'I did not!' said Kim, shaking her finger back and forth between the two boys.
'Did too!' said both Jim and Tim together.
'Out, tweebs!' Kim shouted.
Both Jim and Tim turned to Mr. Dr. Possible. 'Dad!' they both said appealingly. But Mr. Dr. Possible was already shaking his head and gesturing to the stairs. They both groaned and stumped off, though their shadows stopped just past the corner at the top of the stairs. Only when Mrs. Dr. Possible glared towards their feathered silhouettes did they flick off to the side and disappear.
Kim sighed, looking at her parents. 'Mom, Dad, I may be... working with him temporarily, which means he may be here now and again. Are you cool with that?'
'Is he show folk?' said Mr. Dr. Possible, and Mrs. Dr. Possible sighed softly.
Kim blanked for a moment. She had no idea if he was show folk or not, and glanced towards him. Grimm shook his head very slightly. 'No.' she said.
Mr. Dr. Possible shrugged. 'Well then, as long as he can follow our curfew, have at it.' he said.
Mrs. Dr. Possible tugged at her husband's shoulder. 'Come on honey, let's go to the kitchen.'
Mr. Dr. Possible looked a little miffed as he picked up his coffee cup. 'They were just in the kitchen...' but he surrendered grudgingly as his wife glared at him and led him out.
Now there was no one in the living room except for Wade, Kim and Grimm. It suddenly seemed as if the room was very large and silent. 'Well now that I've met the folks,' said Grimm sardonically, 'Can I come calling every night if I bring posies?'
'Ground rules.' said Kim, ignoring him. 'You said yourself this is temporary. So once we get Ron back, I throw you in jail.'
Grimm sniffed. 'Given your past track record, feel free to try.'
'Second - no evil.' Kim said, glaring.
'No promises.' Grimm answered.
'And... no head gaming.' Kim said.
Grimm shook his head. 'Get real.' he said. 'I'm not asking you to give up cheerleading.'
'That's the deal.' Kim said firmly. 'If you can't hack it, we skip straight to the you-go-to-jail part.'
Grimm's face set into a hard expression. 'I'm not operating under a handicap.' he said. 'If I help, I help without restraint. Otherwise, I leave you with Mr. 'I got nothing' and he can help you get your Ronny-boy out of limbo.'
'I'm still not buying this spirit world stuff.' said Kim.
'Buy it. It's the truth.' said Grimm flatly.
Wade piped up again. 'Look, before either side starts throwing down ultimatums, we should determine if the intel is good enough to even merit a team up.'
'Fine.' said Kim and Grimm at the same time, their eyes locked and gleaming. Grimm tapped a button on the side of his communicator and a flash chip slid out. He pushed it across the coffee table towards Wade with his finger.
'Here's all the info I've gathered on where Rhonda and Ron are and what happened to them.' Grimm said, eyeing Wade as if they were both spies at a cloak and dagger meeting. 'The only stuff missing is info I didn't think was... necessary.'
Kim blurted out. 'You mean any info that might lead us to your hideout.' she said angrily.
Grimm stared at her. 'Naturally.' he answered. 'I said I'd give you our intel on Maze and Monkey Fist. I didn't say I'd tell you anything about me.' Wade had taken the chip and was opening the slot to his scanner. 'But if it's a matter of trust,' said Grimm quickly, turning back to Wade, 'Then you might want to consider waiting on putting that chip in your equipment until you've verified that it's not loaded with spike programs, spyware or viruses.'
At once, Wade's hand stopped as if he had suddenly realized he was arming a bomb. 'But... you said you were here to help us.' he said. 'Why would you give us files with viruses?'
'I'm not.' said Grimm, leaning back in the sofa and looking smug. 'But I'd be disappointed if you let your guard down so easily. Scan it properly - verify it's safe. Then look it over. You can't be too careful - there's people out there who can't be trusted.'
Kim sighed and shook her head in exasperation. 'I said no head gaming.' she winced.
Grimm's smirk looked like it was in danger of freezing in place. 'And I recall saying I didn't agree to that.' he answered.
Kim was growling again and Wade hurriedly stood up. 'I'll verify the data at home.' he said. 'Once I do that, we can know whether there's any point in joining forces.'
'Yes, and please hurry.' said Grimm, a flicker of impatience in his voice. 'I'm not sure how much longer I can put up with Little Miss Sunshine here.'
Wade was looking nervous as he moved to the door. 'Kim are you gonna be.... OK until I get back?'
'Don't worry about me.' said Kim, her gaze fixed on Grimm like twin beams of ice.
Wade was exiting when Grimm spoke again. 'By the way - Jade will be stopping by when you go over the data. Just so you know.' Wade paused, then closed the door behind him, leaving Kim and Grimm alone in the living room.
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Maze stood in the lair with a satisfied smile on his face, watching as the petrified residents of Graniton labored. The statues were in the area furthest back in the lair, hammering against the wall with their fists, digging and breaking stone with their bare hands. They worked ceaselessly, increasing the size of the lair by hollowing out stone and carrying it outside in a never-ending cycle.
Monkey Fist stood next to him. 'I trust things are proceeding to your satisfaction?' he said dryly.
Maze glanced at him and nodded. 'I had my doubts.' he said. 'But the devices seem to have worked exactly as you described.'
'Of course.' Monkey Fist answered, and the smugness in his voice was plain to hear. 'I'm sure you are anxious to use them again, but I feel it best that we wait until the next phase of the plan is underway - not to mention this... side project that you have suggested.' he looked over to where the statues continued to dig and hew rock from the cavern. 'You will want to have them add support structure.' he said, glancing to the sizeable depression that had already been dug into back of the lair. 'The last thing we need is to have the lair collapse on us.'
Maze nodded again, and there was silence for several minutes except for the sounds of digging and the thud of heavy boulders being moved. At last he spoke again. 'As to the next phase of the plan,' he said, 'Why can we not proceed with the tools that we already have?'
'It is a question of scale.' said Monkey Fist. 'Our machine will affect small areas, but if we cannot cover a large enough section, we will not create enough chaos to ensure that our enemies won't be able to rally resistance. They don't know the full power of our new weapon yet, nor it's weaknesses. We must keep it that way until we are ready to proceed again. If all goes as I have foreseen, then the final operation will be massive and swift - the entire world will be powerless to stop us!'
Maze frowned. 'Then what was the purpose of assembling this device if it is too small?' he said.
Monkey Fist looked at him keenly. 'The purpose?' he said. 'To make sure that it works of course. We were always going to need a larger version. But as I said - I have reached the limit of my technical skill. Our machine works - but it is not strong enough. We need it to be bigger - more powerful. Otherwise, we are reduced to acting in small increments as we did in Graniton.'
'If we are untraceable, as you say, then what difference does it make?' said Maze. 'We can strike at will and sow fear among our foes if they cannot find us.'
'Triangulation.' said Monkey Fist. 'If we do things as you described, then eventually they will track us down simply be examining the patterns of our movements. Even the machine cannot mask that forever. All they will need is a map on which to mark the places we strike, and then to examine for any unusual energy readings. Eventually they would know. Which is why we should wait until our reach is expanded.'
'Then it might be prudent to target Mi'kksiistsikomma right now.' said Maze.
'She has already contacted Global Justice.' said Monkey Fist, shaking his head. 'I think they doubt her story at the moment, but if she disappears, then Global Justice will take the matter more seriously. We're not yet prepared to deal with an organization that far-reaching. The opportunity will arise - but until we have a larger version of the machine, it is more prudent to wait.'
Maze's eyes narrowed. 'And you are certain that this will require assistance from a third party? I am comfortable with current arrangements. Adding another factor into the equation is something I would rather not do unless we have to.'
Monkey Fist made an impatient sniffing motion. 'You are comfortable with our slaves because they cannot disobey you. And you are comfortable with me because without your power, I revert to my immobile state. Which means you'll always have a degree of control.'
'Yes.' Maze said. 'Surely that's something you understand.' Monkey Fist nodded grudgingly. 'And that control is something I would rather not divide between too many. If you say we will need someone with scientific expertise to build a larger, more powerful version of the machine, I will trust your judgment. But I would prefer someone who can be controlled. Someone expert, but... easily intimidated.'
Monkey Fist's mouth crinkled into a faint smile. 'As it happens, I think I know just the man.' he said.
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Wade sat down in the familiar chair in front of his computer. The flash card Grimm had given him was lying on a table where nearly a dozen different scanners were sending sweeping beams of light across it, humming, clicking and running through every screening program and protocol that he knew.
After each program completed it's analysis, Wade was satisfied there was nothing harmful contained on it. He took one of his older computers and set up a network of firewalls to block it from sharing files with any of his other systems and hard wired it so it couldn't be linked remotely to his main computers. Then with a sigh of anticipation, he slid the chip into the data port and started looking over the files. As he started reading he heard a beep behind him and an insolent voice hit his ears.
'Hey Wade! Kiss-kiss!'
Wade turned to the screen of his main computer and saw Jade's face staring out at him, a playful smirk on her lips. He grumbled and sniffed. 'Grimm said you'd be stopping by.' said Wade. 'I kind of thought....'
'Physically?' said Jade, sneering. 'You know me, Wadey. I let my fingers do the walking!' She paused, resting her chin on one palm. 'Any chance I could get your mom to bring in another lemon square?'
Wade glared at his screen while Jade stared back with a look on her face that was only seen on a player who held the previous win record in a game. 'Let's get this over with.' he said. 'The less access you've got the better.'
'Don't like wasting time, huh?' said Jade. 'I like that in a guy.' Jade's eyes looked almost sultry. 'You were a lot cuter when I had you hog-tied.' she said.
Wade flushed, but concealed it with effort. 'Look, do you want our info or not?' he said.
Jade sighed. 'Fine, send it along.'
For some time things were quiet as they both scanned and then read, making occasional comments, their voices taking on a distracted and distant sound as they spoke and studied at the same time.
'Interesting....' said Jade. 'So that was why Monkey Fist wanted the scroll leading to the first key shrine. He never said....'
'So all the years when Maze left he was studying shadow-medicine?' Wade said later. 'It creates some kind of barrier and lets him transfer his consciousness to someone else? That would explain why it was Kim's voice doing the incantation. Interesting...'
'The Yono....' said Jade. 'Trashed Grimm's old school lickety-split. But taking down Monkey Fist sent him packing? Too bad it didn't work in Graniton. That must mean they found a loophole of some kind. Interesting...'
'The Great Bear Spirit?' said Wade. 'Well, it's not Mystical Monkey Power, but still... Interesting...'
And then things faded to silence except for both of them muttering the same word back and forth.
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Kim had spent several minutes in silence staring across the coffee table at Grimm. He made no sign except to stare back at her occasionally. Every so often, Mrs. Dr. Possible would peer around the corner to look at them, only to return quickly to the kitchen. Rufus perched on Kim's knee and growled softly at Rueful, who slithered onto the couch and curled over Grimm's leg to chitter angrily at Rufus.
Grimm sighed at last. 'Well as fun as this is,' he said with his voice dripping disdain, 'we could save some time by going over a few things before Jade and Wade call back to confirm what I already know.' He looked her over before continuing. 'How did you find Monkey Fist that last time?'
'We didn't find him.' Kim said. 'We were investigating a missing person case in Graniton and he was just there.'
'You went straight after Maze when he turned up - why?'
Kim paused before answering. 'I thought taking him down would defeat Monkey Fist. Beating Monkey Fist was what stopped the Yono.'
Grimm nodded slightly. 'I'll have to have Jade look into that. We've never encountered the Yono before - your data on his powers could be useful.'
'My turn.' said Kim scowling. 'What have you been up to?'
Grimm paused and smiled. 'We haven't been up to anything.' he said evasively. 'But I've... heard that Monkey Fist and Maze have been collecting various components through some unknown source.'
Kim winced. 'Just spit it out.' she said. 'You've been stealing stuff for them!'
Grimm's eyes widened in stage surprise. 'What a terrible thing to say.' he said. 'I have no idea what you're talking about. But I have sources of my own who have more expertise then your people, and I think we have a good idea of all the devices they've gathered. Once Jade and Wade compare files, we should be able to make a clear guess at what they're building.'
'What do they want?' Kim said. 'And why did they go after Ron and Rhonda?'
'Beats me.' said Grimm. 'Monkey Fist said he wanted world domination, but he's been saying that kind of thing for ages - you know that. But Maze has had it in for Rhonda for some time now, just like Monkey Fist has been after your BF. If my sources had known that Maze was in on it with Monkey Fist, then they'd have... had a lot more trouble gathering their components. Pretty stupid of them really. They could have been getting help for even longer if they hadn't been in such a hurry to settle their grudges.'
Kim felt her eye twitching as anger boiled up inside her. 'You mean...' she said, taking a measured breath, '...that if they hadn't taken Rhonda you'd still be helping them?'
'I didn't say so.' said Grimm. 'Maze though - we banned him a while back for double-crossing us. Those are the rules. When a client plays it straight, we don't interfere. But if they try playing us, they get played.'
'You... two-faced...' Kim sputtered, but Grimm cut across her.
'The fact is, they did betray me.' he said, with a hint of impatience. 'Which means I'm on your side until I get Rhonda back. I'm even working for free on this one. So what are you complaining about?'
'What am I...?' Kim said, shaking her head. 'I'm complaining because you helped them get the equipment they needed to make sure we can't track them down, and who knows where they'll strike next?'
Grimm shrugged. 'It's a pickle, but just the sort of challenge that Jade would love to sink her teeth into. If your techie pays attention, he might learn a thing or two from her.'
'She'll be the one who gets schooled...' Kim muttered, but Grimm seemed to have heard her.
'Doubtful.' he said. 'He's just like you in more ways than you know - fettered and shackled with baggage from the goody-two-shoes school of hard knocks.' He looked cunningly at her. 'I honestly don't know how losers like you get by when you put yourselves willingly under so many restraints. If you had the brains and the guts, you might actually be dangerous.'
'So why come to me at all?' Kim said, feeling stung by his attitude. 'If you're so tough, and if you think I'm such a flake, why come crawling to me for help?'
Grimm looked uncomfortable for one brief instant, but then it passed. 'It's not in my nature to leave things to chance.' he said, and his voice, instead of sounding cocky or sarcastic, instead sounded measured and serious. 'I plan things out before I make my moves, and I make them only when I've determined which ones have the best odds to succeed.'
Kim glared at him. 'And what? You think your best odds are with me now?'
'Something like that.' said Grimm, and he sounded almost resentful. 'The fact is, the technology they have now makes them untraceable electronically. And between Monkey Fist's ninja training and Maze's woodcraft, the odds are slim to nil against tracking them down conventionally.'
He lowered his eyes slightly and seemed for a moment that he was speaking to himself rather than to Kim. 'Given Jade's report on what happened at Monkey Fist's manor, and then your encounter in Graniton, my guess is they're in England. But England is a big island. Maze's shadow-medicine seems to allow him to travel through darkness in some way. It's not teleportation, otherwise they wouldn't have needed anyone to gather equipment for them. I think he can use the shadows to conceal or hasten their movements in some way, but they can still be blocked by walls, locks and other security measures.'
His eyes locked back on Kim. 'Luck and chance.' he said. 'I don't like relying on it. But the fact is, you've crossed paths with Monkey Fist twice now, and I haven't found them once. I don't know what kind of mojo you've got with him, but for this caper - I want in on it.'
Grimm leaned forward and the look in his eyes was suddenly very focused and intense. 'You're lucky.' he said. 'Think back to all your missions. How many of them were sitches where you should have been taken down? But you came through them all. It's one of the reasons why getting to you is such a blast. I operate under a different philosophy and I love proving that I'm right. I don't rely on luck to get the job done, I rely on skill. In the long run, skill beats luck. It always does. But there are some times when it's better to be lucky than good.'
He leaned back again and folded his arms. 'And that's pretty much it. I don't know when or how that dumb luck of yours will help you to stumble across Monkey Fist or Maze again. But I'm banking that it'll happen. And I want to be there when it does. You had the right idea in targeting Maze first, but for the wrong reasons. When I corner him, I'll do it right.'
'How will it make any difference if you take him down?' Kim said.
'It was Maze's shadow-medicine that banished Rhonda and Ron.' he answered. 'And I think he can reverse it with the right persuasion.'
'Newton's third law of motion.' Grimm said. 'For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. If Maze knew how to banish them, he knows how to bring them back.'
Kim looked darkly at him. 'And how are you going to 'persuade' him?'
Grimm's expression was flat as he answered. 'I'll take care of it.' he said. 'It's nothing you need to worry about.'
Kim shook her head. 'I don't do things that way.' she said. 'No rough stuff.'
Grimm raised an eyebrow. 'You'd really leave Ron stuck in Limbo rather than let me do what's necessary to bring him back? I was only guessing before, but it sounds like you really don't care about your BF. And you say I'm the bad guy? You're stone cold, Possible.'
Kim winced at the accusation. 'You are the bad guy!' she said. 'I wasn't the one who handed stolen technology to Monkey Fist! I wasn't the one who sold my BF to them for money! And you sit there making like you care more about your partner in crime than I care about Ron? If you cared about her at all, you'd have never played footsie with every villain who has a bankroll! I should call the police in and have them throw you in jail right now!'
Grimm's frown became more and more pronounced as Kim spoke. 'Fine,' he said, looking irritated. 'This whole 'I'll see you in jail' thing - let's get it dealt with right now so we can focus on finding Rhonda and Ron.' He took out his communicator. 'Jade - she here?' he said.
'Huh?' said Jade, sounding distracted for a moment. Then she seemed to refocus. 'Oh yeah - she's coming up the walkway now.' came Jade's tinny voice. 'You can open the door for her in three.... two... one....'
Grimm quickly got up, moved to the front door and opened it. As if she had been expecting it, a woman strode into the living room without hesitation. She was tall, blonde and leggy, wearing a business jacket and blouse with a short gray skirt. She looked like a supermodel dressed as a businesswoman, and was carrying a briefcase in her hand.
'Thank you, Grimm.' she said without looking at him. She adjusted her glasses, looking Kim up and down. 'Is this her?' Grimm nodded, standing beside her.
The woman sat down in the reading chair and laid her briefcase on the coffee table, opening it and taking out several papers. Her voice went crisp and cool. 'Kimberly Ann Possible,' she said. 'My name is Leigh Gality, legal representative of Mr. Grimm Probable.' She held out one of the papers, holding it under Kim's nose. 'I am serving notice to you that if you continue with your acts of slander against my client, we will be pressing charges against you.'