Disclaimer: if Disney owns it, I don't. Otherwise… Soundtrack for this chapter: a whole lot of music by Alan Hovhaness, beginning with Mysterious Mountain; Alice Cooper's Killer.
With tears running down her cheeks, the little girl clung to her mother, looked up at her with a devastating dose of the Puppy Dog Pout. "Please stay! It's been so long…"
It had been seven months since the crash of the Copernicus. In that time, Cinnabar Sunrise Stoppable had seen her parents a grand total of 11 days. She couldn't understand the psychic damage Morskopp's fanfics had inflicted on them, or Global Justice's enforced insistence on their submission to the Lipsky Technique. For much of those seven months they had been kept from the public, until telepathic probing could both remove the mental blocks and prove to Dr. Betty Director that they hadn't been turned into sleeper agents by the evil superspy's machinations.
All the child knew was that her parents had come back home, and she didn't want them to leave again.
The Lipskys had fared no better. At least, under GJ's advanced medical care, Shego had recovered from Deimos' lethal attack; maybe the agency's director realized the former villains were going to be their only superpowered allies, once Kim and Ron could return to normal life.
And if they don't realize that yet, Kim thought, they will when we leave this final debriefing today.
"Cini," she said, blinking back tears herself, "this is the last time. It'll only be a little while, and then we'll be home for good."
She kissed her daughter. "Really."
Ron stood by her, a troubled expression on his boyish features. It was hard for him to deal with emotional situations. Sometimes he simply allowed his wife to take care of it. This was proving to be one of those times. Still, he had to say something.
"Cinnabar, we'll be back in just a little while this time. I mean it. And –" he hesitated, unsure of what he was trying to say, " – we'll all go to Mooville and get ice cream."
Anne Possible stepped forward, took Cinnabar by the hand. Gave her daughter and son-in-law a brief, sharp glance, a look that said don't disappoint my granddaughter.
"I mean it," he repeated. "We'll be right back."
"Mommy, Daddy, look out for the lady with the eyepatch," the little girl suddenly announced. "I dreamed about her. She's bad."
With a silent green flash, they disappeared.
The Lipskys were already at GJ HQ when they materialized. Without any preamble, Dr. Director began to speak; her first announcement was dismaying, but not at all surprising. "We didn't find any sign of Gomro Morskopp in the wreckage. He's no novice at this. Been around a while. Probably had some sort of escape route ready in case the plan went south."
"Supervillains have more lives than a cat," said Drakken, shaking his head sadly. "They shake off spaceship crashes like water off a duck's back."
Shego added "Dr. D. and I were both on that side of the fence for a while, and we know."
Ron had a question. "What's a… while?"
Director glared at him, but finally deigned to reply. "In this case, since the early Seventies. He gave my predecessor a lot of trouble." That trouble had ended with her predecessor's explosive demise in a sabotaged GJ minisub, in fact, but she didn't see any need to reveal that.
Ron was still not satisfied. "Why didn't you warn us about him? It might have made things a little easier."
"What happened to the twins?" Shego suddenly interjected.
Director shrugged. "That's need-to-know."
"They almost killed me. I need to know."
"Yes," said Drakken, as his flower petals burst out with a pop. "We need to know." He stepped forward threateningly. "Surely you're not implying they survived that."
Global Justice's boss seemed unperturbed. "You survived it."
"If – er – Stoppable hadn't gotten his tech guy on the horn and given him the hovercar's energy signature, we wouldn't have. You people teleported us out."
"Then you owe us, don't you think?"
"I was in this before you got the Stoppables involved," growled the green woman. "I was taking care of it." She glanced at her husband's hurt expression and her voice softened for a moment. "We. We were taking care of it. You brought Kimmie and monkeyboy in. You muddied the waters. You owe us. And I want to know."
Without warning, Director stood up behind her desk and faced Shego, her voice harsh. " Sherri Lipsky, you couldn't handle a fraction of the things we know. There are worse things out there than Gomro Morskopp, believe me. Worse things than Phobos and Deimos."
"They weren't Phobos and Deimos any more, Dr. Director." Kim's words were quiet, even, but authoritative. "They were becoming something else. Said something about a 'collective.' There was cybertronic technology in the implants, you know. It can grow, mutate, evolve with its surroundings."
"Yes, I know." Director spoke with high disdain. "Your father has a big mouth. Perhaps someone should teach him how to shut it."
Ever the mediator, Ron tried to defuse the situation. "Are we done here? We have a little girl waiting on ice cream at home."
"Yes, we're done," Director snarled. "I've had your psychometrics checked and rechecked; you're free of the taint. Fanfic-dot-com is down and we have its perpetuators in custody."
"They probably had no idea what was going on," Ron said. "Who would?"
"Time will tell." Director pushed a button; a panel slid open in the wall. "We're finished. The teleportation centre is right down that hall; they'll send you back to your homes. GJ thanks you for your help," she said, her tone remarkably unthankful. "The gazuntite catastrophe was averted."
As the Lipskys, frowns on their faces, stalked down the hall, Ron stopped in the doorway. "What happened to Dishonor House, anyway?"
"There won't be any sneezing powder for a while, but that's what insurance is for."
"No big loss," he said with a shudder, remembering an incident in his youth. If he'd only been a little more careful opening that package… "At least the sea-monkeys survived," he told no one in particular. "Come on, hon. Let's get out of here."
Kim was still standing at Dr. Director's desk. "You go on," she said, gently. "I'll be right behind you."
He stepped back into the room; Kim silently motioned for him to leave. With confusion and more than a little worry on his face, he did as she asked. The panel closed behind him.
Before Director could react, she was pinned against the wall. "Now you listen to me, Betty," snarled Kim Stoppable. "We're done with GJ, done with adventuring, done with the lot of it. You won't make us do this again."
"You owe us your lives," hissed the GJ chief. "If we hadn't listened to Wade, you would have all died in the explosion. And we didn't make you take on the mission; you did that yourself."
"I don't think so." Kim twisted the woman's arm a little harder. "I think you knew I was struggling with Morskopp's mind control when you brought us here the first time."
"W – what?"
"I think you played me. Morskopp thought his stories would permanently demoralize me; you people knew my subconscious wouldn't submit to that."
"Aren't you the clever little cheerleader. So sure of yourself."
"You want to tell me you didn't? You people have some remarkable techniques for healing broken bones; Shego's doing fine now. Will they work as well on you?"
"Yes, we knew. We didn't know Morskopp was behind it, but we knew you'd been contaminated. Didn't expect you to send the stuff to Skinner, though."
"You used me. Used us."
"So what? Everything worked out, didn't it? You overcame your doubts. Shego recovered from her wounds. Drakken found his powers again. And Ronald, well, I guess he must have gained something from the experience."
Kim twisted the woman's arm one final, furious time, remembering her husband lying on the floor, there in the Space Center, and released her with a vicious shove. "I'm not joking. Get your spies out of our sewers, get your bugs out of our phones, and turn your teleporters in another direction. We're done here. For good. Now open that panel or I'll kick it in. And don't you dare sound any alarms or call any flunkies. They don't want to meet me right now."
Rubbing her arm, Director turned to her adversary, her gaze hard as flint. "This isn't over, Stoppable."
"It had better be." She hesitated in the doorway. "Some people thought I'd take your place someday. Some people sincerely thought you'd be a great role model for me, when I was a teen." She laughed, cold and staccato. "Just proves that people can be sincerely wrong."
Director stood there a full minute after the hatch had shut. Then she returned to her desk, got Hammond on the viewscreen. "Report. What's up with the twins?"
Hammond was a thin, balding man, nervous, secretly afraid of his superiors. "The stuff has spread throughout their bodies. They're as much machine as human now. That's how they healed so quickly. How they survived the blast in the first place."
"Can we dig it out of them?"
"No. It's in too deep." He paused, not sure how to break the recent development to his boss. Looked at his twin charges, at their blind, unblinking eyes, expressionless faces. At the small metallic nub that was slowly growing from the side of Deimos' head. "And it's regenerating itself."
"Of course it is. It's cybertronic."
"When it does, they'll come back online. The network will re-establish itself."
"Have you used the Lipsky device on them? Read their thoughts?"
"Can't. They're locked up. Application hang. Thoughts have to have a forward momentum before we can read them. Whatever their last thought might have been, it's waiting in their heads for the link to be restored."
"I want information, Hammond. I want to know how they adapted to the implants. What's going on inside them. Cyber-telepathic GJ agents would be a huge boon in the field."
"I think we should terminate the subjects and be done with it."
"How long will it take their systems to fix themselves? A week? A month? A year? Then they'll be at full power, and with who knows what sort of added capabilities as the thing continues mutating in their bodies. You really think we can handle that?"
"They're crazy, Hammond." Director sighed. Was she the only GJ agent with vision? "Most of the time they don't even know what they're doing. We can gas them, we can drug them, there are all kinds of ways to keep them under control until we have the secret." She was silent a moment. "Then we'll take your suggestion into consideration. Keep me posted."
The screen went dark. The twins, caught in their private, personal hell, didn't notice. Locked in both their brains was this thought pattern, crystallized, frozen, awaiting the moment of release:
Someday we'll find each other/ Someday we'll be whole again/We'll find her/Show her/All her fault/Someday we'll pay her back...
Outside night was quickly falling across the world of the sane and the normal, but for the things that had been Phoebe and Debbie Marrs it would always be night.
…Someday we'll show her what it's like to lose someone you love.
He sat before the computer in the harshly lit chromium cave of his emergency lair. Of course he'd escaped the Copernicus' destruction. It was a poor supervillain indeed who didn't have an escape route for every possibility. But the gazuntite was lost, his business connections revealed, his assets frozen, his plan in tatters. It was time to lay low for a while, let the trail grow cold.
It was time to put more effort into Plan B. It didn't need gazuntite or spacecraft or henchmen. Just a laptop and an Internet connexion.
Fanfic-dot-com was gone, but there were other fanfiction sites. He wouldn't even use a different name. Why should he? People regularly used shocking names as nom-de-plumes online. It was a vicarious thrill for them, a chance to be a bad guy. A thrill he had made a dark reality in his own life. Since the world-wide, multi-lingual broadcast proclaiming him Public Enemy #1, the pseudonym "Gomro Morskopp" and variations thereof had metastasized throughout the Web.
Over a hundred thousand, claimed Google.
Let's see GJ or the Stoppables or the Lipskys find me in all that, he thought, and grinned, a huge, terrible, toothy grin. The sinister shadow of his giant nose fell across the keyboard. One day he would rise again. The next time, despairing and demoralized by his insidious fanfiction, the whole world would be his handkerchief, and he would blow the nose of domination from horizon to horizon.
He began to type, and the words he typed were these:
Kim slowly drifted out of dreaming back to consciousness, her hand on her husband's chest, his strong heart pulsing beneath her palm. Her own heartbeat increased in response; her breathing grew heavy as a smile played about her lips.
"Ron," she whispered in his ear, her body trembling…
This would be his magnum opus.
All three of the Stoppables agreed: the lemon ice cream at Mooville was particularly tasty that night. On the way home, they laughed and smiled as they hadn't in quite a while, and when the youngest Stoppable fell asleep in the back seat, the adults went on in satisfied silence.
For the moment.