Saturday, October 31, 2015

Life After - Ch4: In which I just try to get stuff done

[This part of an entry into Stormchaser90's Heebie Jeebie Hullabaloo Halloween Story Contest for Kim Possible. I'm running way behind so it's rushed but not as rushed as what will come next.]
[As always I shall attempt to make this accessible to people not immersed in Kim Possible.]
[The character of Shin Possible was created by Blackbird as part of his Maternal Instinct universe.]

* - *
* - * - *
* - *

2029 – Earth

A voice was what had woken Jacob up, but he hadn't caught any of the words. So he asked, “What was that?”

“I said, 'Wake up time,'” Shin said.

“My shift already?” Jacob said, his arm still shielding his eyes from light --of the wisps and the fire.

“No shift, it's dawn.”

What Jacob sat up then looked around. “I should have had another shift.”

“I wasn't going to be able to get to sleep, so it would have been pointless,” Shin said, “Anyway, the nothings left when the light came. We're clear for the moment.”

“For the moment,” Jacob echoed.

They lapsed into silence.

It was broken when Shin said, “I figured it out,” with just a hint of pride.

“Figured what out?” Jacob asked.

“The big nothing, how it came to be, why it attacked us, the whole thing.”

“Do tell,” Jacob said. New information always interested him, and after last night Shin could probably use some up emotions.

“Ok, so whatever changed made it much easier for nothings to be born,” Shin said. “As soon as the sun was setting one spawned in every shadow. But ones that stay in those shadows are emphemeral.”

“Ephemeral means that it lasts a day, if it's nocturnal then it should be--”

“Epinuctal isn't a word and I'm well aware of the difference between Nyx and her daughter Hemera,” Shin said.

Jacob shrugged.

“But, the thing is, they don't have to stay in one place. To grow to the size and power of the one we saw means it's been around a long time.”

“You think it circles the world, chasing the night?” Jacob asked. The idea was elegant, but the math didn't work. At this latitude you'd have to average a bit over 800 miles an hour to keep up with the time of day.

They'd never have outrun something that could do that.

“That or it's found a place around here it can hide that the sunlight never reaches,” Shin said.

That made more sense. By day it could be camped out in some abandoned mine.

“The big thing, though, is that if it's been around for a long time then its probably done so, in part, by having a good sense of what can hurt it.”

“Heat, light, life,” Jacob said.

“Exactly. If it was here when there was still a human population to try to keep it at bay then it probably has memories of light and heat being weaponized, and the most obviously way to do that is fire,” Shin said.

“So human beings probably used fire to try to kill it,” Jacob said, “and it's resentful?”

“Something like that,” Shin said. “The draugar aren't alive, they don't generate heat, and --in case you missed it-- they didn't light the city at night to intrude on the nothing's domain.”

“So, basically, it's November dark,” Jacob said. He knew he shouldn't just make up a term because Shin wouldn't immediately understand what he was saying no matter how self evident he thought it was. He'd said it anyway.

“What?” Shin asked.

“Look, just because I think that axial tilt is the reason for the seasons doesn't mean I'm incapable of viewing the world in other ways,” Jacob said. “I can understand the world as a push and pull between animate primal forces every bit as much as you can.”

“Really?” Shin asked in a way that Jacob was pretty sure was amusement, poorly conveyed sarcasm, or disbelief.

“Did you know that in the original story,” Jacob said, “when Demeter was in despair over the abduction of Persephone and letting the world die, it was summer, not winter, that was killing the world?”

“Yes,” Shin said.

“Points for you,” Jacob said. “Did you also know that Pandora had a jar, not a box?”

“Really?” Shin asked. This one was a genuine question.

“Yes, but that's not important,” Jacob said. “Anyway, Demeter and summer. Light and heat aren't good things, they aren't bad things, they're just things. Too much and the world bakes.

“Light is blinding, it's searing,” Jacob said. “Heat is dehydration and heat stroke assuming you're lucky enough to not burst into flames.”

“You have a sunny disposition,” Shin said.

“The sun is the point,” Jacob said, “and it's what ties this back to what we were originally talking about.”

“So there is a connection,” Shin said. Oddly it was more playful than insulting.

“When the story moved into places that knew the kinds of winter we know, people just naturally assumed that it was cold and dark that would kill the world, not heat and light, so the story changed,” Jacob said.

“Naturally,” Shin said.

“Mancer's magic was a mishmash of a lot of things that he didn't really understand, but with a few exceptions the mishmash comes from a single general area: Germania. That incantation that he thought was Latin was Old Norse.”

“As opposed to New Norse,” Shin asked.

“New Norse is Norwegian,” Jacob said, “moving on.

“It comes from a place that knows winter like we do,” Jacob said, “and he preformed it on Halloween. So what happens at this time of year?”

“Trees fall off the leaves,” Shin said.

Jacob said nothing.

Leaves fall off the trees,” Shin said. “I hate it when I do that.”

Jacob shrugged.

“Everybody does it sometimes,” he said. “The answer I was looking for is that the days get shorter and the world gets colder. The sun is dying, the light is dying, the heat is dying, and what it's giving way to is the cold, biting, potentially quite deadly, darkness of November.”

“Hence 'November dark',” Shin said.

“Yeah, the cycle of seasons says that we eventually hit winter solstice and the light starts to return even as things continue to get colder,” Jacob said, “but a November dark ties the dark and cold together. Darkness grows, things get colder and colder, the trees lose their leaves, animals go into hibernation if they can, others simply flee, the world becomes a frozen wasteland and with every day it gets darker and colder.”

“So your theory,” Shin said, “as someone who has no background in magic whatsoever, is that the mean nasty darkness of November is personified in the Nothing that didn't like us?”

“Well it sure as Hell wasn't summer shade,” Jacob said.

“And why would November dark not like us?” Shin asked.

“This time of year is supposed to be darkness's time,” Jacob said, “but what have human beings done for as long as we've had fire? We've pushed back the dark. City light in America, before the timeline changed, was so bad that the only way to see natural night darkness was to sail so far into the ocean that all the light from the US was blocked by the curvature of the earth and then turn out the ship lights. Nowhere in the country, no matter how remote and lacking in people, could escape the light we cast through the darkness.

“If you'd been pushed back every time your hour was supposed to have come round, and had that happen constantly for a hundred thousand years,” Jacob said, “maybe you'd be pissed off too.

“Anyway, it's darkness that doesn't want to give way to light. It's something that's vying for dominance in the eternal push and pull between darkness and light.” Jacob said.

“And does this, vaguely interesting, philosophizing give you any idea what to do?” Shin asked.

“We're out of apple,” Jacob said; “aren't we?”

“That, and we can't count on the fae world regardless,” Shin said. “The border doesn't stay weak for nearly as long as the one between this world and the afterlife.”

“Well unless you've got some bottled July scorching light,” Jacob said, “no, I guess I doesn't help us much.”

“It was an interesting idea, at least,” Shin said.

“Thanks,” Jacob said.

* * *

When they were ready to get moving again Jacob looked around --which Shin thought was pointless because they were again in a mushroom grove-- and then said, “We should get to high ground; get a look at the area.”

“Or,” Shin said, “We could just climb on top of the mushrooms.”

Jacob was a genius when it came to tech, and smart when it came to combat, it's what made him a nemesis who was simultaneously frustrating and satisfying (frustrating because he was good enough to win, satisfying because beating him was an accomplishment), but sometimes he missed the downright obvious.

* * *

When they'd climbed atop the highest mushroom and gotten a good look at the area, Shin's first response was to agree with that Jacob had said yesterday: at least it was colorful. The mushroom groves themselves tended to be in bright colors, but they were hardly the only fungus.

There were fields of lavender sprouts that rose up to the height of cornstalks and looked like some kind of coral as they reached, bent, and branched skyward. There were folded growths of yellow or orange that were the size of shrubs. The entire landscape was full of bright colors.

Her second response was to note that the landscape was marred. What looked somewhat like blast zones vaguely followed a path leading in their direction. The implosions from last night?

“Did we cause all that?” Shin asked.

“That's my guess,” Jacob said. “Any idea on where to go now?”

“Not back the way we came,” Shin said. “That's just a city of the dead. If we want to get through this we need to find something new.”

Jacob took a small scope from his pocket and scanned the horizon. He turned a full circle, but hesitated at one spot and stopped there when he was done.

“What is it?” Shin asked.

“Verify my results?” was Jacob's response and he offered Shin the scope.

At first she wasn't sure what he was seeing. It was just an area of yellow, orange, and red --hardly unusual colors for the mushrooms they'd been seeing. Then it hit her.

“Are those . . . trees?” Shin asked.

“That's what I thought,” Jacob said. “And if they're in their fall colors, if they've got leaves at all, then they must be alive, right?”

Shin thought it over. “If nothing else, it'll be a change of scenery,” she said.

* * *

Shin was scouting ahead to give Jacob space for a well needed bathroom stop. Which meant “hide behind a tree” stop.

When he got to what he considered a good spot he was distracted by the sight of something. A closer look had him taking a few steps back. It was mostly decomposed, whatever it was, and it looked to have once been an animal. Maybe even of the human sort.

Shocking and not what one wanted to see when trying to poop in the woods, but he was confused by his deep seated visceral reaction that had caused him to withdraw. He knew death. He'd seen decomposition. What was it that had overpowered his conscious control of his body and forced him back?

He tried to take a closer look but something within him (disgust perhaps?) forced him to back of yet again.

Half remembered words came to his mind: hideous remains of such terrifying aspect that no living thing will ever voluntarily occupy the same space.

“Nemoroth,” Jacob said to himself and then ran after Shin. “Stay away from the leaf piles!” he shouted.

* * *

Shin heard Jacob shout “Stay away from the leaf piles! They're--” piles of leaves ahead of her and on both sides burst upward and formed into swirling vortexes of leaves. “--alive,” Jacob said in a tone that indicated he was well aware that the information wasn't useful anymore.

“Anything else I should know?” Shin asked, looking at the suddenly menacing autumn leaves.

“They're limited to moving Manhattan style on an orthonormal basis?” Jacob offered.

Classic Jacob speak: it presumably meant something, but Shin had no idea what.

“In English!” Shin shouted as she stepped back a bit to try to get all the animated leaf piles in front of her where she could see them.

“They can only move in certain evenly spaced straight lines,” Jacob said. “If we figure out the lines and run between them they'll have to zigzag to follow us and we might gain ground.”

Shin lit her plasma. “Or I could just burn them to ash,” she said.

“If one engulfs you,” Jacob said, “you'll be dead and what remains of your corpse will be so disconcerting no one will be able to come close enough to it to give you a funeral.”

Shin gave it only a moment's thought before launching plasma into one of the leaf vortexes. “Oh, you do care,” she said at Jacob.

“My odds of survival are better with you not dead.”

“Then help me burn,” Shin said.

“I left my flame thrower at home,” Jacob said. But soon he was at her side and the two of them were setting the forest on fire.

* * *

Jacob watched as Shin started attacking a mushroom for no apparent reason. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“These ones are edible,” Shin said.

Jacob liked the sound of that, the last time he ate was a single bite of his apple the night before. Running for your life, setting a major deciduous forest on fire, putting up with Shin, these things caused one to become downright famished. Still, he had doubts.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Pixie scout,” Shin said, “remember?”

That was good enough for Jacob and he started ripping pieces off of the giant mushrooms to eat as well.

* * *

“The light's dying,” Jacob said.

“Don't assume that we're going to die just yet,” Shin said. “We've got some time.”

They walked in silence for a while and then Jacob exclaimed, “It's not orthonormal! It's whatever you call it when there are eight directions in a two dimensional plane all evenly spaced.” Jacob was still Jacob. Probably a good sign. “For some reason I forgot that they could move in eight and thought that they could only move in four, at the same pace in each of course.”

“Of course,” Shin said, though she wasn't really listening. Jacob talk was Jacob talk. No need to pay too much attention.

“And four directions of the same magnitude, the unit magnitude, evenly spaced on a standard two dimensional plane gives you an orthonormal basis.”

“Fascinating,” Shin said.

* * *

“I told you we weren't going to die,” Shin said pointing to a shape that had just come into view.

The shape looked like a cabin maybe, but that wasn't Jacob's primary concern. “I don't remember you saying that.”

“Well not in as many words, I guess,” Shin said.

“So you didn't tell me we weren't going to die,” Jacob said.

“The point is we're not going to die,” Shin said.

They'd gotten closer and it was pretty clearly a cabin.

“It's probably all rotted out,” Jacob said.

“It's your theory,” Shin said.

“My theory?”

“What keeps November dark at bay?” Shin asked.

It took Jacob a moment then he looked at Shin with his eyes wide and said, “Hearthfire.”

Shin nodded and they both ran for the cabin.

* * *

The door was unlocked, just inside there was a note on a small table.

I found this place two autumns after the world changed. It wasn't much, half rotted away, but I needed a place to over-winter and I figured it'd be easier to fix this than build something from scratch. I was probably wrong about that.

After all the work I put into the place grew on me. I had just planned on staying until it got warm again. I lived here six years. It's long past time that I should be moving on. Looking for other people.

So I'm going now, but I leave this place to anyone and everyone who might need a place to stay.

I give only three rules, never turn anyone away, never treat a guest here worse than you desire to be treated, and sign the guest book when you leave.

Keep the fire stoked and this place will will keep you safe. Always remember to be someone worth saving.

My name is Andrew, and I wish you well.

* * *

“So, how did you know about the leaf piles?” Shin asked.

Jacob had been reading the guest book. Seventeen years since the original owner –well, the original post-timeline change owner-- had moved out and an almost unbelievably high number of people had used the place.

No one stayed. The longest visit was an over-winter, and it seemed like everyone was looking for something, and none of them were finding their personal something, but it meant that humanity had survived.

Jacob eventually realized Shin had said something and so he asked, “Wha?”

“The leaf piles,” Shin said. “How did you know about them?”

“Nemoroth,” Jacob said. Shin made no indication of understanding. “You've never heard of Nemoroth?”

“Nope,” Shin said.

“You'd love it,” Jacob said. “It completely ignores everything we know about history and astronomy.”

“The point,” Shin said, “get to it please.”

“Nemoroth was a port town, destroyed in a horrible accident when they floated the moon up into the sky,” Jacob said. “In Nemoroth there were various forms of life including--”

“Leaf piles,” Shin said.

“Just so,” Jacob said.

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – Earth

“How are you all holding up?” Wade asked over the crackling prototype Kimmunicator.

“About how you'd expect.” Tara said.

“I've been looking at the--” Wade crackled to her.

“Look, if I just duct tape my phone to this thing can you use that for the audio so we'll get a decent signal to noise ratio?” Tara asked. She hadn't meant to be testy, but she had just slept in a fallout shelter no one had dusted since the end of the cold war and the crackling sound of the Kimmunicator was grating on her.

“I can just call your phone,” Wade said, “and I'm sending new gear your way.”

“Call me,” Tara said, “and...” she realized the line was already dead.

Her phone rang, she picked it up on the first ring and said, “Thanks, Wade. We're all a bit stressed.”

“No problem,” Wade said. “I've been watching that data coming out of the High School area and non-human activity has dropped off significantly since sun up.”

“Does that mean it's safe to go outside?” Tara asked.

“It should be,” Wade said, “though the evacuation won't start off until noon, so for most people it's probably better to stay inside just to be on the safe side.”

“Most people,” Tara asked.

“The entire tri-city area has been overrun, Tara,” Wade said. “No one has had any luck stopping the dogs or the darkness.”

Tara thought about that. Police, animal control, the national guard. . . Denver wasn't that far away which meant that neither was Aurora, which meant an Air base. How could no one have any success in stopping the things?

Was it possible she'd heard wrong?

“No one?” she asked.

“The best anyone has managed is surviving,” Wade said, “same as you.”

“I like dogs as much as anyone and I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but they have tried just shooting them, right?” Tara said.

“It only works for a while,” Wade said. “They don't stay dead.”

Tara hadn't been prepared for that. Her brain was sort of on autopilot when she asked, “Shooting them in the head?”

“It's been tried,” Wade said. “The military is hoping that incendiary weapons will be more effective--”

“Burn the bodies,” Tara said.

“Exactly, but the truth is no one knows,” Wade said. “Other than trying to install powerful light sources at population centers before nightfall tonight there's really no organized plan because no one knows what we're actually dealing with.”

“And you want us to find out,” Tara said.

“I don't know,” Wade said. “Maybe.”

There was a long silence.

“Go on,” Tara said.”

“Ok,” Wade said, “three things happened at more or less the same time. Kim disappeared, there was an explosion in the school, and the dogs started showing up in the school. We don't know if they're related, and if they are we don't know how. Maybe the dogs caused the explosion and that stopped Kim from materializing, maybe Kim caused the explosion and that called the dogs.”

“So you want us to look into it?” Tara said.

“Until I get equipment at the explosion site I can't say anything,” Wade said, “but if I can get a detailed scan it might allow us to understand the dogs, locate Kim, or both.”

“Or neither,” Tara said.

“That's possible too,” Wade admitted.

“I'll get the others,” Tara said. “Is there anything--”

“Wait,” Wade said. “Don't volunteer yet. There's still something that you need to know.”

Tara sighed. “Something bad?”

“Yes,” Wade said. “Non-human activity has dropped off except for near the explosion site.”

“Implying there is a connection,” Tara said.

“Something in the area is making it impossible for me to get good readings,” Wade said, “so all I can say is that they're near there, I don't know if they're actually in the same place.”

“I'll get the others,” Tara said.

* * *

Josh had just listened to what Tara said without comment, and now that she was finished he decided to wait to see what the others thought before he said anything.

“So, basically,” Bonnie said, “he wants us to go into the one place where we still might get killed and stand around waiting what that thingy--”

“Kimmunicator,” Ron said.

“Why do you people even call it that?” Bonnie asked. “Did you trademark it or something?”

“Well, actually. . .” Ron said while looking away.

“I'm going,” Tara said, “whether you go is up to you.”

“Obviously Rufus and I are going,” Ron said.

Rufus stuck his head out of Ron's pocket and said, “Uh-huh!”

Josh decided it was time for him to decide, and he found it surprisingly easy. “This is still the best lead we have on what happened to Kim, right?” he asked.

Tara nodded.

Josh's entire body ached. Every part of him was saying that he should just rest and move as little as possible. He said, “I'm in.”

Josh made a point of not looking to Bonnie while waiting for her answer. He didn't want to make her feel pressured.

Bonnie said, “Ok, I'm in.”

Tara nodded then said, “Good.”

“I just want it to be known that the thing I've just joined in is an incredibly stupid endeavor,” Bonnie said.

Honestly, Josh was impressed that Bonnie had made the decision. Bonnie had a good side, but most of the time she kept it locked down under layers of unenlightened self interest, a powerful drive to be at the top of what she saw as the social food chain of the school, and just plain meanness directed at people she thought beneath her.

Maybe recent events had allowed her good side to escape its restraints? Maybe she saw something in this for her that overpowered her desire to stay out of this kind of work and her sense of self preservation?

Josh didn't know.

Tara did seem to know how to manage Bonnie though. Her response was simply, “It's noted, B.”

* * *

“I told you it was a stupid idea!”

Ron was going to tell Bonnie to help rather than … be Bonnie, but when he looked he saw that she was holding the doors shut too.

“Give me the spark notes version, Wade,” Tara said. “We're in a hurry.”

Ron agreed. The four of them were having trouble holding the doors shut and Tara was going to have to stop helping to seal them. The faster they did this the better.

“Ok,” Tara said into the phone. “Give me space,” she said to Ron and the others.

She used a device they'd picked up to weld the doors together and cool them back down immediately after.

“Ok,” Tara said, “let's get out of here before they just knock them off the hinges.

Everyone complied. As they made their way back to the fallout shelter, and Ron realized that they wouldn't have made it without the metal fusing device, he said to Josh, “You were right about stopping by Kim's locker first.”

“Yeah, but we were wrong to even try,” Bonnie said.

“B, we didn't get the scans we wanted,” Tara said, “but at least we got a look at the . . . thingy they're coming through.”

Thingy, inter-dimensional portal, whatever. It wasn't supposed to be in the school and the caverns they'd glimpsed through it definitely didn't look like the high school basement.

* * *

The promised evacuation had commenced, helicopters and hoverjets were taking people to safety, soon this nightmare would be over and they'd be safe. There was only one problem. Her friend wasn't getting on the evacuation craft.

“T, you've done your part,” Bonnie said. “Let the professionals handle it from here on out.”

Was that pleading? Bonnie didn't plead. She'd never allow herself to plead.

Ok, maybe it was pleading.

Tara was a friend worth pleading for.

“B, no one's stopping you from going,” Tara said. “I'm going to help with the evacuation.”

It was simple enough to get the people out of the fallout shelter.

After the dogs had broken through the doors they'd sealed shut and saw no one in the area they went back into the school. Apparently they didn't hunt in daylight.

No, the hard part was that the school was being designated an evacuation center and that meant rounding up everyone in the general vicinity, which meant going door to door, which promised to be dangerous because, since the dogs weren't out in the sun, they must be inside the buildings. Any one of the doors knocked on could burst open and have a killer dog come through.

Bonnie sighed, “I'm coming with you.”

“You don't have--”

“I'm coming with you, Tara,” Bonnie said.

* * *

By now they were a team. Josh didn't know when it had happened exactly, but it had definitely happened.

They each had fresh gear from Wade including communicators, grappling hooks, five different types of very bright lights, rocket skates, knock out gas in lip-gloss containers, and “elastic-constricting agent” in lipstick containers. The last was very useful when pointed at a giant evil dog's mouth.

They knew who did what by now. Tara gave the orders, Ron provided comic relief, Bonnie vented their frustrations, and Josh generally stayed quiet and tried to keep his cool. While Tara laid out plans, and Ron was a master at creating massive distractions, Josh and Bonnie both provided speed or strength as needed. They were both pretty strong, and as for speed. . . Josh just ran, Bonnie tended to do things with a good deal more acrobatic flair. Unless her life really did depend on going as fast as possible. Then she ran.

When they made it to the surface Bonnie said, “That was disgusting.”

“I told you,” Tara said, “it was a storm drain, not a sewer.”

“It was still disgusting,” Bonnie said.

There was no debating that, in Josh's opinion. Who knew so many people would have taken shelter in a storm drain? Of course, when they fled the sun the dogs did too, and that led to a surprisingly complex cat and mouse game. The people were obviously good at it because twenty of them were coming out with them.

“It was pretty icky,” Ron said.

“Sun's setting,” Josh said, looking at the horizon. It was beautiful, but if tonight was anything like the night before nothing good would follow that beauty.

“Wade,” Tara said into her communicator --Bonnie had insisted they just be called communicators-- “we need transport for ourselves and twenty survivors.”

“It's on the way,” Josh heard in his right ear; he'd hooked earbuds up to his communicator, but he liked having at least one ear free to hear whatever was going on around him unhindered. “Dr. Director says that this is your last run,” Wade said.

“Again,” Josh said.

“It really is this time,” Tara said. “We don't know what'll happen when we lose the light.”

* * *

They'd separated to go to stay with their families in the tent city aid workers had set up for them. The good news was that all of their families had survived. The bad news was that that was more exception than rule.

Hope had lost her whole family and was staying with Tara for now. Kim and Ron's friend Monique had lost her brother. Big Mike had lost his father. Crystal had lost her mother. The list went on.

Tara sat on her cot and turned on her communicator. “Sit rep?” she asked. God, she was picking up military jargon. She'd only been around those types since the evacuation started at noon.

“It doesn't look good,” Wade said. No surprise there. “I'm going to ping the others and see if I can get you all up to date at once.”

In a moment she heard their voices over her communicator.

“What's up, Wade?” Ron said.

“I'm online,” Josh said.

“What is it?” Bonnie said.

“Looks like we're all here, Wade,” Tara said. “What's going on out there?”

“The dogs are moving outward,” Wade said, “and from the look of things they're not just coming from the school anymore.”

“Where else could they be coming from?” Bonnie asked.

“I'm pretty sure inter-dimensional portals aren't that common, Wade,” Ron said.

“Well they're becoming more common,” Wade said.

“How much more common?” Tara asked.

“It's difficult to say for sure,” Wade said.

“Guesstimate,” Bonnie said.

“At least seven, maybe thirteen,” Wade said; “They're all located on the border of the territory the dogs cleared last night.

“So we're looking at exponential growth unless we can stop it?” Josh asked.

“Possibly,” Wade said, “we'd need more data points to be sure and I'd rather not get any more.”

“Amen,” was Tara's response to that. One night of it had been more than enough.

“The cold spots are acting differently,” Wade said. “My best guess is that they only congregate around a portal --the way they did at Middleton High last night-- on the night it's opened.”

“So in Middleton there's no snow tonight,” Tara said, “but the new areas are going to see freezing weather.”

“I think so,” Wade said. “The ones in Middleton are spreading out, not squeezing together.”

Tara set down her communicator and held her head in her hands. It didn't look like the nightmare was going to end. It looked like the nightmare was going to end them.

Finally she asked, “Anything else for us, Wade?”

“That's all I have for now,” Wade said.

“You know how to contact us,” Tara said. She shut down the communicator, flopped back onto the cot, and decided to sleep in her clothes again tonight. She just didn't have the energy to change.

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – The After

Kim woke among the ants' mushrooms, and followed their tunnels, largely at random.

Eventually she emerged into a giant cavern that seemed to have been formed around a wide river whose waters ran black. She wasn't surprised when she saw a small ferry.
* * *

“If you don't have the fare, I can't take you,” the ferryman said.

“I don't have any coins,” Kim said.

“Then go away and leave me in peace,” the ferryman said, then muttered something Kim didn't quite catch, but she did make out enough of to know that it involved Americans and thinking the rules didn't apply to them.

“I have skills,” Kim said. “Isn't there anything I can do to earn passage?

* * *

“Thanks again for the ride,” Kim said.

“It was the least I could do after what you did for my brother, Thanatos,” the ferryman said.

“Death always gets a bad wrap,” Kim said. “It was a pleasure to help out.”

* - *
* - * - *
* - *

2029 – Earth

“You dead yet?” Shin asked.

“No, but I'm working on it,” Jacob said. He curled into a tighter ball on what was, all things considered, not a bad bed for something made my hand in a post apocalyptic setting.

“It's November second,” Shin said, “you know what that means?”

“In three days we burn someone in effigy for the hideous crime of failing to blow up parliament?” Jacob asked.

“No,” Shin said, “that's not what I'm talking about. And the hideous crime was trying to blow up parliament, the fact that he failed was a good thing.”

“Defender of imperialism to the last, I see,” Jacob said and tried to catch onto the elusive darkness known as sleep.

“A Catholic England would be just as imperialistic as the Protestant one,” Shin said s part of her incessant project of continuing to exist which Jacob found rather perturbing.

“If you say so,” Jacob said, not in the right frame of mind to argue alternate histories.

“November second, ringing any bells?” Shin asked.

“Saint Jude is no longer looking over us?” Jacob asked, but he knew at this point he'd lost. Sleep had escaped him in spite of his attempts to ignore waking life.

“Thing's are not hopeless!” Shin shouted. Apparently a nerve had been struck. “Now get up and help me summon a dead person already.”

Jacob sighed. “Fine. Up getting.”

“Thank you,” Shin said.

* * *

“Now we set the table for three and make her favorite dish,” Shin said.

“Ok,” Jacob said, clearly more awake now, “One, I have in fact made offerings to dead people before, and two, I hope she liked mushrooms.”

* * *

“We're looking for portobella” Shin said.

Jacob resisted the urge to scream and just said, “You know I've seen all sorts of Mushrooms since this world came into being but boring white ones seem to be in short supply.”

“She likes portobella,” Shin said.

“It's portobello,” Jacob said, “and--”

“There are multiple legitimate spellings and even more pronunciations,” Shin said in her best attempt at stern. Shin could be many things, stern not so much.

“Fine, whatever,” Jacob snapped back, “but who the Hell are we getting these for?”

“Nanna Possible,” Shin said.

“If memory serves, your grandmother was alive before the change, what makes you think she'd be dead n--”

“No,” Shin said. “Nanna is a name, Scandinavian I think, and she's my great grandmother.”

* * *

“The table is set, you've recited something that sounded vaguely Icelandic, we're in a circle of salt,” Jacob said while gesturing to the circle of salt Shin had spread around the table, “at what point do we give up and admit that we're not getting any dead people to show up?”

“Will you stop being so negative?” Shin asked.

“I'm just imagining how the next people here are going to feel about all the salt being wasted on a seance that didn't work,” Jacob said.

“You're just hungry and want to eat before the guest of honor arrives,” Shin said.

“You think that's it?” Jacob asked, carefully eyeing Shin.

“Yes,” she said.

Jacob said, “If that were it then I'd simply,” and then started eating his mushrooms.

“Your table manners are atrocious, young man,” a new voice said.

Jacob looked up to see a somewhat transparent person that he assumed was related to Shin. “I'd say I was raised in a barn,” he said to the ghost, “but the truth is I wasn't raised indoors.” Then he went back to eating.

“Nanna, it's Shin,” Shin said.

“You weren't born in this timeline,” Jacob said, “she doesn't know you.”

“You judge too soon,” the ghost said. Jacob looked up at her. She then said to Shin, “I'd know my granddaughter anywhere and I see her in you. You're Kim's daughter?”

Jacob said, “You're perceptive,” at the same time Shin said, “Yes.”

“What did the young man mean about 'this timeline'?” the ghost asked.

“I am, in fact, right here,” Jacob said, “and can speak to my own meaning if you're truly interested.”

“He does know more about the science side of things,” Shin said.

That surprised Jacob, but he responded with, “Thanks, Possible.”

When he saw the ghost had turned her attention to him, Jacob said, “Assuming that no one else messed up time earlier, this is the secondary time-line created when a villain I thought incompetent managed to change the fate of your granddaughter Kim and with it the world.

“Shin, myself, the villain wherever he's gotten to, and thirteen stone amulets are the only things that survive from the world we knew,” Jacob said. “Shin hoped that you might be able to tell us what happened.”

“The change was at the beginning of mo-- Kim's junior year of high school,” Shin said, “she was using the transportulator to get back to Middleton only Mancer, the villain, changed things so she dialed the wrong number.”

“The transportulator makes use of phone--”

“I know what it is,” the ghost said. “No one knew about the wrong number; people thought it was just dangerous to teleport at all.”

Jacob nodded.

“So do you know what happened?” Shin said.

“Kim disappeared off the face of the earth, quite literally, for two days,” the ghost said. “During those days large black canines terrorized an ever expanding area.”

“Hell hounds,” Shin said at the same time Jacob said, “Death dogs.”

That got Jacob a strange look from Shin so he said, “What, you're the only one who's allowed to know about creatures of the afterlife?”

Shin shrugged, then turned back to the ghost, “Sorry about the interruption.”

“It's quite alright dear,” the ghost said.

“What happened to,” Shin hesitated; Jacob took notice, “Kim while she was gone.”

“She never really went into great detail, and what she did say was hard to believe.”

“Says the ghost who's been summoned by the great granddaughter she never had in a world that's been taken over by mushrooms, darkness, and dead things,” Jacob said.

The ghost didn't respond. Instead she turned to Shin.

“I know; he's rude,” Shin said. “He's also all I have and he's saved my life enough times I've lost count.”

“Just looking out for my own self interest,” Jacob said.

“What did Kim say?” Shin asked.

“She said that she was in the afterlife with my aunt Miriam,” the ghost said.

“Great,” Jacob said, “are we going to have to summon her too? That would be three Possibles too many.”

“Perhaps you should call on some of your own ancestors,” the ghost said in a way that was probably meant to be semi-symptathetic.

“I don't have any,” Jacob said.

“Jacob was raised by his sister,” Shin said.

“I'm so sorry,” the ghost said.

“I'm not,” Jacob said, perhaps a bit too loudly. The last thing he needed was pity from a Possible. “A sister is all I ever needed.” He paused, cleared his head, and then said, “Question stands: do we have to get Miriam on the line?”

Shin shook her head, “If mom made it back then that's what mattered, what we need to know right now,” she turned to the ghost, “is what happened to the world.”

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – Earth

Yori entered Master Sensei's chambers and bowed to him. A moment later Hirotaka did the same.

That Hirotaka had been summoned too implied that this was somehow related to the Monkey Master.

The final Monkey Master resided in the United States and they had been planning a ruse to bring him to them. A fabricated exchange program with his school. Hirotaka was to go to to the American school for a week while Yori was to be given the honor of overseeing the Monkey Master at Yamanouchi itself.

“Something has happened in Middleton, something unforeseen,” Master Sensei said. Yori didn't react, but she knew that the situation must be grave. Middleton was where the final Monkey Master, foretold of by prophecy, lived.

For something of import to have evaded the notice of, or more disturbing still changed the events foretold by, the prophecy it would have to be truly powerful indeed.

“Our plans must change,” Master Sensei said. “I am sending you both to America now. It will take time to understand and prepare to fight this new threat, but I do not believe the Monkey Master has that time. You are to protect and assist him until Yamanouchi as a whole is ready to to come to his aid.

“Do you understand?”

Yori and Hirotaka responded as one. They understood.

“Good,” Master Sensei said, “then go now.”

* * *

“Anything new?” Tara asked.

“Global Justice has attempted several incursions into the high school area,” Wade said, “and the dogs have responded by coming out of hiding so they can fight the agents outdoors.”

“So today not even sunlight is safe?” Tara asked.

“It's not safe, but its still safer,” Wade said. “They're not actively hunting, just staying in places where they have long lines of sight and room to maneuver.”

Tara sighed. “Any patterns?”

“They definitely like shade,” Wade said, “and they're concentrated around the high school. Aside from that, not really.”

* * *

Being taken seriously as a teenage world saver was much easier when you had Kim Possible, the one with the name and face everyone recognized, with you. Ron was the one people forgot about the moment he left their sight, sometimes sooner.

No one would listen to him.

* * *

“I've found Kim,” Wade said.

All four of them responded at once. After the cacophony died down Tara asked, “Where?”

“You're not going to like it,” Wade said.

“At the high school,” Josh said.

“Right at the edge of the portal,” Wade said.

“What's she doing there?” Bonnie asked.

“Maybe she came out of it,” Ron said. “Maybe she's been stuck in their world this whole time.”

“Whatever the case, she's at the very center of quarantine,” Wade said. “We need to get her out.”

“Everybody here's been stonewalling us,” Tara said. “They don't think teenagers should be getting involved.”

“We'll have to go over their heads,” Ron said. “Wade, can you get me a meeting with Doctor Director?”

Wade typed a bit. “Done.”

“Everyone get packed if you're coming and be ready to move in fifteen minutes,” Tara said.

* * *

“No,” Doctor director said.

“This is Kim we're talking about,” Ron said. He was trying to be calm. He was trying to be reasonable. He was trying to be serious. Serious face was on.

“I understand that but I can't send a team on a suicide mission just to--”

“I'm not asking for a team,” Ron said. “Just let us into quarantine.

“I'm not sending a bunch of kids on a suicide mission either, Ronald,” Dr. Director said. “Stay out of quarantine, that's an order.”

“Team Possible doesn't take orders from you, Betty,” Ron said letting his anger come out a bit.

“How can you be Team Possible without Possible?” Dr. Director asked.

“You're right, Kim is irreplaceable. That's why we don't have just one person stepping in to fill her shoes,” Ron said. “We have King,” he gestured to Tara, “Mankey,” He gestured to Josh, “and Rockweller,” he gestured to Bonnie, “which makes for some very crowded shoes.”

“You can't just replace Possible with random kids from your school,” Dr. Director said.

“Kim got her start with very specific training, Tara and Bonnie,” he gestured to each again because he was using different names, “have identical training. As for Josh . . . Josh went up against a dozen of those dogs in close quarters for an extended period and lived to tell about it,” anger fully out of the cage now. “What's the best your agents have managed?”

Before Dr. Director could respond Ron said, “Forget it, we don't need you, Betty,” and turned and walked out of the room.

* * *

“So,” Tara asked, “do we have a Plan B?”

“Wade is Plan B,” Ron said as he pulled out his communicator.

* * *

“Thanks again for the ride,” Tara said.

“It's the least I can do after Kim saved my software company,” the pilot of the stealth chopper said. Rich people could have some strange hobbies.

“If she were here,” Ron said, “I'm sure that she'd say it was no big because . . .” Ron wasn't sure what came after that.

“Going open source was a no-brainer?” The pilot offered.

“Yeah,” Ron said.

“Let's just get Kim and get out,” Bonnie said as she got out of the chopper.

“Sounds good to me,” Josh said when he got out.

“I'm heading out to refuel,” the pilot said, “as soon as I've got full tanks I'll be waiting in the area for your call. That way we can make a quick extraction once you have Kim.”

Tara waved. The helicopter started up again, and Ron was reminded that stealth against radar was not stealth against ears.

“So that probably called all the nasties in the area to us,” Bonnie said.

“Let's get moving,” Tara said; “I want to be out of here before sundown.”

“We all do,” Josh said.

“I see two possibilities,” Tara said. “One: we blast in on rocket skates as fast as we can and hope that we can get in and out before any of the angry dogs know what's going on. Two: we sneak in unnoticed and save the rocket skates for our escape.”

“I vote two,” Josh said.

“I'm more used to the sneaking thing,” Ron said.

“That's where I lean too,” Tara said. “Bonnie?”

“Whatever gets us moving,” Bonnie said.

* * *

“Is she … dead?” Bonnie asked.

Tara was on her knees beside Kim, checking her pulse. Ron was anxiously waiting for the results.

“No,” Tara said. “But she's not doing well.”

“What happened to her?” Josh asked, even though he knew no one could answer.

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – The After

Kim was hungry, thirsty, and exhausted. The fact that her sneaking had finally failed and she'd just had to fight thirty dead people who had remarkable stamina for dead people didn't help in the least.

“Are you lost?” came a voice that sounded a lot like her own. She faced it to see what could have been an older version of herself if not for the century old clothes and the transparency.

“Who are you?” Kim asked the ghost.

“My name is Miriam Possible,” the ghost said. “I was your great grandfather's sister. Call me 'Mim'.”

“I've never heard of you, Mim,” Kim said. She was a bit suspicious, but not overly so since the hostile dead people she'd encountered so far hadn't exactly been subtle.

“I was like you once,” Mim said, “but a picture was taken at just the wrong time and it looked like I was committing a crime I was actually trying to stop.

“I tried to prove my innocence, but nothing ever came of it,” Mim said. “I was called the criminal of the century; I'm not surprised I was edited out of the family history.”

“Why are you here?” Kim asked.

“To help you,” Mim said. “You were right to seek friendly natives --you'd never find the way out on your own, but it calls to us-- but now you have to head back into hostile territory.”

“And why is that?” Kim asked.

“Because that's where the rift is,” Mim said. “Come this way, I'll show you a way to bypass the ferry.”

* - *
* - * - *
* - *

2029 – Earth

“The dogs and darkness spread with frightening speed, but the dogs were just animals and the darkness could be fought back with heat and light. It was what came next that we were totally unprepared for,” Nanna said.

“That wouldn't, by any chance, have been dead people and animals, would it?” Shin asked.

“Actually they came last,” the ghost said. “No. What caught us off guard were bodiless spirits. They'd take any body they could get, and apparently a sufficiently advanced computer would function as a brain, and whatever it was attached to as a body, for their purposes.”

“They started putting computers in cars in the 1980s,” Shin said as the possibilities ran through her mind.

“You think too small,” Jacob said. Which, of course he would. But despite the (more than) occasional condescension, he usually did have a point. “GJ never made a hover-jet without advanced computers in control of everything. VTOL is just too fiddly for most people to handle on manual.”

“The young man is right,” Nanna said. “Our military forces all ground to a halt and then, as we were trying to rip the circuitry out of everything, that's when the dead rose.

“Some people thought they were zombies at first, and tried to fight them like they'd seen in all those movies,” Nanna said. “The truth was that they were just as smart as the living, some had military training, and many of those that hadn't had it in their life studied and drilled in death.

“They were organized, their tactics were good, and their strategy completely overwhelmed us,” Nanna said. “By the time they were in an area the dogs had already dealt serious blows to the local population, any military that moved in was either without the support they'd been trained to work with or would see spirits make that support turn on them.

“And finally there was a factor that we were never able to quantify. Everywhere they went things simply . . . came apart,” Nanna said. “At one point I was involved in using an old pickup truck --old enough not to have much electronics in it-- to get people to the front lines. Before we started using it, it was pristine: fully restored, looked after by an aficionado, protective coatings, the works.

“It was rusted out within a week of the first time it visited the lines,” Nanna said.

Jacob nodded, “All the buildings in the first city we were in had been reduced to mounds; it should have taken half a millennium or more for nature to take those things down.”

“So without high technology and with a little bit of decay the entire world folded?” Shin asked. She couldn't believe this. She completely trusted the source and knew Nanna would never lie to her, and she still couldn't believe this.

“I went down fighting,” Nanna said. “I never stopped watching the world though. Eventually people realized that they couldn't win, the war had already been lost, and that's when the first real successes started.”

“Enclaves?” Jacob asked.

“Your rude friend is smart dear,” Nanna said to Shin. “Once people realized that they weren't going to save the world they concentrated on saving the people. They stopped trying to take things back and started figuring out how to defend what they still had.

“The results were smaller self sufficient communities,” Nanna said. “It's not the civilization you knew, but humanity does survive. Once the battle changed from trying to win to trying to draw out loosing long enough to set up safe pockets, things went rather better.”

Shin just lay her head on the table.

She vaguely heard Jacob say, “I think your descendant needs some time, but if you're willing I have a few more questions.”

* * *

The ghost looked back at Shin, before going through a door that Jacob then closed. “She'll bounce back; she always does.”

“You know her well?” The ghost asked.

“We're enemies,” Jacob said. “Arch foes even.”

“And that's a yes?”

“Pretty much,” Jacob said. “I seem to remember something about it not being safe for you to be out of the salt circle for long, so I'll try to be quick.”

The ghost nodded.

“You said that everyone thought things going wrong was a result of normal teleportation,” Jacob said. “Does that mean no one studied teleportation in depth for fear of repeating the incident?”

“Yes,” The ghost said.

“Did any of the attempts to oppose the deadites involve use of the mineral malachite, old Norse magic, or the two in combination?”

“Not that I know of,” the ghost said. Good. Hedging implied honesty. Or an attempt to fake honesty by adding a hint of verisimilitude, but Jacob would take what he could get.

“Was Dementor brought in to help solve the problem?” Jacob asked.

“No,” the ghost said, “once the finger was pointed at him he went to ground. The people who did seek him out were looking for revenge, not help.”

“Just one more question,” Jacob said, “was the Middleton population used as a resource?”

“How so?” the ghost asked.

“Justine Flanner on inter-dimensional physics, Drs. Porter and Freeman on trying to make computers less easy to possess, that sort of thing,” Jacob said.

“Not that I'm aware of,” the ghost said. “After the population of Middleton was evacuated it was mostly ignored. Even Kim was barely able to get the authorities to listen to concerns about them not getting their basic needs met.”

“Thanks for all your help,” Jacob said. “And don't worry about the great granddaughter you never actually had, she'll be safe.”

“It's not the first time you've worked together, is it?” the ghost asked.

“No,” Jacob said. “And I still owe her for one of the previous times.”

“Good luck,” the ghost said and then faded away.

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – Earth

Tara checked the time on her communicator. They were running out of daylight.

Kim was completely non-responsive. They'd tried everything to wake her, nothing worked. Wade scanned her and said she was healthy, somewhat malnourished and dehydrated though, and appeared to be suffering from exhaustion.

“We've got to her get out of here,” Tara said.

“Yeah,” Ron said, “but how?”

Josh lifted Kim a bit, probably testing her weight.

“It'll go faster if more than one of us is carrying her,” he said.

“Are the rocket skates rated for two?” Tara asked Ron.

An image flashed through Ron's mind of Kim rescuing him from a giant robot made out of a re-purposed toy factory.

“Yeah,” he said, “They're rated for two.”

“Josh, Bonnie, you carry Kim until we're out of the school,” Tara said. “Ron and I will run interference. Once we're out we all use the rocket skates and don't stop until we've reached a safe landing site.”

“And which one of us carries Kim on the rocket skates?” Bonnie asked.

“I really don't care,” Tara said, “just so long as we all get out.”

“I'll do it,” Bonnie said.

* * *

Rocket skates used very small rockets. Ones that could fit into an ordinary looking shoe and still leave space for the concealed wheels that made them skates. They were definitely faster than running, but they were no match for a car.

Bonnie, her hands full with Kim, barely managed to dodge one such car.

“Who the hell is driving that thing?” Bonnie shouted.

“It's empty!” Josh shouted back.

Tara took another look at the car that seemed to be trying to kill them, noted that it did appear to be empty, gave thanks to the gods of rocket skates, and called Wade on her communicator.

“Wade, we have new weird,” Tara said, “and it's bad-weird.”

The car swerved toward her, so she vaulted over it. Except the maneuver was made ridiculously complicated by the rocket skates.

“I know,” Wade said, “something's interfering with electronics in the entire area.”

“A car is after us,” Tara said once she was sure she was back on balanced footing. “No driver, and it doesn't look like it should be able to drive itself.”

“Which is why you'll need to get farther out before the helicopter can extract you,” Wade said. “Anything bigger than a breadbox and with a computer more advanced than graphing calculator can't be trusted.”

Ron took a different approach when the car went after him, since the car had to be matching their speed to avoid overshooting them, it was fairly easy for him to just hop onto it.

Well, the hop was more of a roll, and his rocket skates nearly shot him right back off of it before he shut them down, but for the most part it looked reasonably easy all things considered.

Tara tried to get her mind back where it should be, dealing with the overall situation not the minutia. What was compromised was based on physical size and computing power?

“You realize those qualifications make no sense,” Tara said, “right?”

“I'm just telling you what's going on,” Wade said. “We can try to understand it when you're all safe.”

Tara nodded. It didn't matter that Wade couldn't see her, she was nodding to herself.

“How far?” Tara asked.

“Another mile,” Wade said. “It really isn't happening far beyond the portal.”

The car shook Ron off, fortunately Josh was able to catch him and soon Ron was back on his feet with his rocket skates turned on again

“Rufus, do you think you can cut the engine in that thing?” Tara asked.

* * *

“Why don't they have more fuel!?” Bonnie asked. Well, asked was putting it nicely. Accused. Spat. Rudely spewed the words from her mouth in the general direction of Ron.

“There's only so much you can fit in a shoe!” Ron shouted back.

Josh wanted to step away but he and Ron were carrying Kim together.

“Guys!” Tara shouted. “Fight later, right now we need to survive.”

Ron and Bonnie didn't look like they wanted to listen so Josh said, “We've lost the sun, we smell like blood, BO, and rocket fuel, and the dogs will be coming out to hunt.” He gave them a moment, just one single solitary moment to absorb that, and then he added, “Listen to Tara.”

* * *

“We can't thank you enough,” Dr. Anne Possible said to Tara and the others.

“It was no--” Ron said.

Tara wasn't going to let that stand. “Don't try to be Kim. It was big. Very big.”

“Ferociously big,” Bonnie said, though Tara would have appreciated it more if it hadn't been said in deadpan.

“Things like this might come easy to Kim,” Tara said, “but for the rest of us, her sidekick included, that was big.”

“I thought it was big,” Josh said.

Ron just looked confused, then he asked, “So what do you want me to say?”

“You're welcome,” Tara said. “Speaking of,” she turned to Dr. Possible, “you're welcome; I wish we could have done more.” Then she turned back to Ron, “But you need to give yourself credit sometimes. This isn't easy, what you did was impressive, and you should own that.”

“You should be proud of what you do, Ron,” Dr. Possible said. “And what you just did, saving Kim, is a big deal.” She looked at each of them. “Thank you all, again.”

There was a general milling out, and Dr. Possible sat on a chair she'd set up next to Kim's cot.

Tara waited until she was sure the others were gone and said, “Doctor Possible,” to get her attention.

“Yes, Tara?”

“Do you know how to contact Wade?” Tara asked.

“Yes I do,” Dr. Possible said.

It was clear to Tara that Dr. Possible just wanted to be with her daughter, not talking to Tara, so Tara tried to use as few words as she could.

“If you need anything, for Kim or anyone else, call Wade, he'll pass the message to us, and we'll be there to help.” Ok, that was a fail on 'as few words as possible'.

“Thank you, Tara,” Dr. Possible said.

“Kim would do the same for any of us,” Tara said. “But you know that. You're welcome, and I'll see you around.”

Tara left the Possible tent, and made her way “home”.

* * *

“Am I a horrible person?” Hope asked Tara the moment she got in the tent.

“Uh,” Tara said, her brain trying to stall for time until it could process the question, “what?”

“I don't feel sad,” Hope said. “They're gone and I don't feel anything.”

Her whole family. Maybe it was a psychological defense mechanism because the blow would have been too hard?

Tara didn't know.

Tara hugged Hope and asked, “Do you feel this?”

Hope didn't respond.

* * *

“Wade, you up?” Tara asked.

“I'm up, what's going on?” Wade said.

“I need a therapist for a friend,” Tara said. “With all of the trauma that's been going on around here, I have a feeling that's going to be hard.”

Typing. One could always count on Wade to respond with typing.

“You're right that local help is pretty much impossible to book,” Wade said. More typing. “How does your friend feel about Paris?”

“I'll ask her in the morning,” Tara said. “Thanks, Wade.”

“No problem,” Wade said.

“Any change with Kim?” Tara asked.

“No,” Wade said. “She's still asleep, it reads as normal sleep. She's just in deep.”

“Any luck on finding out what happened to her?” Tara asked.

“Nothing new,” Wade said.

“Thanks,” Tara said. “Good night, Wade.”

* * *

Hirotaka and Yori surveyed the sprawling complex of tents.

“There's been no earthquake, no flood, no landslide,” Hirotaka said. It went without saying that there had been no tsunami, they were far inland. “What could have displaced so many?”

“Perhaps,” Yori said, “we should not have ignored news sources in our haste to arrive.”

“Perhaps,” Hirotaka agreed.

Surveying done, they climbed back on Hirotaka's motorcycle, and sped toward the camp.

* * *
* - * * - *
* * *

2004 – The After

“You're going to fight all of us Possible?” a man with part of his face falling off asked.

“Or you could surrender,” Mim said.

“Same as last time?” Kim asked.

Mim nodded, “Stick with what works.”

Kim launched herself at the nearest opponents while Mim performed a martial art that Kim could never hope to describe. Mim somehow fought the spirits animating the corpses opposing them right out of their bodies. Without a spirit to guide it, the body would just drop.

* * *

“This is as far as I can go,” Mim said, “but if you don't close the rift soon, more things, spirits like me, dead like the ones we've fought, they'll all be able to flood through it.”

“Thank you, Mim,” Kim said. “If I survive I'll try to clear your name.”

“I'd like that,” Mim said.

* * *

The climb up seemed to take forever. There was an easier route, but the black dogs were on it.

* * *

With three dogs unconscious at her feet, Kim went made the final accent.

* * *

Kim pulled herself out of the rift and into Middleton High School. She looked around at the damaged room and realized she had done it. She was finally back on earth in the land of the living. With that she passed out.


[Previous][Kim Possible Index]

* - *
* - * - *
* - *

The biggest cut was to Kim's adventures in the afterlife which, as you might note, are almost entirely absent.

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