Monday, February 1, 2016

Bent, not Broken, Part 4

"I still haven't even figured out where they're holding her, and what I've learned of the conditions make it seem like a rescue is impossible."

"Anything's possible, Possible," Chi said.

"Including failure," Kim said.

"The wisdom of Ron," Chi responded. "What are the conditions?"

“Well, the first thing you have to realize is that it's a secret prison,” Kim said.

That could explain how they were able to hold Shego. The only time that Shego stayed in prison for any length of time, before she disappeared, was for four or five months after the “tower incident”, and then other people had been more than capable of breaking her out. But a secret prison ... of course this assumed that that Chi was interpreting the words correctly.

“'Secret' meaning no oversight?” Chi asked.

Kim nodded, “No one ever checking that the conditions meet basic standards.”

“No human rights,” Chi said.

“It's a lot easier to hold someone like Shego when there are no morals or laws holding back your prison design,” Kim said.

Definitely made sense how they could hold her. When one was unfettered by morality, a belief in human dignity, or a basic respect for human life, it would be possible to create a truly escape proof prison given proper funding.

This was all very dark thinking, and rightly so given that they now knew such a place existed, but continuing in this vein wouldn't be particularly helpful, in Chi's opinion, so he tried to get them back to useful conversation by shifting the topic back to the conditions, and did it by noting one of the most minor consequences imaginable in hopes that he wouldn't contribute to unnecessary unpleasantness, “No mandate for an hour of outdoor exercise would certainly do a lot to put the kibosh on various types of escape attempts.”

“The prison is deep underground,” Kim said, “and the inmates never see the sun.”

“Fun, fun,” Chi said.

“Any breach floods all nearby areas with substances that I maintain are illegal under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction of 1972”

Chi just nodded. What was there to say to that?

“Tunneling attempts are ill advised at best anyway but given that there are explosive charges designed to cause a 'rocks fall everyone dies' outcome should tunneling be detected makes them moreso,” Kim said, “and any attempt to melt the rock is just plain stupid.”

Chi nodded, “Even the more easily meltable rocks tend to need to heated to over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit.”

“And if convection heat didn't kill you,” Kim said, “the whole place is designed so that unless you're trying to burn through the floor --which wouldn't help because you need to go up to get out-- any melted rock is going to flow such that it pushes you toward the center of the prison where the other security measures stand the greatest chance of killing you.”

“When you bust her out,” Chi said, “I want in.”

Kim said, “What makes you think I'm going to--”

“I'd want to free the inmates in a place like that on general principles anyway,” Chi said, “but I owe Shego too, so as soon as you find the place include me in your plans on setting her free.”

“I'm trying to operate solo,” Kim said. “Siding with me destroys people.”

“I'm already a criminal,” Chi said. Generally a criminal for hire, but for this job he'd sink in his own money if that was what it took.

“They'll go after people you care about. That's how they separated Wade and I.”

That possibility was disturbing, for sure, but there was a larger problem that needed correcting.

“Wade and me,” Chi said.

“Grammar freak.”

“What happened with Wade?”

“Wade's pretty much untouchable,” Kim said, “and on the rare occasions that someone does touch him they end up wishing they hadn't. But Wade has plenty of online friends, companies he does consulting work for, all sorts of quite touchable contacts.

“I told Wade to stop associating with me for their sake.”

“Random guess,” Chi said, “he didn't like that.”

“He didn't, but the fact was that he wouldn't have been able to protect all of them,” Kim said.

Wade probably didn't want to believe that, members of Team Possible had always had trouble acknowledging their limitations.

“When did you break contact with Wade?” Chi asked.

“I was still on probation,” Kim said. “Wade could contact me no matter what the authorities did and he doesn't actually have a security clearance, except when he hacks himself one, so it wasn't technically a violation, but a lot of his friends suddenly found themselves being harassed or investigated for illegal downloading at a level completely out of proportion for the alleged crime, or such after any time he made contact.”

Chi nodded at this, but couldn't help but think they'd gotten sidetracked. “I'm following everything you've said, I think, but I feel like we kind of lost whatever coherence the conversation had.”

“Movie time?” Kim asked.

“Not a bad idea,” Chi said.

* * *

“I don't think I've ever seen a movie that was that explicit about the value of consent and bodily autonomy before,” Kim said. It was ... strangely liberating. Like having movies she'd seen before not be like this had introduced a void in her life that she didn't know needed filling, and then suddenly having that void filled.

“You mean like the difference between blood being taken by force in the beginning and blood being given by choice in the end?” Chi asked.

“I mean the whole thing,” Kim said.

Chi nodded. “The entire movie should be unremarkable action fare but everything else sets the bar so low that it ends up flying over.”

Kim shrugged. She hadn't watched a movie in five and a half years, and then what she'd seen had to be old enough to be available on VHS. She had no idea where the bar was these days.

Chi asked, “So, where were we?”

“Shego was sent to hell-prison, I was sent to ordinary prison,” Kim said.

“Isn't there supposed to be a trial in there somewhere?” Chi asked.

“I'm not totally sure,” Kim said, “getting Shego the human rights following prison and me the probation could be interpreted as out of court plea bargaining.”

“Good point,” Chi said.

“There was actually a trial, though,” Kim said. “Didn't matter. The only people to show up on my behalf were the firefighters and families, plus some people from the circus. No one else came.”

“It could be that no one else knew,” Chi said. “I didn't know.”

“I know that now, but at the time, with the information I had to go on, I thought that people did know and just didn't show up for me. If you want to understand what I was going through, you need to understand that. Not ruining my reputation as a hero was part of the original deal, part that was voided when I crossed that line and saved those people.

“I was led to believe that things were no longer secret and anyone who cared about me would know about the trial,” Kim said. “To have no one from my past show up on my behalf just made me ... I don't have words for how I felt.”

The people she'd saved and the firefighters she'd saved them with, some people from the circus that wanted to hire her. That was it. None of the people from a village she saved from a flood or avalanche, no classmates, no family... no one. Not one person who wasn't directly involved in her life at the time she was arrested showed up. It felt like nothing before that had mattered. Like everything she'd done had meant nothing. Like she had been nothing.

“I can imagine,” Chi said, “but that's all I can do.”

Kim was glad that Chi hadn't tried to pretend he understood. She knew he couldn't. He couldn't understand what she'd gone through anymore than she could understand what it had been like for him to have his lower right lateral brain removed.

“The trial focused solely on the death of the henchmen since the alleged theft of the PDVI and the espionage charges had been erased with the first deal,” Kim said, “So everyone got a nice message of, 'Kim Possible is a mass murderer' with an added dose of, 'who was allowed to walk free for over four years,' and an implication that I'd kept my 'freedom' by callously leveraging my fame.”

“If they were accusing you of mass murder why was the prison term only five years?” Chi asked.

Kim knew it was a perfectly legitimate question, but it caught her off guard. She asked, “That's the part that you get hung up on?”

“Well, um... yeah,” Chi said.

Kim took a breath and then let it out slowly, “For reasons that have never been clear to me,” Kim said, “I was charged using Colorado law.”

“Even then--”

“Minimum of eight years and that's for a single second degree murder, I know,” Kim said. “But I'd been on probation for more than four years and the only violation was to save people's lives. In addition, I was treated more as quasi-law-enforcement who went over the top --remember that the story was that the fictional villain was planning on killing a lot of people before making demands-- instead of a danger to non-criminals.

“And I think that a lot of it came down to the fact that what brought me into court was saving people,” Kim said. “I think they were trying to strike a balance between outrage that supposedly killing all those henches had been punished with mere probation and the fact that they didn't want to punish someone for saving families from dying in a fire.”

“Have you found out who really killed the henches?” Chi asked.

Kim's answer came out much more defensive than she intended, “I've only been out six months.”

“Sorry,” was Chi's response. After a moment he said, “You'd think that someone would have said something. You know, 'I was on the jury that sent Kim Possible to prison,' or something like that.”

“I did look into that when I finally found out that no one knew about what happened to me,” Kim said. “Everyone was sworn to secrecy for reasons of national and international security. It was backed up with threats of what could be done to security risks.

“But that's all later, at the time I thought that I was being abandoned or ignored, not that people were kept from finding out about me.

“And so my wonderful career in prison began,” Kim said.

And she stopped. She thought about her first fight in prison, how she'd tried to avoid it but eventually decided to just let it happen and saw the possibility of dying in it as a welcome release, how she'd learned that in training herself to react without conscious thought in a fight she'd made it so letting herself take a hit required a conscious effort, and when she didn't put that in --because she hadn't realized she'd needed to-- the could actually win without even trying.

She thought about how her initial strategy of keeping her head down had utterly failed to avoid conflict. She thought about her slow realization that the guards were paying extra attention to her but would only intervene if they thought she might actually die; beatings were fine.

She thought about the feeling of a shard of glass being shoved into her abdomen.

She thought about prison becoming her world and her life.

But she couldn't put anything that she thought into words.

She looked down at herself, her hands and arms, and for the first time took notice of the fact that she'd put on a long sleeved t-shirt today, just as a matter of habit, when before prison she had so often gone sleeveless.

She looked back up at Chi and said, “Let me show you something.” She stood up and added, “Back in a sec.”

* * *

Kim returned wearing a tank top, but Chi barely noticed the shirt. It was her right arm his attention was drawn to. From the wrist to the shoulder it was covered in black. The tattoo was an abstract design in which straight lines of black, about as thick as a thumb, traced paths the length of Kim's arm, every so often making a sharp, forty five degree turn, going “over” or “under” each other wherever two lines intersected. There was definitely far more inked skin than non-inked skin evident on that arm.

“So,” Kim said, “I didn't want a traditional prison tattoo with any of the symbolism used in them, but the message isn't just in the symbols. Since they're done without anesthetic ...”

“Anyone looking at you knew you could take a lot of pain,” Chi finished.

“As for why it's black,” Kim said as she sat back down, “that's just the easiest color for the artist to get her hands on.”

“Any great insights about prison life you want to share?” Chi asked, but really the question had the opposite purpose of what the words said. It was to give her the opportunity to say, “No,” she took the opportunity.

“So that leaves us at six months ago,” Chi said.

“Yeah,” Kim said. “I still thought that my incarceration was public knowledge and, while I hadn't actually expected anyone to show up for my release, it still stung when no one did.

“I made my way back home. I don't know what I was expecting to do, as far as I knew it still would have ruined my parents if they were associating with me.”

“That wouldn't have stopped them,” Chi said. The Possibles had some serious problems, notably Kim's father's habit of threatening to murder, via black hole, any boy in a relationship with Kim if he so much as made her unhappy, but even most of their problems were evidence that they'd do anything for family. Them staying away during the post-21 probation was probably to stop Kim from being punished rather than a sense of self preservation.

“Probably not,” Kim said, “but they weren't there. The house, which we'd all put so much work into rebuilding, had been abandoned. I don't know where they went because there's no forwarding address.”

Chi didn't say anything.

“And that was when I decided, 'To hell with parole',” Kim said.

“You mean that I'm not just harboring an alleged mass murderer but an actual violator of parole?” Chi said in fake shock. “I had no idea; this is so, so bad.”

Kim gave a faint smirk.

Sometimes even really bad, painfully corny attempts at humor got the job done.

“For about a week I wallowed,” Kim said. “Whether it was self pity or abject apathy I was wallowing in changed from day to day or even hour to hour.”

Kim paused a bit, and Chi wasn't sure if he should say anything.

“As the time went on, though, I started to feel more and more anger,” Kim said. “I'd saved the world so many times I lost count, I'd done enough babysitting that I'd practically raised some people's kids for them, I'd put my life on the line near constantly, I'd sacrificed any considerations about what I might want in order to help people, and for all of that I found myself reduced to nothing. After everything I'd done for the world, the world left me homeless, friendless, penniless, and depending on soup kitchens to keep from starving outright.

“Anger can be very constructive,” Kim said. “The angrier I got at the injustice of the situation, the more alive I became. It gave me a purpose, a direction, I'd make them pay for what they did to me.”

Chi wasn't going to judge Kim. Twisted and warped as it was, there was sheer joy in her voice at the thought of retribution and it disturbed him, but he'd been there. Vengeance hardly cared whether one was avenging a wrong or piling on more wrong through revenge.

You brought your pain inside of you and held onto it rather than let it go. You gave it a privileged position within your very being, letting it override lesser concerns like, say, your own morals. And then you took this thing that had been given to you and sought to reward the giver with their own equal or greater share. It was just a charitable impulse toward reciprocity, really. Reward pain with pain in kind.

“The most obvious target was GJ,” Kim said, “They'd sent me on the mission that ruined everything, they'd enforced the probation, and I knew enough about their operations to find a place to strike.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *
* Six Months Ago *
* * * * * * * * * * * *

“What are the threats today?” a mid level Global Justice employee asked a lower level one in a fairly unremarkable monitoring station.

The low level employee looked at a clipboard and reported, “Sonique has been collecting amplifiers, Gil Moss is in the area apparently looking into the possibility of obtaining samples of a mutagenic agent that reportedly affected five animals in the local sewers between ten and twenty years ago--”

“Why don't we know precisely how long ago it occurred?” the mid level employee asked.

“We're not even sure the reports are more than urban legend sir. Details are extremely difficult to ascertain.”

“What were the five animals?”

“One member of the order Rodentia, supposedly near the end of its natural life, and four members of the order Testudines, supposedly newborn,” the low level employee said, “Exposure is believed to have resulted in massive increases in the size and intelligence of all five while simultaneously extending their lifespans, notably of the Rodentia.”

“Moss will be interested in the Testudines, he only cares about aquatic mutants and he had an unpleasant experience with a mutant beaver in his teens.”

“All five are also reportedly students of a school of Japanese martial arts.”

“It's irrelevant,” the mid level employee said. “Let Moss look all he wants, he's not going to find the mutagenic agent, assuming it does exist, over a decade after it was released into the sewers. Other threats?”

The low level employee looked at his clipboard and obviously didn't think highly of any of the things that remained, “Doctors Dile and Gator are both reportedly gathering henchmen, an X-239 has been stolen but there's only an estimated one point five percent chance it will come into our area, and--”

“Someone you stabbed in the back is standing right behind you,” Kim said.

The mid level employee spun to face her, the low level employee didn't move at all.

“Possible,” the mid level employee said, apparently to the universe in general because it didn't seem, to Kim, to be directed at anyone. It certainly wasn't a greeting. Then the mid level employee told the low level one, “Get--”

Kim kicked the mid level employee in the gut, and then without putting her kicking foot down, and only a tiny hop to realign her foot on the ground, kicked the low level employee in the side. She didn't mind the cry of pain, she did mind that low level stayed standing. It only took a tap to the back of the knee to drop low level to his knees. Then she just shoved forward. When he landed with a thud she told him, “Stay down,” and returned her attention to the mid level employee.

“Your bad intel ruined my life,” Kim said to mid level, she wouldn't grace the individual with a name, “and I can't help but wonder how someone thinks that a pan-dimensional vortex inducer is present, powered up, and hooked into a doomsday device 'primed to go off at any moment' when there isn't a PDVI within a hundred mile radius of the site in question.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” mid level said.

“I traced the intelligence passed on to me, it came from your desk,” Kim said.

Mid level tried to run.

One grab and three punches later and mid level was sitting on the ground, back propped up on the wall, trying to keep pressure on a bloody nose.

“Are we through with the running?” Kim asked.

“You're talking about a single assignment from nine and a half years ago,” mid level said, “I don't remember.”

“If you don't remember,” Kim asked, “then why do you remember it was nine and a half years ago?”


“And if you don't remember doing anything wrong, then why did you run?” Kim asked.

“You went rogue!” Mid level said.

“So you don't remember the assignment, but you do remember the alleged outcome of the assignment?”

“You're rogue now! You broke into a highly secured facility--”

Kim snorted.

“This is a--”

“Don't make me laugh,” Kim said.

“You accused me of ruining your life after you'd already kicked me,” mid level said. “Of course I ran.”

“You say that,” Kim said, “but I when I ran after finding a bunch of dead bodies and then having someone blow up the building I was in, that was apparently proof I was guilty. Five years of prison and four and a half years of probation worth of proof.”

Mid level let, “You weren't supposed to go to prison,” slip out in a moment of apparent surprise.

“It sounds as if you do remember something,” Kim said.

“It was nothing personal,” mid level said quickly.

“You ruined my life,” Kim said, bringing her face closer to mid level's and looking straight in mid level's eyes, “and I take that personally.”

“GJ is part intelligence agency,” mid level said. “Lies are part of what we do.”

“That sounds so very just,” Kim said as she backed away to a more reasonable distance.

“No one was supposed to die,” mid level said. “You went overboard and killed--”

“I haven't killed anyone,” Kim said calmly, “but if you keep on telling me lies I'm willing to start.”

“I was following--” this time mid level stopped without being interrupted.

“Realize that that wasn't the best defense?” Kim asked.

“Operation Faux Hole--”

“It looked better on paper than it sounded when you said it aloud, didn't it?”

“It was just supposed to discredit you. When you couldn't recover the PDVI it would-- but then you killed those--” mid level seemed to rethink things, as Kim pondered what might hurt mid level as much as the accusations hurt her. “When the henchmen ... turned up dead everything changed. I was transferred to an entirely different unit--”

“At a higher pay grade,” Kim said. “The whole thing really helped your career along, didn't it?”

“It was a disaster!” mid level shouted. “With things so unstable after the invasion we couldn't afford a rogue operator like you--”

“I'm a 'rogue operator'?” Kim asked.

“I think you've shown that beyond all doubt,” mid level said.

Kim thought about that for a moment, then she asked, “And whose fault is that?”

“The operation was to remove a rogue element and stop a new villain at the same time without anyone getting killed,” mid level said. “No bloodshed. Then you head out with Shego and suddenly we're all neck deep in blood.”

Kim let off some steam by punching mid level and crying out in rage. She thanked whatever gods may be for the soundproofing in the GJ installation.

“Who led the operation?” Kim asked.

“Information is compartmentalized so--”

Kim growled.

“They didn't tell me.”

“Who classified me as needing to be removed?” Kim asked.

“They didn't tell me.”

“Did you know that there's a smell so repugnant that it'll drive a person to unconsciousness in seconds?” Kim asked.

“What?” Mid level was appropriately confused. Kim opened a can labeled as lip gloss under mid level's nose.

Then she stood up.

She walked to where low level was still laying on floor. “Good job staying down,” she said. “You might want to activate some alarm now so that they don't think you're working with me.”

Low level looked up, and looked uncertain. Kim nodded. Low level ran off. Kim raided mid level's pockets. She was rewarded with an RFID keycard.

* * * * * * *
* Present *
* * * * * * *

“I stole some hard drives from their servers,” Kim said, “took me a while to find someone to crack them for me --I've always been more of a hardware person than a software one-- but once I did I dumped the information online and didn't hide how I'd gotten it. Or, rather, who I'd used to get it.”

“So I'm guessing that mid level's career in intelligence took a hit,” Chi said. Sometimes what hurt the most wasn't physical pain. Someone like that lived and breathed information analysis, putting together the puzzle with pieces ordinary individuals didn't even know existed. Revenge was taking them out of the game; smashing their security clearance.

“Not as much as it deserved to,” Kim said, “but careers are funny things.”

“And letting the other one set off an alarm?” Chi asked.

Kim shrugged then said, “Shego's been known to take down GJ goons at a rate of one every seven point five seconds when they're fully alerted and swarming, I wanted a shot at the title.”

Made sense, violence was a fairly direct way of letting off steam --even if it wasn't a particularly good way to to do it-- and at that point she had almost a a decade of worth of pent up steam. It was a wonder she hadn't exploded.

“So, you had the name for an operation that was clearly made by someone who didn't know that the 'x' in 'faux' is silent,” Chi said. “Where did you go from there?”

“Well, Global Justice keeps multiple copies of all of their little secrets, in case their network is compromised,” Kim said.

“Offline hard drives that only interact with the outside world when someone manually brings in new data to dump?” Chi asked.

“And paper copies in another location in case someone manages to take out all computers via new technology.”

“That is monstrously stupid,” Chi said.

“The Lorwardian ability to hit the off switch on the entire world led to a lot of people being wary of putting too much trust in technology,” Kim said.

“If you have it in an EMP shielded room, grounded, and powered down, your data's pretty secure.”

“Regardless,” Kim said, “Paper copies.”

“They had to be in code,” Chi said.

“Sure,” Kim said, “But they didn't reprint all of the earlier stacks every time they improved their ciphers, meaning that the information I wanted was in old code.”

“I say again: monstrously stupid,” Chi said.

“Thermite charges to incinerate everything if the facility is breached,” Kim said.

There was absolutely no reason to use thermite to burn paper. It was like using lava to melt wax.

“Complete overkill aside,” Chi said, “my point stands, especially since their response to the obvious security risk such a facility poses is to blow up their backup of last resort thus defeating the entire purpose of having a back up of last resort.”

“It was pretty hard actually finding the place,” Kim offered.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
* Five Months Ago *
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kim was packing lighter than ever and had given up on electronic communications entirely. Anything that transmitted anything was off limits now. Things that received though, those could be useful.

She'd combined parts scavenged from an open air dump with parts ripped from GJ coms units, and a police scanner that she'd stolen from a cop who'd been shaking down a random teenager. Obviously all the transmitters had been ripped out.

What the resulting device was telling her right now was that the cops weren't on the lookout for her and GJ didn't seem to know she was coming either.

On the surface the facility looked like an abandoned building which was appropriate because she looked exactly like what she was: a homeless person who could use a roof.

She wandered in and looked for a good place to set up a bed. The question was whether GJ would ignore her or try to shoo her away. The second would be better, but if it turned out to be the first she'd welcome the chance to rest a bit. There had been freezing rain and the faded hoodie she used for warmth and to hide her hair had first been drenched and then it had frozen.

The ice had cracked and broken so she could move just fine, but a chance to be out the weather and maybe sleep by a fire would not go unappreciated.

She found a decent spot on the second floor. The floor was wood. How had no one salvaged this yet?

She shed the hoodie and her shoes and socks. Too much ice, too much cold, and then went to work. These days her toolkit included a crowbar and a sledge hammer that was short and extremely heavy. They weren't exactly ideal for making a hole in the floor, but they did get the job done eventually.

It also got her body to heat up a bit. Enough that interlacing her fingers and toes returned some feeling to the latter without making her worry about the former.

Once that was done she used the crowbar as a chisel to pry up floorboards. When she had enough wood, she got to work on kindling. The sledge hammer plus the the crowbar sufficed for breaking the boards into smaller pieces, but for the actual shavings that would get the fire started she used a bayonet knife she'd taken off a group of unmarked soldiers --uniforms without insignia or identifying marks, pockets bereft of ID, and not a single dog tag-- armed with M16s who'd tried to ambush her a week and a half ago.

The M7 bayonet knife used for M16s had become invaluable in the short time she'd had it and she used it in applications as diverse as preparing food and applying the torque to pick locks. In fact, she'd found so many uses for it that making shavings from floorboards for kindling was downright mundane and unremarkable.

The knife hadn't been the only useful thing to come out of that encounter, she reflected as she made the shavings, it had taught her not to show her face near networked cameras. Who would have thought a traffic camera would cause her so much trouble? True, they'd already suspected she was in the area, and she'd known that, but still ... it was a traffic camera.

Once she had what she needed for the fire, she needed something that wouldn't burn to set up the fire on. That was as simple as tearing out some drywall and laying it on the floor. Her fire circle was a bit less inspiring, but she worked with what she had and that didn't include a bunch of rocks.

She started it with a lighter she'd lifted from a gift shop in Go City. “A piece of Go City to bring home with you,” made in China.

Once upon a time she never would have considered stealing.

As soon as she was sure the the fire had taken and would keep going, she positioned her clothing around it, close enough for heat, far enough not to catch (hopefully), and lay herself down beside it.

* * *

“Miss, I have to ask you to leave,” a man said.

Kim just replied, “I'm trying to sleep here.”

“That's the problem. You're trespassing,” the voice said. She looked up at the person addressing her. GJ. They did come out after all. “Not to mention the vandalism.”

“I beg to differ,” Kim said as she got up. “I have permission from the owner to be here. You're trespassing.”

The man laughed and then gave voice to his incredulity “Really?”

“Terra Dominus,” (who named their fictitious land lord “Land Lord” in Latin, anyway?) “has been trying to change her image away from that of a soulless slum lord and as a part of that project she's opened up her currently empty buildings to all comers as part of a project to end homelessness. I was the first applicant,” Kim said.

“Who?” the man asked.

GJ was getting even more sloppy than she remembered if the facility guard didn't know the cover story.

“Terra Dominus,” Kim said as if everyone on earth knew the name, “owner of the Domus Real Estate Company.” The man showed no recognition. Kim acted like she was speaking down to someone extremely stupid, “The Domus Commercial Real Estate Group, which owns this building, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Domus Real Estate Company.”

“You expect me to believe that some rich CEO gave you permission to tear up one of her buildings?” the man asked.

“Of course not,” Kim said. “That's why I have paperwork, in duplicate no less.” Kim rummaged through her bag and pulled out some papers. “This is the one with a coffee stain on it, so even you're probably not incompetent enough to mess it up more than it already is,” Kim said when she handed the papers to the the man.

“Now I never personally met with Ms. Dominus, but you'll see her signature is on the paperwork,” Kim said. It had been easy enough to forge the signature and she had no worries about it being noticed as a forgery. GJ had gotten sloppy and used the exact same signature for all of their documentation which meant that if push came to shove the GJ documents would be suspected to be forged --since no human being could produce exactly the same pen strokes twice, much less every single time-- and in the ensuing legal mess Kim's forgery would completely ignored and forgotten.

The man from GJ did look at the documents, and seemed a bit agitated the more he looked, probably because everything was in order.

“You'll note that paragraph six on the third page states that I can remodel however I see fit,” Kim said. “It's the one that starts, 'Whereas there is an intention to renovate the building in six months...' Silly rich people with their bloated language.”

Kim paused just long enough to let the man think he'd have a chance to speak, and then said, “Why are you even here? I asked about building security and was told I'd have to provide my own. There's absolutely nothing connecting this site to GJ.” That was the problem with owning something through a front. Yes it means that outsiders can't connect the thing to you, but it also means that you can't prove that you own it given the work you've done to distance yourself from it.

As the man was about to answer Kim cut him off again. “Did you get tired harassing hapless people at internet cafes?”

“How--” and then he cut himself off. Apparently GJ wasn't openly acknowledging that little escapade. It was two weeks ago and what she assumed led to traffic camera scrutiny that in turn led to to the anonymous gun toting unit going after her. She'd just been doing some basic research trying to figure out where this facility was. She hadn't even broken any laws.

She felt bad about the whole thing because, as far as she knew, the cafe had been shuttered as a result of the raid. GJ stormed the place trying to catch her, but they'd failed miserably. There was a reason that she'd kept her signature hairstyle. Being spotted occasionally without hiding it meant that the authorities were always looking for a redhead. Which meant that a hairnet and a wig, in that particular case a bright blue wig, was all it took to make them decide not to give her a second glance.

Wigs went on sale after people no longer needed them for their costumes, but some of what hadn't sold on Halloween still hadn't sold months later and Kim was able to pick up five new hair colors at a good price.

Anyway, it was time to respond to the GJ man's aborted question: “It was an internet cafe, you can't possibly think you could keep something like that secret when people were live blogging and tweeting your unconstitutional raid as it happened.”

She let a moment pass and then pretended that she'd just realized something, “Oh... that's why you're picking on me. You realized that you couldn't push around tech savy middle class kids and you assumed that a poor woman like me wouldn't have access to the internet.”

She snatched back the papers she'd given him. “Let's go to to the cops and see who they believe,” Kim said. “Me, who has all the proper paperwork, or you who has nothing but a bully mentality and baseless accusations.”

They'd believe him, obviously. GJ was law enforcement, poor people were ignored, and there was still enough misogyny in the world that “he said / she said” tended to end with “The cops believed him.” But GJ couldn't go to the police about someone trespassing on property they didn't officially own in a place they weren't officially supposed to be operating. Going to the police was tantamount to admitting they had a secret base here, and secret bases, when exposed, tended to attract attention.

To show she was ready to take the matter to the police Kim started putting on her socks, which had dried out, and her shoes, which had not.

“Lets not be hasty,” the GJ man said. He raised his hands in a gesture meant to look like “Hold on” but Kim knew what he was doing. She rolled and the STOP watch missed its mark. She impacted him in the legs and he fell forward over her.

Kim used her knock out gas lip-gloss to finish him.

She was disappointed. She'd enjoyed talking circles around him.

* * *

GJ really needed to make it less easy to break into their bases. No wonder Shego had always been so bored.

The underground facility was huge, but lightly guarded. Kim evaded the patrols not because she didn't want to fight, but because she knew it would take ages to find what she was looking for. There was just too much ground to cover.

Eventually she was able locate the papers on Operation Faux Hole. There were too many to extract, either the information on the operation was incredibly detailed, or the way it was encoded significantly increased its length.

Fortunately, she had come prepared. More theft. The once great Kim Possible reduced to using a stolen digital camera to steal classified information.

* * *

“Kim Possible?” a voice asked.

Kim cursed herself for being caught of guard; the ease of her entrance had led to her being sloppy on her escape. She turned to face the speaker.

He or she was wearing a standard GJ uniform and looked to be around twenty years old. Probably someone who got a low level job in a facility never expected to see action after being recruited right out of high school and put through training. Kim was all kinds of uncertain on whether she was facing a he or a she.

“I knew it was you,” the GJ agent said. “That's why I didn't set off the alarms when I saw you on the security feed.”

Ok, apparently GJ hadn't let everyone know that she was now considered the enemy.

“You're like my hero,” the agent said.

“Uh, don't take this the wrong way,” Kim said, “but are you male or female?”

“Truthfully neither, but my birth certificate and my file say, 'Male',” the agent said.

“So, what do I call you?” Kim asked.

“Riley,” the agent said, “and if you need to use pronouns go gender neutral.”

“Like 'it'?” It was hard for Kim to believe someone wanted to be an it. It had too many objectifying implications.

Riley smiled, appeared to narrowly avoid laughing, and said, “No, like singular they / them / their / theirs /themselves or a new gender neutral pronoun like ze / zir / zir / zirs / zirself or ne / nem / nir / nirs / nemself.”

“Ok,” Kim said trying to absorb the information. Maybe she should have spent more time with the queer-straight alliance in high school. She'd thought she had a handle on everything already and didn't need to. “Listen, Riley, I'm not officially supposed to be here.”

“Of course, this place doesn't officially exist.”

“What I mean is that I wasn't supposed to be noticed on the cameras, make contact with the personnel, or have my presence logged in any way,” Kim said, and it was all true. She very much did not want Global Justice to know she'd been there just yet.

“I can erase you from the tapes,” Riley said, “and I can keep a secret.”

“I appreciate it,” Kim said. Riley was being helpful and she didn't want to get ... nem in trouble. On the other hand, her clothes were still wet and her feet felt like they were going to kill her via some horrible soaking related disease. “Since I wasn't supposed to interact with you, I definitely wasn't supposed to tell you this, but this facility's been compromised and they'll be using the thermite soon.”

Riley's eyes went wide, but ne said nothing.

“Given that, do you think anyone would notice or mind if I changed into some dryer clothes and took them with me?”

For a moment Riley said nothing, then motioned for Kim to follow and said, “I think I can help.”

* * *

Kim was outfitted in GJ standard fare including luxuriously dry socks and wonderfully waterproof boots.

“Thank you so much,” she said to Riley.

“Like you say,” Riley said, “no big.”

Kim nodded.

“You know, when I said you were my hero,” Riley said, “you made a much bigger difference in my life than just being a role model.”

Kim used to get the hero stuff a lot. Prison had been rather lacking in it though. Riley was the first person to unsarcastically call her a hero since the fire that'd gotten her thrown in prison.

“I'd known I wasn't like other boys for as long as I can remember, but it didn't really click that it was because I didn't fit into whole 'boy' category until someone said, to make fun of me, that growing up to be 'just like you' --which is something I said I wanted to do all the time-- would make me a girl,” Riley said. “It was a like a light switched on. The concept of not being a boy didn't bother me a bit, it took me a while longer to realize that I wasn't a boy or a girl, but it was hero worship of you as a kid that set me on the path to finally being able to be me.”

And now Kim felt really bad about using this person to get dry clothes. As she packed her wet stuff in a plastic bag Riley had provided from somewhere and packed that into her backpack she had an idea of how she might be able to make things go right.

“Deleting the video of me could get you into a lot of trouble,” Kim said. It looked like Riley was going to protest but Kim held up a hand. “Let me finish.” Riley nodded. “Since this place is compromised and will be destroyed soon anyway, why not report the missing video, file this as a possible incursion, and thus avoid any questions that would come up if you tried to cover up the doctoring of the video?”

“That sounds awfully dishonest,” Riley said. Kim considered quoting mid level's thing about lying being part of intelligence work, but before she could remember the exact words, Riley added, “I like it.”

Kim smiled. “If you really want to be like me when you grow up,” she said, “always remember that rules, regulations, and laws exist to serve justice, so when the rules conflict with justice you have to break the rules.”

“I have to get back to my post,” Riley said.

“I have to slip out,” Kim said, “but before I do … I really don't want to get you in trouble, and I hope I won't, but if I do... I still check the forums on my website. Contact me there and I'll do whatever I can to help.”

“It was nice meeting you,” Riley said.

“It was an unexpected pleasure to meet you,” Kim said. They went their separate ways.

* * * * * * *
* Present *
* * * * * * *

“What happened to Riley?” Chi asked.

“In the immediate aftermath things went well,” Kim said. “Unfortunately things went downhill after I destroyed the facility.”

“Come again?”

“The facility was compromised--”

“By you,” Chi said.

“--and I had been planning on getting rid of it,” Kim said. She'd let non-traditional media, basically young people with camcorders or cell phones, know that something was going to be happening in an apparently abandoned part of town at a specific time. Global Justice agents fleeing the site of the artificial sink hole created when the facility was destroyed set off any number of conspiracy theories. The bad press for them was hardly her ideal revenge, but it did serve as a bit of icing.

Plus, it had been low hanging fruit.

“Since it was rigged to blow anyway,” Kim said, “it was pretty easy to do. I didn't even have to go inside to set off the self destruct.”

“I'm guessing that there was a recon element involved in the time you did go in, which you totally left out of the story you told me,” Chi said.

“You wanted me to spoil the surprise?” Kim asked in fake disbelief.

“I don't expect the whole truth,” Chi said, “But I do appreciate getting the pertinent details.”

“Before the destruction of the facility it looked like someone took out the above ground guard, used his clearance to get inside, did something, removed incriminating footage, and left,” Kim said. “That alone should have been enough to get the higher ups in a panic, but it didn't. When the facility ceased to exist, though, they did get into a panic.

“I wasn't in disguise at the time, I'd taken off the hoodie so it could thaw and then dry, thus leaving my hair in plain view, so the above ground guard reported me in such a way that when people who were aware that I'd bailed on parole and was pissed of at Global Justice read the report--”

“They thought, 'Kim Possible',” Chi said.

“Pretty much,” Kim said. “And they decided that everyone who was working at the facility on either the day I infiltrated it or the day it was destroyed was a potential accomplice and detained the lot of them, indefinitely.”

“You bust them out?”

“I need to find a directed EMP weapon, an armored bus, and really good hiking shoes before I can even try,” Kim said. And she did want to get those people out. Before Global Justice turned on them the only worker she cared about was Riley, but when they became victims of Global Jutice's injustice, that reclassified all of them in Kim's mind. The fact that it was partly her doing just made the need to help them stronger.

“Would a school bus with tank armor welded on work?” Chi asked.

“It might,” Kim said.

“Well I can get you that and the shoes, but I don't have any good leads on non area of effect EMP devices,” Chi said.

“I'd appreciate that,” Kim said.

“You're welcome, but it's not just for you,” Chi said. “They've been imprisoned for, what, five months now without doing anything wrong?”

“Yeah, about five months,” Kim said.

One of many things Kim felt bad about. She'd had a moral obligation to set them free the moment they were unjustly locked up.

“Anything come out of your theft?” Chi asked.

Five weeks of going through pictures and tediously translating a decade-old code into plain text, Kim thought.

“I got a name: Jacob Phelps,” Kim said.

“Something tells me you're not talking about the environmental science guy.”

The name of the operation leader being "Jacob Phelps" is a reference to the story Bad Girls by LJ58 which is one of the two stories that I drew inspiration from, the other being Action and Reaction by ShadowDancer01 (as a warning, that one is in progress so there's no end yet.)

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