Author's note: I really hadn't planned on doing any multi-chapter stories, but almost immediately after posting CLIQUE CLIQUE, two thoughts entered my head: 1.) that the title was an INCREDIBLY lame pun, even for me, and 2) the dozens of possible consequences of Kim posing for a calendar. The notes started piling up on the Blackberry and here we are. Having read CLIQUE CLIQUE isn't necessary to following AT THE CENTERFOLD OF THE STORM, as I've tried to make sure that any pertinent story details that the reader should be aware of have been recapped sufficiently. As the two stories have decidedly different tones and themes, I made the decision to keep them separate. Of course, it you want to go ahead and read CLIQUE CLIQUE first, it's a brief 1520 words, but the last time I checked, it wasn't showing up under a search by title, so you'll have to search by author instead. Legal stuff: Kim Possible, Frugal Lucre, Professor Dementor, Wade Load, Bonnie Rockwaller, The Doctor's Possible, Dr. Director, the Tweebs, Team Go and all other characters borrowed from the wonderful KP Universe are the creations of Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, and those names are all trademarks of the Disney media organizations. Although use in this context is probably considered fair under parody law, just in case: this work was not created for profit, no money changed hands etc. Anna Stein IS original to this manuscript, but I release any claim to the character. If you want to use her for your own dastardly purposes, go right ahead… but treat her like a lady. Also, this story takes place at a time at which all characters shown should be considered to be over the legal age of 18… except, obviously Wade and the Tweebs. Finally, the M placed on this work is provisional. I know where the story is going, just not the exact route that it will take to get there. I do promise, however, that there will be no appearances by Bobo the Chimp. Maybe.
AT THE CENTERFOLD OF THE STORM
By SHADO Commander
"Oh my God, there's a SCREENSAVER too?" Kim Possible growled, not believing what she had just seen, and, even worse, where she had seen it: Repeated a hundred times on every monitor in Professor Dementor's latest stronghold.
It was hard enough to fight evil when all you had to face were henchman intent on beating you, but when they came at you with glazed, drooling expressions and you had a sneaking suspicion they had been beating off TO you…
So the drama.
Never mind, she plowed through the massed minions, scattering lecherous underlings like kindling to the wind and rewarding the odd punch that connected or grope that gripped with a savage kick that shattered hands, fractured tibias and made noses go crunch with a sickening sound like celery being snapped off in someone's skull. If these idiots wanted to ignore the unwritten rules of engagement, she was oh so happy to return the compliment. At the end of a sharp snap kick to the groin.
Okay, so she'd been a little testy about how some super villains had reacted to that photo. Most of them couldn't resist sneaking in some kind of leering dig, but the one thing that was consistent was that she was no longer a "teen hero" in anyone's mind.
No, she didn't regret doing it. The X-Middleton Cheerleader calendar that she, Bonnie and the other former members of their award-winning cheer squad had posed for had been done for a great cause that she believed in. She just hadn't expected it to be quite as… successful as it was. Of course, the X-Maddogs calendar that Ron and the football players had shot also made fantastic numbers… just over 5 million copies, which in the calendar market was like headlining the hardcover bestseller list for three straight months… and at last count had plunked nearly $18 million dollars into the "Rebuild Middleton" fund that the graduates had agreed to donate all of the profits to. That was no small achievement and Kim made a point of always trying to refer to the calendars in plural. However, even she slipped at times, and she supposed that it was a little hard for those who hadn't been directly involved with the project to remember it. Not when one considered that the Cheer calendar had rocketed past the X-Maddogs to become the best selling calendar of all time. Kim still had trouble believing it, and had given up keeping track when the sales figures passed over 100 million copies (after all the various formats and the 17 different language versions were tallied together.) It was just too much to process… especially when it was her picture on the cover and as the photo spread for December.
Completely nude except for a conveniently placed snake.
Leaving a pile of broken, groaning and possibly never able to reproduce henches on the floor behind her, Kim quickly checked the GPS on her Kimmunicator and headed for the zone Wade had marked as Q7 on the map. As she mounted the stairs, another set of henchmen arrived, all dressed in the same ink-stained coveralls and wielding a variety of blunt instruments. She targeted the biggest, a dim-looking ape with a monkey wrench who'd made the mistake of standing in front, grabbing his baggy uniform and using him as a ladder to vault over the others. Suddenly behind them, she took advantage of their surprise and shoved the entire pack down the stairs as a single unit. It was a hefty drop and gravity did the rest for her. Slamming and locking the secure door they had just exited behind her, she continued her thrust into the lair.
Oh, nothing had really been visible of course… the snake actually covered more than her normal bathing suit, and at the time Kim had felt that it was relatively tame compared to Bonnie's shot. THAT image, modeled after an original by someone named Betty Page, had raised quite a few eyebrows with its overt bondage elements, but it was Kim's tribute to the classic Avedon/Nastassja Kinski photo that had become the focus of all the talk. Especially since the same image was repeated AGAIN on the cover of NEWSTIME the week before the calendar came out, fronting the article where she, the other cheerleaders and Ron had explained how Middleton was desperate for rebuilding funds in the wake of the Lowardian invasion, and how they had agreed to do the calendar at the request of Mayor Frugal Lucre, as a way of literally keeping the lights on after dark in their hometown. Kim had also used the article to emphasize that she'd a "closed-set" policy on her very brief shoot, with only the female photographer and her female assistants present. After all, as a cheerleader, it wasn't as if she wasn't used to being nude around other women in a locker room, but the presence of a camera changed everything and she'd wanted to be very clear on what the conditions of what she'd done were. Which was why, when Bonnie's private photographer had provided a whole file of "behind the scenes" shots of her scandalous shoot that had clearly NOT had a "no-males" policy , Kim had been compelled to authorize the release of a single longer shot of her own shoot, just to show that HER shoot hadn't been like that. In retrospect, Kim wished she'd been a bit more careful in okaying the image that she did, because she'd been so careful making sure the naughty bits were covered that she hadn't looked at her face in the shot. It was only the third image that had been shot and she simply hadn't realized how nervous and vulnerable she had looked in it, which ultimately bothered her a lot more than the fact that someone on the internet had eventually blown up the tiny image to reveal a stray wisp of pubic hair behind the snake.
Kim guessed it said something that she cared a lot more about the fact that the world had seen a crack in her emotional armor than that it now knew for sure that she was a natural redhead.
She was getting close to her goal now. The two henches she took out in the long hallway weren't even expecting a fight, but she took them down as a precaution. A side sweep sent the first into a wall with a head-cracking thud, the second got a punch in the throat that left him gasping for air, unable to stop the elbow that connected with the side of his skull, sending him to an early bedtime. It was overkill, but she wasn't about to leave her back uncovered.
What really had taken time to get used to was that while a lot of people had KNOWN who she was before, now she was RECOGNIZED everywhere. In the course of just a few weeks she had gone from being a basic, average girl who could walk on the street almost anywhere in the world completely incognito, to someone who often had to wear disguises, even wigs, just to go shopping. The release of the calendar had been like a flag announcing she was fair game for the paparazzi, and her favorite store, Club Banana, had been completely off limits ever since the rack of calendars went up at the front register. Even now, in late April, they continued to move at a steady pace, and with every unit sold brought the city between 4 and 6 dollars closer to restoring Middleton to what it had been before the Invasion, the local store had a special display in the front window. The last time she'd tried to go to CB during business hours, she'd come out of the changing room to find over twenty people standing there, waiting for her with brand new calendars they wanted signed. She'd obliged, but had had to politely refuse autographing certain other items that were proffered… even they were brand new and just paid for, signing underwear was just NOT something she could do. After that, Monique and Wade had come up with a way for her to preview the new clothes over her Kimmunicator so Mo could then bring the ones she was interested in to her house for a private fitting at her house, but she hated the idea of inconveniencing her friend like that.
And then there were the posts to her website. Wade screened those and notified local authorities where necessary.
That attention had been a big part of her decision not to go to college just yet. Despite having been offered scholarships from dozens of major universities, she'd first put off the fall semester while helping organize the rebuilding efforts, and then between the world-saving thing and suddenly living her life in a goldfish bowl, she'd decided to give it at least one more semester for everything to calm down. If it was still bad after that, she'd look seriously at starting her studies online. Both Yale and Harvard had actually offered to custom design courses for her… but again, she hated the idea of inconveniencing anyone.
And the truth was, as annoying as the current situation was, it was bound to pass eventually and she suspected she'd be feeling even guiltier if she hadn't done the calendar. They'd all known it would make money based on last years school calendar, so saying no would have felt like a slap in the face of the people and town that had nurtured her. Hard currency was scarce, assets limited and credit non-existent unless you were willing to pay rates that were literally criminal. And if you were waiting for the federal government to help you with rebuilding, good luck. The lines to FEMA stations spread out over two thirds of the country were every bit as nightmarish as the ones after Katrina, although at least the organization that had been lacking then was gone. No, the problem was just that there were too many places that needed assistance all at once. Kim had been in Upperton just last week and the formely thriving metropolis still looked as bad as Middleton had just weeks after the Lowardians had been repelled. By comparison, Middleton's recovery was almost miraculous. Sure, there were still a lot of empty spaces where flattened buildings had been, but they were clean empty spaces, devoid of the rubble and twisted rebar that still littered the streets of Upperton, and many of the now empty lots already sprouted a fresh crop of surveyors' markers. City services ran without interruption, working parents had daycare, everything was slowly going back to normal.
And the story of Upperton was repeated just about everywhere the Lowardians had landed attack units. True, Go City didn't look quite as bad as most, but they had a resident team of superheroes helping with the clearance and rebuilding, and Team Go had wasted no time in knocking out a calendar of their own when the cash returns on Ron's and Kim's. Perhaps, though, their choice of a "Zodiac" theme had been unwise. The vision of Hego wearing cow horns as Taurus the Bull had almost caused Kim to choke to death on a Naco salad, and the Wegos were still refusing to acknowledge which of them had posed as Virgo. Still, that calendar was out there and it WAS putting money directly back into Go City's struggling economy.
So no, she didn't regret doing the calendar, not in the grand scheme of things. It was just that she wished she'd been better prepared for how that one hour with a photographer would turn everything in her life… well, if not upside down, then definitely skewed to a whole new angle.
She'd reached the end of the hallway without further interruption. According to the grid on her Kimmunicator, the objects of her quest were in the next room. Sure enough, the door to what the map said was a huge warehouse-like area was labeled Q-7. Someday the supervillains were going to catch on to the fact that designing your lair on a PC with internet access was like giving Wade the keys to their kingdom, but it was obviously something Dementor hadn't snapped to yet.
Taking a second to gather her breath, Kim switched the Kimmunicator to read heat sources. Sifting out the big machines in the middle of the room, she counted nine living bodies, one of which was probably PD himself. She gave herself a few more seconds, making sure there wasn't another person hidden within the heat signature of the machines. This was going to be really dicey as it was.
Like an idiot, she hadn't even thought about the fact that her parents were going to see "the photo" until she'd seen the first printed proof herself. When it hit, however, it brought with it as close to a panic attack as she'd had in years. She was legally an adult, of course, and didn't need their permission, but she'd been holding her breath when she'd finally shown the chosen image to her mom. And then there'd been that long, horrible moment, when her mom's hands had gone involuntarily up to her mouth, when the tears had formed in her mother's eyes. Her heart had dropped into her stomach until her mother had suddenly grabbed and hugged her with a soft "Oh Kimmie!" Eventually, between the sniffling, Kim had been able to work out that it wasn't the content of the picture that had made her Mom upset, but rather what it represented. "I think your father would call this a parental paradigm shift," her mother had finally sighed. "You risk your life almost every day, take more responsibility than most people twice your age, but it took this picture to hammer in the fact that my little girl is her own person now."
Dad's reaction had been a bit more guarded. Kim had let her mom handle the dirty deed of showing him the picture and she hadn't heard any screaming or threats to send the photographer to Neptune. The closest he'd really come to a direct acknowledgment was a soft "I guess so much for the no boys rule now, huh?" But he'd smiled when he said it, and when she hugged him she knew everything was alright.
And as for the Tweebs, Kim wasn't sure if her brothers' jaws had come up off the floor yet. Every time they looked at her, it was as if she'd grown wings or a second head. Come to think of it, from their point of view maybe she HAD grown some extra appendages.
But the reaction that had really altered everything had been Ron's. She'd gone over to his house to find him flipping through the galley proofs, a strange, unreadable expression on his face.
"I keep looking at this," He'd said, sounding as lost as he had that one horrible summer they'd gone to different camp. "And I keep wondering if this is all I'm supposed to feel?"
Unsure of what to say, she'd responded simply by sitting next to him on his bed, placing one small hand on his shoulder. She'd known all too well what he meant. Ever since they'd started dating, there'd been a sense of awkwardness between them, but this was the first time either of them had brought it out into the open.
"There's something missing, isn't there?" She asked, finally finding the words. "With us?"
"Yeah," Ron had sighed. "I mean, I look at this picture and I know I should be aroused but…"
"It's like looking at your sister," She'd filled in. It wasn't hard to guess. She felt for him the same way she did the Tweebs.
Ron tossed the proof aside and wrung his head in his hands. "It's not that I don't love you K.P., but I just feel terrible that there's no spark. I mean, I look at Tara's picture… even Bonnie's… and I… I feel things that I don't feel for you."
It had hurt, like a punch in the stomach, but at the same time she was overwhelmed by equal waves of relief and guilt. Relief that it was finally out in the open. Guilt that she'd let it go on for so long. She thought of all the nights she'd spent lying in her bed, wondering if she'd been making the worst mistake of her life by taking the easy path.
"It's okay Ron… " She'd said at last. "You've been my best friend forever. Maybe we were just asking for too much. To hope we could be everything for each other."
The tears were flowing down her face, but the smile on her lips was reassuring. "You're the most wonderful boy… man I've ever known, but I don't want to risk losing what we have… because we weren't able to give each other what we need."
And like that, they were back to being just friends. Best friends. And they were both fine with that. More than fine. For the first time since kicking Shego into that electrical tower, she felt she was herself again, not someone playing a part.
Unfortunately, unlike Kim, Ron hadn't had managed to keep his grade point average up to the level where he had college offers to spare, and when he got an offer from the Cordon Bleu in Kobe, it was too good an offer to pass up. Kim suspected that it might have something to do with a certain other school he'd attended in Japan, and perhaps a certain fellow student, but Ron had always been fairly close-mouthed about what went on when he was over there.
Which was why Kim was currently slogging and punching her way through Dementor's deranged band of manners-deprived deviants all by herself. It wasn't how she wanted things to be, but she'd found that she couldn't not keep trying to save the world, even if Ron was on the other side of the planet. And this particular mission was much too personal to let Wade slide it over to Global Justice or Team Go.
Kicking in the door, Kim burst through, immediately firing her grapple to the roof at the far side of the room. A quick push of the retract button and she was over the heads of the first group of underlings. At twenty feet in the air, she could see that her total body count was correct and there were no other hidden surprises. Releasing the hook and retracting the grapple, she dropped to the top of the largest machine , where a length of pipe had been conveniently left.
The use of weapons was a new addition to Kim's array of fighting patterns, but after a nightmarish encounter with Duff Killigan, she'd started learning a dozen new forms that favored them. Escrima, the Filipino martial art that used sticks in a variant of fencing, was one of the ones she'd mastered first and there was almost always something that could be turned into an impromptu yantok or dulo y dulo… even a rolled magazine could be lethal. As a reserve, she also now carried three flat throwing knives, one in her right boot, one taped to her upper arm and one that was actually inside the Kimmunicator and could be ejected by a code whistle. She preferred to keep those a secret, however, and in this case the six foot length of pipe was more than long enough to wield as a stave or bankaw.
With a scream, Kim fell on the horrified henchmen, giving no quarter. After a leering Killigan had made all too clear what he was going to do to Kim once his goons had her tied and bound, she'd made an oath that she'd never let herself get in that situation again. A golf club, ironically, had been the weapon of Duff's doom, and the sheer terror of knowing that she was going to be raped had given her the strength to break half the bones in his body as well as a good percentage of his henchmen's. When he finally got out of the prison infirmary, Duff was never going to putt straight again… and in his case, the answer to the question "what does a Scotsman have beneath his kilt" would be nothing. Nothing at all.
The combination of a merciless Kim Possible and a six foot steel staff was too much for the overmatched hirelings. Six were on the ground, unconscious or incapacitated, one was wedged between the giant drums of the huge machine, and the eighth was now collapsing as Kim's bankaw broke his jaw.
That left Dementor himself, who was cowering behind the crates of his own contraband and frantically stuffing some kind of foreign currency into a bag. He froze as she leaped atop the boxes and took careful aim with the staff.
"Nein! Not mit der hitting, Fraulein Possible!" Dementor begged pitiously. "You haf already beaten mein henchman! Haf mercy! I surrender!"
"Surrender?" Kim snarled back. "You should have thought of that the last couple of times you escaped after 'surrendering.' This time Dr. Director just said she wanted you brought in, she didn't specify a physical condition."
The terrified Teutonic face went white inside his helmet as Kim used one foot to pop open the top of the nearest crate, just to confirm her suspicions. Yep. It was filled to the top with Counterfeit X-Middleton Cheerleader calendars… this year's pictures, next year's days and weeks.
"You REALLY stole from the wrong people this time," Kim smiled as she raised the staff.
The "gonging" sound his helmet made as she connected reverberated though out the entire lair.
Later, as the Global Justice pickup team finished prepping the wreckage of Dementor's conies for their trip to a holding facility, Kim looked again at the box of fake calendars. She knew what it meant, that she had to come to a decision soon.
When they asked her to pose again, could she tell them "no"?