Junior was gloating inside. Kim's naked plea to spare Shego's life and take her own, while contrary to his original expectations, had been most satisfying. Obviously the heroine wanted him to relieve her of the burden of making a choice! Too bad for her that he'd known from the beginning that Shego was not meant to survive this encounter.
Neither was Ms. Possible. The Acceptables had trained with each other since their cloning. More importantly, WEE scientists had found a cure for their intensely self-destructive sibling rivalry, which Junior had witnessed firsthand, and which had led to their demise. At last the name “Team Acceptable” was a more accurate label.
Yvonne especially had expressed her desire to destroy Ms. Possible. Junior believed it had something to do with her being the only female Acceptable. John had been more interested in killing Shego, but ah well, that was why they'd been brainwashed to be loyal to him as well as to each other.
“Such lack of dignity, Ms. Possible!” Junior said into the monitor. Then he paused a moment, pretending to weigh her request. He glanced at the second monitor. There Shego too was out of view now. He wondered what she was thinking now that the ceiling had stopped so close to snuffing out her life. “But no, I believe I shall save you instead. Shego, well…uess she'll know you chickened out at the last second.”
“No, you can't do that, no, NO!”
The silly girl probably wouldn't even be able to defend herself against the Acceptables! “Sorry, Ms. Possible,…
At that moment Junior was interrupted by a chime alerting him that someone had entered his quarters.
“Ugh, what is this now?” he griped, rising from the computer console.
Then Junior started. “Father?”
“Junior, this man says you wished to see me,” Senor Senior Senior said, gesturing to the uniformed WEE agent next to him. “I do not appreciate you sending me to my rooms and then calling for me again. Of course our time together is important, but - “
“Silence, father. You!” Junior demanded, pointing at the underling. “Why have you brought my father? I gave no such order!”
“Well, uh, sir,” the agent said, nervously fiddling with his wristwatch, “I was told - sir! The prisoner's escaping!” he suddenly blurted out, pointing at the monitors behind him.
Junior whirled around. Impossible! He took his eye off the fool girl for three seconds and -
“Explain yourself,” Junior said slowly, seeing nothing on either monitor to suggest anything had gone wrong. “I am losing my patience with you.”
Turning back, Junior froze as he found himself with the tip of a Japanese sword at his throat. The blade quivered, as if the metal itself wanted nothing more than to press forward and tear out his jugular. His eyes flicked briefly to his left, where he'd left the sword confiscated from the Japanese spy along with all the other weapons and gadgets - still there!
His eyes returned to the WEE agent. The sword had to have come from somewhere, but he was positive the man had been unarmed!
“I suppose Gemini sent you,” Junior said, bored. “Evidently some of his men still have incredibly misplaced feelings of loyalty towards him. I can reward you for putting the sword down. Gemini would just promote you to Agent Bi-Epsilon or some such nonsense.”
The agent ripped his visor off, and Junior became decidedly less bored as he found himself looking into Stoppable's eyes.
“You asked me to explain myself,” Ron said. “The prisoners are escaping because you're going to let them out of whatever deathtrap you have them in. Was that clear enough for you?”
“You are not going to kill me,” Junior said, licking his lips. Why did his father not DO something? “Team Possible does not kill.”
“You might want to re-evaluate that, considering all the sharp and pointy weapons we brought along with us,” Ron replied.
Junior looked again to his left. Ninja sword, throwing stars, plasma gloves with claw tips… okay, those could all be construed as lethal weaponry. “All right, all right,” Junior whined. “It is only a silly little deathtrap. I am sure they can escape whenever they want.”
Had the sword become slightly longer? Junior swore the young man hadn't moved a muscle, and yet he felt the tip of the sword pricking his neck and drawing a bead of blood.
“I cannot free them without turning around, Stoppable,” Junior pointed out.
“Do it, then,” Ron said.
Junior felt the sword pull back JUST slightly, allowing him to lean backwards and turn to the computers again. Any relief he felt was tempered by the sensation of the sword tip now pressed against his back. He'd been told (by John Acceptable, many times) that disemboweling was incredibly painful and not at all a quick death.
It took just a push of three buttons. One to raise the ceiling in Kim's cell and open the door, one to do the same in Shego's… and one to summon twelve guards to his rooms at top speed. As for the ladies, well, Kim Possible was evidently psychologically worn out. Still outnumbered three-to-two, still lacking Shego's plasma, they were doomed to lose anyway.
“There, you see?” Junior asked, gesturing to the monitors. “The ceilings that would have squished them? Going up. The doors that were closed? Opening. Your friends are free. Perhaps you could put the sword down now? “
“Perhaps we could talk about the hostages in the Space Center first?” Ron suggested.
“I would like to discuss that further as well, Junior,” Senor Senior Senior interjected. “Junior, villains do not kidnap the hero's parents. Perhaps a sibling or a lover, but still, this is what sidekicks are for. A sidekick keeps the hero’s loved ones safe by becoming a more visible target. I believe that is why the name most heroes use for sidekicks is ‘insurance’, much in the way villains often refer to them as ‘bait’, according to the glossary on page 349 of…”
Junior closed his eyes and sighed. “Top speed” couldn't be fast enough.
Shego opened her eyes and turned her head. She was sure it had been more than thirty minutes. Yet not only had the ceiling stopped moving just as it first brushed her dark hair, but now it was going up.
Her first alarmed thought was that her button had been pushed by mistake. She glanced over, but the button was several inches from any part of her body, and the ceiling hadn't been low enough to depress the button itself.
Maybe this whole thing had been some kind of sick test by Junior, Shego wondered. Maybe he wanted Shego to push the button first so Kim would think she betrayed her. Maybe the ceiling was never meant to go down to the floor all along.
She was going to have a talk with Kimmie after this. Why she didn't push the button when the world was at stake…
Shego was unable to fight the glow in her chest. She couldn't do it! Even with the world at stake, she couldn't betray me!
Oh hell, you wanted a chance to tell her you love her once - and damn it, you ALWAYS get what you want!
Shego stumbled to her feet and turned toward the opening door.
“Pumpkin,” Shego breathed, feeling a shard of ice slide into her heart as she heard Kim's agonized scream. No, it couldn't be - was she being let out so she could hear the trap crushing Kimmie to death?
“Kimmie!!!” Shego cried out, dashing out of her cell. She stopped short, however, as she encountered her three least-favorite people yet again.
“Awww,” John Acceptable said nastily. “Were those tortured screams for me? It's been such a long time too.”
Her throat too raw for more screams, Kim just wanted to curl into a ball as she heard the ceiling rise again. Shego, she thought. She's gone. She died - and she probably died hating me… Tears spilled down her cheeks as she wrapped her arms around her body.
Kim's head darted up. “Shego?” she whispered. “You're - “
She leapt to her feet and ran as fast as she could. She didn't get far, though, as she was frozen in place by what she saw.
The Acceptables were waiting. That this had been Junior's plan wasn't a surprise.
The surprise was seeing Shego, very much alive, at the other end of the room.
“Shego,” Kim said softly.
Shego's eyes caught hers, and the former villainess visibly exhaled with relief. “Princess,” she said.
Don turned around. “Look sharp, guys. Looks like we've got both of them.”
“I thought Junior said we'd only be fighting one,” Yvonne said.
“I don't give a shit,” John snarled. “I'll take on TEN if it means getting Shego!”
“I love you, Pumpkin,” Shego said, not even paying attention to the siblings any more.
Kim gasped. “Shego, I love you too,” she said, the words spilling from her lips almost before she realized it.
Shego smiled widely. “You're just as soft as I am, I guess, Kimmie.”
“This is cute,” Yvonne sneered, “but any lovers’ reunion will have to wait until after you've dealt with US.”
Kim and Shego looked at the Acceptables, then back at each other. Yvonne was right. The clones had to be dealt with before they could take each other in their arms. Kim wanted nothing more at that moment, but she had to wait because of these stupid fakes.
And Kim could see Shego was smoldering for the same reason. “I tell Kimmie I love her,” she said, “and you three think you're going to ruin the moment?! You have never SEEN what we're capable of until right fucking NOW!“
Kim couldn't have said it better herself.
“Look,” Junior growled, “it was Gemini's idea to kidnap her parents, all right? And he thought he was still in charge at the time!”
“Dude, you were in charge all along,” Ron retorted.
“Yes, but it had to be announced at the perfect moment!” Junior complained. “Having Team Possible present was necessary. I needed the right audience!”
“He has a point,” Senor Senior Senior admitted.
The door burst in at that point, and ten WEE agents plowed through, each drawing a gun and pointing it right at Ron's head. Ron brought up his sword defensively, but then saw it was useless and lowered it again.
“Finally,” Junior sighed. “That button was supposed to summon you with all possible speed! What have you been doing all this time?!”
“This station is shaped like a circle, sir,” one of the men said. “Whereas the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”
Junior gave a dramatic sigh. “In the future, let's put more straight lines in my secret bases, all right?” He lowered his hand and looked at Ron, a crafty smile appearing on his face. “Well, sidekick, or insurance, or bait, or whatever you’re called, it was a good effort, but you have lost. And for nothing! As we speak the Acceptable children are disposing of the oh-so-special Kim Possible and Shego.”
Ron gaped at him. “Acceptables? There's MORE of them?!”
“No, just the three. I cloned them.”
“They didn't torture you enough? Huh, I guess all those weird stories are right. People DO learn to enjoy being dominated.”
“They SERVE me now!” Junior shot back, scandalized.
“Well, I guess it’s nice that you take turns, but still too weird for me.”
Junior sneered. “Your witty remarks are as much help as an evil laugh to you now.”
“I think that was uncalled for, Junior,” Senor Senior Senior said. “Besides being something every villain needs, an evil laugh can be good for the diaphragm.”
“And NOW,” Junior said, ignoring his father, “I will bring up on the monitors for you, visual proof that Team Possible is officially finished, and that I am the new master of Earth!”
With theatrical grandness Junior swiveled about and pushed a few more buttons on the console. The picture on the monitors changed from the rooms in which Kim and Shego had been imprisoned in, to the room they were in now.
“And don't you ever, ever, EVER try laying a hand on my Kimmie again!” Shego snarled. She punctuated every use of the word “ever” by bashing Yvonne's head into the floor.
Junior stared in disbelief.
“Wow,” Ron said.
Not only were Kim and Shego winning against superior numbers, but it wasn't even close.
“Those moves,” Junior whispered.
“Yeah,” Ron said. “You must have made them really mad. KP's in the zone right now.”
At that moment, “being in the zone” seemed to mean a kick delivered with such force to Don Acceptable's kneecap that every man in Junior's quarters heard bones break. Ron heard more than one person gasp.
Ron had watched them spar with each other dozens of times, and one thing that was common in their fights was a shared sense of joy. Fighting each other energized them in a way that nothing else ever could. When they sparred, Kim and Shego practically shone.
There was no joy on the monitor, though. Today (or was it tonight? Ron still wasn’t clear on that one) Kim and Shego were disposing of the Acceptable clones with a ruthless, methodical, even murderous efficiency. Their economy of movement and the force with which they delivered their attacks meant a few quick blows delivered with savage power. The biggest surprise was that Kim appeared to be the more brutal of the two.
Several guards winced as Kim flipped Yvonne Acceptable over her back - and Yvonne’s face met Shego's foot in midair.
“Ooh,” Senor Senior Senior said sympathetically as a brutal arm chop from Shego to Don's Adam's apple left him gagging.
Every person in the room sucked in breath and put a hand over their crotch when Kim drove her knee into John's private parts with such force that he was knocked several inches into the air.
“I'd say you made them extremely mad,” Ron added. He looked at his “captors”, who he suddenly pitied. “No telling how long they'll stay like that, either.”
Junior's face was pale white - both from shock and rage. “Every available man,” he hissed. “Gemini is to take every available man to take care of Kim Possible and - “
“Senor Senior Junior!”
Junior snarled at the intercom. “What?” he demanded.
“Sir, the prisoners have escaped!” another of his minions reported.
“I know that,” he said with exaggerated patience. “I'm watching Ms. Possible and Shego on my monitor right now, and - “
“No, sir, I mean the other prisoners! The blonde-haired man, the African-American woman, the Asian girl - they're all gone!”
“Booyah,” Ron murmured.
Junior snapped at that. He clubbed Ron at the wrist, causing him to drop the Lotus Blade in surprise, before delivering a backhand to Ron’s face. “I would not sound so excited, Mr. Stoppable,” Junior said coldly. “Despite what he thinks, you are not a free man. I have new orders,” he announced.
“Four of you,” Junior said, “will take this man to the nearest airlock, and you will expel him from my home. See how much he likes the vacuum of space!”
“Could I take the Hoover vacuum instead?”
“You,” Junior continued, ignoring Ron as he randomly selected a fifth guard, “will notify Gemini that he is to collect all personnel working on non-essential tasks, and sweep the base for the African girl and the Japanese spy. The rest of you will proceed to where Kim Possible and Shego were being held. You are now tasked with bringing these women down. Shoot to kill, take no prisoners, understand? The Villain’s Handbook is officially closed!”
“Yes, sir!” they barked as one.
“In the meantime,” Junior said, “I will be in the main control room. I think it's time to take the moon out for a ‘spin’.”
“Junior,” his father began to say.
Junior cut him off. “You will stay here,” he said. He pushed a series of buttons on the console. “You are now cut off from the controls. You cannot interfere in anything on this station now. I will collect you when this matter is settled.” He stopped. “And speaking of fathers… it is time I had Agent Kappa,” he said, giving Ron an evil smile, “do away with our hostages in Middleton, now that Kim Possible has gone back on her word.”
“You won't succeed,” Ron said angrily as two men held his arms behind his back.
Junior’s guards followed closely behind him as exited, leaving Senior behind by himself.
Well, not QUITE by himself.
A small pink head poked out of Senior's jacket outside pocket. “Que?”
“Ricardo, I believe I am at a crossroads,” Senior said impassively.
“My son is only doing what I asked of him. I wanted him to make a real effort for the first time in his life, to become a true villain. And so he has. Can I really betray him, even if it means betraying the very women who are responsible for giving him his life and his freedom back?”
Ricardo shrugged. Obviously the question was beyond him.
“But then, perhaps that only means that I am as guilty as he. If I had done things differently…” Senior sighed and moved across the room to the box of equipment that Gemini had confiscated from Team Possible. He picked up the pair of gloves that Junior had left lying beside it. “Ricardo, I have a favor to ask of you. I need you to return these to their owner. You are familiar with her, correct? The young woman with the pale skin?”
“Blanca chica!” Ricardo agreed. “Shay-go!”
“Excellent,” Senior said. He gave the gloves to the naked mole rat before taking Ricardo out of his pocket and placing him on the desk. “Ms. Shego came with several friends. If you can find any of them, please go to them. I am sure they will help you.”
“Hoh-kay,” the rodent said.
Senior rubbed his pet's head. “You are a credit to your species, Ricardo. I feel vindicated that the naked mole rat will one day become America's number-one pet - if there are still Smarty Marts on Earth when this enormous mistake has ended.” He sighed. “Now go,” he added.
Ricardo grinned and waved before he scampered away. He climbed up the wall and disappeared into the nearest air duct, a flash of green and black trailing behind him.
Rummaging through the contents of the box, Senior was intrigued by one item in particular. “Interesting craftsmanship,” he murmured, pulling it out.
Then he headed back toward the computer. “And now, Junior, since you have so thoughtfully given me the opportunity, I have one last bit of - correspondence to take care of.”
Shego reluctantly pulled away from Kim. “Much as I'd like to continue,” she said, “this place is going to be swarming with dead meat any minute.”
“You're right,” Kim agreed. “I just…an't believe you said you love me.”
“Yeah, well, don't hold your breath waiting for a repeat,” Shego said gruffly.
Kim grinned. “Oh, trust me, Shego. You're going to enjoy being wrong about that.” She looked around. “What do we do with them?” she asked, gesturing toward the Acceptable siblings.
“Fuck ‘em,” Shego said. “They're not waking up any time soon. When this is all over we'll just ship them off to prison along with everyone else.” She smiled grimly. “I always thought they got off easy. But now they can serve those life sentences after all.”
Kim nodded. “Sounds like a great idea to me. How about we get out of here then?”
“We COULD just wait for the guards to show up. It's not like they have a chance against us.”
“No, we need to find Junior and Gemini right away,” Kim said. “We can't just sit here and deal with their flunkies while they're flooding the Earth and pointing guns at my parents’ heads.”
Shego looked a bit guilty. “Sorry,” she said. “I was so worried about you, I almost forgot about everything else.”
“That sounded almost romantic,” Kim replied, blushing.
“Yeah, yeah,” Shego said as they ran for the one exit.
“Speaking of your family,” Shego added as they hurried on, “how the hell is Junior staying in contact with the Space Center anyway? We're on the other side of the moon, for Christ's sake. No way can they receive radio transmissions here.”
“I feel like we've had this conversation before,” Kim said. “Fat lot of good it did us.”
Shego shrugged. “Maybe we should skip the thinking part, find Junior, and just destroy anything nearby that even looks like a communications relay? Now that we’ve escaped and all, I have a bad feeling Junior may view that as breaking our agreement.”
“Me too,” Kim said quietly. “It’s not a bad idea, but do you even know where the docking station is from here?”
“Maybe we’ll get lucky,” Shego said.
Kim and Shego skidded to a halt as several guards emerged from a doorway and pointed at them.
“And maybe we won’t,” Shego muttered.
Agent Delta turned. “Agent Tri-Phi, what is it?” he asked.
“Agent Delta, I have new orders from Senor Senior Junior. Kim Possible and her team have escaped. Senor wishes for us to meet up with Gemini at his quarters, and begin sweeping the station for the escapees,” Agent Tri-Phi told him.
Delta sighed. Gemini would be absolutely insufferable, probably in a titanic sulk, now that he'd been supplanted in the WEE hierarchy by Senor Senior Junior. Even so, it was preferable to the current situation. When asked why he had not performed his duties, he could claim with a straight face that he and his detail had been called away before they could finish.
Which would be a lie, because he wasn't getting anywhere in his attempt to force entry into Team Possible's spacecraft. The highly advanced ship had repulsed all tries to board it. The hatch was impervious to everything his men threw at it, and anyone who came within three feet of the door received a neural shock that left him incapacitated for fifteen minutes.
He shook his head. As long as WEE had all of Team Possible in custody, gaining access to the ship wasn't important. The ship wasn't going anywhere. But of course, now that the heroes had escaped, preventing from reboarding their craft and leaving the space station seemed like a priority. So naturally, the ship was to be left completely unguarded.
Then again, Agent Delta didn't really want to be between Kim Possible and the spaceship with just six men. That would be as crazy as, say, the Germans attacking Pearl Harbor.
“Move out, double time,” he told his underlings.
No one argued.
Sappho watched them leave. “Finally,” she muttered. “Men. Ugh.”
Then she calmly detached herself from the station's docking mechanism and flew away, well before anyone could notice. There was something she wanted to look into.
To be continued…