Chapter 1

She was dreaming again, reliving the thunderstorm, trying to get away without further incident. There was nothing to gain by hanging around. Drakken's giant robots were turning back into children's toys, falling from the sky all around her. Henchmen were fleeing the flaming lair en masse. Synthodrone 901, the almost-human android engineered to deceive and defeat Kim Possible, was no more than goo and plastic spread thinly across the signal tower that had controlled the robots. The tower itself was quickly self-destructing, electricity crackling from every welded joint.

Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable had foiled another flawless plan and it was time for Shego to make her exit.

She turned to find her nemesis waiting for her, as always. She'd lived this a thousand times since that night. Wearing her blue and white Battlesuit, the young redheaded woman barred her way, a cold and deadly glint in her green eyes.

Now she would ask the question Shego heard nearly every night. "Know what I hate?"

"That your date melted?" That date had been Synthodrone 901, passing itself off as a student at Middleton High. Throwing that up to Kim was not a good move, but Shego never knew when to quit. She assumed battle stance, and yet she already knew where this was heading, where it inexorably led. In the bed, beneath the silken sheets, her body jerked and twitched as if in anticipation of a blow.

"No," snarled Possible. "You." In just a moment, Kim would kick her off the catwalk; in just a moment, she would fall screaming onto the short-circuited signal tower; in just a moment, she would wake up sweating, heart pounding, remembering the searing current, the collapsing tower, the pain that even her superhuman ability to heal could not spare her. The humiliation of defeat at a teenage cheerleader's hands.

"Look out look out look out –" something not human whispered in the darkness, and Shego spun around, dodging Kim's attack. While the younger woman was off balance, Shego seized the advantage, flung her with all her strength off the walkway. Before her eyes she saw Kim Possible, invincible Kimberly Ann Possible, shrieking and twisting in the electrical arc as the tower collapsed around her, dragging her to ruin and death far below.

The echoes of the falling tower faded to silence in the falling rain.

"I – I killed her," she told the empty air. The horror of recurring nightmare was washed away in victory. She ran to the edge, looked down at the shattered, motionless figure sprawled amidst the rubble. "I killed her."

From deep in the rainy night the unseen whisperer replied, its voice a buzzing drone. "You have a destiny to fulfill."

And suddenly everything was flowers and sun and blue skies ahead, forever and ever, world without end. Shego sighed contentedly, turned over on her side and sank happily into deeper slumber. There would be no more dreams tonight.

* * * * *

"Do you ever miss it?" she asked Drakken, sitting in their mountain cabin, sipping a latte. A far cry from the machine-filled lairs they used to frequent, all buzzy fluorescents and dingy metal. There was a cozy fire in the fireplace, and the view from the bay window was wonderful. "The old days, I mean."

"Not at all. You know, I think back on that sometimes and wonder what possessed me. Remember the Supervillain Trade Fair we attended? The "Test Your Badness Level" exhibit? I exerted all the evil force I could muster and just barely got a reading. 'Playground Bully,' if I recall correctly. That's disheartening. And I still pressed on with the whole mad science thing. What was I thinking?"

"Yeah, well, you can't go on that. HenchCo's stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be." She had pegged the meter at a single touch. "I mean, there wouldn't have been a Super Hypollenator if you'd given up on the evil takeover schemes. There was a device that came in handy."

"I remember you and Possible giving me a hard time about that invention. Unoriginal. 'Pre-villain', even. Whatever that means. More of your gangsta slang, no doubt."

"I didn't say that, she did. And no gangsta worth his bling would – never mind that. What I'm saying, or at least trying to say is, if you hadn't cobbled together the Super Hypollenator, the Lorwardian battle machines would have wiped us all out. And the only reason you made that thing was to, you know, hold on to your dream."

"Dementor taunted me about that. Creep."

"I didn't know that."

"Never told you. It was right after the invasion. You know how he is, no indoor voice. That accent! Does he really think he's fooling anyone with that? One minute it's 'der' and 'das', the next it's 'ze' – my guess is he's really from Jersey. And that costume? Right out of the comic books."

She considered reminding him that she also wore a costume, once upon a time, but let it pass. "So what did he say?"

"He let everyone in the café know how ironic it was: I had failed completely at evil schemes, only to come through on the good guys' side in the end." He took a sip of latte and chuckled. "It was pretty annoying at first, but that night, when I got to thinking about it – why not try being a good guy? And just look. It really pays off pretty well, and no one comes bursting into the cabin with their freak on, trying to blow the place up. That's a huge advantage, Shego."


"The money saved on insurance premiums alone –"

"Do you believe in destiny?"


"Yeah. Like, someone has a purpose in life that nothing can keep them from fulfilling. Like, maybe it was your destiny to save the earth from Warhok and Warmonga."

"I couldn't have done it without you."

"Then maybe it was our destiny."

"I'm done with destiny." He took another sip of latte, looked out the window at the Smoky Mountain forest. "People like Dementor get that kind of idea in their head – 'Ach! It ist my destiny to take over ze werld!' - and the next thing you know there's fire and explosions, light coming out of stuff, buildings falling, big honkin' hurting handed out all around. Been there, done that. Who needs it?"

"Hmmm." Shego wrote something on the back of an envelope, passed it to Drakken. "Have you ever seen this word before?"

"No." Drakken looked at it, puzzled. Only seven nonsensical letters, and yet there was something about it that was somehow sinister, troubling. "Oooo – strange vibes. What is it? What does it mean?"

"That's what I'm asking you, Dr. D. You're the mad scientific genius in touch with the weird and wild. I figured that if anyone in the world knew what it meant, you would."

"I just told you I'm not about all that any more. We've put all that behind us."

"Absolutely," she said, quite sincerely, quite convincingly, quite deceitfully. "Monty Fiske could have told me, I'll bet. He was into the mystical and occult and all that bad mojo. Deeply so."

"Fiske's a stone statue in DNAmy's collection. That's where mystical magical mojo takes you. That's where evil of any shape, size or variety takes you, period. Look at us; we're lucky to be alive. How many exploding lairs did we barely escape? How many crash-landing atmospheric disruptors did we outrun? How many foolproof plans went completely and utterly south? As many times as we – "

"You're right, you're right," she interrupted, remembering the robots, the rain, the electrical tower. Remembering the redheaded girl. "Wonder what Kimmie is doing these days, without us to stir things up for her."

"Probably busy with college. I heard that her boyfriend somehow got accepted at the same university. There's destiny for you." Drakken was studying the strange word again. "That's not Latin. I don't know any language that uses that sort of configuration – and I do know quite a few languages. Even a smattering of Kobaian, believe it or not. I guarantee Dementor can't make that claim. Where'd you see this, anyway?"

"In a dream. It was written on a wall, in a dream." There was something strained in her voice. "And, you know, dreams – dreams are older than the Sphinx, and garden-girdled Babylon."

He looked up sharply. "What?"

She continued speaking, strangely distracted, almost hypnotized. Not at all the sharp, focused woman he knew and loved. "Aren't they?"

"Dreams don't mean anything, honey. And neither does this silly word." He reached out, touched her hand; the confusion left her face. "Remember the time I dreamed a world takeover plan? Remember what I wrote down? Utter nonsense. Gibberish. Just like this."

She laughed, quite herself again. "Then you started writing everything you were going to do down on index cards. Boy, that got old fast."

"Luckily I had a sidekick who could cover for my weak points." He laughed with her, hiding his concern. These bewildering moments were happening more and more often. Maybe he could talk her into going to a sleep clinic, because she certainly wasn't sleeping well. If it would stop the all-night tossing and turning, it would help them both. "We can't dwell on the past. Whatever we were back then, we're heroes now."

"Of course." For the moment, dreams and destinies were behind her. "We're on Kim's side now. Who would have ever guessed?"

The sarcastic edge in her voice was reassuring. "Actually, Dementor was right; it is ironic."

"I won't tell him if you don't."

On the table lay the envelope bearing seven letters in Shego's neat handwriting. A word that had never been seen before in their world, in their universe.

Seven letters from a dream.

Or a nightmare.