DISCLAIMER: Nothing belongs to me if you've seen it on TV. Soundtrack for this chapter: The Nightmare Becomes Reality by Anima Morte; The Rock, The Vulture and the Chain by Alpha 60, Fool's Mate by Peter Hammill.
The silence of the zeppelin cabin was suddenly broken. "So what happened there?" It was less a question, more a demand.
Drakken looked up sharply, all too aware of the edge in Shego's voice, and glared with distaste at the third person in the cabin. This team-up had been forced on them; each needed the help of the other to obtain their goal. Certainly he would have never considered working with the man otherwise. Quietly he got up, placed the purloined vial he had been examining in its shatterproof case, placed the case in the small safe and closed the door.
Just in case.
If Professor Dementor was at all concerned about Shego's anger, he gave no sign. "I told you I kould ze security defenses disable," he told Drakken, polishing the finish of the peculiar machine before him, "und I did. You haf zat biochemical vhatever-it-is," he sneered, "und I haf ze Matter-Energy Integrator, vith vitch I zhall finish my GREATEST EXPERIMENT! Ve have both profited by zis enterprize."
"Shego," Drakken began, evenly, "asked you a question."
"Ach," sighed the diminutive scientist, "the minion. Yes? Vhat do you vant, minion? Out vith it. I have ze polishing to do. Doezn't it shine zo? Schnell!"
Her eyes were slits, her features stone. "One minute Possible and Stoppable were on us like black on a bowling ball. Then they were gone." Deep in the secret subterreanean installation, she'd lost track of both the mad scientist and their mutual adversaries. A few minutes later he'd turned up alone and unharmed. Unfortunately. There was something about the little man she couldn't stand. Something beyond his imperious screaming, or his stupid costume, or his condescending attitude toward both Dr. D. and herself. Not that any of those things helped, of course. "So what happened to them?"
"A, zhall ve zay, opportunity prezented itzelf."
"Oy. Talking to you is like quizzing the Puzzler," she said, and scowled as if the words tasted foul in her mouth. The Perilous Puzzler was a villain from The Fearless Ferret, one of Drakken's favorite TV shows from the prehistoric 1960s. She hated every corny, low-budget moment of it, and yet she'd caught herself referring to it more and more in recent days. It must be soaking in during Drakken's marathon viewing sessions. When they got back to the lair, his prized DVDs were in for a plasma bath, whether he liked it or not. She wasn't going to lose another brain cell to such idiocy. "OK, let me try again. Try to answer without thinking too much about it this time. Your oh-so-mysterious villain schtick is wearing thin. What opportunity?"
Annoyed, Dementor turned to Drakken. "Do you enjoy ze mindless jabber of ze underlings? If zis – admittedly imperial – zeppelin vas mine, I vould zis nonsense not allow a microsecond." He turned a hateful eye on Shego. "Minions speak vhen they are spoken TO."
"She isn't a minion." The blue man's tone was dry as autumn leaves. "And this isn't your zeppelin."
Dementor shrugged. "Very vell. You vant to know vhat happened, I vill tell you. It is no big. Isn't that vhat she would zay, our redhaired enemy? 'No big.'" He laughed unpleasantly. "She VON'T be zaying it NOW!"
"Well?" Shego spat, her right hand crackling with green energy.
"I shot her."
The green flames were instantly quenched, drowned in startled disbelief. "W-with what? Taser? Stun gun?"
The little man again laughed his nasty laugh. "Schtun gun, you bet." He produced a black pistol, proudly held it out for inspection. There was a tiny swastika engraved in the handle. "It has in ze family been a long time. But ve take goot care of our machineries. Three bullets right through ze heart. You zhould have zeen her face." He paused to relish the memory: the young woman's green eyes wide, her mouth open in surprise. Hands pressed to her chest as she crumpled to the metal floor. "She vas schtunned, all right. Zo vas Stoppable. ZAT they did not zee coming!"
He put the gun away, still smiling.
Drakken's face had turned a ghastly grey. He glanced at Shego, who looked slightly shell-shocked, and turned on Dementor. "We – we don't do that. You know, there is supervillain protocol. Custom. Rules! We use mind control, mutant monsters, laser beams, chocolate ganache. We don't use pistols! "
"Ah, but I do! Vith villain lights and monologues and death traps I am finished. Did you zee vhat Stoppable did to ze Lorwardians?"
"No. I was busy with their attack pods."
"I did," growled Shego, daring the Bavarian scientist to shush her. She was beginning to develop a headache of inordinate size and scope. "I was there." With Kim's life in the balance, her boyfriend had finally claimed his birthright as the Chosen One of martial arts legend. The power of his tai sheng pek kwar had not only routed the alien invaders, but destroyed them.
"Then you know ze stakes much higher haf become. Lethal threats must be MET vith lethal FORCE. Ve haf to STEP UP to meet ze CHALLENGE!" He slapped Drakken on the back, guffawed. "Ze big bad Mystical Monkey Master vas bawling like a kleine Kind. 'Kim, Kim! Hang on, honey!' Hang on, honey. It vas hilarious." He wondered why they weren't laughing with him. Maybe you had to be there. "Und zo ve made vith the getting avay, und Kim Possible ist KAPUT!"
He paused, expecting a response, and got none from the speechless duo.
"Oh, come on! Our vorst nemesis I haf exterminated! Can I get a hallelujah?"
There was silence. He tried again. "OK, zo I didn't get ze boyfriend. Maybe next time. It's still quite ze achievement, yah? How about a huzzah?"
"Just a little huzzah?" The dwarfish madman lost his smile, began to rant. "I vas a fool to agree to vork vith you. Zis zort of old-school attitude is eggzactly vhy you two never accomplish ANYthing. Not everything in life needz a Matter-Energy Integrator. Zometimes ze DIRECT ROUTE is BEST!"
"You're right." The harlequin woman stepped forward. Drakken was suddenly glad he'd put the precious Suspended Positron Colloid out of harm's way. Things were about to get ugly.
If it had been someone else, Frugal Lucre, say, or Duff Killigan, or even Cousin Eddy, he might have tried to talk her out of it.
It was Dementor, and so he simply took cover and watched.
Ugly lasted only a moment or two. Somewhere over Virginia, the zeppelin hatch swung open; both Dementor and the Matter-Energy Integrator flew out on a single green plasma bolt. The hatch slammed shut; the zeppelin cruised on.
Shego powered down, still troubled. "You think he was telling the truth? About Kimmie?"
"Time will tell." Noting the steel-spring tension in her posture, the small veins standing out at her temples, he knew that answer wasn't enough. "Dementor's a nut case," he added, breezily. "If I didn't need that solution desperately, I wouldn't have dealt with him at all. That whole story's probably a lie. He told it just to needle you. Us."
"The gun was real enough. Walther P-38. 9mm. Eight round magazine. Overall length, 8.38 inches, barrel length 4.88 inches, weight 33 point –" With a start, she realized she was babbling and cut herself off. "If anyone ever kills Princess, it'll be me."
"I'm better than she is."
"Yes. You are. Why don't you sit down a moment? That pacing is rocking the zeppelin –"
"Better. Stronger. Faster."
"Absolutely." He checked the instruments, made sure the autopilot was on course. Forty-five minutes and they'd be back at the lair. Then everything would be fine.
"It's more than a professional thing. It's personal. Like White Stripe's vendetta against the Ferret." He was startled by the insane fury in her eyes. "It has to be me."
"It will be." He reached out to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder; she stepped back, deftly avoiding it. Par for the course, he thought. "You – you were born to finish Possible. Figuratively speaking, of course."
"I'm better than she is. Better. Stronger. Fa –" She looked confused. "Déjà vu."
"You're just tired," he told her, trying to hide his concern. "A little rest will do you a world of good. And you'll see, Possible's ok. Dementor isn't good enough to stop her."
"Wasn't good enough," she said, smiling maliciously, imagining the man plummeting to the earth far below. "And he won't get another shot at her."
He was both pleased and unnerved. "Wasn't good enough, yes. Possible and her boyfriend will both be after us, I'm sure. You'll get your chance to prove yourself before you know it."
Her smile vanished. "Prove myself? I don't have to prove myself to anybody. Least of all you."
He watched her stalk off toward her cabin, sadly shaking his head. If Dementor had been telling the truth – but he couldn't have. There was no way the small, clumsy man could have gotten the jump on Kim Possible.
But if he had –
"He couldn't," the blue man muttered to himself, opening the safe. He watched the chemical solution as it moved strangely in the vial, looked worriedly toward Shego's closed cabin door. Soon they'd be home. And everything would be all right.
Everything had happened so quickly. He was gaining on Dementor when Kim had cartwheeled ahead of him, glancing back with a mischievous smile before turning her full attention on their fleeing adversary. Even with his mastery of tai sheng pek kwar, she was more agile than he could ever hope to be, and she liked to prove it on occasion.
It had been a while since they'd been on a mission; most villains had laid low since the destruction of the Lorwardian invasion force. To be honest, he would have rather have spent the day at home, but KP was enjoying herself so much that he didn't mind the inconvenience.
And she was more than a match for Professor Dementor, even on her worst day.
Ron had slowed his pursuit, watching her back, in case this was the lead-in for an ambush. Shego was still around somewhere. They hadn't seen Drakken, but that didn't mean he wasn't also involved.
Kim had shouted something at the evil scientist; the words had been unintelligible, but the tone was purest Possible: confident, self-assured, never doubting victory.
Then the shots rang out.
Three jets of crimson had burst from her back, just below her left shoulder blade.
"Kim!" he'd heard himself scream, running toward her, unable to believe what had happened. "Hang on, honey!"
The young woman had staggered, lurched forward, and collapsed at Dementor's feet. The madman had grinned fiendishly as Ron ran toward them. "Upon YOU ze JOKE is, Kim Possible," he'd jeered, and then, with a whoosh of jet boots, had blazed down the corridor and out of sight.
He could have escaped them at any time. It had all been a ruse, a trap. Now the woman Ron loved lay sprawled on the floor, her life measured by the spreading crimson stain across the white of the self-sealing Battlesuit.
"Kim! Kim!" He cradled her in his arms, looked vainly about for – "Help! Help! Somebody help!" Where were the guards, where were the Global Justice agents that were usually all over a break-in of this magnitude? Even the security cameras had been blinded.
Her closed eyelids fluttered; she looked up at him with filmy, glazing eyes. Tried to form words, but her struggle to breathe defeated the effort. She raised one hand, let her fingertips lightly brush his cheek as, with a final sigh, she lost the battle. Her head lolled to one side as the eyes closed forever.
Just like in the movies.
His tears fell across her still face. Behind him there were footsteps, voices, a shocked murmuring. Three guards. Finally. He gently laid her body down, slowly turned to face them. "Where were you? Where were you when he shot her? She's dead because we had to do your work. She's dead because we had to –"
The guards were starring beyond him, an eerie blue light reflected in their helmet visors. "Look!"
Kim's body was surrounded by a weird radiance. It looks like ch'i, Ron thought wildly. Like the aura that gives me Mystical Monkey Power.
As they watched, the dark stain across her upper torso began to visibly shrink, as if the blood was somehow returning to her veins. Her closed eyes opened wide; with a rasping cry, she drew in a breath. Sat up.
Two guards fled down the hallway in panic; one passed out with a groan.
Ron stepped toward her, unable to believe what was happening, his eyes seeing it, his mind refusing to process it. Reached out to her, saw her take his hand as if in a dream, watched her get unsteadily to her feet. The Battlesuit was again snow white.
She threw her arms around him, clinging to him as the strange light faded, withdrawing into her flesh. "Ron," she gasped. "Ron, I – I was – I was in a dark place. Someone was calling my name."
"I thought I'd lost you. I did lose you." He was about to kiss her; instead he drew back, wonder and apprehension on his features, his eyes locked on hers. "So what happened there?" It was not a demand, but a frightened question.
She released him, shocked. "Ron, it's me!" Her hand went to her chest, almost involuntarily, feeling for the fatal wound that wasn't there. Gingerly touching the place where the bullets had entered.
The bullets that had killed her.
"Maybe he missed," she said, knowing as she said it that it was ridiculous. She'd felt the shells tear through her body, the savage pain telling her that this was the end. "Maybe – maybe the Battlesuit had something to do with it. Maybe –"
"Maybe we need to get some answers, somewhere." Ron's mind was a churning whirlpool of clones, of synthodrones, of the videogame Zombie Mayhem. "Are you sure you're all right?"
Her eyes narrowed. "I'm not a synthodrone, if that's what you mean."
"Yeah, I guess, somethin' like that." She can read me like a book, he thought. A short book. Maybe more like a tabloid article. He marshaled his thoughts and tried to continue. "Dementor and Shego are gonna haveta wait. This is way bigger than they are."
"Well…" she mused, as the unconscious guard got slowly to his feet, looked at her, and bolted down the hallway after his fellows, "I know where to start."
"So that's the story," Kim said. Ron simply nodded in agreement.
Her parents exchanged guilty glances across the table; Mrs. Dr. P. was the first to speak. "Honey, we're just glad you're all right."
"Mom, do you even understand what I just told you? I – came back to life. I was dead and now I'm alive. I know 'anything's possible for a Possible,' but this –"
"Don't take that tone with your mother, Kimmie." Mr. Dr. P. looked to his wife. "It's time we told her. Maybe you were right."
"Right about what?" Deep in her regenerated heart she felt the stirrings of panic. "It's true, isn't it. I'm a clone. Or a synthodrone. Or an android. Or –"
"You aren't any of those things, dear." Mrs. Dr. P's voice was even, reassuring. "You're our daughter. And the daughters always inherit the gifts. It's in the genes."
"Kimmie-cub," her father began, "I've never told you how me and your mother met."
She frowned in confusion. "You were in college, right? What's that got to do with it?"
"I was in college," said Mr. Dr. P, "but that's not where we met."
"You'd better both sit down," added Mrs. Dr. P. "It's a pretty long tale. At least the way your father tells it."
"I suppose you could tell it better?" he asked, testily.
"I know where to start." She took Kim's hands, looked deeply into her daughter's eyes. "Honey – I'm not from around here."
"I knew it," Ron blurted. "Washington, right?"
"A little further out, Ron." She smiled. "Aldebaran."