Disclaimer: if it was on TV, it's not mine. Soundtrack for this chapter: Bone Palace Ballet by Chiodos; Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious by Diablo Swing Orchestra.
Kim slowly drifted out of dreaming back to consciousness, her hand on her husband's chest, his strong heart pulsing beneath her palm. She felt her own heartbeat increase in response; her breathing grew heavy as a smile played about her lips.
"Ron," she whispered in his ear, her body trembling. Lately Cinnabar had been having trouble sleeping; for nearly two weeks they'd been awakened by the five-year-old standing beside their bed, asking Mommy and Daddy to let her sleep with them. But tonight there had been no interruptions, and Kim had every intention of seizing the moment.
"Ron," she said again, her voice uncontrollably husky.
He stirred, mumbled. "…Room full of feathers, Kim…"
That wouldn't do. "Ron, wake up." She gently nipped his ear. "Wake upppp…"
His hand came up, covered hers. "Lazy gravity," he murmured, and returned to snoring.
"Oh, good grief." She sighed. "Ron!"
Brown eyes snapped open in the darkness. "What?"
"Honey… I love you…." She snuggled against him as he turned in the bed. Her eyes half-lidded, sensual.
An unfamiliar voice broke in. "Miss Possible – er – Mrs. Stoppable, you might want to hold that thought."
Husband and wife came bolt upright, holding the covers to their bodies. Lights came up to reveal the bed encircled by Global Justice agents.
"Ok, what – is – the – sitch?" Ron snarled, a split second before his startled wife could form the words. "Why are you goons in our bedroom?"
From the darkness above them Dr. Betty Director, head of the clandestine organization, descended on a hoverpad. This time she was wearing the eyepatch on her left eye; apparently she hadn't realized that everyone knew she only wore it for the shock value. "Actually, your bed is in the goons' headquarters. A trick we learned from Dementor's personal teleportation belt." She paused to let that sink in. "We have a mission for you."
"Been living underground too long, Betty." Kim spat the name with distaste. She'd been doubtful about turning the mad scientist's device over to GJ's leader, despite her husband's insistence; sure enough, it had come back to bite them. "We don't do missions any more. We have a daughter. A life. "
"Where is she? Where's Cinnabar?" Blue light flickered faintly around the angry young man; GJ agents shuffled uneasily, tightening their grip on their stun batons, not at all certain they could handle the Master of Mystical Monkey Power if he didn't want to be handled.
"She's fine." A giant screen lit up behind Director, revealing the little girl playing with GJ agents, the floor covered with toys. "We're looking after her. We think of everything, you know."
Ron's eyes narrowed. "I can tell you one thing you haven't thought of. Ever see The Incredibles? –"
Kim elbowed him beneath the covers, gave him a knowing glance: Let them find out for themselves.
Director ignored the cryptic comment, proceeding with the business at hand. "Someone has stolen the world's supply of pure gazuntite."
"Who sneezed?" husband and wife asked in unison.
"No one sneezed."
"Then why'd you say Gesundheit?" Kim asked.
One of the GJ men spoke up. "Yeah. You did say Gesundheit."
Director's face grew dark. "Agent, when I want your opinion, I'll have you filled with truth serum." She turned back to the Stoppables, her words a professional staccato. "I said gazuntite, not Gesundheit. G-a-z-u-n-t-i-t-e."
Ron was confused. "I thought that was how you spelled Gesundheit."
"No, that's G-e-s-u—"
The conversation had become a Gordian knot; Kim cut it. "You want Drakken and Shego. They're the crook-catchers now. Brought in Phobos and Deimos last week. It was all over the news. Maybe you missed it."
"No, Mrs. Stoppable," Director said, dryly, "I didn't miss it." On the viewscreen, three GJ men went flying unceremoniously across the room; Cinnabar giggled happily, surrounded in blazing blue light, and jumped out of camera range.
Ron laughed, snorted, composed himself. Their daughter couldn't maintain it for long, but she was already on a power level several times that of Ron's adopted sister, Hana. Sometimes he wondered what the teenage years were going to bring.
Director eyed Ron strangely, unaware of the televised chaos behind her, and continued her tirade. "Phobos and Deimos are hardly master criminals."
Kim's tone was sharp. "They were good enough to bring your best men down. With Zodiac Gas." The twin terrors' most feared weapon, Zodiac Gas forced its victims to imitate the qualities of their astrological sign. KXKVI's news report had lingered quite a while on special agent Will Du, crawling around on his knees, holding his hands out like claws, viciously pinching anyone who got too close. The effects lasted a full forty-eight hours; using a large seine, GJ had netted the unfortunate Du and carried him back to HQ.
Du had resigned not too long afterward, going up north to sell used weather machines. Apparently there was quite a market for them there.
"Be that as it may," growled Director, "Drakken and Shego are not the kind of people that Global Justice recruits."
"And we are?"
"You don't have the sullied past those two have. Your record speaks for itself." She softened her tone, gave Kim a pleading gaze; it wasn't quite the Puppy Dog Pout, but it was close. "We need your help."
Unexpectedly the young woman heard her voice ask "What is gazuntite?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, KP!" The nickname would never vanish from Ron's vocabulary. "We aren't doing this any more, remember?" He glared at Director. "Teleport us back home. We're done here."
"Gazuntite," Director said, scowling at her men, silently daring them to comment, "is the active ingredient in sneezing powder."
Kim frowned. "Oh. Well, that was sure worth disturbing our rest. Are you afraid this'll put some practical jokers out of business?"
"Ha ha ha. No, Mrs. Stoppable, I'm not worried about practical jokers. The gazuntite in sneezing powder is one-billionth the strength of the shipment that was stolen. It was on its way to the Dishonor House Company when the crooks intercepted it."
"Dishonor House?" In spite of himself, Ron was interested. "Biggest name in pranks and goofy gimmicks ever. I ordered a Super Whoopee Cushion from them once." His voice grew wistful. "Took it to school with me. Boy, that was great." He grimaced. "Until the beatings started, of course."
"They have the world's largest gazuntite processor. The raw ore is brought to the factory and diluted to safe levels. Well, as safe as sneezing powder gets." She looked as if she might have more than one bad memory connected with the substance. With a twin brother like Gemini, it was entirely possible.
"Do we know how they got it?" Kim asked, feeling the web grow tighter, almost relishing its grip. I said we, not they, she thought. Do I miss it that much?
Director produced a remote control; with a click the giant viewscreen left the desecrated nursery, where bruised and battered agents nervously watched Cinnabar playing with Cuddle Buddies. "This is satellite footage." A massive armored transport rumbled across the spring landscape; sinister figures descended from overhead stealthcopters, zeroing in on the vehicle.
Kim was impressed. "Don't see that sort of competence among henchmen very often."
"Exactly my point." They had speedily burned a hole through the top of the transport, attached cables to the crate within. In another moment the copters had lifted it from the machine, hurtled off into the distance. "One more reason I need you and your husband, not Drakken and Shego." The disgust in her voice was palpable. "This calls for seasoned crimefighters, not mountebanks and Johnny-come-latelies."
"Yeah," Ron interjected, "you lost me. But we're not doing this. Are we, Kim?"
"Right. I mean, no. No, we're not. Doing this. I mean, there's our daughter. My folks are too busy. You know, Dad has that new rocket project. And Mom's hours… you never know."
Ron nodded. "You never know."
"And – and your parents couldn't look after her just a little while. Till we finished. The mission."
"No. They couldn't." Again he favored the head of Global Justice with the evil eye. "Send us back home. We're done here."
Director descended further, handed Kim a small device. "In case you change your mind."
"We won't," said Ron. "So send us back."
He was looking at the walls of their bedroom, the familiar chest of drawers, the curtained window. "Where were we, Mrs. Stoppable, before that interruption?"
But Kim was out of bed, throwing on a nightgown, walking from the room, her words floating back to him in the near-darkness: "I – I need a drink. Of water," she unnecessarily amended.
A second later he heard his daughter's excited chatter, telling Mommy about the funny dream she'd had, and the silly men in it. "And there was a pandaroo there, Mommy. Your favorite."
No nightmares tonight, he thought. Not for her. He sighed. He'd call his parents tomorrow. See if they could watch Cinnabar a few days.
There was a mission in his future.
"Retrieving it is worth a lot to us," Tom Median, CEO of Dishonor House, Inc, told the woman facing him. "We're talking five figures here. No less than five figures. If you bring it back undamaged, undiluted, unpolluted."
"And the first of those five figures would be a nine?"
"Aah… more like a five."
"Make it a seven and it's done."
"Then it's done."
"You won't be sorry." Her gloved hand reached out; Median shook it gravely. Of course the joy buzzer went off; the woman ignored it. Took all the fun out of the gimmick. "Shego and Drakken are on the case. You'll have your shipment back by Friday."
"Ten thousand a day. We're worth it."
When the emerald harlequin was gone, Median looked at his hand. Five small pinpricks. He hadn't realized the woman's glove was clawed. Five little crimson droplets.
That was fine. Some things were better sealed in blood.