“I assume you can explain this,” Kim said to Ron.
“Uh, yeah, KP.”
He risked a look at Yori. “I'm, er, not allowed to.”
“Not ALLOWED to?” Kim asked, confused. Her gaze also moved toward Yori. “Who are you?” she demanded. “How do you know Ron, and why can't he talk about it? What do you think you have on him?”
“Please, Possible-san,” Yori said mildly. “I am not the one responsible for Stoppable-san's silence. He is merely sworn to an oath - which, judging by your reaction, he has kept. Stoppable-san, in light of the circumstances, Sensei has granted you permission to take the members of your team into your confidence. He asks only that this information remain between us.”
“What about him?” Shego asked, gesturing a thumb in Barkin's direction. “Whatever his status is, he's sure as hell not a 'team member'.”
“Colonel Barkin has been enlightened by our ministry already,” Yori said.
Kim had dismissed Yori and returned her focus to Ron. “So,” she said, “willing to share NOW?”
Ron swallowed. Yori's explanation had not done much to ease the flat stare he was receiving from Kim. “Actually, uh, if this is only supposed to be said once, then maybe we should call Monique in right now?”
“You've been wanting to involve Monique all night,” Shego said slyly. “Missing your girlfriend?”
“She's not my girlfriend,” Ron replied, exasperated.
“We're getting off track here,” Kim said, unwilling to be distracted. “All right, fine. You think Monique should be here for this? We'll beep her via Kimmunicator. If she can get here quickly, then you tell us EVERYTHING when she arrives. If she can't, then you tell everything right NOW, Ron.”
“I'll take care of it,” Wade said, speaking up for the first time since Yori's arrival.
Ron took another moment to give Yori a look while they waited for Wade to let them know what Monique said. She'd been a pretty girl when he first met her, but as an adult she was beautiful, her figure filling out the tight ninja gear quite nicely. Her hair was cut much the same as it had been years ago. If she were to wear the schoolgirl uniform she'd worn in Japan when he knew her, she'd more than fulfill the fantasy of many a man.
And this was not the time to be thinking THOSE thoughts, not when Kim was still giving him the evil eye. Shego, of course, seemed to be enjoying every moment of his awkwardness.
“Monique says she'll be here in five minutes,” Wade said. “I told her it was important.”
“Okay,” Kim answered. “While we're waiting for Ron to come clean, maybe you can tell me what your qualifications are, Yori.”
Ron winced as Shego's gaze sharpened. Both she and Kim were becoming territorial. They zealously guarded the reputation of Team Possible as well as their own individual reputations, and they weren't going to let a newcomer intrude on their chemistry unless they were satisfied she wouldn't hold them back.
“Of course, Possible-san,” Yori said, seeming completely at ease. “I have been employed as a secret agent by the Japanese government for the past two years. Before that I spent many years in specialized training which prepared me quite well for my current occupation.”
“She comes highly recommended, Ms. Possible,” Barkin added. “Her superiors tell me they've never had an agent her age, male or female, as talented as she is.”
“Please, Colonel,” Yori told him. “I am sure there have been others better than I.”
Shego rolled her eyes. “Gee, aren't you the self-deprecating type,” she said dryly.
Yori smiled slightly. “And by the look of your clothes, Shego-san, you are the loud type,” she replied, staring at one of the large bright green patches on Shego's catsuit.
Shego's lips curved downward. “I say we screw the army's conditions, leave both of them here, and just start up Sappho's engines and take Gemini out ourselves. I don't see why we need either of them.”
Kim didn't answer at first, tapping her fingers. “Colonel Barkin, you mentioned that our current government believes in the spirit of bilateral action.”
“Well, then perhaps in the spirit of multilateralism, the American government can convince the twenty-three countries on that little list of yours to expunge Shego's criminal records. After all, this IS a world-saving mission,” Kim argued. “That implies we - including Shego - will be saving those countries as well. In return,” she added, looking once more at Yori, “we'll accept your two conditions.”
“Kim,” Shego growled. “Fuck them if they can't accept me. The normal rules don't apply to people like you and me.”
“You are the two members of Team Possible with the highest profiles,” Dr. Director pointed out. “And this is a business you're trying to run. It will NOT help our image if you're arrested and subjected to deportation hearings the next time you set foot in a foreign country.”
“The only person who's ever managed to take me into custody is in this room,” Shego retorted, “and somehow I don't see her taking THAT mission on.”
Kim chuckled. “Shego, if this is what it takes to get the rest of the world to see you the way I see you - “
“Then we'll do it,” Kim went on. “Assuming my government can play along?”
Barkin grunted. “If that's the only way to get your help without causing a diplomatic headache, then I imagine the administration will do what it can.”
“Good.” Kim looked at her watch. “Ron, if Monique doesn't get here soon, then you've got to start talking. You and she can share later. Time's in short supply right now, and - “
Monique picked that moment to barge in. “All right, what's the big … emergency?” She stared at Colonel Barkin. “You gotta be kidding me.”
“Monique,” Shego said. “Do you want a couple minutes alone with your man?”
“I think I can wait,” Monique said wryly, having already told Shego during a practice session that whatever Kim thought she knew, she and Ron weren't involved. Glancing at Ron, she noticed the Asian woman near him, dressed almost exactly like the Oryx. “Hey, new girl, stealing my look? Not cool.”
“Monique, be nice,” Kim said, her tone overly polite. “This is Yori. She's an old friend of Ron's. You know, the one he's not allowed to talk about?”
“KP,” Ron sighed.
“Why do I feel like I don't want to know?” Monique said.
“I don't really care one way or the other, personally,” Shego noted.
“Well, I do,” Kim said. “Ron?”
Ron shrugged. “Remember in high school, when I went to Japan as an exchange student?”
“Wait, that's how you know her?” Kim asked, surprised. “That's the big secret? You spent a few weeks in school with her?”
“It wasn't just any school, KP,” Ron explained. “It's called Yamanouchi, and - “
“Oh, the secret ninja school,” Shego said, looking bored again as she began studying her nails.
Everyone stared at her.
“The what?” Kim asked.
“Wait, you know?” Ron said at the same time.
Yori said nothing, but she looked shocked.
Shego looked up from her fingers. “What? You didn't?”
“Uh, hello? SECRET ninja school?” Kim reminded her. “Wait, ninja school!“
“Come on, it was all over Villains Digest Online years ago,” Shego said. “Monkey Fist spent a month ranting about it. Something about him, Stoppable, a magic sword - I thought he'd read one too many mangas myself. I just figured you were there too.” Then she smiled. “Turns out you were just out of the loop.”
Kim's attention swung back toward Ron. “You're telling me you went off to Japan by yourself, enrolled in a school for ninjas, fought Monkey Fist, and didn't tell me?”
“I had no choice, KP,” Ron pleaded. “I had to swear an oath that I'd never reveal the school's existence! Believe me, I WANTED to tell you. I showed off some mad skills and never got to talk about it!”
“Stoppable-san speaks the truth, Possible-san,” Yori confirmed. “He swore an oath to the Sensei of our school.”
“And what's this about a magic sword?”
“Magic,” Barkin scoffed.
Ron removed the watch from his wrist and held it in his right hand. He didn't even bother to speak. With a thought it shifted in his grasp and became a Japanese sword.
Kim and Dr. Director both gasped. Shego's eyes widened.
“This is the Lotus Blade,” Ron told them. “It - responds to me. Something about me being the Monkey Master. Which, surprise surprise, is why Monty Fiske wanted it. It used to be kept at Yamanouchi, and then one day I woke up and found it next to me.” He turned to Yori. “But now that you're here, you can take it back to Sensei.”
Yori held up her hands, not to take the sword, but to refuse it. “Stoppable-san, I did not come here for the sword. Sensei says that if the Lotus Blade came to you, it did so for a reason, and any attempt to return it to Yamanouchi would fail. Undoubtedly it would return to your side the next day. For better or worse, the Lotus Blade is a part of you.”
“Great,” he muttered. “All these parts of me that I don't remember having a say about.”
“All right, time out,” Monique said, making a T-shape with her hands. “Wade tells me to get here ASAP, and what do I get? Ron's a ninja with a sword that can turn into a watch, my old high school principal is dressed like a four-star general, and there's a strange Japanese girl in the room who's dressed like me. If SOMEbody doesn't start from the beginning and tell me what's going on here, then I'm going back to the streets.”
“Ok, I think we all need a break,” Kim agreed. “Ron, you mind stepping out with me for a minute?”
“No problem,” Ron said instantly.
“Stoppable-san?” Yori asked. “It has been a very long time since we spoke last. Perhaps we too might 'catch up' at some point?”
“Picked up a few American phrases in the spy business?” Ron asked.
“Not exactly,” she said. “Only after I left Yamanouchi and began work for my government did I have access to American television.”
“While they're chatting,” Barkin grumbled, “maybe you and I can work out the rules of my position here as government liaison?”
Dr. Director realized he'd been talking to her. “Er, yes, of course,” she said, wondering if that was the ONLY thing he wanted to discuss.
“Since everyone seems to be pairing off,” Shego said to Monique, “I suppose I'd better fill you in on the mission.”
“Wait, mission? With you guys?”
“I haven't been training you all this time just so you can pound a few hoodlums into submission in half the time, you know.”
Yori suddenly noticed that the room was emptying out, and she was the one left out. “Well, I will just - “ she began.
“I'm still here,” Wade said from the computer screen. “If you have any questions.”
“Ah,” Yori said. “Tell me, are Possible-san and Shego-san always that - “
“But I did not finish - “
“Trust me, it's yes.”
“Look, before you rip me apart, can I say something?” Ron asked in the hallway outside once they were alone.
“I'm not going to rip you apart,” Kim sighed. “Obviously this 'Sensei' person gave you a very big responsibility that you felt bound by. It's just a little upsetting to find out that after all the years we've been friends, there's this big part of you I knew nothing about.”
“It's not THAT big a part of me.”
She looked pointedly at his sword. “Apparently you've become bonded to a shapeshifting weapon in a way that transcends the rules of space and time, Ron.”
“It's because of the Monkey Magic, KP. And you know I sure as hell never asked for THAT. Besides,” he added carefully, “it's not like you've never hidden important things about yourself from me.”
Kim's expression grew stricken. “Ron,” she said, immediately understanding he was referring to the lie she told him about Shego in Boston.
“Don't worry about it,” he replied, shrugging. “I told you I forgave that. I'm just trying to remind you that people have different reasons for keeping things from even their closest friends. Even people like you and me.”
Kim waited a few moments before she responded. She was forced to admit that her indignation rang hollow next to her own sin of omission. True, he'd kept his secret for far longer - she'd felt compelled to tell the truth about herself and Shego within a few days - but he'd been living with an obligation to keep a sacred promise. “You're right,” she said, her shoulders slumping a little. “I was overreacting.”
“Hey, don't be too apologetic,” he said sheepishly. “I hated keeping this from you. You had the right to be disappointed.”
“I'm a little jealous, actually,” Kim told him. “I never got to study secret ninja arts with professionals in Japan … that's why you wanted me to teach you Japanese styles of fighting instead of Monkey Kung Fu, isn't it?” she realized. “I was surprised by how fast you learned, and later I thought it was because of the magic. But we were covering old ground for you, weren't we?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Some of it, yeah. But I'd forgotten a lot too. I'd say I've learned more from you than I did from them.”
Kim glowed a little at that. “Still, I think we should start focusing on some fighting techniques from parts of the world OTHER than Japan. Maybe some Capoeira to start - you've never studied in South America, have you?”
“Ick. Too many bugs.”
“What about Yori? How good is she?”
“Considering what she was like when I met her, plus another few years at Yamanouchi and two more with the Japanese government?” Ron said. “She can probably clean my Monkey Master baboon butt.”
“Could she take me?”
“Well, her name isn't Shego, so I doubt it.”
Kim looked again at the sword. “Can it become anything other than a sword or a watch?” she asked. “You were obviously meant to wield the Lotus Blade on missions, but a sword isn't exactly a nonlethal weapon.”
“Sensei said that a weapon is only as lethal as the intent of the person wielding it. But it can be almost anything I want it to be,” he said. “Except a naco. I tried. Not that I would have eaten it, but I had to know.”
Kim chuckled. “Are you okay with Mr. Barkin being a part of this? I should have asked you before I accepted, but I was dealing with some irrational anger. You and he didn't exactly see eye to eye in high school.”
“I figure if I whip him up a chocolate cloud, he'll be fine.”
“On the plus side, you DO get to go on a mission with Monique for the first time since - you know.”
Ron didn't respond. He'd explained to Kim that the times he'd shared the spare bed with Monique had nothing to do with romance, and everything to do with being too tired to care about the close quarters. But Kim had become oddly attached to the idea of Ron and Monique dating, and Ron worried that Kim might eventually put her indomitable energies toward matchmaking. Shego, he suspected, would only encourage her. As he'd seen, Shego saw the relationship as another way to tease him.
“I wonder how we'll tell them apart,” Kim said thoughtfully. “They both dress all in black.”
“I wouldn't worry,” Ron said. “Monique always did know how to accessorize.”
They were interrupted by the arrival of Yori, who clasped her hands briefly. “I beg pardon, Possible-sama, but Wade-san asked me to relay a message. He wishes to speak with you.”
“Okay,” Kim said slowly. Ron had vouched for her, but the fact remained that she didn't know Yori personally, and until she got a better idea of what the Japanese spy was like, she would treat her with guarded politeness. “I don't know why he couldn't just contact me on the Kimmunicator, but - “
“Those little handheld devices, correct?” Yori asked. “Actually, Wade wishes to meet with you - in person.”
Ron's jaw dropped open. “In person? Like, face to face?”
Kim was equally stunned. While Wade had apparently gone out on a few dates with Monique before the battle with the Acceptable family, Kim still had never met with him in person before. What was so important? “When?”
“I believe now, Possible-sama. He said time is of the essence, since this man Gemini could act at any time.”
“Dude, I am so coming,” Ron said. “A mission on the moon AND meeting Wade in the flesh? What are the odds?”
Kim paused. “Yori, just now you referred to me as Possible-sama, but Wade as Wade-san? Why?”
“I am on your team?” Yori asked.
“As long as that is the case, you are my leader, and therefore you have earned the honorific of 'sama', as opposed to 'san',” Yori explained.
“I see. Well, we'd better invite Shego too,” Kim said. “I doubt meeting Wade has any special significance for her, but it must be major, and I wouldn't want her to feel like I left her out of something.”
“Neither do I,” Ron said.
“Scared, Ron? Can't you just turn the Lotus Blade into some plasma-tossing gloves, Ron?” Kim asked teasingly.
“Yeah, copying Shego, THERE'S a smart idea.”
To be continued …