way we're forced to report our field tests according to DARPA standards and—"
And then Wade walked into the door on the other end of the hall. He let out a brief squawk and looked stunned at the door he'd just walked into, as if it had intentionally jumped out in front of him. He felt his cheeks flush immediately and his mind went completely blank for several seconds.
"Do you need help with that?" asked Chief Fuller with a bored look on his face.
"Help... with...?" started Wade, then he turned and saw he was standing in front of the biometric reader beside the door. "Oh!" quickly said, then placed his hand on the palm reader and looked into the retinal scanner. After the scan finished, he typed in his nine digit keycode.
Wade stepped aside and looked slightly down. "Sorry."
The Chief stepped in his place and went through a similar routine, then, finally, Miss Seely did the same. After a few seconds the sounds of the door unlatching were heard and then a green light lit up over the doorway. Wade quickly pushed open the door and held it open as Fuller walked through.
Wade sighed. He was such an idiot. How is it he could easily explain the complexities of the magnetron field inverter and suspension stabilizer but couldn't finish a simple sentence in front of his boss' boss.
A warm hand was placed on his shoulder suddenly and he looked up to see Miss Seely looking down at him with a slight smile. "Take it slow," she said. "He doesn't offend so easily. Just tell him what's on your mind."
Wade's jaw dropped at the woman's surprising act of kindness to someone she had just met. Miss Seely just nodded and left to follow Chief Fuller.
Swallowing his pride, Wade closed the door and ran back up to Fuller and walked with him again. "Sir," he said again. "I'm sorry about running on before, but, I'm worried that he containment field is losing its effectiveness."
The DARPA Chief looked at Wade with surprise and frowned. "What do you mean? It's your job to keep it running."
"I know, sir, but I've been independently monitoring the feedback on the field emitters," said Wade. He held up his tablet showing a slowly increasing graph. "This level of increase is not characteristic of equipment failure. I've checked all the maintenance data and the degradation data and this has to be caused by changes in the subject."
"What does that mean?" asked Fuller. "Changes in the 'subject?' I thought the 'subject' was in suspended animation."
"Well, yes, sir, but that doesn't actually mean what it implies. It's not a complete stop of all cellular activity, just incredibly slowed-down. But despite that, I think that the subject is still growing in power to the point where, even unconscious, it may overwhelm the containment field. It'll fail."
"This is not insignificant," Chief Fuller said angrily. He took Wade's tablet from him and looked at the results. "Why hasn't this been reported before?"
"Well, sir," Wade felt uncomfortable again. "Dr. Whitmeyer and I disagree on what the findings mean."
"You disagree?" asked Fuller. He looked skeptically at Wade. "You disagree with the project director?"
"He doesn't think it implies failure, he thinks it's just normal field variance," admitted Wade. "But he doesn't un—"
"But this looks pretty dramatic..." Fuller looked closer at the graph and specifically at the scale. "This... this is a difference of one half of one percent."
"Of full field integrity, yes," said Wade. "But the field strength doesn't have to fall to zero to indicate—"
"The reports on this have a margin of error of three percent, Mr. Load," said Chief Fuller. He sounded annoyed. "This is within standard deviation."
"I... er-" Wade stuttered. "For the report yes, but... um... my calculations are more accurate than what is used for the report."
"Your calculations are better?" asked Chief Fuller. He shook his head and handed the tablet back to Wade. "Mr. Load, I appreciate your tenacity, but reports of this nature need to go through the formal channels."
"There is a time and a place for dramatics, son," said Fuller. They reached the door to the inner ring and he stopped to face Wade. "This is a rounding error at best."
"The rounding error is in the orig—"
"There's a reason why Dr. Whitmeyer is the lead on this project," continued Fuller. "He decides what needs to be reported and what doesn't. Coming directly to me with this is very unprofessional."
Wade sighed again but said nothing.
Chief Fuller's expression softened slightly. Then he awkwardly patted Wade on the shoulder. "Listen. You'll learn, kid, don't be so eager to rush in. You'll get your chance if you're patient."
Fuller then pressed his finger to the panel beside the inner ring door until it lit up green. He looked at his assistant. "Miss Seely, you don't have clearance to be in here so if you don't mind keeping Mr. Load company here."
"Of course, sir," said Miss Seely with a smile.
"I have clear—"
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Load," said the chief before he opened the door and went through.
Wade shook his head. He'd screwed up. The Chief didn't get what he was telling him and now not only had he missed his chance but he'd probably not get a second one.
Wade punched the wall in frustration.
"Take it easy," said Miss Seely, shining her warm smile down upon him. "Keep trying, if it's important. Someone will listen."
"These guys can't see past my age," grumbled Wade. "They have no idea how much I've contributed to this project."
"That's the way of politics, I'm afraid," said Miss Seely. "You have to have some of the spotlight already in order to grab more of it." She shrugged. "You'll get your chance."
"You think so?" asked Wade, earnestly. He hated to seem like he was digging for compliments, but this woman had been so kind to listen to him already.
"If what I've heard about you is true," said Miss Seely. "You're a genius. One way or another, they'll be forced to listen to you eventually. The right circumstance just needs to come along."
Wade sighed, that seemed like more 'patience' and gambling on the future advice. "I guess," he said, in a non-committal sort of way.
DARPA Chief Fuller came up to Doctor Whitmeyer once he reached the monitoring chamber in the inner containment ring of the COTEF facility. The two men exchanged pleasantries as they always did. Small talk lasted for less than a minute, the two men having very little in common apart from the project, and then they got down to business.
"This is the current status report," said Dr. Whitmeyer, handing two copies of a bound report to the chief. "You can take a look at your leisure, but I'll give you the summary."
"Please do," nodded Fuller.
"Everything is nominal as far as the subject is concerned," said Whitmeyer. "No brain activity, no heart readings, for all we can tell she's just as flash frozen as the day we put her in there."
"That's good to hear," Fuller said, thinking of how the boy lab assistant tried to panic him. "What about the containment unit itself?"
"Various maintenance activities are going as scheduled," explained Whitmeyer. "There's been a bit of an accelerated replacement schedule on the phase regulators, they've turned out to be ... unsuitable to the cold temperatures we have them in."
"What's that going to cost us?" asked the chief.
"Just over three million for the first two, then another three for the last two."
"Six million dollars." Fuller shook his head.
"I heard it won't matter soon," suggested Whitmeyer. "Aren't you planning on defrosting her soon for her sentencing?"
"We were planning on it," grumbled Fuller. "But congress won't get off its ass and make up their damn mind. They went into recess before signing the bill one way or another."
"Well, we can keep her here near indefinitely as long as you keep paying for the maintenance on the containment unit." Dr. Whitmeyer walked up to the large computer console that monitored the inner chamber. He brought up the main monitor on the security cameras, showing the key six cameras at the outer lock, inner lock, main containment chamber A and B, and inside the suspension unit from top and bottom.
On the screens Fuller looked at the interior of the suspension unit cameras showing the 'subject' as the scientists at the facility liked to call her. Out in the street they liked to refer to her as 'The Demon,' but Fuller knew that her real name was Sandra Goren or 'Shego' as she went by during her escape three years ago. The cameras showed her suspended in mid-air inside a steel capsule that was filled with a special liquid meant to keep her in cold sleep. She was nude but the hundreds of wires and monitoring devices attached to her skin maintained her modesty, at least towards the cameras.
"I've gotten some unusual requests from the Undersecretary of Defense," said Fuller after several minutes. "Asking for permission to take some cell and blood samples."
"That's impossible," said Whitmeyer quickly. He coughed loudly. "Nobody can get in there without shutting down containment system, which means no samples of any sort without risking her escaping. I'm assuming the undersecretary doesn't want to risk that."
"I'm sure I wouldn't have been 'asked' if there wasn't a bigger stick coming down the line," said Fuller. "That was just the warning. Sooner or later they're going to come down here with a presidential mandate or a direct order from the Secretary's office and we won't get a choice." He looked briefly at Whitmeyer. "So if I were you, I'd start thinking up a way to do it without letting the genie out of the bottle."
"Very well," grunted Dr. Whitmeyer.
Chief Fuller looked at the other cameras briefly but quickly became fixated on one. "Who is that?" he pointed. "Inside the containment area with a... is that a book?"
"Hmm?" said Dr. Whitmeyer. He looked up and followed the tip of Fuller's finger. "Oh, that's Possible."
"Kim Possible?" said Fuller, unsure he had heard him right.
"Yeah, she hangs out in there a lot," said Whitmeyer. "I think she's reading to the subject."
"Since when?" asked Fuller, loudly.
"That particular book she started last—"
"WHY is Kim Possible in there?" Fuller said angrily. "I had to sign sixteen different legal forms giving up my right to breathe without presidential permission just to get in this room. How does she get in there?"
"Well, Ms. Possible, unlike you or me," explained Dr. Whitmeyer. "Is friends with the President. She's been granted a lot of freedom as a result."
"And she uses it 'visiting' the subject who is essentially an ice cube?" asked Fuller. This situation was quickly pissing him off.
"As you know, without her help we never would have recaptured the subject after the Firestarter incident," said the doctor. "She says that she wants to be here in case the subject tries to escape again. She's been here for so long now, I got used to it."
"That's... insane," said Chief Fuller. "That's like watching a freezer door in case the TV dinners suddenly grow legs and leave."
"The President signed off on it," said Dr. Whitmeyer. "There's nothing we can do. I guess you must have missed her on your previous visits, but it's nothing new."
Fuller grumbled more vocally. "I want to start getting those tapes."
"Which tapes?" asked Dr. Whitmeyer.
"These security tapes. I want to see everything that she does in there." Fuller pointed emphatically towards the image of Kim Possible. "Send them to my office starting tomorrow."
"Er, okay," nodded Whitmeyer. "They're pretty boring, though. She honestly sits there and reads. Unless she gets called to do something else, then she leaves. I think she's some sort of bounty hunter or something."
"Just sits there?" asked Chief Fuller. "For three years? Don't be silly. Nobody sits in a room, alone, in zero degree temperatures, just to read books to an ice cube that she helped put in there!"
"Say what you will, but Kim has always been pleasant and stays out of the way," shrugged Dr. Whitmeyer. "I'll send you the tapes."
"Good," nodded Fuller. He looked at the cover of the report in his hands and an odd thought came to mind. "Everything is stable, right, no problems with the containment failing?"
"Of course not!" said Dr. Whitmeyer, a little insulted that he would ask. "You would have been the first to know if that was the case."
"Right, right," nodded Fuller. "Of course I would be." He continued to look at the report for a second longer and then he looked up at the monitors again. "I guess that's all I need to hear."
"On your way, then?"
Shego sat on the bed in the hotel room she and Cassie had got and struggled with the tiny wireless keyboard in her lap. It was supposed to enable her to use the hotel's internet connection on the television in the room but the keyboard was just about the most finicky thing she'd ever used. The response time forced her to type just about one key every three seconds or it would get confused, and the tiny trackball on the side of the keyboard would frequently stop working for almost a minute then suddenly cause the mouse to skitter across the screen in a microsecond.
"Argh!" yelled Shego for the sixtieth time. She wanted to know more about that other Shego in this world and maybe find some news stories that could point to who the other inter-dimensional traveler is but information on either was slow to come by.
The door to the room opened just as Shego was considering throwing the keyboard out the window. Cassie slipped into the room with a few bags in her arms. Shego had initially felt uncomfortable sending the girl out on her own, back when they first started traveling together, but it was a silly thought. The girl was easily as capable of Kim Possible was at her age, if not moreso the way she seemed to have supernatural levels of success in the fights they'd gotten into.
Cassie wandered over and handed Shego a bag then laid down on the bed behind her with her own bag. Shego placed the bag beside her and tried again get the keyboard to work with her instead of against her.
"This thing is a piece of crap," said Shego over her shoulder. Cassie nodded, as she typically did. Shego had gotten the hang of having largely one-sided conversations over the last few trips so her silence no longer perturbed her. "Anyway, I think I understand basically what's going on, not that it makes a whole lot of sense."
Cassie sat up and moved forward along the bed to look at the television next to Shego.
"So, it looks like I... I mean, the Shego in this world, developed much, much stronger powers than I -- meaning me this time -- did." Shego shook her head. She hated explaining things when it came to duplicates copies and alternate reality versions of people. Pronouns never matched up right.
"Anyway, about three years ago, this Shego went on a rampage and blew up a large portion of the eastern seaboard. I'm talking mondo-damage. Lots of injuries and deaths. Then she flies off – this Shego can fly, apparently – and vanishes without a trace for two months."
"Then, suddenly, Kim Possible shows up one day having captured her," continued Shego. "They put her in this super advanced facility in Go City to keep her locked up until they can figure out what to do with her. Then they start to argue." Shego pointed at the screen. "They're still arguing according to this, three years later. Apparently they're not sure if they should keep her locked up and study her, execute her, or even if killing her is possible given how she shrugs off bullets."
Shego shook her head. "It's a huge mess, and apparently people are getting angry that nothing's happened since she's been captured. A lot of people are worried she'll break out again and wreck havoc across the rest of the world and, thus, want her dead. Others – and this is my favorite part – think she's some sort of god."
Cassie looked at Shego with a confused expression.
"Yeah, that's right," nodded Shego. "A flying, green glowing, building blowing up, murdering god. These wackos -- who I choose to believe are more insane than this Shego could possibly be -- want her to be let free so she can 'accomplish her mission on Earth.' And I wish I was making that up."
Cassie reached over Shego's lap and poked the bag that she had brought her. "Yeah, in a second I just want to..." she looked away from the screen to see Cassie looking up at her. Her expression was that of annoyance. Shego sighed. "Yeah, you're right, it's not important. We shouldn't get involved. We're only here for twenty-four hours, etc, etc." She'd run through those excuses so many times with Kim back when they were traveling together she felt a little guilty that Cassie was essentially using them on to her.
Granted, they hadn't been sticking strictly to that mantra since they left the Agency to follow the Elder Shego's map. A more casual interpretation had been embraced that sort of went: "We'll help who we can but we can't get too involved." Foiling a few thugs was one thing, figuring out what to do with this debacle was way out of their league.
Shego picked up her bag and opened it, pulling out something wrapped in white paper. She unfolded the item and started to grin. "A pastrami sandwich from a Go City deli? I have taught you well, my apprentice." She took a modest bite of her sandwich and nodded pleasantly as she chewed.
Cassie seemed satisfied by the remark and went back to eating her own sandwich from the bag she held. She turned slightly and leaned her back against Shego's as the latter went back to looking at the screen.
"What is annoying though," Shego said between bites. "Is that I can't find anything here to say what came through that other gate. I mean, it's not like we always make the paper whenever we land in a new world, but, this gate is right in the middle of Plymouth Park. Somebody has had to have seen it."
Shego could feel Cassie's ponytail bobbing up and down her back, which she presumed was the smaller girl nodding in agreement.
"I guess we should take a look tomorrow," said Shego. "Head down to the park and see if anyone saw anything. At least until the battery charges. Then..." she trailed off.
Cassie leaned on her arm to look around to see Shego's face. The green girl had froze, mid sentence and was staring at the screen. Cassie craned her neck to get a look at the source of the distraction. It was displaying a news article on the congressional debate on what to do with the 'Demon.' A picture of a man in a blue suit with dark hair and beady eyes yelling from behind a podium was at the top of the article.
"What?" asked Cassie when Shego refused to elaborate on her own.
"It's... Drakken," said Shego, her voice strained.
Cassie didn't understand and looked back at the article. She had heard about Drakken from Shego, but they hadn't yet run into him in the worlds they'd traveled. The picture on the screen had a caption that said "Senate minority leader Drew Lipsky (R-CO) argued the risks if the Demon were to escape again."
"He's a senator in this world," said Shego, still in shock. "And apparently a pretty influential one." She shook her head and read the rest of the article. "He's leading the charge to have me... I mean, the Shego of this world be killed for 'the safety of the United States and the world.'"
Shego felt uneasy in her stomach. She guessed that this Shego didn't work for Drakken for so many years the way she had. Either that or they parted ways in a violent fashion.
"I'd really like to meet a Drakken who is personable enough to be elected to office, let alone become a spokesperson for his party." Shego shook her head again. So many things were different in these worlds, even the impossible becomes possible.
A thought struck her. "I wonder if Drakken had some hand in what happened to this Shego." Cassie looked up at her again. "Maybe an experiment gone awry and now he's trying to clean up his mess."
"I suppose I'll never know."
Drew Lipsky walked off the Capitol Subway System in a huff, shuffling angrily across the station into the elevators for the Hart Senate Office Building. He was flanked by a page he hadn't learned the name of and one of his aides, a blonde woman named Adriana.
"What is with that junior senator DeSanto?" grumbled Drew. "I think she just filibusters random bills just because it's fun to make us stick around until 9pm."
"I have copies of your speech for tomorrow's rally, sir," said Adriana, hoping the stem the tide of the senator's latest rant. "They've been approved by the committee and just need your final sign off."
"God knows I have other things to do with my time than listen to her recite the collected works of the Brother's Grimm," continued Lipsky. His tiny hands balled into fists as they entered the elevator. "And because of what? That immigration bill that won't do anything except make our security consultants in Texas rich? Why waste the breath?"
"That might be why she filibustered it, sir," offered Adriana.
"Who cares who gets rich in El Paso? It's not going to take any power away from her or the 'Great State of Ohio.' She should mind her own business."
"Other people in the senate might not have the same goals as you, sir," said Adriana.
"Then why bother with politics?" asked Drew. He looked at the papers in his hands. "What are these?"
"Your speech, sir," said Adriana. "For the rally."
"Oh." He flipped through the packet faster than he could possibly have read it. "Whatever. Who wrote it?"
"Mr. Simon did."
Drew looked at her with a raised brow.
"The committee leader," Adriana reminded the senator.
"Right, of course I knew that," nodded Drew. He pushed the papers back into Adriana's already full hands. "Just make sure there's a teleprompter."
The elevator doors opened and everyone exited into the grand atrium in the Hart building. Above them the large windows showed the cloudless night sky that looked almost completely black thanks to the light pollution around D.C. They crossed one of the long skywalks across the atrium to the hall where Drew's office was located. They got all the way to the door to the office before the senator looked at the page to his left.
"Why are you following us?" he asked, frowning.
"You asked me to take a message to Congressman Strongheim," said the page.
"That's right," said Drew, with a definitive nod. Adriana opened the door and the senator crossed his aide's office to his own, opening the heavy wooden door and retrieving a large envelope from his desk. He handed it out to the page. "Take this to Strongheim and put it into his hands directly. If he's gone home, stand there until he comes back and then give it to him."
"But, senator, I—"
"I don't need your life story, just deliver the mail!"
The page deflated a little bit then took the letter and left the office. He practically dragged his feet out the door. Drew shook his head in response.
"What ever happened to the time when youth were eager to serve their country?"
"I know!" agreed Lipsky. "These pages act like it some sort of punishment to stand outside an office for twelve hours just to deliver the mail. What a bunch of lay abouts!"
"I complete agree."
Drew paused and looked to see who was talking to him. While he certainly wasn't against people unilaterally agreeing with him – in fact, he preferred it! – it had been remarkably rare since he'd come to Washington. Sitting in one of the well appointed chairs in room was an average looking man in a pinstripe suit and short brown hair. He was wearing a smile like a bad habit.
"Who are you?" asked Drew. There were far too many people in Washington, he concluded, he could barely remember anyone's name.
"Hank Perkins, sir," the man said as he stood and held out his hand. "I've been eager to meet you."
Drew looked at the outstretched hand like it was alien. "Yes, erm, well..." he furrowed his brow in thought for just a moment before turning back towards his office. "I don't care who you are, if you want to talk to me, make an appointment."
"Uh, well, I tried—"
"I don't care about your sob story!" Drew said as he entered his office and then closed the door behind him. He hated loiterers and lobbyists and yet they seemed to linger around the building like a bad smell. It had only gotten worse when he became minority leader of his party. Yes, he had power now, and it was glorious, but he didn't understand why all these people thought he'd share a molecule of it.
His desk buzzed just as he sat down at it.
"What now?" asked Drew after pushing the button on the desk phone.
"You had a six o'clock meeting scheduled this afternoon," Adriana's voice came over the tiny speaker.
"Well I left my time machine in Middleton, so it's not likely I'm going to make that one," Drew said bitterly. He followed that up with several disparaging grumbles about Senator DeSanto and her personal hygiene.
"He's here now, sir, if you're willing to meet with him."
Drew sighed. It was after nine o'clock and he had more than small bit of work to get done if he was going to maximize the impact of his rally tomorrow to get the best possible coverage of his anti-demon legislation.
For a second he remembered the good old days before he got into politics, when he could spend all his time on his latest invention or gadget, hoping to turn bits of circuitry and metal into a high powered laser or pocket-sized explosive. The good old days when he was barely accountable to anyone and could stay up for weeks when he'd come up with a good idea. The good old days when he wielded the power of the atom in his hands every day.
The good old days when he was a nobody despite his best efforts.
Drew shook the thoughts from his head. No, this was the only path now. Politics had proven far more lucrative than fringe science. He had to maintain his political schedule or it would all come crashing down on top of him.
"Fine, send him in," said Drew. He tried to think for a second but all he could remember were three goats trying to cross a bridge with a troll. Damn you, DeSanto! "Who am I meeting with, again?"
The door to his office opened and the plain man who was sitting outside a minute ago strode in with his powerful smile and walked right up to Drew's desk with his hand out. "Hank Perkins!" he said cheerfully.
It was too damn late to be that cheerful, Drew concluded. This man must be insane. Or a lobbyist.
"Yes, I remember," Drew said sarcastically. He hadn't, actually, remembered the plain man's name, but since he'd gone and repeated it without prompting he could at least act superior.
He shook the man's hand reluctantly. "What is it that I can do for you?" asked Drew.
"I wanted to meet the great Drew Lipsky," said Hank, spreading his arms in a grand guesture. "The rising star of the hard liners. Five years from state senate to national leader. I'm sure there's no end to the people trying to hitch a ride on your star."
The senator watched as the man named Perkins walked around his office in front of the desk. He examined the framed picture of Drew and his fellow legislators in the Colorado state senate. It was taken only three years earlier on the eve of Drew's launch into the limelight.
"It seems so," said Drew. He didn't always pick up on subtleties, but Perkin's statement was obvious enough to catch even the senator's attention.
"I should fully introduce myself," continued Perkins. He returned to the front of Drew's desk and sat on a chair there. "I'm working with Simon, Gates, and Associates."
A lobbyist, thought Drew. He knew it.
"As such, I'd like to extend an offer to help you in any way possible," said Perkins.
"Help?" asked Drew. "Your firm works for Gemini and his lunatics who want the Demon released to destroy the rest of the civilized world! I, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to see it destroyed. What possible help could I want from you?"
"Please, please, Mr. Lipsky, we are not our clients," said Perkins. He held a hand over his heart as if he'd been injured by Drew's statements. "Yes, we're looking to help our client's agendas but this is not an all or nothing world. There's got to be ways that everyone can benefit from this. Ways a very big firm like mine can help you in exchange for a few minor concessions in your stance on the Demon."
"I'm not interested," said Drew, looking down at his desk. He picked up a pen and opened a manila folder full of notes from yesterday's defense committee hearing. "You can show yourself out."
Perkins folded his legs and made no indication that he was going to leave. "I'm surprised that you would treat an old friend like this."
Drew paused in his reading and looked up at the man before him. He squinted slightly as if to get a better look at the plain suited lobbyist. After a few seconds he returned to his notes. "I've never met you before."
"Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a bit when I said 'friends'," Hank said with a laugh. "But we at least share a common heritage. We're both ex-employees of HenchCo."
Drew's head snapped up and he glared at Perkins. "What are you talking about? I've never worked for HenchCo."
"Oh, I know what it says in your official bio," nodded Perkins. "But we both know that's the biggest bit of malarkey this side of the Rockies."
"It is not a lie," reaffirmed Drew. "I never worked for HenchCo."
"No?" Hank said, his brows coming together slightly. "You're sure?"
"Absolutely!" Drew said forcefully.
"Hmmm," Hank hummed as he put his hand to his chin. "I could have sworn that you were there."
"Well, I wasn't," Drew said quickly. "And I'd appreciate it if you take your dishonesty elsewhere." He pointed towards the door.
Hank gently clapped his hands together and stood. "Well, I guess I must have gotten you confused with someone else. I'm terribly sorry."
"I should say you are!"
"I'm terribly embarrassed," said Hank. Drew felt he didn't look like it at all. "I should check my facts a little better, don't you think?"
"Check them outside," Drew said, insistent.
"Very well, then," nodded Hank. "Sorry to bother you, Mr. Lipsky." The simple looking man turned and headed for the door swiftly.
When he reached for the doorknob, however, he hesitated, then turned slightly to look back at the senator. "You never worked for HenchCo, you say, but you were in Colorado, right?"
"Of course," said Drew, annoyed beyond belief at this fickle man. "Where else could I have been to get elected to Colorado State Senate?"
"Right, that's silly. Of course you were," nodded Hank. "You wouldn't, though, have known someone named Dr. Drakken, would you?"
The senator continued his angry stare at the man named Hank Perkins.
"No, I guess not," said Hank. "I bring it up, because, he left HenchCo and vanished the same year that you first ran for State Senate. But what would be the chances you ran into this guy, right?"
Drew said nothing.
"Of course, now that I look a little closer," Hank said, narrowing his eyes. He walked back up towards the desk. "You do bear a striking resemblance to him. Maybe a relative?"
"I don't know any 'Doctor Drakken,'" Drew said between clenched teeth.
"Well, he wasn't really doctor, of course," said Hank. "Just claimed to be. You'd have remembered him, though, if you saw him. His skin was strangely blue colored. And he had a dark scar under one eye."
Hank paused and leaned over Drew's desk slightly, staring at the senator's face. Drew leaned back in his chair in response.
"Say, senator," Hank said. "Are you wearing makeup on your face?"
Drew's lip arched up slightly in disgust at Perkins. "What department at HenchCo did you say you worked for?" he asked.
Hank leaned back again and returned to smiling. "Legal," he said simply. "You wouldn't believe the number of papers that get served to that company in a single day."
"I could probably believe it," grumbled Drew quietly.
"Its a funny thing too," said Perkins, raising his head slightly as if trying to pick a thought from an imaginary cloud above him. "He was working on a FDP just before he left -- FDP means Full Deniability Project, basically what we in the legal department called any HenchCo project that was bound to be a political nightmare for the company -- it was a project about encoding information that could be transmitted directly into the human brain through the eyes. Terribly dangerous thing, but Drakken never proved it could work. He took his failure and left the company. Next year, you got elected to senate, having never been a mayor, governor, or corporate executive."
"I don't see how that's funny," Drew muttered.
"Well," said Perkins. "That year was when Colorado moved all its voting machines to those new electronic ones, you know, with the large screen you have to look at to make your vote? It was such a big change in procedure, you'd think I'd remember how voting on it went. But I've been trying for a while and I just can't remember who I voted for on that day. And the funny thing is -- this is the funny part, now -- a lot of other people I've talked to can't remember either. What a strange phenomenon, right?"
Drew said nothing.
"Anyway, since we don't know each other, I guess I have nothing to offer you. Have a good night, senator." Perkins turned on his heel and headed back to the door.
Hank stopped halfway to the door, mid-stride, and smiled.
-------------(End Part I)-------------