Thursday, March 26, 2015

The way Kim Possible encourages you to be a shipper

I mentioned that breaking up can be easy was in large part in response to reading too many things where switching partners required way too much drama.  There had to be angst or tragedy or betrayal or hatred or ... whatever the fuck.  This in spite of the fact that I was reading things in Kim Possible fandom and in the show both of the main characters have relationships that end without any of that shit.

Another part of it has to do with my somewhat unexpected introduction to the world of shipping.  A curious verb (well, gerund here) that makes it sound like I'm moving freight.  Shipping is all about choosing, favoring, supporting, or opposing relationships and it doesn't take much of a look at the derivative work I've done here to note that I don't really do that much.

Snarky-Bella is asexual and aromantic.  ("Romantic" in the relationship sense; in other senses of the word she can be argued to be a romantic.)  She is the anti-ship.

Edith and Ben takes the canon couple and runs with it, the default option.

My Narnia works don't have that kind of relationship in them.

Skewed Slightly to the Left follows Edith and Ben's lead and runs with the canon pairings.

The most shipping I've done is probably with the character of Jessica from Twilight.  I've hinted at the possibility of a relationship between her and Jacob (here and here) and likewise hinted at such a possibility between her and Angela (example, example).  If you actually follow those links you might notice that "hinted" kind of overstates what I did.  It's pretty mild.

Apart from that I think I may have said in comments once or twice that if Bella has to be paired off with a character in Twilight, Alice seems like the best choice.

My point here is that I don't do a lot of deciding who should be with who.  When there is call for a romantic or sexual relationship, I generally just go with whatever is already in the work.

Thinking about Kim Possible things kind of forces me into new territory.

See, I have, for a while, had in my mind a Kim Possible universe that sticks closer to canon than Forgotten Seeds and Being more than a Simulacrum with the primary differences being continuity (what happens in one episode will effect what follows beyond the occasional one-line shout out) and diversity (everyone in canon Kim Possible is a monogamous straight cissexual gender role conforming person.)

Forgotten Seeds and Being more than a Simulacrum are both derivatives of a derivatives (but, the question remains, are they second derivatives or mixed derivatives?  how many independent variables are we talking here?) and, like Edith and Ben and Skewed Slightly to the Left I have every intention of following the relationships in the works they derive from.

Something derived directly from Kim Possible is a different matter entirely.

First off, if you want to have a story that covers any span of time you have to ship someone.  When Kim Possible first hit the air (beginning with the 13th episode in chronological order because What The Fuck Disney?) it premiered with a show about Kim trying to get up the nerve to ask her crush out to the dance while Ron asked anyone who was female out to the dance.

Kim had confidence issues, Ron had a lack of standards that was outmatched only by his lack of appeal.

The two of them trying to get dates to the dance was the main issue in the episode with them fighting their arch-foe Drakken coming in a distant ... um ... 15th, maybe?

The emphasis on dating doesn't pervade the show, time gets taken for dealing with things like detention, first jobs, facing fears, balancing old friends and new, body-swapping, ethical journalism, and other standard every-day parts of being a high school student.

But courting* is one of the most returned to topics.  At least one third of the episodes in season one have one or both of the characters trying to establish a relationship being a big part of what's going on.

In the first movie they travel back in time.  (And forward in time.  They do stuff.  With time.)  The advice they impart on their younger selves?  All dating related.

Shipping is not something that can easily be excised from Kim Possible, is my point, but at the same time the series doesn't give you a lot of guidance.

-

By the time the idea for the show was solidified into something that could be pitched, the two creators had already decided how they wanted it to end.  They wanted it to end with Kim and Ron getting together.

That's not necessarily a bad idea, but it does play into some unfortunate narratives.  They did manage to avoid having Ron be an Internet Nice Guy.  He was friends with Kim because he wanted to be her friend, not because he hoped to leverage it into being her boyfriend.  But there's plenty of other stuff that went down badly.  Not the least of which being that it ends up delivering a message something like, "Ignore who you're physically attracted to and go for someone who doesn't turn you on at all but is a good friend."

The logic doesn't even 

Let me repeat: the logic of that message is so horrible that it does not allow you to finish a sentence, instead forcing you to break into a whole new paragraph for it is just that bad.

Kim is someone with significant pants-feelings.  There probably would be a decent message to be had in that she might not want to follow them quite so blindly (though, honestly, "teenagers think with their sexual organs too much" is a message that's been done to death), but there's nothing wrong with feeling attraction and pairing her off with someone who she isn't at all attracted to (as the happy ending) kind of sends the message that there is.

But all of this is ignoring an important point:

Kim and Ron getting together was supposed to be the end.

-

The plan was to end with them just starting, it was supposed to end at the very beginning of the relationship.  They'd dance together to the Kim Possible version of Save the Best for Last except it'd be thematically better because unlike the singer in that song, Ron actually reveals his feelings.

And so that's how So the Drama ended.  One dance.  One kiss.  For whatever it's worth, the Kim Possible version of "Save the Best for Last" is "Could it Be" which is sung from the opposite perspective.  (Ron is analogous to the singer in "Save the Best for Last" Kim analogous to, and has the voice actor of, the singer in "Could it Be".)

And so it ended.  Kim got together with Ron while they were both hopped up on adrenaline and she was rebounding from a relationship failure so bad that she thought she'd be alone forever.  It's kind of unsurprising that the fandom didn't see that as definitively marking the one true pair.  Both Kim and Ron had previously been shown in relationships they wanted more, only to have those relationships fizzle out, and one dance is hardly a lifetime attachment.

Then the fans rebelled against Disney.  Kim Possible wasn't cancelled because of ratings or anything like that, it was cancelled because Disney had a magic number of episodes after which it considered a show stale.  This arbitrary formula had long been considered bullshit by all fans of shows that were cancelled because of it.

The fans managed to get Disney to back down, and the rule was dropped (which is why Phineas and Ferb has had such a long run.)

Thus Kim Possible Season 4 came about and something happened that the shows creators did not intend.  They had to actually show Kim and Ron in a relationship.

You might think that this would cement Kim and Ron as a pairing.  You'd be wrong.  The relationship was toxic every time it was shown as an actual romantic relationship.  If it was shown as friendship then things were generally ok, but when the two were shown dating it was fucking bad.  The relationship Kim had with a pile of green goo in a human suit that existed only to distract her was more healthy than her relationship with Ron.

Thus, shipping.

-

Since you can't really excise the fact that the principle characters are driven to find romance, and the only official pairing is a toxic pile of Do Not Want, any fiction that's going to take place over an extended period of time has to deal with characters in or trying to get into romantic relationships.

The last minute paring off of secondary characters didn't help because a lot of the pairings didn't make sense or were flat out contradicted by things a few episodes earlier.

If you want the canon pairing (Kim and Ron) then you basically have to tear down what is actually shown and build a new version of it from the ground up in which, unlike Season 4, it doesn't suck.

If you don't want that pairing then you're faced with the fact that both Kim and Ron really, really want to be dating someone.  You've got to decide who.  For reasons that defy all logic, Ron has more options.  (Actually, it's mostly that the writer's seemed to have two running gags, one was him utterly failing to notice that someone liked him, the other was getting together with someone because of temporary popularity only to be dumped the moment it passed.)

But, regardless, you have to address it.  You don't really have a choice.  It's too big of a part of the main characters.  It's not precisely sex drive, more of a romance drive.  Take that away and you essentially end up dealing with different characters.

Most of the villains and many of the secondary characters you can ignore shipping with.  Shego, for example, is revealed late in the Season 4 to be so focused on her work as evil sidekick that she doesn't know how to date.  If you want to do a story with Shego and select secondary characters you can avoid shipping.

But for Kim, Ron, Monique, Bonnie, Tara, and the like, if you're going to do a story with them that takes place over any length of time you're going to have to ship like you're Fed Ex.

-

Which is kind of new territory for me.  I mentioned that part of the reason for "breaking up can be easy" was reading too many things that assumed it needed to be full of angst awkwardness and animosity.  I said at the start of this post that another part was dealing with entering into the strange world of shipping.  This is how that happened.

On the one hand, it's tempting to pair characters for reasons that are thematic or related to character arcs, and it's also tempting to take into account significance of the character.

I think that's the reason that Ron/Bonnie is such a popular pairing.  The pairing is plausible, but in order for it to happen there needs to be character growth, the two could complement each other in ways that would encourage further growth, it puts out some good themes, and the two are about as similar as can be had in terms of significance.  Ron, as one of the main two, isn't going to have any non-Kim person as significant as he is, but Bonnie is up there.  Outside of Ron and Kim, Bonnie probably has the most lines of any high school student.

On the other hand, if you look back at the source material and ask the question who would be a good match for Ron, the options are basically Tara and Yori.  If you're not going to have him be in a long distance relationship (Japan is a long way from Colorado) that leaves you with Tara.

Tara was basically a nothing character, though.  In most of her appearances she was background art.  In a show that ran for 87 episodes she only spoke in six of them, and she wasn't exactly a major player.

And so when I'm just trying to think of what would happen to a universe where the reset button wasn't pushed every episode, I'm suddenly debating with myself over which ship to support.

The answer I settled on was both, just not at once.  Hence the change over in breaking up can be easy.  That said, I do want to get poly relationships into that universe.  Just not with those particular people.

And that's what entering the Kim Possible fandom does to you.

-

* How the fuck does the English language not have a good single word term for "Romantic and/or sexual relationship"?

If I just say, "relationships," then it sounds like I include friendship and familial relations, if I say, "Dating," then it ignores the fact that most of the time what happened was trying and failing to get a date.

"Attraction" covers romantic and/or pantsfeels toward, but also covers significantly more ground so I even something as awkward and circumlocutory as, "pursuing attraction" doesn't hit the right note.  Or rather it does hit the note, but does so as if someone dropped an encyclopedia set on the keyboard and triggered most of the piano.

Just a general note

When one donates they can attach a note.  I appreciate that.

Part of the reason is because often times someone's real name isn't the name that I know them by.  As I often point out, I was an adult before I realized that my mother's cousin Little Fabian was, in fact, named Andy.  The internet allows for names even more divergent than that.

Moreover, I am horrible with names (and only marginally good with faces) so a lot of times even if I know someone I cannot for the life of me remember how I know them.

I sort of wish that everyone came with a short description: "Hi, my name is Alice Orneomantis but you knew me as Flowergirl17 and we spent two years fighting the capitalist overlords together while trapped in the time rift on the moon, but then parted ways, seven years ago, after establishing a communist utopia and deciding to return to the places whence we came."

Then I'd be all, "Oh, I remember you!" and wouldn't have the awkwardness and embarrassment of having no idea who someone is in spite of them obviously knowing me.

In fact, I think that I probably miss out on a lot of potentially good human contact because I'm afraid I'll insult someone if I just come out and say, "I have no idea who the fuck you are even though we clearly knew each other well enough for you to assume I'd still know you."

So notes can be nice.

Also, if someone is donating money to me for a specific reason, I'd like to know that because I'd feel bad if, for example, someone donated money to me to help me pay for oil but, in hopes of lifting my mood, I instead used the money to splurge on an ice-cream generating weather machine that I didn't actually need.  (Very few people actually need Neapolitan ice cream to fall from the sky.)

Notes provide context, and context is often good.

-

That said, I got two donations today where the notes have left me more confused than enlightened.

Let me be totally clear:

I appreciate the money.  I do not actively despise anyone.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I want to give up.

You may have noticed a negative trend of late in the posts that involve the real world in general and my life in particular.

That trend continues unabated.

My mother stopped by, that was filled with stress.  Then my sister stopped by.  The good news: she has her son back, though on some sort of probationary status where they can show up any time for the next month and decide whether they like the conditions or not.  If I understood correctly.

As always, seeing her was stressful.

She broke my washing machine.

What followed was a prolonged period of trying to pry part of it open with two screwdrivers while I tried to remove the broken part with pliers.

That failed.

Eventually a combination of spoon and pliers was able to get things out and I set to work supergluing it back together again.  Part of me wants to say, "That's right, my washing machine is held together by superglue," but that would be a lie.  It isn't held together.  After people who don't live here managed to fuck it up for an extended period, the bottom hinge of the door rusted through.  Said people who don't live here (my sister, my father) also managed to break the handle off the door.

So now you open it by sticking your finger in one of the holes where it used to be, and I don't like to leave it open for long because it's hanging on one hinge.  When it's closed gravity mostly keeps it in place.  In fact, even with the rusted out hinge and the part that I have to periodically superglue, it does a better job now when I use it than it did fully intact when people who don't live here used it.

I hope that's still the case, but in getting the piece of the part out of the place it was stuck in something broke off from somewhere and for all I know that will prevent it from working.  I'm giving the glue time to dry, you see, so I haven't had a chance to see if it still works.

But this is all set up.

After retrieving the piece of the part it naturally had to be superglued back into place because the machine won't work without it.  Superglue dripped onto my skirt in the process.  The last of three skirts identical in all but color.  The only one without holes that makes it virtually unwearable.

Right now I'm, wearing the purple one that was eaten by a bicycle.  It is, definitively, not acceptable clothing for wearing anywhere that other people will show up.

Which brings me to the point.  Or rather the thing that illustrates a deeper point.

I don't have fucking clothes.  Lonespark has given me a couple of skirts.  I have, I think, three pairs of pants.  Lonespark has a very negative view of the situation with my shirts because they tend to have holes where they shouldn't.

For the most part, I don't have fucking clothes.

I don't have money with which to buy clothes.

My mother showing up brought the money thing back to the front of my mind.  Getting superglue on a skirt might not have brought it up otherwise.

I was always riding on the edge of collapse anyway.  Always just barely making it through.  With the reduction in SSI and the loss of food stamps I now have $400 dollars a month less to work with.

I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do.

I have some reserve from getting more in donations to pay for the boiler than the boiler actually cost.

That might get me through a month or two.  Then we come back to: I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do.  I just don't.

I want to break down and cry but the tears never come.

I'm going to need to go food shopping soon, I'm basically down to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I finished of the tuna today.  That's not horrific or anything.  I remember a time when I just had jelly.  It's not very useful without bread.  I remember other times when I just had peanut butter.

But food shopping.  Money to come from not from food money, but from the small surplus I have that might never be replenished.  That same surplus will be quickly spent making up for the loss in SSI as soon as the first bills of next month come due.

Unless I find a solution, I'm screwed in a couple of months anyway, I certainly don't have enough to pay on clothing when I can keep on wearing shit with holes in it, or stained from superglue and god knows what else.

And so we come around to this point again.  I don't have presentable clothes.  I don't have money to buy clothes.

Even with everything that's been going wrong, today started out as reasonably good.  I remembered to take my medication and I ate and everything.

But reality has come knocking and brought me back down.

I just want to give up.  I want to close my eyes and have the world disappear.

-

I stopped.  It was the kind of stopping where if you don't force yourself to do something you might end up losing hours to mindless zoning out.  Not wanting to lose hours, I forced myself to stand up and walk around.  I ended up going down stairs to check on the washing machine.  The glue had plenty of time to dry.

The part that broke off while I was extracting the piece of the other part with pliers was what the machine used to detect if the door was closed.  Without it, the machine always thinks the door is open.  It won't run with the door open (for good reason) which means that my washing machine no longer works.

Oh joy.

-

Here is the last point I wanted to hit before I slumped down physically and emotionally and got into a state where I was worried about zoning the day away:

Oil is low.

I might have enough money to fill it back up.  It'd totally drain my surplus.  No money for food.  No money for trying to fill the $200 hole that the cut down SSI leaves me with.

Of course, if I don't refill the oil then I could run out of heat.  I've got a brand new boiler, it would be a waste to let it freeze and crack in its very first spring.

Fucking money: I don't have it.

Tomb Raider (2013) - There but for the grace of men go I

The Tomb Raider reboot has a lot of problems and, in general, I think it's probably a game you like more for what it could have been and almost was than what it actually is.

In order to avoid a long sprawling post that lacks focus or coherence, I'm going to tackle things one topic at a time.  Maybe.  Whether or not I'll ever get to other topics remains to be seen.

The name is a bit of a problem.  You see, the reboot is an origin story which takes place entirely before Lara Croft is in the habit of raiding tombs.  There are two tombs in the game, which she doesn't loot.  To make up for that there are multiple "tombs" in the game which she has the option of looting.

They actually had a better name for the game, but decided to put it at the end, rather than at the title screen.  That was "A Survivor is Born".  If they'd called the game, "Lara Croft: A Survivor is Born" people would have had a better idea of what they were getting into.

Of course, that highlights an important question: how is this survivor born.

Lara starts off as someone fresh out of university who doesn't even have the clout to lead her own expedition.  Hell, she doesn't even have the courage to tell people that she thinks they're digging in the wrong place until their initial leads have all failed and they're two or three weeks into the trip with nothing to show for it.

It's not just a lack of confidence in the whole archaeology side of things, it's strongly implied that she's never hurt anything before.  By the end of the story she'll be killing people left and right.

So what turns her from naive innocent with confidence issues to force of nature that will cut through the bad guys like divine wrath and work out exactly what it will take to stop the undead soul sucking queen in spite of over a thousand years worth of people working on the same problem not figuring it out?  (Though she draws heavily on the work of others in her efforts.)

Well what gets her from ordinary person to capital letters written in blood SURVIVOR is ... a succession of men dying to save her.

The story of the game can be told almost entirely in the deaths of men.
  • Jonah Saves Lara
  • Unnamed Crew Member dies so Lara can escape
  • Unnamed Crew Member dies just before Lara reaches him, giving her the ammo she needs in order to survive
  • The pilot dies because of Lara
  • Lara tries and fails to prevent the copilot from dying
  • Grim dies so that Lara won't be captured
  • Roth dies while saving Lara
  • Alex kills himself in a kamikaze attack so that Lara can escape
  • Whitman dies for his sins
  • Lara saves Sam by killing Mathias and the evil undead soul-sucking queen that he serves.
We can prune that down a bit.

Calling the rescue plane was really a diversion from the main plot.  It's a red herring that distracts you from what's really going on.  The plot of the game is, "Lara saves her girlfriend Sam, ending the curse in the process."  The game designers probably intend us to take girlfriend as friend who is a girl, but unless compelling evidence surfaces to say otherwise, I'm assuming that they're lovers because: why not?

In addition to cutting out the distraction, we can ignore the unnamed crew member who dies so that Lara can get ammo.  I may be taking aim at annoyingly contrived things, but that was more annoyingly contrived than most.  There was absolutely no reason to give him a line of dialog before he drops dead just in time for Lara to be too late just so that her getting ammunition for the hand gun would be a significant moment.  It utterly failed to contribute to the plot or advance character.

Anyway, drop that and it becomes:
  • Jonah Saves Lara
  • Unnamed Crew Member dies so Lara can escape
  • Grim dies so that Lara won't be captured
  • Roth dies while saving Lara
  • Alex kills himself in a kamikaze attack so that Lara can escape
  • Whitman dies for his sins
  • Lara saves Sam by killing Mathias and the evil undead soul-sucking queen that he serves.
Even still it can be further whittled down.  Jonah saving Lara was given so little fanfare that a lot of people don't even realize that Jonah did it.  Whitman dying for his sins had very little impact on the plot.

Since I'm primarily considering people who died for Lara, not people Lara killed, we can drop the last point too.
  • Unnamed Crew Member dies so Lara can escape
  • Grim dies so that Lara won't be captured
  • Roth dies while saving Lara
  • Alex kills himself in a kamikaze attack so that Lara can escape
That is the whole of the game between the opening cutscene and the closing one in which Lara saves Sam.

Lara is captured (twice) and is only able to escape the second time because unnamed crew member dies specifically so that she can run away.  She ends up on a detour, but by the time she gets back to to the plot she's again going to lose so Grim goes out fighting (when Lara was ready to surrender) to save her.

Once she finishes with what Grim died to allow her to do it's Roth's turn to die.  Lara sulks on her own for a bit and rejoins the others just in time for Alex to die to save her, and that's what allows them to go save Sam.  Story over.

When I say that they died for her, I mean that very specifically.

Unnamed crew member had been captured.  He might not have been happy about that, but he was making no effort to escape.  We will later see where they put the crew members they captured and most of them lived.  If he'd stayed captured he probably would have lived alongside them.

The factor that made him decide to make a ruckus then rather than waiting and trying to escape later was Lara.  Lara looked to be in immediate danger and he broke free to create a distraction to allow her to escape.  It worked.  He just died for it.

Grim had escaped the bad guys stronghold and held his own against large numbers of them.  When he finally was captured a second time they tried to use him as leverage to make Lara surrender.  It worked.  He wasn't going to allow that and as a result fought a losing fight that saw him fall off of something really tall.

It isn't clear whether or not he would have been captured the second time if not for Lara (them trying to meet up forced him to stay in one place, which presumably made it harder to evade capture) but what is clear is that he died specifically so that she could remain free.  He died for her.

Roth wears a two gun rig.  He ran out of ammo in one of his guns.  He couldn't draw the other gun or reload the gun he had out because Lara was in the way.  He was holding on to her and that severely limited his arm movement.  It also slowed him down.

In that situation (out of ammo in the drawn gun, unable to draw the second gun) he was unable to stop an opponent from throwing a deadly weapon at himself and Lara.  With her weight he was unable to get out of the way of the weapon.  What he was able to do was spin so that he was hit instead of her.

He died from a thrown blade meant for Lara, and the only reason that the blade was thrown in the first place was because Lara was preventing him from simply shooting the guy.

Alex was just plain stupid.  He wanted to prove himself to Lara and got in over his head, but that isn't what killed him.  He was pinned to the ground and a large number of armed opponents made it difficult to unpin him, but that wasn't what killed him.

What killed him was the fact that if he didn't choose to die, the large number of armed opponents would have put Lara at significant risk.  So he held them back while she ran, and then blew up the entire area while he was still in it to prevent them from following her.

At that point Lara vows that no one else will die.

Whitman wouldn't die for Lara anyway, he's too self centered.  Jonah has already done the impossible: he saved Lara without dying from it.  The only two other survivors are female.  Only men die for Lara.

So no one else dies to save her.

But apparently a female survivor is born by having a string of men ready to die for her.

When I said that you could tell the story of the game through the deaths of the men, I wasn't kidding.

This is the story: Lara escapes from the evil people on the island (via unnamed crew member's death) then breaks into the place where she will find answers (via Grim's death) then makes it out alive (via Roth's death) then gets the equipment needed to reach the location of the final battle (via Alex's death) then fights the final battle (she kills the bad man and saves Sam.)

If you want more detail, just add the deaths of more men to the summary.

-

I don't really have a conclusion in mind.  There is something deeply fucked up about having the strong female lead only be able to do what she does because make supporting characters lay down their lives to save her at regular intervals, but I don't have a more detailed analysis than that.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Another update on things (things would be easier if I were a lying jerk; assholes got my nephew taken from my sister)

I lie.  I think most people do.  Sometimes it's easier than telling the truth.  Sometimes the truth is embarrassing, sometimes there's shame involved.

That said, lying for personal gain isn't something that I really have in my ethos.  Lying to avoid awkwardness, sure.  Lying to trick people into doing something that benefits me, not so much.

I bring this up because I still have no idea what I'm going to do with respect to money moving forward.  If I were willing to lie to exploit people then I bet I could get a lot more time to form a plan before everything came crashing down.

You see, when my boiler needed to be replaced and I thought I was doomed, people came through for me.  More than I needed.  I actually had enough of an excess to pay my past-due tuition.  Of course that tuition went to classes that I have since, with one exception, dropped out of so there's a lack of joy there.  But that's not the thing.  One day I thought I was doomed, the post saying I wasn't doomed was 24 hours later, almost exactly as I recall.

If I had pretended I was still facing an existential financial crisis, maybe more people would have donated.

I know for a fact that I could have gotten some $5,000 more if I had it in me to be a lying bastard.  Someone said that they could pay that to help me replace the boiler.  I responded in honesty that I'd already gotten the money I needed, and they should keep theirs.

I don't regret that.  It was the right thing to do.  But part of me wishes I did have it in me to exploit people's charity.  If I had pretended I still needed the money for the furnace, and dishonestly taken the offered money ... well do the math.  The problem I face is 400 less dollars a month (200 less for food, 200 less for everything else.)  $5,000 divided by $400 per month means that if I'd taken the $5000 I'd have twelve and a half months to figure out what to do before I actually needed to somehow change the equation.

If I'd been dishonest, I'd have a year of security in which to try to fix things.

The idea is alluring even if I know I wouldn't do it, even if I had the choice to make over again with the knowledge I have now.  I'm not that sort of person.

It's annoying that it often seems like you're damned for your good aspects.

-

My sister went on a road trip with her son in which they, if I understood correctly, visited every one of the contiguous states.  I ... don't see the point.  It doesn't seem like they would have had enough time in most states to really enjoy them, so from my point of view it would have been better to plot the most efficient course between the things they were planning on stopping and enjoying and take that regardless of whether or not they hit every state.

When she got back she discovered that the person she had trusted to house sit in her absence should, in no way, have been allowed to do such a thing.

Honestly, I'm not surprised.  The people she tends to hang out with have serious problems.  Many of them are traveling homeless individuals.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Most of them seem to be fine people.  The problem seems to be that when people live on the margins of society disconnected from social norms, people with negative personalities seem to flourish.

This wouldn't be a problem but my sister doesn't seem to discriminate.  Some discrimination is bad (see: bigotry) some discrimination is good (see: only let reliable people have total control over your house.)

So she came home and the place was ... covered up.  The destroyed and/or stolen things had been replaced by facsimiles.  The ruined walls had been given a fresh coat of paint that didn't actually hide the horrible things that had been done to them.  Some of the less visible things had been stolen without even an attempt to hide the theft.

Put simply: it was clean, but very, very wrong.

My sister got pissed off.  My sister kicked the thieves and vandals out of the house.

The people in the house responded by trashing the place, doing property damage, and --as a final bit of laser guided evil-- drunkenly calling child protective services.

Child protective services showed up, saw that the now-trashed house wasn't fit for human habitation, and thus my sister and her son are separated.  Or were.  There may have already been an update in the case, one was due this morning, which I haven't heard about yet.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kim Possible -- Forgotten Seeds, Chapter 4: Air and Exposition

[Parts OneTwo, and Three.]

“The information will not change if you look at fourteen times instead of thirteen,” Jade said.

“I know, I know,” Kim said, “but it's... it's impossible.”

“None of the data I have collected indicates the laws of physics have been defied.”

“How can humanity be gone!?”

“That conclusion is also not supported by the information I have. It merely indicates that--”

“There are no transmissions of any kind, no functional ground stations or satellites, no direct evidence of continuing human activity at all.”

“And nothing to indicate a total lack of human activity either, Kimberly,” Jade said. “I also have no proof that the mid-Atlantic ridge still exists, yet it is highly probable that it does.”

“Horatio seemed sure,” Kim said.

“But did not reveal how he arrived at his claim,” Jade said. “Until we are able to survey the planet in some detail it would be premature to reach a conclusion.”

“I hate not knowing,” Kim told the AI. The speed at which they were moving didn't help her mood. “Any results on your internal scan?”

“I believe that I have isolated the cause of the failure and that it should be quite simple to fix, if we find appropriate supplies.”

“They're probably wondering if I abandoned them,” Kim said.

“I apologize for the inconvenience, Kimberly,” Jade said. “However, until the containment field is repaired it would be unwise for me too turn the spindle faster than its idle speed. It is already interfering with my sensors and at a higher setting it would begin to affect your health.”

“I know!” Kim snapped. “Sorry.”

“Apology accepted, Kimberly.”

“I just-- I expected to be there and back in a matter of minutes.”

“I understand, Kimberly.”

For a time there was silence, then Kim said, “I thought the stasis mode was meant to halt any decay; how did the the containment field fail?”

“While the stasis field does significantly slow any degradation of my systems, I was not designed to be left in standby for centuries,” Jade said. “The containment field generator is one of the most complex items in my inventory. That it failed is not even statistically unlikely. It is concerning that it failed without warning.”

* * *

It had been more than concerning when it happened. Jade was programmed for safety first and explanations at a distant third. Thus when she had rapidly decelerated it came without any warning to Kim whatsoever.

Not that Kim objected per se; she knew intellectually that if Jade had waited for her approval the containment field would have fully collapsed before the flying car slowed itself and thus the options remaining would be to exert the energy necessary to slow the car without containment, to enter the base at nearly full speed and thus either crash into a building or shoot straight through, or to slow down through a semi-contained crash landing on the lunar surface.

None of those were nearly as desirable as slowing down before the containment field collapsed.

It had, however, been disconcerting and the car was now flying over the surface of the moon at what amounted to an idling speed. Only a small piece of forward momentum had been retained --little enough that breaking wouldn't require dangerous energy levels-- and the only ongoing power expenditure related to locomotion was being used to keep the car off the ground.

The wait made Kim want to scream.

“I've finished my internal diagnostic and can report with 99.375 percent confidence that I have identified and compensated for all malfunctioning sensors,” Jade said.

“Yay,” Kim said with a lack of enthusiasm most would associate with Shego.

“Therefore, it is highly improbable that any other system will fail without warning,” Jade continued. “I apologize for not performing this check before I arrived.”

“There's nothing to apologize for, Jade,” Kim said. “You weren't programmed to run extra diagnostics on the diagnostic equipment without being asked to do so.”

“Regardless, I have updated my protocols to include such diagnostics after any prolonged standby.”

“That's good thinking, Jade,” Kim tried to sound enthusiastic, but knew she failed. The AI was doing well in a situation it had never been programmed to handle, but Kim was too stressed to give it the positive feedback she thought it deserved. There was simply too much on her mind.

The AI didn't comment on her forced praise, Kim wasn't sure if it had failed to detect that it had been forced, or simply concluded that the fact wasn't worth discussing.

There was a silence that seemed to go on for hours, though in reality Kim knew that it was probably minutes at most. Kim's mind slipped into a cycle where it calculated how much time it felt had passed, then how much time it thought had actually passed, then compared the two, then repeated with the values updated to account for the time spent in thinking about it. It was not improving her mood in the least.

“While my sensor capacity is limited by the containment field--”

“Not being operational,” Kim said. “What do you have?”

“Thermal readings are now becoming distinct.”

“Show me.”

The problem with the sensors wasn't that they weren't picking up what they should, but rather that they were picking up things they shouldn't. The signal was fine, but there was too much noise to make it much out.

Kim had already looked over initial results, but they were impossible to interpret. A blob somewhat warmer than the rest of the lunar surface. Now, through the static, Kim was able to begin to make out multiple smaller blobs that had made up the larger blob, or at least she thought she was.

“What do you make of it?” she asked Jade.

“With data this choppy, I'm just as prone to pareidolia as a human being, Kimberly.”

“I understand that; I want a second opinion, not conclusive answers.”

“Have you formulated a first opinion?”

Kim examined the small screen on the dashboard again, then said, “I don't like it.”

“An interesting opinion,” Jade replied. Kim wondered if she detected a hint of snark. The AI was certainly capable of that, and if it were to decide to be snarky the voice synthesizer would have little difficulty in producing the necessary intonation, but Kim wasn't sure if that had happened or she was just imagining it.

“It looks to me like the results we're seeing are entirely a result of the base heating at a different rate than the moon's natural surface in the sunlight.”

“I concur,” Jade said.

“It also looks like the reason that it took, and is still taking, so long to come into focus is because there's some kind of debris with similar thermal properties littering the site,” Kim said. She sighed. “The debris, if it really exists, would give off readings similar to the buildings, thus explaining why it's harder to see the separation between buildings than it should be. It would also indicate that the site had been subject to some form of destruction.”

“That is consistent with the data.”

“But do you think it's true?”

“I am no more confident than you of the the results so far.”

* * *

“Where the hell is she?” Shego asked the universe. The universe didn't respond.

Instead of one the jerks she was surrounded by responded. “Probably not very far from where she was the last time you asked.”

Shego resisted the urge to turn to Hawk and instead snapped, “You saw how fast she flew out of here! She should have been back ages ago.”

“I think we've established that,” Hawk said.

The only thing that prevented Shego from launching plasma at him was the knowledge it would burn straight through her suit if she did.

Before Shego could think of a properly biting response, Surge asked, “You're sure that she didn't abandon us?”

Shego could hear the fear in the young woman's voice and her degree in child psychology kicked in.

* * *

Horatio had given up on trying to get the others to conserve oxygen. It was a losing battle and used up too much air to be worth the effort. He was telling himself that once they got to earth, if they got to earth, he'd leave them all behind and become a hermit.

He knew it wasn't true, but at the moment a life of isolation seemed like a wonderful concept.

A strange name brought him out of his daydream. Shego had said, “Yeah, Sarah, I'm sure.” Who was Sarah? He rewound the conversation a bit and concluded that that was Surge's real name. He filed away the information and returned to ignoring the other surviving humans.

He needed to conserve his power, they were too removed from anything. He wasn't used to having resources so far from hand and kept on doing things with energy that he didn't have to spare. He shouldn't have rewound. It wasn't worth it.

He just thought about making a home in some nice deserted place where no one and nothing had the power of speech. He'd make friends with the birds or something. A small mammal at most. None of this incessant chattering.

* * *

Henry tried to focus on the beauty of the moon, and the fact that he was really walking on it, and ignore the fact that this could be where he died. It wasn't easy. It was easy enough to keep the wonder kindled inside of him, but pushing out the thoughts of possible death was much harder.

The sudden change in Shego's tone caught his attention, and he found it somewhat reassuring to listen to her speaking to Surge. He wondered where this had come from. The usually acerbic villain, a legend in the community as much for her attitude as for her skill, was actually being kind, gentle, and quite calming.

* * *

Hawk was amazed at how fast Shego's attitude had changed. He didn't care that it made no sense and went against everything he'd ever heard about her, he was just glad that she'd stopped complaining. At any other time the almost instant one eighty would have given him whiplash, but right now he was happy that some switch seemed to have flipped in her.

Besides, they all needed a little reassurance right now.

* * *

Drakken and Amy were discussing the reconstruction of civilization. Drakken wanted to make sure whatever they created was named after him. Amy was sure that she could create a hybrid race capable of flourishing in whatever environments they found on earth.

* * *

“Something's coming into view,” Blok said the instant he was sure the shape on the horizon wasn't his imagination.

There was a spurt of excited chattering, coupled with lots of relief, until Surge asked, “How far does that mean we've gone?” Blok had no idea, but he did notice that Drakken, Henry, and Shego suddenly stopped talking.

Maybe it wasn't as good news as he had thought.

* * *

The silence spread to everyone and Surge felt a sinking feeling. “What?” Surge asked, now sure she didn't want to know the answer. It felt as if her stomach were turning into lead.

“You... might not want to know,” Henry said.

She spun and looked back, knowing that it would cause her to tumble across the ground. They'd made real, noticeable progress. They were still a lot closer to the prison than the installation on the horizon. A lot.

“Oh God,” she said. “Oh God.” she repeated. No one else said anything. “We really are going to die out here, aren't we?”

* * *

Kim was vaguely aware of her name being called. Once. Twice. A third time. She couldn't seem really process it though.

It was the fourth, “Kimberley,” that snapped her into a full alertness.

“What happened?” She asked Jade.

“You drifted into a sleep-like state,” Jade said. “As we were making little progress I didn't wake you.”

Kim wasn't sure how she felt about Jade making that decision for her, but another matter seemed more important, “Why did you wake me now.”

“I have prepared a report,” Jade said as the screen in the dashboard lit up. “Also, it will be time for you to get out soon.”

Kim looked around, “We're here,” she said with a mixture of surprise and annoyance.

“Almost,” Jade said. “I will run my final breaking cycle soon.”

“We're already at the base, and you didn't tell me,” Kim said as she looked out of the car.

“I began waking you when we arrived at the outer edge,” Jade said. “It required some persistence to rouse you.”

The car was moving slowly enough that Kim could get out without much difficulty, though it would still be bad if it hit something. The moon base had once been a sprawling complex, it was currently in ruins.

“What happened here?”

“I have prepared a report,” Jade said. The screen on the dashboard flashed.

Kim read through it quickly, then repeated what she thought was the key point, “Most of the damage due to being smashed with large metal objects.”

“With some indications of energy weapons, yes,” Jade said in confirmation.

Kim looked at the damage in more detail. “So Lorwardians,” Kim said.

“That is my assessment,” Jade said.

“They defeated humanity once,” Kim said with a sinking feeling. “Why not a second time?”

The aliens had only been defeated through the combined efforts of herself, Ron, Shego, and Drakken. She, Shego, and Drakken had been incarcerated, leaving only Ron. Ron was prophesied to be the ultimate Monkey Master. Kim was well aware that “ultimate” meant “last”. Certainly it would be difficult for there to be another one now that the magical Jade statues used to give Ron that power had been destroyed. Depending on when the Lowardians returned they could have found the earth entirely undefended.

If that were the case, then Lowardians, who had previously conquered the earth in “less time than it takes to order a pizza”, probably could have done it again.

But that still left Kim with questions. The Lorwardians had come as conquerors, not exterminators. Why was there no evidence of a civilization if they'd returned?

* * *

Surge was the youngest member of the group. Based on that alone it was understandable that she'd be having trouble adapting. And it wasn't as if Horatio couldn't tell that she was simply giving voice to things that the others were thinking and feeling. He could recognize the sound of utter despair as well as the next person, or so he liked to think, but he was still having trouble dealing with the way she repeatedly needed to be reassured.

Yes, there was a decent chance they were all going to die horrible deaths, but dwelling on it wouldn't help and talking about it made things more difficult.

He tried to keep his mind anywhere but on the present. “Just imagine a nice little equatorial hermitage,” he told himself. But it wasn't easy.

The others were all stretched thin. Shego had been on the verge of a breakdown before she took it upon herself to keep Surge vaguely close to stable, he was sure of that. Henry and Block had retreated entirely into themselves. He'd like to think that it was because they were trying to conserve oxygen, but he knew that they'd shown no evidence of doing so.

Drakken seemed to have lost the will to even complain. Amy's perennial cheerfulness seemed forced. Hawk's terse comments had taken on increasingly negative tones.

They were all falling apart, he was too, and as much as he hated to admit it even in the privacy of his own mind, he had no illusions that he might be able to make it out of this on his own. Once he got to earth, maybe. Before then, not a chance.

“Where the Hell is Possible?” was the question that was repeating in his mind. Unlike Surge, he didn't doubt that she'd be back if it were in her power to get back, but he was increasingly of the opinion that something had happened to her. What if the wonder car had simply exploded?

* * *

It took Shego a few moments to register that Blok had asked, “What the hell is that?”

When she looked up she saw a strange shape forming between them and the base. She didn't know what it was either, but she was sure of who it was immediately. “I swear I'm going to kick her ass the minute after she saves us.”

* * *

Henry had fallen to the ground and screamed in joy. Several of the others were offering prayers of thanks. There were also sighs of relief and, Surge thought, one soft chuckle of muted joy from Horatio. For herself, she didn't know what she was feeling. It was as if she were floating. It wasn't the lighter lunar gravity, she'd gotten used to that, it was as if her entire mass had been erased.

The shape formed into the floating car dragging something behind it, a trail of dust rising and falling in it's wake.

“Sorry it took so long,” she heard Kim say over her suit's radio. “First I had some car trouble, then I had some radio trouble.”

The car slowed down and veered to one side, the thing it was towing didn't slow nearly as fast and soon the two had switched positions, and with the car facing away from them both slowed to a stop.

“And I stuck the landing!” the AI said. Surge smiled. Maybe they would live.

“Why would you program a computer to be arrogant?” Shego asked. Surge thought that a lot of life had returned to her voice.

“Let it be arrogant,” Henry said. “Just get us out of here.”

“What is this contraption?” Hawk asked as he examined the thing being towed by the car. Surge couldn't tell either. It looked to her like a smaller version of a Volkswagen Micro-bus, except it lacked an engine and only had wheels on one end.

“I'm not sure,” Kim said, jumping out of the floating car. “A transport? Surveyor? The important thing is that it should seat at least six people, and Jade seats five, so we've got more than enough room to get everyone back to the base.”

Kim opened the door and motioned for people to get in. As Surge did she heard Shego say, “Shotgun.”

* * *

Hawk found he actually liked the bickering. It wasn't something he'd like to hear all the time, probably never again after today, but right now it was a reminder they were alive. He drifted from listening to pure thoughtless elation and back again.

“I really am sorry about leaving you waiting,” Kim said.

“You should be,” Shego said.

“Now, Shego,” Drakken started, “there's no need--”

“My contract expired centuries ago and I didn't listen to you when you were my boss.”

“I never really understood how the two of you managed to work together in the first place,” Amy said.

“Badly,” Surge laughed. “They worked together badly.”

“I don't remember asking for your--” And then Shego stopped. Hawk's light mood ended when he saw what she had seen.

* * *

Surge was suddenly worried again. She, Horatio, Henry, and Blok were all in the 'bus' that was being towed. The seats faced away from the sides, and thus away from the windows. It seemed like a very bad design. What purpose did the windows serve if you couldn't look out of them? At the moment she wasn't interested in that, she was interested in what had stopped Shego mid-sentence.

“What the Hell?” Shego asked.

“I wanted to tell you but I couldn't get a word in edgewise,” Kim said.

“We can't really see out of here that well,” Blok said, and Surge mentally thanked him for giving voice to their concerns, but didn't say anything out loud for fear it would delay getting an answer about what was going on.”

“You should be able to see momentarily,” the AI said.

The bumpy ride in the 'bus' got worse for a few moments as they all shifted to get a look outside. All but Horatio, Surge noted.

Henry said, “Thank you, car.”

“My name is Jade, human,” Jade responded.

Surge looked out at the buildings of the lunar base as they came into view and noted that many of them appeared to have been smashed from above.

“Are those … people?” Drakken asked, and Surge tried to locate whatever he was talking about even though she didn't really want to see.

She saw them.

“Not anymore,” she said as she tried not to vomit.

* * *

Shego had been trying to play nice, which was hardly a usual thing for her, and she'd had a growing headache for a while.  Despite her best efforts, she was starting to lose her temper even before she asked, “Tight-lipped Grummpy pants, is this what you were talking about when you said humanity had been wiped out,” Shego asked, hoping she suppressed the shudder that tried to enter her voice.

For a moment there was no response and then she heard Surge say, “They can't see you shaking your head over a radio connection.”

“No,” Horatio said. His tone was somber. “These ones fled earth like rats from a sinking ship, but once they got here they found themselves ill prepared. They were going to die out on their own.

“They weren't Global Justice,” he said; “don't let the uniforms fool you. They scavenged those the way they--”

Shego had had enough of him. “How the hell do you know any of this?” she shouted as much as asked.

“--scavenged everything else. Didn't even know we existed. If they did maybe they would have let us out and we could have helped them.”

Shego did not like being ignored, “Stop telling us what you think happened and tell us where you're getting your information.”

“When the Lowardians arrived and--”

At this point Shego couldn't take it any more. She screamed.

“--dealt this colony its killing blow they were already on the way to a lingering extinction anyway.”

* * *

Surge had turned away from the window and was watching Horatio. The way he talked made her feel like he'd been there when it happened. That wasn't what interested her most though.

“What makes you think it was Lowardians?” Kim asked.

“Kimberly, the damage is consistent with a Lowardian attack,” Drakken said.

“I know that,” Kim said. “I want to why he thinks he knows that.”

That wasn't what interested Surge either, before she could speak, Shego said, “I want to know why we're all listening to someone who won't tell us where he gets his information. I'm sick of his enigmatic prophet act!” Shego shouted.

Surge wished that she could offer comfort to Shego the way Shego had helped her, but she didn't know how. Instead she took the opportunity to say what she was wondering, “I want to know how he knew they were in Global Justice uniforms when no one said anything and he hasn't looked outside.”

“Global Justice built the prison, it's not a stretch to assume they were the ones using the base,” Shego said. “He's guessing.”

“But he's right,” Surge said. “Isn't he? They're not GJ.”

She heard Kim sigh. “We think he's right.”

* * *

“Why, Pumkin?” Shego asked. “What makes you think he's right? I've been around him a hell of a lot longer than you have at this point and the only thing I've heard him say that seemed like it came from knowledge rather than BS was something about ducks.”

“The Laysan duck,” Hawk offered in a way that Shego knew was probably supposed to be helpful. She didn't care what his intent was. She growled.

“I don't care!” she shouted. “It doesn't matter what kind of duck it was; what matters is that knowing about ducks doesn't make one clairvoyant.”

* * *

“We're here,” the AI said as they came to a halt. Horiatio was up almost immediately, but Surge noticed that he seemed unsteady on his feet. He made his way to the door constantly supporting himself on the wall.

She followed him without comment.

Several times she thought he might fall over, not from the difficulty of walking on the moon, but from what she thought looked like either exhaustion or intoxication. She was sure he hadn't had anything to drink, but it didn't seem like he should be that exhausted.

* * *

“Shego, this isn't like you,” Kim said. Shego was not one to lose her cool like this and Kim was starting to get worried.

“You don't get to tell me what is and isn't like me!” Shego shouted. “I've got a monster headache and I'm sick of people acting like they know things they don't.”

“Jade, are your medical scanners online?” Kim asked quickly.

“No, Kim,” Jade said. “But they can be.”

“Turn them on, and scan Shego.” Kim said.

“Now wait a minute,” Shego said, “I don't--”

“Her O2 supply is dangerously low, Kim.  She's likely already feeling the effects," Jade said. “Get her inside.”

“No machine is telling me--” Shego started.

“Fine,” Kim said. “I'll just keep all the air and food for myself.”

Kim was fairly confident that she knew how to manipulate a disoriented Shego. Sure enough, a moment later Shego said, “Food? You're not stealing my food, princess.”

* * *

“Are you sure you want to eat that?” Surge asked Horatio.

He'd gone for the bowl of fruit immediately, but had collapsed onto the ground taking the fruit bowl with him. Now he was tearing apart an orange.

“Why wouldn't I?” he asked her.

“Maybe because it's been left out for five hundred years.”

“Five hundred and two years,” Horatio said as if that somehow made things better. “But this room was in a vacuum since the first time this base was abandoned until Kim gave it air.”

“Uh, huh,” Surge said.

“It's perfectly preserved,” Horatio said.

“That would be why it looks freakishly odd,” Surge said. She wasn't touching the food until she was convinced it was safe.

“Admittedly sucking all of the air out of the room isn't the prettiest way to preserve something,” Horatio said, “but I need food.”

Surge flinched as a voice from behind startled her, “It's not safe to--”

Surge turned to see Kim's eyes going wide. “You found fruit?”

“Is it safe?” Surge asked.

“Uh...” Kim seemed lost for a moment. “Yeah, it should be safe,” she said, visibly regrouping her thoughts. “How did you find fruit?”

Surge just looked to Horatio, who continued devouring oranges.

* * *

Surge and Kim helped a clearly spent Horatio into the room where the others were waiting.

“What happened to the clairvoyant?” Shego asked.

“To much fact finding, not enough rest,” he said.

Shego growled at him a bit. She did actually feel a bit sorry for how she'd acted before, and it proved that he'd been right about needing to conserve oxygen, but she didn't feel that sorry and, while her volume might have been louder than she thought appropriate, her sentiment remained.

“You said you'd explain once you got air,” Shego said. “We have air. Explain.”

“Do you know why Global Justice locked me up?” he asked.

“Espionage,” Shego said. “So what?

He'd settled in front of a computer terminal, with Surge's help.

He typed something in and Surge said, “How the hell did you do that?”

Shego wasn't in the mood to cross the room and see what it was he did. “Do what?”

Kim leaned over and looked at the computer, “This is Dr. Director's account.”

Sounds of shock spread around the room and Shego was getting annoyed at what she saw as undue fawning.

“So the spy knows another spy's login info,” She said. “This is surprising why?”

“I didn't know it,” Horatio said. “She's used this terminal. I just looked back and saw what she typed in.”

“Looked back?” Kim asked.

* * *

“I can see the past,” Horatio said. “Mind you without my equipment it takes a lot out of me and...” Surge tuned out. Something wasn't right.

Something he'd said before didn't quite fit with that. She tried to remember what it was. Some power he'd shown that couldn't be explained by knowing about what had already happened.

“How did you know Kim's car was coming?”

“I looked ahead; that's not nearly as useful as you'd think.”

“You can see the future?” Surge asked. It would explain it, and if part of his power was time seeing in one direction she didn't think it was too much of a stretch that he might be able to see in the other direction.

“I can't believe we're just trusting him on this,” Shego said.

“No,” Horatio said. Surge noticed a small shiver pass through him. “I can see what the future would be if I were to go into a catatonic state for the duration. Like I said, it's not that useful.”

“Then why did you do it?”

“I wanted to see if you'd shut up,” he said. It was almost playful

Surge allowed herself a faint smile.

* * *

“Look,” Shego said, there was enough anger that Kim was worried about her. “I know that I was a little off before, but other than a lingering headache I'm better now, and I'm telling you all that we shouldn't just trust a claim like that without some kind of evidence.”

“No parlor tricks,” Horatio said. “I'm pretty well spent.”

Shego looked like she was ready to hurl plasma at Horatio and his dismissive attitude would not help.

Kim hoped that if she confronted Horatio Shego wouldn't feel the need.

Air had been restored to sections of the base.  They had time to talk, time to think, time to rest, and time to form a plan.  They did not have time for a fight that involved plasma.  They couldn't risk such a thing.

"You implied that taking the time to explain how you knew what you claimed to know would make us run out of air.  Now you're saying that it's five words: 'I can see the past,' that wouldn't have used up all our oxygen."

* * *

Possible's tone was possibly angry, and somewhat accusatory, it wasn't what Horatio expected from her.  Still, he'd promised an explanation, so he'd give one.  "I didn't want to get bogged down with explanations about the three times of time travel, or the difference in what I can do with and without my equipment, or the inability to exploit loopholes, or any of the usual crap that comes with talking about time travel."

"Three kinds?" Surge asked.

"See what I mean?" Horatio asked.  "Mundane, magical, and inter-temporal.  I'm not magic and inter-temporal gives me a headache so you get the weakest form of time travel with me.  No warnings to your past selves to prevent your unfortunate incarceration."  Horatio thought a moment, decided he wasn't done, and added, "And blah."

"Isn't all time travel inter-temporal?" Hawk asked.

"In this context 'temporal' refers to time lines not time periods," Horatio said. "The trouble is that if you go down that rabbit hole you might never find your way back home.  It's a complete mess, best avoided."  He paused a moment and then turned to Kim, "This is why I didn't want to get in it while we were still outside."

"Fine," Kim said.  "Maybe waiting was wise, but you promised us you'd explain and you still haven't.  What happened to the rest of humanity?"

“They killed each other,” Horatio said. “What more do you want?”

“An explanation!” Possible shouted. Horatio hadn't seen that coming. From Shego, maybe, but he wasn't expecting that kind of response from Possible.

He looked around the room. Eight people staring at him intently. Possible was now fuming, Shego seemed to be calming down slightly. He didn't like being the center of attention. This was why he worked alone.

“Ok, I expect this from you four,” he said quickly pointing at Possible, Shego, Amy, and Drakken, “but the rest of you saw what was going on. You saw what was happening in the world; did you really think it was going to last?”

“What's he talking about?” Possible asked.

Shego said, “He's deflecting.”

“Things may have gone downhill a bit,” Surge said, “but the world wasn't ending.”

“What's he talking about?” Possible asked again.

Horatio just breathed an inward sigh of relief that the attention wasn't on him anymore.

* * *

Kim looked at the last ones taken. Blok, Hawk, and Henry. They hadn't talked about the state of the world, and she hadn't asked. They'd been too busy trying to get to safety. For the moment they were in a safe place. It was time to find out what happened.

Blok was the first to speak, “Things got pretty bad at times,” he said. “I didn't expect to live through the Grass Famine of 2019.”

“The what?” Kim asked. She looked around. Shego and Amy had no idea what he was talking about, that made sense. Drakken and Surge didn't seem to either.

“It was barely over when they caught me,” Hawk said.

“It was more or less the midpoint of a string of copycat schemes,” Henry added. “By far the most devastating.”

Blok nodded.

“You three still haven't told us what it was,” Shego said, an edge in her voice indicating she was losing her patience with them now. Shego had been right, Horatio was deflecting. Doing a competent job of it too.

Kim stole a glance at him, saw that he seemed to be zoning out, and then returned her attention to the three people who didn't mind sharing with the rest of the class.

* * *

Amy hadn't spoken since they'd gotten out of Kim's flying car. No one else seemed to have noticed, but it didn't bother her. She had a lot on her mind and was fine being alone with her thoughts.

This was the first time it seemed like they might get a decent explanation of anything since Surge had defrosted, so she started paying attention.

“Someone, called himself 'The Third Horseman', decided--” Hawk said.

“Herself,” Blok said. “They eventually caught the Horseman and she was definitely female.”

“After my time,” Hawk said. “In any event, she realized that Killigan's plan with the super-grass stuff was a credible threat to the world.”

“How?” Amy asked, genuinely perplexed.

* * *

“She threatened to use it on croplands,” Henry said. “Food crops.”

“In retrospect it would have been vastly more intelligent to just pay her off,” Blok said, “she was only asking for money anyway.”

“The powers that be decided to call her 'bluff'” Hawk said.

“She wasn't bluffing,” Blok said.

“The super-grass took over farmland on four continents,” Hawk said.

“And it barked,” Blok added. “Which is just disconcerting.

“Everyone in power was scrambling to find some way to overcome it so we could start growing food again,” Hawk said.

“Credit where it's due,” Henry said, “they did eventually find a way to feed the world again.”

“Eventually,” Hawk echoed darkly.

“Two hundred and seventy three days into the food crisis,” Henry said. “Food reserves lasted maybe half of that.”

“It was like watching civilization collapse around you,” Blok said.

“Countless species of plants and animals went extinct when the modified grass overtook their habitats,” Horatio said.

* * *

Kim had always been smart enough to fear someone using her villains' schemes with intelligence.  The inter-continental-electro-magnetisizer, for example, was something a reasonable villain would use to hold the whole world hostage by threatening its infrastructure. Drakkengaea was a child's ploy. Still, for such schemes to work one would have to actually carry out the threats. “Didn't anyone try to stop the Horseman?” she asked.

“Global Justice did,” Hawk said, anger creeping into his voice “but they've always been much better at countering civilians, especially harmless ones, than they have been at stopping villains.”

“Heroes?” Shego asked.

“Towards the end there weren't any left,” Henry said. “GJ was always suspicious of freelancers. The more talented, the more they distrusted you.”

“And God help you if you had actual preternatural abilities,” Surge spat. The event in question may have happened after she was captured, but she knew about who got rounded up quite well.

“There were a few free areas, but they were always hard to get to,” Blok said.

“And the people in them tended to stay in them,” Hawk added. “Villains might have global consequences, but heroes were forced to stay in their own areas if they didn't want to...” Hawk trailed off.

“Be disappeared,” Blok said.

Shego said, “Damn.”

“Shouldn't the Grass Famine have caused people to realize that there was more need for heroes?” Drakken asked.

“You'd think,” Hawk said.

“But in actuality it just cast suspicion on anyone involved in science,” Henry said. “The people with the knowledge and skill to, if not necessarily be heroes, support heroes weren't viewed as solutions to future problems, they were seen as sources of them.”

Kim was having trouble processing all of this, but there was one point she had a firm handle on, “None of this explains the claim that humanity is completely extinct.”

“No,” Hawk said, turning to Horatio, “it doesn't.”

* * *

Horatio took a moment to try to figure out a good way to explain things. When that failed he just started talking. “Kim and Amy are the exceptions here,” he said. “It's freaks like the rest of us that really scared Betty.”

“Makes sense,” Drakken nodded. “Science takes study and training, so do most forms of magic, as do skills like the ones Kimberly used before turning to science. With enough surveillance Global Justice could know who to counter in any of those areas before the person developed enough to put up a serious resistance.”

There was a pause, Horatio guessed that everyone expected Drakken to continue into one of his famed rants.

When he didn't Shego eventually asked, “And?”

“I would have thought that would be obvious,” Drakken said. “You make a perfect example.”

“If I don't like where this goes...” Shego warned.

“Shego,” Kim said in a calming way while placing her hand on Shego's shoulder.

“Imagine that you'd come of age in the world after we left it behind,” Drakken said. “You started off as a hero, so you'd have no cause to hide your training from the authorities, and your training is something that they could monitor. They could gauge your technique and decide whether or not you were a threat with ease.

“But your comet power is something else entirely. Like Surge's ability to connect with electronics it may have become better with training and practice, but it manifested as something that was already a force to be reckoned with. There was no lead up, no warning, no point at which an outsider could have stepped in to stop your power before it became too powerful to control.”

“Not the perfect example, though,” Horatio said. “The comet was hard to miss, and thus its effect upon Shego and her brothers was equally hard to miss.”

“And this relates to your claim that humanity is extinct how?” Shego asked.

Horatio reminded himself that Shego could kill him and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “What is hard to miss is when someone is born with a power,” he said. “No light show. No origin story. No sign for Global Justice to beware. Hence their last weapon.”

“Enough with the damn suspense!” Shego shouted. “What?”

“They made the world infertile.”

Three people asked, “What?” Two swore. Three more simply stood with their mouths agape.

* * *

Kim's mind seemed to have broken. She struggled to process this new claim.

“They didn't intend to do it to the entire world, of course,” Horatio said in a tone that sounded like he was giving a practiced lecture on a subject he found boring. “The idea was targeted bombings of meta-human --their term not mine-- population centers. Unfortunately their creation proved a little too resilient, their dispersal methods far too effective, and as soon as it joined the rest of the fallout in the upper atmosphere, the human race was pretty well doomed.”

Horatio looked at Kim and the seven others. Kim knew that the others likely had the same look of shocked disbelief on their faces as she doubtless haws on hers. Horatio then added, “It's perfectly safe now, of course. It took maybe eight or nine years for the chemical compounds to break down. It's just that, by then, everyone on earth had already been affected. So, even though humanity survived the war, the human race died out in a generation.”

Kim was the first one to regain her composure enough to speak. “Can you prove any of this?” she asked.


“I don't need to prove it,” Horatio said. “It's true whether you believe it or not.” Then he started examining his fingernails, as if cleaning them was incredibly fascinating.

-