Shego hadn't moved in over ten minutes, Señor Senior Junior noted. She just sat in the corner of the room, facing the wall. It was most aggravating that he couldn't get a good camera angle of her face. But of course, the woman just had to be aggravating in everything she did, didn't she?
Junior checked the clock. Twenty-one minutes gone by. In eight minutes, both women would have barely enough room between the floor and the ceiling to lie flat on their stomachs or backs. In nine, they would be dead.
The fact that they were both still alive after twenty-one minutes astounded him.
His expectations had been elementary. Both women would take anywhere between five and ten minutes to search the room and learn there was no way out, other than the button.
Once they were satisfied that the only possible outcome was for one of them to live, and one to die, then it would only be a matter of time before one of them pushed the button.
As he had told his father, he expected that person to be Kim Possible. While he did not doubt that Shego would also push the button, given enough time, he felt that Kim's overriding sense of duty, responsibility, and self-sacrifice would compel her to put the fate of the world ahead of her own personal happiness. If one of them was to live, then let it be the one who had been saving the world for years.
He had also stacked the deck in Kim Possible's favor by planting the suggestion that Shego wouldn't hesitate to save her own pathetic skin, even if it meant murdering Kim. Junior knew this to be true. Deep down, she must as well.
There would then be those terrible few seconds where Shego would realize what Kim had done. She would feel anger, fear, hatred, betrayal - and Kim would know it.
And then… one deceased Shego, and one devastated Kim Possible, wracked with guilt and grief. She would lurch out of the room, only to find the second part of the trap - the Acceptable siblings. She would be easy pickings.
If, by chance, Shego beat Kim to the button, she too would be overwhelmed three-to-one by the Acceptables. Seeing their faces before she died had its own… appeal.
Junior frowned, bored. Neither of these things had happened, however, because they refused to push the button!
Shego just sat there, as if the button behind her didn't even exist.
Kim, well, she looked ready to break any moment, but then she'd looked ready to break five minutes ago. He could see her on the monitor staring at the button like it was a coiled venomous cobra preparing to strike.
He sighed. If this went on for another - seven minutes, then he might have to do something drastic.
In the meantime he studied Shego's gloves. The confiscated items - the Kimmunicators, their battle attire, Shego's plasma gloves - had been brought to his quarters earlier. He was fascinated by the gloves. How wonderful it must be to have that kind of power! If only he had more feminine hands…
Don't make me do this. Please, God, I know I haven't been to church lately, and you allegedly have a problem with gay people, but PLEASE don't make me kill Shego!
Kim had searched and scoured the room for the slightest sign of a weakness. There was none. Just a door, and the button that opened it.
There was a chance, of course - Junior had said earlier that when Shego pushed her button, Kim would have five seconds to reflect. Kim assumed the same went for Shego.
Kim remembered that the Acceptable Clones had dragged the two of them through a rectangular-shaped room with two doors on either end. Kim had been forced through one, and Shego had to have gone through the other. Kim felt sure that when the door opened, she could cross the second room in much less than five seconds.
Push the button, dive out, open the second door, dive in, grab Shego, dive back out.
Five seconds? Perhaps.
So there was a chance.
Kim shook her head and put her hands to her temples. A one-in-a-trillion chance. Why delude herself?
Junior, like all villains, was predictable. He wasn't going to just let Kim waltz out. There had to be a second trap waiting for her outside, probably the clones or armed guards. They weren't going to get out of her way when she came out.
More importantly, Kim's “chance” was built on two very shaky premises. One, that Kim's door would open the second she hit the button. It might not open until Shego was…
Two, that there was a way to open Shego's cell from the outside. More likely both doors were controlled at a second location.
And that was the biggest stumbling block of all. Junior had to be watching the whole thing. The moment Kim made some kind of move, Junior could probably push a button and flatten Shego before Kim took four steps.
Best to just accept the facts and deal with it. Junior was right. Kim was getting out of here a murderer, or not at all.
Really, she already WAS a killer. What was one more?
I can't decide, I can't!
My parents, the tweebs, Ron, Monique, Betty and Thomas Director, Mr. Barkin, practically everyone living within a hundred miles of the Pacific… they're counting on me! I'm Kim Possible, I have to save them before it's too late!
“I c-c-can't,” Kim wept quietly, trying to keep herself from breaking into open sobs. Junior would LOVE that. “I swore I'd never kill again! And I'd have to kill Shego! Oh God, I'd never be able to live with myself!” The sense of shame and guilt would never leave her, ever. Not to mention the knowledge that she'd murdered the best thing that had ever happened to her.
So instead you're going to force Shego to kill YOU? You're going to stick HER with a lifetime of loneliness and shame? Even if you don't kill her, you're ending her life anyway!
Kim clutched her stomach. She felt the urge to vomit. She was damned either way, but she COULDN'T kill the woman she…
Kim stopped breathing for a moment.
Loved. Yes, she couldn't deny it. Now was the time for honesty. She loved Shego. She was deeply, totally in love with Shego.
Oh, NOW I get this epiphany! Why couldn't I have realized this an hour ago when I could have TOLD her?! Not now, when it just makes this harder for me!
Shego, I love you! I need you to go on living!… don't think I can push that button!
Shego scoffed. Where had THAT thought come from? She didn't love Kim. Kim didn't love her either. Love wasn't for warriors like them.
One concept warriors DID understand was the idea of the honorable suicide. While the thought never exactly appealed to Shego, she could understand why some people might be driven to it. Compared to a long life without freedom, without excitement, without the thrill of the chase and the fight, what was so bad about death?
Not that Shego was technically going to kill herself.
She'd just sit there until Kimmie pressed her button.
Even as she'd searched her trap for some means of escape, Shego had understood on the deepest level. She wasn't going to push the button. Period.
Shego would never find another person like Pumpkin, someone who was her equal, someone who could make her feel so alive in the heat of combat, or in the bedroom. Kimmie was her double, her match. They were meant to be together forever.
And even if there WAS another like her out there (which there wasn't), this mythical person wouldn't want her back. Since birth, no one had ever wanted Shego. For Kim to spend all those months fighting past Shego's defenses, to get Shego to open up to her and return the feelings she offered freely - that was an absolute first.
Shego was sure it would be the last too.
So she had no incentive to push the button. Even if she lived, her life would be empty and hollow.
Kimmie needed to live anyway. SOMEONE had to stop Junior and save the planet, not to mention everyone at the Space Center. Who should that be, Shego or Princess? Please, like THAT was a hard question.
Shego scratched her chin. Kim had to understand all of this too. Shego didn't matter in the greater scheme of things. Certainly not compared to her compulsion to save the day.
So why hadn't she pushed the button yet?
Shego had an idea why, and she hoped it wasn't true. “Kimmie,” she muttered to herself. “If you got some stupid idea that you're in love with me, I'll break out of here just so I can kick your ass!”
Okay, yeah, soulmate, nobody in the world like her, meant to be together forever, only person to want her back… Shego could see why Kim might get that idea, but…
Her head dropped forward.
You're gonna be dead in a few minutes, so if you can't admit it now, you're just being stupid, Shego!
“Okay, fine,” Shego whispered. “I love her, all right? I love Kim Possible. She's mine, I love her, I'm just a big ol’ softie.”
She grunted. She was already sorry she said it. If she could take it back -
…h, Kimmie, I wish I could just kiss you and tell you one time. ONE TIME!
Shego still wasn't pushing that button, though. So Kimmie had better wake up and do it.
She ignored the tear running down her cheek.
Betty Director sympathized with the pain the Possibles were feeling over the “death” of Vivian Porter, and she wished she could share her suspicion that Vivian was in fact alive. But they were surrounded by WEE agents, and there was simply no way she could tell them without being overheard. So she allowed her friends to suffer while she sat silently, considering her options.
No one person in that room - in the entire Space Center, in fact - was better equipped than her to assess her captors’ strengths and weaknesses. Dealing with her brother's messes had occupied much of her career with GJ. Even when she assumed control of Global Justice and all operations, she had considered Sheldon a personal responsibility and treated him as such.
Of course, it had been years since she'd found herself facing Gemini's men. WEE itself, it seemed, had been out of action for as long as she had. Her experience might no longer be accurate. Still, she had to work with what she had.
For most WEE agents, their biggest weakness was their indecisiveness in a crisis. Agents who failed Gemini often found themselves swallowed up by the ground below their feet. And Gemini's definition of “failure” was notably fluid. So when WEE plans began to fall apart, the agents in charge sometimes became almost paralyzed when faced with a decision. Any initiative they took could get them killed. And of course, their underlings were no better.
That kind of hesitation, even if it only lasted for five or ten seconds, could be valuable, especially if Betty could count on it. The question was, could she?
Ironically, though, Betty understood that her presence was as much a hindrance for the hostages as it was an advantage. Steve and the Possible family were all old enough to either defend themselves or flee when the chance arose. Tommy, however, could do neither. His welfare had to be her first priority, and she wasn't confident that she could engage their guards AND protect his all-too-fragile life. No, she wasn't confident at all.
“How about I hold him?”
Betty glanced to her right, startled. Steve's suggestion had surprised her. “I'm sorry?”
“You've been holding your son in your arms for hours,” Colonel Barkin pointed out. “You must be tired.”
“You know how to hold him?” Betty asked dubiously. “I didn't realize that was something they taught in Special Forces now.”
“I've been assigning sacks of flour to my students for enough years,” Barkin replied dryly.
A little hesitantly, Betty handed her son over.
“Handsome boy. Big too,” Barkin murmured as he held Thomas up and looked him in the eyes. “Too big for your mother to hold,” he added much more quietly, “if she's going to watch for her opportunity to wipe the floor with these goons.”
Betty caught her breath. But as far as she could tell, no one had heard him. “I guess while I was watching them, you were watching me,” she muttered.
He coughed. “Well, there are much worse things to look at,” he said.
Gemini shook the squeaky toy invitingly. “Come on out, Pepe. There's no need to hide under the bed. No one out here is going to say those nasty words again.”
The miniature dog looked at him reprovingly, as if to remind him that he hadn't protected Pepe from repeated exposures to the dreaded “Global Justice”. Then it shrank further back, refusing his entreaties.
Gemini hissed. As if the indignities of the past hour weren't enough, even his DOG spurned him now!
Señor Senior Junior's presence had been much more tolerable when he was merely Gemini's “financier”. Then he'd been - all right, perhaps a bit of a godsend. While Junior's comments had been exaggerated earlier, it wasn't entirely inaccurate to suggest that WEE had become a shadow of its former self. That it had probably dropped off GJ's radar entirely.
Undoubtedly if his sister were still in charge, she'd make GJ care. That didn't improve his mood.
Gemini resented suggestions that he had become a villain to spite his sister. It had been his intention from the outset to take over the world. He believed Betty had become a GJ agent to spite HIM.
If only she had accepted what had seemed perfectly obvious to him. She was born four minutes after he was. That made him older. Ergo, he was the older brother.
I mean, really, how much more logical did he need to be?!
Older brothers were looked up to by their younger sisters. Older brothers protected their little sisters. Older brothers were NOT systematically thwarted by them! Sometimes he even felt a pang - if she'd only gotten with the program, she could have become his protégé. With her talents, she would have had a lock on the Agent Alpha position for all time! No holes in the floor for her!
Well, unless she did something REALLY foolish.
Like allow herself to be shoved out the door by Global Justice. It was bad enough when GJ no longer considered you a worthy adversary. It was worse when it no longer mattered. When Betty left, the organization lost some of its “magic” for him.
Now she was a part of Team Possible. THEY were his true enemy now. He'd had all of them in his grip. Betty herself, a gun pointed at her head, and all he had to do was give the word and she'd be gone!
(Apparently she had a son now. Why wasn't he told he was now Uncle Gemini?!)
Gemini stopped. Team Possible was supposed to be his true enemy now. For the moment, however, that role was occupied by the bastard usurper Junior, who had STOLEN what was rightfully his by throwing money about!
He sat on his bed and seethed. Oh yes, when Team Possible escaped - as he expected they would - and Junior was brought low, who would be waiting to seize the reins and turn the tables on ALL his hated rivals?
Sheldon Director would.
The future Worldwide Emperor of Evil.
“I swear,” Monique grumbled. “When we get back to Earth, Shego's teaching me all this shit. Picking locks, hotwiring, hacking - next time I'm locked up somewhere, I'm getting myself out!”
Monique spun around. “Who's there?” she asked.
Hearing a tiny metallic tapping as well, Monique raised her head and vaguely saw a pink shape on top of the vent covering the airshaft. “Ruby?” she asked, recognizing the mole rat's voice as being slightly higher than Rufus’.
“Yay, uh-huh!” the naked mole rat said enthusiastically.
Monique exhaled in relief. “Ruby, there's a lever on the wall over there,” she said, pointing in the right direction. “Any way you can navigate your way over and pull it?”
“Youbetcha!” Ruby retreated back into the ventilation.
“Those little rodents sure do come in handy,” Monique thought as she went to try to get Yori's attention without warning the guards.
Her attempts failed, however, as Yori's cell was empty.
Monique gaped. “Oh, come ON! She gets out before me, AND she doesn't tell me? That girl is just wrong.”
Looking over at the wall where the lever was, Monique saw a ventilation opening not far away. Unfortunately, both guards were too close for Ruby to get anywhere near it without being spotted.
She leaned against the forcefield and rested one hand on her hip. “Oh, boys?” she cooed. “Got a minute?”
“I dunno - “
“Chill, man, she ain't getting through that barrier,” the other guard said as he headed over. The first guard followed after him.
“That's right, boys, I could never get through here,” Monique said. “Not like her.”
Both guards turned and stared as they realized, just as Monique had, that Yori's cell was empty. “What the fuck - we've got an emergency!” the second guard said. “Get on the intercom!”
“Right,” the first guard replied, turning to run for the stationwide communication interface. He took a few steps and then skidded to a halt.
Ruby waved cheerfully at him before she jumped and stomped on the lever, pushing it to the OFF position.
“Shit, run!” the first guard cried out. “The forcefield's been shut off!”
“Do tell,” Monique said as her left foot launched forward and collided with the back of the second guard's head…
Just as Yori dropped down from the ceiling of her cell where she'd hidden, and buried her left foot in the guard's stomach.
The guard bent over like the corner of a rectangle, then crumpled to the floor as both women drew their feet back.
“Thank you, Monique-san, for getting them to notice my ‘absence’ and drop the barrier,” Yori said calmly.
“Thank the mole rat,” Monique replied, wrenching the fallen guard's helmet off and hurling it at the guard who was still standing. It bounced off his head with a very loud thunk, dropping him.
“I will be sure to do so,” Yori said. “After we have located Kim-sama and the others.”
Monique started dragging one of the guards into her old cell. “Probably she'll find us first, unless Ron does.”
“I am most disappointed, Kim Possible.”
Kim didn't try to turn her head. The viewscreen on which Junior's face had appeared earlier had become blocked by the ceiling long ago. The ceiling was too low for her to turn her head anyway. “Right, because this hasn't worked out for you at all,” she said, her voice hoarse.
“Why have you not pushed the button?” Junior's disembodied voice asked.
“You mean, before Shego pushes it?” Kim asked sarcastically.
“If you do not push the button in the next minute, you will die. If Shego doesn't push it either, you BOTH will die.”
“And then Ron kicks your ass. World still saved.”
“I thought this would be a lot more fun,” Junior complained.
“Then I guess you really are the head of the new Acceptable Family,” Kim retorted. She had to believe Ron, Monique, and Yori would pull it off in the end. Because she couldn't push the button, not without ripping her own heart out. Shego, I wish you would push your button and live. But you're not - could you maybe love me too?
Junior sighed. “It's not what I had in mind. I guess I'll just have to decide for you.”
Kim blinked. “What?”
“I will have to open one of the doors for you, if you are so stupid that you can't save yourself.”
“Open Shego's. Junior, please, open Shego's!” Kim found herself pleading.
Junior chuckled now. “Such lack of dignity, Ms. Possible!” There was a pause. “But no, I believe I shall save you instead. Shego, well…uess she'll know you chickened out at the last second.”
Kim shook. “No, you can't do that, no, NO!”
“Sorry, Ms. Possible,…gh, what is this now?”
“Junior?” Kim called out when he didn't finish. “Junior?!”
Two agonizing minutes ticked by as Kim realized the ceiling had stopped moving, just before it would begin to squeeze her body against the floor.
Then, without warning, the ceiling began to rise. And the door began to open.
“No,” Kim whispered. “He didn't - she can't be - oh God, Shego, Shego, NOOOO!!!“
To be continued…