Somewhere in Southern Guyana, several hours later
“Um, that doesn’t look like a spiral building to me,” Ron commented as they looked up at what supposed to be the temple they looking for.
“That’s because it isn’t,” Kim replied. She checked the map again, but, no, this was the place that they were supposed to be. She frowned. “I really thought that the Temple of the Avenging Prism would be more…”
“…colorful?” Shego supplied helpfully.
“Yeah,” Kim answered. “It just seems way plain.” They stood there for a few moments more looking at the structure. It was made out of a dull gray stone and as Ron had noted, was not spiral but shaped like a huge cinder block. It was about as plain as one too, with no kind of ornamental anything on the outside.
“This has to be the place, though, right Kimmie?” Shego asked.
Kim shrugged. “It doesn’t look how Mim described it, but it is way too much of a coincidence that there is a building in the middle of a jungle exactly where Mim said it would be for this not to be the place,” she said.
“All right then; in we go,” Shego agreed, and after carefully circling the block, they found a small unmarked doorway. Shego indicated it, Kim shrugged and together all four of them entered. They had been in all of two seconds when the door ominously slammed shut behind them, plunging them into darkness. Shego cursed and started to light her plasma, but before she even could, the interior suddenly lit up on its own. Blinking in the sudden brightness, their mouths dropped open as they got a good look at the place. All of the color that had been conspicuously absent on the outside was conspicuously present in here. The walls were alive with color, all carefully interwoven into a spectacular display that left them in awe, and it wasn’t until a voice addressed them from above that they snapped out of their collective reverie.
“Why do you enter here?” it asked.
“”We came to return the amulet,” Kim answered simply, hoping that was all of the explanation that would be necessary.
“Then you must ascend to the heights,” the voice responded. “But you must descend to the depths before you can ascend to the heights.”
“Supernatural double-speak. Goody,” Shego grumbled. “And how might we do this?”
“You cannot,” the voice stated. “Only those that went before may return again to the heights.”
“Then why did you tell us we needed to ascend to the heights in the first place?” Shego asked, annoyed.
“Because that is where salvation must be returned to,” the voice responded and Shego issued a small growl of frustration. Before she could say anything, though, Kim interrupted.
“Who made it to the heights before we came?” she asked, already knowing the answer but needing to hear it anyway.
“The lovers, Red and Black,” came the reply.
Her suspicion confirmed, Kim now needed more information. “Why are they the only ones that can ascend to the heights?” she questioned further.
“Because they alone possess the key,” the voice answered.
“But the amulet is not the key,” Shego asked, wanting to clarify.
“The key is the key,” the voice replied.
“Yeah, that was helpful. Thanks,” Shego retorted, growing more and more irritated. “You know, Nana Sheila, Nana Mim, I really wish you were here right now because if I came all this way for nothing, ‘pissed off’ won’t even begin to cover it,” she groused under her breath.
“Your request has been granted,” the voice informed her.
“‘My request has been granted.’ Lovely. Now what the hell does that mean?” Shego asked, exasperated.
“It means you have two formally dead women standing behind you wondering how they managed to be spirited away from the mists of the afterlife back to this god-forsaken temple,” came an amused voice from behind her. Kim, Ron and Shego whirled around to see a bemused Sheila standing there with Mim close behind. “We were quite certain that the two of you had something to do with it, however.”
Kim and Shego did not answer but stood there for several seconds trying to process the fact that Mim and Sheila were standing there, apparently alive. Finally, Shego, in order to prove to herself what she was seeing, went over and poked Sheila in the shoulder. “I am quite solid and that hurts, Junior,” Sheila protested. “Continue and I shall have to thrash you.”
“I’d like to see you try,” Shego replied automatically. Sheila said nothing, but with a quickness that was completely unexpected, took Shego’s legs our from under her, causing her to land with a thud on the ground. Shego shook her head and looked up at her ancestor with a wry smile.
“Don’t sass your elders, Junior,” Sheila said with a smile of her own, offering her a hand up.
Shego took it, and Sheila hauled her up. However, Shego being Shego, she could not resist doing what she had been told not to do. “Elders, my ass,” she sassed. “You look younger than Kimmie over there.”
Shego was right; the both of them looked young, even younger than they had in the mirror and at the Mansion. They were dressed differently, too; instead of the dresses and gravity-defying hair buns, Mim and Sheila were clothed in trousers (khaki for Mim, black for Sheila), white long-sleeved collared shirts, boots and long braids that went down the length of their backs.
Mim glanced at Sheila and then down at herself. “These were our adventuring clothes,” she said, looking at her clothing fondly, “and we were wearing them the first time we came. They must have brought us back as we were then.” She smiled at Shego. “We were both around 24 when we came here, Junior, so we are older than the both of you by at least a year.” She looked around. “But, regardless, why are we here?” she asked.
“Well, the non-helpful voice from above told us that only you could return this damn thing because only you have the key, so I guess, while I was bitching about the situation, I inadvertently asked them to bring you here,” Shego explained.
Mim chuckled. “Well, that is all well and good, but they are a bit misinformed. We no longer have the key,” she said.
Shego did not find the situation funny. “Then who the hell does?” she demanded.
“You two,” Mim replied simply.
“Us?” Kim asked, shocked.
“What? Did you think us so foolish as to have had the rings buried with us?” Mim politely inquired. “We left them to our heirs.”
“The rings are the key?” Shego asked. “Which rings? You guys had about a million.”
“This ring,” Sheila answered, plucking off Shego’s black glove to reveal the ring Bob had given her in Chicago.
“And this ring,” Mim followed, plucking Kim’s glove off her right hand to reveal her own ring.
“But those were your wedding rings,” Shego protested.
“They were,” Mim agreed, “but they did not start out life as such. They started out life here, in particular, over there,” she said, indicating a stone column in the middle of the room. “I take it you did not notice that the inscriptions on the amulet matched those on the rings?”
“No, we didn’t,” Kim admitted, a little ashamed.
“For which I am eternally grateful, Mim-jay,” Sheila said honestly, smiling at Kim. “If Junior had not been complaining, we would not be here and I would have hated to miss out on such an adventure.”
“Fabulous,” Shego interjected. “But now that we know, could we get this little ‘adventure’ started sometime this year?”
“Tsk. Always so impatient, Junior,” Sheila admonished. “Just put the rings into the holes in the column. That will unlock the unlocking mechanism.” Shego looked at her dubiously, but did as she was told, taking off the ring and putting it into the proper hole in the column.
“Your turn, Princess,” she said, and Kim came over, taking off the one she was wearing and placing it the column. As soon as both rings were properly seated, two thin crystal obelisks rose from the holes beneath the rings, catching both of them and lifting them from the stone column to rest on the wide base of the crystal.
“That’s precisely how it looked the first time we were here,” Mim mentioned. “We had no idea the rings came off until the obelisks retracted down below.”
“The depths,” Kim guessed.
“Exactly,” Mim answered. She glanced at all of them huddled around the stone column. “I suggest you all brace yourselves,” she recommended, grasping the obelisks by the base and slowly turning them counterclockwise. Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then the floor dropped out from underneath them and they were all sent plummeting downwards. Shego lighted up her plasma to give them a way to see where they were going, and they all managed to land, for the most part, on their feet at the bottom of the hole. Shego noticed a torch on the wall and lit it, unexpectedly setting off a chain reaction that lit up the whole room.
As Mim had said, once they got down to the bottom, the obelisks retracted, leaving the rings nestled in the stone. Shego picked hers up and put it back on and Kim did the same. As soon as the rings were gone, the platform the column was on started to move up and Kim and Shego jumped off of it.
There was only one way to go and that was through the doorway that was before them. Mim grinned. “Ah, yes, the red level,” she said, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. “Red for blood because everything in that room is designed to make you bleed, namely 3 razor sharp pendulums separated by knife throwing walls and pits filled with sharp spikes.” She looked at Kim. “I wager I can beat you through it, Kimmie-Ann,” she challenged good-naturedly.
Kim quirked an eyebrow. “So not gonna happen, Aunt Mim. You are on,” she replied.
Mim counted down. “1…2…3…go!” she said, and the two Possibles took off. The two Goshens went to the doorway to watch the show. Lithe bodies and red heads flipped, tumbled, leapt and slid through the obstacles, and their audience was quite spellbound, even if only one of them would readily admit it. Sheila was unashamedly enraptured by Mim and watched her every move with an unchanging look of bliss on her face. Shego couldn’t help but notice.
“Um, Nana Sheila, shouldn’t we be focusing on the sharp pointy things that could possibly kill us rather than on Nana Mim?” she asked dryly.
“I am already dead, Junior,” Sheila reminded her without taking her eyes off Mim. “And it has been a great long while since I have seen my beautiful wife in all of her magnificent glory, so I am going to ogle at my leisure. The sharp pointy things can wait.” And so they did until Mim and Kim let them know that they were safely through and on the other side. “Now then,” Sheila said crisply as she sprang through the doorway, “catch me if you can, Junior.” Shego cursed and followed her in.
The Possibles waited patiently for them in the room at the higher end of the curved level. The temple builders had thoughtfully put in a small antechamber between levels, and it allowed them to take a breather before going on to the next level. Much to both of their disgusts, they had actually reached the room at the same time, so neither one could call herself the winner and claim family bragging rights. As two bodies came around the corner, though, it became clear that there would be no tie with these two if there were any way possible to prevent it. As soon as one would get ahead of the other, the lagging Goshen would make some sort of move, usually a dangerous one, to get ahead of the leading Goshen and so it went as they came closer.
“Can I ask you a question, Aunt Mim,” Kim asked as they watched Shego and Sheila make their way towards them.
“Sure,” Mim replied. “You can ask me anything, you know that, Kimmie-Ann.”
“Sheila was a spoiled society brat, right?” Kim asked bluntly. Mim smiled and nodded. “So how come she knows how to move like that?” she questioned, indicating the flipping, dodging, not-green figure coming closer.
Mim chuckled. “I was wondering when we would get around to that,” she admitted. She gazed fondly at Sheila. “Well, my dearest has always had a bit of an antagonistic relationship with her family, and ever since she was small, she wanted to run away from them and join the circus. So, when she was a child and supposed to be taking piano lesions, she made a bargain with her instructor and was actually taking lessons on how to become an acrobat.”
“How did she get away with that?” Kim asked, skeptical.
“She didn’t,” Mim replied with a wry smile. “Her mother knew exactly what she was up to, but she let it continue because she knew Sheila would be far happier in acrobatics lessons than in piano lessons.” She would have said more, but at that very moment, two figures flipped out of the corridor and landed right in front of them. Seeing the looks on their faces, she forestalled any questions or arguments. “You tied,” she said matter-of-factly, and both of the Goshens grew sullen, knowing she was right.
A voice from the other end of the corridor turned their attention back toward the way they came. “Um, ladies?” Ron called. “I am not sure I can get through this.”
“Sure you can, Stoppable,” Shego called back. “Use your mystical monkey poo or whatever it is.” Kim looked at her quizzically, wondering how she knew about that. “DNamy has a big mouth, among other things,” Shego explained.
“Monkey poo won’t be necessary,” Mim interrupted them, pulling on a lever on the wall just outside the red level, causing all of the mechanisms in the room to come grinding to a halt. “You have 30 seconds to get through before it all starts up again, Ronald,” she called to him, and Ron scrambled through as fast as he could avoiding the sharp edges and spike pits that could still kill him, shutdown or no.
“You should have let him try it,” Sheila muttered as an aside to Mim.
“Be good, Sheila,” Mim chided. “You may not like him, but we can’t very well let him get killed.”
“Perhaps not killed,” Sheila conceded. “Badly maimed would have sufficed.” Mim sighed.
When Ron had joined them, they all crowded into the orange doorway looking onto the orange level. Shego was unimpressed; it didn’t look very scary if you ignored the particularly heinous shade of orange that it was painted. “This level is not as difficult as the last,” Sheila told them, confirming Shego’s impression. “You only have to avoid touching any of the orange bricks, even the ones on the wall.”
Ron asked the question that was on everyone’s mind. “What happens if you touch the orange bricks?” he asked. Instead of answering Sheila picked up a stray rock and skipped it across the floor. Every time it hit an orange brick, a column of fire came from the opposite direction to burn it to a crisp, and when it finally came to rest on an orange brick, the fire was able to consume it completely. “No orange bricks. Got it,” Ron agreed.
They all went up the psychedelic orange spiral in their own special way. Ron took the demented hopscotch approach, skipping and hopping from non-orange to non-orange brick, which was harder than it sounded like because non-orange bricks were scarce. Mim took the run-as-fast-as-you-can-and-thus-avoid-the-flames method, waiting until Ron was on the other side lest she inadvertently send a flame in his direction. Kim didn’t feel like skipping or running, so she took the aerial route, using her grappling gun to good effect as she swung through the air and into the next antechamber. Sheila also took an aerial route, but used a narrow beam near the ceiling and a boost from her great-grandniece to walk safely across and up.
Shego considered following her great-great aunt, but decided against it. Instead, she walked right out into the chamber and stood on a non-orange brick. She tapped the orange brick beside it with her toe, and then waited patiently for the flame. As it came down from the ceiling, she lit up her left hand up and held it out. The flame could do nothing against her plasma and simply vanished into her palm. Shego chuckled and did the same thing with her right hand, also getting the same result. She broke out into a broad, self-satisfied grin and finished strolling up the embankment, repelling the flames at will when they came near.
“Show off!” Kim muttered when she had turned the corner enough for them to see her.
“If ya got it, flaunt it, Pumpkin,” Shego replied cockily.
“I wager you are not doing that ring you are wearing any favors,” Sheila pointed out.
“Oh shit! I forgot about that,” Shego exclaimed, whipping off her glove to take a look, but, remarkably, the ring was completely unharmed. Intrigued, she lit up that hand again, and sure enough, the ring stayed completely intact. “Well, I’ll be damned,” she said. Her brow quirked in thought; she removed the amulet from her ankle pouch and held it in her palm, lighting up once more. Like the ring, the amulet did nothing but shine a little when surrounded by her glow. Shego said nothing; she merely extinguished her flame and put the amulet away, but it was clear she was still thinking. She joined the rest of them in the yellow antechamber and together they all looked through the yellow doorway into the next room. Curiously, there was nothing to see because the room was pitch black. “But I thought this was the ‘light’ room,” Kim asked, remembering the description in the journal.
“It is,” Mim replied. “Do any of you have any of those sun spectacles on your person?” Shego, Kim and Ron all rummaged around in various pockets and came up with a pair for everyone in the party, including Rufus. “Good,” Mim commented. “Now put them on and step carefully into the room.” They did as they were told, and as soon as they crossed the threshold, the room became engulfed in a blinding yellow light. The sunglasses helped, but even still, being in the room was like driving due west at twilight with no sun visor in your car. “This is the first light obstacle,” Mim told them as they all stood around blinking.
“What’s the second?” Shego asked, knowing where there was a first, there was always a second.
“The floor in some areas of the room is not solid and if you step there, you will drop down to your death,” Mim replied. “You cannot tell where to step, though, because there is an optical illusion in place to make you think that the floor is uniform, and with the light so bright in here, you are quite likely to miss the subtle clues that the floor is absent.”
“Then how to we get across?” Ron asked.
“Crawling is the easiest,” Mim replied, knowing it would spark protest from Sheila.
“But not how we got through it the last time,” Sheila interrupted. “I wouldn’t crawl then, and I surely won’t now.” Mim looked as though she wanted to say something at that comment. She had an amused, mischievous look on her face and apparently it was one that Sheila knew well, for it earned Mim an instantaneous glare. Mim smiled but said nothing, and Sheila quickly continued before Mim could say what Sheila knew she was dying to. “The light is coming from beacons that are ubiquitous in the chamber. We got through this before by using those to cross without touching the floor.”
“Spanking. How did you guys come up with that?” Kim asked, impressed.
“I fell down a hole. Sheila rescued me and then promptly fell down a hole herself. I rescued her. This pattern repeated itself several times and eventually we had a sneaking suspicion that we should try another way,” Mim said wryly. Shego laughed and Kim smiled.
“Must you always be so truthful?” Sheila sighed, but with a smile on her face.
“Always,” Mim replied with a smile of her own. Sheila rolled her eyes and reached for a beacon. The others followed suit and soon they were making their way across the room. Mim and Shego were climbing together as were Kim and Sheila, with Ron and Rufus following them as best they could. Each group struck up their own conversations to pass the time, and Shego was especially happy that she had some time to talk with her Nana Mim.
“So how has the afterlife been treating you, Nana Mim?” she asked as a way to start the conversation.
“I can’t complain,” Mim replied, grabbing a beacon. Looking briefly at Shego, she decided to be nosy. “So, I see that you and Kimmie-Ann seem to be getting along better,” she mentioned.
“Yeah, we are,” Shego admitted. “She, um, actually said I was her friend.”
“And do you consider her a friend?” Mim inquired, pretending not to be interested in the answer.
Shego hesitated. “Um, yes, I guess?” she answered. “It is really weird, Nana Mim. She and I have been enemies for so long that it is tough to think of her as a friend.”
“I can imagine,” Mim said sympathetically. “Do you wish to be her friend, Junior?”
“No, not really,” Shego answered with such certainty that Mim was surprised. Mim looked at her questioningly and Shego, much like her great-great aunt before her, melted under that gentle regard. “If I can be her friend, then I will start thinking I can be more, and I already know I can’t,” she confessed tersely. “I just don’t wanna go there.”
“It seems you already have,” Mim pointed out slyly.
“Kinda tough not to when there is family precedent,” Shego muttered.
Mim smiled at her, a knowing twinkle in her eye. “My advice is this, Junior: become her friend, even if the potential for disaster is there. You never know what the future will bring, and you will have no future at all with Kimmie-Ann if you remain enemies.” Shego sighed, knowing she was right, but not really wanting to think about it. “Quit being so melancholy, Junior, or you are going to lose,” Mim goaded her, trying to raise her spirits. She stepped up her pace and Shego scrambled after her, a smile on her face.
Over on their section of the wall, Kim and Sheila’s conversation was much more general. They discussed the weather, life in modern times, Kim’s life as a teenager in modern times and pretty much whatever other mildly interesting topic came to mind. Kim found that she loved talking to Sheila almost as much as loved talking to Mim. Sheila was witty and opinionated, and even dead she had keen observational skills that amazed and amused Kim. They chatted amiably until they came into the green antechamber and found Mim and Shego waiting for them. They waited for about five minutes and as soon as Ron had joined them, the light promptly shut off and the room behind them was once again left in darkness.
“What’s next?” Kim asked as she peered into the green-tinged torchlight of the next level.
“In the simplest terms, snakes,” Mim replied. “Scads and scads of snakes.”
“Everyone get in behind me,” Shego ordered and finding no reason to disagree, everyone did. She lit up her hands and strode into the room, grabbing a torch of the wall, lighting that and handing it to Kim who was bringing up the rear. Mim was right, poisonous snakes were everywhere: on the floor, on the walls and even falling from the ceiling. But, in spite of their superior numbers, the snakes fled from Shego’s light, and the few brave enough to challenge her found themselves barbequed. Those that attempted to attack the rear flank were met with Kim’s torch, and so with the snakes either in hiding or charred to a nice crisp, they made their way up the level with relative ease.
“Well, that was far easier this time,” Sheila said as an aside to Mim when they reached the blue antechamber.
“Quite,” Mim said in agreement. “One more level before we reach the top,” she announced.
“One more level before the top,” Ron echoed in relief. “Booyah, huh, buddy?” he asked Rufus.
“Booyah,” Rufus agreed.
“Now what’s in store?” Shego asked. “This is the blue water level, right?”
“Yes,” Sheila answered. “The level will be empty when we enter, but the door will shut and it will fill up with water quickly. The only way through is to swim to the top.”
“All right. Let’s go,” Kim said, and they all walked through the door.
Just as Sheila had said, the door slid shut behind them and the chamber started rapidly filling with water. They all ran up the ramp as fast as they could before the water overwhelmed them and they all started a determined swim toward the surface. At the other end, they encountered another closed door, but there was a small valve that allowed them access out. They swam through it and burst out breathless into the final purple colored antechamber.
Shego did a quick head count. “Where’s Kimmie?” she demanded. They waited for a few seconds but Kim failed to emerge. “I am going back in,” Shego stated and dove back through the hole before anyone could protest. She swan around the chamber with long strokes, not spotting Kim immediately but refusing to let herself panic. That would not help anyone, especially Kimmie. She inspected it from top to bottom, but she saw no sign of Kim. On and on she swam, and as the air slipped from her lungs, the panic slipped in despite her attempts to hold it back. She was about to lose it completely when she saw a familiar red head floating near the entrance. She swam frantically toward Kim, gathered her up and swam frantically back toward the exit. She pushed through Kim through the hole and then went herself, her breath coming in gasps as she lay on the stone floor.
Kim lay completely still beside her, not moving or breathing. Growling in frustration, Shego turned her over and thumped her hard on the back. Nothing happened. “Goddamn it, Kim!” Shego yelled. “If you give up on me just as we are starting to get along, I am going to come over to the other side and bring you back just so I can have the pleasure of killing you myself!” She thumped her one more time on the back, and this time the motion had an effect. Kim coughed, spitting up a lungful of water, and started to breathe on her own. Shego breathed a sigh of relief and slumped down beside her.
“Shego? Aunt Mim?” Kim asked weakly, slowly opening her eyes. “What happened? I remember swimming but then I think I hit my head. How did I end up here?”
“Junior rescued you,” Mim informed her quietly, kneeling at Kim’s side and gently turning her over. She felt gingerly around Kim’s head and discovered there was quite a large lump right at the back of it. “Your head will be sore for a few days, Kimmie-Ann, but you will be fine,” Mim said, having seen this particular injury many times before.
“Thanks, Aunt Mim,” Kim said, already feeling a little better. She sat up and slowly scooted over to Shego. “Thank you for saving my life, Shego,” she said softly.
“To boost one of your catchphrases, ‘No big,’ Princess,” Shego replied, also quietly. “That’s what friends do.” Kim smiled at her, and they shared a brief moment of understanding.
Everyone in the party rested for a good half hour before anyone felt ready to tackle the remaining chamber. They passed the time amiably, the main topic of conversation being why white was a poor choice for color in an adventuring shirt. It came up because Mim and Sheila were wearing white and their blouses had become quite see-through after the last obstacle. Shego noticed it first and teased them about it. Once brought to his attention, Ron was instantly mortified and spent the rest of the time with his back to rest of the party trying to get unwanted images out of his mind. Kim for the most part rested, but did chime in now again to defend her own choice of black for top-covering mission wear. Mim and Sheila took it good-naturedly, pointing out that they rarely had male company on their trips. When they all felt up to it, they all looked at one another, rose somewhat steadily to their feet, and crossed over to the door that stood before them, a deep, rich, royally colored purple just waiting to be entered. Shego glanced around the group and finding mostly looks of anticipation, grabbed the latch and opened the door.