Wow, a new chapter nearly three weeks in a row! That's got to be a record for me. Good thing too, with all the cliffhangers I've been throwing at you all. I'll make my best effort to keep it up, but to be safe, plan on an update within two weeks. Kim and company will still be facing some pretty awesome challenges, but an ultimately positive end is in sight, with maybe another five chapters or so to go. So pull up a chair next to a toasty fire on this cold, wintry day, as Beckman stokes it with pieces of the Trojan gift horse I gave you all last chapter.
But first, my deep thanks as always to my ever patient reviewers: Bookworm Gal, Tito-Mosquito, Rick455, Sentinel103, Eddy13, Jimmy1201, CajunBear73, levi2000a1, Oreochema, holydemon00, pbow, Beckman, Reader101w and Linzerj.
Now back to our regularly scheduled cliffhanger, already in progress...
As soon as Ron entered Kim's mind, he was appalled by the sight. It looked more like a battlefield rather than the pleasant, orderly mind that he remembered. Wreckage of past memories were strewn about like burnt-out tanks in a World War Two documentary on the Historicity Channel. Even worse, perched atop the first engram was his evil alter-ego, Zorpox the Conqueror.
"Well, if it isn't the Mythical Monkey Moron himself! So let me guess, you're here in a futile attempt to fix little Kimberly Anne's memory problems, aren't we?"
Ron angrily lashed back, "Zorpox! I shoulda figured you'd be the one aggravating Kim's jellin.' But now that I've located the problem, it's time for my own brand of badical brain surgery!"
Zorpox gleefully answered, "Ah, but, but you have it all wrong, Ronnie my old friend. I'm merely a mental construct of Kimberly Ann's damaged mind. But somehow I've become aware of that fact, and I've used the power of my brilliantly evil imagination to take full advantage of that."
He let out a low chortle deep in his throat. "The PDVI may have only snapped the ball so to speak, but I've intercepted it and run down the field for one coolio touchdown! And using my evil genius, I've been able to manipulate her memories, turning them against both you and her. I must say, taking revenge on the both of you has been incredibly satisfying, as I've enjoyed, mmm, how shall I say, scoring with every little hottie you've ever dissed or been dissed by in the real world. It's been a total win-win-win sitch! So, thanks for the memories, Ronnie-boy! Ah-booyah-ha-ha-hah!"
Ron's eyes narrowed. "Not on my watch, Zorpox."
He began to glow bright blue as he activated his mystical energy. "Prepare for some serious pain, Chuckles."
Ron furiously launched himself at the villain, but was surprised when he simply passed right through him, as if he were a ghost.
Zorpox cackled in glee. "Ooh, so close! Don't you realize that I'm just a memory, Monkey Boy?And as hard as you try, you simply can't defeat a memory. Or did you fail to remember that? Ah-booyah-ha-ha-hah!"
Ron gritted his teeth together in frustration, wondering how he could possibly gain the upper hand against what was simply a non-corporeal figment of Kim's imagination. Suddenly he had a flashback to another time that Kim had suffered memory problems, thanks to Dr. Langford's malfunctioning Memory Recovery Machine. And to the conversation between Ron and Mrs. Dr. P as they tried to find a solution.
"Her memory is going to come back, isn't it?"
"Well, the good news is that all Kim's memories are intact. She just can't access them."
Ron sighed at the irony of the present sitch. "Too bad I couldn't just isolate Kim's memory of Zorpox, then I might have a shot at fixing all the rest. But how?"
He began to recall one of his own memories, this one concerning one of Mr. Barkin's substitute class lectures.
"All right people, listen up! I'm temporarily replacing Ms. Golgi as your biology instructor after that unfortunate mishap in the chem lab caused by Stoppable's mole rat."
Popping out of Ron's pocket and holding up his tiny bandaged paws, Rufus whimpered an apology. "Sorree!"
The class giggled as Ron tried to slink as far down into his chair as possible.
Barkin continued to lecture, "Today we'll be discussing synapses, which are the structures in our nervous system that permit a nerve cell to pass a chemical or electrical signal to a receptor cell, and are essential to memory. The space between the two cells is known as a synaptic cleft, and if blocked, will prevent any information from passing."
He shot Ron a fierce look and growled, "Similar to what must have occurred in Stoppable's OWN mind, since he failed to remember that I've banned his pet rodent from ANY of our science labs!"
As the class again burst out in laughter, Ron turned beet red and slunk down even farther into his seat.
In the present, Ron muttered, "Boy, that's one memory I wish I could forget."
But a plan immediately began to form within his mind. "On second thought, maybe not..."
Ron quickly reached out with his power, encasing Zorpox within a blue sphere of mystic energy. He smiled as the villain slowly began to fade away.
His evil double's look instantly changed from one of triumph to one of terror. "What... what's happening to me? NOOOOoooo!"
A moment later, Zorpox was gone. Isolated from any other of Kim's memories and no longer able to manipulate them, he had simply vanished back into limbo.
Ron smirked, "Thanks for the memories yourself, Zorpox, but you won't be missed. Now to use the power of my imagination to begin some serious repair work."
He walked up to the first engram and noticed that it was one of Kim's early childhood memories. As he touched it, he was suddenly transported back to her first day of preschool, the day they had met for the very first time.
"Whoa! This is one badical flashback."
As he looked around the new landscape, he noticed that the memory was incomplete. The background was drab, colored only in a sepia tones, like an old photograph. A few dilapidated school buildings were there, but not much else. The sky was a pale gray, and the temperature was chilly. A playground swing squeaked as it was blown about in the cold wind. A rusty metal slide also looked like it had seen better days.
"Wow, what's with this place? This isn't how I remember it at all."
A light bulb went off in his mind. "Of course! This is one of Kim's damaged memories, not mine. So I wonder if I can't just transfer my own bon-diggity memory into this sitch..."
He reached down and touched the slide. As he did so, the rust miraculously disappeared and its paint brightened up like new.
Next he tried touching one of the buildings. The same thing happened, the schoolhouse instantly looking brand new. Ron smiled in satisfaction.
"Wow. Now let's see if I can somehow fix everything else all at once."
Activating his Mystical Monkey Power, he lifted his hands. A gentle blue glow emanated from them, and he began sweeping about the entire scene as if he were a master painter. He was pleased to observe that whatever his power touched, it resumed its original vibrant form and color.
"Now let's see if I can do something about that sky..."
He extended his power to encompass the entire firmament above him. The sky quickly changed from its drab gray color to one of deep cerulean blue.
He scratched his chin in thought. "Almost perfect, but it still needs something else... Ah! I've got it."
He added a few puffy white clouds, and a rising sun to warm the now beautiful memory. Finally happy with the result, he considered making one more change.
"I know this wasn't part of the original, but I think KP will appreciate the thought."
On the large oak tree outside of the preschool, he began carving their initials deep within its bark. In a moment, RS+KP was emblazoned there for all to see, surrounded by the ubiquitous heart.
"There. Now it's perfect."
Whistling a jaunty tune, Ron stepped away from the newly repaired memory engram. It now looked pleasant and inviting, radiating a gentle warmth. Not only that, but the landscape of Kim's mind immediately surrounding the repaired memory now looked a little brighter as well.
Ron broke out in a relieved smile. "All righty-right! Looks like all I have to do is touch each one of Kim's damaged memory engrams and replace it with one of the Ronman's. But I'd sure like to know where Kim is before I start traveling down Wrongsick Memory Lane."
With his mind, Ron called out, "Kim! Where are you?"
His voice echoed throughout Kim's mindscape, but there was no reply.
"I guess she must still be hiding out from me, probably inside one of her memories. Well, I guess I'll try this one next..."
Entering the next engram, he instantly found himself deep within a passionate kiss and locked in a rather tight embrace.
He sighed contentedly, "Wow, KP! I'm so happy I've finally found you! I can't even begin to say how much I've missed you..."
He was about to relax even deeper into the moment when he noticed something amiss. He inhaled a whiff of vanilla body wash, but the fragrance definitely wasn't one of Kim's. He opened his eyes, noting the attractive girl's darkly tanned arms and short brown hair.
"Guess again, Ron."
He let out a yelp and instantly tried to disentangle himself, pushing the teal-eyed cheerleader away from him.
"Bonnie?! What in the heck do you you think you're doing?"
She ran a tantalizing finger beneath his chin and gave him a flirtatious wink. "What does it look like I'm doing, lover boy?"
He looked around the totally empty room, quickly recognizing the surroundings.
"Hey, this is Middleton High, and we're in the girl's locker room!"
Bonnie gave a sarcastic roll of her eyes. "Well, duh!"
Instantly blushing bright red, Ron babbled, "Uh, and the only way I know that is because Kim and I switched bodies that one time because of that gorchy brain-switch machine, and..."
Bonnie hushed him, placing a gentle finger on his lips. "Shhh. Not to worry, Ronnie. It's the Saturday morning after the homecoming dance, and the fact that you're here means you remembered the little promise I made to you if we both became the homecoming king and queen."
He got a sinking feeling about what that promise might entail.
"Uh, heh-heh, and just what promise was that?"
He suddenly became aware that he was wearing his homecoming crown, and that Bonnie was wearing her sparkling tiara. And not much else.
From beneath hooded eyes, Bonnie grinned back at him with a lascivious look. "And since there's no one else around, let's get started with a little royal action, shall we?"
As she took a step toward him, he took a step back and stammered, "Uh, and what about Kim? I don't think she'd really appreciate you putting the moves on me, Bonnie."
She gave a dismissive flip of her hair. "Kim, schmim. She's not here right now, is she? And you deserve a real woman, not that loser."
Flashing him a devilish grin, she continued in a sing-song voice, "And once we consummate our royal relationship, I'm sure you'll forget all about her."
Ron then noticed that Bonnie seemed even more provocative than usual. Not only was she taller than he remembered, but slightly thinner as well. Things suddenly clicked within his mind as he realized that this was Kim's vision of Bonnie, not his. Kim's own fear and jealousy had enhanced the appearance of the snarky cheerleader, who now obviously had him in her sights, as well as the leadership of the cheer squad.
Frowning, Ron merely folded his arms and glared back at the beguiling temptress.
"No deal, Bonnie. This event never really happened, and it's not gonna happen now. You're just a false memory created by a whacked-out PDVI, both of which needs some serious fixing."
Giving him a come-hither look, she purred back, "You sure about that, Ronnie? You really have no idea what your missing out on."
She began to seductively pull one strap of her skimpy bikini top down her arm.
Now it was Ron's turn to roll his eyes. "Wow, you just don't give up, do you? Time to say goodbye, Bon-Bon."
A look of horror appeared on her face as Ron threw up his glowing blue hands. With a brilliant flash of mystical power, Bonnie disappeared, and with her, the entire illusive event.
As he wiped the sweat off his brow, he panted, "Wow, not that I would ever betray Kim over the likes of Bonnie, but it was definitely getting a little hot in there."
Now breaking into a cold sweat, he came to a grim realization.
"And Bon-Bon's not the only one Kim's ever been jealous of, and I've got several more memories to fix. I'm starting to get a real bad feeling about who or what might be coming up next..."
Taking a deep breath, he touched the next memory engram. He suddenly found himself in the middle of a huge pillow fight, feathers flying through the room. Through the cloud of floating goose down, he immediately recognized the bedroom's giggling female occupants.
Nearly choking after inhaling a stray feather, he gasped, "What the heck? The Middleton High Cheer Squad? And Amelia and Zita too? Oh, man! Why couldn't I have stumbled into this sitch about three years ago?!"
Everyone suddenly stopped as soon as they noticed the attractive male newcomer. With a delighted scream, they all excitedly called out a single name in unison.
Remembering that discretion is the better part of valor, he rushed into the bathroom and quickly locked the door behind him, the bevy of beautiful maidens hot on his heels.
Tara knocked on the door. "Oh, Ronnnnieee! C'mon out, pretty please? You can't hide in there forever, you know."
Amelia purred, "Yeah, Ron. I can't wait to run my hands through that sexy hair of yours."
Not to be outdone, Zita cooed, "And I'll even give you the cheat code to Level 32 of Everlot. Y'know, the one where the cute wizard and his beautiful assistant discover Cupid's Potion of Ultimate Romance, giving them both a plus 5 on their die rolls for..."
Ron blurted out, "Yes! Yes! I know the one! No need to tempt me with the details!"
Now in total panic mode, he began clicking his heels together repeatedly. "There's no place like home... There's no place like home..."
But it only took him another moment to remember that this was only Kim's PDVI-enhanced vision. Using his MMP, he instantly removed himself from his present mental locale.
Relieved to have escaped, he breathlessly panted, "Whoa, that was way too close. Kim's just gonna have to fix that memory herself. If I had stayed in there any longer, that would have given new meaning to the phrase 'tempting fate.' Bonnie by herself I can deal with, but the whole cheer squad? A man's gotta know his limitations..."
After calming down a bit, Ron finally felt he was ready for the next memory. He cautiously reached down and touched the next engram.
He was instantly transported to his front porch on a cool spring night. In one hand he held two roses, one green, the other black. In the other hand he held a note. He uneasily opened it and began to read.
Thanks for the kiss. Moodulator or not, I really had wanted to do that for a long time.
The bottom of the note was adorned with the imprint of a kiss made with black lipstick. An icy chill went down his spine.
"Oh, man. Exactly like it happened nearly two years ago..."
A sultry voice from behind him began to speak.
"Well, if it isn't the Ronster himself. I'm glad now that I stuck around after making my little delivery."
Upon hearing that familiar voice, Ron instinctively froze in fear. With a convulsive swallow, he finally gathered up enough courage to turn around and face his next challenge.
"Heh-hey there, Shego. Fancy seeing you here. On my front porch. And at night, with no one else around."
Dressed in her customary green and black catsuit, she grinned back at him with look of a predator about to pounce on her prey.
Ron tried to summon his mystical power, but Shego was quicker on the draw. With a bright flash of her iridescent green plasma, Ron's blue energy was instantly snuffed out.
She wagged a finger in warning. "Uh-uh, Ron. Not gonna happen. I sensed what you just did to Rockwaller, and it's not going to be so easy this time."
With that revelation, Ron's eyes grew as big as saucers. "You mean you're aware of what happened in that other memory?"
She replied with a shrug, "Yeah, all of them in fact. But don't ask me how. Oh, and nice slumber party by the way. Sorry I missed it."
Ron simply gawked at her, unsure of what to say next.
Sensing his fear, Shego grin widened. "What's the matter, Ron? I'm not intimidating you, am I?"
Ron responded with a weak nod.
Her smile strangely grew a bit warmer. "Relax, Ron. I'm not going to eat you alive or anything."
She turned up one corner of her mouth. "Well, not yet at least. C'mon, let's take a walk."
She took his hand and began slowly leading him down the block.
"Uh, Shego? I remember the note and the roses as being real, but I don't remember this little stroll. So this must be another one of Kim's damaged memories, right?"
The dark-haired villainess nodded. "But it's more than that now. I know I'm just a figment of the Cupcake's imagination. Somehow, I've become self-aware."
Ron's jaw dropped. "Whoa, badical. Just like Zorpox."
"Yeah, and for some reason I feel a lot different that I did a few minutes ago, but I haven't the slightest idea why."
He cocked an eyebrow. "Different? How?"
"Well, for one thing, I don't feel like coming on to you like a drunken prom date, the way Rockwaller just did."
Ron grimaced. "Thank God for small favors. Bonnie was just being her usual sleazy self. But you? You're a lot different. You're just, uh, well..."
Shego eagerly interjected, "More attractive? Supremely intelligent? Utterly captivating?"
He cleared his throat. "No, I was going to say a lot scarier. On a scale of one to ten, you rank about an eleven on the Ronman's intimidation meter."
She sneered back, "Gee, thanks."
"Sorry, Shego, that came out kinda wrong. But considering the sitch, I hope you understand. So, uh, what other ways do you feel different?"
"Well, not long before you showed up, I had this overwhelming compulsion to grab you as soon as I saw you, take you inside and tie you down on your bed. Then something involving whips and leather."
Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. "R-really? You mean that was Kim's psychotic fear of how you'd try to seduce me?"
Shego shrugged. "Yeah, I never would have guessed that she even knew about that kind of stuff. I guess Little Miss Priss is actually as wise as a serpent but innocent as a dove, as the saying goes."
Gaining a little of his self-confidence back, Ron sniggered back, "And I suppose you're as wise as a dove but innocent as a serpent in that regard?"
Shego immediately flamed up one hand in response. "Don't push it, Ron."
"Ulp! Roger that." He pondered for a moment, then surmised, "But I think I might have an idea what happened. Your real self just shrunk herself down to microscopic size and repaired an aneurysm inside Kim's brain not more than five minutes ago. You saved her life. So maybe while your true self was inside KP's skull, that affected you somehow."
Now it was Shego's turn to be surprised. "Seems a bit far-fetched, but it's always possible. But I actually saved the Princess? I always thought that I'd be the one to finally destroy her."
"Not by a long shot. And not only that, but you'll eventually find out that she's your cousin."
Shego let out a dry laugh. "Uh, right. Now you're just making stuff up."
"No, really! So I think that your real self has affected you in this specific memory somehow. You've become more like the Shego in my reality. In the real world you're still as snarky and pragmatic as ever, but you've become a lot less selfish. And you've finally turned from evil and become one of the good guys again."
"Really? Okay, smart guy. If that's true, why am I still attracted to you so much right now? And I've gotta say, it's a really weird feeling."
"Well, Kim was hit by a stray bolt of energy from the Pan Dimensional Vortex Inducer, which stirred up the memory of some Moodulator-influenced sitches and let loose a whole lot of jellin' on her part."
"Hmm, that actually explains quite a lot. But if I remember correctly, the Moodulator can only enhance what's already there."
She stopped and slyly looked him right in the eye. "So there must have been a spark there in the first place, Ron. And not just on my part."
Ron guiltily stammered, "Well, uh, maybe once, a long time ago. So, er, what are you planning on doing now?" Ron swallowed again, his fear again mounting.
Shego pulled him into a warm embrace and gave him a tender kiss.
He pushed her away immediately. "Hey, cut that out! I'm here to heal Kim's memories, not throw more gasoline on the fire!"
She smirked, "Sorry." She added with a laugh, "Well, not really. But I think I've got it figured out now. Kimmie must now be subconsciously more afraid of us having a real relationship rather than just a quick roll in the hay. You've grown up, and I've apparently..."
She made a sour face as she continued, "...uh, mellowed a bit myself. And she must really fear that change in both of us for her fevered mind to dream something like this up."
She gave him a smug grin. "So I guess she's afraid you'll like me for my mind now, as well as my body."
Fear began to creep into his voice. "Uh, what do you mean?"
"Well, I may not have any of my own memories past this present point in time, but I do share her memory of the first time you laid eyes on me. And that was definitely quite a reaction, Ron. When Nerdlinger said I was wanted in eleven countries, I believe your exact words were, 'Make that twelve! RrrrRroww!'"
His face started to turn red at the memory. "Maybe so. But that was years ago, Shego. Any hormonal reaction I may have had is way in the past. And although your real self has turned over a new leaf... well, actually a whole tree, if not an entire forest, I love Kim now. Enough to have married her, in fact."
Shego guffawed, "What? You and the Princess are married?"
He grinned back, "Yeah. And not only that, you're now married to Drakken. Quite happily in fact."
This brought Shego up short. "Whoa. Seriously?"
He shot her a smug smile. "Ah booyah."
Shego gently scratched her chin with one of her claws. "Well, I've always had a thing for older men, come to think of it. So tell me, have he and I taken over the world yet?"
"Well, not exactly. But you're now the Princess Regent of the planet Lorwardia, and Drakken controls all of their military forces."
She immediately perked up. "No kidding! So instead of taking over the Earth, we opted for Lorwardia instead? Sounds pretty awesome, actually."
"More than in your wildest dreams, believe me."
Shego gave her head a quick nod. "Okay, then. You've convinced me."
Ron let out a small sigh of relief. "Coolio! So you'll let me fix this engram now?"
But before she could answer, Shego suddenly looked up into the distance, sensing something wrong. Very wrong.
"Uh, oh. I think Kimmie's in deep trouble. You better get over to that last memory engram quick, or else it may be curtains for all of us."
Ron nodded his thanks. "No problemo. But I need to heal this memory first."
Shego grinned back, "I think you already have, Ron. Look."
Out of the evening sky, an aircar appeared. Piloting it was a blue-skinned man in a long, dark blue lab coat, his black pony tail whipping in the wind. He landed the vehicle and motioned to the pale green villainess.
"Come along, my dear. Why don't you leave that snivelly little high-school sidekick alone and come with me? Adventure awaits us!"
Arms akimbo, Shego snarked back, "Adventure? What about romance?"
Drakken looked a little scared. "Uh, yes, of course. That too, but only if it doesn't involve any serious plasma burns should we get into a little spat. But as long as that makes you happy, I'm game."
With a pleasant smile, Shego climbed into the aircar. As they flew off, she offered Ron a cheerful wave in farewell.
The memory now healed, the scene dissolved back into Kim's mindscape. One last engram remained, but it glowed even more malevolently than the first four. Ron sensed great danger, fearing that this might be his toughest challenge yet.
As he touched it, he was instantly transported into a huge subterranean cavern. He was perched on a small rock outcropping surrounded by a lake of molten lava. Just a short distance away on a slightly larger island of pumice, two females were embroiled in fierce hand-to-hand combat. One was just a slip of girl, barely in her teens. Unarmed, she was desperately trying to ward off the attacks from her slightly older Asian adversary, who was armed with a deadly-looking sword.
"Kim? Yori? Oh, man! Bad Ninja! Very bad Ninja!"
Looking closer, Kim appeared little older than junior high age. Her red hair tied in a ponytail, it was shorter than it would be when she was older, and her braces sparkled in the light of the blazing lava all around them. In contrast, Yori's hair was longer and unkempt, and an uncharacteristically wild look permeated her features. And instead of wearing her customary white gi,shewas clothed instead in a sheer, bright red material that clung to every sinuous curve of her lithe body.
"So that's how Kim perceives Yori. No wonder she's been jellin' over her all these years..."
Remembering that at this point in time Kim had only gained proficiency in eight styles of Kung Fu as opposed to the sixteen she would later master, Ron knew that she was at a serious disadvantage. Even worse, the excellent cheerleading skills that she used to such good effect in personal combat had yet to be honed to a fine edge by years of sparring with Shego. Kim was obviously losing the battle, her face and arms already cut and bleeding by multiple strikes from Yori's katana.
On the other hand, there was a deadly grace to each of Yori's movements. Her skill in combat was such that she almost seemed like she was toying with Kim, who was now fighting for her very life. As Kim and Yori continued to dance their lethal duel, Ron quickly energized his Mystical Monkey Power in order to intervene. Suddenly, Kim slipped and fell, Yori raising her blade in preparation for the final stroke that would end their savage contest.
"No! Keep away from her, Yori!"
As Ron furiously yelled out his warning, he leapt into the fray, crossing the river of lava in a single, furious bound. His spring was perfect, landing directly between the two antagonists.
Yori grinned evilly back at him. "Stoppable-san! I am honored by your presence. You have arrived just in time to witness my final victory over this pitiful waif."
He snarled back, "Get away from her, Ninja-girl. That waif is my wife."
One eyebrow raised in surprise. "Indeed! A poor choice of mate, do you not think? So thin and... inexperienced."
Her wicked smile underscored the intended double entendre.
"Still, with sufficient training, she could easily become much more proficient in the martial arts."
Her face hardened. "But then she might become serious competition to me. And that I cannot allow. It is best that her life ends now, so that you and I may be together. For it is our destiny, Stoppable-san."
Ron growled, "No way, Yori. You're only a wrongsick figment of Kim's fevered brain. And I'll do whatever it takes to protect her, and defeat you."
Her eyes now barely slits, the ninja glared back at him, every muscle taut in anger. "Then have it your way, foolish boy. You make your demise inevitable with your American-style tomfoolery. And do not think you will have as easy a time in trapping me within a mystical ball of energy, as you did with Zorpox."
Ron whined, "Oh, man! Do all of Kim's memories keep in touch with each other? That's just so sick and wrong!"
Suddenly, he felt Yori trying to enter his mind, attempting to divert him with the memories of past flames. Even worse, she began to combine the best features of each into herself, both mind, body and spirit. With the fusion of Tara's simple beauty and Bonnie's sensuality, plus Shego's athletic build and awesome fighting skills, Ron began to weaken beneath the mental assault. He immediately countered by focusing instead on the image of Kim and his deep love for her. Summoning all his powers of concentration, Yori's enhanced appearance began to waver.
But now distracted by Yori's mental attack, he almost fell prey to her next move. With an instantaneous movement, she slashed down with her katana. But Ron likewise instantly sidestepped, her blade clanging into the ground with a bright spark. She let out a yell of frustration.
Ron wagged a cautious finger at the lissome ninja. "Temper, temper! I remember when you taught me that anger dampens both one's reaction time as well as one's accuracy, and that control is its own reward."
She lashed back, "You will still taste my cool blade, Stoppable-san. For it is I who taught you, not the reverse. And the student can never hope to supplant his master."
Realizing that this would now be a fight to the death, he instantly called on the Lotus Blade, the mystical weapon magically appearing in his hand. Ron met her next thrust with an instant sidestep and parry of his own. She attacked again with the same result. Increasing the tempo with each slash, both warriors began moving faster and faster until they both became a blur of movement, quicker than the eye could possibly follow.
Suddenly, they both paused. Yori was breathing heavily, but Ron appeared barely winded.
The furious warrior angrily growled, "How could this be?"
With the trace of a smile, Ron replied, "You forget that Sensei taught me as well, Yori-girl. And he was your master too, as I recall."
The muscles in Yori's jaw tightened. "This is true, Stoppable-san. I had forgotten. But I still hold the trump card."
Yori was instantly by Kim's side. Before Ron could react, she held up her hand and spoke but one word.
Motionless, Yori held the blade of her katana beneath Kim's chin. Terrified, the redhead held perfectly still.
With fear in her eyes, she looked up at her "Ron..."
Kim squeaked as Yori instantly tightened her sword against Kim's throat. A trickle of blood dripped onto the razor-sharp blade.
Ron likewise stood perfectly still, knowing that his next move might mean Kim's death. As swiftly as his Mystical Monkey Power enabled him to move, he could not hope to reach Yori before she slit his wife's throat. And Yori knew it.
Now having gained the upper hand, she smiled back at him with a wolfish grin, her victory now assured. Yori declared with a sultry voice, "You desire me, Ron-san. And I desire you. Let me mercifully dispatch Kim-chan, and together we can then become each other's new destiny."
He looked back at Yori in horror. "How... how could you even suggest such a thing? What about your bon-diggety bond of honor?"
Yori's delicate laugh echoed through the cavern, belying her deadly intent.
"Kim-chan has freed me from bond of honor, Ron-san. Her jealousy has now activated my deepest desires, which I now deliciously savor."
Something clicked within Ron's mind, as a forgotten memory of his own resurfaced. He began to form a plan, but his timing would need to be perfect, and he dared not tip his hand before he was fully prepared.
"Aren't you forgetting something? You're not the real Yori. And even if you should strike Kim down, you yourself would cease to exist, since you're only a wrongsick artificial construct that Kim's fevered brain has conjured up. Besides, no way, no how am I going to let you harm her."
As he spoke, he allowed his Mystical Monkey Power to charge up to its maximum deadly intensity, grunting with the effort not to display its tell-tale glow.
Yori gave a small shrug. "Then we have, how do you say, a Mexican standoff? If I kill Kim-chan, I may indeed vanish. But neither will you gain her, Stoppable-san. So I will make you a counter offer. Join me, and I shall spare her life."
He immediately shook his head. "Uh-uh. Not acceptable. When I married her, I made a promise to Kim, and that promise was till death do us part, no matter what. There's no way I'll ever give up on her. It will be my honor to keep my promise, and it will also be my honor to defeat you, Yori-faux."
Now fully charged, Ron suddenly cut loose with a deadly blast of intensely concentrated Mystical Monkey Power. Traveling quicker than even Yori could react to, it struck her full force. The surprise on her face was instantly replaced with a look of intense pain as she was vaporized, her psychic scream echoing within Kim's mind.
The hellish surroundings immediately began to fade, and with the last of her mental damage finally repaired, Kim's mind finally resumed its pleasant orderliness. She also returned to her normal age, her braces disappearing with a gentle flash. Kim and Ron now gazed at each other in both wonder and relief. She rushed into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Ron, I've missed you so much... I could tell that my mind was doing terrible things to me, but I couldn't control it or do anything to stop it. I'm so sorry..."
Ron simply held her close and whispered back, "I know, Kim. It was the PDVI malfunction that caused that whole gorchy mess, thanks to WarRaptor. So we can both blame him, not you. And remember: I'll always have your back."
Kim looked deep within Ron's chocolate brown eyes, the eyes of both her husband and rescuer.
Before pulling him into a deep kiss, she gently whispered back. "I love you, Ron Stoppable..."
Her damaged mind now completely healed, she awoke, still in Ron's arms. But this time, she responded with a smile instead of a scream.
"Ron... you did it. You saved me! And somehow you've completely healed my mind. But how?"
As he gazed down at his wife, he gently responded, "That's easy. They say that time heals all wounds, but they're wrong. Love heals all wounds, Kim. And I love you more than if I had to face all your fears wrapped up together in a wrongsick green Naco of doom dipped in five-alarm jellin' sauce."
Kim snorted with laughter at his metaphor. "Sorry, Ron, but I couldn't help myself. As the real Yori might say, you crack me up with your American-style jokes."
But her look of joy slowly began to turn into one of perplexed wonder. "But how did you know that a deadly release of your Mystical Monkey Power wouldn't kill me too?"
Recalling his infamous lack of attention to detail at times, she suddenly had a disturbing thought. "Or did you?"
Ron answered her query with a confident smile. "Absolute-a-mentay, Kim. Remember the time before we were engaged, when you slapped me over that note I kept from Shego?"
He reflexively touched the spot on his face. "Uh, several times in fact, causing me to activate my Mystical Monkey Power?"
She drooped her head with a guilty look. "How could I forget? I let my jellin' get the best of me then too, after which I accused you of ramping up your power in order to finish me off."
He gave her a tender look. "It's okay, KP. That's ancient history now. But the thing I learned then was that even unconsciously I can't possibly hurt you, even with my power operating at full strength. And even though it might level anything or anyone else in my way. Remember that even Zorpox couldn't harm you when he tried using my MMP against you. So when Yori said that your jealousy had activated her deepest desires, it gave me the idea to activate my own deepest desires."
A tear of joy rolled down Kim's cheek. "Which was your ferocious love for me. So your confidence and self-control allowed you to defeat Yori while simultaneously protecting me. I'm so thankful, Ron. You healed my mind, and kept me from dying as well."
Ron awkwardly scratched the back of his neck. "Well, I definitely healed your mind, but you were actually dead for about six minutes, KP."
She jumped up in surprise. "Dead!? How?"
"The PDVI also caused a brain aneurysm, which ruptured. The credit for physically bringing you back to life actually belongs to, uh, Shego."
Kim's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Shego?"
The raven-haired beauty proudly beamed, "That's right, Princess. Somehow I tapped into a few of your comet powers, shrunk myself a la Fantastic Voyage and sewed up the artery. But don't ask me how I got them, and for some reason I lost them as soon as I was done."
"Wow. That definitely sets my weirdar off that you somehow accessed my powers, even temporarily. But if you hadn't, I guess I wouldn't be sitting here right now, so it seems that I owe you both my life. So my deep thanks to both of you."
Shego grinned back, "Yeah, and don't think I'll ever let you forget it, Princess. I don't often get the chance to make up for my years of walking on the dark side, so I've got to take advantage of every opportunity."
She added with an even wider grin, "And remind you about it for the rest of your natural life."
Ron let out a sigh of relief. "Which I hope will be a bon-diggity long time. So how do you feel now, KP?"
"Well, considering what I've been through, absolutely spankin'. But for some reason, I seem to have an odd craving for bananas."
It was now Ron's turn to snort. "Well, just so long as it's not pickles and ice cream, I'm cool."
"The weird thing is, I remember everything, but I couldn't help myself. But was it the PDVI, or was it really Zorpox who was responsible for all my jellin'? And I also wonder if that was by accident or design: WarRaptor seems to have always had an evil backup plan."
Ron scratched his head. "Good question, but I think you're giving him way too much credit. The way I figure it, the PDVI caused the damage, but your mind is so powerful that it built defenses that even I had trouble breaking through. Your awesome focus and Type A single-minded determination are some of your strongest traits, but that gorchy device turned them completely against you. And me, too."
Kim pulled him into another tender kiss.
"Yeah, but your love for me just led you on one spankin' trip through both space and time, and then into my loony mind. If not for you, I'd still be several bananas short of a bunch. But there's still a few things that don't make sense to me, Ron."
"Uh, what's that, KP?"
"Well, I can understand how my mind made Bonnie act like a bitch in heat, and how Yori was crazed with the desire for both ultimate power and what her destiny with you would bring, but Shego? You liked Shego for her mind?"
He gave a small shrug. "Well, she is rather smart."
Quickly backpedaling, he began to babble, "Not as smart as you, of course. In fact, on a scale of one to ten, you naturally being a eleven, I'd have to say that..."
Kim began to giggle as she held up a hand. "All right, you can turn off your ferocious charm, Mr. Smooth Talker. I'm convinced. But there's one other memory that doesn't quite make sense."
Hoping that it wasn't one that involved him, he ventured, "And, uh, which one is that, Kim?"
"Well, it had to do with the Middleton High cheerleaders, and a slumber party."
Ron blurted out, "Kim! I can explain!"
She held up the other hand. "Whoa, slow down, Ron. You weren't in it except for just a few seconds, so no big."
She paused for effect. "However, Rufus was."
They both looked down at the naked mole rat, who was now grinning from ear to tiny ear.
The surprise on Ron's face could not have been any greater. "Rufus! So what were you up to, you little scamp?"
He sent a thought back to both of them. "Well, that particular memory of Kim's needed repairing, and you wisely chose not to let yourself be tempted beyond what you thought that you could handle. So I figured I would just do my duty as a friend and take that particular bullet for you. Besides, it was actually quite... exhilarating."
As Rufus snickered at the memory, Ron guffawed while Kim just rolled her eyes.
Kim moaned, "Well, I guess in that case I was just jellin' over the wrong guy, huh?"
"Or rodent. I guess being a naked mole rat definitely has its advantages."
As they all had a good laugh over Rufus's mischief, Shego glanced down at the table, spotting a curious note. She picked it up and began reading.
"Hey, what's this?"
Ron looked over her shoulder. "Well, I recognize your handwriting."
Kim shot him an annoyed look, to which he responded with a weak smile. "But then again, I could be wrong..."
Shego began reading aloud. "Phred from the Continuum gave you and Kim your powers. Okay, so who the hell is Phred, and what's a Continuum?"
She looked suspiciously at each of them in turn, but everyone only responded with a curious shrug. Rufus naturally had the look of an angel.
Kim surmised, "Well, we seem to have the answer to at least one mystery, but now we have even more questions. We may have a name and the beings responsible for the comets that hit both of us, but what's their motive? And are you sure you wrote that, Shego? If so, why did you suddenly forget what you had written?"
Shego involuntarily shivered. "I don't know, Kim. But I definitely wrote this. Maybe somehow I knew that I'd forget, so I scribbled it down right away."
"Yeah, maybe. But one thing's for certain."
"And what's that?"
"We definitely have some kind of higher authority looking out for us. And under the circumstances, I for one welcome all the help we can get."
Ron on the other hand began to look quite scared. "Now you're just creepin' me out Kim! What if this is really some kind of insidious alien plot? They could just be trying to lure us into a false sense of security, and then when we least expect it, aliens invade the Earth and eat our brains! I saw a Twilight Zone episode just like that right before we left!"
Kim tried to calm her jittery husband. "Please amp down, Ron! I'm sure that whoever or whatever they are, they're friendly. Why else would they have given me and Shego these spankin' powers in the first place? And they've sure kept us alive up to this point. But first, we have to repair the ship and find some way to get back to our own time. In the meantime, this mystery will have to wait."
Calming down, Ron took in a deep breath and then let it our slowly. "Sorry, KP. You know that conspiracy theories and me are old friends from waaay back."
Suddenly, something clicked in Ron's brain, and he sent a thought down to his tiny pal.
"Hey Rufus, about that coolio red light that just happened to lead us all through the right portal to find Kim and Shego. That wouldn't happen to be, say, one of the aliens that originally sent you on your mission to help Kim and I, would it? And maybe his name is Phred, who might be part of this Continuous thing? And for some reason, maybe I should probably keep all this to myself for the moment?"
The naked mole rat looked up at Ron with a twinkle in his tiny eyes. "Mmmm, could be!"
At that moment, a brilliant flash followed by a painful yell emanated from the other compartment.
Shego griped, "Uh-oh. I think I better check on Drew before he blows us all up."
Suddenly, all the lights came back on, and Sadie cheerfully announced, "Full power has just been restored."
Drakken stumbled back into the compartment, gloves smoking and hair singed, but with a look of triumph on his face.
"Well, I found the problem. The PDVI had shorted out our main power couplings, but I've fixed them now. Unfortunately the PDVI and the Kimpossibility Drive are still out, so we still won't be going anywhere until they've both been repaired."
Shego turned to Kim. "Hey Princess, remember your comment about becoming a quantum mechanic? I think you might want to revisit that idea right about now."
Kim agreed, "Good point. I've never tried shrinking myself down to quantum levels, but now may be just the right time to test that out."
"And while you're busy with that, Sadie and I can check out the computer logs I just picked up from this time's Kepler. It might give us a clue on what to do. Or even more importantly, what not to do."
Kim rubbed her hands together in anticipation. "All right then, here goes nothing."
Shego responded with a heavy sigh, "Princess, I do wish you'd stop saying that..."