Consulting a professor after class left Shego behind schedule. She ran back home and tagged Bonnie, who bitched, “You're late!” before she ran for her own class.
The twins appeared soundly asleep and Shego had just settled down on the couch with her Elizabethan Drama text when the doorbell rang. “Damn!” She guessed it was the dark suit who had been watching the house when she left that morning. His look said Agency, and he probably wanted to speak to her alone.
Her guess was right.
“Can I come in and talk?”
“Aren't you supposed to show me credentials first?”
“I'm not here to play games.”
“Oh yes you are,” Shego thought. “Right now you're trying to prove you're tough enough to get inside without following the rules.”
She took him into the library. No work had been done except the new floor and it was a mess, but she wasn't trying to impress him.
“Now, Shego, you know why I'm here.”
“Nope. Why the fuck are you here?”
“We want it back?”
“What back? Stop playing games and get to the point -- if you have one. I've got a five page paper due Friday and no time to listen you play tough guy.”
“The copy of the database. Give it back to me and no one gets hurt.”
She shook her head in bewilderment. “Humans invented language to communicate. You're getting an F. What database? And just who are you threatening to hurt?”
At least he could be clear on that point, “I hear you and Kim Possible have two very pretty babies.”
Kim heard the screams before she even got the door open. They seemed to be coming from the library. She ran to find out what was happening, there. The stench of burning hair greeted her as she opened the door. Shego had one hand on a man's throat. She held him pressed up against a wall and appeared to be giving him a haircut using plasma flame.
“He threatened the babies. Speaking of which -- go make sure his screaming didn't wake them up.”
“He threatened the babies?”
“It's still a little longer on the left side, you'd better get that evened up. And try to not damage the wall.”
Shego looked over at Kim and grinned, “I'll be careful.”
“I stopped by a bar after class and I think he was trying to impress me with some stupid cigarette lighter trick,” Shego told the emergency room nurse. “Somehow the lighter broke, butane got on his hair and his head went up in flame.” She looked over at the frightened man, “Isn't that right.”
He nodded his head yes.
“And I checked his pockets, and the poor man got out this morning without his wallet or any papers to help me identify him.” She looked over again, “Isn't that right.”
He nodded his head yes.
“That was an expensive suit before the flames ruined it. I'll bet he has health coverage. But I'll pick up the bill if he isn't covered. I feel a little responsible since he was trying to impress me. I'll just wait out here while you treat the burns. I want to talk with him for a few minutes when he's out of pain.”
Shego smiled as she put on her reading glasses and opened the Elizabethan Drama text in the emergency room lobby. No crying babies, no Kim, Bonnie, or Monique to distract her. With any luck she could finish next week's reading assignments before she went home and Ron would have a plate of something delicious waiting for her.
“He's a little groggy with the pain medication, but you can try and talk with him.”
Shego thanked the nurse and smiled sweetly until the young man in hospital white left the room.
Bandages covered most of the man's head, but his eyes went wide with terror as she leaned over and flames sprang up around her index finger, “I forgot to trim the nose hairs.”
She let him stare at the flame for a minute before she began talking. “I've got enough information in your credentials back at the house to find you whenever I want. If those babies even get a cold and I find out you're in the state you're going to think today was spent in a luxury spa. Do you understand that?”
He nodded his head yes.
“Did Zach Goldman survive the hatchet job Porter Goss did at the Agency?”
He nodded his head yes.
“Did Zach send you?”
He shook his head no.
“Good, then I'm willing to talk with him. Tell the Agency that when you brief whatever asshole sent you to annoy me. Is that clear enough?”
He nodded his head yes.
“I am supposed to meet someone here,” Shego told the hostess at the Astor. “He was supposed to arrange a private room.”
“That would be Mr. Goldman?”
Shego nodded and a waitress led her to one of the smaller rooms the restaurant offered.
He stood up and started to offer a hand, then noticed her scowl and kept his hand at his side. They sat down, across from each other.
“Would you like some time to decide on your order?”
He looked at the waitress. “The New York strip sounds good. Baked potato. Italian dressing on the side salad.” He looked over at Shego.
“Yes, make it two. And a bottle of the most expensive red in the house -- it's his expense account. Oops, I need to change my order. Trout instead of New York strip -- and I think the rice pilaf goes better with that than the potato.”
“Do you wish to change the wine?”
“No, he still has steak and he's paying for it.”
After the waitress left she turned on him, “What kind of an amateur did you send out to talk with me?”
“I didn't send him. It's your own fault, Shego, for having such a bad ass reputation. You're like one of those great gun-slingers in the wild west -- people are out to get you to establish their own reps. He wanted to show his dick was bigger than yours.”
Shego almost smiled, “You feeling the need to prove something?”
“Nope, I'll admit you're the biggest dick at the table. You really caught him threatening your kids on a digital recorder?”
She shook her head yes.
“Any chance we can get that back?”
“Sorry, a computer nerd has it in a safe spot. It goes on the internet if anything happens.”
“We figured Mr. Load would get it.”
“How do you know about the babies? He said Kim's and my babies. That isn't very well known.”
“He shouldn't have said that either,” Zach sighed. “I'm going to have to speak to Human Resources about quality control.”
“You're not answering the question.”
“You know I respect confidential sources. Let's just say someone who knows gave us the information.”
Shego hoped it was DNAmy, because, if it wasn't, one of her friends was the most likely source. Then she sighed and took a digital recorder out of her purse, placed it on the table and turned it off. “We're going to be honest at this meeting?”
He took a recorder from his pocket and turned it off. “Honest Injun.”
She took out a second digital recorder and turned it off also. She looked across the table and raised an eyebrow.
“Give me a break, Shego. I have to turn a record of the conversation over when I get back. Let me keep this one running.”
She laughed and extended her hand to him across the table. They shook hands. “You're a son of a bitch, but you've always been an honest son of a bitch with me. What is this all about?”
He looked a bit startled. “You really don't know?”
“No, I don't. And if you don't tell me what's going on you're going to end up with a really bad haircut also.”
“It's just going to be harder if it wasn't you… Last March someone stole a laptop which had a database with all the Agency's agents, informers, and stringers--”
“Why did you have something like that sitting around?”
“Well, if you mean 'why something like that,' it was to check for duplications. Some informers try to work for several agents. They get more pay, and with multiple agents giving similar reports it makes fake information look more credible. If you mean, 'why was it sitting around,' it wasn't. It was chained down in one of our most secure offices. No one could take it home by accident -- it could only be stolen.”
“And you figured it was me because I'm so good?”
He shook his head. Then he leaned down and took a briefcase off the floor. He sat it on his lap and took out a manila envelope which he passed over to her.
As she looked at the photo she had to agree with his comment, “Taken the night of the theft. That sure as hell looks like your uniform. Figure was only visible in about three frames -- that was the best.”
“Someone is trying to set me up. According to the date stamp in the corner I have a great alibi -- the ambassador to China will testify I wasn't in the country that night. If the figure is only in three frames then the person wearing my outfit went on film just to leave this image. If this person wanted to hide identity by wearing a hood, why did he --”
“Let me finish. If I were wearing a hood to hide my face I wouldn't be in my costume. As I look at that ass and those shoulders I think it's a thin man dressed like me to throw you off…”
There was a moment of silence, then they said, “Falsetto Jones!” almost together as the waitress arrived with their meals.
When they were again alone Shego asked, “Did you send Bert last spring?”
“I didn't. The Agency did. Too many people with no vision. We didn't need you dead, we needed the database back -- it can compromise our work around the entire world. Killing you just means we don't know where it is.”
“Did you have anything to do with the DOJ dropping Federal charges?”
“Yeah, that was my suggestion. First, with you in Canada it gave us time to comb through every one of Drakken's lairs we could find. Second, you get more flies with sugar. Speaking of which, I am quite certain you want to get the database back for us. We haven't lost any agents yet -- so he hasn't sold it. The value goes down as it ages -- so he's either going to use it as a bargaining chip against us or wait until some international crisis suddenly ups its worth.”
“Sounds like it's really important to you. Since you're a friend I'll cut you a deal, five million, cash under the table, for the job.”
“I'm afraid you're going to have to work a lot cheaper than that. It looks to me like we've got you by the short hairs. You see, while the DOJ decided not to prosecute last spring, it could change its mind at any time. We've got enough on you to put you away for the rest of your life.”
“So basically, the Agency can blackmail me into doing jobs as long as it wants?”
“Just me, you're one of my troops and I'm not going to let the idiots use you on one of their short range mistakes. I try to take care of my people. I won't ask you to take a job unless I think it's absolutely necessary.”
“So, I'm having to work for free?”
“You don't get freelancer rates anymore. One million for a successful job. That's twice as big as a good price -- but this is important. I think I can get you another half million in a year if the press doesn't hear a word --”
“I want that in writing.”
“I have to ask the obvious question, how do you know the data is still on the computer and he hasn't made a hundred copies?”
“We can only hope he has tried. After a couple thefts of data from other government agencies our database was set up so any effort to copy the data will erase it and garble the drive so thoroughly I doubt your young friend could recover it. It may already be junk, but we need to know. We'll pay your reasonable expenses even if you get nothing -- but you will need to fill out an expense report.”
“You need to call a judge here in Middleton and get a legal okay for me to leave the country.”
He stared at her, “When the hell did you care what the law said?”
“I'm becoming an honest woman.”
He snorted, “Winged monkeys fly out of my ass when I fart.”
“And government agencies asking me to do work for them will look good when I come up for trial.”
“Okay, that I believe. Who is the judge?”
“Her name is Alice Armstrong. She's an eight hundred pound gorilla in the legal community in this state.”
“You're going to need all the eight hundred pound gorillas you can get.”
“Anyway, getting back to this job. You will provide transportation?”
“And pay for my staff is part of a reasonable expenses?”
“Don't try to screw us.”
“Try and screw the person blackmailing me? I wouldn't dream of it. Oh, can the Agency do anything to about the state charges against me? I'll be going on trial here eventually.”
He sighed. “We've got a lot less pull with the state. I can't make any promises. But I'll see if I know any eight hundred pound gorillas and try to pull in some favors -- you're worth a lot more to me if you aren't behind bars. Oh, and one other piece of bad news. Since you're becoming an 'honest woman' we'll be sending information on the million over to the IRS.”
Shego nodded glumly. After taxes it would be a lot less than she would have liked, but she could put it into the fund for her legal defense without any challenges.
At the dinner table that night, “Bonnie, Ron, I need you for a fast trip to Europe this weekend.”
“I have homework. Why do I need to go to Europe?”
“Okay, Bonnie. I guess you don't. I can hire some makeup artist in Europe to work on Ron for three thousand dollars.”
“Maybe I can study on the way?”
“I'm sure you can. It will be a safe trip for you.”
“Hey, I don't remember agreeing to anything.”
“Please, Stoppable. I really need you. How about twenty thousand dollars for a weekend's work.”
“Boo-yah! Wait a minute… Is it dangerous?”
“With any luck you'll be safer than your average mission with Kim. Oh, and buy a suit or two -- something conservative -- I can put that on the expense account.”
“Hey, what about Kim and me?” Monique demanded.
“Sorry Monique, I don't have a role for you in this.”
“No, I mean what happens to Kim and me this weekend if you take our chef and nanny?”
“I guess the two of you watch the babies and order Chinese takeout.”
“There goes the weekly poker game,” Kim sighed.
After supper Bonnie and Ron sat with Shego and talked strategy. Kim sat with them, curious about what was going on. Shego showed them a set of credentials and explained, “Ron needs to look like the man in the photo ID. He's going to need a haircut and dye job.”
“Can't I just wear a wig?” Ron asked.
“Sorry, Stoppable, but it may need to survive a really close inspection.”
“Why didn't you get a picture of me for the fake ID?”
Shego pretended she hadn't heard the question.
“What is this all about?” Kim asked.
“It's a matter of national security.”
Ron looked at her in disbelief, “And when did you start caring about national security.”
“When they tied it to helping me stay out of prison.”
Ron leaned back in the chair, stretched out his legs and put his arms behind his head, “Oh, yeah. My price just went up.”
“How much money do you want? It's going to come out of my pocket.”
“Oh, I don't need any more money. This mission, I'm the hero -- you're the sidekick. Say it, Shego. Say, 'I'm the sidekick.'”
“No fucking way! I was asked to take this mission. I'm running it. You're still sidekick.”
Ron cupped one hand behind an ear. “Oh, that didn't sound right at all. It sounded like you said you were going to find someone else.”
Green flames were beginning to flicker around Shego's hands.
“Will you two knock it off!” Kim interrupted. “Ron, please help her. Shego, you need him. Can't the two of you just say partners?”
“Just kiss and make up,” Bonnie suggested. Shego and Ron continued to glare at each other. “Oh, fine. We'll do it then. Kim, you take Shego.” And Bonnie leaned over and kissed Ron. Ron looked slightly shocked, but the women had a good laugh and Shego finished outlining her plan.
Wade finished his modifications on the duplicate laptop only a couple hours before they left. He would be the biggest item on her expense report -- and claimed he was only charging for parts. Shego suspected he was charging a large markup on those parts. He was really turning out very well.
Shego stayed at the controls with the Agency pilot for most of the trip, while Bonnie worked on assignments and Ron napped. As they neared their destination the pilot requested Shego return to the main cabin.
“Are you sure they won't need my passport?” Bonnie asked for the third time.
“Probably not for where we'll be landing,” Shego repeated. “You sound like you want to go through customs.”
“Yeah, I'd like that stamp to show I've been somewhere. Will there be time for buying souvenirs?”
The landing strip appeared to be part of an abandoned military base. The jet taxied to a hanger whose open door revealed an interior in better shape than the exterior suggested. As they descended from the plane a long dark car drove up to them.
“Oh, Shit!” Shego said as she noticed the driver's bandaged head.
“Just put all the bags in the back with you and Bonnie, I'm going to ride up front with our driver.”
They rode for fifteen minutes in total silence, until Shego couldn't take it any more. “Why are you here?”
“Not my idea,” he told her bitterly. “I'd rather be back in the burn unit. I think Goldman is punishing me by making me work as your flunky -- a warning to me not to mess with you again. I'd rather be on a different continent.”
“The son of a bitch,” Shego grunted. “I'd rather be here with a snake. I wonder what I did to piss him off?”
“Just being yourself,” he thought.
“I heard that.”
They had three rented rooms at a small inn fairly close to Falsetto Jones' villa. It was getting dark as they arrived. The agent went over a map with Shego, handed her the keys, took some pain pills and went to bed.
Ron got into a suit Bonnie had helped him pick out while she set out her makeup materials. He sat in a chair and she draped a towel around his neck and started working on his face. It was after ten by the time she was finished. She yawned as she closed the makeup case. “My work here is done. I'm crashing in the other room.”
The burned agent hadn't shown Shego the wrong map. There was very little time for talk as she drove Ron over.
“Hey, if you actually find the computer and get it out I'll say you were in charge and I'm the sidekick. But you don't have to get heroic in there, partner. You finding the computer would be Plan B. We'll probably have to stick with Plan A.”
“You got a Plan C if it all hits the fan?”
“Won't need it. Plan A will work. Have you been able to contact Wade yet?”
“He never used to be this slow… Hey, buddy!” Ron said as Wade's face came onto the doctored laptop, “Team Possible back in action after almost a year!”
Shego could tell Wade wasn't happy, but Ron missed the clues. It wasn't Team Possible without Kim there, and Wade would never be happy about the changed relationships.
They parked outside the wall around the villa. Ron turned off the monitor and closed the laptop. It had been modified to a point where it was essentially a large Kimmunicator. Ron put in an earpiece to hear directions and comments from Wade and Shego and slipped over the wall. Shego had the real Kimmunicator and monitored Ron's progress.
With the help of the modified laptop, and his own training, Ron slipped through motion detectors and a range of other security devices. He penetrated to the very center of Jones's home, then turned on a jamming device that allowed him to enter the office.
“I'm impressed,” Shego's voice whispered in his ear. “Couldn't have done a better job myself.”
“Any help here, Wade?” Ron whispered into the laptop.
“He's had too many alterations made since the original plans. You're on your own, Ron.”
“I'll give you half an hour to find it, Stoppable. Then we're back to Plan A.”
Forty minutes later Shego's voice whispered in Ron's ear. “You've done a hell of a job. But we're in a hurry. Plan A, now.”
Ron turned off the jamming device -- and alarms began sounding throughout the villa.
They were remarkably sloppy in Ron's opinion. It was almost a full two minutes later when the first two hired muscle men burst into the office, guns drawn. Falsetto Jones followed closely, wearing pink silk pajamas and in a black silk bathrobe with a rose dragon embroidered on it. A third man with a gun brought up the rear, with a fourth staying in the hallway outside the room. Ron was seated, his feet up on the desk, smiling as they came in.
“Don't scratch the desk! It's antique cherry,” the high-voiced thief screamed.
Ron left his feet on the desk. “I'm from the Agency. Here are my credentials. You didn't really think we'd believe Shego stole the database, did you? “
“Well, it took you a year to get here -- so I'm guessing you did believe the frame,” Jones sneered as he checked the face on the ID with man sitting at his desk.
“Believe what you want. I came to open negotiations with you. Actually, finding it was easier than I thought,” he pointed to the doctored laptop. “I just got a little careless on my way out. What is it you want for the database?”
Jones stared at the computer. “We'll talk over breakfast. Keith, Mick, show our guest to a room and make sure he stays there.”
After the gunmen escorted Ron from the room Jones picked up the doctored laptop and examined it. “Come on, Falsetto, be human! Let your curiosity get the better of you,” Shego whispered as she stared into the Kimmunicator.
“Quiet, Shego, I need to listen,” Wade scolded.
“Sweet,” Wade breathed. “We caught how he opens the panel over the safe, and he had it so close to him I could watch him open the safe as well as hear the tumblers.”
Falsetto Jones looked at the laptop, still in the safe, and the identical laptop beside him. Why would they bring a fake laptop? … Unless it was a bomb and they had decided that destroying the database was as good as getting it back!
“Brian! Come to the office, now!” Jones barked into intercom. The guard made much better time getting to the office on the second trip. “Take this out a mile or so and dump it in a ditch.”
“It looks like a good computer. Why do you want me--”
“Take it! Now!”
“He could have told poor Brian he thinks it’s a bomb,” Wade told Shego.
“I think Brian got a hint from his tone.”
“Can you use the homing device to get it back before you leave? I put some good stuff in there.”
“I'll get it as soon as Brian dumps it. I need to give the place a half hour for everyone to get back to sleep.”
Having watched Ron's entry it went even more quickly for Shego. She took all the jewelry from the safe as well as the laptop. “There's got to be a reward on this stuff,” she thought as she pocketed the items. She thought of leaving a signed eight by ten of herself in the safe, but didn't have the house in Middleton secure enough to play that game. Instead she adjusted the Kimmunicator to pick up Ron's homing signal and went to take out his guards.
There were no guards in front of Ron's door, which worried Shego. Ron, however, had them neatly trussed up and blindfolded inside the room, while he was snoring loudly on the bed. She shook him awake, “Come on, we need to go home.”
It was six in the morning when the burned man pulled the limo up outside the hanger. Shego said nothing, but handed him back his wallet and other papers. He said nothing when he looked at them, but gave her a nod.
Bonnie and Ron reclined their seats and went to sleep on each other before they even left for home. Shego spread a blanket over them. She waited a few minutes after take off before joining the new Agency pilot -- they didn't want her knowing the exact location of their airfield. She had gotten no sleep at all, and after a couple hours in the cockpit she decided sleep sounded better than flying.
Shego looked at the sleeping Ron and Bonnie. The cabin was awfully cold. This was a VIP jet and the seats were extra wide -- there should be room enough for the three of them to sleep in two seats. She feared Bonnie would freak out if she woke up with Shego's arms around her, so she slid in between Ron and the armrest. Bonnie wouldn't complain -- it forced Ron closer to her. And Ron shouldn't complain, after all, they were partners.
Zach Goldman and half a dozen agents awaited the jet in Middleton. As soon as Shego handed him the computer he plugged it in to an auxiliary power source and turned it on to verify it was the correct machine. “Any problems in Europe?” he asked as it warmed up.
“None. You're a real bastard, you know that?”
“It's been said. I wanted to know if he could learn from mistakes.”
“Yeah, and he plays through pain too.”
“Would you feel better knowing he was going to be fired for messing up the assignment with you? He's still got a job now and he's on my team.”
The computer checked out. Grinning broadly he held his precious burden and handed Shego a large envelope. “Fill out all the forms and send them in. You'll get paid at the end of the month.”
“Have you figured out how Jones stole it in the first place?”
“Afraid not,” he admitted.
“Why don't you hire this firm I know, Lipsky and Load, to run a security check?”
“Because, if Lipsky is your blue-skinned friend he is a security risk.”
“A bigger risk than the fact a thief has already shown he can get in and out?”
“Okay, maybe, just maybe, I'll request we give them a call.”
“Be sure to mention my name. I get a referral fee.”
Translation: Audaces fortuna iuvat - Fortune favors the bold.