[Part 1][This might be subject to major revision, and might not. I feel like I want to plow through a bunch of the background in this story and just get on with things. So this is the start of that.]
[Added] This has already seen a non-major revision, less than 24 hours after being posted. [/Added]
"I came here," Kim said to Chi, who was still facing away from her, "Because you bent more than I would have imagined possible, but were able to get back to normal afterward. I want to know how you did it."
Chi turned back to her, "Well, if you're thinking about that now you're way ahead of where I was."
"I'm not sure," Kim said. "I know that I've done things, and will do things, that I would never normally do. Things that I might never forgive myself for. But I'm going to do them anyway."
"Tortured anyone?" Chi asked.
"No," Kim said.
"Then you're better than I was," Chi said.
"True, but I seem to remember you having to hold me back."
* * *
"Patrol," Ron whispered, causing the people carrying him to rush to a nearby storage closet.
"Badical med tech!" Ron said, looking at the contents of the large closet. Chi and Kim left Ron leaning on a wall while they conferred.
"We're going to need to be careful to get out of here unnoticed," Kim said.
"I'm not leaving," was Chi's response.
"Chi, we need to get you and Ron to a hospital."
"You take Ron; I have unfinished business here."
"I'm not leaving you and Ron's in no condition--"
"It's no problem, KP," Ron said, "I've got wheels."
Ron was battered, bruised, barely able to stand under his own power, and now sitting in a fairly standard low-cost low-tech folding wheelchair. Kim somehow doubted that in his condition the chair would be enough to solve his problems.
* * *
The lab was mostly empty. In fact, it looked like there was only one technician present: a man with medium build and no obvious signs that he'd be dangerous was sitting at a computer terminal across the room.
Kim tried to think of the best interrogation strategy. Chi just rain over to him. Ron followed behind in the wheelchair and called out, "Wait up!" which ruined the element of surprise.
Chi grabbed on to the technician's chair, and spun it around so fast the man almost fell out of it. He grabbed onto the man and shouted, "Where is it!"
The man didn't say anything. Kim thought she saw terror in his eyes.
"I'm only giving you one more chance before things get messy," Chi said. "I want what they took from me. Now where is it?"
The man was clearly immobilized by fear. He wasn't going to be saying anything if Chi didn't give him a moment to calm down. Chi had to see that, right?
Chi pulled out something that was silver from the waistband of his pants. A knife? A scalpel? A random piece of metal? Clearly Ron wasn't the only one who found something of value in the closet. "I warned you it would get messy," Chi said.
Kim realized, almost too late, that Chi wasn't bluffing, she grabbed onto Chi and pulled him back.
"Chi you don't want to--" Kim had been hit with electric jolts before. She knew the feeling well, and it left her on the ground.
She was too stunned to even focus on the problem at hand. "Electric eel?" she asked.
"It's actually a type of knifefish, not an eel," Chi said. His back was still toward her, but at least he wasn't advancing on the technician.
Her mind slowly coming around she knew this was a good thing, Chi liked to talk about his animal bits. But the part that told her to keep on talking was overruled by indignation, "And you used it against me?"
"Don't try to stop me Kim; I won't hold back in a fight."
"You'd fight me?"
"If I have to."
"Chi, I don't know what happened, and I don't know how you're feeling, but--"
Chi turned toward her, "You want to know how I feel? Fine. This is how I'm feeling: Salve, nomen mihi est Inego Montoya. Patrum meum interfecisti. Para mori."
Ron, who had been silent through all of this, said, "What did they do to you, man?" with genuine horror in his voice.
* * *
"Just once," Kim said. "And that was at the very beginning, before you'd had time to cool down. After that, though, even when you went further than I would ever usually condone, you controlled yourself pretty well."
"You think the platypus venom was me being in control?" Chi asked, a hint of dark amusement in his voice.
"I just want to know how you were able to make it back to normal after," Kim said. "I'm going to do things that I never thought I would do, and cross lines that I swore I'd never cross, but --if at all possible-- I don't want to destroy myself in the process."
"Ever considered not doing those things in the first place?" Chi asked.
Kim glared at Chi. He knew that when you're like this, that wasn't an option you'd consider.
"I don't know if there is an answer," Chi said, "but why don't you tell me what's happened so far?" he gestured for her to follow and lead the way to the living room.
"I guess it couldn't hurt," Kim said as she followed.
She sat down on an offered couch.
"Want something to drink?" Chi asked. "I never got around to acquiring the taste of alcohol, so I'm afraid I don't have anything strong enough to befit your situation."
"Something with bite," Kim said.
"Ginger-beer it is," Chi said as he walked to the kitchen. "And root-beer for me so we can both have soft drinks with 'beer' in the name."
When Chi returned, gave her a bottle, and sat on the chair facing her couch, he asked Kim, "When did it start?"
* * *
"Ok, so you remember the chaos after the invasion," Kim said.
"Buildings destroyed everywhere, military in shambles, all defense agencies on the ropes for not being able to do a damned thing, insurance companies quoting von Däniken in court so they could argue that aliens are gods and, ergo, an alien invasion constituted an act of god and thus they shouldn't pay," Chi said.
"Yeah, Ron and I put off college to join the rebuilding efforts," Kim said. "Drakken and Shego helped out. Apparently Drakken liked the adulation he got for saving the world so much that he intended to make a career out of it.
"It was good and bad at the same time. It felt good to be doing concrete things to help individual people again, not just fighting super-villains, but at the same time the problem was so huge that sometimes I felt completely helpless.
"Shego and I got a lot closer, I never forgot how--"
Chi interrupted by saying, "She felt like a perfect big sister during the Miss Go incident and within a couple days you were already as close to her as Monique who you'd known for two years at that point and Ron who you'd known for twelve and --oh, my god-- it's like the two of you were made to be friends which is why it sucked so much to fight her after that because you couldn't avoid thinking of what fellowship you'd missed by being on opposite sides," quickly.
"Yeah," Kim said.
"It's not like you weren't going on about it constantly for a month after she stopped subbing in the high school," Chi said.
"I wasn't that bad," Kim said. When she saw Chi's glare she amended, "Well maybe I was, but after the invasion it was a good friendship without mind control and Shego was able to help me through the down times, and even figure out ways I could do more with what I had."
"How so?" Chi asked.
"It was her idea to reach out to the network of people I'd helped in the past. At first I didn't see the benefit --how much can a cybergentic tick help when you're trying to rebuild the world's infrastructure-- but then progress started to be made.
"I was able to get Mr. Nakasumi to re-task one of his factories to make equipment that could help in reconstruction, having Martin Smarty helping out is always useful--"
"Yeah, a lot of money and the knowledge about how to stretch it as far as it can go," Chi said. "I think I remember some of what he did, actually."
"It was good publicity," Kim said. "I had just gotten some people who worked in robotics and AI to collaborate with Drakken on Robots of whatever-the-opposite-of-Doom-is --and also make sure Drakken didn't sneak in any 'take over the world' programming-- when Team Possible got an urgent call."
"I thought you retired to help with the rebuilding," Chi said.
"We did. And Ron was off with members of the military, again, trying to convince them that --no, really-- he wasn't hiding some kind of glowing blue super-soldier weapon they could use and, yes, the means by which he got his power had been well and truly destroyed.
"But it was a major call. A new villain that didn't play by the usual rules with a weapon of mass destruction primed and ready to use as a demonstration of both the weapon's lethality and his own willingness to kill people, and the demonstration to take place before he even made demands."
"Someone never read the rule book," Chi said.
"Yeah, but it looked like he was going to do a lot of damage before anyone could cry foul so I decided to break my retirement for one mission. Without Ron I thought was going to have to fly solo, but then Shego offered to come with."
Chi took that in for a moment then asked, "Was she doing it because she genuinely wanted to help you, or just because she was bored?"
"A bit of both, I think," Kim said. "It didn't matter. The mission was a disaster. Everything we'd been told was a lie, and by the time we managed to be extracted we'd both been declared terrorists. That made Shego's pardon null and void, and as for me--"
"Wait, wait," Chi said, "Back up a second. What the hell happened on the mission?"
X X X X X X X
X Ten Years Ago X
X X X X X X X
X X X X X X X
"We should be coming up on the drop zone in thirty seconds," the pilot said. "Are you two ready?"
"Yes," Kim confirmed.
"Just like we were at the one minute mark, and the two minute mark, and the five minute mark," Shego said.
Part of Kim wanted to tell Shego to be nice, but the part that won was the part that wanted to join in, so she said, "And the ten minute mark, and the fifteen minute mark, and the twenty minute mark..."
Shego shot her a grin. Kim smiled in return. They still had fifteen seconds before jumping.
They passed in silence. The two still looking at each other, Shego still grinning, Kim still smiling.
The jump was uneventful.
The landing placed them just outside of an alpine lair. It wasn't precisely on a mountain top, but it was on the highest point around. Fortunately they'd landed pretty close and thus could avoid most of the climb.
As Kim surveyed the site, had a sense of déjà vu, and said, "I feel like I've been here before."
"You have," Shego said. "It's a time share lair. You came here when Drakken stole the panoptic gizmo."
"The Eye of Panoptes," Kim corrected, making sure that it wasn't in a condescending way.
"Yeah, that's what I said."
Kim groaned. "No you--"
Shego tackled Kim. The two rolled over a small ridge in the landscape and landed in a depression. Kim let out an, "Oof."
Once Kim would have assumed this was Shego's inevitable betrayal. These days, though... she waited for an explanation.
"Sniper" Shego whispered. She pointed.
Kim looked where Shego indicated, quickly so as not to present a good target, and saw that there was indeed an outbuilding that appeared to be made for sniping and something, which might have been a scope, glinting in the sun.
"That wasn't there before," Kim said, once her whole body safely back below the ridge.
"Of course not, villains don't use bullets and they certainly don't use snipers. If you can't defeat your opponent with ray guns, stun batons, or something else equally villainesque then you don't deserve to win and the entire villainous community will be sure to let you know." Then Shego grinned widely and maliciously, "Each villain in their own personal way."
"Lends credence to the idea that this guy doesn't play by the rules, and might actually kill a lot of people," Kim said. "I need a closer look."
"Electro-binoculars?" Shego asked.
"Please and thank you," Kim said.
Shego made a grunt of disgust, but gave Kim the binoculars.
"Now, how do I use these without getting my head blown off?" Kim asked.
"Give me your compact and close your left eye," Shego said.
Shego repeated the exact same words more slowly, "Give me your compact and close your--"
"I'm left eye dominant," Kim said when she figured out what Shego was getting at.
"Fine, close your right eye."
Kim looked straight ahead through the binoculars, without poking her head above the ridge. Shego used Kim's compact, and her own, to form a makeshift periscope. All that was put at risk was one of Shego's hands.
"It's strange," Kim said.
"It looks like a sniper's perch, but I think it's set up for surveillance only."
"That doesn't make sense," Shego said, "If they were monitoring a feed from there for security purposes they'd have seen us and alarms would be blaring."
"Well, I don't think it's an immediate threat," Kim said, then she stood up and offered Shego a hand. Shego took it. When they were both on their feet, Kim said, "We keep going?"
"Yeah," Shego said, "but I don't like it."
"Any ideas about what approach we should take?"
"Princess, if that was surveillance then they know we're coming," Shego said, "so none of that vent-crawling crap."
"Just waltz through the front door?"
"I seem to remember you punching a hole through our wall once," Shego said. "When we weren't even doing anything."
"I can't do that anymore," Kim said. Shego shot her a look that made her feel stupid for stating the obvious.
"I can," Shego said.
* * *
The front door was a massive metal door, it stood no chance against Shego. It warped, the frame buckled, and the whole thing crashed to the floor inside the lair.
Kim knew something was very wrong. She scanned the area for any signs of traps, but found none. Henchmen should be swarming at them after an entrance like that. If it weren't a trap, why weren't they?
"Think it's everyone's day off?" Kim asked.
Shego just snorted.
"This feels wrong," Kim said as they walked through the empty lair.
"Very wrong," Shego agreed. She was looking at the floors, the walls, she popped her head into some of the rooms. "This place isn't in use," she eventually concluded.
"You think we got bad intel?" Kim asked.
"Bad doesn't begin to describe it, pumpkin," Shego said. "Everything here is as clean as it's ever been. No one has walked on these floors, no on has leaned on a wall, no one has slept in the beds, the kitchen is pristine, there's not a smudge or a fingerprint anywhere ... there's no way that there could be a major operation going on here."
"But how could you possibly think there's a PDVI" (pan dimensional vortex inducer) "powered weapon of mass destruction charged up when there isn't?" Kim asked. "Readings like that can't come out of nowhere."
"We'll check the main lab," Shego said cautiously. She pointed the way, "But this goes beyond 'trap-trap',"she said with air quotes. "This place has been scrubbed for evidence, and no one has been in it since."
"Maybe the weapon's on a remote system?" Kim offered, but she didn't believe it herself. Had someone fooled Global Justice?
"Well, I guess we found everyone," Shego said when they reached the lair. Henches were laying on the floor as if they'd passed out at their stations. "Think someone dropped your lip gloss into the ventilation system?"
Kim considered it, the knock out gas she concealed in fake lip-gloss containers could have rendered them all unconscious before they had time from to leave their posts. Still...
"Something else wrong, Kimmie," Shego said.
Kim just waited for the explanation, rather than respond.
"These are Jack's men, bonafide HenchCo henchmen," Shego said. "They'd never go along with the plan we're here to stop."
"Maybe that's why they're," Kim gestured.
"Maybe," Shego said, but Kim could tell she didn't believe it. "You wake one of them up and find out what happened here; I'll check on our doomsday device."
How Kim woke up the henches would depend on what condition they were in, so she went to check the pulse of the nearest one to get some idea. It was odd. She didn't usually have this much difficulty locating the carotid artery. She switched to the hand and barely noticed when Shego said, "This makes no sense."
With a sinking feeling, Kim realized that she wasn't actually having difficulty. She ran to another hench to verify. Then she looked up at Shego in a panic to find Shego looking at her in the exact same way. Each shouted, "Run!" to the other.
They barely made it out of the lab before something exploded behind them. As it was the shock wave knocked them off their feet and Kim could barely hear her own thoughts over the ringing in her ears.
She and Shego helped each other to their feet as they continued to make for the exit of the lair, which was coming down around them, it seemed like they never gained any ground on the collapse, they were always mere moments ahead of it, forced to run as fast as they could, lest it overtake them.
When they were finally out they collapsed into the snow gasping for breath.
Shego asked, "How did you know?" between gasps.
For a while Kim was silent, then she said, "They weren't knocked out, they ... they ... they were dead."
"Damn," Shego said. She started to get to her feet and said, "Makes me feel a little better about having to leave them behind though."
Shego offered Kim a hand, Kim took it.
Once Kim was on her feet she asked, "How did you know?"
"It wasn't a doomsday device or an evil ray or," Shego inhaled deeply, "anything like that. It only had enough actual tech in it to look like one to someone sifting through the wreckage."
Kim nodded, "Meaning they planned on there being wreckage."
"Kimmie," Shego said, genuine concern in her voice, "someone tried to assassinate you."
"What?" Kim said in shock.
"You go on a mission to save the world, it goes horribly wrong, you die in the lair, none of the henches survive to tell the tale," Shego said. "It's why the place was so clean; the destruction will mean it's not suspiciously clean anymore, but the cleaning means there will be no evidence of who really set it up."
"But I retired," Kim said.
"Everyone knows that was temp--" Shego stopped when she saw something behind Kim. "Kimmie?"
Kim turned and saw that there were a lot of people, in uniforms she didn't recognize, coming up the slope towards the ruined lair, Shego, and herself.
"Could be the local authorities," Kim said, but she she was sure her voice betrayed the fact that even she thought that was a false hope.
"With that response time?" Shego asked. Kim said nothing. Shego said, "Could be they're coming to finish the job."
"You still snowboard?"
That caused Kim to whip her head around to look straight at Shego in utter confusion. Shego didn't say anything, but she cut two makeshift boards from the wreckage of the lair.
Soon the two were headed toward the nearest trees. It was difficult without proper bindings. But Kim and Shego were up to the task.
X X X X
X Present X
X Present X
X X X X
"The plan was just to make it to the real local authorities," Kim said, "but they found us first. And they shot first and asked questions never." Kim paused a moment. "After that we didn't trust anyone and were on the run from everyone for a few weeks." Kim said. "Finally we managed to commandeer a secure line and call up Global Justice's new director himself."
When Chi looked confused Kim asked, "What?"
"Sorry, nothing," Chi said. "Sometimes I forget how quickly they managed to oust Dr. Director."
"The Lorwardian sitch was the only reason they could do it," Kim said. "'How can it be Global Justice if it can't defend the globe?' and all that."
"You'd think someone could have smacked them with a dictionary and explained that Justice is meted out after the fact," Chi said.
"Everything was happening so fast back then," Kim said.
"Yeah, these days it seems like it's ground to a halt, everyone settled into the new normal."
"Not for me," Kim said.
"Of course," Chi said. "Sorry. Not for you. But why did you have to commandeer a line, why not use the Kimmunicator?"
"There was a secondary blast in the lair, some kind of EMP or something like it. All of our circuitry was fried," Kim thought back to it a bit then smiled. "Shego was not happy about losing her mp3 player."
"Ok, so you get in touch with incompetent figurehead, and get an extraction," Chi said.
"And are immediately charged with murder, espionage, and theft."
"They offered a deal where it would be bumped down to excessive force --they blamed the dead henches on us-- even said they'd make everything go away if we told them where we hid the PDVI-"
"Was there even one there in the first place?"
"Nope," Kim said.
"As for the espionage," Kim said, "provided that the terms of our punishment included prohibition from dealing with people with security clearance above a certain level, they said they'd leave it off the books."
"How did they even come up with espionage?" Chi asked.
"They said," Kim started. Then she found there was nothing there. "I don't even remember what they said.
"It didn't matter, the charges were all bull-pucky anyway," Kim said. "They just had evidence on their side. A lair full of dead bodies to blame on us, nothing that could support our claim it was a set up, the fact that we ran, the supposedly missing PDVI which we must have stolen because no one else left the lair."
"Did you know it was a set up at the time?" Chi asked.
"Honestly?" Kim shrugged. "No. I thought that we were being framed by someone other than GJ and GJ was just being duped."
"How did they get you to agree to the bargain instead of having you insist on your day in court?"
"They played Shego and me off each other," Kim said. "The only way to not have my entire reputation destroyed and my life irreparably damaged, they'd told her, was for her to agree to their terms. She didn't realize Global Justice was in on it either. She just assumed that they were exploiting the opportunity that fell in their lap to finally deal with her --they'd wanted her out of play forever-- so she thought that if she went along with it I'd be ok.
"By agreeing to the terms of the prison sentence they offered her, Shego kept me out of jail and, she thought, in range of a normal life.
"For me they just pointed out that we were in a GJ complaint country where the death penalty was legal, Shego would never win a trial, and that for all her powers she can't dodge bullets. By agreeing to the terms of the probation they offered me, I was able to keep Shego in a non-horrible prison, as prisons go, and keep her safe," Kim said.
"If either of us broke the terms, the other lost their deal."
"So Shego couldn't escape because that would screw you over, and you couldn't break your deal because that would screw her over?" Chi asked.
"Pretty much," Kim said.
"Who needs locks when they can just threaten someone you care about?" Chi asked. It was rhetorical and Kim knew it.
"I need a refill," Kim said. Chi took her empty ginger-beer bottle, along with his empty root-beer one and left the room.