Wade rode the bus out to what he was coming to consider his Lair. In the two months since Shego had left her set of keys to him Wade had changed the place around to suit his tastes. His parents agreed to his request for Lair funds on condition that he continue with the diet and exercise program. They thought it was good for him to get out of the house -- even if it was just for a commute between his home and the lab he was excited about redesigning.
Riding the bus seemed a little childish, but riding his bike would have been even worse. Who takes you seriously if you have your own laboratory and have to ride public transportation or a bicycle to get there?
On an intellectual level he knew about eighteenth and nineteenth century child labor -- children as young as nine working ninety-hour weeks in coal mines. On that intellectual level he recognized that child labor laws were designed to protect children. But they weren't written to take into account a boy who earned his first two PhDs at ten and his third a year later. No company could hire him. The money he got for his patents went into a trust fund that he could only tap with his parents' permission and the help of a lawyer.
Children under sixteen weren't allowed to do any real work, except in a family business. Letters to his state legislator brought him letters of sympathy -- but not much else. Even licensing his patents might be technically illegal, when he first began approaching companies about using his technologies -- at age nine -- several of them had turned him down.
The law regarded him as unable to make decisions in his own best interest. What was that quote about the law? Wade searched his brain, ah, yes, Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist, “If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot!”
The bus took him within two blocks of the Lair. He wasn't sure he could have walked the distance without losing his breath five months ago -- Shego was annoying but he owed her one. He walked up to the front door; he couldn't believe Drakken had really used keys. “Wade Load asking permission to enter. Optical scanner, please.”
The audio processor identified his voice and a tube extended from the door. Wade peered into the tube and an optical scanner verified his retinal pattern. “Enter, Master,” intoned a computerized voice and the door swung open. Okay, it took twenty times longer than a key, and Wade hoped he never had to do it in the pouring rain or with a cold that threw his voice pattern off -- but this was way cooler than using a key.
As always, Wade answered the Kimmunicator as soon as it beeped.
“What's wrong, Kim? You've been crying.”
“I messed up, Wade. I'm pregnant.”
“WHAT? Who did that to you? I mean--”
“I did it to myself.”
“Do you remember when I asked you to find DNAmy's address?”
Wade sat staring at the screen in stunned silence.
“I don't think I'll be going on any missions for awhile -- probably not for a long time. I'm sorry…”
Wade spent the next week at his computer; waiting desperately for Kim to call back and say it was a joke. She wasn't answering her Kimmunicator. When he called her house Jean answered and gave him a sketch of the details.
“So, it's Shego's fault?”
“She blames me and you.”
“She says you sent her out on dangerous missions when all she wanted were jobs like baby-sitting and walking dogs. She claims you tried to live vicariously through her.”
Wade knew Shego could have said even more damning things about him. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Thanks, Wade, but right now none of us know what to do.”
Wade spent the next week in bed, too much in shock to even get dressed. He blamed Shego, but didn't know why. His life had been satisfying enough until Kim started going out for coffee with her. That was when it all changed. How dare Shego accuse him of putting Kim in danger? His life goal was to help her.
By the end of June Wade could admit his life had come to revolve around Kim's website, that he sometimes stayed by the computer twenty-four hours a day in hopes she would contact him -- or someone in distress would give him an excuse to contact her.
In early July Wade became irrationally optimistic. If Shego went to prison forever Kim would realize how much she needed and depended on Wade. He would be there for Kim and the baby.
By the middle of July Wade gave up on vain hope. Kim was never going to see him as more than a friend. And much as he hated to admit it he missed Shego, she was the one person who had seen through him -- who knew how much Kim meant to him. He really needed to talk with her.
On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most difficult to hack, Wade gave the Global Justice computer system an eight. Finding a way to tap into the phone in the Cage, however, rated a ten.
Shego slowed her exercises when she heard her 'phone' speak. “Hello? Anyone there?” Global Justice alerted her before they let a call in, and she could only call out with their help. In case any agents looked in through the window of her anteroom Shego went to the bench near the phone and sat down, resting her head against the wall.
“This is Shego. Can you hear me?”
“Hey, witch, can't hear you well. Any chance of talking directly into the phone.”
“Nerdlinger? Good to hear you. Looking too interested in the phone will draw attention. I'm guessing you aren't supposed to be talking with me.”
“You got that right. Say, if we get cut off suddenly at some point, don't take it personally. I'm patched through phone lines in twelve countries to make it hard to trace. That means twelve places the line can go down. And I'm off if I detect an attempt to trace. I'll try again later, but if they are trying to find me I can't call.”
“Fair enough. How is life? How is Kim? Have you seen her?”
“I haven't seen or talked with her in weeks. Life sucks. I needed someone to talk to…”
“About your feelings for Kim?”
He called back about the same time the next day. “You know, when you talk for an hour and a half it increases the chances the call gets noticed,” she warned.
“I know. But it felt so good to talk to someone about Kim who wouldn't laugh at me. I really hated you when I heard what she did.”
“That's okay. I still blame you.”
“I'll withdraw the offer to help you if that's your attitude.”
“Just being honest with you -- it's a compliment. But I don't think you could help. The CAD schematics for this cell are not on the web; those designs are on computers not connected to anything. But I sure as hell would like to know what it's made out of. The damn stuff seems to feed on energy and I haven't figured out how to overload it without draining myself -- at least not yet.”
The calls on the second and third day both went as long as the first call. A half hour into the conversation on day four the line went dead. Wade didn't call back.