“The Space Center is secure, Agent Kappa,” the transmission came in. “All surviving staff members have been placed under guard in the cafeteria.
“Excellent,” Kappa said as James Possible's head rose.
“Surviving? He said surviving! Who have you killed?” he thundered.
“Don't yell, James, please,” Holly said. Jim and Tim were right beside her. They'd faced danger before, like when their sister had been chipped by Drakken, but this was different. This was a lot of men with guns that could spray the room in two seconds.
Kappa nodded, though. “Agent Omega, did you say ‘surviving’? There were casualties?”
“… Er, yes, sir. One of the scientists in Robotics tried to run. He was cut down.”
“Who?” James asked. He was quieter, but no less insistent. “Who was it?” Every scientist here was like a member of his very extended family …
“Agent, do you have a name for the scientist?” Kappa asked. It would only cause them greater pain, he reasoned.
“A Dr. Porter, sir. V.F. Porter.”
Holly Possible and Betty Director made identical gasps.
“While my Kimmie-cub is destroying your employer's insane plans,” James said angrily, “you'll be regretting your OWN mistakes.”
“And if you're dead in five seconds, you'll be regretting not keeping your mouth shut.”
“James!” Holly hissed.
Pained, he turned away from Kappa.
“You knew this Porter?” Barkin asked Betty, sitting on the floor next to her.
She nodded. “She was a friend, helping me with Tommy - “ Betty blinked and lowered her voice. “He said he tried to run.”
Barkin looked quizzical.
“He said that Porter ran because HE tried to run,” Betty whispered.
“The V in V.F. Porter stands for Vivian.”
Barkin quickly understood. “Then she's not dead.”
“But they think she is,” Betty replied, barely even moving her lips. “Which means - she's going to do something very brave, or very stupid. We need to DO something here. Not just for Kim or the world, but for Vivian too.”
She was the head of Global Justice for years. She had plenty.
“They have my parents,” Kim said for the fifth time. “My parents.”
Kim was evidently still in shock, Shego thought. Hopefully she was going to snap out of it by the time they arrived at Gemini's base.
“And the tweebs,” Ron mentioned.
“Right, the tweebs,” Kim agreed. “My whole family. First the Acceptables take my mother, then the Supreme One grabs Ron's parents, and now this.” She looked up at Shego, and the look in her eyes said that Kim had moved on from shock to fury. “These people are going to learn that our families are off-limits,” she growled.
“Because villains are so good at learning from past mistakes,” Shego muttered.
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“This wasn't a problem for me before, you know,” Shego said. “I didn't have a family. I didn't have loved ones that could be used against me like a weapon.”
“It was never a problem for me, either,” Kim said. “Well, almost never.”
“Look, you're pissed, and I'm glad to see it,” Shego replied. “But Gemini was right about one thing. The easiest way to stop us is to make sure we never get started. He won't be the last person to decide that your family is a great way of doing that.”
“So what are you saying?” Monique asked. “That Kim should just lock her family up in a box so no one can kidnap them again?”
“I don't know what I'm saying,” Shego said, frustrated. “I don't have answers. I'm just saying that we have to take steps to prevent this in the future. We can't start every mission with some creep threatening our families.”
“But you said yourself that you do not have a family, Shego-san,” Yori pointed out.
“I said I didn't have one,” Shego said. “Despite what Gemini obviously thinks, that seems to have changed. Not that I'm entirely thrilled about that,” she added quickly.
Kim ignored the last part. That was Shego showing she was tough. What was important was that, to an extent, Shego thought of her family as her own. If you listened to what Shego really said, she thought, she could surprise the hell out of you. “You're right, Shego,” she agreed, “but we can't worry about it now. The problem is what Dr. Director said. We can't just do what Gemini wants. Otherwise millions die, and probably my family anyway.”
“And us,” Ron said.
“Right. We can't do anything about my family, but they've been in tight spots before, and they have both Betty and Mr. Barkin too. And Wade,” she realized. “Even if he can't help us, he can still help them. So we have to assume that, if we give them enough time, they're going to free themselves.”
“So we play along for now,” Monique said. “And after enough time goes by, we make our move.”
“But how much time is enough, Monique-san? And how do we do that from the position of being captives?”
Kim, Shego, and Ron all chuckled at once.
“Escaping is never a problem for them,” Shego added.
“Sappho,” Kim said.
“As far as we know, they don't know you're an artificial intelligence. Pay attention to everything while they're ignoring you. You might be able to help. Also, they're going to confiscate the Kimmunicators. If Wade can break their jamming signal, we'll need you to monitor communications.”
“Of course, Kim. However, the latter part may prove difficult. Our course will take us to the far side of the moon any moment, which means we'll have the moon between us and Earth.”
“The far side of the moon?” Ron asked. “Isn't that the dark side?”
“Not necessarily,” Sappho replied. “Because of the way the moon revolves, almost half of its surface cannot be seen from the Earth at any time. This is part of the dark side, yes. But you can be on the dark side without being on the far side.”
“Dark side, far side … how many sides does the moon have?” Ron complained. “And how can something round have sides anyway?”
Yori giggled. “Oh, Ron-san, your - “
“American-style humor, yeah, we know,” Monique said crossly, and Yori blinked.
“Kim, we've reached the far side of the moon, but there's a light source up ahead and it's not the sun.”
Kim nodded. “It must be their base. That's how they avoided detection all this time. They were on the moon where no one could see them.”
“Actually, Kim, I don't think they're actually ON the moon.”
Sappho brought up the visual, and they all understood. In a sea of blackness there was a bright light that, as they approached, turned out to be innumerable smaller but powerful lights spread out over what appeared to be a small rotating space station orbiting the moon.
“Now I don't get it,” Shego said. “Why go to that trouble? Wouldn't a base on the surface be better?”
“Not if you've got some device which you claim can alter the Earth's tides by doing something to the moon,” Kim replied. “Who knows what destructive impact it'll have on the moon? It has to be big, whatever it is. The shockwaves would destroy any surface-based installation.”
Still, questions returned as Kim pondered Gemini's secret. Like the fake base they'd seen earlier, this kind of structure must have required enormous amounts of cash, not to mention manpower, and all operating under strict secrecy. Gemini must have been working on this from the moment he escaped prison, maybe even sooner. That kind of long-range planning wasn't something she usually encountered from her enemies. It made her wonder if she'd underestimated Gemini.
He'd used her family against her. Of course she'd underestimated him. Well, no more.
“When we fight back,” Kim said, “the little troll Gemini is mine.”
“Now that's what I like to hear,” Shego said.
Fifteen minutes later, they'd docked at the space station. Gemini's ship had arrived first, so he was undoubtedly waiting for them, waiting to lord his supposed dominance over them. “Sappho,” Shego said as they waited for the all-clear to open the hatch, “you be careful, got it? You're our ticket out of here.”
“There are other ships, Shego.”
“Yeah, but none like you.”
Kim thought she heard something like a muffled squeal. She shook her head. Whose personality had Dr. Freeman programmed her with, an exotic dancer's?
“Ms. Possible.” Gemini's voice echoed across the spaceship. “I hope you'll enjoy your stay here.” His voice hardened slightly. “Starting right now.”
“Let's do this,” Kim grumbled.
Sappho opened the hatch. Kim led the others out before Gemini's men could have the pleasure of leading them out at gunpoint.
Gemini was waiting for them a few yards away, surrounded by armed men. “Ms. Possible, so good to see you,” he said urbanely. “And a new outfit? Just for me? You shouldn't have.”
No one responded.
“Oh, come now, Kim Possible,” Gemini went on. “Isn't there some cliche you should be spouting now? How I won't get away with this? How I won't make it out of this alive?”
“Just because I don't waste my breath saying it, doesn't make it any less true, Sheldon,” Kim said coldly.
“My name is Gemini,” he retorted.
“Whatever,” Shego said.
Gemini glanced at her. “If you're expecting me to offer you a chance to switch sides, Shego, forget it. I don't trust you nearly enough.”
Shego laughed. “Sorry, I'm not interested in short men anyway.”
“Why don't you just take us to our cells, Sheldon?” Kim asked. “So we can join the Marines and GJ agents you captured.”
He looked at her like she was insane. “Ms. Possible, restocking our supplies is an expensive and slow process. Whatever makes you think I would waste them on prisoners?” Then he laughed. “So I wouldn't be in a rush to join them, unless you want me to kill you all now.”
Everyone's eyes widened, except for Shego's. She cursed and shook her head. “Could have been avoided if they came to us first like they should have,” she muttered.
“Perhaps,” Gemini agreed. “At any rate, you won't be placed in cells quite yet. We both know you can't risk harming your family, Ms. Possible. My men will be taking you to get changed. You'll be joining me for dinner.”
“I thought you didn't waste supplies on prisoners,” Monique said suspiciously.
“Oh, but you're not my prisoners. You're guests.” He chortled and turned to go, then stopped. “Before I forget - Shego, please remove your gloves and turn them over.”
“Like hell I will,” Shego snapped.
“You keeping those would be like me leaving you with a loaded gun, Shego,” Gemini said.
“The last time I let someone take my gloves, I never saw them again and the Acceptables had a big shiny toy with plasma powers,” Shego replied.
“I hold a two-year-old boy's life in my hands, Shego,” Gemini reminded her. He smiled. “Earlier you surrendered with the rest of them when I threatened Kim's family and those with her. Is it quite so easy when I'm taking your powers as well as your freedom?”
Shego's lips were pressed together so tightly that they were paler than her skin. “I don't need plasma to have powers,” she said angrily as she played with her wrists, then yanked her gloves off with a couple smooth motions. She tossed them at Gemini's face.
He caught them deftly. “Thank you, Shego. I'm going to provide you all with dinner wear. I suggest you put it on.”
Then he left, flanked by twenty men.
That left twelve more with them, although Kim admitted that at the moment, even a single guard would have been enough. They didn't dare fight back - yet.
Several guards quickly stripped them of their weapons and gadgets. Monique lost her super-strength taser. A Japanese sword and several throwing weapons were taken from Yori. Kim lost her Kimmunicator, as expected.
As they were led away, though, Kim cast a look Ron's way.
The Lotus Blade, still in the form of a watch, remained around his wrist.
“There it is,” Oliver said quietly, peering around the corner of the building. “Third car from the left. That's the SADI, Dr. Freeman's creation.”
Vivian looked where he was looking and saw a bright red jeep. “You can interact with it?” she asked again.
“Her, and yes,” Oliver replied. “Just like the SAFO. We can use her to bring the local authorities here, and they can rescue the others.”
She nodded. “Well, let's - “
“Wait,” he said, stopping her. “Over there. Two more of them. They must be there to prevent escape attempts like ours.”
Vivian saw them, one short and one tall. “What do we do?”
“We run,” he said. “There's no cover between them and us. Dr. Porter, you must remain on my left. I will stay between them and you. If any shots connect, they will strike me instead of you. I can take it.”
“You're not a combat droid, Oliver,” Vivian reminded him. “You aren't going to sacrifice yourself for me.”
“I am built to serve, Dr. Porter. And I'm about to start running, so you have no choice.” Before she could react to that, he did in fact start running.
“Damn it,” she hissed, running after him.
They were spotted quickly. “You there, stop!” one agent cried out. Bullets whined off the pavement a second later.
We're not going to make it, Vivian thought as one bullet hit Oliver in the shoulder and he grunted.
The distance between them and the car, however, got much shorter as the SADI's engine roared and it darted towards them. It screeched to a stop alongside Oliver, opening two doors on their side. “Get in!” a voice commanded.
Oliver and Vivian leapt inside, and the doors closed automatically. Sadie then turned and drove, not for the exit, but for the intruders. They put two bullets in her windshield and a third in her grill, instead of trying to run, and they paid the price as Sadie collided with them both, knocking them flying. She slowed down only slightly before she hit them, and that was the only reason they lived.
“I saw the armed men,” Sadie explained. “But there was nothing I could do. Radio communications appear to be down in the area.”
“You're Dr. Freeman's SADI?” Vivian asked breathlessly.
“Call me Sadie,” the car said. “These men must be working for Gemini. The coincidence is too great.”
“Gemini?” Oliver asked.
“Kim Possible left earlier today on a mission,” Sadie explained. “Gemini is the head of some evil organization that's threatening the world. These men must work for him. Either they're trying to sabotage the mission, hurt Kim's family, or both. You're scientists?”
“I'm Dr. Vivian Porter, and this - “
“I know you, you're the robotics expert who's friends with Kim's mother. I have data in my memory banks of Kim mentioning you.”
“Er, yes, that's right. This is Oliver, my - “
“You're a robot, aren't you?”
“All right, I'm just going to stop talking now,” Vivian muttered.
“We were hoping you could take us to the local authorities,” Oliver told Sadie.
“Hm,” Sadie said. “Of course I can, but I don't know if that's a good idea. How many men are inside?”
“I really don't know,” Vivian said. “I tried avoiding them.”
“But there must be close to a hundred employees at least,” Sadie replied. “They'd need a lot of men to guard them all. I'm not sure the Middleton police is equipped to handle that kind of force without people dying.”
“We can't just leave them there,” Vivian told her.
“No, no, of course not. Looks like I'm a part of the mission after all. Okay, there's another option. Kim Possible works with someone named Wade. He's a computer genius. I haven't been able to reach him, but if we go far enough away from the Space Center, the jamming frequency should stop. He'll have more information, and he may know what to do.”
Vivian looked helplessly at Oliver. “Do we have another option?”
“For the moment,” he said clinically, “none that won't endanger human lives.”
“Then let's roll,” Sadie replied.
“Gemini just happens to keep evening gowns around,” Shego said sarcastically.
“He has a large variety,” one of the female guards said. “Your coming was inevitable. The right size had to be available.”
“What's this dinner crap anyway?” Monique asked. “What kind of villain takes you prisoner, threatens your family, and then expects you to have a meal with them?!”
“I think Gemini's been reading Señor Senior Senior's handbook of villainy,” Kim muttered.
“I'll notify him you're ready,” the female guard said before stepping out.
“He probably just wants to pretend he's got four hot girls on a date,” Shego said.
“Who knew he was a swinger?”
“With taste in fashion,” Kim added reluctantly. She checked herself out in the mirror. Her Battle Suit was gone, replaced by a sparkling sky-blue sleeveless dress with spaghetti straps that ended just below the knees.
“Yeah, well, I'm guessing mine was custom-made,” Shego replied. She was wearing a green-and-black outfit that left her midriff exposed. The skirt exposed a lot of leg and, Shego noted approvingly, wouldn't restrict her movement when it was time to kick someone's ass. She also wore long gloves that went up to her elbows, one green, one black. No powers, of course.
“Maybe we're in the wrong line of work,” Monique said. “Maybe we should have been supermodels.” Her dress was bright red. While it showed little leg, it did show quite a bit of cleavage, and hugged her hips in the right way.
“Supermodel secret agents,” Yori suggested. Her Asian-style dress, a dark blue with a high collar and short sleeves, looked a little tight on her, and she tugged at the hem. “Although these outfits do not leave much room to hide a gun.”
“I'm sure Gemini wouldn't want us to be hiding much of anything in these dresses,” Kim said.
The female guard returned. “Your ‘host’ is waiting,” she said, although hosts didn't usually invite guests at the point of a gun.
Kim swept past her. If Gemini thought he could intimidate her or throw her off her game by putting her in a dress, he was sadly mistaken. This was about the mission and her family now. It was on.
They turned and saw Ron. He was wearing an expensive black tuxedo, and from the look on his face, it was probably the first time. He stared at Monique as if she'd sprouted wings. She looked down at herself, then back at Ron. “Yo, Stoppable, eyes up here, remember?” she warned him.
“Huh? Oh, uh, yeah,” he said, looking her in the eye. “You all look, um, great, really.”
“They didn't make you dress Rufus or Ruby, did they?” Kim asked.
“Nah, it kinda would have clashed with the whole naked mole rat thing.”
Rufus popped his head out of Ron's jacket pocket. He took one look at the girls, opened his eyes wider, and almost fell out.
“You look very nice as well, Ron-san,” Yori told him.
“Thanks, Yori,” Ron said. He glanced at Monique again. “I think this outfit is worth more than my wardrobe back home.” One more peek at Monique.
“They're called breasts, Ron,” Monique said irritably. “They were here before, you know.”
Ron turned bright red. “Yeah, right, sorry. Guess I just picked up on that,” he mumbled.
He realized a moment later that this was perhaps not the best thing to say.
“Just for that,” Monique said, “you're escorting me to my seat.” She jammed her arm inside his and “accidentally” stepped on his foot. Ron winced.
Shego looked down and realized Kim had taken her hand. “What?” she asked.
“We're going to dinner, and we're dressed to kill,” Kim said.
“You're damn right about the killing part,” Shego growled.
“I say, for the moment, this is a date,” Kim went on. “So we're going in holding hands, got it? Besides,” she said more quietly, “Gemini seems to think we're not that tight. This is one of many illusions I plan to dispel today.”
Shego nodded slowly. “You're right, he's been acting like I'm going to stab you in the back the first chance I get.” Then she grinned. “But you don't have to give me an excuse to hold your hand in public.”
They were escorted to a relatively spartan dining room, except for its size. But the table in the middle of the room was sumptuously laid out for dinner. There were eight chairs, although there was some empty space between the three on one end, and the other five. Evidently Gemini didn't think it was a good idea to have them sitting near him.
Yori was directed to the chair at the other end, with Monique and Ron on her left and right. Shego and Kim sat across from each other in the middle. The only other guests appeared to be the ring of armed men standing by the walls.
“Are they going to carry their guns and serve us at the same time?” Ron asked quietly.
“I have other agents for that,” Gemini said as he entered. Behind him was an Asian woman in a Japanese embroidered kimono.
Kim recognized her. “You,” she said. “I thought you were in a Texas prison.”
“I was,” Jaqui replied, looking at her malevolently. “My employer broke me out. I guess you didn't hear.”
“Gemini is who you were stealing for, you and your hacker friend,” Shego said.
“Yes, I hope E-Cool appreciates the fact that he's locked away in Texas,” Jaqui said. “He should be safe from the flooding. Probably.”
“I have appointed Jaqui as my personal bodyguard,” Gemini explained. “She has some experience in fighting you.”
“Losing to us, you mean,” Kim said.
“I regret there are very few with experience in winning against you,” Gemini observed.
“Very few? You mean zero,” Shego shot back.
“The Acceptables beat you, Shego.”
“Yeah, and they're dead.”
Gemini chuckled as he sat down.
Not across from Yori, however. He took the empty chair to the left of the seat of honor.
“Is there a seventh guest?” Monique asked.
“There's two empty chairs, and the girl in the bathrobe is one.”
“She's my guard,” Gemini said calmly while Jaqui snarled silently at Monique. “She remains standing. No, those seats are for … my backers.”
“Your backers?” Kim asked slowly.
“Kim Possible! Shego! It has been too long.”
Kim was stunned.
“Yes, it's been a day for unpleasant surprises, hasn't it?” Gemini asked, sneering.
Approaching the table were Señor Senior Senior and Señor Senior Junior.
To be continued …