"You! It's not possible! My sensors showed you arrived here only moments ago! There's no way you could have gotten through all the Doom-Bebes I stationed on the roof so quickly. And the Syntho-Squadron . . ."
"You're absolutely right, Doctor. That's why I bypassed them all and entered the building two floors down. I find the straightest distance between an archvillain and a hero, like any two points, is a - straight line!" He arrowed forward, intending to take the fight directly to his nemesis' jaw, but two forms dropped in front of him and stretched languidly.
"I guess it would have been too much to hope for that you'd leave your sidekicks on the roof as well," he added.
"The Doom-Bebes and other traps were merely a diversion," the mad genius boasted, even as he continued to look stymied. "A diversion you SHOULD have fallen for. The energy source I rigged up on the roof should have lured you in like a bee to honey!"
"Mmm, honey," one of the two women blocking his path purred. "I'll have to remember that for later."
"This whole building is one giant hive of scientific and robotic activity, Doctor. But I thought it was strange that I wasn't picking up any signals being emitted from this part of the building. I had a hunch that the roof was a trap, and that you were masking the real action down here." He looked at the two women. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to step aside, ladies."
The woman who hadn't spoken the first time smiled at him. "Sure," she said, grinning. "Just don't be surprised if I shove my foot up your ass after you've gone past!"
"I was afraid of that."
"Ha! I don't need a diversion anyway! My assistants will give me all the time I need to make the Reverse Intellectualizing Ray operational. Soon everyone in this city will be too stupid to do anything except whatever I tell them!"
"Your latest fiendish scheme will fail, just like all the others!"
The doctor gritted his teeth. "Not this time, Ferretman! Shego! Possible! Rid me of this annoyance!"
"Already on it, Dr. D!" Shego called out, energizing her fists with a sickly green glow. "Let's go, Weasel Boy. I'm gonna shove you back in whatever hole you crawled out of, and bury you in it!"
"You can't win every time, Ferretman!" Possible added. She activated her own glow powers, and the smoldering red light bathed her skintight outfit, red in all the places Shego's catsuit was green. "Tonight Dr. Destruction will rule your city!"
Ferretman sighed. Fighting just one of his archnemesis' sidekicks was a chore. Fighting both, as he so often did, was the ultimate exercise in cheating death. He had the bad feeling that sooner or later, Possible would be right. One slip-up and he'd be barbecued rodent.
At least his last vision would be two voluptuous women in tight bodysuits, and he'd die a bit happier. The first time he'd fought them, he'd been so distracted by their looks that it almost got him killed on the first try. It was a good thing they always seemed more interested in flirting with each other than with him. That was one weapon he didn't have to worry about.
Dr. Destruction had already returned to his machine's console. Just a few minutes more, he thought to himself. Surely his deadly duo of sidekicks could make that happen, and then the victory that had constantly eluded the greatest evil mind on the planet would finally be his! "Still, I should summon my constructs from the roof, just in case," he murmured. "They're not doing anything else now."
Ferretman took a step back from the Doctor's henchgirls and spread his arms, letting his dark brown cape unfurl and momentarily making him look much larger than he actually was. Two Boo-yah!-rangs appeared in his hands, seemingly from nowhere. "Let's tango, ladies. The Ferretman is more than enough for both of you!"
"Kim? Ron? Anybody?"
The device suddenly came to life. A bright beam of light shot out and scanned the surroundings.
"Strange energy readings," Wade murmured. The Kimmunicator was still attached to Kim's wrist, and she was still alive, but her biological signs were all over the map! And there was an odd energy field of some kind. "Going to visual scan."
It was then that Wade discovered that Kim was unconscious on the floor of Drakken's lair. So was Ron. And Drakken. And Shego. Even Rufus was out, although he kept twitching while everyone else was still as stone.
"This is not good."
Emerging from the secret panel behind the coin-operated Pacman machine, Ferretman swallowed his frustration and headed for the kitchen. He could be sure that his trusted manservant would be there, always awake until his master returned from another night's patrol. A cheesesteak – or two – would be good right now.
"I assume everything went as planned, sir?" his hulking butler said. He hadn't even turned from the cutting board as he heard the swinging door open.
"If you mean as expected, and if you were a cynic, then yes, Barkin. Everything went as planned."
"Cheese and crackers, sir! Dr. Destruction got away again, didn't he?"
Ferretman pounded his palm with his fist. "Yes, as he always somehow manages to. I had fended off his 'Plasma Pair' for just long enough to disable his latest engine of chaos, when a wave of Doom-Bebes and Synthos arrived. He'd planned to use them as a diversion elsewhere, but once his plans went all pear-shaped, he flung them at me like so much cannon fodder. By the time I'd carved a path through them . . ." He scowled, remembering as he watched the hovercraft escape, the Doctor's sidekicks hanging from a suspended rope ladder beneath. Possible had blown a mocking kiss as they disappeared, while Ferretman was forced to deal with his remaining robotic constructs.
Barkin glowered. "You'll get him the next time, sir."
"Hm. That's what you said the last twenty times. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me. Sooner or later, I've captured all of my major adversaries. The Fantom, Bomb Voyage, Casanova Frankenstein, Dark Helmet, Master Blaster – all of them handed over to the authorities at one time or another. And yet Dr. Destruction evades me! Even on the rare occasions when I've captured the Plasma Pair – usually because they sacrificed themselves to buy him time to escape – their jail sentences were measured in terms of hours, not years. " Even when incarcerated at opposite ends of Ironwood Penitentiary, Shego and Possible made escape look easy.
"If it makes you feel any better, sir, I'm sure the evil Doctor is as frustrated as you. Dozens of evil schemes, and yet you thwart him every time."
"I know, I know," Ferretman said, nodding. "Other than his killer sidekicks and their mile-long list of robberies, Dr. Destruction has never managed to live up to his title. But it's not for lack of trying or brilliance. We've all been lucky, I guess."
Barkin raised an eyebrow. "Lucky? Or good?"
Ferretman chuckled. "Both, then. Anyway, I contacted Webmaster and told him where the authorities could find the wreckage of the Doctor's Ray. I'll just have a bite to eat, and then catch a few hours' sleep before going about another day as Ron Stoppable, billionaire slacker. "
Barkin turned around, holding up a cheesesteak the length of a grown man's wingspan. "One bite?"
"Maybe it'll take me two. Diablo Sauce?"
Barkin's hand shot out. Ron's hand met it in midair, grabbing the squeeze bottle. Their routine was a practiced one.
Dr. Destruction snarled wordlessly as he heaved another computer monitor across the room. It smashed against the wall and slid down to join two others just like it. "Curse you, Ferretman! Why is it that the hero has the devil's own luck and not me?!"
Shego leaned against the door frame. Her mind kept wandering to who was waiting for her in the bedroom, but Doc was taking this one particularly hard, and it was her job to be there for him. "Come on, Dr. D, it was a good plan. Any other day and you'd have the city eating out of your hand."
"Yes, and they would have had to!" Dr. Destruction growled, shaking a large fist. "With my Ray the people of Middle City would have been too dumb to know how to eat with their own hands!"
"Yeah, well, considering the security guards I've run across, I don't think that'd be much of a difference," Shego sneered. "Look, you've got a half-dozen more ideas in that cranium of yours, right? Each one more genius than the last?"
The Doctor gradually calmed himself. "Yes," he finally said. "Each one . . . more cleverly diabolical than the last! That fool Ferretman! He thinks he's stopped me – but in fact all he's done is guarantee that I'll succeed with a plan that will make the Reverse Intellectualization Ray look like a minor scare!" He began rolling up his sleeves. "I'll get to work right away!"
"That's the spirit, Dr. D," Shego said. "You need anything before I turn in? Cocoa-moo, maybe?"
"Please, Shego, you know how I detest it when you don't refer to things by their proper names. No, you may go. Good work tonight. Tell Possible that I trust the two of you will get the Weakling Weasel the next time."
"I'll try to fit it in between all the other things I'm telling Pumpkin tonight," Shego said wickedly before she disappeared.
Dr. Destruction shook his head. It was a good thing he soundproofed his sidekicks' room in every lair.
Shego trotted down to the rooms she shared with Kimmie. "Okay, Cupcake, the Doc's put his thinking cap on so we can . . . whoa."
Possible rested on the bed on her knees and leaned back in a lacy red nightie. "Oh, Shego, I think you're going to love what are in here." She pointed to her top.
"I think you're right, Princess." Really, just because Kimmie's breasts were a little bigger than her own, did she have to be so proud of them?
"I'm more right than you think," Kim replied, extracting two pieces of cardboard from the front of her nightgown.
"What are – two tickets to the Temperamental Oranges concert? You remembered?!"
Kim grinned. "You're really dating yourself when you fangirl like that."
"Hey, you're only three years younger, so back off. I'd better go ask Dr. D if we can have off that night."
"Ahem. I don't think you've thanked me – properly yet?"
Shego's eyes sparkled, and they had nothing to do with plasma powers.
Wade grunted. As convenient as Kim's new wrist Kimmunicator was, there were certain limitations to it, and that was why he insisted Ron keep a backup Kimmunicator on him. Right now he was going through Drakken's computer files, having remote piloted the Kimmunicator into a USB port, something the wrist model couldn't do (reason being it was still attached to Kim's arm).
According to Drakken's notes, Kim and Ron had been lured to his lair for the purpose of using his newest invention on them, the Dream Actualizer. It was supposed to have plunged them both into a deep state of dreaming where neither would have any idea they were asleep. The machine was designed to stimulate their brains to create incredibly real dream worlds in which everything Kim and Ron wanted had come true. Since they'd think everything was perfect, they'd never realize they had anything to escape from. Which meant they'd dream forever, and ever.
But since this was a Drakken invention . . . "Something went wrong," Wade muttered. The field generated by the Dream Actualizer had been three times as wide as planned, and Drakken and Shego had been trapped as well. To make matters more confusing, the Actualizer was supposed to give Kim and Ron separate dreams. Instead, it had merged all four dreams, and now the four sleepers were sharing one group dream together.
Wade didn't understand how that could even work. There was no way the machine could make all Kim's wishes come true, AND do the same thing for her archenemies. It would be like creating a world where both cats and dogs reigned supreme.
At any rate, with their minds "joined" as they were, it was too dangerous to just shut the Actualizer off. There was no telling what kind of dangerous feedback the four people would receive. And since the machine was already performing contrary to expectations, Wade didn't trust trying to modify its programming.
There was another possibility, though. Rufus wasn't an intended target either – his naked mole rat brain was obviously very different from the human brain. He appeared to be trapped in the dream state as well, but the Actualizer was struggling with his brain. If he could somehow piggyback the signal, then maybe he could interact with Rufus inside the dream world.
He had to act quickly, though. The thought of Kim and Ron trapped in Drakken's personal paradise . . . he shuddered.
"It is certainly a 'sweet set-up', Ronald."
Ron had been informed by Barkin that he had a visitor. It had taken him less than thirty seconds to dash from his laboratory to the game room, the best Stoppable money could buy. Slouched in his ergonomic "gaming chair", designed to allow players to remain on their console of choice for twelve hours on end before cramps set in, he'd retrieved his special gold-plated controller and unpaused his current game of "Ghosts & Mummies III - Gozer vs. Djoser". He wouldn't have bothered if he'd known who his guest was first. "Hey, R'fusz. Didn't know you were in town."
The ordinary-looking man before Ron shimmered, only to be replaced by something much different. Namely, what appeared to be a purple five-foot-tall hairless rodent, standing on its hind legs and wearing a green cape. "I was not, until very recently. I have just arrived from the Watchtower."
"How's it hanging up there? Princes still keeping view?" Ferretman spent as little time as possible on the Watchtower orbiting the Earth. He worked with League Justice when the situation demanded it, but he didn't get along well with what he perceived as the arrogance of super-powered LJ members. He thought the satellite was a fitting symbol for the "high and mighty" LJ, especially founder SuperHego and current chairperson Diana Director.
Ron's guest had powers of his own, including telepathy and shapeshifting, but Ron made an exception for him. "Arrogance" and "R'fus R'fusz" did not go together. "There are no major emergencies," he said now. "Most members are handling smaller crises in their own cities. I did not come on LJ business, though. At least, I hope not."
Ron tossed aside his controller. "What do you mean, you HOPE not? What exactly brings the Martian Mole-Rat to my home without advance notice?"
R'fusz hesitated. "Are you faring well at your game?" he asked, stalling.
"Don't know. This is my first life. It's just on so people will think I've been playing all day. 99 percent of the time it's on pause. I figure at this rate I'll beat it in 2057. You didn't answer my question."
The alien rodent sighed. "Earlier today I received a mental communication from someone who identified himself as 'Wade'."
Ron sat up. "You mean Webmaster."
"No, I mean Wade. He had no idea who Webmaster was."
"R'fusz, Wade IS the Webmaster. Was the voice the same?"
Ron folded his hands and leaned back. "Before I ask what he said to you, are you sure it's not the Hackmonger?"
"I . . . cannot be sure. What he told me was most troubling, so it is possible, yes."
"Anything's possible for a Stoppable," Ron grumbled. "If the Global Syndicate of Nastiness has found a way to access our dimension again - "
"I do not wish to see my evil twin counterpart the Venusian Vole any more than you wish to see Mongooseman," R'fusz interrupted, "but perhaps I can impart what this Wade said to me?"
"I'm sorry, R'fusz. Go on."
"He claimed . . . he claimed that we are dreaming, and that he was contacting me from the 'real world'."
Ron blinked. "You mean, like, I'm just dreaming that I'm Ferretman, but in reality I'm a pizza delivery guy or something. Sounds like something my enemy the Mad Golfer would say."
"A fair analogy," R'fusz agreed. "He went on to say that we have been placed into this dream state by a certain blue-skinned mad scientist named Doctor Drakken and his evil sidekick Shego."
"Hm, why do they sound familiar? What about Possible?"
"It seems Kim Possible is a hero in the real world, and you, Ronald, are her sidekick. Wade fills a role very similar to Webmaster there."
Ron chuckled. "Never did catch her first name. I'll have to add that to her file. What about you?"
R'fusz scowled. "I would rather not say."
"Ohhh-kay. So what does our mystery mentalist propose we do about our predicament?"
"He says he can't shut off the device responsible without endangering our minds," the Martian explained. "He believes that, now that we know this is an illusion, we can break the trance from the inside."
"I have the strangest feeling that would have the completely unintended side effect of helping someone take over the world," Ron mused. "Did he really expect you to believe it?"
"I believe he may have had some hopes, yes."
"Well, he's right, we DO have something to do. Webmaster has some kind of clone or twin out there, one with enough telepathic power to communicate with you from the Earth's surface. And he was able to get inside your mind. We need to find him, and deal with him."
"That would be prudent," R'fusz agreed. "Also because the name 'Ferretman' never came up, but he somehow knew that I have a relationship with Ron Stoppable. Now why would the Martian Mole-Rat have a connection to the billionaire game-playboy?"
Ron frowned. "I hadn't thought of that."
"This 'Wade' said he would contact me again within the next few hours. I propose we remain together until then. I can transmit his mental messages to you without giving him access to your mind."
"Sounds like a plan. Care to join me in the Ferret's Hole until then?" Ron activated the intercom. "Barkin! Please prepare a bowl of Cheez-Its and bring them down to the Hole."
"Will do," Barkin's voice rang out.
R'fusz nodded and gestured for Ron to go ahead, but privately wondered - if this WAS a dream hypothetically, and Ronald was a sidekick in the real world, that might theoretically explain why he so adamantly refused using sidekicks of his own.
Wade grunted. The plan had worked, to a point. He'd succeeded at establishing communications with Rufus within the dream machine. Unfortunately, Rufus had proven highly suspicious of Wade for some reason, and provided Wade with virtually no information about the world inside. Although Rufus did have a greatly improved vocabulary . . .
He would contact Rufus again in two hours. In the meantime, he had some more digging to do through these Dream Actualizer readouts. Maybe he could get an idea of what the dream looked like from that.
"This isn't going as well as the last few times," Ferretman thought to himself as his dodging form was pelted with shards of marble. "Funny, since I have R'fusz with me. Maybe not going solo is throwing off my game today. See, this is why I don't use sidekicks!"
"You can't dodge my fists forever, Ferretman!" Stonemauler shrieked.
Odd how much of his life involved dodging the fists of gorgeous women.
"And when I'm through with you, I'll find that mutated gopher of yours and rip him in two!" Her eyes swept around the bank lobby. Appealing to Middle City's richest citizens, the bank had renovated again, adding Grecian columns of Italian marble to make its exclusive clientele feel more at home. Right now those columns were both Ferretman's ally and enemy. He was using them as cover to keep out of the Stonemauler's sight, but SHE was trying to use the marble, and her superhuman strength, to bash his brain in.
"Adding cruelty to animals to your rap sheet?" The acoustics weren't great, and Ferretman could modulate his voice enough that she couldn't pinpoint his location when he spoke.
"Humans are a kind of animal, aren't they? And so are ferrets!"
Ferretman threw himself backwards as a feminine hand made a not-so-feminine fist and smashed a hole the size of a honeydew in the column he'd been lurking behind. Okay, maybe the acoustics weren't that bad after all. Not the time to be thinking of melons, he thought to himself as he tumbled out of her path. There'd been more than a little sexual tension between them over the years, and now wasn't the time to be thinking of one of her better qualities. You go one-on-one over the rooftops with a six-foot-tall woman with a killer body and a potentially deadly right cross (although thankfully that was a line the thief had never crossed), and you were bound to exchange a little dialogue that went beyond banter . . .
Mentally he blinked, even as his body instinctively reached for a bola and threw. The weapon spun through the air and latched its roped around her arms. That would hold her for all of fifteen seconds, but Ferretman could see that was ten seconds more than R'fusz would need to disable her from behind.
Then Ferretman understood.
"Mole-Rat, disengage!" he roared, pointing a finger past Stonemauler's shoulder. "This is between us!"
The Martian stopped, startled, as Stonemauler spun around. She gritted her teeth and flexed, finally snapping the ropes around her body and freeing her arms. "Ferretman - " R'fusz began.
"I said pull back," Ferretman told him. "I've got this."
Reluctantly, R'fusz began to fall back, before he winced and put a paw to his head. "Make it quick, Ferretman," he said before vanishing. "I'm receiving an incoming call."
The second Wade, Ferretman realized. Damn. I WILL need to make this quick. This new Wade hadn't contacted the Martian before the call came into the Ferret's Hole that Stonemauler was robbing a bank.
Stonemauler turned back to face Ferretman, and smiled. It was less of a "Now I've got you alone and I'm going to break your back over my knee" smile, and more of a "Now I've got you alone, and it's about time you figured out that's how it's supposed to be" smile. "No more distractions," she said.
"Maybe if that outfit weren't quite so tight, then there'd be no more distractions," Ferretman said as he rose to his full height.
She smiled evilly, ran her hands down her sides, and tossed her brown hair back over her shoulder. "How about a hug?"
"I'll take a rain check. Maybe the next time we're forced to join sides."
"Ugh. Never any profit in THAT."
"What's he saying?" Ferretman asked R'fusz a short time later.
The Martian Mole-Rat looked at him. "What exactly happened in there? Two-on-one and it was a draw, at BEST. I leave you alone in there, and you come out ten minutes later with Stonemauler in restraints. How?"
Ferretman waved a hand vaguely. "I just got her to calm down a little. She pulls her punches - a little, anyway - when she's not on the warpath."
"You have very strange villains, Ferretman."
"Forget her. What's the other Wade saying to you?"
"Nothing. His voice went away. I believe he was operating under some kind of time constraint."
Ferretman grunted. Stonemauler was relaxing next to Dr. Destruction or Monkey Grodd, but her timing sucked that day. "Well, what did he say? Any clue as to his identity?"
"If we're assuming he's lying about his identity, then no. If, on the other hand, he's telling the truth, then there's no mystery as to who he is."
"Come on, you're not actually buying into this theory that we're dreaming this up? If this was my dream, don't you think I would have caught the Doctor by now?"
R'fusz looked troubled. "According to Wade, you and I are sharing the dream with three others - the 'real' Dr. Destruction, Shego, and Possible. The device he's describing was designed to use the victim's own mind against him by creating a dream state that would give him everything he most deeply desired."
"Which is the point I just made."
"Yes, but remember the first part - this is a shared dream. Which means Dr. Destruction is ALSO supposed to get everything he wants."
Ferretman digested that for a moment. "That's not possible. We can't both get what we want. I want him stopped. He wants me dead."
"Precisely. But the mind is a complicated thing. People want many things. Wade has theorized that this 'Dream Actualizer' is mixing and matching wishes, trying to accomodate all sides and deny none. You always stop him . . . but he always gets away."
"This is all very compelling in a theoretical sense, but it's common knowledge that he and I have never scored a true victory against each other. Wade could just be making this up. And what about the Plasma Pair? That's what they want? Being sidekicks for a mad genius who never wins?"
The Mole-Rat slowly nodded. "This is true. He has pressed me for details about our world. I have only told him things that are public knowledge. For example, I confirmed that the woman he knows as 'Kim Possible' is a match for your Possible. And he says Kim Possible would NEVER be a villain's sidekick, or anybody's sidekick for that matter. And that she never gets along with Shego, whereas you and I know - "
"Those two get along REAL well," Ferretman finished. "You see? He's a fraud! He can't even spin a plausible story to suit his own needs! Probably some telepath lurking about Middle City somewhere. We lure him in, we nab him, and we find out what he's after."
"I - suppose you are right," the Mole-Rat agreed.
Except . . . if Wade was lying, then why would he have insisted that Possible and Kim were nothing alike? Why not say the opposite? It was in his own interest to do so.
If this Wade didn't know his Kim Possible as well as he claimed he did, then -
R'fusz would think on this long and hard that night. Because he wouldn't be able to sleep.
The Doctor tapped his foot impatiently. He looked at his watch. He distinctly remembered contacting Shego and asking for them to come to his lab five minutes ago. "Them" because wherever Shego was, Possible was sure to be near. His sidekicks did practically everything together, and that included certain things which had led to all human henchmen and their prying eyes being banned from Dr. Destruction lairs for the rest of eternity. That had been annoying at first, but it had also forced him to develop the Doom-Bebes and Synthos, so it seemed the girls' sexual urges had yielded him dividends in the long run.
Regardless, it had been more than five minutes.
He went over to the main computer and activated the sensors which would tell him where concentrations of plasma energy were. If they were in their sleeping quarters, then he had no choice but to wait. Both girls were loyal and quick to follow orders, but when they got caught up in each other, they forgot everything else. And he certainly didn't want to walk in on them.
Fortunately, they were in the training room. Which meant they were (hopefully) sparring. Another activity that made Shego and Possible lose track of time, but one which he wasn't afraid to intrude on.
When Dr. Destruction got there, he found his sidekicks fully dressed and trying to put each other in the infirmary. No plasma, because otherwise they'd bring the roof down on themselves, but otherwise Shego and Possible were attacking each other with a full head of steam. They were always like this after a fight with that cursed Ferretman. Normally they were all smiles when they fought each other, but today they were grimly trying to work out how the Wascally Weasel had managed to win again. "Ahem, ladies?" he asked.
They didn't even hear him. "Then he tried a crescent kick - " Shego said.
"No, first came the backhand, then the crescent kick - "
"Ohhh, Plasma Pair?"
That snapped through their consciousness. Possible rounded on the Doctor. "For the last fucking time, I hate that name!" she growled, pointing a finger. "The media vultures saddled us with that!"
"How nice to have your attention again," Dr. Destruction said dryly.
Shego glanced at the clock. "Sorry, Dr. D. I guess I lost track of the time."
"Meh. But now that you're no longer reliving your past - er, glories, perhaps you'd like to hear about the next plan?"
Possible folded her arms. "Stupid nickname. I told them we're Team Go, but do those parasites listen? No!"
"Team Go doesn't even make any sense," Shego said as she vaulted over the ropes. "You don't have a Go in your name."
"Like Team Possible sounds better?"
"Ahem, evil plan ring a bell?" Dr. Destruction asked.
"What's the score?" Shego asked as Kim got a handle on her temper.
Dr. Destruction grinned. There was a vindictive gleam in his eye. "I think it's time Middle City found out what it's like to have a case of the blues!"
The Martian Mole-Rat interrupted his meditation, recognizing the voice in his head, and opened an eye. "I do not know if you are telling the truth of not, Wade, but while I am in my world, I will ask that you pronounce my name correctly. It is R-fusz."
. . . Ruhfuz?
"Well, you're getting there," R'fusz sighed.
You said you don't know if you believe me or not. Before you sounded pretty sure that you didn't. Does that mean you're starting to come around?
"You have to see it from my point of view," R'fusz argued. "You claim that, in your world, I am someone's pet, I fit in your hand, and I sleep inside a teenage male's pants pocket. Why would I want to believe THAT is where I belong?"
I get that. But the Dream Actualizer is DESIGNED to make your dreams come true. Why wouldn't that world be better than the real one?
"I would feel better about this if you had the slightest bit of proof."
I have a couple ideas.
You really, REALLY like cheese.
R'fusz didn't speak. Wade was able to speak into his brain, but otherwise, his mental shields were still solid. He was virtually certain that Wade couldn't have pulled that from his head. And the Martian Mole-Rat's diet was far from common knowledge.
Ron Stoppable is a superhero, possibly calling himself theFearless Ferret.
His heart skipped a beat. "What would make you say that?" R'fusz tried to ask casually. "Is that what he calls himself in your world?"
No, the Fearless Ferret is a character in a TV show. Ron spent some time believing the show was real, and he went around dressing like a ferret and trying to fight crime. Your Dr. Destruction is obviously my Dr. Drakken. If Kim and Shego are Drakken's sidekicks, then Ron has to be his archenemy. Which, from the sound of your world, would make him a superhero of some kind. If Ron saw himself as a superhero, he'd probably be the Fearless Ferret. Let me guess, Ron is fabulously wealthy and he has a lair hidden in a cave below his house?
Either this Wade knew Ron Stoppable's greatest secret, or . . . he was telling the truth. And to be honest, if you knew Ferretman's secret identity, this was an incredibly bizarre means of exploiting it. "I can't confirm or deny anything you say without concrete proof," R'fusz finally said, "but let's say hypothetically that you're telling the truth, and we're all imagining this."
Well, just the five of you actually, you're imagining everyone else too.
"May I continue?"
"I assume you have some way of getting us all out of this 'Dream Actualizer'?"
I have three ideas, ranging from "probably not going to work" to "probably not going to like it".
R'fusz sighed. Naturally. "What's the first one?"
One of you has to really, really want the dream to end.
"That doesn't sound too difficult."
Would you want this dream to end? Would Ron? Kim?
"I cannot speak for Possible, and we can probably eliminate the villains from our consideration anyway. It's simply not possible that they'd buy this, especially coming from a hero. As for Ron and myself, well, not particularly, no."
Which is why it probably won't work.
"Which one am I probably not going to like?"
One of you, um, dies.
"You were right. I don't like it."
I don't like it either. Just because it's an old wives' tale doesn't mean people who die in their dreams don't die in real life. It's more of a last resort.
"You mentioned three ideas. What's the third?"
This dream state is predicated on the notion that you're being granted your heart's desire. If you do something that runs directly counter to what the machine is offering you, it might disrupt the script and shut everything down.
"Something like what?"
Ron lets Dr. Destruction win.
"He'll NEVER agree to that. You suggesting that would only make him that much more confident that you're the heart of some villainous plot."
Well, unless you can get one of the villains to lose on purpose, I'm out of ideas. And you guys are out of options.
"Always popping out of one hole or slipping into another, eh, Ferretman?"
"Commissioner North," Ferretman said as he emerged from the shadows on the roof of police headquarters. "I saw the Ferret-Beacon. What is it?"
Police Commissioner Timothy North handed him an ordinary-looking disc. "It's an audio file from Dr. Destruction. He's completely mad now, Ferretman. What he's planning is . . ." He shook his head. "And it's his own damn fault he looks like that!"
Ferretman raised an eyebrow even as he slipped the disc into one of his devices. "Villains like him are pros at blaming everyone but themselves." He extracted an earpiece on a cord from the gadget and inserted it in his ear. Then he dialed down the volume before turning it on. The Doctor tended to shout. Or speak too close to the microphone. Could have been either.
"I have a message for the people of Middle City," the Doctor proclaimed. Even at 1, he could be heard quite clearly. "You may want to schedule an early appointment with your therapists this week, because you'll be feeling blue tomorrow!"
The superhero looked at North. "He didn't."
"By tomorrow morning," Dr. Destruction continued, "every last man, woman, and child will be cursed - or blessed, depending on your perspective - with skin in a lovely shade of blue! I've decided I no longer like skulking in shadows and hiding my face. My sidekicks can empathize, but even they with their plasma-induced skin tones can blend into a crowd under the right lighting. Tomorrow, however, I'll walk through the streets, chin up, because I'll be just like everyone else - only much smarter!"
"Insane," Ferretman muttered.
"Oh, don't worry, soon-to-be newest minority group in America," the Doctor assured his listeners. "There's a cure for your condition, even if there's none for mine. And you can have it! All it will cost is my being granted Supreme Authority over Middle City! Otherwise, well, you might want to postpone that trip to Utah. For a really long time!" The recording went dead at that point.
"As his plans go, it's not the most lethal one, but it's still pure sadism," North said.
"I'll find him, Commissioner," Ferretman promised him. "I always do. And when I do, I'll give him some black to go with his blue!"
"We'll have to postpone our hunt for your mystery telepath, R'fusz," Ron said, not even bothering to turn around from the main computer console. "Dr. Destruction has come up with his most demented plan yet, and he has to be stopped tonight."
R'fusz came up behind him. "Hrm, yes, about that - "
"The Doctor has always used legitimate front operations with a blue theme to hide his evil preparations - blue buildings, names with the word 'blue' in them, blue products sold. I'm cross-checking my list of suspects for unusual recent activity."
"Ronald," R'fusz said more calmly than he felt. "Maybe this isn't what you should be focusing on."
"I realize that we're both being targeted by someone able to speak directly into your mind, but this is - "
"It's not that - I mean we're - I don't believe we're being 'targeted', as you call it."
"What would you call it?"
" . . . I think this Wade may be right."
Ron put the computerized search on Automatic, and swiveled around in his chair. "Excuse me?"
"I think he may be right when he says that this world - does not exist except in the minds of a few people."
"You think - " Ron put a hand over his face. "You can't be serious."
"He knows who you are."
Ron's face reappeared quite quickly. "He WHAT?"
"He knows that Ron Stoppable is Ferretman. Ronald, he has this incredibly sensitive, extremely dangerous information available to him, and what does he do with it? Sell it to your enemies? Notify the press? Attack your home while you sleep? No, he contacts ME and tells me."
"He's taunting us," Ron said, alarmed. "He thinks we won't be able to find him. We have to - "
"Ronald, why is it you won't use sidekicks?"
Ron's eyes bored in on R'fusz's. "That's a non sequitur."
"You go into the Doctor's lair and face impossible odds ALONE over and over again, and still he gets away. Yet you've never considered the idea that you could capture him if only you had someone at your side."
"Are you volunteering?"
"Wade has claimed that the 'real' Ron Stoppable is sidekick to a very forceful and dominant woman. Wade thinks that on some subconscious level, you resent playing second banana, and so you fantasize about being your own man, doing it by yourself, never needing help, never being the junior partner."
Ron stood up and took a step forward, for a moment looking like he wanted to throttle R'fusz. He spun around and turned his attention to the computer search. "I can't worry about this now. Dr. Destruction has to be stopped, and to be stopped he has to be found, and to be found I have to do this now! R'fusz, you're not listening to what you're saying. I won't be - "
"Damn it, Ronald, I'm just an animal in that world!"
"You're . . . wait, what?"
"In Wade's world," R'fusz sighed. "I'm an ordinary rodent. A pet. Your pet, in fact. I sleep in your pocket and I eat fast-food nachos and I can't string four words together in a sentence. Do you think I want to believe?!"
Ron didn't speak for a moment. R'fusz never raised his voice in anger. "Then why do you?" he finally asked.
"Because it explains certain things. How he knows your identity. Why you always win, but the Doctor always escapes. Why you hate not working alone. And . . . if it's true, then this world, this place, it's not real. Which means the good we do, the lives we save - it's worth nothing. How can we remain here if the people we're sworn to protect are out 'there'?"
A shrill beep prevented Ron from coming up with a response. He looked up. "I've got a hit," he said quietly. "Blue Rose, a jazz and blues club in a basement on Sixty-Fifth. They've been receiving a lot of deliveries over the past twenty-four hours, too much for a club its size. The Doctor is there."
"Ronald, Wade seems to think that the best way to break the spell is if someone in the dream doesn't get what they want. You want justice, you want to protect, you want to defeat Dr. Destruction - but I think you need to let him win tonight."
Ron's jaw stiffened. "No, don't tell me that. You want me to believe, but I can't - there's too much at stake. I can't take the chance that you're wrong. I'm leaving, and I'm stopping this."
R'fusz spread his paws helplessly. "I hope you are right then."
"I have to be."
Ferretman scowled. It was a perfect setting for an ambush. There was a narrow flight of stairs leading down into the Blue Rose. There was also a back entrance where the deliveries had gone through. Either way, he'd be spotted coming in. Worse yet, sounds and weak visuals confirmed that the club was busy tonight. Some very surreptitious surveillance confirmed that a singer and three-piece band was performing before dozens of innocent bystanders. And the Blue Rose had been in business for over twenty years, so it wasn't one of the Doctor's fly-by-night shell companies.
If he went through the front and a fight erupted, those people would be in danger. If he came through the back and a fight erupted, they'd STILL be in danger and he couldn't protect them.
He chose the front door. Get in, shepherd the civilians out, head into the sub-basement where the Doctor would be.
In the dark no one noticed him slip in. He took five steps toward the back of the club, intending to loudly announce his presence and direct people to the exit. But he didn't.
Dozens of people slowly turned their heads to look at him. Wigs and hats fell to the floor, revealing cold green Syntho eyes and smooth Doom-Bebe cheeks. The bass player hefted his instrument onto his shoulder, and a hole appeared at the bottom. A laser blade extended from the singer's microphone.
Two figures in vintage pinstripe suits, one white and one black, and fedora hats turned from their places by the bar. "We're here to drown your sorrows, Ferretman," Shego said.
"Because you're about to be hit by a smooth criminal," Possible added.
It was best when they were infuriated. They made mistakes. When they were playful like this, they were truly dangerous.
Both women flung their hats at him, and then sprang forward with fists blazing.
And all hell broke loose.
Despite their initial headlong plunge, it seemed Shego and Possible weren't really quite so foolish. There was barely enough room in the jazz club for the dozens of Synthos and Doom-Bebes alone, let alone Ferretman and the Plasma Pair. The girls hung back, lounging by the piano onstage, letting Ferretman be swamped by synthetic soldiers and hampered by restrictions on his freedom to move. Every so often they lobbed martini glasses towards his head. Otherwise they were content to preen for each other.
Ferretman had only three advantages in this fight, and he clung to them with all his might. His attackers couldn't compete with him in intellect and adaptability, their movements were as restricted as his, and they weren't human. This last fact allowed Ferretman to use what would be considered lethal force against human opponents. Boo-yah!-rangs sliced open the throats of Synthos, allowing their goo to splash out in torrents. Only the soles of Ferretman's specially designed boots prevented him from slipping in the chemically engineered gore. Doom-Bebes were impaled with the legs of wooden chairs, and had their heads crushed with small tabletops. Their sizzling carcasses were kicked aside by Ferretman, forcing his enemies to stumble over them.
He ducked and allowed a miniature rocket to pass through where his head used to be. That bass player was starting to get on his nerves.
A martini glass shattered harmlessly on his shoulders. The Plasma Pair was definitely getting on his nerves.
"Oooh," Possible murmured with false sympathy as a Syntho was ripped in half, and green ichor gushed all over Ferretman's cape. "I don't think that's going to come out."
"Maybe we should help him?" Shego suggested.
Possible looked at her like she was insane.
"Well, that is, if we want to have him to ourselves at some point," Shego pointed out. "Otherwise, at this rate, a Doom-Bebe might be taking home the trophy."
"Hm, there is that," Possible said idly. Casually she spoiled the aim of the bass player launching tiny rockets from the instrument's base. A rocket veered off and incinerated three Doom-Bebes in flapper gowns. "I don't think we're going to get our deposit back from the costume shop."
"Didn't we steal them?"
"I don't know. We steal a lot of things," Possible replied, indifferent. She looked Shego up and down in her black men's suit. "There's just something so sexy about you dressed all butch."
"It's the tie," Shego assured her. "More wine?"
"Please and thank you."
Ferretman wished he could be so relaxed. His cape was gone, too sodden with Syntho-goo to be anything more than an impediment. He was running out of Boo-yah!-rangs, forced to use dismantled limbs from Doom-Bebes to slice open the rubber skins of Synthos. And for all the enemies he'd disposed of, an equal number was still trying to tear him apart. He gritted his teeth as a gelatinous arm wrapped around his throat. Then the pressure was gone as he felt Syntho solution splash up and down his backside.
"Oh, joy," Shego grumbled. "It's the Lugs of Justice. Buzz kill."
The Martian Mole-Rat tore the head off a Doom-Bebe with his superior strength and hurled it at the bass player, who dropped its weapon and staggered about, trying to repair itself. "I thought you might need help," he said.
"I thought none of this was real," Ferretman retorted.
"It's not up to me to break the spell. I have nothing better to do."
A flash of red plasma separated the two.
"You just had to go and take the fun out of this," Shego growled while Possible waved a glowing hand. "Makes this work for us."
Then the floor started to tremble. A Doom-Bebe slipped in Syntho crud and smashed into pieces against the bar. R'fusz looked at Ferretman. "It's coming from outside!"
Shego and Possible just grinned knowingly at each other.
"Come on," Ferretman growled as they bolted for the exit.
What they found outside was a seventeen-foot-tall spire, a mechanical monstrosity, that had expelled itself from beneath the pavement like an obscene gesture. Halfway up Dr. Destruction sat within, smiling like a maniac.
"The Streets Department isn't going to like cleaning this mess up tomorrow," Ferretman observed. He and R'fusz then dodged for cover as a veritable storm of plasma chased them from the top of the stairs leading down to the Blue Rose. The Plasma Pair emerged and expertly flipped and tumbled back so that they were between the heroes and the Doctor's machine.
"So, you survived your little 'jam session', Ferretman," Dr. Destruction mocked. "I'm sure you're proud of yourself. Well, try being proud when you look in the mirror and see all - that - blue!"
"I am really sick of his attempts at humor," Ferretman muttered. Sick of it all, actually. Sick of cheating death at the hands of those sociopathic women, of foiling Dr. Destruction's plans only for the deranged genius to get away again. It was a source of unending frustration.
A small voice in the back of his head suggested, for the first time, that it wouldn't be so bad if this all really was a figment of his imagination. Then he wouldn't have to put up with the Doctor's shit any longer.
Ferretman paused. He wasn't really considering that - was he?
R'fusz gave him a look loaded with meaning. "It's a question of what you want."
He wanted to beat Dr. Destruction, throw him in the slammer, to win. Even losing might be preferable to this series of unending ties.
Slowly, Ferretman took two steps back and folded his arms. "Go ahead," he said. "Do it."
Dr. Destruction and the Plasma Pair were so still that for a moment Ferretman thought the whole world had frozen around him. Then the Doctor seemed to recover. "Excuse me?"
"Go for it. You think you can turn the city blue. Let's see you try. I'm done fighting for today."
Shego and Possible looked appalled. The Doctor looked mystified. "You want me to win?"
"No, I definitely do NOT want you to win," Ferretman retorted. "I'm just letting you do it."
Dr. Destruction twitched, then burst out laughing. "Bwa-hahaha, so you finally see the futility of opposing my dreams! Well, watch this, rodent, and WEEP!"
He tapped a few keys in front of him, and then pressed something else with his palm.
Time passed very slowly.
Dr. Destruction looked more shocked than before. "Impossible! It should have done something by now!" He pushed some more buttons. The machine, however, sat silent and useless.
"Uh, Dr. D?"
"This can't be happening! All my inventions work! Why isn't this working when victory is within my grasp? Why can't I get what I want?! It's not fair, it's not fair!" Dr. Destruction shrieked in rage.
"God, I hope this is a coincidence," Ferretman said, looking at R'fusz.
Who had, inexplicably, suddenly become six inches tall. Small enough to fit - inside - your pocket. Ferretman's eyes almost bulged through his mask.
R'fusz looked down at himself. "Eep!"
"Dr. D, maybe we should go," Shego said uneasily. "If it's not working. As usual," she added meanly.
"Shego, you can hurt with your words too!"
Ferretman looked about him. None of this was right. None of this was possible.
Unless the Dream Actualizer really does exist - the Doctor can't win even when I LET him win, because that's not what I want! And now things are changing! R'fusz shrinks, Shego insults the Doctor . . . the machine is losing control of the situation!
"It's not real," he whispered.
He looked into the sky, and his mind practically reeled when he saw a crack running through it.
"Possible, let's - "
"Get away from me! Wait, what am I saying?!"
"It's not real," Ferretman repeated. He touched his face and wasn't even alarmed to find his mask was gone. "It's not real and, and - and what I want is OUT!"
Ron was, appropriately, the first to awaken. He put a hand to his forehead and whimpered. "Aspirin," he croaked.
"Ron! You're awake!"
Ron Stoppable carefully opened his eyes, and discovered Wade's face, concerned, looking down at him from one of Drakken's computer screens. "Yeah, so? Am I late for a class?"
"That must mean Kim and the others are going to wake up too," Wade said, relieved. "Do you remember anything, Ron?"
"I - no, what are you - "
Then it all came flooding back. The city, the manor house, the cape, the cave, Barkin the butler?
"I remember it all," Ron said. "I was a hero, and KP was . . . was . . ." He sat up and looked at Kim, then at Shego, both still passed out. He remembered how the two of them had acted in his dream VERY distinctly. "Not KP," he added.
He struggled to his feet as Kim, then Dr. Drakken, and finally Shego started to come to. Ron looked at Wade's image. "How long were we in there?"
"A few hours. How did you do it, Ron? How did you get out?"
"Well, uh - "
Kim and Shego stared at each other for a long moment. Then Kim turned an unbelievably dark shade of red, clapped her hands over her mouth, and in an extreme state of mortification ran from the room.
"So, uh, I guess we'll catch you two later," Ron said awkwardly. He ran after Kim.
Drakken looked even more awkward. "Shego, what just happened to us?"
Shego scowled at him. "Not now, Dr. D. I'm taking a vacation day. Or three. Right now." She stormed out, leaving him by himself.
Drakken held his hands up. "And they were so manly before," he sighed.
The following three days were hard on all of them.
Kim, unsurprisingly, suffered the most. There was not a moment that didn't go by without her dwelling on it. At least the mission had been on a Friday, or she would have flunked three days' worth of assignments. Her attention and ability to focus was shot. Even her normal dreams were affected. Those she couldn't remember, but from the way her sheets were twisted and soaked the following morning, Kim could put two and two together.
Maybe this had been Drakken's plan all along – not to trap her in an endless dream state until her body died from lack of food and water, but to inflict these dreams, these memories upon her. And then sit back and watch what happened. What happened was that she didn't think she could ever face Shego again.
The memories themselves were tortuous enough. She was halfway certain that some of the . . . sexual acts she had performed with . . . Shego were illegal. Physically she was still a virgin (she'd checked!), but on some emotional or psychological level she'd become sexually active, bold, and experimental. Even now certain sensory inputs – smells, tastes, colors – raised her body's temperature by a couple degrees.
Worse was Wade's revelation that the Dream Actualizer didn't create that world out of thin air, but rather designed it on the basis of the combined wishes and desires of its four prisoners. That meant it was somebody's idea that Kim and Shego become lovers. Kim wanted to be confident that it wasn't hers, but then why did those memories still affect her the way they did? And if it was Shego's idea, then suddenly the time spent with Miss Go took on a whole different meaning. Either way, Kim wasn't sure how she could fight Shego knowing that one (oh God, or both) of them secretly lusted after the other.
(Or it was Ron's fantasy, and then she was going to have a long, long talk with her boyfriend. If he was her boyfriend any more. Oh, hell.)
Ron had his own issues. A lot of that dream had actually been pretty badical, and he was proud of the fact that he'd been the one to break the Actualizer's grip, but KP had been his enemy in that world. Was that a sign that he resented KP? Didn't want to be her partner any more? Or did Kim feel that way? What did Kim feel? Did she want to leave him for Shego?
The sexual tension between "Ferretman" and a woman who was very clearly a variation on Bonnie Rockwaller wasn't helping.
Neither was the fact that the two had avoided each other since getting back from Drakken's lair.
Speaking of which, Dr. Drakken was doing some avoiding of his own. He missed the other world. Sure, he'd never won there either, but he'd never been captured, and his inventions all worked the way they were designed to (except the last one, and that wasn't really his fault apparently), and Kim Possible had obeyed him, and Shego had been supportive. The real world depressed him tremendously, and he stayed in his room. Plus he wondered if Shego was in love with Kim Possible, and if she was going to resign and rejoin Team Go. He'd ask, but she'd remained barricaded in her own room, constantly playing her Temperamental Oranges records. And she might kill him if he did. This depressed him further.
Shego had never told him she was a lesbian, but then she'd never told him about her brothers either. It made him wonder how well he really knew her at all, and perhaps they were nothing like a family.
And this depressed him even further.
Shego . . . well, suffice it to say that everyone was pondering the ramifications of her love affair with Kim Possible.
Rufus was lucky. His brain was such that he'd already forgotten much of what happened in the Dream world. All he had were occasional moments while he slept where he dreamed himself six feet tall.
"What's the sitch, Wade?" Kim asked when her Kimmunicator went off. Please, let it be Dementor or Monkey Fist – or DNAmy! Nothing remotely sexual about her!
"It's Drakken and Shego, Kim," Wade told her, and her heart sank. "I guess since they were never put in jail the other day, they're already at it again." He hesitated. "I don't suppose you destroyed the Dream Actualizer before you left?"
Kim sighed deeply. "No, I should have, but – well – " Those first memories that had surfaced after she woke up the other day returned unbidden, and as usual she turned bright crimson.
"Well, last night Shego stole a lot of components for a machine which, if I'm correct, could be used to expand the range of the Actualizer by at least a hundredfold. I think this might be the first step toward Drakken putting the entire world into a trance."
"He must be crazy," Kim said, horrified. If Drakken sent her back to that world . . . "I'll go right now."
She grunted. Maybe they could switch off – he takes Shego, she takes Drakken. "Let him know where he needs to be."
By the time she was through, that Actualizer would be in tiny, tiny little bits. Like her peace of mind.
"So you want me to fight Shego?" Ron asked dubiously.
"Yes," Kim said as they slithered through a ventilation shaft.
Ron never noticed that Kim's ass looked a lot like Bon – he gritted his teeth. "Afraid?" he asked uncharitably.
"Of Shego? Please. I've fought her a hundred times. I just, uh . . . "
"Afraid of hurting her?"
"Don't – ever – say – that – again, Weasel Boy."
Kim caught a very familiar flash of green through an air duct before her. Shego was lounging in a chair, her feet up on a round table, headphones over her ears. She looked so cute like – stop that, Kim!
"Okay, let's do this," she said, not sounding at all uncertain.
They both descended from their hiding place. Ron managed not to snag his cape, er, pants.
Shego looked up. "About time, Pumpkin," she said, taking off the headphones.
Kim flushed. Shego's pet names – this was going to be even harder than she'd thought. "That's not my name, Shego," she retorted.
"You're right," Shego agreed, surprisingly. She flashed a sardonic grin. "It's Possible, right?"
Kim's shoulder twitched.
"All right, I'll take her," Ron said. Kim looked ready to either explode or fall apart.
"Here's a better idea," Shego drawled. "Let me have Dr. D come in." She put her fingers to her lips and blew a piercing whistle. "Yo, Drakken! Get your blue butt in here."
Dr. Drakken came in a few seconds later. He appeared to be moping. "You don't have to be mean, Shego," he complained.
"Ugh," Shego said, putting her face in her hands. "This is exactly why we need to have this."
"This what?" Kim asked.
"A sitdown." Shego pushed a button on the arm of her chair.
Steel doors slammed down with finality at either end of the room. Laser grids sliced across the ceiling, blocking passage through any air ducts.
"I stole those parts last night on my own initiative. If anything was going to lure you two here, it'd be the thought of a bigger, more powerful Actualizer. As much as I hate it, we have to talk about what happened," Shego grumbled. "Or we'll never move past it."
Kim was locked in a room with Shego. She suddenly felt an unusual emotion, panic. "Let us out, Shego!"
"Make me. The only way these doors open is if I give a voice-activated command, and I won't do that until I'm satisfied that no one here is going to do anything stupid in the future," Shego said. She kicked one of three other chairs around the table. "Have a seat . . . Kim. That goes for the rest of you too."
Everyone took a seat with the greatest of reluctance. Shego rummaged around in a bag next to her chair, and withdrew a pair of headphones like the one she'd been listening to. "Here, someone put this on," she said, putting them on and tossing the first pair onto the table.
Kim took them gingerly, expecting a trap. She put them on, and immediately noticed how much quieter the room had gotten. Shego stood up, leaned toward her, and screamed in Kim's face for ten seconds.
Or rather, Kim thought she had. She didn't hear a thing. But Ron and Drakken both put their hands over their ears.
Shego took hers off, and motioned for Kim to do the same. "We're going to talk about the Dream," Shego said. "I'm sure we've all thought good and long about what happened and why. But we're never going to know for sure who was responsible for what parts of the Dream, or why, until we compare notes and be . . . ugh, honest with each other. If anyone has something really, really personal to say for one person's ears only, the other two have to put the headphones on." She gave everyone a challenging stare. "We're going to go around the table, and take turns coming clean about ourselves. And when we're done, we can all go back to beating the crap out of each other."
Kim sincerely doubted that was going to happen, but she looked at Ron. Shego was right, they DID need to talk about it, and maybe locking her in a room was the only way to get Kim to do it.
"You first, Dr. D," Shego said.
"What? Why me?!"
"Because they're guests. And it's not gonna be me."
Drakken grumbled something under his breath. "I wish I had bigger hands," he finally muttered. "Mine are so – girly."
Shego snorted, while Kim breathed a sigh of relief. They could start small, and work their way up to the big things . . . eventually. And she had thought about everything, not just the (blush) sex. "I'll go next," she said. She looked at her own hands. "It was probably my idea that I had plasma powers. I've wondered more than once what it would be like if you didn't have that advantage any more, Shego."
"It has its perks," Shego agreed. "Did you like being a different color?"
"Well, no, not really."
"Now you know," Shego muttered. She glanced at Ron. "Let me guess, you're the Fearless Ferret fan."
"Yeah, eh heh," Ron said nervously. "Timothy North went a little crazy a while back and thought he was the real Ferret. I helped him for a while before I found out he was an actor."
"Wait, you've met Timothy North?" Drakken burst out.
The other three stared at him.
"What?" Drakken asked defensively. "I AM older than you. I watched the show when I was younger. Actually I thought the Ferretman thing was my idea."
"Maybe it was both our idea," Ron said. "We both like Snowman Hank, after all."
"Hm, the buffoon may have a point."
"Your turn, Shego," Kim said.
Shego frowned. "It was nice working for someone who seemed to know what he was doing. Okay, Ferretman still won, but it wasn't Dr. D's fault."
Drakken wilted a bit further.
"You got what you deserved," Kim said acidly. "Just like now."
"Excuse me?" Shego asked, glaring at her.
"Have you ever considered being a little nicer to Drakken? He is your employer, after all. Maybe if you actually were willing to go the extra mile and be a little more helpful," Kim suggested, "then he'd be a little more successful."
"Uh, KP, helping the villains," Ron said.
"I worked for him too, Shego," Kim went on, ignoring him. "He earned our respect, and we treated him accordingly, even though we lost. So, why can't you give him a little respect here?" She shrugged. "I'll admit it – a lot of the time they don't work exactly according to plan, but I can acknowledge that Drakken has designed some amazing machines. You could give him THAT much. Instead you treat him like crap, and you get crap in return."
Drakken looked stunned. He was being defended – even sort of complimented – by Kim Possible! Maybe she'd be his sidekick again!
Shego looked infuriated. "You're saying we lose because I have bad karma?!" She narrowed her eyes. "Your winning streak certainly came to an end while we were in there, Princess. Maybe you lost because your boobs got bigger!" she suggested maliciously.
Kim gasped and instinctively crossed her arms across her chest.
"Or maybe," Shego went on, giving Ron a wicked smile, "that was Stoppable's fantasy!"
Ron looked both outraged and troubled, but Kim's arm snapped out, stopping him from answering. "No," Kim admitted, embarrassed. "It was probably my idea too. I wish I was bigger like you, Shego, or like Monique or Bonnie."
Ron started a little at the mention of Bonnie, which Shego immediately picked up on. "What's that, sidekick? Something about this Bonnie person you want to share with Kimmie?"
Kim turned suddenly. "Ron? What about Bonnie?"
"Uh, eh heh, yeah, do any of you remember a villain in the Dream called the Stonemauler?" Ron asked.
Shego snapped her fingers. "Female thief, super strength."
"We saw her on the news . . . oh my God, she looked like Bonnie!" Kim realized.
"Yeah, um, she and I had this kinda, uh – subtext," Ron admitted. "I guess because I used to have the hots for her when I was younger, before she made it her life's work to turn me into a nothing. And I suppose I'm maybe a tiny bit still attracted to her." He looked anxious. "I mean, she IS hot, KP."
"No, no, Ron, it's okay," Kim said. She was shocked that Ron was attracted to her, but – "It's not like I can judge, after I – "
Kim was interrupted by Shego snatching both pairs of headphones and tossing them into Ron's and Drakken's chests. "Private time, boys," she said too calmly. "Kimmie and I talk about this alone."
"KP?" Ron asked.
"I think it's best, Ron," she said.
The two men reluctantly put their headphones on, shutting them out of the conversation. They could always work on their lip-reading.
"So," Shego said.
"Yeah," Kim replied. She could already feel a major blush coming on.
"Careful, Kimmie. You'll turn invisible again if you keep doing that."
"You think I can help it? God, I've been a tomato for the past three days!"
Shego nodded. "All right, I'll try to dial down the snark from 11 for this conversation. Kimmie, what happened in there – you know, it was dream sex. It was a fantasy. If we did it for real, it'd probably, uh, suck," she said.
"Not helping," Kim muttered.
"I'm trying, all right?! Talking about the sex is easier than what was behind it!"
Kim couldn't argue with that. "Any idea what WAS behind it?"
Shego looked at the table. "I'm not secretly in love with you, if that's what you mean."
"I'm not either," Kim said, a bit relieved.
"It sure as hell wasn't Dr. D's idea. Buffoon?"
"So . . ."
"I – " Kim took a breath. "Lately I'd been wishing we weren't such enemies any more."
Shego looked at her strangely. "Come again?"
"It was after, well, you remember. Ms. Go? I had really good times with her. You. Whichever. I miss her." Kim sighed. "If you add that to the fact that I have very few close friends and that I probably spend more time with you than I do my own brothers . . . on some level I probably wished we were closer. I guess I still do."
"Uh-HUH," Shego said, disbelieving.
"Hey, unless you'd rather believe that I want to jump your bones."
"Okay, so you wish we were closer," Shego said hurriedly. She drummed her fingers on the table. "And maybe in another life, that wouldn't be so bad. If, let's say hypothetically, I had no friends, I didn't speak to my family, I spent all my vacations alone, and I was tired of that. Even though I would never admit that we have more in common than I would ever admit. But you're a hero and I'm a villain, so that completely hypothetical situation can't happen."
"But in another world, when we were on the same side, it did," Kim pointed out. "And let's face it – however embarrassing it is to think about what we did together in the Dream, it's left me in a place where I can't hate you. I know too much about you, have too many fond memories. I know all about your classic rock binges – "
"Your Cuddle Buddy fetish," Shego mumbled.
"Sleeping with one doesn't make it a fetish. Believe me," Kim said, and for the first time she found she could joke about it. "I think we know by now what is and isn't a fetish."
Shego snorted. "I suppose not. Still, none of this explains the sex if neither of us seem to have romantic feelings for the other." She looked at Ron and Drakken, and then leaned forward. "We could always go back in."
"Back in what?"
"The Actualizer. One at a time. See what happens. Maybe one of us – it could be buried so deeply that you don't even realize it."
Kim smiled sadly. "And what if one of us does? What if the other doesn't? How's THAT going to feel?"
Shego blinked. "Whoa. Yeah, that would suck."
"This mess isn't going to resolve itself in a half-hour meeting, whatever you might want to believe, Shego," Kim said. "We're all going to need time for introspection and self-analysis. Maybe even a therapist."
"Drakken could definitely use one of those."
"He obviously wants you to have a closer relationship. It might have even been more important than him taking over the world in his fantasy, Shego," Kim said. "Maybe you could remember what it was like in there, and go a little easier on him?"
Shego raised an eyebrow. "And Stoppable obviously doesn't want to be a sidekick for the rest of his life. Being a solo hero might have been more important than putting the bad guy away. Maybe you should let him take the wheel once in a while."
Kim knew she was being partly sarcastic, but she was also not far from wrong. "How about we take the headphones off the menfolk, retire to our respective corners, figure a few things out about ourselves, and go from there?"
"All right, Kimmie. But I can't promise I won't call you Cupcake the next time you try to interfere with Drakken's plans." And she grinned salaciously.
Kim turned pink. But not red.
Two weeks later, the Lorwardians came back, and Ron went Monkey Master on their asses. Kim realized he was ready. Drakken won a medal. Shego permitted herself to be impressed.
Two weeks after that, Ron led his first mission. Kim was his sidekick. Dementor didn't have any more luck than when their roles had been reversed.
Two weeks after that, Kim and Shego shared a phone call.
One week after that, Shego got Drakken a birthday gift. He cried. She pretended she didn't mind.
Ten days after that, Kim and Ron took a break from their relationship. They were too young to make lifelong commitments without knowing certain things about themselves. That night Kim and Ron went on a mission, and neither was the sidekick. Motor Ed's dead, baby. Motor Ed's dead.
One week after that, Dr. Drakken filed the first of seventy-three patents that would eventually make him the second-wealthiest man in the world. He treated Shego to dinner. And karaoke.
It wasn't so bad.
Four days after that, Ron and Kim went on separate solo missions. Then a third as a team the following day. Three-for-three.
Six days after that, Ron discovered that Bonnie was attending the same college as him.
The day after that, Kim and Shego went shopping.
Two weeks later, Ron discovered he was dating Bonnie. He just wasn't sure how it had happened.
But he liked it.
One month later, Dr. Drakken got his own program on the Discovery Channel. It ran for four seasons. Shego helped – a little.
It was enough.
Six months later, Kim and Shego had sex for the first time. Sort of.
It wasn't as good as dream sex.
But it was a start.
Author's Note - I don't remember where I got the idea from, but it was pure indulgence on my part. I threw in things solely for the reason that I liked them, such as the Michael Jackson and Moody Blues references. Ferretman, well, obviously I drew on my experience writing Batman fanfic for the DC Comics angle. It's even possible that I got the idea originally from the B:TAS episode where the Mad Hatter created a mental prison for Batman where everything was better and he didn't need to be a superhero.
So it was a lot of fun, but I reached a point where I was like, "Okay, I'm ready to stop," but the story lacked closure. And I knew that to do it justice, it would probably take a few more chapters to provide adequate closure. So instead I tacked on that final scene just to wrap things up, sort of my own variation on the end of Cooley High. (Don't worry about it, it was probably before your time. It's even before mine.) But I wasn't happy with THAT either. Totally rushed it, and "rushing it" generally never equals good reading. Combined with the whole "I'm supposed to be retired" thing, I waited until now to post it to my account.