It was night outside the Borealis Military base. The wide compound was mostly quiet, except for the chirping of crickets in the wooded grounds outside the base. Within the barbed wire fences which surrounded the base, there was only the treading sound of booted feet as soldiers made their rounds on guard duty. At times, there was also the hum of a motor as Jeeps occasionally swept past, running errands or aiding the patrols.
The area that housed the Research and Development labs within the base was considered a plum assignment for the soldiers and guards. Intruders and thieves were almost always caught by the troops and sentries outside the fences. Since the labs were deep inside the base, the guards at the research buildings usually never saw any action, so they were a bit more relaxed.
Sergeant Carter was therefore mostly at his ease. The soldiers in his squad were dispersed according to orders and all seemed quiet. He was enjoying the brief peace of not having to shout orders and drill his troops when a shape loomed up in the darkness of the streets that criss-crossed the base. Carter tensed for a moment, but the shape revealed only an approaching soldier carrying a box.
'Coffee as ordered, Sergeant!' said the soldier, with a somewhat goofy sounding voice.
Carter nodded, accepting the cup handed to him from the caddy. 'Is it extra black, Private Pyle?' he said gruffly.
'Yes sir, Sargent Carter!' said Pyle. He looked like he was trying to salute, but both hands were needed to steady the box and the many cups inside. So he settled for nodding firmly and clicking his heels. 'I know the squad has to stay up late, and nothing helps with that more than a nice cup of coffee! Why my momma once said...'
Carter was sipping from his cup and rolling his eyes. Quickly, he stopped drinking, knowing that if he didn't head Pyle off, the fiercely loyal but overly folksy private could go on for hours. 'Pyle, haven't you got other cups to deliver?'
Pyle stopped abruptly. 'Oh - well I reckon I do at that...'
'Carry on then, private!' he barked.
Pyle smiled, showing a slight overbite of white teeth. 'Yes sir, Sargent Carter!'
Pyle was turning to circle around the building and make his deliveries to the other soldiers in their squad, and Carter was taking another sip from his drink. Suddenly the inky darkness of the night was bathed with piercing white light.
Carter spat out his coffee as he looked up at what seemed to be a descending array of spotlights that blinded him. He heard a throbbing, humming sound and felt a rush of air. He didn't need to see clearly to know that some kind of vehicle was approaching from directly above.
Pyle was looking up with a dumbfounded expression. 'Gaaaah-lee!' he said. 'Is we bein' invaded by aliens?'
There was a sudden hissing sound like the blowing of many fire extinguishers. Carter and Pyle saw a grey mist whipping around them, and the air they breathed in had a sharp, tinny taste. A scant second later, they both collapsed to the ground, unconscious. Pyle's box and the coffee fell from his limp grasp and spilled all over the pavement.
The mist blew through the entire base like a dense fog, propelled by turbines and pipes that were fitted all over the vehicle that hovered above the base. Within thirty seconds, every soldier was knocked out.
The roof of the lab was blasted open, and ropes descended. A dozen burly men in grey uniforms slid neatly down and fanned out through the facility. With gas guns in hand, they made quick work of the few scientists and soldiers who hadn't been knocked out already. Soon one of them tapped a comlink in his helmet and spoke, his voice muffled by a protective mask.
'All clear, Professor.' he said.
A mechanical stairwell unfolded from the hovering vehicle and a lone figure descended casually, majestically into the lab. He was short and squat, but appeared very well built. He wore a deep red uniform with black boots. A pair of white eyes peered through the holes of a metallic black helmet which framed the orange skin of his face.
As Professor Dementor reached the bottom of the stairs, he paused to check a pocket watch. 'Two minutes, forty-nine seconds.' he said with a clipped German accent. He turned to the largest henchman, who was standing with a salute at the base of the stairs. 'You are slipping, minion! That was a full ten seconds slower than our last raid!'
The henchman grimaced. 'Sorry sir.' he said. Though he felt miffed. Their last raids had been against civilian inventors and scientists. Neutralizing a fully manned military base in less than three minutes was no small feat. But Professor Dementor had always been a very strict boss. The henchman thought for a moment that he might have been better off working for Dr. Drakken. He'd heard rumors that Drakken was more fun...
But Professor Dementor was striding past him towards a thick glass enclosure that contained what looked like glowing ingots of some kind of metal. 'I don't wish to hear your feeble excuses. Just move quickly before we fall even further behind schedule!'
The henchman nodded to two of his fellows, who stood close by, and they nodded back, each lifting a pair of circular metallic clamps. They moved towards the enclosure and set to work.
Dementor allowed himself to smile as the henchmen began fastening the clamps to the glass. 'Ah!' he said, looking wistfully into the enclosure. 'Depleted trydiplatinum tungsten poly-alloy! A rare and curious metal - which will soon become the building materials for my own spring-stepping, self-healing, shield-raising, hand-thingy battle suit!' His voice rose to a fevered pitch and a crazed look came into his eyes. Then he seemed to catch himself, shaking his head rapidly. 'Now - activate ze sonic disruptors!'
The henchmen had fastened the clamps to all four sides of the enclosure. One of them fished a remote control from his hip pouch and hit a button with a piercing beep. The clamps whined and vibrated, sending pulses through the thick shield. Soon cracks began spreading through the glass. A few seconds more and the enclosure shattered, sending shards tumbling to the floor.
Immediately the henchmen stepped into the enclosure and began loading the metal ingots onto a hand truck. 'At last!' Dementor crowed. 'Ze trydiplatinum will be mine!'
The metal was loaded and the henchmen were staring to wheel it towards the stairs leading up into the hovership. But as they did so, they paused, hearing a strange sound. Even Dementor looked around in confusion. 'Vas ist das...?' he said.
One of the henchmen scratched his head. 'Sounds like.... music.' he said. And indeed, music seemed to be playing, but there were no speakers anywhere, and they could not tell where it was coming from.
Dementor's orange skin suddenly went cream colored. 'Oh no....' he said. 'I know zat theme music!'
A large, muscular shape charged from the side, bowling over all three henchmen. They tumbled and rolled before slamming into a computer desk and lying in a groaning heap on the floor. The man who had tackled them grinned as he stood back up. 'Crash!' he said triumphantly.
Dementor winced and made for the hand truck. But before he could reach it, another shape darted from the side, seizing the hand truck and the trydiplatinum. Before Dementor could even blink, the metal was on the other side of the room beyond his reach. Another man turned around and flashed an arrogant smile at him. 'Dash!' he said.
'Minions!' Dementor shrieked. From doors leading to other parts of the lab, Dementor's remaining henchmen spilled into the room. They rushed at the two men, activating their shock prods.
As quick as sight, another shape sped in front of the line of henchmen, looping a wire around them all. He wrested a shock prod from one of them as he passed by, and then connected the wire to the prod. The line of henchmen yelped and squealed as the electric charge lit them all up like big, beefy Christmas trees. They twitched, shuddered and then collapsed onto the floor.
'Burn!' said the last man, joining his fellows as they confronted Dementor.
Professor Dementor's fists were twitching, his lip working in tics of rage. 'Team Impossible!' he spluttered. 'What are you doing here? I thought Kim Possible forced you to join Global Justice and put you out of business!'
'You wish.' said Dash.
'We might have agreed to stop charging money for saving people after the fact.' said Crash.
'But that doesn't mean we can't charge money to people who request our help.' said Burn. 'Turns out that has tax benefits too!'
Dementor seized a fire extinguisher from the wall, popped the safety pin and sprayed blasts of white foam onto his groaning henchmen, who sat up yelping. 'Stop them you fools!' he screamed. 'Zees is what I pay you for!'
The henchmen rose up, and Team Impossible snapped into formation. 'Go, team!' they shouted.
If any of the soldiers in the base had been awake and passing by the research lab building, they might have thought that both a demolition derby and a fireworks display was being hosted inside. Windows rattled, there were yells, shouts and minor explosions. There was a soft grinding sound from the foundation as the entire building occasionally trembled. The lights flickered on and off several times during the larger tremors.
After several minutes, Professor Dementor looked on in dumb amazement as the last of his henchmen were thrown gracelessly onto the stairs of his hovercraft. Dash was dusting his hands. 'You may call yourself a professor, but you're not very smart!' he said.
'Or you'd have known better than to take on Team Impossible!' said Crash.
The stairs retracted, hauling Dementor and his henchmen back up into the hovership, and the evil Professor leaned over the railing, shaking his fist wildly. 'Curse you, Team Impossible…!' he shrieked, his voice growing fainter as the ship sped away.
Soon the ship was out of sight. Each member of Team Impossible high-fived each other. 'Nice going team!' said Crash.
'We definitely earned our pay this time!' said Burn, pulling out a calculator and starting to tally up figures.
The door behind them opened and the base commander, along with a few soldiers, staggered into the lab, shaking their heads.
'What happened?' said the base commander, sounding groggy.
'It was Professor Dementor, sir.' said Dash with a respectful salute. 'He gassed the base and tried to make off with the top-secret metal from your labs.'
'You were smart to hire us on as additional protection.' said Crash. 'We've dealt with Dementor before!'
The base commander looked sharply at them. 'The trydiplatinum tungsten poly-alloy!' he said. 'Did they get it?'
'Relax, sir.' said Burn. 'Your metal is perfectly safe….' and he gestured towards the hand truck. But then he froze, gaping open-mouthed at what he saw.
Everyone else in the room followed his gaze. The hand truck was there, but the trydiplatinum was gone.
+ - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -
Dementor's hovership alighted into the massive hangar in his hidden lair. He descended first from the ramp, and then watched as his men disembarked, shuffling, limping and moaning as they staggered past him.
'Well done, Heinrich.' he said offhandedly as one passed by. 'Pinch your nose Johnson, stop bleeding on ze floor!' he said as another stumbled past. 'Put some ice on that lump, Reginald - well done everyone, report to ze infirmary for treatment, well done!'
One of the henchmen paused. 'You're sure you're not mad boss?' he said. 'I mean, we didn't even get what you was after…'
Dementor smiled jovially and slapped him on his sprained shoulder, making him wince in pain. 'Relax, Stossel! For once I actually enjoyed watching you being knocked around like ze Bocci balls!'
'But the stuff…' said the henchman, shrugging.
'Ah yes, ze "stuff"!' said Dementor, checking his watch. 'It should be arriving soon.' He looked up, and from the huge circular hatchway in the roof of the hanger, there came a soft whirring sound. He chivvied the remaining henchmen to the doors leading into the base. 'Off with you now, off with you!' he said, and they filed out of the hanger, grumbling. When they were gone, he strode back to his hovership, looking up through the hatchway into the night sky.
A rippling distortion in the air descended, like patch of heat haze that was hardly to be seen, even in the brightly lit hangar. From the darkness above, it had been totally invisible. There was a humming, as of something mechanical being shut down, and Dementor smirked as a vehicle came into view.
It looked like a motorcycle, deep purple, with a pair of nacelles on either side. Sitting astride the bike were two figures, taking off their helmets. One was a teenaged boy with a head of spiked, auburn hair. The other was a girl with shoulder-length blonde hair. From the pack on her back, a brown furred weasel was poking out his head, sniffing the air. Both the boy and the girl were wearing black shirts and brown cargo pants with hip pouches on their belts.
'Herr Probable.' said Dementor with a nod. 'Frauline Fatigable.'
'Professor Dementor,' said Grimm Probable, nodding. 'Quite a show you and your men put on back there - and the 'curse you'? Nice touch.'
Dementor stepped forward with an eager gleam in his eyes. 'I trust ze show was enough to distract Team Impossible long enough for you to fulfill your end of the bargain?'
Grimm smirked and opened the rear trunk compartment of his bike. Gleaming inside were the stacked ingots of trydiplatinum. 'The power failures were all the opening we needed.' he said. 'They never even noticed.'
Dementor stepped up to the trunk. 'Victory rant, 2.0.' he said quietly, clearing his throat. Then he threw back his head and shouted at the top of his lungs. 'At last! Ze trydiplatinum tungsten poly alloy is mine!' Grimm and Rhonda heaved the trydiplatinum from the trunk to a nearby work bench while Dementor sent peals of wicked laughter ringing through the hangar. Rhonda was rolling her eyes.
When they had finished, Dementor had joined them at the work bench. He had hefted one of the ingots and was caressing it lovingly. 'You are sure this is enough raw material to construct my own battle suit?' he said.
'Positive.' said Grimm.
'Und how do you know this?'
'We've… got sources.' he replied cagily.
Dementor huffed. 'I suppose you gathered some information during that time you were working with Kim Possible…' he said.
'Maybe.' said Grimm, but did not elaborate any further.
Dementor glared. 'No hints? No clues?'
Grimm shook his head. 'The deal was to bring you the tridyplatinum. It's up to you to figure out what to do with it.'
'Well, my analysis of Kim Possible's battle suit, coupled with my brilliant mind will soon unlock all its secrets!' Dementor crowed.
'Then all that's left is our fee.' said Grimm. 'Half at the start of the job, the rest on successful completion.'
Dementor winced, but reached into his vest and took out a thick pouch. He looked at it wistfully before handing over to Grimm, who passed it immediately to Rhonda. Rhonda opened the pouch and started running her communicator over the bundles of cash inside. 'I still maintain zat your prices are too high,' said Dementor. 'I might hire you more often if you were more affordable.'
'Inflation is what it is.' said Grimm shrugging. 'When you go cheap, you get what you pay for.'
Dementor sniffed, but turned his attention back to the tridyplatinum, picking up another one of the bars and running a hand over it. Rhonda's communicator beeped.
'Clean.' she said, and Grimm nodded.
'We'll be on our way then, Professor.' Grimm said with a nod. 'And remember, just pay enough money and we can do anything!'
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
The Ksikkihkíni soared through the night sky, zooming back towards the secret city of Riddleton. 'Another job well done!' said Grimm. Despite his declaration that the job was over, his voice sounded eager to Rhonda, almost like he did when he was anticipating a particularly challenging job.
'Well done?' she said. 'We zipped in when the lights are off, then zipped out. We didn't do much.'
'I know!' said Grimm, and he sounded delighted. 'I keep saying, those are the best kinds of jobs. The ones where people wonder if you even did anything!'
Rhonda felt herself sighing. She'd heard Grimm say that lots of times before, and it still didn't make sense to her.
The rest of the trip home passed mostly in silence except for Grimm's occasional spontaneous whoops. Eventually they were soaring over Riddleton, the lights of the houses and buildings sparkling below them like a dark blanket studded with glowing beads. Soon they were descending towards the familiar silhouette of Grimm's house, the driveway pale and grey in the light of the street lamps.
They touched down, and Grimm leaped from the bike, flipped out his communicator and said, 'Jade - we're back.'
A girl with an Asian complexion leaned her face onto the screen. Jade earrings dangled from each lobe, and her hair was pulled into two pony-tails that were streaked with rainbow colors on each side. Jade's voice came tinny and piercing throught the speaker in the still night air. 'Yo G-man! You guys are done kind of early, aren't you?'
'This one was a cakewalk.' said Grimm, shrugging but smiling as Rhonda slid off the bike and stretched her stiff back. 'Almost too easy. We'll be splitting the take tomorrow once the banks are open.'
'Spankin.' said Jade dismissively. 'Now - Dementor knows about the... technical issues he'll be running into once he starts making that suit, right?'
Grimm smirked. 'If he doesn't, he will soon enough. Wouldn't have done any good to warn him though. He was in full 'my brilliant mind' mode, and he won't believe that he can't puzzle things out on his own.'
Jade was smirking too. 'At least not until he hits some of the walls we've run into.' she said.
Grimm nodded. 'And when he does, he'll probably be in touch. Keep him dangling with a tidbit or two, just enough to get him to ask for your help.'
'Then double charge him?' Jade grinned.
'Depending on how snooty he is about the whole thing, yeah.' said Grimm.
'Gotcha.' Jade said. 'G-man, you so cold!' Then the screen burst with static and went black.
Grimm's smirk seemed frozen in place as he pocketed the communicator and turned to Rhonda, giving her a firm hug and kissing her full on the lips. Rhonda returned his embrace and the kiss went on for nearly half a minute before a pair of voices sounded from an open window on the second floor of the house.
'Mmmmm - mwah mwah mwah!'
Grimm broke off and turned towards the house. 'Shut up, twisters!' he shouted. But Lynn and Mim's voices simply giggled from the unseen depths of their room.
'I should probably go anyway.' said Rhonda, looking sheepish. 'I mean, Ms. Darken's homework isn't gonna do itself you know.'
Grimm gave her a sly look. 'Come on,' he said. 'You're mostly caught up...'
'Not if Indy's hidden it in the ductwork like he did last week.' said Rhonda with a grimace. 'And he's started writing little 'treasure maps' to see if I can find them on my own...'
Grimm nodded with a small chuckle. 'He's getting smarter. I think someday he'll make a great field investigator for the team...' His communicator sounded a familiar four-note beep and he fished it from his hip pouch smoothly. 'What's up, Jade?'
'A couple more jobs upcoming.' Jade's voice answered.
'Forward the details to my email, I'll look them over before I go to sleep.' he said.
'Yo!' Jade said, and the screen blipped off again.
Rhonda felt a tightness in her stomach. 'More jobs?' she said.
Grimm didn't seem to catch her weary tone. 'More jobs means more money.' he said, and the eager sound was back in his voice. 'At this rate, we can think about an easy retirement before we've even graduated!'
Rhonda sighed. 'I'll... rest up then.' she said.
This time, Grimm did a double take. 'Something wrong, babe?'
Rhonda dug at the driveway with her shoe. 'I donno.' she said. 'I mean, sure the last few capers have been great. But ever since that fight with Monkey Fist at Yamanouchi, it just feels like.... something's missing.'
Grimm looked like he was thinking. 'Not sure what.' he said at last. 'The clients, the jobs, the thrill, the payoff, it's all been there.'
Rhonda thought about trying to explain it more, but she wasn't sure of what she was feeling, or how to express it. 'I guess I was just looking forward to a vacation after that business with Monkey Fist.' she said, taking the easy out.
Grimm chuckled. 'Fat chance.' he said. 'The world's villains took a hit along with everyone else when Monkey Fist and Maze launched their golem scheme. Tons of them are looking for jobs to be done, either to fix up their infrastructure, or launch a plan of their own to prove they can out-do Monkey Fist. It's kept the money just rolling in. Not only that, we've kept things so under the radar that Possible and her crew haven't even noticed. Rockin'!'
Rhonda smiled indulgently, but had to wince through it. Ever since they'd gotten home safe, there had been an almost non-stop slew of jobs from various clients. After all that they'd been through, she had thought that Grimm might want a break as much as she did. To her surprise, he had been all to eager to leap back into action. Though as he put his arms around her and held her, she relaxed a bit.
'Don't worry babe,' he said. 'There'll probably be a lull sooner or later. In the meantime, get a good night sleep.' He gave her another kiss. 'See you tomorrow.' he said softly.
Rhonda smiled and nodded, and was soon swallowed up in the evening shadows as she took the sidewalk towards her house.
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
Grimm weaved from room to room after going inside his own house, heading towards the entrance to the basement. His sisters Lynn and Mim were still making exaggerated kissy-faces at him from the living room doorway, but they darted out of sight as he took an absent-minded swipe at them.
His mother's voice came muffled from the kitchen. 'No hitting, Grimm!' she said. 'And Lynn, Mim - stop teasing!'
Grimm moved on, marvelling at how his mother somehow always knew what they were doing, even on the other side of the house. As he passed by the den, a deeper voice sounded. 'Back early, boy?'
He paused at the doorway. Inside, the den was brightly lit, but it seemed dimmer since the walls were paneled with dark wood with a deep burgundy carpet. Wood bookshelves lined the room, surrounding a large desk. Mr. Probable was seated there, wearing his usual grey suit and unimaginative necktie. 'Yes, sir.' said Grimm with a nod. Years of his father working at the DOD had built the habit in him of treating him somewhat like a soldier addressing a superior officer.
Mr. Probable had a somewhat stern expression. 'This one stirred up a hornet's nest, boy.' he said. 'Helping Dementor raid a military base? There's already calls for an inquiry.'
Grimm held back his smirk with effort. 'If nothing else, we've shown the Army all the holes in their base defenses that need shoring up.' Mr. Probable glared, and Grimm quickly held up his hand. 'I wouldn't worry about Dementor. He'll try using the metal to make his own battle-suit, but because of the intel we gave you on mine, the Army's already prepared. He's got nothing that you don't know about already. And once I pass on the intel we're bound to get from Dementor, your guys will have a whole new set of notes for their research. Besides, the Army had no idea what to do with the stuff. It was gathering dust in that base for nearly eight years.'
Mr. Probable grunted. 'Fair point.' he said. 'Carry on, boy. But tread carefully - if either side gets wind of this, it'll be your hide on a platter.'
'Yes sir.' Grimm answered, and he nodded respectfully before moving on. He reached the door leading to the basement, and thumped his way down the stairs. He didn't bother turning on the lights, he knew the way so well he didn't need to see.
He reached out in the dark and felt the doorknob as his fingers closed around it. A moment later, he was turning on the light and making a bee-line for his computer. The room around him was large, but the dimness, combined with the boxy concrete walls, made it seem more confining somehow. There was a bed, a table in the middle of the room, a couple of bookshelves against the walls, and the computer desk in the far corner. One of the walls had an accordion door on it, leading into a recessed closet.
Another wall was covered with corkboard, and pinned to the cork was a jumble of photographs. Each photo showed a hero - Team Go, Team Impossible, Global Justice members and Kim Possible, each in some state of anger or embarrassment, and a number of the pictures had darts stuck into them. In a corner nearby was a jumble of sports equipment and martial arts gear.
Grimm checked his email quickly. The jobs Jade had mentioned were there. 'Motor Ed wants some more auto parts boosted from NASCAR's top secret facility.' he thought, 'And Duff Killigan wants us to look at... his lawn? These are jobs?' He looked them over and shrugged. 'Well, a buck is a buck.'
He forwarded some info to Jade to make the arrangements, then shut the computer down. He knew it was late, but he still felt wired. He stood looking towards the ceiling at the basement window which looked up into the lawn. He stared at the stars of the night sky, feeling oddly at peace.
The sitch with Monkey Fist and Maze had been the most annoying, gut-wrenching thing he'd ever had to endure. A full month without Rhonda, while she was trapped in the Spirit World. And most of that time was spent having to put up with Kim Possible and her insufferable posse of goody-two-shoes friends.
But after they had rescued Rhonda, he'd felt an amazing sense of relief. And once the Senior Prom was over and Possible and her crew were gone for good, he'd felt even better. And the reason why he'd jumped straight back into work was because having Rhonda back, having the team properly assembled, had been like sinking into a comfortable sofa. It just felt right having her there again, to have things back to the way they were supposed to be. Him, Rhonda, Rueful and Jade - Team Probable. On missions, under the radar, making the good guys' lives miserable without them even knowing it. And it was in that frame of mind that he closed things down for the night and got ready to sleep.
'We've got it going on.' he thought, 'If I could freeze everything just the way it is now, I'd do it.' While he didn't realize it, his smirk had softened into a smile as he turned out the lights and clambered into bed. 'I hope things never change again.'
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
Rhonda walked home slowly. Her feeling of general unease hadn't left her. The warm fuzzies of Grimm's good night kiss had worn off, leaving her alone with her confused thoughts.
She hadn't wanted to lie to Grimm. The truth was, between her own efforts and Grimm's help, she was nearly caught up with all the homework that Ms. Darken had given her after she came back. But she didn't really feel like talking mission shop anymore that night, and that was all Grimm had really seemed interested in.
She paused at the front door, and decided she didn't really feel like dealing with Indy at the moment either. Instead, she found herself sneaking into the backyard and going to her nature spot. Grimm kept calling it her sanctorum (why did guys always want to give complicated names to things?), but to her, it was just a place where she could sit and think in peace. When Grimm had been helping her train to tap into the power of the Great Bear Spirit, he had kept her here meditating for hours at a stretch, no matter how girlishly she whined about it. She'd hated Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin, and associated the pain of her experiences there with anything even remotely 'outdoorsy'. So she'd avoided the outdoors most of the time after she'd gotten back from summer camp as a child.
But her constant meditations in the nature spot during her training had helped her develop almost a fondness for this particular sheltered grove, tucked quietly away on the edge of her unfenced backyard. She sat down and took out a lighter, quickly making a small blaze in the fire pit at the center of the grove. 'Friction fire?' she thought. 'I don't think so! Not after thousands of years of evolution!'
She sat down on a patch of dead leaves she had gathered over the months. The leaves were softer than a tree stump, and cleaner than sitting in the dirt. She closed her eyes and let her mind drift. But before she had even been there a full minute, she heard pattering rustles all around her. She smiled faintly and opened her eyes. 'Hi guys!' she chirped.
Surrounding her was a scruffy assortment of weasels, a raccoon or two, and a few rabbits. They all chittered or thumped their feet eagerly.
This had been another unintended consequence of her training in this one location all the time. It meant most of the small animals in the vicinity had been drawn to her. During the day it was usually songbirds, squirrels and chipmunks. But after sundown, the nocturnal animals took over. It had startled her at first to have them turn up just to hang out with her, like the animals had back at Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin. But since they kept showing up each time she meditated, she'd gotten familiar with most of them.
All of them were staring at her expectantly. From his perch on her shoulder, Rueful chittered and jabbed towards her hip pouch. Rhonda caught on. Her hip pouch was where she kept some of her mission gear, and her MP3 player. She smiled faintly. Some people sang their favorite songs in the shower. She sang in the woods. And ever since her experience at Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin, animals turned up to join the show.
But tonight she shook her head. 'Nah, I'm not really in a jamming mood right now, fellas.' she said. 'I'm... trying to figure a few things out.'
The weasels all tilted their heads in unison, looking so forlorn that Rhonda sighed. 'All right, fine.' She said, and fished her communicator out, going to the music player app. 'I'll turn on the radio, but no singing, got it?' The weasels capered and scampered, looking excited.
Rhonda set the player to stream from one of her music stations. With a jolt, she heard a familiar voice singing brightly.
When you find your world is caving in,
you can bet you'll need a friend,
someone to take those fears awaaaay!
Say the word!
Make a call and I'll be there!
Anytime, anywhere, have you heard?
That I'm all about saving your...
Rhonda twisted and grabbed the communicator, rapidly scrambling to find another station. 'Rrrrrr!' she snarled, slamming it back down. 'Stupid pom-pon with her stupid, perky...' But she paused when she saw the animals looking at her in confusion. 'Sorry guys.' she said sheepishly. 'I mean it's just... I came here to step away from work for a while, you know? Don't mind me, just.... carry on.'
The assorted animals seemed to shrug, then they started gamboling around while listening to the music channel that Rhonda had turned to.
But hearing Kim Possible's voice had turned her mind away from the solitude she had sought, and set it thinking once again about the events that had happened a few weeks ago. Try as she might, she found the memories like leaves in a whirlwind around her, brushing softly against her, impossible to ignore.
The fear and the darkness after being banished by Maze. Stuck in the Spirit World with Ron Stoppable. And the tremendous fight at Yamanouchi where she teamed up with Kim to take down Monkey Fist. And her memory followed that trail of events until the end of the battle, when it was all over, and the Yamanouchi students and Maze's former golem victims had broken out in joyous celebration.
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
Rhonda stood in the midst of a cheering throng in the courtyard of the Yamanouchi School. Monkey Fist stood petrified and defeated. When doing mercenary work with Grimm, Rhonda had gotten into a habit of trying to hide as soon as they were done. 'Move fast,' Grimm always said. 'Move silently, and leave no trace that you were ever there.' Every time she and Grimm finished a mission, it was like a race to see which of them could blend into the shadows and disappear fastest. And of course, Grimm always won.
And so after Monkey Fist was defeated, she had instinctively started edging towards the nearest intact building, looking for an open door to slip through. But there was too much celebration, too many people cheering, jostling and even hugging.
Most of the back-slapping and adulation was centered around Kim, who looked totally used to it. But before Rhonda could get even part way through the crowd, she found a pair of old arms being thrown around her. An elderly woman with a cane was hugging her, and Rhonda heard a creaky voice.
'I saw you take on that brute, my dear.' she said. 'You were so brave. Thank you.... thank you.'
As quickly as it had started, it was over. The old woman had let her go and had vanished amid the other people around them. And Rhonda stood there, dumbfounded. The noise, the bustle, everything around her seemed to fade. She was patted on the back by a few more people, but she hardly noticed. To have been thanked and hugged like that was unlike anything she had ever experienced in all her time helping Grimm. It had felt... warm... nice...
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
Her mind snapped back to herself. The animals around her were still frolicking. The weasels had formed a kind of line dance to the song that was playing, and she was tapping her finger in time to it as well, not so much hearing the music as she was hearing the words being sung.
If you need a friend,
don't look to a stranger,
You know in the end,
I'll always be there...
And when you're in doubt,
and when you're in danger,
Take a look all around,
and I'll be there...
And things clicked in her mind. The feeling that was missing from the missions she'd been working with Grimm. What had been missing was that nice feeling she'd had after.... she struggled to dredge up the word. After... helping people.
And suddenly she wasn't feeling tired of the mercenary work at all. On the contrary, she realized she'd been feeling pent-up because she wanted to do more mercenary style work, but to have it involve... helping people? Not trolling for money, or helping some crazy pug-ugly take over the world. She wanted to just help someone who needed it - without having to worry about collecting a reward, or running from the cops.
The stillness of the evening air suddenly seemed to be tingling with energy. Slowly she got to her feet. The assembled weasels and small animals paused. They were used to Rhonda leading in the singing and grooving, and whined in disappointment when she turned off her music player.
'Sorry to end the rave early.' she said. 'But... how would you guys like to help me do something that may be even more exciting?'
There was a chorus of enthusiastic thumping and chitters from the animals. 'Then spread the word to all your buddies to meet me here tomorrow night.' she said. 'Cause we're gonna do something bold, and daring and cool.'
She bent down and spoke to Rueful and the assembled animals in a barely audible whisper. 'We're... steppin' out!'
Author: Sorry again about the LONG delay between chapters. I fear my RL 'looking for work' sitch is slowing things down, as I feared it would. And it's not over yet, so that means probably another long stretch between postings. But don't give up on the story, because it's shaping up fairly well.
I was glad to use Team Impossible in this chapter. TI got fairly short shrift in the TV show, and I felt they deserved another appearance. They were very competent of course, and in real life I doubt a team that accomplished would just pack it in because a teenage girl threatened them. But they seemed a decent bunch all in all, so I had them keep the promise by working around it a little. And of course, Dementor is just too funny NOT to use.
I always intended to have Rhonda 'evolve' a little as a character, just like Ron did in Graduation. In Rhonda's case - how will her evolution play out? And what will it mean when the coming storm breaks? And most dramatic - what will her boyfriend think of it all? You knew I wouldn't just jump straight to the firestorms, right?