There was a moment of silence while Kim digested what she was seeing. Junior had been one of the people who ambushed Shego in her apartment last year, so his presence, while unexpected, wasn't a complete shock. And the Seniors’ money explained where Gemini raised the funds necessary to build this station. But Senior Senior? And Gemini? It wasn't just that she'd thought he was too involved in the operations of Smarty Mart to return to those days where he attempted to take over the world. It was that she'd been his guest for weeks prior to the attack on the Acceptables’ home, and she realized that seeing him there felt like … betrayal.
And if she felt that way, then how might Shego take it?
“Shego, don't-“ Kim started to say, already knowing exactly how the former thief would react, but she was too late.
“You two-faced, slimy, demented, senile old fart!!” Shego spat at Senor Senior Senior. She leapt from her seat onto the dinner table itself, and began running towards the elderly man. She didn't even notice the glassware and plates in her way, much less feel them breaking under her feet.
Her forward progress was halted, however, when Gemini caught her ankle with his robotic hand. She stumbled and fell to her knees. “Out of my way, tiny!“ Shego snarled.
“You'll forgive me if I - overcompensate,” Gemini shot back. He touched a button on his cybernetic wrist, and the metal hand energized, sending thousands of volts through Shego's body. She snapped up, ramrod straight, her hair on end. Shego's jaws were clamped shut, but the others could hear a scream forcing its way past her teeth as she arched her back.
“Let her GO!!”
Kim dove out of her chair, over the table, and tackled Gemini. Shego swayed drunkenly and pitched off the side, landing on the floor. She flopped like a fish a few times, then lay still. Kim and Gemini, meanwhile, tumbled across the floor before Kim put both feet in his chest and heaved, sending him flying into the wall.
Kim crouched and turned, intending to check on Shego. Instead she found herself looking down the barrel of a gun, and Junior had his finger on the trigger. The barrel was surprisingly big, like it might swallow her hole. She wasn't a handgun expert, but she'd heard stories about how it felt to stare down a .45 Magnum. Kim's guess was the stories were right.
“I don't think that would be a wise idea, Ms. Possible,” Senor Senior Junior said calmly. “Look around.”
Her fury slipped away as she remembered the gravity of their situation. Ron, Monique, and Yori were all practically on their feet, but each had several guns pointed at them. More guns were trained on Shego, who was on her hands and knees and trying to stand. And, of course, she couldn't forget the danger her family was in.
“I deplore the use of threats,” Junior went on, “but Shego was the first to become violent. I must ask that you keep that in mind, in case you thought of seeking further vengeance against Gemini. You started this.”
“Your FATHER started this!” Kim shot back. “He started this when he hired Gemini to build this station and threaten the world!”
Junior laughed gaily, as if he was without a care in the world. “Oh, Kim Possible, my little blue fox. So much you still do not understand. I like this. It will allow me to tell such an entertaining story during dinner. Please, return to your seat. Help Shego up, if you like.”
Feeling more confused than anything else, Kim got up carefully, watching as the armed men stepped back from her friends, allowing them to sit back down again. She went over to Shego. “Shego, baby? How are you?”
Shego shook her head vigorously. “I'm fine,” she grunted, shrugging off the helping hand Kim offered.
“You weren't fine five seconds ago.”
“A jolt like that is nowhere near enough to stop me,” Shego asserted. She stood up slowly. “Old man,” she told Senor Senior Senior, “if you say one word to me - if you even sigh at me, I will make you WISH you died of natural causes years ago!”
Senior shook his head, then nodded gravely. He took his seat, allowing Junior to sit at the head of the table.
Gemini rubbed his back and looked angrily at Jaqui. “Where, pray tell, were you when I was being manhandled by Possible?” he demanded.
“If you're going to antagonize Kim Possible and hurt her girlfriend, I'm not going to be held accountable” Jaqui replied.
He bristled. “I will hold you accountable as I see fit!”
“Oh, do calm down, Gemini,” Junior said. “Sit, eat. Nobody's going anywhere.”
Gemini stiffly walked over to his chair and sat down again, but clearly he was trying to keep his temper in check. Needing a distraction, he snapped his fingers. “Agent Phi, please bring me Pepe,” he ordered. One of the guards quickly left.
“So, now that everyone has gathered,” Junior suggested, “why don't we eat?”
“I'm not hungry,” Monique said coldly, holding Junior's gaze for a moment before he looked elsewhere.
“I'm actually - “ Ron stopped when he caught the glare Monique was now giving HIM. “Not that hungry either,” he said. “Maybe a roll?”
“I think we're all more interested in talking than eating,” Yori told him.
Junior raised an eyebrow. “I do not believe we have been properly introduced,” he said as Agent Phi returned and unobtrusively brought Gemini his pet chihuahua on a pillow. “You are Japanese, yes?”
Yori nodded. “My name is Yori, and I am an agent in my government's service.”
“Ah yes, of course,” Junior said, nodding as well. “Japan would cease to exist if our demands aren't met. Isn't that right, Gemini?”
“It is,” Gemini said sullenly.
“So, Yori, my name is Senor Senior Junior, and I will be your host for the remaining duration of your very short lives. Gemini here is actually my right-hand man here. Even if he doesn't really have a flesh-and-blood right hand any more.” Junior chuckled at his own wit.
“I am not your - “ Gemini began, angered.
“Sidekick?” Shego asked spitefully.
Gemini whipped his head towards her and scowled.
“Yes, this is true, he is not my sidekick,” Junior confirmed. “But he is my employee. Or tell me this, Gemini - which of us actually pays your men, and which of us sends them falling through the floor for petty infractions?”
Gemini didn't respond. He just went on looking at Shego - and away from Junior.
“I thought as much,” Junior added, a smug smile on his face.
Kim had a hard time believing it, but everything - Junior's demeanor, his comments, his father's continued silence - pointed to it. “Your father's not in charge here, is he?” she asked him. “You are. This is all your doing.”
Junior looked surprised. “Why Ms. Possible, I thought that was perfectly obvious. You accuse my father of such underhandedness? I'm shocked, frankly. He is a businessman, not a criminal. He is only here because our private island will not survive a shift in the planet's tides. What would you have me do, abandon my father?”
“So instead you’re threatening HER father?” Shego retorted. “Along with the rest of her family? I seem to remember that WE were the ones who saved you from those screwed-up – “
“You saved me from nothing!!!”
Everyone, even Senor Senior Senior, drew back at Junior’s outburst as he rose to his feet and banged his knuckles on the table before him. A champagne flute that had escaped Shego's stampede now fell over and broke. The scar running vertically down his face became more pronounced as his cheeks reddened.
He glared venomously at Shego. “You abandoned me, my old teacher,” he growled. “You left me there to rot! To burn! And oh yes, they burned me for days, because we had a history together, because they thought I might know where you went,” Junior sneered. “As if you could think of anyone but yourself, Shego.”
“That’s not true!” Monique interrupted.
Junior made a dismissive gesture at her. “The three of them don’t even factor into my plans, Shego,” he said coldly. “I should just kill them now, but I wouldn’t want that to be a distraction for what I have planned for either you, Shego, or you, Kim Possible.”
“If Shego hadn’t escaped when she did, how she did,” Kim said, remaining calm while mentally she tried to adapt to a Junior she’d never encountered before, “she might have been recaptured. As it worked out, you were freed because of her actions.” Junior wasn't usually this - unstable
“My safety was no concern of yours, Kim Possible,” Junior snapped. “You wanted to save your precious mother from those Acceptables. Well, I wanted something from them too! I didn’t just want my freedom. I wanted revenge! Revenge for John’s torture, for Yvonne’s depravity! And you took that from me – you killed them before I could!”
“Junior’s sanity has left the building,” Shego muttered, now looking bored.
His gaze turned back to her, but instead of raising his voice yet again, Junior seemed to collect himself. “Not so, Shego,” he told her, smiling. “I must be sane, because I see everything I wanted within my reach. Are you suggesting that I am delusional, that you are not all my prisoners?, and I am not being delusional, no? I told my father after I was freed that I would still have my vengeance on the Acceptables even if they themselves had died. I swore I would do what they could not. I would take over the world, and destroy Kim Possible. When that happened, then I would prove myself their better!”
“You can’t kill millions of people because of this, Senor!” Yori said. “This will not give you your honor back!”
“Honor schmonor,” Junior mocked her. “This is called vengeance. And let's be perfectly clear, Sheldon,” Junior continued. “I am quite close to victory here, and I don't want your bruised ego interfering. Ms. Possible and your sister destroyed your organization years ago. When I found you last year, you didn't have enough men to rob a Bueno Nacho. I used the money I stole from my father – “
“You stole from your father?” Kim asked, startled.
“He gave me five million to start me on my journey, Miss Possible. It was not nearly enough. Who do you think built this station? Frugal Lucre?”
Kim looked at Senor Senior Senior. He refused to look up from the table.
“I used that money to completely rebuild WEE, Sheldon,” Junior went on. “You gave me the kind of structured criminal organization I needed. It would have taken me years to build up my own network. And I thank you for it. But I will blow you out of the nearest airlock if you don’t remember who is in charge here, and your men will help me do it.”
Gemini’s face was nearly purple, and he looked about wildly. “He’s nothing more than a spoiled child with an oversized ATM card!” he cried out, turning to the guards. “I am Gemini! I am WEE! Who will you follow-him or me?!”
There was no reaction, as if they hadn't even heard anyone speak. Gemini’s shoulders slumped. “No,” he mumbled. “I made WEE. You can't just - “
“Cheer up, Gemini,” Junior said. “You will win, and your sister will lose. That’s all that really matters to you, isn’t it? Already she has been reduced to being Team Possible’s nursemaid, instead of the head of Global Justice – “
Pepe began barking angrily.
“Oh, Pepe, now,” Gemini said quickly, trying to calm the dog. “He didn’t mean to upset you.”
Shego turned in her chair to face Gemini. “Global Justice,” she said cruelly, a wicked smile on her face.
The small dog’s agitation and volume rapidly increased despite Gemini’s efforts to soothe it. “Shego, you – “
“Global Justice,” she repeated, all-out grinning.
“Global Justice,” Kim echoed a second later, backing Shego up.
“That is ENOUGH,” Gemini roared furiously, while Pepe yipped frantically. He held up one robotic finger. “The next person to say those words is getting a miniature rocket in their lap!”
“Gemini,” Junior said, exasperated. “I think you’re – “
The last one pushed Pepe over the edge. It snarled, twisting violently in Gemini’s grip, and falling to the floor, it immediately ran out of the dining room.
Gemini pointed his finger at the person who had spoken. “You’ve pushed me too far, old man!” he shouted at Senor Senior Senior, who had spoken in front of Team Possible for the first time that night. Kim wondered if there was any significance to Senior’s provoking him. He didn't look concerned that someone was shoving a lethal - finger in his face.
“Sheldon, do not point. It is very rude,” Junior told him. “Also, there is the small matter of you pointing a weapon at my father.”
Gemini was seething, but he grudgingly lowered his hand.
Junior sighed. “I had hoped to have a nice dinner with my enemies. It is something my father was always fond of when he tried to take over the world. Was it not, father?”
“It was,” Senior agreed gravely.
“It appears however, that you are determined to be difficult,” Junior said. “I suppose I shall just send you to your cells. Guards?”
They immediately snapped to attention, something Gemini couldn’t fail to notice.
“Please take Mr. Stoppable, Miss Yori, and this third girl who never bothered to introduce herself – “
“It’s Oryx,” Monique retorted.
“A silly name, Oryx. As you like. Have them confined. Make sure their cells are in different parts of the station. I do not wish for them to attempt to communicate with each other. As for Kim Possible and Shego, they have a different fate in store for them,” Junior said.
None of the three struggled as guards came for them. The people Junior was holding hostage at the Space Center made sure of that. “KP,” Ron began.
“I'll find you guys soon, if you don't find us first,” Kim reassured him.
Junior chuckled. “Your confidence is endearing, Ms. Possible.”
Kim glared at him. “I hope you still find it endearing when my fist is hitting your teeth.”
“I highly doubt that,” Junior replied, gesturing at Gemini's agents. Ron, Monique, and Yori were swiftly taken away, leaving Kim and Shego behind with the Seniors, Gemini, and Jaqui.
“I know what you're thinking,” Junior said once they were alone.
“That you're insane?” Shego asked.
“That you're a lousy son?” Kim suggested.
“That cosmetic surgery is still an option?”
Junior laughed through gritted teeth. “Ah, that wit you're both so famous for. No, what you must be thinking is, ‘Surely there is nothing more that could surprise me tonight. WEE has its very own space station, and is being financed by the Senior family. My friends and family have been taken hostage. I've become Junior's prisoner. Surely the surprises are over.'”
“And right now I'm thinking they're not,” Kim said dryly.
“Indeed you're right, Kim Possible. In a few minutes, my own personal bodyguards will be escorting you to a very special deathtrap designed especially for the two of you. It is my belief that neither of you will enjoy the experience,” Junior told them.
“A little wordier than what Dr. D always said,” Shego replied, yawning, “but I'm thinking that's the only difference. What makes you THIS deathtrap will kill her - and me, for that matter - where the other ones couldn't?”
“I never said I believed it would kill BOTH of you,” Junior replied, unable to resist a gloating smile. He turned to his right. “Ah, I see your escort has arrived.”
Kim followed his gaze, and the blood drained from her face.
“Kimmie?” Shego asked. “What is - “
“You look as if you have seen a ghost, Miss Possible,” Junior said idly.
“That's - that's impossible,” Kim said, reeling.
“No, but you're close,” Junior replied, mocking her. “Is not science a wonderful thing?”
“We certainly think so,” John Acceptable said, gesturing to Don and Yvonne.
“Radio communications appear to be working normally, Dr. Porter,” Sadie informed them once they'd gotten about eight miles from the Space Center. “Shall I attempt to contact Wade?”
“Yes, please,” Vivian said, still racking her brain for some method of rescuing dozens of her fellow scientists from an armed force of trained men. She'd always been told she was a genius, but that didn't make her a tactical genius, unfortunately.
Wade's face appeared on Sadie's viewscreen a few moments later. “Doctor … Porter?” he asked, bewildered.
“You're Wade?” Vivian asked. “We're contacting you from inside Sadie.”
“Me and my assistant Oliver.”
“Where's everyone else?” Wade asked.
“Still at the Space Center,” Vivian told him. “Wade, do you know what's going on? There are men with guns and they tried to kill Oliver - well, kill me, actually, and - “
“I don't know a lot myself,” Wade told her. “Kim Possible and the others are on a top-secret mission from the American government. Sappho is transporting them to a secret base on the moon. They were approaching their destination when I suddenly lost contact. I was cut off from Mission Control at the Space Center a few seconds later. To be honest, you're the first confirmation I have for what's been happening. I hacked into military communications, but they don't seem to realize there's a problem.”
“Oh,” Vivian said, disappointed. “Sadie thought you might be able to help rescue everyone, but - “
“Whoa, whoa, don't get ahead of yourself, Dr. Porter,” Wade said. “There's nothing I can do for Kim right now, my communication attempts are being jammed. But there are things I can do for the Space Center.”
“Like what?” Oliver asked.
“For starters, just because Gemini is jamming my frequency, that doesn't mean I can't do the same thing to them,” Wade explained. “His soldiers would lose radio communication.”
“But you don't understand,” Vivian said. “There are probably dozens of hostages back there. There are men spread everywhere that Oliver and I had to avoid just to get out of the building. There were two more outside that could have killed us if Sadie hadn't hit them.”
“Two guards?” Wade asked. “Where are they?”
Sadie grunted. “In my trunk. They'll live, but they're unconscious. We couldn't let them be discovered.”
Wade nodded. “Okay, look. Most of those people are scientists like you, Dr. Porter, but you've also got Colonel Steve Barkin, who used to be a career military man, and Dr. Betty Director, who used to be - “
“The head of Global Justice, I know,” Vivian said. “We're friends.”
“Then you know the kind of person she is.”
“I do,” Vivian said softly.
“None of us are equipped to handle a hostage situation, but THEY are. All we have to do is free them. Look, I've run the statistical probabilities based on what I know and what you told me. When I lost contact with them, Dr. Director and Colonel Barkin were in the control tower with Kim's family and Tommy Director.”
“Tommy's in there?” Vivian asked, horrified.
“The only place at the Space Center with the capability of sending and receiving transmissions to the moon is the control tower,” Wade went on, ignoring her interruption. “The head of Gemini's unit has to be there in order to maintain contact with Gemini. My guess is he'll still have the Possibles, the Directors, and Barkin there too. But the other scientists were probably herded into a central location like an auditorium or a cafeteria.”
“So if we jam their frequency and retake the control tower,” Oliver said, “the guards holding the other scientists won't realize anything is wrong.”
“Exactly,” Wade said, snapping his fingers. “Dr. Director and Colonel Barkin will know what to do then.”
“All we need to do is save several people, including children, from a group of gun-toting thugs holed up in a tower,” Sadie pointed out. “And first we'll have to get there without being spotted. Sounds easy as pumping gas.”
“There's a way,” Wade told them. “Years ago there were a network of tunnels underneath Middleton.”
“Oliver and I know those tunnels,” Vivian said. “People built robots and used those tunnels - “
“For fights, that's right,” Wade said. “Those fights are finished, but I've made some additions for a - friend of mine, and one of those tunnels will take you inside Space Center property.”
“Even me?” Sadie asked.
“Well, no, not you.”
“So it'll be up to me and Oliver,” Vivian said.
“I might be able to help with that.”
“Junior,” Senor Senior Senior said as the two walked through the corridors of the space station, “traditionally the villain personally escorts his prisoner to their doom so they can describe the details of the hero's cruel fate.”
“Fear not, father. I will talk to them via the monitor in my quarters,” Junior said. “I thought it was best if I left them alone with the Acceptable brood. Kim Possible has a formidable spirit, as you yourself know, father. I have weakened that spirit, however. I have delivered a series of unpleasant shocks to her system. First there was the ease with which we captured her, then the danger posed to her family, and then our surprise appearance. And now the culmination, the resurrection of Shego's bogeymen, the Acceptables. She is completely off-balance by now, and she will be fair prey for what I have in store for her.”
“You think your little trap will kill her?”
Junior chuckled. “No, I think it will kill Shego. THAT will kill Miss Possible, and then the Acceptables will finish her off.”
Senior frowned. “I cannot approve of this, Junior. Regardless of your need for revenge, it is directly because of those two young women, as well as Mr. Stoppable and the Oryx, that you were returned to me. I cannot countenance their destruction.”
“Then it is a good thing you are merely an observer - someone I dragged along with me,” his son said. “Otherwise your opinion would actually matter.”
The father's frown became more pronounced, and wrinkles appeared on his forehead.
“Father,” Junior sighed, “we have arrived at my quarters. I have to give Kim and Shego the bad news, and you have to return to your room.” He beckoned to the guards on either side of the entrance to his habitation. “Please take my father there,” he said, dismissing them with a wave of his hand.
“Yes sir,” they said in unison.
“Junior, please reconsider,” Senor Senior Senior said.
“I love you, father. That is why I ask you to stay out of this,” Junior replied. “Tomorrow the world will be under my thumb. Rejoice in that.”
He left his father behind without another look and entered his rooms.
Shego stumbled forward and found herself in a square-shaped room that could be no bigger than ten feet by ten. The walls were metal, shiny and extremely smooth. The one thing that stood out from the rest was a dome-shaped red button in the floor. She walked around it, treating it for now like it was a coiled viper.
“See you later, Shego. Maybe,” John told her before the door shut, leaving her trapped. Alone. She'd been separated from Pumpkin, and she was still angry about it.
“Good,” she murmured to herself. “You can cry for me a second time, Johnny.”
Shego leaned on the wall and took a moment to collect herself. The Acceptable children - alive. She never saw them die, but Kimmie had and Shego took her word for it. There was no way it could be true. But they'd spoken to her and Kim as they were taken here, and Shego had observed them for years. The likeness was uncanny.
Kim obviously thought it was them, from the way she'd moved like a freshly risen zombie. Shego had worried after they'd surrendered that Kim was on overload. But no, THIS was Kim on overload.
“Shego? Old friend? Mentor? I hope you are enjoying your accommodations?”
Shego's head snapped up. Above her head, Junior's face had appeared on a screen set in the wall itself. “Those are impostors,” she hissed.
“Oh no, I assure you they are quite real, Shego. They've made great strides with Dr. Drakken's cloning technology since it was first developed. While they still have that distressing weakness to carbonated beverages, scientists - MY scientists - are now able to replicate his discoveries. At great expense, I should have you know, WEE agents were able to recover the DNA of the three Acceptable children from the caverns beneath their old lair. It took months, but we have succeeded.”
Clones. She hated clones. Why did it have to be clones? “Uh, hello? If you can clone them, why not just kill them? That's what you said you wanted, isn't it?”
“They're just copies, Shego. They have all the memories of the originals just before they died, but still they are merely shadows. Somehow I fail to see why that would be quite as satisfactory. Besides, I preferred having them programmed to obey me faithfully. They are my servants now.”
“You never made much sense when your father hired me to teach you,” Shego replied heatedly, “but now you're even worse! First you decide you're going to accomplish exactly what the Acceptables were set to do, and then you practically bring them back from the dead? This isn't payback - this is them still controlling your life!”
Junior growled. “You couldn't possibly understand.”
“Bullshit!” Shego retorted. “I was imprisoned and tortured, same as you, Junior. If ANYONE can understand what you went through, it's ME. So why don't you just open up a few liters of Pepsi on those phonies, and then do what I did - move on with your fucking life.”
He paid her no mind, though, and sighed. “I do not wish to talk about me. Why don't we talk about you and your bosom friend Kim instead? Your soulmate? Your one true love? Isn’t that right?”
“We're not in love,” Shego grumbled, crossing her arms.
“I see. You merely surrendered both yourself and your precious gloves to my men because you value the sanctity of human life,” Junior said, his voice practically dripping with scorn. “I bet you would do anything for her, even give your own life?”
“ … Probably,” she admitted.
“You're wondering what that button does, aren't you?”
Shego looked at the button, pretending disinterest. “Not really, no. I was thinking about how I wish I had a magazine. Maybe some emery boards…”
“Well, you SHOULD be wondering about it. Pushing that button will open the door, let you out, and give you your freedom.”
She stared suspiciously at him. “What's the catch?”
“No catch. Although I would suggest pushing it soon. You have thirty minutes before the ceiling crushes your body quite completely.”
Shego started as there was a grinding noise above her. She looked up and saw that the room's high ceiling had almost imperceptibly begun to move downward. “Oh, come on! Even Dr. D was more original than THAT. If you're gonna kill me, at least use a little imagination!” she complained.
“What can I say?” Junior asked. “My father's handbook has not been updated in over forty years.”
“That still doesn't explain why there's a button that will let me out.”
He smiled at her. “In a moment, I will be giving your partner Kim a similar ultimatum. She too has a button. And like you, I will be telling her that when one of you presses the button, the OTHER button will no longer be operable. The ceiling, however, will descend at a MUCH faster rate. In other words, Shego, if you wish to save yourself, you need only sacrifice Kim's life in return. And vice versa – if Kim wishes to save herself, she must condemn you.” Junior laughed mockingly. “I am sure your decision will be a difficult one. I know firsthand what a selfless person you are. But you had better hurry and make a choice, because it won't take Kim long to realize that you will betray her too. The clock is ticking. For both of you.”
Shego detected sarcasm. She was a master at it. She felt like telling him this, and telling him what else she was a master of, but her throat had become strangely dry and her brain just couldn’t formulate a proper sentence.
Kimmie, no …
To be continued …