“So why exactly do you owe Shego five bucks?” Kim asked Ron as they were walking from the parking lot to the main barn.
“Oh, well, I felt, I don’t know, I guess a little short changed that I hadn’t been framed yet,” Ron answered sheepishly. “So SG bet me a week of Bueno Nacho that we would get another call today and that I would be the suspect. If I lost, I owed her five bucks and a week with no Bueno Nacho. It looks like she won, so I owe her five bucks.”
“And no Bueno Nacho,” Kim said, liking this bet quite a bit. She liked Bueno Nacho all right, but Ron’s obsessive fascination with it made it a more frequent choice than she would have preferred.
“I know,” Ron said wistfully. “It is going to be tough. I mean we will have to go to Mac Ronalds or El Hamburgesa del Rey or Clown in the Cube or Barby’s…”
“Listing every not Bueno Nacho place in Middleton, Stoppable?” Shego interrupted.
Ron nodded. “Pretty much,” he said amiably.
“How did you know we would get another call?” Kim asked interestedly.
“It is what a criminal would do, and in spite of your better efforts, I still think like one,” Shego said dryly.
“Yeah, right,” Kim pfft’ed. “That’s why you went out of your way to cheer up Ron.”
“He was pissy and whiny,” Shego protested. “I had to shut him up somehow.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Kim sniffed. “I think someone is turning nice.”
“Yeah, keep talking like that, Pumpkin, and I will show you ‘nice’,” Shego promised.
“Try it, Junior,” Kim offered with a smile.
Ron could see where this was going and decided to forestall it by asking a question. “So, um, ladies, do we think that SG was right because she thinks like a criminal or do we think she was right because whoever is trying to frame her knows she thinks like a criminal and was trying to divert attention from his or her own criminal activities by exploiting SG’s way of thinking and making it seem like she could be the one responsible, thus causing suspicion and perhaps division among the members of Team Possible?” he asked without taking a breath.
Kim and Shego forgot about their power struggle to stare at him, which had been Ron’s objective all along. He could see the wheels turning in both heads as they mentally reviewed what he had said, decided it had made some sense and then considered the answer. “I don’t know, Ron,” Kim finally answered. “That’s a good point, though.”
“Thanks, KP,” Ron replied, as they were approached by a dark-haired woman.
“Team Possible?” she inquired politely.
“Yes,” Kim confirmed. “I am Kim Possible and this is Ron and Shego.” Rufus coughed exaggeratedly from Ron’s pocket. “And Rufus,” she amended.
The woman smiled, apparently amused by Rufus’ antics. “It is a pleasure to meet all of you,” she said, smiling at each one of them in turn, including Rufus. “I just wish it could have been under more pleasant circumstances. My name is Yi Quine, and I am in charge of the stables around here.”
“Did you guys really lose a cow?” Ron interjected incredulously before anyone else could say anything. Kim glared at him for his lack of tact.
“Yes,” Yi replied sadly, not offended by the direct question. “Bev was our matron; she was by far the oldest cow we had here. She was sick and didn’t have much longer. I really don’t know who would want to steal her,” Yi explained, her dismay, anger and sadness at the theft apparent in the tone of her voice.
“Could we see her stall?” Shego asked gently, not wanting to upset Yi further. People who hurt animals for no good reason pissed her off, and anyone who stole a sick cow had to be a dickhead. The sooner they could see the stall, the sooner they could start tracking said dickhead down.
“Of course, but there is something else you should probably see first,” Yi said soberly. “There was an incident in the sheep pen as well.”
“Another theft?” Kim asked.
“Worse,” Yi replied. “Please, some this way.”
Kim, Ron and Shego exchanged glances and quietly followed Yi out to the sheep paddock. Shego saw it first and scowled, alerting Kim who then followed the direction of her gaze. There, in the pasture, was something far worse than a stolen cow. It was a sheep, as one might expect in a sheep pasture, but unlike its grazing brethren, it was dead, its throat having been slit. Kim’s eyes widened in surprise and Ron, having at last seen where they were both looking, blanched.
“Sherman didn’t suffer, which I guess you could call a blessing,” Yi said quietly. “Whoever it was that slit his throat did it quickly. They drained him of his blood, but they left the rest of him intact.”
The three of them stood there for a few moments, Kim and Ron slightly shell shocked and Shego outright pissed. Kim put a hand on Shego’s arm to empathize, and the ring on her finger began to glow softly. Her necklace followed suit and Kim at last noticed how warm Shego felt to the touch, even though no plasma was visible. Shego felt the gentle touch on her arm and in spite of her better effort to stay really pissed off, it calmed her considerably. Her body temperature, sanity and pissed-off levels returned to normal.
“Were there any clues?” she heard Kim asking.
“No. The only thing we had to go by is the note that the murdering thief left,” Yi replied sourly.
“Hm,” Kim mused. She looked at Ron, who still looked a little green from the sight of poor Sherman. “Ron, why don’t you check out where Bev was and see if you can find any clues,” she suggested.
“Sure thing, KP,” Ron agreed wholeheartedly, eager to get out of that pasture. He looked around so he could get his bearings and get the hell out of there, but then realized he had no idea where he was going. “Um, could someone tell me where?” he asked.
“I’ll take you,” Yi volunteered. She turned to Kim. “I’ll be back to help you,” she said firmly.
“We would appreciate it,” Kim answered, knowing that Yi probably felt pretty helpless right now and was looking for a way to do something. Yi smiled and escorted Ron in the direction of the stables.
Kim turned, looking for Shego, and found her, not looking at Sherman as she had expected, but gazing over the pasture opposite to where he had been discovered. Shego was frowning, no real surprise there, but the frown was sad, not grumpy. Kim continued to observe her silently, thinking that even though she had known Shego for a while now and had gotten to see that Shego was a person, and a dryly funny one at that, these little glimmers of her humanity always kind of shocked her because they showed that Shego actually did care about things and people other than herself. She walked over slowly and placed her hand on Shego’s wrist. Shego turned and gave her a sad grin.
“Let’s go find the bastard who did this, Princess,” she offered.
“I’d love too,” Kim answered sincerely.
They searched the field and did a thorough but not exhaustive examination on Sherman, quitting only when it began to get dark outside. They found nothing, which is what they were actually expecting, because every piece of evidence they had found on this little caper had not been real but had been planted. They hooked back up with Ron, but he too, had found nothing, and so after several hours of searching, they had nothing but the note which the sheep assassin had left behind, a note that they had known about before they had come to the stables. They bid Yi farewell, promised to contact her if they came up with anything and went back to the Mansion to attempt to puzzle out the clues they had been collecting.
They settled down in the parlor, and Shego sat down on the couch briefly before realizing it would not be a good place to sit if she wanted to focus on anything but having inappropriate daydreams about Kimmie. That couch tended to absorb scents readily and it had to have been where Kimmie slept last night. She took the wingback chair by the fireplace instead. Kim reclaimed her couch and Ron and Rufus sat on the loveseat that was adjacent to the couch.
“So who are we dealing with, guys?” Kim asked.
“Drakken,” Shego stated.
“Drakken?” Kim echoed. “Do you really think he would kill anything?”
“I wouldn’t have thought it, no,” Shego admitted. “But, he has been known to take a wheelchair from a handicapped kid. And he is the only one besides the four of us who would get the Zorpox reference.”
“Seriously, Drakken?” Ron asked echoing Kim’s doubt.
“Yes, Drakken,” Shego insisted. “Did either of you work for him for several years?”
“No, but we’ve been foiling him for the last several years,” Kim countered.
Shego snorted in irritation. “Here, I’ll prove it to you. Give me that note,” she ordered. Kim shrugged and handed it over.
“To whom it may concern,” Shego began. “Because Team Possible has taken my family away from me and has forced me to go solo…” Here she paused. “This is the first it’s-the-blue-idiot clue. He always thought he and I were some sort of whacked-out family,” she explained. “It’s why he went to the cops after we hit the Field for the amulet.”
“Ah, that’s why he called the cops,” Kim commented. “I have always wondered about that.”
“Yeah, well, he’s an idiot. What else can you say,” Shego answered and then started to read again. “I have decided to not to take over the world, but to destroy it,” she continued. “You have no one but yourselves to blame, Team Possible, and when the world lies dying they will thank you for it. I am truly saddened that the girl I had always hoped to marry has chosen another over me and am sorely disappointed in her deviant choice.” Here Shego paused again. “This is where he is trying to be clever. He wants to make it seem like it is Ron talking about you, but he is actually trying to shame me and ‘the deviant choice’ is being on the good side.”
Here Ron piped up and Kim and Shego both waited uneasily, not knowing what he was going to say and hoping that the innuendo that was not that far removed from the truth would skip right over his head.
“Drakken wanted to marry you?” he asked interestedly. “Were you guys like a couple?”
“No,” Shego said flatly, quelling that line of thought instantly. “That’s where he was trying to be you say something you might say. We were the last two people on earth that would ever hook up.”
“Why?” Kim asked, her curiosity piqued.
“Well, for one, I think he is an idiot and for two, he is a classic closet case,” Shego replied.
“Drakken is gay?” Ron asked in astonishment.
“Queer as a three-dollar bill,” Shego quipped.
“Really,” Ron said in amusement. “That is so just, I don’t even know. Did you guys ever like the same guys? That would have been awkweird, I bet.”
“Um, no,” Shego said embarrassedly.
“You guys have a different type?” Ron persisted.
“You could say that,” Shego said noncommittally. “So, uh, I think we should get back to the note.”
“Yeah, let’s,” Kim agreed hurriedly.
Shego rattled off the last line. “You think you are all that but you are not, and I will prove it to you. Yours sincerely, Zorpox,” she quoted. “A closer like that and you don’t think it is Drakken?” Shego asked with a smirk.
“Okay, fine. When you read it like that it sounds like it does have to be Drakken,” Kim admitted. “I just don’t know, though. It seems way too obvious.”
“Path of least resistance, Pumpkin,” Shego advised, “Go with the easy way first.”
Kim sighed. “All right; so it is Drakken. What is he up to?”
“Dunno,” Shego admitted.
“Well, what has he stolen?” Kim asked. “Maybe if we organize it, it will start to make some sense.” She activated her Kimmunicator. “Wade, could you give us a list of what has been stolen in the last few days?’ she requested.
“Sure thing, Kim,” Wade replied amiably. They could hear the clicking of keys as he typed, and within a few seconds, a printed sheet emerged from the top of the Kimmunicator.
“Thanks, Wade,” Kim said. “I am going to keep the link active so you can join in.”
“I’ll be here and listening,’ Wade assured her.
“Let’s see,” Kim began. “We have a plant, we have a propulsion device, we have hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, vegan gelatin, sugar, salt, brewer’s yeast, brewer’s yeast extract, baking soda, caked soybean extract, vinegar, milk, a sick cow and um, sheep’s blood,” she finished, not wanting to include poor Sherman but feeling like she must.
“Ya know, if he had only hit the food plant, I would swear he was making some sort of sweet tofu dish,” Ron commented. “I can’t see where he could use the yeast, but he could be making something new and exciting.” His stomach audibly growled at the thought of food, and everyone in the room heard it. “Think we could send out for some Chinese or something?” he asked hopefully.
“I do have some stuff, but it is mostly for sandwiches and since all the bread I ever buy usually ends up as fungi fodder, I doubt it’s enough for dinner,” Shego mused. “Sure, Stoppable, grab the phone book and see what you…” Here she stopped and fell silent, her brows contracting.
“See what I can what?” Ron asked, wanting to clarify.
Shego shook her head to clear it. “See what you can find us for dinner,” she said distractedly, obviously still thinking. Ron grabbed the phone book underneath the phone and happily started flipping pages. “Nerdlinger, you still there?” Shego asked.
“Yup,” Wade responded. “What do you need?”
“See if you can find another term for vegan gelatin,” she requested, much to Kim’s intrigue; she really had no idea what light had come on in Shego’s head.
A few seconds passed and Wade had an answer. “It is also known as ‘agar,’” he informed her.
“Agar,” Shego repeated. “Damn, I haven’t heard that term in years,” she commented. “But that’s what I thought and I have an idea of what the bastard is up to,” she said.
“Care to share?” Kim asked, the tiniest bit peeved at being left out.
“He’s trying to grow some sort of bacteria,” Shego explained. “That is what everything with the exceptions of the plant, cow, sheep and propulsion thingy is for.”
“And you think this why?” Kim prompted, needing to know the logic behind what seemed to be a way out there theory.
“Well, Stoppable was the one who made me think of it,” Shego admitted. “When he asked for something to eat, I mentioned how all of my bread was ‘fungi fodder’. That got me thinking about most of that stuff can be used in plates that bacteria are grown on. And when he called the caked soybean extract ‘tofu’, it made me realize that scientists and normal people have different names for things. That is why I asked about the gelatin. Agar is used to harden the plates so that crap can grow on them.”
“And how do you know what bacteria are grown on?” Ron asked, having been distracted away from his food quest.
“Because there used to be a laboratory in the basement,” a familiar, yet unexpected voice informed them, scaring them out of their wits. “Junior here was fascinated by it when she was younger, and I have a charming story about the time she got into the crystal violet,” Mim explained further. She chuckled at their still astonished faces. “You all act as if you have never seen a ghost before,” she teased.
“How do you do that?” Shego protested in frustration. “I can feel Nana Sheila the instant she enters the room. You always pop in and scare the shit out of us.”
“I tend to be more of a finesse type of individual,” Mim replied. “Sheila prefers to make the grand entrance.” Shego rolled her eyes. “So what seems to be the mystery this time, ladies?” Mim politely inquired.
“Well, first there were a string of thefts around Middleton and we got this note that someone is planning on destroying the world,” Kim answered. “Shego thinks that Drakken is behind it and that he is trying to grow some sort of bacteria.”
“Drakken. You referring to Lipsky, correct?” Mim asked. Kim nodded. “Ah, I see. Well, what has been thieved?” Kim held up the list for her to read. Mim read it. “That is exactly what he is trying to do,” she agreed. She indicated the food stuffs, the chemicals and the disturbingly, the sheep’s blood. “These are all used to make bacterial media plates,” she said.
“They make plates with sheep’s blood?” Ron asked, a little creeped out by it.
“Of course,” Mim replied. “It is an indicator. Some types of bacteria break open red blood cells and you can see it in the media. Normally, you are not required to kill a sheep to obtain it, though.”
“The chemicals are used in the plates, too?” Kim asked.
“They are used to maintain the proper pH,” Mim affirmed.
Kim frowned. It still seemed a little out there for her. “Why go to the trouble of stealing this stuff from all of these different places when he could have just hit a biology supply warehouse?” she asked.
“Maybe trying to shake us off the trail?” Ron offered. “It seems like a good plan: steal from a bunch of really weird places and hope it takes up forever to figure out a connection. That buys you time to do what you need to. We would have known even quicker if head hit some sort of biology supply place.”
“True,” Kim allowed. “Okay, so if it is Drakken, and if he is trying to grow bacteria, what is he trying to grow?” she threw the question out there for anyone to answer.
“Incoming,” Shego muttered, and Kim gave her a questioning sideways glance. Within seconds, another ghostly white figure began to materialize in the room.
“I detest coming into a gathering late,” Sheila sighed once she was whole. “One never knows what has been going on in her absence.” She looked around the assembly. “So, what seems to be the situation?”
Kim looked at Shego and smiled, but didn’t say a word. Shego glowered at her. “That’s not ‘What’s the Sitch’, Princess,” she muttered.
“Sounded awfully like it to me,” Kim murmured back. Shego sighed.
“The ladies and Ronald have stumbled upon what looks to be a biological weapon plot,” Mim told her. “There is some question now, however, as to the identity of the microorganism to be used.”
Sheila looked at the list. “I agree with the general consensus that he is attempting to make bacterial media.” She looked at the rest of the items on the list. “And, if what he was after was the soil under the plant rather than the plant itself, then I would suspect that he is attempting to isolate Bacillus anthracis.”
“I thought the same,” Mim said, nodding. She shook her head. “That poor cow is not long for the world.”
“Hold on a second,” Shego ordered. “You think he is trying to culture anthrax?”
“Yes,” Sheila said simply.
Shego looked at the list and then at her Nanas. She thought about it for a couple more seconds and then sighed. “Fuck,” she said. “He is trying to culture anthrax.” She looked at Kim, who was trying to keep a smile off of her face. “What, Pink?” Shego challenged.
“When exactly were you planning to come out of the nerd closet?” Kim ribbed her, her smile growing bigger.
“I came out because I had to, Pumpkin. Keep teasing me about it and I will tell Rockwaller that you were playing with DNA-in-a-box,” Shego warned.
“You wouldn’t,” Kim stated, horrified.
“What was that saying I heard once? Something like ‘I have a web site and I am not afraid to use it’?” Shego taunted.
“Okay, okay,” Kim said, resigned. “We both get to stay in the nerd closet once this is over. But how did you guys know that he was trying to culture anthrax?”
“The dirt and the cow,” Shego said succinctly.
“That’s it?” Kim asked incredulously.
“Pretty much,” Shego shrugged. “Anthrax hangs out in the dirt; cows eat the dirt when they eat their grass and then anthrax hangs out in their digestive tract. When the cows die, the anthrax starts to multiply. It’s why people hurled dead cows over walls and shit in the Middle Ages.”
Kim looked at her mildly, one eyebrow slightly raised. She wanted to say what she was thinking, but she knew it would get her into trouble so she demurred. Luckily, Ron said it for her.
“Wow, your nerd closet must be made of iron, because, dude, you are a flaming nerd,” he laughed, knowing he was close to death but deciding to risk it anyway.
“Yeah, thanks for that, Stoppable,” Shego said grumpily. Kim giggled. Mim and Sheila pretended that they weren’t, but they pretty much were. “Anyway, you guys should be grateful; otherwise you would have been chasing your tails for months.”
“Which is probably what Drakken was hoping for,” Kim mused. “It is easy to get anthrax from the dirt?”
“Well, first you have to isolate Bacillus anthracis from the millions of other microorganisms in the soil, then the one you isolated has to have both pathogenicity islands, an event which is unbelievably rare. Then you would have to grow it up in great enough quantities to weaponize it and then you would have to disperse it,” Mim explained.
“So in other words, no,” Kim clarified.
“No,” Shego agreed. “It would probably be a pain in the ass.”
“But if we were going around in circles…” Kim began.
‘Or if we were all in jail because the crap evidence he had planted all over town…” Ron continued.
“He would have all the time he needs to get his plan going,” Shego finished.
“So when do we leave?” Kim asked, her face and eyes alight with the excitement of a world-saving mission.
“Tomorrow at noon?” Shego offered.
Kim frowned. “The world is at stake, Shego,” she said. “Don’t you think you could wake up early just this once?”
“It’s not that,” Shego said embarrassedly. “I have a midterm in English tomorrow and I would rather not miss it.”
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize,” Kim apologized. “Yeah, afternoon should be fine; we seem to have some time built into this one. You okay with that, Ron?”
“Yeah, that’s cool with me, KP,” Ron answered. When no one spoke for a few minutes, Ron decided to take the opportunity. “So now that we have figured everything out, can we have some dinner?” he asked.
“Sure, why not,” Shego said. “Order something.”
“Um, how about Bueno Nacho?” Ron offered.
“We had a bet, Stoppable,” Shego growled.
“Yeah, I know, SG, but technically, there was only the note at the crime scene and you couldn’t really tie Zorpox to me.”
Shego got up wordlessly and went out of the room for a few moments. When she came back, she flipped some pictures into Ron’s lap. He looked at them and coughed. “So how does Chinese sound?” he asked hurriedly, retrieving the phone book and flipping pages.
Kim got up from the couch and took the pictures from him. As she expected, there was Zorpox in all of his red-tighted glory, and from the photographs, there was no doubt as to his identity. She glanced at Shego, who shrugged. “You never know when shit is going to come in handy,” she said with a smirk. Kim shook her head and smiled back.
Ron did end up ordering Chinese food and the six of them spent the time chatting easily about everything and nothing. After a while, they started talking shop again and ironed out a few details about the following day, like when they were going to meet, and the fact that everyone should bring overnight stuff because they were going to hit the cabin for the night before they confronted Drakken the next day. The hours stretched on and after a while, Mim and Sheila excused themselves and faded out from view. Ron, too, decided he and Rufus should beat it, and followed soon after Mim and Sheila. Shego expected Kim to leave when Ron did, but to her mild surprise, Kimmie lagged behind.
“Something wrong, Princess?” Shego asked.
“Um, no,” Kim lied.
“You suck at lying, Pumpkin,” Shego stated tactlessly. “What is it?”
“I guess I am a little weirded out that Drakken was in my room, especially since we now think he is trying to culture anthrax,” Kim admitted.
The fact that Kim, the girl who could do anything and was afraid of nothing, was uneasy made Shego instantly concerned. It must really have been bothering Kimmie for her to say anything. Shego thought briefly. “You could stay here tonight, Pink,” she offered. “We have plenty of rooms so you could have a real bed, and you could boggart more of my clothing.”
Kim was very tempted by the kind offer, but considering what she had gone through today, she preferred to go home. “Thanks, Shego,” she answered, “but I would really like to sleep in my own bed and wear my own clothes.”
Shego thought some more. “I could stay in your room with you,” she suggested, not wild about being in the same room all alone with Kimmie for hours on end, but figuring that she had lived through worse torment.
“Um, no,” Kim said hastily, the thought of being in the same room all alone with Shego sending her thoughts elsewhere and rattling her nerves far worse than the thought of Drakken. “It was just temporary. I’ll be fine.”
“If you say so, Princess,” Shego said skeptically.
“I’ll be fine,” Kim repeated. She got up, stretched and headed for the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Shego.”
“See ya tomorrow, Pink,” Shego replied. Kim left and Shego found herself dissatisfied. Kimmie was still obviously on edge and she did not like it. She thought about how she could help, and suddenly a good resolution presented itself. She went to her bedroom and grabbed what she had thought of, then took off down the stairs at a dead run.
Kim kept looking over her shoulder the entire way home, and breathed a sigh of relief when she finally made it. She went to her room, fished out her pajamas and started to undress when a knock at her window nearly frightened her to death. “Shego!” she yelped after she had opened the window. “What in the world are you doing out there? Trying to give me a heart attack?”
“Well, back in the day it would have saved me a lot of problems, but no,” Shego quipped. “I brought you something.” She held out what was in her right hand.
“What is it?” Kim asked, reaching out to take it. She retrieved the well-worn stuffed animal gently, looked it over and respectfully brought it up to her chest. She looked at Shego with an indescribable expression, and Shego suddenly found herself embarrassed.
“Well, um, I knew you were still a little spooked by what happened, and Mongkut, um was always a big comfort to me when, um, I was little, so I um, thought he might, um do the same for you,” Shego said haltingly.
“Mongkut? Is that his name?” Kim asked.
“Um, yeah, he is a clouded leopard and they life in Thailand, so Nana Mim suggested the name,” Shego replied.
“I love him, Shego. Thank you,” Kim gushed, impulsively throwing her arms around Shego and hugging her tightly. Shego didn’t move for several seconds, but slowly but surely, her arms went around Kim and she returned the hug. They stayed that way for a while, until their bodies awakened them to the reality of how close they were. Then they panicked.
Shego was the first to pull back, but she did so slowly and easily, trying not to betray the anxiety she was feeling by moving suddenly. Kim followed suit, but also very slowly, so that all their mutual separation afforded them was the chance to look one another in the eyes and share the same breath; the rest of their bodies remained tightly embraced.
Shego knew she had to get out of here and she had to get out of here now or she and Kimmie would cross a line that she wasn’t sure she wanted to cross. She loosened her grip further on Kim and let her slip from her grasp, much to the disappointment of them both. Kim allowed herself to let go as well, wanting to take what she could see was right there but not feeling it was the right time.
“Night, Princess,” Shego said, exiting out through the window.
“Good night, Shego,” Kim replied. Still holding on to Mongkut, she shut the window. Shego gave one last wave of goodbye and then she disappeared. Kim watched her go and sighed. “You didn’t exactly make my life easier,” she informed her new stuffed leopard companion as she turned away from the window.
Down on the ground, Shego watched her retreat from the window. “Now why in the hell did I do that?” she grumbled as she made her way back home.