Kim couldn't see the look on Junior's face as he gloated, but she could hear his mock sobbing. “Oh, boo-hoo!” he moaned. “I must kill the most important person in my life in order to escape from here and save the world. How sad this makes me! Wah-hah-hah!”
She couldn't see his face because she was kneeling on the floor, hands on her thighs, eyes closed. She didn't doubt that he interpreted her reaction as a sign of weakness. In truth it was a form of meditation.
‘You are not going to lose it, Kim,’ she thought to herself. ‘That's what he's trying to make you do. Probably still traumatized from years of being the Acceptables’ prisoner. Like a schoolboy who bullies the younger kids because he was bullied himself. He wants to break you the way he was broken. That's why he's been trying to overwhelm you with one bad shock after another.’
‘You're going to be out of this metal shoebox long before his thirty minutes are up, Kim, because you can do anything!’
She wasn't sure how, though.
‘And Ron has the Lotus Blade! Yori's a trained ninja AND spy. There's no telling what tricks she has at her disposal. Monique - she can adapt to any situation. If worst comes to worst, one of them gets you out of here.’
But there was no telling how long that would take. Maybe longer than it would take for the ceiling to turn her into a pizza.
Kim clamped down on the nagging doubts in the back of her head. She didn't have the luxury of going to pieces today, not when the fate of the world rested on her shoulders. She couldn't allow herself to even entertain the possibility that she might have to …
Her shoulders slumped a little. She wasn't going to push the button. She couldn't push it, no matter the cost to herself. Shego had been abandoned by people her entire life. It had taken a supreme effort on her part to trust Kim. The very notion that Shego's last thought before death might be “Kimmie betrayed me” - it made Kim's heart feel ready to break just thinking of it.
Since she wasn't going to push it, she might as well pretend it wasn't even there. Which meant she had thirty minutes - twenty-nine, now - to get out of here.
Kim's eyes opened, and Junior's mockery trailed off as he read the look in them. “Ooooh, it appears I have made someone maa-aad,” he said, sneering at her.
“You think you're in control here, but you're not,” Kim said.
“Really,” he said dryly.
“You're no more in control,” Kim said, “than you were when John Acceptable hurt you for the sake of hurting you.”
Senor Senior Junior's smile vanished. “That same John Acceptable you refer to, he is my servant now,” he said icily.
“He's just a clone,” Kim said, shrugging. “The one who counts is the one who zapped you and then billed your father for the electricity.”
“How dare you,” Junior growled.
“If only your father had paid for therapy when you got out,” Kim said with a pitying look. “He must have really wanted to believe that the only scars from your time in captivity were the ones on your body. Maybe if he'd been honest with himself, we could have avoided this whole thing.”
As soon as the words were out of Kim's mouth, she realized she meant them. She couldn't completely blame Junior for his actions, even though he'd have to pay for them regardless. The Acceptable clones might belong to him, but the spirits of the dead family haunted him still.
Junior's image trembled on the screen. “When Shego reveals her true colors to you, Ms. Possible,” he hissed at her, one clawed hand raised, “and allows you to die alone so she can save her worthless, miserable hide, you will be granted five seconds to reflect on your own mistakes. Who knows? If you'd been honest with yourself about the kind of person Shego is, truly we could have avoided this whole thing.”
Then he terminated the connection.
Kim sighed. She didn't like to think about what Shego must be going through right now. Something like what she was going through, she imagined.
Still, the idea that one of them couldn't break out in less than thirty minutes?
Ron looked at his “watch”. Then he looked at Rufus and Ruby, who had climbed out of his pants pockets and sat on the prison cot to either side of him. “I don't think the ‘Lotus’ is going to replace the Rolex any time soon,” he said.
The Lotus Blade, he'd learned a while ago, was a terrible timepiece, mainly because it always said the time was 3:49 A.M. At least a broken clock was right twice a day. This was only right once.
Of course, that was due to the fact that it wasn't really a watch. While it could take the likeness of a wristwatch, the Lotus Blade couldn't replicate a digital watch on the inside. Hence the inability to keep track of time.
Ron had chosen a watch because it made it easy to carry around, because guards weren't going to pay attention to a cheap watch, and because he was usually late anyway.
Whenever he was ready, though, the Lotus Blade could become many, many other things. Sword, staff, shield, mirror, pocketknife, chain, Frisbee, yo-yo … just not a naco.
Too bad. He was hungry. He never even got a roll.
The question was, how could it help him escape? His cell was solid metal on three sides, with an invisible force field sealing off the way he'd come through. Well, been shoved through, anyway.
The device that activated the force field? On the other side, of course, near the one guard.
Still, it could have been worse. A prison cell and one guard? Easy meat for KP. Apparently Junior thought it was more than enough for Ron.
Either that, or Junior was still borrowing his father's handbook - Page 113, How To Place Your Foe In An Easily Escapable Situation Under Minimal Supervision.
Ron's guess was the first one. They hadn't even bothered to take the mole rats.
His eyes traveled upward, and he smiled. That air vent was too small for him, but NOT too small - for the fortieth time, he thanked the creator of HVAC.
Satisfied that the guard wasn't paying attention to him, Ron picked Rufus and Ruby up, holding one in each of his palms. “You guys have your work cut out for you, I guess,” he said quietly. “Find somebody, ANYbody - KP, Monique, Shego, Yori - and help them escape. Got it?”
“H'okay,” Rufus agreed.
“Mmm-hmm,” Ruby chimed in a moment later.
“Let's do this old school then,” Ron said. He put the rodents down and took off his watch, willing it to become a screwdriver. He went over to the ventilation duct in the ceiling and started working on the screws.
After a minute he checked his progress, then looked again at the Lotus Screwdriver. “I wanted a Phillips, not a flathead,” he muttered.
The tip of the screwdriver changed slightly, and this time Ron started getting somewhere.
Monique wasn't happy.
And when Monique wasn't happy, she let people hear about it. Unfortunately, the only person around seemed to be Yori, and she was sitting cross-legged in her cell with her eyes closed.
“Yori,” she tried hissing again. “Yori!”
The Japanese agent didn't even twitch her eye.
“She's just doing it to annoy me, I know she is,” Monique growled.
Junior's orders had been for Monique to be placed in a cell far from either Yori or Ron, but as the trio had been marched away, they discovered that those orders had come into stark conflict with reality - the station wasn't exactly overflowing with prison space. Upon conferral the guards had sent Ron by himself to “Cellblock Alpha”, and Monique and Yori to cells across from each other in “Cellblock Beta”. As Kim's longtime partner Ron was the known commodity, and he was accorded the greater “respect”.
Monique hoped Ron realized that. He always perceived villains as slighting him as a distraction rather than a threat.
As for Monique, however, she'd confronted her own grim reality. While Shego, and Kim indirectly, had drilled months of training in fighting skills into her, neither had really covered the art of escape. And without Wade and his gadgets, Monique was left with zilch in the escape plan department.
If anybody should be breaking out, it should be Secret Agent Woman … and she was napping!
Monique growled. “YO-ri!” she snapped.
Yori's eyes opened, but she gave no sign that it was Monique's words that roused her. She gazed around her cell as if seeing it for the first time. “I see,” she said simply.
“Well, of course NOW you see, you've had your eyes closed the whole time,” Monique said irritably.
Yori smiled mysteriously. “Ron-san is attempting something. Escape, I imagine.”
Monique pressed against the force field and looked to her right. Their two guards were engaged in an animated discussion. Nearby on the wall was the lever that would deactivate the invisible fields keeping them in. “How'd you know that?”
“The Lotus Blade,” Yori said simply. “I felt its energies change. I believe Ron has altered its shape - into what, I cannot say.”
“Not really answering the ‘how’, Yori. So the Lotus Blade did something. How can you tell?”
“It was housed in Yamanouchi for many years. I have seen it, studied it, felt its power. I have also seen Ron-san use the Blade. My ninja training has exposed my senses to things beyond normal men. So both the power that is its mystical signature, and the bond Ron-san has with the Blade, are familiar to me.”
“Hmph,” Monique said suspiciously. “Ron and his sword have a BOND?”
Yori nodded. “He is the Monkey Master. He is also a very generous and open young man. Is it not easy to have a bond with his heart?”
Monique shook her head and chuckled. “Oh, now we're finally getting somewhere.”
Yori cocked her head. “Getting somewhere? Monique-san, I do not understand your - “
“Don't be coy, Yori. You do it well, but don't try it with me. You've been wanting to ‘bond with his heart’ since you got here,” Monique said, pointing a finger. “And certain other parts of his body too, I bet.”
Yori narrowed her eyes slightly. “I do not like what you are suggesting, Monique-san.”
“Oh, come on, girl! You've been making your play for Ron since you got here. You're trying to tell me they don't teach Seduction 101 in government spy school?”
“That is highly classified!” Yori said defensively, as her cheeks grew a bit darker. “And YOU are just jealous!”
“J-jealous?!” Monique spluttered. “Of you and Ron? You're not serious. That boy and I have been friends for years. Believe me, if I was going to start jelling over that boy, it would have happened a long time ago.”
“Really,” Yori said dryly. “Because it appeared to me you were ‘jelling’ when Ron-san became mesmerized by your dress. You couldn't get your arm around his fast enough.”
Still wearing her evening dress, just as Yori was, Monique instinctively put her hand over the low V-cut of her dress. “That was to keep him next to me with his eyes FRONT, Yori.”
“Indeed? You looked like a couple to me. For a woman who complains that Shego-san continues to deny she loves Kim-sama, you seem to be equally in denial about your own feelings.”
Monique turned away. “We're just friends,” she said through gritted teeth. “All we ever do is spar together.”
“Yes, just like Kim-sama and Shego-san always spar together.”
“That's different,” Monique grumbled, even as she suddenly remembered times when they'd both left training sessions too exhausted to return to their homes, and ended up sharing a spare bed at Team Possible HQ - platonically, of course!
“And anyway,” Monique went on, “you haven't denied it yourself. You're saying you're not interested in Ron?”
It was Yori's turn to step away. “Ron is,” she said hesitantly, “a great man. I have known that ever since his stay at Yamanouchi. He has many fine qualities that even he seems unaware of. It is … true that I have thought of him at times during our years of separation. But now is neither the time nor the place to speak of such things! And I am certainly no seductress!”
Monique grinned. “I guess you didn't have the grades for Seduction 102?”
Yori's face turned crimson, and Monique knew she was at least half-right. “That's good,” she added, “because Ron and subtlety don't mix. You could give him hints for ten years and he'll still wonder why you've never had a boyfriend. You need to be straightforward.”
“I am not so brazen. But of course this is a trait of yours. I see you have given this thought before.”
Monique blinked. “Wait, what? No, no I haven't. That's like saying I have feelings for Ron, and I do NOT have feelings for Ron.”
Yori nodded. “Then we have no need of arguing, do we?”
“Uh - no, I guess not.”
“Good. Then perhaps we can see about escaping …” Yori suddenly smiled slyly at her. “Unless it is your hope that Ron-san will come and save you.”
Monique sniffed and didn't answer. Oh, she'd pay for that later.
One of the guards turned and looked at the other, their own conversation having stopped long ago. “Man, these chicks are better than soaps!” he said.
Across the station, another WEE agent was on much less interesting guard duty. Watching the glorified sidekick, hooray. Sidekicks were just henchmen for good guys.
He wondered if that made those other two girls “henchwenches”. They'd looked like fine wenches to him!
The guard decided to amuse himself by harassing the sidekick. Like a kid like him would ever have a chance like one of those girls.
“Hey, you!” he began to say, but he stopped, mesmerized by what he saw.
The prisoner appeared to be practicing - with a real, honest-to-God, samurai sword!
The guard started, then ran over to the cell. “Hey, prisoner! Where the hell did you get that?!”
Ron looked up, irritated. “Dude, do I interrupt you when you're practicing setting ants on fire, or whatever it is you do for fun?”
“Give me that weapon before I pump you full of holes!”
“Sure, I'll just pass it through the impenetrable force field.”
The agent pulled his firearm and pointed it at Ron. “When I lower the force field, you hand that over slowly. Handle first, too!”
Ron shrugged. “Okay, but it's my turn again when you're finished.”
Possible's sidekick was crazy, the guard decided. He pushed a button on one side of the door, causing the barrier between them to disappear.
Ron casually reversed his grip on the sword so that the flat of the blade was between his palms. The sword hilt was there for the other man to take hold of.
Then, as he reached out to commandeer the weapon … it changed.
Specifically, it changed into a bo staff that was easily much longer than the sword. So long, in fact, that it extended right up to the guard's face and clocked him solidly between the eyes. He lurched back and dropped his gun, putting both hands over his face. My head, my head, CHRIST that hurt!
Ron calmly changed his grip on the staff and buried the other end in the guard's stomach, bending him over. A single sweep knocked the guard's legs out from under him, leaving him on his back. One last crack to the man's temple guaranteed he'd stay unconscious.
Then Ron tapped the staff on the floor once, allowing the Lotus Blade to revert to the form of a watch. He looked thoughtfully at his former captor.
“I think this tux would look better on you,” he said out loud.
Rufus nosed Ruby's belly. Okay?
Ruby nodded and smiled.
Rufus and Ruby had thought about her staying behind on Earth. They were worried about endangering the litter she was carrying.
But they'd decided that if both of them went along, there was a greater chance of Ron surviving this.
And they wanted their children to get to know their “Uncle Ron”.
Now, however, they had a second choice. Once again, it came down to protecting Ron and his friends, or protecting each other.
They'd reached a T-intersection in the ventilation shaft they were inside of. They could remain together and choose one direction. Or they could split up and cover more ground.
Rufus had already accepted Ruby's presence on the mission. He wasn't sure if he could let her out of his sight. She was a good mate, and would make a good mother. If they stayed together and picked the right direction, then everyone would be okay!
Ruby, however, put her paw on his, and shook her head.
Rufus nodded sadly. If this mission didn't succeed, then Ron might die, along with millions on Earth. What world would this be to raise their offspring in? What would he tell his family? That millions died because he was being selfish?
Ruby leaned over and nuzzled his cheek.
Then she turned and hurried down the right fork.
Rufus watched her go. Every instinct in his body told him to follow her. Instinct had never served a naked mole rat wrong.
He went left instead.
Senor Senior Senior stared out of the one “window” in his quarters, looking into pitch-black space. Years ago, when he'd envisioned the day he and his son took over the world, it had NOT looked like this.
Certainly his vision had not included him being “escorted” to his rooms by his son's henchmen, rooms that were certainly luxurious, but still rooms where the door could only be opened from outside.
Why did his son do this?
Better questions might include “Why did my son steal from me?”
“How can I stand by and allow the women who saved my son to die?”
“Is this my fault?”
Senior sighed. Perhaps if he'd sought professional help for his son when Junior was freed. Or at least kept a better eye on his son and his evil plans.
And now it seemed Junior had completely discarded the Villains’ Handbook. Oh, certainly, he invited the hero to dinner and then placed her in a specially-made deathtrap. But to hamstring Kim Possible in such a way, taking her family hostage, that she was unable to defend herself?
And this resurrection of the Acceptables - pure madness! How could Junior even look upon their faces?!
“Is this fate?” Senior asked himself. “Is this my punishment for the mistakes I made raising my son?”
He suspected another part of his punishment would be the hit Smarty Mart stock took when investors found out what his son had done.
There was a buzz at the door, signifying someone's arrival. “Enter,” Senior said wearily.
The door opened and a single WEE agent came in. “Your son wants you,” he said.
“Again? He sent me away not long ago.”
Senor Senior Senior shrugged and followed the agent out.
Once they were in the fully-lit corridor, however, Senior took one look at the ears sticking out from under the agent's visored helmet and immediately knew who it was.
Unlike SOME villains, Senior knew his enemies by face and name.
“After you,” the disguised Ron Stoppable said.
Senior smiled and began walking back the way he'd come earlier. Obviously Mr. Stoppable had decided that the fastest way to free Kim Possible, Shego, AND Ms. Possible's family was to cut off the head of WEE. It was equally obvious that he didn't know where he was going. If Senior wished, he could lead the sidekick on a wild goose chase, ending in the WEE cafeteria. That would be a very evil thing to do.
“May I ask something?” Senior asked as they made their way.
“What did you do with the owner of that uniform, Mr. Stoppable?”
Ron Stoppable stopped. “Aw, man,” he said softly. “The one time I'm recognized, and I'm in disguise!”
“I believe your ears are a bit of a giveaway.”
Ron hurriedly jammed his ears underneath his headgear. Then he looked at Senior. “The guy I got this from? He's resting. Also a lot better dressed now. Now tell me where your son is,” he said. “And where I can find a closet.”
“So I can knock you out and stuff you in it. Can't exactly surprise the son if the father knows who I am.”
“This is my son's game,” Senior said. “He has said that I am merely an observer. Let him figure out who you are. I will say nothing.”
“No offense, Senor Senior Senior, but why should I believe you?”
“Because the villain inside of me tells me that if I say nothing, you are going to make this day quite interesting.”
Ron didn't respond right away. “Yeah, I guess I'd buy that,” he finally said. “Okay, keep walking.”
Senior took his suggestion and resumed their path.
After a few moments, Ron spoke again. “You said I'm going to make this day interesting. How do you even know if it's day or night here? There's a reason they call it the dark side of the moon, you know.”
“Consider it a figure of speech. Although you could always look at your watch.”
“Trust me, that won't help.”
Yori had not, in fact, turned her thoughts to escape. Not for very long, anyway. It had become apparent almost immediately that their cell doors would have to be deactivated from outside, which meant their “guards” themselves would need to be tricked or manipulated into becoming their “rescuers”.
Instead she thought of Ron-san, and Monique-san's comments. As she had stated, she was NOT trying to lure Ron-san in. While there was no single program like the “Seduction 101” that Monique-san kept referring to, the Japanese government DID attempt in various manners to hone its agents’ ability to gather information through all means, including ones’ own beauty and charm.
For all her potential in other areas, Yori had not performed well in this subject. She could lie, cheat, AND steal, but she couldn't bring herself to deceive the heart of another.
For the first time, Yori wondered if this was because her heart had belonged to another all along.
As an accomplished ninja Yori knew stealth when she saw it. In one important way Ron-san defined “stealth” - almost no one seemed to realize what strong and attractive qualities he had, including HIM. He had lived his life under the radar. Yori, however, knew he was a Monkey Master from the beginning. So instead of overlooking him the way everyone else did, she had studied him, and found him to be many things she wanted, and yet a breath of fresh air too.
And then Ron-san was gone again, back to America. Yori assumed she would never see him again.
She was not sure what was the greater surprise - finding that she WOULD see him again, or seeing him as the exact same man he was before, only stronger.
Yori thought she might have been in love with him all that time, and never known it until seeing him the other night.
This was a mission, however, for the survival of her homeland. Her duty and sense of honor demanded she succeed as well. Yori believed she had hidden her feelings quite well from him. Ron-san's behavior had seemed to validate that.
Monique-san's comments, however, indicated that she was doing a good job of hiding her feelings from him - and nobody else.
Yori wondered if Kim-sama or Shego-san had noticed as well. Shego-san probably wouldn't care if she had, but on the other hand she might tell Ron-san when it was likely to provoke the biggest reaction. Kim-sama - Yori had no idea how she would feel about some “interloper” bearing secrets of Ron's past becoming involved with her lifelong friend.
Perhaps she shouldn't say anything. Perhaps she should leave the instant the mission was complete.
She knew one thing, though. If they didn't survive this, none of this would matter.
Which meant it was time to make her move, and hope Monique-san noticed and responded in the expected way.
After all, they'd already been in their cells for almost half an hour.
To be continued …