Darev: Third update in a week. I haven't written this much in a long time. Don't think I can keep this pace up, however, so I'll need to take a break. Besides, I have to start preparing for an interview. One never knows when one might hear the phrase "you're hired" and in this economy that's saying a lot.
Finally out in the mist, Kim and company get their first real taste of what it's like in enemy territory for once. Though they have an expected guest accompany them along for the ride. A couple of close calls and a surprise rescue put this as one of the most exciting chapters to date.
Thanks for all the reviews, guys. And a special thanks to Cerberus 13 for getting this fic up to 60 reviews!
"This is the stupidest idea I've ever been a part of," Shego muttered.
"Shh!" Kim said beside her, though the raven-haired woman couldn't even begin to see her face. The mist shrouded everything. Shego could barely see her hand gripping Kim's forearm, resisting the urge to dig her gloves claws into the soft flesh and rend it, a payback for putting her life in danger. Of course Shego was no stranger to danger. It was the closest thing to a lover she had. But she was one used to being in control. Putting herself in a situation in which she had no idea she could get out of unharmed was unsettling to her. Shego had no idea what they'd be up against out here. She didn't know how to fight this enemy. In short, the unshakable woman was frightened.
She could feel Kim's tension even through her glove. The girl was trembling a bit as she led Shego and Ron into the parking lot. So far they had managed to cross the gap between the sidewalk and the first aisle of cars unscathed. No monsters came to attack them. In fact, they could hear nothing in the gloom aside from their own individual breathing. Shego heard her own breath and took stock of how strained it felt. She was really scared. Her. Shego!
Feeling her way forward with her other arm, Shego felt it bump against solid steel. She heard something else...Ron cursed.
"What is it?" Shego instinctively flared up her free hand, thinking something was attacking him.
"Turn that off!" Kim said in the loudest voice she dared. Only when Shego did as she said did the redhead explain. "Ron just hit his foot against the curb. He got startled, is all."
"Sorry," Ron's voice came from far to Shego's right, beyond Kim.
Sighing, Shego knew they were really in for it. How could she let Kim talk her into this stupid plan. Anyone who's ever read National Geographic or watched the Discovery Channel knew that smeared blood could be an attractant as well as a repellant. Sure having the kite-thing's blood all over them my deter smaller animals from going near them, but it might also attract one real big one. Shego had encountered a few of those when she and Drakken made their narrow escape. Now here she was with two bumbling teenagers covered in alien blood. She may as well have covered herself in barbecue sauce and rung the dinner bell.
"Come on!" Kim led them into the aisle, trying to keep the closest row of cars near Ron's right while they proceeded towards the north end of the lot. Shego opened up all her senses. She relied more on hearing than anything else as her eyes were useless and her sense of smell was about as weak as any human's. Moreover, she relied on her sixth sense to alert her of danger. She tried to feel the area around her, looking for potential threats. more than once she thought she spotted something near her, a shadow or an image, but it turned out to be nothing but swirling coils of mist.
"Princess, this is a really bad idea."
"You can always go back," Kim whispered, doing her best to sound brave.
"And say I let you save the day while I cowered in that second-hand store? Forget it."
"Hey!" Ron's voice spat. "I work in that store!"
"Quiet!" Kim told them both. "No talking."
Shego rolled her eyes. As if Kim was listening to her own advice.
They walked for several minutes with no word passing between them. It's funny, but they half expected the lot to be filled with the corpses of dead bugs from last night's culling. Perhaps the dactyls had been thorough in their hunt, leaving nothing behind.
"Are we there yet?" Ron asked all of a sudden.
Shego resisted the urge to kick the boy's mouth shut. Didn't he understand what silence meant? If only he were next to her she'd...
What was that?
Squinting, for it was human nature to rely on one's eyes in a hostile area, Shego tried to see futilely through the mist. She turned her head and listened instead. There was something not far from them. It sounded like a metal pole scraping against the concrete. At first it was just one, then three, then several. "Uh, guys."
Kim was still in the process of reprimanding her boyfriend when Shego spoke. "Possible! Stoppable!" Shego spat. "Listen!"
They did. When they heard it, Shego felt them both grow stiff with fright.
"What is that?" Ron's voice asked.
"A limping telephone pole. What the hell do you think it is, you moron!" Shego didn't wait. She pulled Kim and Ron towards the nearest car and said, "Get under. Now!"
"Shego we don't,"
But the woman cut Kim off. "Now, Princess!" Forcing Kim and Ron under the SUV, Shego scuttled along beside them. They waited in baited breath as the sound got closer and closer. Whatever was making that noise, it was big. Really big. The ground actually began to tremble as the thing grew closer. How the humans wished they could see for their hiding place seemed futile indeed at anything that could make the ground move like this. Even the SUV trembled as the steps, for they were steps, finally reached their position. It was big enough that they could just make out a looming shadow crest the extreme periphery of their vision. Something resembling a large leg, crustacean in form, stabbed the ground just a foot from where Kim's face was. She covered mouth to avoid screaming and watched as another leg pounded down next to Ron.
Shego bit her teeth. She felt like a little girl hiding under her bed, unable to cry out for her mother. She hated that feeling. Shego didn't get scared.
A sound escaped her lips. A whimper. The two legs remained where they were. Then a sniffing sound filled the air. It came from several feet above their heads. Shego must have guessed that the nose, if that's what it was, was at least three stories above their heads. She cursed Kim for convincing her to smear blood on herself. The thing would surely find them now. How could she have been so stupid?
That's what you get for spending all your time with an idiot. His stupidity has rubbed off on you.
Ron and Kim were shaking like newborn babes. Shego didn't blame them. In all likelihood they were about to die. Well Shego didn't plan on going down without a fight.
One of the legs went up, chipping the concrete floor before landing a few feet away. The other leg followed and soon the large crab-like monster was moving down the aisle, away from their position. The trio waited a long time, a full three minutes, until the creature was long gone before climbing out of their hiding place.
"Everyone okay?" Kim asked.
"Scared, KP. But alive."
Unknown to them, Rufus poked his head out of Ron's pocket, shaking like he'd lost all the warmth in his blood. "Bad thing! Bad!"
"Easy, Rufus." Ron patted his head.
"Can we go now!" Shego urged. She was glad the mist covered her frightened face. She didn't want Kim to know that she'd been spooked. "It might come this way again."
"What was that thing?" She heard Ron ask.
"A hunter," Shego said. "These are its hunting grounds."
"You see?" Kim said. "The blood works. It didn't smell us."
"Maybe we're not it's type," Shego told her. "Some hunters only eat a certain type of food. Like those pterodactyls did those giant dragonflies."
"I'd hate to be the thing that fits into that thing's stomach," Ron said.
Shego nodded and didn't say anything. "Let's go!"
They walked two steps before Kim cursed. "Oh shit!"
Shego looked back, realizing that in their rush to get moving they hadn't clasped hands again and were separated. She couldn't see Kim even though her voice wasn't far. "What?"
"I...I'm not sure where we are."
Kim sounded exasperated. "I got turned around after we hid. I'm not sure which direction the car is now."
"Didn't' you say the north end?" Shego asked.
"Which way is north?"
Shego almost screamed. "Are you kidding me?"
"What was that sound?" Ron's distant voice said. "KP? Shego?"
"Where are you, Ron?"
"I don't know."
"I can't see you."
Shego felt something brush against her. "Ron?"
"Unless Ron's grown a pair of tits, I suggest you let go of mine," Shego told her.
Gasping, Kim removed her offending hands. "Shego. Where's Ron?"
"I don't know!"
There was another sound in the distance, getting closer.
"Kim!" Ron sounded terrified. "Where are you?"
"Over here, Ron! Follow my voice!"
"I can't tell where it's coming from!"
"Over here! Just listen!"
Shego grabbed Kim. "Lower your voice."
"Why? They can't hear us."
"We don't know that." Shego tightened her grip on the girl's arm. "We don't know they can't smell us either. Now stay here." She pulled Kim towards another car and placed the girl's hand on it. "I'll go get your buffoon."
"Shego!" Kim protested. "I won't leave Ron."
"I'm not asking you to. But you're in no condition to look for him at the moment." Ron's voice sounded more distant, calling to both women. "I'll get him and come back."
"What if you get lost too? You might not be able to find your way back."
"I have a better sense of direction than you. Besides," Shego sniffed at her. "I can smell you a mile away now." It was a lie, Shego knew, for the mist seemed to steal away scent almost as completely as it did sight. Shego could barely smell herself and she was covered in blood. "I'll be back, Princess." Letting Kim go, Shego hurried into where she believed his voice had come from.
"Moron!" Shego whispered loudly. "Hey, Ron! Where are you?"
His voice came from far away. "Kim! Shego!"
"Stop yelling!" She tried to be heard through the mist. Her stealthy footsteps seemed unnecessarily loud and Shego winced each time her soles touched the ground. I can't believe I'm risking myself for the buffoon. Kim's been a bad influence on me as well as Dr. D.
It was only a few seconds but it felt like minutes. Shego wandered around a good distance but still couldn't find Ron. He stopped calling out just a little while ago. She feared the worse. "Dammit! Of all times to learn how to keep his mouth shut. Kim really knows how to pick them."
Something moved. Shego stopped and listened in, her hands outstretched and ready to flare up at a moment's notice. "Ron?"
Something smacked right into her. Terrified, Shego ignited her hands and started thrashing like a crazed animal.
"Wah! Shego!" Ron's shrill voice scared her more than his sudden appearance. Apparently the boy could move quietly when he wanted to.
"Get off of me!" Pushing him off, Shego quickly got up. "What the hell are you doing?"
Ron's figure stood up before her. "I thought I heard something."
He said nothing.
"Ron, you realize I can't see you shake or nod your head, right?"
"I shook my head."
Shego cursed inside. "Stay close to me." She took his head and put it on her shoulder. "I'm going to lead us back to Kim."
"Is she okay?"
"Last I saw her."
"You can see in this stuff?"
Shego sighed. "Just follow me." They moved quickly back the way she had come from. She wasn't entirely sure it was the same way, Ron's sudden collision having thrown her off her direction, but she was pretty sure. Her woman's intuition hadn't failed her yet, except on those few rare occasions, and they didn't count anyway.
She stopped to listen. "What is it?" Ron asked.
"I thought I heard something?"
"Oh." She felt Ron slump.
"Come on!" She felt a car to her left and ordered Ron beside it. How she wished she could see what was coming. Trained or no, it was infuriating not knowing what you were up against. Readying a plasma blast, Shego glanced back at Ron. "Can you control that monkey magic of yours?"
"Tai Shing Pek Kuar? Not so much?"
She sighed. "You're useless, Stoppable."
"That hurts, Miss Go."
"What did you call me?"
"What? That is your last name, right?"
"Don't you ever call me that again." Now Shego did flare up. It chased away enough of the mist that she was able to see Ron's frightened face just a foot away from her. "You hear me?"
Ron wasn't visibly shaking now.
"Take heed, dummy. I'm more dangerous than anything we'll find in this mist."
But Ron wasn't looking at her. It took Shego a moment realize this. He was looking over her, behind her, and above. "Buffoon?" Shego, her hand aglow, raised it up and saw what he was staring at. The giant crustacean, or whatever it was, was standing right over them. Shego held very still, her hand still alight.
"Don't move," she told Ron.
She didn't have to. The boy was scared stiff.
The sniffing sound came again, somewhere up in that huge disk-shaped body of the beast four stories up. It was bigger than Shego thought. She just hoped that Kim's theory proved correct and that it could not s...
Something came down at them, fast and hard. Ron screamed.
"Ron?" Kim had heard him scream enough times to recognize when he was in trouble. Though unable to see and going against Shego's orders, Kim moved away from the car. "Ron!" It was dumb making so much noise but Kim was desperate. She'd never been in a sitch she couldn't handle before. It was breaking her down bit by bit. Not caring who, or more importantly what, heard her, Kim started running towards the direction she heard Ron scream.
"Ron! Umph!" She almost ran headfirst into a parked minivan. Cursing, Kim hopped atop the vehicle. Standing tall, she listened for her lover's voice. The mist distorted sound as easily as it did sight, making spotting something ludicrously difficult. She could just make out Ron screaming, Shego blasting away at something, and a monstrous gurgle that sounded like a drowning giant. Did Shego kill it, she wondered? Or was that just how it normally sounded? It was an awful noise.
"Shego!" She called out.
"Kim!" Her rival called back. "Help!"
Shego calling for help? She must be desperate indeed. "Where are you?"
"Just follow Ron's screams!"
"Ron!" Kim hopped onto the next car, which turned out to be a convertible and she fell down into the back seat. "Oh for the love of...I hate this mist!"
Something scuttled beside the car. It was a good thing Kim was lying face-first in the back seat else she would have been skewered alive when two massive pincers clamped down on the edges of the car. Kim turned around just in time to see the pincers lift the convertible into the air. "Not good!" Moving to the front seat, Kim worked her way onto the hood of the car. Now suspended in the air, unable to see how far the ground was or anything else for that matter, she felt a rush of heat above her and saw something, a mouth maybe, a void of teeth rotating inches above her.
Reacting, for that was what she did, Kim hopped off the hood and grabbed the bender, dangling. The teeth shredded the steel to bits where she was just standing. Looking down, Kim knew she was taking a risk. If she didn't prepare her fall accordingly, she might well break her legs. Spotting something to the side, Kim crawled her way underneath the car, the way one would monkey bars at a park, just as the front half of the convertible was torn right off. Bits of metal oil fell around her. Something hard smacked into the back of her shoulder and Kim winced as she felt clothing and tissue being torn away. It had probably been an engine part, and it cut right down her shoulder blade all the way to her back.
Clinging by one arm now, Kim saw the large appendage or whatever not far from her. With all of her strength and endurance, the girl flung herself off the bottom and grabbed for the feeler. Once Kim brushed against it, clinging to it with her one good arm and wrapping her legs around it, the feeler began to twitch and fling her about. Sliding downward, Kim waited until the last possible second before letting go. Her timing was good and she let go about six feet off the ground, the feeler retracting into the mist. Kim rolled with her fall, coming up unscathed save for the nasty gash across her back.
Metal crunched above her. Kim jumped just as the wreckage of the convertible crashed down right she where she had been standing. Kim came up running, for the creature was right on top of her. The pincers came down again and crunched into another parked car. Kim bobbed and weaved, using the cars as coverage from the monstrous thing. She'd no idea how big it was, but knew running out in the open was suicidal with its great reach. The packed car lot provided her with ample obstacles to slow the creature down. Always moving, Kim never looked back.
She ran and slid underneath a large four-by-four, wincing as her wounded back skinned across the pavement. No sooner was she on the other side when the pincers crushed the vehicle below. How the hell was it following her, she wondered? Perhaps the kite thing had been its food and as far as the monster knew Kim was its favorite snack. It's not like she hadn't been chased by things that wanted to eat her before, but this time was different. This time Kim felt a burgeoning sense of dread.
Kim flipped over another van, ducked around a truck, and leaped through an open car window. Taking a breather, Kim listened and waited. The wound in her back was really starting to hurt but she needed to get her bearings. She'd lost track of Ron and Shego and could have been heading in the wrong direction for all she knew. For the longest time, not a sound was heard. Kim slowly got up, listening for sounds of approach. What she did hear was someone's ragged breathing. Peering over the front seat, Kim spotted a young man of Asian-American origin huddled in the backseat. He looked ragged, as if he hadn't' eaten for days. Then Kim remembered the host of people that had left the Smarty Mart when the mist first fell.
"What are you doing here?" She asked the man.
Wide-eyed, for he must have been all alone for a long time, the man couldn't even speak. He just stared at Kim, shaking, as if she were some mist monster.
Glancing once outside, Kim turned to him. "Listen to me, I can get you someplace safe, but you need to trust me." She reached for him. "My name's Kim Possible. Who are you?"
The man cringed and began to cry out. He was terrified.
"Shh! Keep your voice down!"
He screamed, huddling away from her.
"I'm trying to help you. Please don't..." The pincers clamped down outside and pulled the car up. "NO!" Kim yelled as the car was pulled up by its backside, sending her crashing through the front mirror. Kim back flipped and landed safely on her feet, though she had been cut by the glass. Grunting, she heard the man screaming as he and his car disappeared into the mist above her. There was a metal grinding, tearing, and more screams that were suddenly muted as the pincer monster moaned.
More glass and metal showered Kim and she had to move quickly. Running as fast as she could, Kim tripped over a curb and fell onto the ground. She was near car bumper and looked up into a man's face. She almost cried out until she realized he was hiding underneath a car just as she had done not too long ago. As startled by her appearance as she was by his, Kim motioned for him to follow her. "You have to follow me. It's not safe under there."
The man made no move to comply.
Behind her, Kim heard the sound of metal and glass hitting the floor, getting closer. "Come on!" She grabbed his arm. "We have to go!" He came out remarkably easy, too easy. Now Kim did scream. She didn't need to see everything to know that just about everything beneath the chest was gone, just gone and eaten. The man's stare had been a dead one. Whatever he was hiding from beneath the car had managed to get to him after all.
Shaking, Kim turned around to run. "Shego! Ron!" She cried. "Rufus! Monique! Dad! Mom! Anybody!"
She heard a crunching sound and something hit her from behind.
The lawn scissors seemed pitiful indeed against whatever was chasing them. Ron ran as fast as his legs could carry him, not caring to be quiet anymore. Shego was right behind him, her movements lit up through bursts of plasma as she fired away at the monster behind them. "Keep moving!" She ordered him.
Pointless. Ron would have run to the ends of the earth if it meant escaping this nightmare.
Rufus poked his head out of Ron's pocket. Catching a flash of the thing behind them, he ducked back down. How Ron envied his friend, being able to hide while he had to face the music.
Ron crashed into a car that had been parked in the middle of the driveway. No. Not parked. Turned over. It was lying on its side. "Some park job."
"Move it!" Shego barreled into Ron, who then barreled into the wheel. Spinning, he turned around just in time to see a hooked leg crash into the floor in front of him. A strong hand grabbed him and pulled him around the vehicle. Shego pulled Ron down to hide. The car had a sunroof on it with the window broken. "Do you want to die?" An aggravated Shego asked him.
Before he could respond, Ron winced as the creature bumped into the side of the car. They both got up to run but instead hit a solid wall. "The fuck!" Shego screamed. "Are you kidding me?"
"Um...Shego?" Ron caught her attention just as the car went flying right at them. Grabbing Ron as he screamed, Shego pulled him down again. A loud crash echoed through the lot as the car was crushed against the wall. Luckily both Ron and Shego were ducking. Even luckier they were for with the sunroof broken, there was just enough space for them both to avoid being crushed. They both blinked their eyes open, now inside the upside down car.
"Jurassic Park," Ron said.
"What?" Shego gasped.
"You never saw Jurassic Park?"
"Who the hell cares about that now?"
Ron chuckled. "If only you knew the irony."
The monster outside crashed against the car. The whole thing began to bend.
"It's going to crush us!" Ron wailed.
"I have eyes, you idiot!" Shego flared up.
"You can't start shooting in here."
"You might blow something up."
"I'll blow you up if you don't let me go!"
Rufus ran out of Ron's pocket. Seeing the situation, the naked mole rat ran out through one of the dents in the steel car, squirming outside.
"Some friend. Your rat's abandoning us."
"No," Ron said. He watched Rufus go. "No he's not."
Kim felt a warm hand clap over her mouth before she could yell out. A voice began speaking to her. "It's me."
Kim's eyes widened. She waited for the hand to remove itself before turning around. "Josh?"
He nodded, though she could barely see it.
"What in the world are you doing out here?"
"Saving your ass." He pulled her behind a car. "And you're welcome."
Still in shock, Kim peeked over the hood of the car as if she could see anything. "Why are you out here? I thought you were still in Smarty Mart?"
"I couldn't stay."
Josh stared at her through the mist. "I couldn't just sit around and do nothing anymore. That's what happened to Tara." Then he said, "She died because I just stood there. She's dead because of me."
"Josh, now isn't the time to,"
"I want payback."
That froze Kim in mid-sentence.
"I'm going to kill each and every one of these goddamn things. I can't kill them if I'm hiding."
He pulled away when he felt her reaching out to him. "Don't misunderstand. I haven't forgotten what we talked about. When I learned what you planned to do, I wasn't going to get left behind. I was halfway through the lot when I heard you three. How stupid are you to talk so loud while in the mist?"
Kim sighed. "Thanks for saving me, Josh."
"Whatever." He stood up. "Where's your car?"
"I'm not sure. We got lost and then separated."
Kim's hand grazed his shoulder. "You're not covered in blood."
"It was a stupid idea."
Kim grimaced at that. "It was all I could think of."
"And has it been working so far?" Josh peered over the vehicle.
"Not that I can tell."
"Then it was stupid." He grabbed her. "This way."
Kim felt herself being guided rather roughly through the parking lot. "Where are you taking me?" Then she heard the sounds of battle. From far off, Kim could have sworn she heard a familiar female voice scream the "F" word before going silent. There was a loud crash.
"I figured I was somewhere between the two of you," Josh said. "I just happened to find you first."
"How did you find me?" Kim asked, running now that she figured where Ron and Shego were.
"Luck." Josh picked up the pace as well.
Deciding to leave it for now, Kim ran as fast as she could. Then she heard a car horn honking. "Hang on, Ron. I'm coming!"
"What is that?" Shego asked when she heard the car horn.
Beside her, Ron said, "Rufus."
She glanced at him. "What?"
"We're both good at distractions, remember?" Ron said. "It's what we do."
Suddenly the attack on the car stopped and they heard the creature retreating. Once it was far enough away, Shego blasted the ruined door off and stepped out. The horn was coming from somewhere to her right. "What the hell is your rodent doing?"
"He must be leading it away so we can escape. I told you Rufus wouldn't just leave us like that."
"Nice pet." Shego spoke with a hint of respect.
"Now let's go get him." Ron ran, but Shego grabbed him. "What? We need to go save Rufus."
"What we need is to find Kim's car."
She could feel Ron's eyes bulge. "We can't just leave him!" He started to pull away. "That thing will eat him!"
"He's tiny, Stoppable. He can move a lot faster and quieter without us bumbling humans around. Trust me. He'll be fine."
"I won't abandon my best friend." Shego heard something tear as Ron pulled away from her grasp. "Rufus! I'm coming, buddy!"
"Oy!" She ran after him, lighting up so as to better see him. "The things I do for idiots."
Whoever as honking the horn was causing such a racket that Kim and Josh had no problem finding the source. Neither did the monster chasing Shego and Ron, apparently. A green Chevy was the culprit, and at the wheel was a tiny pink rodent hopping up and down. Rufus knew he'd succeeded when the monster jabbed a spiked leg through the hood of the vehicle, spearing it. Realizing his time was done, Rufus leaped out of the open window. The creature shredded the car to pieces.
Groaning, Rufus slowly got up only to be nearly stepped on. "HEY!" The naked mole rat screamed just in time before a white sneaker nearly crushed him. Amazingly enough, Kim heard the rodent and looked down.
"Rufus?" She bent down for she still couldn't see him. Rufus clambered up her side and onto her shoulder. "Kim!"
"Ron's pet?" Josh's voice said to the side.
Before she replied, Kim heard something. "Move!" Grabbing Josh, she pulled him to the side just as a pair of pincers struck the ground they were on. "Guess he's back." Kim turned around. The pincers retreated into the air.
"Rufus!" Ron barreled right into Josh Mankey. The two boys fell over. "You're not Rufus."
"Get off of me!" Josh pushed Ron off.
A flaming green woman appeared right next to the teenagers. Shego gawked at them. "What the hell is this? A Middleton reunion special?"
Above them, the teens and woman heard the two monsters battling it out. Apparently they wanted squatting rights to the human food below. The ground shook with the sounds of their battle. Legs and pincers kept spiking the ground, dangerously close.
"I think we should get out of here!" Kim said.
"Good call." Shego led the way.
"But Rufus!" Ron complained. Kim handed the mole rat back to its original owner. "Rufus! KP, you saved him!"
"It's what I do, Ron. Now run!" They ran as far away from the battling monsters as they could, all of them following Shego as her green fire lit up the night. Once they'd put enough distance between them, the humans finally had a chance to rest.
Shego spoke first. "Exposition. What's heartbreak boy doing here?"
"Heartbreak boy?" Josh repeated.
"He saved my life, Shego."
"I repeat. What's he doing here?"
"I'm going with you," Josh told her.
"Says who?" She eyed him.
"I don't need your permission."
Kim stepped between them, that is, she thought she did. She couldn't see either of them so she had to guess based on their voices. "Guys! Can we do this some other time?" In the distance, the monsters continued to battle. One of them would win eventually and no doubt try to claim the spoils. Kim wanted to be far away when that happened. "Let's just get to the sloth and get out of here. We can argue on the way to the hospital."
She could feel the two glaring across the mist. "Okay?"
Shego sighed first. "Fine. So where is the sloth?"
Now it was Kim who sighed. "I'm not sure."
"You really didn't plan this out didn't you?"
Now Kim glared in what she hopped was Shego's face.
"The wall," Ron's voice said.
"What about the wall?" Kim asked.
"It's on the parking lot's west side. We can use it to trace our way north until we reach the end. Then we just follow the line of cars to Kim's sloth."
"But how do we find the wall?"
"Shego?" Ron sounded like he was looking for her, his feet scraping the floor.
"What is it, dolt?"
"Can you flare up again?"
"Are you kidding?" She said incredulously. "And have those things chase us?"
"I noticed I could see better when you were fired up."
"So could those things apparently."
"Wait a minute," Kim began, "You mean they can see us in this mist?"
"Your blood idea wasn't exactly a home run, Princess. That monster had no problem tracking me and the buffoon."
"While I got through unbothered," Josh said. "Didn't come across anything while moving through the lot."
"Okay! So my idea was a bomb! Can we move on please?" Kim grumbled. "Turn on the light, Shego."
After a moment's hesitation, Shego did just that. The mist evaporated around her and one could clearly see her image, if a bit distorted. "Happy now?"
"Ron?" Kim said.
When Ron moved closer to Shego, he became more visible as well, as did Rufus, sitting on his shoulder. He took a quick look around to take advantage of the visibility and get his bearings. "Right." He pointed. "This way. Shego, stay close to me."
"I've heard that one before." Shego did as he said and followed, Josh and Kim right behind. More familiar with the layout of the parking lot, Ron seemed to know where he was going, the same way he would know how to navigate his room while in the dark. Soon a dark barrier loomed before them, the wall. "Come on." Leading the way again, Ron took them down the line until they'd reached the end of the lot. A car with its door opened lay discarded by the entrance, the passenger long gone and no doubt lost to the mist. When they reached the end, Ron did a quick right, using the rim of the lot as guidance that was in full view of Shego's light. He counted quietly to himself, recalling the number of spaces Kim had parked away from the wall. At twenty-seven, he stopped by a familiar vehicle.
"Nice work, Ron."
"Ahem!" Shego cleared her throat.
"You make a good nightlight, Shego," Kim said as she pulled out her keys.
"I'll nightlight you," Shego moved to the passenger said, glaring at Ron who tried to go there instead. He backed off and took the seat behind her instead. Once everyone was inside, only then did Kim breathe a long sigh of relief. She turned on the car and brought up a map of the city on the display. It appeared on the front-view mirror for all to see.
Smarty Mart was located on the outskirts of Middleton proper, about a quarter mile from the main highway that ran along the length of the city's west side. Kim traced a line from Smarty Mart using her finger, a red line appearing in her wake. "Middleton General's up here," she stopped her finger on the city's north side. "It's about a twenty minute ride."
"With clear visibility and no monsters, you mean," Ron said.
"Thirty minutes then. We'll stick to the side roads."
"Fifty minutes," Shego said after checking her gloves.
"I'll try to drive as fast as possible, but we need to be careful." Something howled outside. "I guess somebody won."
"And we won't if we stay here," Shego nudged Kim in the shoulder. "Start driving."
"Don't push me."
"Ladies!" Josh snapped. They both looked to him. "Just go!"
Shego was about to retort but when the howl sounded out again, closer this time, she stomped her foot. "Go!"
Kim did just that. She activated the car's motion sensor, a device that acted much in the same a bat's echo would enable it to circumvent a pitch-black cave without the use of its eyes, and rolled the sloth out of its hiding place. On the window, the sensor detailed a picture of the ground around them. Kim could see the outline of cars and other obstructions and was easily able to make her way out of the parking lot. Behind them, the creature howled again, but the humans were long gone.
The drive was eerily silent. No one said anything and aside from the incessant beeping of the inboard sensor, there was no sound. The world outside the windows was dead, like they were driving in a grave. Middleton was a vibrant town of about thirty thousand souls, even greater if one included the greater Tri-City area of Lowerton and Upperton, for a total of nearly ninety-thousand people. One could only imagine how far the mist had spread. Those inside felt like they were the last inhabitants on earth.
Kim kept to her word and took the side roads, avoiding the main streets where she knew traffic congestion would be at its worst. Citizens no doubt scrambled when the mist came, many abandoning their cars in the middle of the road and seeking shelter elsewhere. She wondered, as they bypassed several buildings, if anyone was inside of them. She wanted to stop and check each and every one of them, but knew that they didn't have the time. Her mission was to save those still trapped in the Smarty Mart. If people were indeed hiding, they would have to wait for help.
But I'm supposed to be the help, Kim thought. She helped people. It's what she did. You're a lie. 's words came back to haunt Kim at that moment. Here she was just leaving survivors to their own devices while she helped those closest to her. It was selfishness. That's now how heroes acted. They never played favorites. Kim was becoming a horrible person.
Looking at the rearview mirror, she spotted Ron just staring lifelessly outside the window. Ron. He'd changed so much since Kim knew him. Gone was the upbeat, charismatic boy she'd come to love. This experience had hardened him into something cold, something Kim couldn't feel kindness from anymore. He had threatened Justine and Bonnie with their lives. Threatened. Ron never wanted to hurt anybody before, even his worst enemies. Kim had to save Ron for his own sake, else she might lose the man he once was.
Though she couldn't see Josh, Kim could feel his eyes upon her. She recalled their near confrontation back at Smarty Mart and how angry he had become. He blamed her for Tara's death. He blamed her for their breakup. What else would he blame her with down the line? The mist? The situation at Smarty Mart? The deaths of everybody in Middleton, including his own parents? Kim would have to keep a close eye on Josh in the near future. She still wasn't happy he'd chosen to come along even if he had rescued her in the lot. He was too unreliable to be of great help at the moment. He was as much a threat to her as the woman sitting beside Kim.
Glancing once at Shego, Kim noticed she was looking down at her hands. So defeated, Kim thought. Shego almost looked like she had given up. Did she blame herself for what happened to Dr. Drakken? Was it all somehow he fault? For that matter, what were she and Drakken doing in Middleton in the first place?
Kim gulped. "What were you doing in Middleton?"
"You're interrogating me now?"
Kim kept her eyes on the sensor map but kept speaking. "No offense, but whenever you and Drakken are around it's never to see the sights. What were you doing flying over Middleton?"
"We have a base near here. You do know that right?"
Kim nodded. "I know. But,"
Shego sighed. "Look, we weren't doing anything wrong. Not yet, anyway. Drakken needed to pick up a few things and he needed the hovercar so I went with him."
"You were grocery shopping?" Kim asked in disbelief.
"Villains gotta eat too."
"And he couldn't' do that on his own?"
"You think one of the most wanted men in the world can just stroll into a the local market and pick up a few eggs? The color of his skin alone would draw attention."
"And yours wouldn't?"
"I can avoid being seen when I want to."
"But then you'll have to pay for the food."
Shego chuckled. "Who says I pay?"
She had her there.
"So you were heading back to the lair when the mist arrived?"
"So why were you heading in the opposite direction?"
Shego looked at her.
"Your lair's on the east side of town, near the mountains. Smarty Mart is all the way on the west. You mean to tell me your car broke down, you were caught in the mist, and just happened to limp all the way across town until you reached the store? That's a long walk even for you, Shego."
The woman crossed her arms. "You're saying I'm lying?"
"You're saying I'm wrong?"
In the back, Ron's interest was peaked and he listened in.
"Shego, I know you. You're never anywhere by circumstance. You and Drakken were up to something and I want to know what it was."
"None of your business."
"Look around you, Shego. My town is covered in fog and I have no idea what's going on."
"Whatever. The point is, something weird went down and I have a feeling, a gut feeling, that you know more about what's happening than you're letting on." Kim glared once at her. "You're too smart to play stupid, Shego. Don't kid yourself."
"A compliment and an insult all at once. Am I rubbing off on you?"
Feeling her fingers grip the wheel tighter, Kim grit her teeth. "I'm not in the kidding mood. Drakken's going to die if we don't succeed in this mission. We both have people we care about whose lives are on the line. If we're going to work together, then we need to trust each other."
"That's a first."
"No it isn't," Kim said. "Remember Aviarius in Go City? We teamed up then, and we did the same thing when Electronique made your brothers go rogue. We've worked together in the past and things always went well. I'm not saying we have to be friends, but we can at least be honest with each other."
"Fine." Shego sighed. "I kissed my first boy when I was twelve. My favorite flavor is strawberry. I lost my virginity in the back of..."
"She's playing mind games with you, KP." Ron spoke up. "It's how she gets you."
"Look at the buffoon being all analytical." She glanced at him through the sideway mirror. "You've grown a pair since I last saw you, Stoppable. What toughened you up?"
"I lost someone."
"Someone I know?"
Then Shego said, "And you hate yourself for it."
Ron grimaced and turned away.
Back to Kim, Shego said, "That's how you analyze someone, Possible. Know their weaknesses."
"You're not as tough as you think you are, Shego."
"Oh, Kimmie. I'm so much stronger than you will ever know."
"I doubt it."
"Fine." Shego crossed her arms behind her head. "Live in alone in that river in Egypt."
She almost wished Bonnie were here instead of Shego. At least it was possible to get an argument out of Bonnie, whereas Shego avoided the conversation with the grace of a ballet dancer. The woman was a master at mind games, far more than Kim could ever hope to be. Let her keep her secrets for now, Kim thought. Sooner or later, all snakes have to come out of hiding.
Josh said nothing the entire trip, though Ron noticed he'd been fidgeting, like he was uncomfortable or expectant. Was he worried about something? It was stupid of him to join them on their expedition. Josh was an artist, a painter and a poet. He wasn't a fighter than Kim, Shego, or even Ron. About the only struggle the guy's ever had in his life was choosing which girl to date, and that had been Tara. Maybe Ron should have cut him some slack. Ron had no idea what was going through his mind right now. Hell, Ron might well have gone over the edge and do something as stupid as this had Kim died. Still, he'd make sure to keep an eye on him, much like he knew Kim would want to watch Shego for the remainder of the mission.
Once they'd reached Middleton General, Kim did a thorough scan of the area to make sure it was clear. "Funny how quiet it's been," Shego said. "We didn't run into anything the whole way here."
"Maybe because there's nothing here to eat," Ron said. Shego looked over her chair at him. "I'm just saying. There's plenty of food over at Smarty Mart."
"Don't talk that way, Ron. Please."
Ron shrugged. "I'm not trying to be funny here, KP."
"Good. Because you're not!" She snapped at him.
Noticing the lovers' quarrel, Shego raised an eyebrow at Ron before turning back to Kim. Great, Ron thought. He and Kim and just given the woman more ammunition. Was it just him, or was Ron getting better at keeping his outbursts in check than Kim was? Wasn't she usually the cool and collected one? Kim couldn't afford to look weak around Shego. Not now. Not ever. Maybe she just didn't care. Kim was putting too much weight on her shoulders, what with the people trapped at Smarty Mart, the town, her family, the fact that her dad might have had something to do with this whole fiasco.
She might snap at any moment.
"Well?" Shego asked, wanting to get out and stretch, even if stretching meant blasting a few freaks along the way.
"It's all clear," she reported. "Far as I can tell."
"Good enough." Shego moved to open the door.
"Wait!" Kim grabbed her. Shego looked back. "You know why we're here, right?" Kim looked back at the boys. "We're trying to find anyone alive that can help Dr. Drakken and Mr. Barkin. Look for surgeons."
"And if there's no one inside?" Josh finally asked.
"There has to be. The hospital's built to survive natural disasters."
Shego flipped her hand off. "Uh, Kimmie?" She pointed outside. "Does this look natural to you?"
Ron said, "We go in, find what help we need, and go back. Sound about right?"
Kim nodded to Ron. She was grateful for his support. "We split into two teams."
"Girls vs. the boys?" Shego teased.
"Don't be an instigator, Shego."
"You're right. There's only one girl here. It wouldn't be fair to the guys."
"Age does make a difference."
Shego glared green daggers at Kim.
"Let's go!" Ron said, before a fight could break out. He was the first one out the door, waiting for Josh to join him. Kim and Shego got out next. Together they walked through the mist and entered through the sliding doors. Not good, Ron thought. The doors were still working and there were no barricades like at Smarty Mart. Anything with enough weight could make them slide open, which meant a mist monster about as big as he was could enter at a whim, no obstacles whatsoever.
Ron almost blinked when they entered the lobby. The lights were off, but it was still much brighter than it was inside the mist. He felt Josh bump into him from behind. Kim came around, as did Shego, and together the four of them gazed out into the darkness.
"Not a good sign," Ron said.
Shego took Kim's advice and flared up both her hands, casting long shadows into the room. "Doesn't look like there's anyone here, Princess."
"The doors are working."
"It's automated," Shego said back.
"Then what happened to the lights?"
Kim sighed. "If you don't have anything intelligent to add..."
"Shh!" Ron inclined his head. They all waited with baited breath. After what happened in the parking lot, no one made a sound. Rufus sniffed the air. "Got something little buddy?" Ron asked his longtime friend.
Ron blinked. "What?"
Suddenly, several lights flashed on them. The four were blinded and forced to cover their eyes, Rufus falling off of Ron's shoulder.
"Ambush!" Kim cried.
"Shit!" Shego wailed.
"Don't move!" Came a commanding voice.
"Take it easy," Kim began, "We're human."
"I don't care if you were my own mother. Take one unnecessary step and you die right where you stand."