Disclaimer: I don't own Kimmie or any of her pals. Literary quotes are from The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. Orgone accumulator from Hawkwind's album "Space Ritual." Soundtrack for writing this tale: John Carpenter's music for his film Big Trouble in Little China.

"Once the interstellar conjunction is at its height," Drakken exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement, "my orgone accumulator will draw down and concentrate the cosmic power, making me invinc –"

"Invincible. Yeah, I know. Invincible. Give it a rest, Dr. D." He had repeated it countless times that evening. Sometimes it was "omnipotent," once it had been "godlike," but generally he was sticking to "invincible." She'd believe it when she could see it.

His designation for this disaster-waiting-to-happen was, almost inevitably, Operation Stargazer. Now, to celebrate his oncoming ascension to omnipotent invincible godhood, he insisted on listening to some horrible story read by some demented actor.

On a vinyl record.

The overwrought tale had something to do with interstellar conjunctions, forbidden secrets, unknown powers, victorious villainy. The usual. It was one of his childhood favorites, one more evil inspiration. Even the record dated back to his high-school days. She wondered how he remembered all those trivial things; her own childhood was a hazy blur. She'd put all that behind her.

Just to please him she tried to sit through the dire narration, but the record kept skipping, and every time it did he would take it off the antique turntable, clean it, and start it over again. From the beginning.

Against her will she could feel the opening paragraph seeping indelibly into her memory: "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." When that sort of drivel started occupying brain cells, it was time for a voyage, regardless of warnings.

She waited until he was completely engrossed in the stupid thing and quietly left the room. He never noticed. Since he'd been constantly, irritatingly warning her against "snooping around the lair," it was time to do just that.

And that had led her to the secret door, the complicated lock she easily opened, and the immense machine that stood alone in the room. Complex coils and tubes formed a sort of pyramid, supporting a gigantic translucent sphere; within that sphere coloured lights came and went in oddly soothing patterns. It reminded her of a huge lava lite or plasma globe. Strange sounds came from it as well, delicious, delectable harmonies, washing over her in deep, swelling, peaceful waves.

Staring up at it, its lights reflected in her big green eyes, she wondered what it was and why Drakken kept it hidden. Thick cables issuing from the bowels of the pyramid led to a small control panel coated with dust. A computer terminal was right beside it, also dusty. Whatever the thing was, it hadn't been used in a long time. In a small bookshelf next to the panel were, besides a few books, manila folders stuffed to the breaking point. She took one down, looked through it. Folded-up circuit schematics; she shoved it back into the shelf without much more thought. Beside it was a spiral notebook, its cover a unicorn jumping over a rainbow. Scrawled across the picture, in Drakken's unmistakable handwriting, were the words "EXPERIMENT JOURNAL".

She knew she shouldn't read it. Why would she want to? It was Drakken's business. Besides, she was no scientist.

"Don't start snooping around the lair," came the memory of his voice, whining, nagging. "Now, Shego, while I'm gone, don't snoop around the lair."

She sat down at the computer desk and opened the book to its first page, excited by the certainty that she was breaking the rules. She'd left Team Go because of her brother Hego's inordinate passion for rules and regulations. She'd become a thief because there were laws against it. Mastered certain deadly fighting techniques because they were disdained by honorable martial artists. Joined forces with Drakken because, well, taking over the world was frowned upon.

Her whole life was built around breaking rules. Drakken's or anyone else's.

I, Dr. Drakken, it read, have decided to keep a running record of my greatest experiment. If this succeeds, none, not even the hated James Possible, can ever say they have achieved what I, Dr. Drakken, have: the ultimate artificial intelligence.

She was amused to see that he'd used his own name twice in a single paragraph. So the machine was some sort of computer whatsit. That figured. He might not be very evil, as evil went; he might have concocted the most ham-fisted, brainless "world takeover schemes" ever concocted – but he had a certain talent for robotics. The Bebes, for instance. Pretty ingenious, she had to admit. In fact, his excuse for villainy was that his college buddies jeered at his earliest attempts at robot girls.

She read on.

Moreover, it will be the ultimate weapon; I will arm it with missiles, bullets, blades, every destructive device known to man. How I will laugh when my machine destroys James Possible's progeny! The daughter of an astrophysicist and a neurosurgeon is nothing compared to the searing genius of Dr. Drakken! Perhaps she thinks she is all that, but she isn't. Hybris, the Greeks called it. At least I think it was the Greeks. Anyway, it is fatal, even in a teenage cheerleader.

This was going to get old fast. She'd seen countless machines fail to destroy Kimmie; that honour would one day be hers and hers alone. She looked the contraption over again; no weapons were visible. Was it finished? Was it even the experiment chronicled in the journal? She thumbed through the book, found a typically crude sketch of the big machine, a stick figure standing beside it. Drakken was no artist. Written below it was another entry:

Dreamed last night that I was shooting at the abominable teen with a slingshot; ran out of rocks and got kicked in the teeth for my trouble. Even in dreams I suffer defeat, but the day of victory is coming. While on my "thinking stool" this morning I realized this was a subconscious response to the ongoing project. Missiles, bullets and knives are out; I will install energy weapons instead. The matter converter I've mounted within it would make a fusion reactor look like a caveman's campfire; that will supply it with enough power to drive such weapons without fear of running out of ammo.

The lights seemed to be flickering faster now, casting strange shadows on the walls of the room. Shego didn't notice. Instead she flipped randomly through the journal.

Last night it amused me to watch some of the ongoing Fearless Ferret marathon. To my surprise, the new machine seemed interested as well. We watched the justly famous "Revenge of the Rainbow Renegade" episode together; it asked me many questions after the show, like a child trying to understand. Who knows what's going on in its mind, such as it is.

"Hey, Univac, what were you thinking?" she called out, halfway expecting a response. "No wonder you're down here in the dark, trying to make sense out of all that junk." There was nothing, of course. Maybe the sounds it made had developed an edge, a slightly untuned friction that had not been there before.

This morning it initiated conversation with me. At first I was elated, but as it spoke, elation turned to alarm. It repeated the plot of the Fearless Ferret episode we saw three weeks before, in the first person, replacing the Ferret and WW with Kim Possible and her buffoon. Worse, when I tried to correct it, it mocked me, making a yammering puppet motion with one hand. This has taken a nasty turn.

It doesn't have hands, she thought. It doesn't have speakers. It can't talk. It's just a big lump of machinery.

I could try to reprogram it, but something restrains me. I am intrigued. Not too happy, but intrigued. Maybe I can teach it that words can hurt.

A strange sense of alarm began growing, deep in the pit of her stomach, swelling within her like a balloon about to burst. She threw the journal down, impatiently tapped the keyboard's space bar. The dusty monitor came to life; she clicked the complex graphic readouts shut without a second thought, brought up Google. Her fingers flew across the keys.

Fearless Ferret Episode Guide.

She called up the find function, typed in Rainbow and let it rip. Episode #29. Rampage of the Rainbow Renegade. She was too agitated to gloat over Drakken's failure to get the title right. With a click, she brought up the episode synopsis, read it in stunned disbelief:

The Ferret (Timothy North) and his sidekick Wonder Weasel (Weasel Wisinski) meet Spectrum Supreme, a superhero team who got their powers from a rainbow coloured comet. Trouble begins when one of the Spectrums turns to a life of crime. (B & W; 30 min.)

"That's my origin!" Her voice echoed in the room. "They stole that from me." She glared at the screen, noticed the original airdate: April 20th, 1966. The show was older than she was. She clicked the find function again. September 7th, 1966: Revenge on the Rainbow Renegade.

The Ferret (Timothy North) and Wonder Weasel (Weasel Wisinski) are astonished when Green Girl (Debbie Lolapalooza) thwarts a crime at the annual Billionaire's Ball; trouble begins when they discover the villainous Ohm Ampere's moral polarity reverser has returned her to good – and made the rest of Spectrum Supreme evil. (Colour; 30 min.)

Trouble was beginning, all right. Searching for "Aviarius" led to a birdhouse factory, not the sinister master of flying death.

She tried something else. "Poeme electronique? What's that?" Clicking the sample evoked eerie electronic music: church bells and audio generators. She cut it off, hammered out "Go City."

She was born there. She knew its streets like the back of her hand. A sprawling metropolis.

The search engine turned up nothing.

She growled, deep in her throat, and kept typing, leaving Google behind. There were better, more detailed, much more illegal ways of getting information. Ten full minutes passed, as she became more and more anxious with every entry. Finally she pushed the chair back in defeat.

There were no archived news articles anywhere about her days as a hero, fighting evil alongside her brothers.

There were no records of her brothers, individually or as Team Go. No photos of the legendary Go Tower. No references to Aviarius, Electronique, Qua-Czar, Absolute Zer0 or any other villain Team Go had brought to rough justice.

With a snarl she yanked out her cell phone, called a number not even Dr. D. knew she had. Up to now she'd only used it for pranks.

This time she was serious. Dangerously so.

No one appreciates a phone call in the middle of the night. Kim Possible was no exception. "H-hello?" she thickly muttered, still groggy. "Whuzza sitch?"

"How's college life treating you, princess?"

"How'd you get this number?" She was instantly out of the bed, watching the windows, expecting an attack.

Just hearing the young woman's voice stirred up strange, contradictory emotions in Shego's heart. It had been quite a while since their last encounter. To touch her, hold her... kick her, punch her – "Never mind that. Dr. D. is playing some sort of mind game, and I need to talk to you."

"Talk? It's" – Kim's bleary eyes squinted at the clock – "two am in the morning!"

"Yeah, sure is. Listen. Remember when you met Team Go, and we fought Aviarius over the staff of power?"

"Huh? Who?"

"Aviarius. The dark master of winged mayhem. Nutty guy obsessed with birds. Had the flamingo of doom."

"Flamingo of – I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, don't you start it, now. What, has Drakken already talked to you? Is this all some kind of setup? Some stupid plan to teach me not to snoop around the lair?"

"Are you – drunk?"

"What about Electronique? I'm sure you remember Electronique. She turned me into a good guy. Girl. Whatever. Remember?"

"Look, I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude, but it's two am and I've got classes – "

"I stayed at your house. Taught a class at your high school. We saw The Memo Pad together at the Middleton Metroplex." There was a pause, and when she spoke again, there was a strange, strained tone to her voice. "Tell me you remember."

"I don't have any idea – "

The line went dead.

Something was up. The conclusion of the Lorwardian invasion had seemed to bring an end to Drakken's evil plots, but that phone call gave her the creeps.

Shego staying at her house? Watching movies with her? And the way she sounded, there at the last, so desperate -

Trying to shake off the gorchy feeling, she called Ron. By Sloth, Miskatonic U was only a few minutes away. And they had a mission. Maybe Shego was drunk, and that was all there was to it. Maybe something quite a bit more dangerous was going on. Either way, this warranted a look-see.

Team Possible was back in business.

Almost against her will, Shego picked up the journal. Her hands shook, and that made her angry. She considered just burning the thing and forgetting about it. It was obviously one of Drakken's mean little jokes. Senseless. Stupid. Just like he was. She wouldn't read any more.

Not another word.

Nothing ever works out for me. Why? Why? My greatest invention goes madder with every passing day. Instead of designing death rays and orbital weapon platforms, it wastes its incredible mind on tabloids and crossword puzzles. Our Internet provider cut us off because of its insatiable desire to illegally download hiphop mp3s. A week ago I caught it trying to get a suntan. A suntan! As if synthomesh could be influenced by ultraviolet rays. When I interrupted, it angrily flung plasma at me and returned to its sunlamp. At me! Its creator!

The original attack subroutine was intended to enable it to instantly recognize, close with and defeat my worst enemy. That has mutated into an S/M fantasy to rival anything from De Sade. I left a newspaper article about her among its magazines last night, while secretly monitoring its responses. As I expected, just reading her name sent both libido and id readouts off the scale. A good thing I didn't skimp on heat sinks and fans. Who knows what might happen if someone – even myself – came between it and my cheerleader nemesis.

In short, it is out of control. It has developed a mind, will, and even a persona of its own.

I can destroy it and try again, or I can accept what has happened and try to live with it, though I can hardly bring myself to even write it down: she believes she is a living being. There. And is that really so bad?

The bubbling lights that had washed so beautifully across the upper sphere were now jagged flashes of colour.

She is still the perfect thief, the perfect weapon, the perfect woman. I have not failed there. She is smarter than Kim Possible, smarter than her know-it-all daddy Jim. She may be smarter than me. Time will tell. And if she thinks she is alive, why should I insist otherwise? Let the world think so. She will be safer that way. That is the answer. From this moment on, I will no longer call her my invention. She is my... sidekick. She works for me. Yes.

Indicators nudged the red, sounds grew more discordant. She turned the page.

It. It, not she. I must remember that.

The record was almost finished. The final lines were intoned, so familiar that he could repeat them by heart: "A time will come - but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye." As he put the ancient lp back in its yellowed sleeve, a wave of nausea passed over him. At the end of side one he'd gone to the kitchen and cut himself a huge piece of French silk pie; the sugary confection was doing handsprings in his stomach.

"Shego," he began, "do we have any Pepto in the medicine cabinet?"

No answer.

"Shego!" He turned, for the first time since side two, and saw the empty chair. Across the room a small red light blinked its silent warning. The secret door had been discovered, the ultimate lock had been breached.

"Not now," he moaned. Not with the culmination of Operation Stargazer mere minutes away. He bolted for the door, knowing what he had to do, hoping he could get it done before the stars were right. A simple reboot. Delete some files. Make up something to fill the gap. Drunk at a party. Yes. She partied too hard the night before. That would work. She wouldn't question it. She was quite the party animal.

And after all, he'd done it before.

At the top of the stairs she stopped him, shoved the forbidden journal in his face. The other hand crackled with green flame.

"OK, April Fool's over. Do you think I'm stupid? Did you really think I'd fall for this? "

Think fast, Drakken. Play dumb. "What on earth are you talking about?"

"This notebook. That big machine in your stupid double-top-secret room. This whole goofy story about your greatest invention."

"Oh, that thing. It was a failure. A catastrophe. I just keep it around for the nostalgia value."

"Yeah, but this book... It sounds like you were talking about – about – " She looked at him, looked back at the journal, felt silly saying it. "About me."

He snorted in faux derision. Quite effectively. " You? Are you drunk? That all happened before you joined me."

"Huh? No. No, I'm not –"

"You aren't a robot. Android. Some sort of glorified remote-control waldo."

She frowned.

Too much detail! Get on with it. "Look at yourself. Could I make something like that?"

"Well, I – "

"Is this a joke? Are you playing games with me? A robot. Hmph. Remember the Moodulator incident? Could a Moodulator affect a robot?"

Just thinking about it lightened her mood. Under its influence, she'd chased him all over Middleton, throwing plasma bolts at his feet, until its microbatteries finally ran down. "The most exercise you'd had in ages."

"Remember the compliance chip? If you were a robot, I'd just reprogram you. I wouldn't need a thing like that to make you listen."

"And your stories," she said, more like herself, "your stories were awful! So boring!"

"Absolutely," added Drakken, all smiles. "And think of your brothers! Your life as a hero! All the things you did before you came here."

Her expression froze. "My brothers."

"Team Go! You all fought together. Champions of Go City. Remember?"

"Yes. I do." Fast as lightning, she grabbed Drakken's lab coat, pulled him to her, face to furious face. "I remember all about them, but no one else in the world does. No one but you. Why is that?"

"You've looked up The Fearless Ferret this time, haven't you?" A sheepish, apologetic grin. "I'm guessin' the Emotitron episode, the Obedience Disc episode, the Spectrum Supreme arc..."

Her snarl chilled him. The grin evaporated; he swallowed hard. "I've said too much, haven't I?"

He hit the floor hard, staggered to his feet. "OK, cards on the table, cards on the table. Things are going to get a little weird here, so just bear with me. This is the fourth time you've found that machine. I'm trying to - "

She broke in angrily. "Never saw it before."

"Just take my word for it, ok? This is the fourth time we've been through this. The first three times I just ignored you, hoping you'd forget about it. You didn't." He shuddered. "This time I'm going to explain it to you step by step, so that hopefully we can get through this without mayhem. Very shortly the interstellar conjunction will begin. I have no intention of missing that opportunity fixing – things." He cut himself off, as if he had almost revealed a lethal secret. "The Bebes' hive mind was an attempt to give them superior intelligence in a compact unit. It was a... qualified success."

"Which is also a qualified failure."

He ignored the barb. "But they couldn't pass the Turing test. In a natural conversation with a human being, can it pass for human? The Bebes couldn't. It isn't possible, even with hive mind storage, to construct a true thinking machine."

"Cut to the chase. What's the thing downstairs? What's with this journal?"

She was surprised by the vehemence in his voice. "I wish you'd leave things alone. I wish you wouldn't go snooping around the lair!" He took a deep breath, began speaking slowly, clearly, as if to a child. "My synthodrone Eric was a success, but it only did what it was supposed to do, and no more. Because its brain was in its head, and a computer that small just can't mimic all the ins and outs of human thought. It deceived Possible because she wanted to be deceived."

He paused, gathering his thoughts. Shego waited, silent, her expression inscrutable.

"I only had one unqualified success with my robot projects. My very first mad scientist experiment. A perfect human simulacrum with a wireless connexion to its brain. A computer big enough, complex enough, to imitate a human being's thought processes in every detail. An android that appeared, in every visible way, to be a human being. Well, almost. I sorta messed the flesh tone up. Never was very good at mixing colours – "

"Get on with it!"

"Together - together, they're you."

"You're – you're crazy." She laughed, an uncertain tittering. "Absolutely, completely, utterly out of your mind. And you're making me crazy with you."

"It's the truth. Please don't get freaky this time. I'm telling you everything. As God is my witness, it's the truth."

"It's a lie. A dirty, filthy lie."

"No. It isn't."

" I'll show you. I know how." She threw the journal down, ran back toward the secret room.

"Shego, no! Don't! " Drakken screamed, running as fast as he could. "Leave it alone!"

The notebook lay in the floor next to the orgone accumulator, fallen open to the crude sketch of the machine and its attendant stick figure. Two lines represented long black hair; the figure itself was drawn in green ink.

Not an operator. Part of the project.

She burst into the room, emotions so turbulent that she wasn't even aware of the change in the machine. The upper sphere was filled with bottled thunderstorm. Indicators were pegged in the danger zone, flowing oscilloscope waves had become neurotic scribbles. Even the sounds of the device had altered radically, the long, beautiful harmonies now screams of feedback and harsh, random bleeps.

Drakken charged in just behind her, out of breath. Running didn't come easily to him. "Stop. Just stop. It doesn't have to be this way. Stop thinking with your fuzzy logic and use reason!"

She spun around, screaming. "I am not your invention! I have a name – "

"What is your name, Shego? Your real name?" Maybe he could calm her down before plasma started flying. She couldn't accept a lie, she couldn't accept the truth – yes, her thought processes were definitely, undeniably, illogically human. Unfortunately.

"Shut up! Let me think. Everyone has a name. I have a name." The colossal device screeched and howled; a searing blue arc crackled across the globe.

Drakken flinched as if it had struck him.

Shego threw her hands to her head, cried out. "I don't know!" There were tears on her cheeks. "I'm crying. Machines don't cry. The Bebes didn't cry."

"You have a small reservoir which gathers condensation – "

She slashed a claw-tipped finger across her gloved palm, held up the bleeding hand. "You cut me, I bleed. I'm human. I'm human!"

"The synthomesh is self-sealing, and there isn't much artificial blood in it. Just enough to create the illusion." He stepped toward her, his arms outstretched, pleading. Everything was going so completely wrong. This was already a hundred times worse than the times before. "I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't want you to know. If someone found out, they might – "

"They might what? Might ridicule you? Laugh at you? 'Lipsky finally built himself a girl.' I'm not your girl. I'm not your puppet. I'm not your –"

"They might wreck you. Remember the Bebes. Remember Eric. Machines have a lot of weaknesses. People don't think twice about destroying them. I wanted the world to be afraid of you. I wanted them to think you were superhuman. You are superhuman. Look at you. You're perfect. Perfect!"

He was looking past her, at the giant computer.

"Talk to me! Not to that! Me!"

"You're going to hurt yourself. Stop. Please, Shego, stop. You – you are irreplaceable. I can't duplicate you. Just accept what you are. Nothing has changed. Nothing! You're a person. A person. Have I ever treated you as less? It doesn't matter what you're made of. I'm sorry I tried to hide it from you. Do you hear me? I'm sorry!"

"I hate you," she said, coldly and quietly. "Do you hear me? I hate you. I hate this stupid mind game. I hate all the time I've spent trying to help you. You're a lunatic, and this is the end. I'm leaving. I won't be back. Our partnership is dissolved. For good." She shoved him aside, walked toward the door.

"Fine. Fine, then. You do what you have to do. You do what has to be done."

She stopped in the doorway. "Oh, and by the way? Here's what I think of your lava lite."


A bolt of plasma hurtled over his head; he spun to see it crash through the screaming, howling computer, which was instantly silenced. A coolant hose lashed about, hissing like a deranged cobra. A second later the whole structure, weakened by the blast, creaked sideways; raining sparks, more exposed cables snapped free. He stared at the damage in disbelief, unable to take it in, unable to accept what she'd done. It's not so bad, he thought insanely. It's bad, but it can be repaired. It's bad, but she'll be ok. It's bad, but it's not –

The voice from behind him dashed and shattered any hope. It was still her voice, of course; the beautiful, perfect female voice he had spent hours tuning. But there was no longer any personality. An answering machine had more character.

"Unit... shego... requests... assistance – heuristic... routines...damaged... – fuzzy... logic... offline – cryogenic... memory... storage... overheating – " She stumbled toward him, her features blank, uncomprehending; he caught her as she fell. She weighed only a little more than a human woman, a miracle of lightweight alloys and synthetic musculature. Gently he placed her in the chair before the manual adjustment panel; as he did, her eyes met his, and for a moment she was Shego again. "See," she murmured, "I'm human." Lights flickered dully within the sphere. "See?"

"Of course you are," he told her, but she was gone. Her eyelids fluttered and closed; she went limp. The sphere went dark.

Great job, Drew, came the condemning thought. Yes, you certainly talked her through that one. The first three times he'd simply erased part of her memory. This time there might not be any memories left to erase.

The thought galvanized him into action. He had to get that coolant hose fixed before the cryonic memory failed, or the Shego he knew would be gone forever. He ran from the room, down the hallway, into the lab. Rummaged madly through the piles of equipment, looking for the right diameter hose. Nothing. No, wait, there was one. Deep within the guts of the orgone accumulator. Clutching a power wrench, he speedily removed the machine's access panel. A moment's tinkering and he had the hose; with it in one hand and a cylinder of coolant in the other, he ran back to the secret room.

Back to Shego.

Outside, the night sky was strangely illuminated by the clustering of stars in a formation they would not repeat for a hundred thousand years. It didn't matter. When he finally took over the world, he wanted Shego at his side. She was more important than world domination. Another day would come, another master plan would be devised. And she would be there with him, as it was meant to be.

He was up to his elbows in circuit boards when he heard the footsteps. It wasn't fair. There was no reason for her to be here. None. He slowly looked around at the figures in the doorway.

"Kim Possible!" he heard himself squall.

"Another doomsday device? Back to your old tricks," Kim chided him. "Even after a United Nations pardon. I guess some people never –" The lithe redhead trailed off with a gasp. "W - what's wrong with Shego?"

A red haze clouded his vision. She was wearing her super-powered battlesuit; he was the Master of Mystical Monkey Power, possibly the most powerful being on the planet.

He didn't care.

His Shego was sprawled there in the chair, helpless, unconscious, her mind shattered and shut down, maybe lost, and one thought thundered in his brain: They can't see her like this. THEY CAN'T SEE HER LIKE THIS!

With an animal howl he came at them, roughly hustled them through the lair, through the foyer, flung them out the door with a strength he never dreamed he possessed. Warmonga herself could have done no better. His rage had blinded him to reason, or he would have finally had one memory of Kim Possible he could cherish: the look of absolute terror in her eyes as he approached. But there was no time for such unimportant things. He had to help Shego.

Ron shook his head, painfully got to his feet. "Did – did Drakken just give us the bum's rush?"

Kim already had Wade on the Kimmunicator. "Something very, very weird is up. Have you got anything?"

"Looks like we had a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical alignment tonight. The orgone energy of the earth went completely off the scale. If someone captured that power, accumulated it, they could become – "

"Invincible," Kim breathed, eyes wide with concern.

"Godlike," whispered Ron, who had learned from Sensei that orgone energy was just another name for ch'i – the same force that gave him Mystical Monkey Power.

"Omnipotent," Wade finished. "But if Drakken did that, he did it thirty-five minutes ago."

He rushed back to the lab, back to his stricken creation, and took down a thick folder from its place on the bookshelf. Star clusters and orgone energy were forgotten. Threw the folder on a table, unrolled the schematics: page after page of circuit diagrams, biomechanical blueprints, arcane formulae. At the top of each was written, in carefully printed block letters:

"Synthetic humanoid electronic girl operative, V.1.0."

There was no emphasis on the acronym; he had intended to name it Juliette, after a character in a Robert Bloch story he read years and years before. Somehow, throughout the days and weeks of construction, he had begun mentally referring to it as S.h.e.g.o, and by the time it was finished he could imagine no other name for it.

Her. Not it. Her.

How could he ever think otherwise?

"Everything will be all right," he told the woman in the chair, as he feverishly welded broken supports, replaced fried memory chips, reloaded special software of his own creation. "Everything will be fine. I won't let you down. I –"and there in the lab he said something he could never, would never repeat. But it was true. Absolutely true. Every word of it.

He wiped the tears from his eyes and continued to work.

The Global Justice squad arrived an hour later, led by Possible and her boyfriend buffoon. He met them at the door, invited them in. He had nothing to hide. "Please be quiet. My – sidekick – had a bit too much to drink last night. She's resting now." With nothing but the deepest concern, he apologized to his enemy and her flunky. "I'm sorry that I was, er, so inhospitable earlier. Old habits die hard."

Kim's eyes were narrowed, cold. "What were you working on, then?"

"I'll show you." He led them to the secret room, a little parade. "It's a computer. One of the first ones I ever built. It had a malfunction earlier tonight; I was fixing it when you – dropped in."

"Always wondered what you kept in here," said a familiar voice. Shego had gotten out of bed, come down to join them. "Just another hunk of junk." The machine made beautiful purring noises as lights flowed across its upper sphere. "How you doing, Kimmie?" There was a certain sparkle in the beautiful brunette's eyes.

The sudden blast of electronic noise sent them all fleeing from the room, hands over their ears. "It acts up now and then," Drakken told them. "It is, after all, quite an old machine. No other one like it in the world. I just keep it around for nostalgia's sake. Shego, escort our guests to the kitchen, and we'll all have some cocoa moo. Did you know there was a remarkable stellar event tonight? We're lucky to live in such interesting times."

"Sure thing, Dr. D." She led the parade away; he leaned happily back into the room and cut off the lights. The machine sat alone, its flickering lights casting Christmas colours on the walls, the bookshelf, the folders of schematics and the notebook journal, and a book Drakken had owned since high school.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

He'd never read it. There were always more important things to do.