Kim saw stars blossom in front of her eyes and heard a ringing in her ears, then felt herself rolling. Pain exploded in both wrists and she lay on the ground where she had stopped for a moment, wondering if her wrists were sprained or broken. But she was still alive, which meant Grimm and her shield had taken the worst of the impact.
But through the blurred curtain of her pain, she saw Grimm heave up from the pile of crumbled ground where he had landed. He seemed undamaged and rushed at her again. Kim rolled to the side as his fist made another explosive sound next to her head. She felt shattered rock stinging against her cheek and rolled the other way as his other fist came down for another blow. Without saying a word, he brought both fists up for an overhand smash.
Grimm looked up, seeming distracted momentarily by the sound. Kim heard a bang, and saw a white glob speeding across the air until it splattered against Grimm's chest and sent him sprawling backwards against the cliffside. Kim got painfully to her knees, watching in amazement as Grimm seemed to sink into an expanding cocoon of white foam. He continued to punch and kick, but the foam held him in place. He twisted and writhed, but was unable to break the substance that now encased him from his neck to his feet.
She looked and saw Wade, Jade and Monique rushing towards her, with Rueful and Rufus leading the way. Wade was carrying what looked like a large gun, connected to a pack on Jade's back by a long tube wrapped in duct tape. He dropped the gun, rushing up to Kim, his face full of concern.
'We saw you fall!' said Wade. 'It looked awful - are you all right? We came as soon as Rufus and Rueful found us...'
'I'm fine.' said Kim, leaning up. 'My wrists might be sprained, but the shield took most of it...'
Monique's face was pale and she looked like she was in shock. 'Girlfriend...' she said, and her voice was weak. 'That was... oh man...'
'I'm fine.' she said again, getting to her feet. 'We have to get back up there, we have to stop Monkey Fist from getting away!'
Rueful was standing in front of the Moo Goo, squeaking and pointing. It was only then that Jade seemed to realize who was imprisoned in the Goo. 'Grimm...?' she said, stumbling forward. Her face fell in shock and she numbly shook the straps from the Moo Goo Guy Gun pack from her shoulders. 'Grimm!' she shouted, and broke into a run.
'Stay away from him!' Kim shouted. 'He's dangerous...' But to her surprise, when Jade stopped in front of him, Grimm didn't seem to notice. His grey eyes were still turned to Kim and he was still struggling, but only in her direction.
'Oh G-man...!' Jade said, taking out a scanner. 'Jeez, what did they do to you?'
Wade was looking uncomfortably at Kim as Jade buried her knuckles against her lips. 'Should we.... do something?' he asked in a whisper.
Kim sighed. 'There's nothing we can do right now.' she said. 'Only Monkey Fist can release him, if even he knows how. But to do that, we need to capture him. Will that thing imprison him?' she pointed at the Moo Goo Guy Gun, lying unheeded on the ground as Jade continued to sweep Grimm with her scanner, as if that would somehow fix him. Rueful was slithering around her ankles, still chittering and pointing.
Wade nodded, and Kim hoisted the Moo Goo gun, starting back towards the path leading back up to Basalton, leaving Jade and Grimm behind. When Kim, Wade, Rufus and Monique reached the top, all of them were winded, for the path was steep and winding. Kim rushed through the town back to the battlefield, but she saw nothing.
There was no sign of Monkey Fist or Maze, or their statues. Even the ones which had been encased in Moo Goo were missing. Besides the damaged houses and craters in the ground, there was no sign that they had ever been there. Kim went through every house and looked behind every boulder in the fields outside, but there was nothing.
'It's too late, Kim.' said Wade, who had his own scanner out and was looking down at it with a frown. 'They're gone.'
Kim stood with her back towards him, her head bowed. Then she punched the wall of the house next to her with a low mutter.
'So that's it?' said Monique. 'This was all just a waste? They've just disappeared without a trace?'
'They didn't leave without a trace.' said Kim quietly, 'Not this time.' and she walked back to the cliff edge, looking down to where Grimm was still trapped in his foam prison, with Jade and Rueful still in front of him.
They were all distracted by the sound of an approaching engine. Kim looked towards the road leading into Basalton, but there were no cars to be seen. Then she looked up and saw a small hovercraft descending through the grey clouds above. It lighted down like a massive beetle, and dust blew everywhere as it settled onto the ground, the engine still running. From a hatchway on the side, a thin, wiry looking person stepped forward, wearing a dark jumpsuit. His face looked both arrogant and annoyed.
'The report said there was trouble out here,' said Agent Will Du, sweeping his eyes over Kim and the others. 'I should have known it was you.'
Kim winced. Of all the Global Justice agents, why was it that, whenever she dealt with Global Justice, she always got sent the most irritating one of the bunch? 'Agent Du.' Kim said flatly.
'Kim Possible.' he said, walking up to them and folding his arms. 'So what's the 'sitch' as you might call it? No wait, let me guess. Everyone in the town was turned to stone and then vanished into the blue?'
'Not everyone.' said Kim, feeling glad that now they had at least some evidence to present. 'This time I can prove my story.'
Some of Du's smugness seemed to deflate. 'I'm sure Global Justice will be glad to see this evidence.' he said, sounding quite insincere. 'If you'll accompany us back to our local base of operations...' He gestured to the hovercraft.
Kim spoke briskly. 'We'll need to carry along a payload about 450 kilograms....'
Will Du shook his head. 'If you'll take a close look at this craft,' he said snidely, 'You'll notice it doesn't have a cargo bay. I was sent to scout a disturbance, not transport baggage. This craft can only handle the pilot, myself and two passengers.'
'If you want us back at your base now, and if you still want us to present evidence, then we'll need to transport...' Kim started impatiently.
'I'll radio base and have them send a retrieval unit.' Will broke in. 'While your cargo is being delivered, you will come to the base and tell your story to Dr. Director. Once your evidence is in hand, I'll inspect it personally.'
'Fine.' said Kim. 'Monique - you want to ride shotgun?' Monique nodded, but looked somehow distant and distracted.
'How about I come instead?' said Wade. 'I've got...' But Kim interrupted.
'I need you to stay here, Wade.' she said. 'Collect all our stuff. Make sure Grimm gets taken to the base, and don't leave Du alone until he sees Grimm for himself. Right now, he's our only piece of... hard evidence, so to speak.' Wade nodded. 'And if they can bring back the Sloth and Grimm's bike, that would be helpful too.'
Wade nodded again. Kim started towards the hovercraft, where Will Du was standing and looking at his watch. As she and Monique were getting on board, she called out to Wade one more time. 'And make sure Jade doesn't bolt.' she said. 'We might need her.'
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Jade stood fidgeting in front of Grimm. Super genius. Everyone always called her a super genius back home. She had made dozens of devices, and ripped off quite a few others to reverse engineer them. She had been Grimm's idea-girl for as long as she could remember. Yet as she stared at Grimm, his face blank and petrified, she couldn't think of a thing.
Grimm had conducted numerous drills about what to do if he or Rhonda were ever injured or incapacitated while in the field, but none of those drills meant anything at the moment. Rhonda was gone. Grimm was a statue, not speaking or moving. And Team Possible was right there, probably already planning to take him away to who knew where? Rueful wasn't much help - his normal shtick was sabotage and distraction, not heavy lifting.
Her first instinct was to get Grimm out of there, as fast as she could. But her hover platform was busted, and she would need time to fix it. And even then it wouldn't support Grimm's weight. She had tried to pull and drag the Moo Goo cocoon herself, but Grimm was simply too heavy. She wasn't well built and didn't have the strength to move him.
She was just about to use her scanner to try and call the bike to her by remote. Her only hope was the Ksikkihkíni, but how she was supposed to harness Grimm to the cycle and fly all the way home with him in that condition... no ideas were coming to her. She looked into Grimm's blank, expressionless face and felt a surge of panic. Grimm had never been caught before, and so she'd never had to worry about anything like this.
But even as she was scanning, she saw Wade rounding the path and puffing his way towards her. 'Darn it!' she thought.
Wade joined her in staring at Grimm. 'So how's Rocky doing?' he said.
'Ha-ha, very funny.' Jade growled. 'I've run every scan I can think of, and it's not showing anything but solid rock. This isn't a stone shell or fossilization like I've ever seen - his whole body has transfigured somehow.'
Wade stared. Grimm was now completely motionless. He may as well have been part of the rocky landscape. 'Why isn't he trying to get out anymore?' he said.
'I don't know.' said Jade. 'He just... stopped moving a few minutes ago.'
'So... what do we do with him?' said Wade.
Jade fidgeted where she stood, biting her lip and not looking directly at Grimm. 'Well, for the moment I guess we leave him in the Moo Goo. It'll last a day or so before the adhesive effects wear off. By then we can put him into some more permanent restraints.'
Wade looked at the expansive ball that surrounded Grimm. 'And how do we move him?'
An idea formed in Jade's head. But she paused, considering. If she proposed it herself, Wade would get suspicious. 'What would Grimm do?' she thought, and the answer came to her in a flash. 'Make him think it's his idea.' 'Well,' she said out loud, knowing the answer before she even asked, 'Will he fit in the trunk of your car or in the backseat?'
'No.' said Wade firmly. 'Look at him - the goo makes him about six feet square. We'd need to tear the Sloth apart to even try it.'
'How about tying him to the roof?' she said, again guessing how he would answer based on his physique.
Wade shook his head. 'I couldn't lift him - how about you?'
'No....' she said, faking a look of puzzlement. 'I wish we had a more open-air vehicle we could strap him to...' she said, and trailed off, wondering if Wade would rise to the bait.
'How about Grimm's bike?' Wade said. 'That thing can hover, right?'
Jade smirked, thinking Grimm couldn't have done better himself.
Several minutes later, Jade had haltingly landed the Ksikkihkíni next to Grimm. With Wade's help, they had salvaged the repulsion element from Jade's platform and fastened it to the Moo Goo to lighten Grimm's overall weight. Then they had lashed the foam cocoon to the back of the bike with several lengths of hooked cable. Wade dug the hooks into the Moo Goo as best he could and they seemed to be holding. Grimm remained silent and still the whole time. At last the turbines on the bike whined, the cables creaked, and Jade carefully sat down behind the controls.
She bit her lip. If she was going to run for it, now was the time. She checked to make sure Rueful was stowed safely, then edged her hand towards the accelerator...
'Thinking about leaving?'
Jade flinched as Wade stared at her. 'Well... so what if I am?' she said. 'It's not like hanging out with you losers did Grimm any good!'
Wade glared. 'Fine.' he said. 'If you get him back home, then what?'
Jade opened her mouth, but no words came out. She simply sat there, looking as if she were trying to come up with something clever. 'I'll.... think of something.' she said at last.
Wade sighed. 'I thought I could too.' he said. 'In the last fight, I came up with some of my best stuff, and I was sure it would work on those statues. But it didn't. Whatever's been done to them, it's outside the realm of normalcy.'
Jade didn't look at him. Her eyes remained focused on the dashboard. 'I'm not leaving him to you guys or those Global Justice mooks!' she said. 'You'll just throw him in jail, or leave him under a cloud of pigeons in some park or other!'
'Why?' said Wade, and there was a hint of resentment in his voice. 'Because that's what you guys would do if the shoe was on the other foot?'
Jade lowered her head even more. 'Yeah.' she said, sounding resentful.
Wade sighed. 'Look,' he said walking closer to her. 'I don't know what your boss says about us in his off time, but you've got us all wrong. Kim's not like that and neither am I. Kim and Grimm made a deal that they'd work together until all this was over, until Ron and Rhonda were back. Well, Ron isn't back and from what I can see, the sitch is far from over.'
Jade didn't answer.
'The deal is still in place.' said Wade. 'Trust Kim - she's a helper. She won't break her word.'
Jade seemed almost tormented. 'I... can't.' she said. 'When you're a mercenary, you can't trust anyone - that's how you keep yourself alive.'
'You trust Rhonda - and Grimm.' said Wade.
'That's different!' said Jade. 'I know them - we earned the trust we had!'
'I once heard someone say something pretty smart.' said Wade. 'How can I prove that I'm trustworthy - unless you trust me?'
'Yeah?' said Jade, sneering. 'Who came up with that line of bunk?'
For some time, she said nothing. Rueful slithered out of his pack and bounded onto the dashboard of the Ksikkihkíni, looking up at her with low trill. 'Without Grimm and Rhonda, there is no Team Probable.' she said at last. 'Me and Rueful are all that's left.' She looked up, and Wade saw her eyes were wet. 'All right. I'll take a gamble - just like Grimm did. And hope to heck that you guys are as lucky he thought you were.'
'I can't promise much.' Wade said, 'But I do promise if there's a way to bring them back - we'll do our best to make it happen.'
Jade wiped her eyes. 'Yeah, well you better.' she said, and the spark was returning to her voice. 'Cuz if you don't, I'll open a bag of freak on you like you won't believe!'
Wade smiled. 'Trust you for that.' he said.
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Despite the sound of the hovercraft's engines, Kim found the flight unusually quiet. Monique was sitting with her arms curled around her knees, which were drawn up nearly level with her chin. She was rocking slightly back and forth, her expression distant.
'Monique?' said Kim. 'What's wrong?'
'What's wrong?' she said, her voice breaking slightly. 'What do you think is wrong, girlfriend? I was nearly killed by a mutant monkey man turned into a living statue while on a mission with a friend who told me that I wouldn't have to do any fighting! You think maybe that's what's wrong?'
'Monique, it was just Monkey Fist...'
'Well I'm sorry Kim!' Monique snapped, and her voice was suddenly angry. 'Maybe it's 'just Monkey Fist' to you, but I don't normally deal with this kind of stuff!'
Kim was stunned. She had never heard Monique talk like this before, never seen her genuinely upset. She had always seemed steady, even going up against the Fashionistas, and against Gill and Camille. But now she was obviously fighting to stop herself from crying, and burying her face in her hands.
'I shouldn't be here....' she sobbed. 'Every time you and Ron talked about your missions, he made it sound like the easiest thing in the world. It was all jokes and laughs, like saving the world was fun.' She paused, sniffing and wiping her eyes. 'I wish I was more like Ron.' she said softly. 'I have no idea how he kept it together - this isn't fun at all....'
And Kim could think of nothing to say as Monique burst into tears beside her.
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Rhonda had her fists clenched, her knuckles pressed to her lips. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was hanging open. Her vision of what had happened on the battlefield had faded, and she was surrounded by nothing but dark mists again.
'Hey, you're back!' said Ron, and Rhonda flinched, looking at him as if she hadn't expected to hear anyone. As he saw the look on her face, his own normal cheerful expression dropped into one of concern. 'What happened? You kind of zoned out for a while there...'
'I saw Grimm.' she said, and her voice was a pale whisper of her normal bravado. 'Monkey Fist was about to hit Kim with some kind of yellow beams from his eyes...'
Ron felt his own mouth fall open. 'What?' he said. 'But... that's what the Yono did when he turned Kim to....' he stopped, hearing himself asking the question and terrified of what she might answer. 'Did he...?'
'Grimm pushed her out of the way!' Rhonda said, 'He got hit, and......' but she broke into tears, unable to say any more.
Ron understood, but he couldn't believe it. After everything Grimm had done to hurt Kim over their encounters, after all the misery and angst, the thought of Grimm saving Kim from Monkey Fist seemed beyond reason. He laid an uncomfortable hand on Rhonda's shoulder.
And at once the mists around them both seemed to draw aside. All was grey and colorless, but he plainly saw both Kim and Monique, sitting side by side in some kind of transport. Rhonda seemed to see it as well, and stopped crying. At once, they both shouted and waved their hands, trying to get their attention. But after a few frantic seconds, the vision faded and the dark mists returned.
'Did... you see what I saw?' Ron said tremulously.
'Yeah....' said Rhonda. 'But... they couldn't see us.' She suddenly shouted. 'I saw Rueful before I saw Grimm - Rueful could see me! He knew I was there!' She put her face in her hands again, but this time she seemed angry instead of miserable. 'What does it mean?' she said. 'Why do we keep seeing this stuff? How does it happen? It this place just torturing us?'
'I don't know.' said Ron, and he finally set his brain into high gear, trying to think of answers. 'We saw what we saw when I touched you.' he said. 'Let's try that again.'
Rhonda looked up and nodded, holding out her hand. Ron reached up and took her hand in his. They both looked around, but the mists remained and she let go, growling in frustration. 'This place is really ticking me off!' she said.
'Maybe that's part of it.' said Ron, looking at his hand. Then he looked at Rhonda, his eyes glazed over and trying to remember. 'Our frustration might be blocking us now. Let's go over what was happening each time we've seen something.'
Rhonda sighed. 'OK, you were the first one to see.' she said. 'You were just sort of goofing around when you suddenly peeked in on your GF while she was sleeping.'
'I.... did not!' said Ron hotly. 'I saw her when she was dreaming! She just happened to be in bed at the time!'
'Yeah,' said Rhonda, sounding unconvinced. 'And the next time?'
'I think I was practicing duck calls.' Ron said. 'Then I saw Kim sitting in my treehouse - and she was... crying.' He paused, then looked to Rhonda. 'Then you saw Grimm later on.'
'Yeah, it happened after we shared camp stories.' she said, feeling uncomfortable over how low her guard had been after that experience. 'I saw him kneeling in some kind of wooded area - he was asking the Great Bear Spirit for help...'
'And then you saw him....'
'Getting turned to stone.' she sniffed. 'He looked so helpless, I've never seen him like that...'
'And I saw Kim just now, but Monique was with her, and she was crying....' And ideas started popping in his head. 'Every time we've seen something, it's been because either we, or they were really worked up about something.' he said. 'Maybe this place is keyed to emotions.... But then how did I see Kim those times when I was just goofing around?'
'Because she was upset.' said Rhonda, looking off into the cloudy distance. 'This is the spirit world. It's not emotion that's doing this - it's... something spiritual. We're close to them - we're... spiritually bonded somehow, and we're seeing what they see....'
'What - when their spirits are troubled?' said Ron.
Rhonda looked like she was thinking hard. 'It think...' she said, 'It might be an 'either-or, or a 'both' thing. Sometimes it happened when either one of us was spiritually in touch, or one of them. And when one of us AND one of them were in synch at the same time, it became even clearer...'
'Then why can't they see us?'
Rhonda looked at the patch over her upper right arm. 'Since I became the Bear Priestess,' she said quietly, 'I've been able to... I don't know, bond with animals. But they only come to me and communicate with me when I've been meditating, or when I'm chilling in the woods and stuff. And Rueful's been close to me since the day I got him. Maybe that's why I saw him first - because our spirits were more in synch - then he led me to Grimm....'
'So... animals can see you?' Ron said excitedly. 'Did you see Rufus?'
'No.' said Rhonda. 'Haven't you seen him yet?'
Ron shook his head, but Rhonda was uncovering the patch over her arm, revealing a birthmark shaped like the pawprint of a bear. She held up her hand again. 'Let's... try it.' she said.
Ron took her hand. Rhonda bowed her head and concentrated, her voice sounding in a low chant.
Ron let his mind focus on Rufus, listening to Rhonda's chant. The mists didn't part, but Ron did see something - as if the mists right in front of him were taking the shape of a familiar, long toothed and whiskered friend... He gasped, then the mists spread out and became shapeless again.
Rhonda opened an eye. 'Did it work?' she said.
'Sort of...' Ron said. 'I kinda thought I saw Rufus for a second there....'
'We're must not be spiritual enough yet!' Rhonda said, sounding eager. 'Come on - let's... do more spirity stuff! If we can figure a way to see Rufus or Rueful, and if they can see us, maybe we can have them send a message or something!'
Rhonda went into the lotus position at once. 'Get going!' she said, looking up at Ron anxiously. 'Show me some more meditatey good-vibey tricks!' And she knitted her eyebrows in fierce concentration, her hands clenched hard.
Ron looked down at her, and felt despite the things they had just learned, that Rhonda still wasn't quite getting it...
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The England base for Global Justice was almost a mirror clone for all the other bases Kim had been in. Spotless metal corridors with key-card security doors at regular intervals, all lit with the same pale fluorescent lights. The larger rooms were mostly training areas for their field agents, along with several labs and research facilities.
Will Du had turned Kim over to a pair of burly agents who were so silent, Kim thought they must be former guards to Buckingham Palace. Du had given them instructions to see Kim to Dr. Director, and left without even a nod. After a few minutes of being led through the antiseptic corridors, Kim halted. 'We split up here.' she said to Monique.
'What? I thought we were supposed to be seeing this Dr. Director person.' said Monique.
'I'll do it.' she said. She turned to the agents escorting them. 'Have you got an infirmary?' One agent nodded, but said nothing. 'Take Monique there and have your medics make sure she's all right.' she said. 'And if you've got a trauma counselor, take her there too. Once she's been looked after - see that she's returned safely to Middleton.'
Monique looked stunned. 'Girlfriend, what is goin' on?' she said.
Kim looked at the agents. 'Can we have a minute?' she said pointedly, and after exchanging glances, the two agents moved down the hall. Once they were a few yards away, she turned back to Monique, lowering her voice. 'Monique, I want you to go home.'
Monique bit her lip. 'Go home?' she said. 'What, you think I can't hack it? If this is about what I said on the hovercraft, I was just a little freaked that's all...!'
'That's only part of it.' said Kim, 'It also has to do with me being too reckless.'
'You been reckless since you started this save the world thing.' said Monique, forcing a smile.
'I know.' said Kim. 'But it's never hit as hard as it has during this caper.' She sighed, looking down and away from Monique. 'Ron's missing. And you were almost killed. I can't risk losing anyone else, and I can't ask you to put your life on the line for me anymore.'
'But... I still want to help.' said Monique, looking guilty.
'You've done enough.' she said, putting her hand on Monique's shoulder. 'You were right. I should never have put you through this - and it wasn't fair of me to ask you.'
'But what about Grimm?' Monique said. 'You brought me on to make sure he didn't get to you...'
'I think I can carry on now.' she said. 'It's been a few days and it's getting easier. Besides, I don't think Grimm's head gaming is going to be a problem just now - he doesn't seem too talkative.'
Monique looked down. 'Kim, I....'
'Go home, Monique.' Kim said, her voice lowering. 'It's all right - you've done enough.'
Monique felt Kim giving her a quick hug, and then she was walking down the hall, following the first agent. She tried to call after Kim, to say something, but no words came. They turned a corner in the hallway and were gone.
'Miss Monique?' the second agent asked, for Monique stood looking after Kim for several seconds. 'If you'll follow me, the infirmary is this way.' Monique turned and started walking in the direction the agent was indicating, feeling dazed, with several emotions roiling inside her. 'Our doctors will look you over, though they may need to access your previous medical records. Do you have a last name I should have them list when filling out the forms?'
'Yeah,' said Monique, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. 'It's.... mud.'
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Rufus peered up at Kim from her hip pouch. He looked back to where Monique had been walking beside them and let out a sad sounding squeak.
Kim heard it, but couldn't bring herself to look down at Rufus or try to explain it to him. And she wondered if Rufus would understand anyway. Rufus had always been fearless - going into sitches that should have been way beyond him. How could she explain to him that Monique wasn't like that? She wasn't sure she could explain it to herself. But the only right thing to do was to make sure that Monique was safe, and the only sure way to do that was to get her home as soon as possible.