A Kim Possible Fanfiction
by Greg Fisk (aka "Slyrr")

Kim Possible is owned/copyrighted by Disney and its affiliates, etc. etc.

Chapter 20:
School
Or: Too Many Questions

Part I: Welcome To Riddleton High

Kim followed the Ksikkihkíni through the streets of Riddleton. She noted that nearly every street name had some kind of riddle theme, like 'Conundrum Cul De Sac' and 'Aberration Ave'. 'The people who built this town had way too much spare time on their hands.' she grumbled.

'You think?' said Monique, glancing over from the passenger seat of the Sloth. 'No wonder Mr. Bad-boy grew up with issues.'

Kim and Monique had slept well enough, given the unfamiliar surroundings. Kim had even thought it was kind of cute when Indy fell asleep next to her on the couch mumbling 'Ark!' over and over again.

But a good night sleep hadn't lessened her resentment much. She was still determined to find a way to get criminal charges to stick against Grimm once the truce was over, and had made up her mind to gather as much evidence as she could on her own. She reasoned that since she was on Grimm's territory, she had more chances to come across that evidence as long as she kept a cool head and a sharp eye.

It wasn't long before she saw they were entering an area that screamed 'high school grounds'. There were fewer houses, more trees, and in the middle of a fenced field she saw a large racetrack, bleachers and goal posts. And sure enough, looming just beyond the field was a vast building, compartmentalized with different sections.

She followed Grimm into a huge parking lot and found an open spot near to where Grimm was parking the bike. Rufus crawled into her hip pouch as she stopped the car and got out, with Monique following her and shouldering her book bag.

Grimm was looking surly as he stood next to the bike waiting for them, with Rueful peeking over his shoulder. 'Come on, let's get this over with.' he said.

  drakken's lament

As they followed him towards the entrance, Kim saw a large flagpole surrounded by a raised dais with planted flowers. In front of the flagpole was a large metal statue of a man wearing a derby and leaning on a cane with a handle that was shaped like a question mark. The statue's pedestal had a large plaque which read 'Our Town Founder: E Nygma'.

Kim also saw a large marquee on the opposite side of the walkway. It towered above them and Kim read a jumble of letters that said, 'Welcome to Riddleton High: Cyprinidae. Alpha. 10 cents.' She stared at the sign in confusion.

'What in the world does that mean?' she said, pointing.

Grimm looked up at the marquee for a moment. He paused, then smiled and snapped his fingers. 'Seize the day.' he said. 'Looks like they went for inspiration for today's message.'

'Seize... the day?' said Monique. She tilted her head, looking at the message. Then she brightened. 'Oh! Carpe Diem! I get it!' Kim looked blankly at Monique, shaking her head.

Monique traced her finger in the air, pointing at the marquee. 'Cyprinidae is Latin for carp - you know, the fish? Alpha is the letter A. And ten cents is a 'dime'. Carp-a-dime. Get it?'

'Not bad.' said Grimm, nodding. 'You should fit right in.'

'They put riddles on the marquee?' said Kim.

We're in Riddleton - hello?' said Grimm. 'Get used to this sort of thing. The whole town does stuff like this, and the school has an even bigger kick for it than other places. The teachers like having to make the students think to figure things out, and they rigged the whole place so that you have to solve riddles to find your classes and stuff.'

'That's... the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.' said Kim. 'What if someone can't figure out the answers?'

'They miss class and get tardy slips.' said Grimm, shrugging. 'But believe me, none of the parents want to admit their kids aren't smart enough, so most families do riddle exercises to train them. After a while you just get used to it.'

As they entered the school, Kim heard a nasally, lisping voice. 'Cousin!' She winced, and thought for a moment that somehow her cousin Larry had tracked her down. But the voice was too high and girlish, and as she turned, she saw a squat girl about her age . She had thick glasses, braces, and her hair was tied in a somewhat rumpled ponytail. Her vest covered a large, wrinkled t-shirt that was tied into a knot in back. Though why she wanted the shirt to look tighter Kim didn't know. She was a bit out of shape.

But Grimm stopped and smiled at her. 'Cousin Mary!' he said. 'Nice to see you outside the comic book store.'

Kim's mouth fell open. 'Cousin Mary?' she said. Mary spared Kim and Monique a passing glance.

'Oh yeah.' Grimm said, rolling his eyes. 'This is Kim and Monique. Visiting. Rhonda missing. Long story.'

'Rhonda's missing?' Mary said in her lispy voice. 'But she was supposed to lead up the chess club musical number!'

'I know.' said Grimm, sounding uncomfortable.

'And you know you promised to sub for her if she couldn't make it, right?'

'Yes.' said Grimm, rolling his eyes.

'Well all right.' said Mary. 'The prom rehearsal dance isn't far off, and we've got to get it together before then. This is real life, not a scenario!'

'I hear you.' said Grimm, impatiently but reassuringly. 'Chill out - one of us will be there.'

'Well make sure of it.' said Mary, backing off and wagging her finger. 'You owe me one after that weirdness on my birthday!'

'I said I was sorry....'

'Team Go thought I'd stolen some kind of battle-suit and all you said was 'oops!'

'It was an accident...'

'Yeah, people accidentally do that kind of stuff all the time...'

'Look, do you want us there or not?'

Cousin Mary sighed. 'Yes, just don't pull another 'oops' this time - we've been working on this for months and we want it to go smooth.'

Grimm sighed. 'What'll it take to convince you?'

Mary put out her hand. 'Do the universal promise!' she said.

Grimm sighed again, looking uncomfortably from side to side. 'Come on, Mary...' he said, sheepishly.

'Do iiiiiit!' she said.

Slowly Grimm reached out his hand. They both performed a series of weird gestures which ended with Grimm patting his hand against his cousins, while both of them spoke the same words at the same time.

'Bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong!'

Grimm's face was a little red as he felt Monique and Kim staring at them with open mouths. But Mary seemed satisfied and her smile returned. 'See you at the dance cousin!' she said, moving off down the hall. 'Oh and nice to meet you - Chris... and Monocle was it? See ya!' then she turned a corner and was gone.

'Bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong?' said Monique with a lazy drawl.

'It's a geek thing.' said Grimm, shrugging. But before he could say anything else another voice came from the other direction.

'Hey, Grimm!' A brown-haired girl was making her way through the milling students. She was dressed smartly and looked fairly attractive, but Kim saw with a slight shock that her entire right arm was missing, and in its place was a very sophisticated looking prosthetic.

'Hey Felicia.' Grimm said, nodding.

'Felicia?' said Kim.

Felicia looked curiously at Kim and Monique. 'Who are the chicks?' she said. 'And where's Rhonda?'

'It's not what you're thinking...' Grimm started, shaking his head.

'Tell it to the hand.' Felicia answered, waggling her mechanical fingers.

'They're visitors from out of town.' Grimm said defensively. 'It's kind of an... exchange program.'

'Is that where you've been the last few days?' Felicia said. 'I figured it must have been some big time mission.' she cuffed Grimm with her metal hand, which looked very flexible.

'Easy!' said Grimm with a good-natured smile. 'Everyone knows you're the best engineer in school, and that arm of yours is loaded with funky gadgets. I don't want my arm busted - again.'

'Get out.' said Felicia. 'You could dodge me if you wanted to - you just put up with it because Rhonda's my BFF. Speaking of which, where is she? The rest of the chess club is getting frantic.'

Grimm hesitated, and Kim could tell from his expression that he was either tired of saying that Rhonda was missing, or it hurt him too much to keep saying it out loud. 'She's... the one they exchanged with.' said Grimm with a sigh. 'I hope she'll be back soon. I'm just looking after Rueful till then.'

'Well tell her to get a move on.' said Felicia. 'She's supposed to help the chess club prep their musical number for...'

'I know - cousin Mary already read me the riot act.' Grimm sighed.

'Really?.' Felicia said with a grin. 'Now I kind of hope Rhonda doesn't turn up - it'd be cute to see you up on stage singing. Later!' Then she turned and disappeared down the hall.

'Sing?' said Monique slyly. 'It that what you promised to do just now? That would be a sight to see.'

'Well, it's not gonna happen because we're gonna bring Rhonda back before then.' Grimm snapped.

Kim stared at him. 'You didn't really want to promise her, did you?' said Kim.

'No.' said Grimm, and his cheeks were flushing. 'I hate being the center of attention. Somehow Rhonda doesn't mind having everyone staring at her, but I've always preferred working from the sidelines.'

'Then why'd you agree to do it just now?' Kim said.

drakken's lament

Grimm stared at her. 'Because I promised Rhonda I would.' he said. 'What kind of low-life welches out on a promise to his best friend?'

Kim winced, remembering vividly how she had practically fled from the comic book store when Cousin Larry was introducing her to his friends. The very thought of being seen with people who were that uncool and weird had nearly made her panic. Yet here was Grimm - the louse and the jerk, agreeing to go on stage with the chess club and substitute for his missing girlfriend in a sing along with his dorky cousin.

At this point another voice called out Grimm's name, and Kim wondered how many conversations they'd be having before they finally got to class. Enrique stood in front of Grimm and high-fived him. 'Hola!' he said, though his eyes quickly fell on Monique. 'And the beautiful Monique - I hope that your first night in Riddleton has been both agreeable and intriguing...'

Monique glared at him and he seemed to get the message, tearing his eyes away from her reluctantly.

'But I came to find you before class,' he said to Grimm. 'El perdador wanted to see you about the gymnastics practice schedule....'

Grimm shook his head with a grimace. 'Yeah, I'll bet he does.' Grimm answered, then he turned to Kim. 'Look, just follow the schedule and I'll meet you at class in a few minutes.'

'Gee, a few minutes in the halls without you.' said Kim. 'I miss you already.'

Grimm waved at them dismissively as he and Enrique moved off, vanishing amid the cloud of students. Kim took out the class schedule Grimm had given her. All her courses seemed to be the same as they were back in Middleton, though the times were different. The first class was civics, but she paused, looking at the box where the room number should have been. Instead of a number, there was a sentence.

First period Civics is as enlightened as the moon - can you find it?

Both Kim and Monique stared at their schedules. The bold black question mark printed on the back of the light green paper seemed to be taunting them. 'This town is crazy.' said Kim.

Monique, perhaps determined because she had understood the marquee riddle, shrugged and turned the schedule upside-down as if it would reveal a hidden code. 'Guess we have to solve our way to class.' she said.

Kim groaned. 'OK.' she said, looking around. 'All the class doors have numbers, so the answer has to be numerical.'

'But as enlightened as the moon?' said Monique. 'How do you get a number from that?'

Kim felt a sudden brainstorm. She turned on her Kimmunicator and beeped Wade. 'What up, Kim?' he said off-handedly. He was hunched over several papers, consulting some and taking notes.

'Wade - sorry to bug you, but what phase is the moon in right now?'

Wade looked confused. 'Uh... it's in it's 3rd quarter.' he said. 'Why?'

'Thanks Wade.' she said, turning off the screen and leaving Wade looking very confused as the image faded. She looked over the schedule again. 'Three quarters.' she said quietly. 'That's seventy-five cents.'

'Check room 75?' Monique said, and Kim nodded. Other students looked curiously at them as they made their way down the halls. Apparently having the class schedule out was the mark of a newbie, because several students smiled and chuckled as they walked. She sighed and thought about how classes must be going back in Middleton, and hoping in the back of her mind that Bonnie hadn't crowned herself queen of the High School yet....

Part II: An Eye on Things

Mr. Dr. Possible paced in the kitchen while Mrs. Dr. Possible squared things away from breakfast. The twins had gone to school, and they were both getting ready for their own jobs.

After the fifteenth time back and forth across the kitchen floor, Mrs. Dr. Possible put the last of the dishes away and turned to her husband. 'Will you stop that?' she said. 'A scientist like you must know it's not accomplishing anything.'

Mr. Dr. Possible stopped, but he went to one of the windows, looking out towards nothing. 'Do you think she's all right?' he said.

'Well,' said Mrs. Dr. Possible, standing next to him and taking his hand. 'She's a Possible... what do you think?'

Mr. Dr. Possible tipped his coffee cup towards her. 'Now that was an intelligent question.'

'She'll be fine.' Mrs. Dr. Possible said. 'I'd say it's that Grimm fellow who has to watch out.'

'But that... boy works for Kim's enemies!' he said. 'What if he was just trying to lure her into a trap?'

Mrs. Dr. Possible patted his shoulder. 'Then I hope he's got medical coverage.' she said. Mr. Dr. Possible stared at her. 'Honey please - Kim is smart and strong. She can take care of herself.'

Mr. Dr. Possible patted her hand and looked back out of the window. 'I hope so...' he said, shaking his head.

Soon, he was heading outside towards the car in the driveway. As he opened the door to get in, he saw something unusual in the branches of one of the trees in the front yard. On a longer limb, mostly barren of leaves, there was a large black crow. Standing out in stark contrast from the grackles, finches and jaybirds which normally filled the morning air with musical piping, the crow let out a single, harsh croak that seemed to cow all other noises into silence.

Mr. Dr. Possible got into his car and started off to work, and didn't give much more thought to it. But all that day, the crow remained perched on the tree branch, it's gleaming eyes fixed on the Possible house....

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In the dim shadows of their hidden lair, Maze stepped out of the immersion pod, seeming tired and short of breath. He fell into one of the rudely cut stone chairs with his head hung down and his hands on his knees.

Monkey Fist stood watching him patiently until his breathing became more regular. 'Well?' he said at last.

Maze looked up. 'My servants have not seen Mi'kksiistsikomma either leaving or entering her house. The rest of her family are simply going back and forth to their work and schooling.'

Monkey Fist nodded, though he seemed troubled. He turned to Dr. Drakken, who was seated at the computer consoles connected to the mini-Ultra Atmospheric Jammer. 'I suppose you are to be congratulated.' he said. 'Your modifications to the Jammer seem to have worked. You are sure our use of it was not detected by Possible's hacker?'

'What did I tell you?' said Drakken triumphantly. 'Beef up the Decryption Matrix a little, add some Encryption subroutines - and lower the power output just a smidgen and you're back under the radar!' He held out his black gloved hand to receive a high-five, waving it in their faces. 'Huh? Huh??' he said expectantly.

Neither Maze nor Monkey Fist responded.

'Nnnnn!' Drakken grunted, turning his hand palm out towards Shego. 'Shego! High five me!'

Shego lashed out one of her petrified arms and swatted hard.

'Ow!' Drakken said, shaking his arm in pain.

Ignoring Drakken's antics, Monkey Fist looked back into the cavernous depths of the lair. The framework for Drakken's larger UAJ was taking a more solid shape, with components and wiring now filling parts of the framework, and he looked over it with narrowed eyes. 'But your news about Possible troubles me.' he said softly. 'It's not like her to be so.... unobtrusive.'

'Otaatoyiwa may have finished her.' said Maze.

Monkey Fist shook his head. 'If that were true, it would be worldwide news. No - there is something not right about this.'

Maze nodded. 'What should we do?' he said.

Monkey Fist seemed lost in thought. 'For the moment... we continue watching for her.' he said. 'Wherever she might be - she's alone now. She has no significant allies and without the buffoon.... Well, she will be no match for our final onslaught. And that draws nearer each day.'

Part III: Darkening

Kim and Monique had found seats in the Civics class when Grimm sidled in just before the bell, looking sour. Enrique was right behind him, looking perfectly cheerful, especially as his eyes found Monique again. Grimm said nothing as they took their seats and the bell rang, a high pealing noise that sounded through the entire school.

There was no one at the desk, and Kim wondered if the teacher was sick or something. But the door opened then closed as someone entered the room. Instantly, all the idle chatting ceased and there was a flurry of hands putting away cell phones, PDAs and iPods.

Kim watched as a woman stood behind the desk and looked over the class. She was dressed similarly to how Leigh Gality had dressed back in Middleton. Black leggings, a gray skirt, matching jacket, and a white blouse. She had blonde hair, but the similarities ended there. Whereas Leigh had looked like a supermodel dressed up as a lawyer, this woman looked like an American Gladiator dressed like a schoolmarm.

  drakken's lament

She was tall, and even though her jacket and blouse covered her modestly, Kim could tell that through the cloth she had a body-builder's physique. Thankfully her face wasn't as mannish as most female bodybuilders - in fact if it weren't for the iron-stiff hair in it's tightly wound bun, she seemed comely. Or she would have except for a stern expression that seemed welded in place. Her heeled shoes clacked on the tiled floor as she turned to face them, and her expression was colder than anything Kim had seen on the Bebes.

Grimm groaned and shook his head as the woman spoke. 'Your normal civics teacher, Mr. Dinkletreeps, fell on his face during a staff meeting and is currently at home recovering from a mild concussion.' she said. Her voice was deep, but still feminine, with a steely edge to it. 'I will substitute until that recovery takes place.' She wrote on the chalkboard, and the entire class grimaced as the chalk made a high squealing noise with every pass across the slate. 'For those who do not know, my name is Ms. Darken.'

'Ms. Darken??' Kim breathed to Monique, who was staring at Ms. Darken as if she too couldn't believe what she was seeing.

'Possible!' Like the crack of a bullwhip, Ms. Darken's voice lashed into her ears, making Kim jump. 'You and your friend Monique are both new to Riddleton.' she said, her voice low but dangerous. 'And as such you may not be aware that in my classes I do not allow anyone to speak unless they are called on! Is that understood?'

'Yes Ms. Darken.' Kim answered timidly. And from his desk, Grimm smirked.

Ms. Darken nodded. 'Class, we have guests as part of an exchange program from Middleton High.' she said. 'Kim Possible, and Monique - last name unknown. Hence, her last name will formally be 'Unknown' until such time as she chooses to reveal it. Class, please greet our visiting guests.'

Every other student, including Grimm, joined their voices in an unenthusiastic chorus. 'Hello Kim Possible and Monique Unknown.'

Monique looked angry. 'My last name is not....' she said.

'Silence, Ms. Unknown!' Ms. Darken barked. 'Now that class is in progress, every complaint will be ignored until the end of the period!'

Monique had a look in her eye that said 'oh you bet I'll be complainin!', but she seemed cowed as Ms. Darken took out the roll and began calling names. Kim saw a folded piece of paper land silently on top of her books and opened it. In Grimm's handwriting, the note read, Welcome to Riddleton High.

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Kim stood in the hallway after class, tapping her foot while Grimm stood next to her, tapping his. The lesson had been as tough as anything Barkin had dished out, with just as much homework assigned. Monique had insisted on talking to Ms. Darken after class. 'I am not lettin' her get away with calling me Unknown!' she spat.

'Let it go.' Grimm said, before she went back into the classroom. 'She won't budge unless you tell her your actual name. She doesn't put up with individuality during school hours.'

'You might think your Ms. Darken is tough,' Monique answered. 'But I've lived with two years of Barkin, and you do not mess with the mystique of Monique!' And she closed the door behind her.

'I warned her.' Grimm muttered.

'Ms. Darken?' said Kim, shaking her head.

Grimm scowled. 'Are you gonna do this every time you meet someone here?' he said. 'I thought it was weird when I was at your crazy school, but I kept my mouth shut.'

Kim scowled right back. 'Well pardon me for wondering why this entire city seems like some kind of freaky alternate universe where everyone from Middleton has switched chromosomes.'

'We both live in the same universe, Possible.' Grimm said, checking his book bag. 'You just seem to be having more trouble dealing with it.'

Monique stormed out of the classroom, looking furious and frustrated.

'So, how'd it go?' Grimm said with a knowing smirk. 'Did she sympathize with your 'mystique' argument?'

Monique was walking back and forth like a tiger in a cage, talking to the floor. 'That... tough-talkin', hair-bun wearin' loud mouth battle aaaaaaahhh!!!'

She ended her tirade in a frightened wail as Ms. Darken opened the door at that instant and stepped into the hall. 'Probable!!' she bellowed.

'Yes, Ms. Darken.' said Grimm warily, and Rueful quickly slithered into his book bag, zipping it shut behind him.

'Don't yes Ms. Darken me, Probable.' said Ms. Darken, her eyes narrowed into gleaming slits. 'You realize that the Prom Rehearsal dance is barely three days away?'

'Yes, Ms. Darken.' Grimm said again.

'And that you and Ms. Fatigable have been essentially AWOL for several days leading up to the aforementioned prom rehearsal dance?'

'Yes, Ms. Darken.'

'And that Ms. Fatigable - who is supposed to be performing in one of the several talent showcases during the aforementioned rehearsal dance - is still missing?'

'Yes, Ms. Darken.'

She glared at him imperiously, her expression hawk-like. 'What assurances will you offer me that said talent performance will go on as scheduled?'

'I promise that if Rhonda isn't here, I'll sub for her.' he answered. 'I already told Mary and Felicia - so the rest of the chess club should know by now....'

'Very well Probable.' said Ms. Darken, though she still looked at him like a wrathful bird of prey. 'I don't care if you make yourself an unreliable liar - but do not make a liar out of me.'

'Yes, Ms. Darken.'

'What's the Prom Rehearsal dance?' Kim said, before she could stop herself, but all further words were quelled as Ms. Darken turned her attention on her. It felt like someone had hit a dimmer switch on the lights, and that the temperature dropped several degrees as Ms. Darken's blue-gray eyes fell on her.

'The Prom Rehearsal dance,' she said, talking as if class were back in session, 'Is a tradition at this high school. All too often, Seniors get the idea in their heads that the Senior Prom is all about riotous excess and vulgarity. The Prom Rehearsal dance was instituted to correct this mis-information. Before the actual Senior Prom, the Seniors conduct a rehearsal dance, under careful supervision, so that all aspects of the Prom itself are structured and properly scheduled. The reckless frivolity of prom night is thus tempered by instruction and practice, making for a much more appropriate setting in which the Seniors are expected to demonstrate that they have not only grown intellectually in this school, but that they have gained social maturity and civic responsibility as well.'

'Huh?' said Rufus, leaning out of Kim's hip pouch and scratching his head.

'And while I am on the subject,' Ms. Darken said, standing directly in front of Kim and Monique and leaning over them like a thundercloud, 'As guests, both you and Ms. Unknown are invited to attend.'

'Do we have a choice?' said Monique.

'Attendance is mandatory.' Ms. Darken growled.

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At the Omo-sa house, the private tutor looked at the two desks on front of him with interest. Jade was seated in one, but another desk had been moved in for Wade, who was sitting in on the lessons which were normally taught one-on-one.

Normally, Jade only seemed to half pay attention to the lessons. It was a source of endless frustration for the tutor, who felt that Jade wasn't taking things seriously. Yet despite the difficulty of his lessons, Jade would always ace nearly every assignment, and her in-class answers proved she really knew the material, and wasn't just looking up the answers online later in her room. So despite her indifferent attitude, the tutor couldn't get mad at her. After all, he reasoned, how can you tell someone who gets all the answers right that they're doing something wrong?

But this session was totally different. Jade was focused, even fierce in her performance, and the tutor knew the reason why inside of a few minutes. Wade and Jade kept glaring at each other during every problem, glancing at each other at every question. They seemed to be waging a silent war to prove who was faster and better. As a result, the lesson was going even faster than usual as they tried to outpace each other.

A series of complicated math equations were up on the whiteboard at the moment, and both Wade and Jade were writing with their brows furrowed. The tutor got the impression that their pens were substituting as blades in some kind of intellectual duel.

They both put their pens down at the same time. 'Done!' they both shouted in unison, and glared at each other yet again.

'I was first!' Jade said.

'Doubtful.' Wade said, idly examining the back of his hand. 'Just like your math.'

'We'll see once tutor-guy looks over the papers!' Jade answered.

'I have a name.' said the tutor. 'It's Mr. Logan.'

'Then grade the papers, Logan-tutor-guy,' said Jade, waving hers in the air. 'So Wade can enjoy the burning smell of his epic failure!'

Mr. Logan sighed and took the papers, looking over their work. After a few minutes he looked up to see both Wade and Jade staring at him expectantly. 'Jade's answers are correct.' he said.

Jade licked her fingertip and tapped herself on the shoulder, making a hissing sound with her lips.

'Wade's answers are also correct.' Mr. Logan finished, and Wade leaned back in his desk, putting his hands behind his head with a satisfied smile.

'What?' Jade squealed, leaping to her feet and rushing forward to snatch the papers from Mr. Logan's hand. After looking at it, she shook her head. 'There's no way he could get a right answer from this gobbledy-gook!'

'Ms. Jade, there are several ways to solve this equation...' he started.

But Jade was already underlining several spots on the whiteboard. 'To do it like this you'd have had to ignore the implicit differentiation....'

Wade had joined her at the board, taking up another dry marker and making his own marks. '..that part of the equation was cancelled out by the difference quotient...' he said.

And Mr. Logan watched as they both wrote, erased, re-wrote and altered each others work, both of them talking louder and louder as they wrote. Each time one of them erased or crossed over the other's marks, they seemed to take it as a personal insult.

Finally they both slammed their markers down and stepped back, each looking as if they'd proved their point irrefutably before looking at Mr. Logan for confirmation. He looked at the board and their papers. 'You're right again - both of you.' he said. 'As you have both written the same answer. The answer is 'two'.

Both Wade and Jade seemed shocked by this declaration, and started looking over the board again. Mr. Logan smiled. 'We may have been doing Jade a disservice by tutoring her alone.' he thought. 'One day of competition seems to have done more than years of wheedling.'

Part IV: Riddle Meat This, Riddle Meat That

Kim was relieved all in all when lunch rolled around. Her brain felt like a wrung sponge. Between solving riddles to find each class, and the classes themselves, every minute in Riddleton High felt like an exam in progress.

She stood in line at the cafeteria as the students slowly filed forward and left with their trays. Kim felt a certain degree of trepidation when she saw a large banner behind the counter which read "Riddle Meat Day". A divider blocked her view of what trays the students were choosing from until it was her turn.

She looked down at four large sections to choose from, each covered with a metal lid, and on each lid was a sign.

Quake IV's villains activated, then deactivated.
Dracula's downfall.
This also floats - in China's capital.
June's Solstice slices the mentor.

Kim looked over each one, then looked up at the stern lunch lady, who stood staring at her. 'What'll it be?' she said.

Kim felt rushed, but none of these riddles made sense to her at all. 'What's the hold up?' shouted someone further back in line. 'Just pick one already!'

Her eyes fell again on Dracula's downfall. 'Garlic?' she thought. 'Holy water? Sunlight? A stake...' And it clicked. 'Steak, please.' she said. And the lunch lady swiftly took a steak from the appropriate tray, then hustled her along. She breathed in relief since the salad section didn't seem to have riddles associated with it. She stocked up on salad material since meat wasn't really her thing. She might have tried something else, but she didn't want to hold up the line.

Monique joined her soon afterwards. 'So you got Dracula's downfall, huh?' she said. 'I thought about it, but cafeteria steak? Can't be very tender.'

'It's... all right.' Kim said. She had cut a piece loose and eaten it since she didn't want to waste food either. She looked at Monique's tray and saw a hearty-looking beef stroganoff. 'Which one was that?' she asked.

'Quake IV's villains.' she said. 'The number of times my brother played through that game... I never wanted to hear the word 'Strogg' again. Came in handy today though.'

Kim looked at her quizzically. 'Strogg - the cyborg villains in the computer game Quake IV.' Monique said. 'Activated, then deactivated. Strogg - On - Off.'

'Oh.' said Kim, and she wasn't sure what disturbed her more, the riddles or the fact that they were starting to make sense.

At that moment, Enrique somehow sat down directly between Kim and Monique with his tray of food, summer sausage and vegetables. 'Good food and spectacular beauty.' he said, smiling at Monique. 'What more could one ask?'

'How about - please sit somewhere else?' said Monique curtly. 'You're between me and my friend!'

'Certainly.' Enrique answered, and he smoothly darted to the opposite side of the table, directly across from her. 'The view is even better from here.' The look of fawning adoration was back on his face and he probed blindly at the tray with his fork, his eyes riveted on Monique.

'Me and my big fat mouth...' Monique said, shaking her head.

'And where is Grimm?' he said, his eyes darting left and right for a moment before fixing back on her.

'Don't know - don't care.' said Monique, and Kim nodded, murmuring through a mouthful of salad.

'You seem to dislike him a lot, considering you are his guests.' said Enrique curiously. 'Why do you accept his hospitality if you don't want to be here?'

'We have to be here.' said Kim. 'You heard what he said yesterday - our friend is missing along with his friend. And our friend is the only reason we're staying.'

'And why are you friends with him anyway?' said Monique. 'I mean - you know what he is, right?'

'I know what he is.' said Enrique. 'I also know who he is.' And at Monique's confused expression, he continued. 'I know the kind of person who he is. A few years back, my family lived in this country... illegally.' he said, sounding ashamed. 'We wandered into Riddleton by accident while my father searched for work. It was Grimm who turned us in to the police.'

Kim shook her head. 'He sold you out?' she said. 'And you're his friend?'

'Not at first.' he said with a chuckle. 'At first I was angry with him because I thought he had destroyed our lives.'

'So what happened?' said Monique.

'Grimm came to our family afterwards... and showed us a better way.' Enrique said. 'He helped us apply for citizenship. He helped us study what we needed to know, and eventually, it helped us to enter this country legally.'

'He sponsored you?'

'No.' said Enrique with another smile. 'He said he did not want us to become lazy by giving us what we needed. He showed us how to work for it. It was not easy - it was a long, hard journey. But in the end... it was worthwhile. We grew stronger from our labors, wiser from our studies. And life is much better now. We have a home - my father has steady work - and our family no longer has to live in fear of La Migra - the immigration police. Senor Grimm showed us that we don't have to break rules to build a better life for ourselves. And for that - he has earned my friendship.'

Kim was dumbfounded, and Monique asked the question that was in Kim's mind. 'We're talking about Grimm right?' she said. 'Grimm Probable?' Kim couldn't have agreed more. Probable - on the side of law and order? Turning Enrique's family in, only to help them later by guiding them through the legal path for citizenship?

Her first instinct if she came across a hard luck family with a sob story would have been to try and fix things so they wouldn't be taken away in the first place. Grimm had put them through a tougher road, but in the end, he gave them the tools they needed to make it on their own - without needing to hide behind a patron for the rest of their lives. But was that cruelty or kindness?

'What about his work?' Kim said. 'Don't you think...'

'That he is a hypocrite?' Enrique said, breaking in. 'For insisting that I and my family obey the law while he is a mercenary?' He shrugged. 'As I said - I was angry at him for some time. But I cannot deny the path that he set me on is the better road. Was it any worse than my family's hypocrisy - coming to this country and using it's bounty to elevate our own status while breaking it's laws to do so? What difference should it make to me how others live their lives? What matters is how I live my own life. The good book warns that we should not use the sins of other men as an excuse to cover our own sins.'

'It also says people should cast beams out of their own eyes before trying to cast specks out of someone else's eye.' said Kim, growling.

'Yes - it does.' said Enrique, smiling. 'And that's advice we should all follow - no?'

At last Grimm sat down at the table next to Enrique. He had a serving of Peking duck on his tray along with salad and half an apple. 'I love Riddle Meat day.' he said quietly. He noticed Kim staring at him. 'What?' he said, seeming defensive.

'Nothing.' she said, shaking her head.

Part V: Be of Good Cheer, Squad

It was with relief that Kim reached the end of the school day. Thankfully, she had been able to solve her way to each of the remaining classes, though Ms. Darken had substituted in at least two more.

But when the last bell rang, Grimm didn't head out of the school with the bulk of the other students. Instead, went to his locker and fished out a gym bag. 'Leave if you want to.' he said, waving them off. 'I've got practice.'

'Football?' said Monique. 'You the running back?'

Grimm winced, shouldering his bags while Rueful hopped onto his forearm. 'No.' he said. 'I don't do football.' he said disdainfully.

'You're not a cheerleader are you?' Monique said with a mocking smile.

'I'm on the gymnastics team.' he answered shortly. 'Now go away.' And he stumped off down the hall towards the gym.

Kim, Monique and Rufus stared after him for a few seconds. Monique shrugged. 'There's a chance we might see him face plant on the mat.' she said.

'That'll do.' said Kim, and they followed after him.

As they entered the gym, Kim thought they must have stepped through a wormhole that led back to Middleton. It was identical in setup to the gym back home, and exactly the same size. The only difference was that the school colors were two shades of green, and the school symbol was a question mark.

There were two groups gathering for practice in the gym. In one half of the court, springboards, balance beams and pommel horses were set up. A number of boys in gymnast leotards were stretching out, and others were joining them from the locker rooms.

On the other half of the court were a number of girls in cheerleader uniforms. They looked a lot like the Middleton uniforms except they were white and green. Her eye reflexively gravitated to watching the cheer squad, but they also appeared to be warming up and some of them had not arrived.

Her view was suddenly blocked by one of the boys from the cheer squad. Kim's mouth fell open. The boy had a tanned complexion and a pair of exotic looking eyes. His hair fell around his head in neatly styled locks. And even before he spoke, somehow she knew what his name was.

'Haven't seen you before, beautiful.' he said, his eyes twinkling. 'I'm the gymnastics team leader, Donnie Stoneport.'

'Hi... Donnie. I'm Kim, this is Monique.' Kim said weakly while glancing aside at Monique, who was also staring agape at Donnie.

Donnie seemed to have mistaken their amazement for interest and leaned in closer, his eyes focused confidently on Kim. 'Exchange students I bet.' he said. 'I can spot someone who spends her time at the top of the food chain. I can walk you through the ins and outs at Riddleton High - and warn you who's in and who's out as well.'

'Thanks but... Grimm's been showing me around.' Kim said, not believing that she was trying to deflect another guy's attention by using Grimm. 'We're staying at the Fatigables.'

drakken's lament

'Probable and Fatigable?' Donnie sneered. 'You don't want to hang around with them. They're bad news. I mean sure, Probable got some mad skills, but he's dating Rhonda and she's like the biggest weirdo in the school.'

Despite her utter dislike of Grimm, Kim found herself bristling a little over Donnie's comments for Rhonda's sake. All the other people at Riddleton High seemed to have been bizarre opposites to the people at Middleton, just like Grimm and Rhonda seemed to be opposites to her and Ron. But despite the similarities, there were differences between them all which kept it from being too freaky. Donnie, however, was so much like Bonnie in his mannerisms and even his body language that it was all Kim could do to keep from laughing. The condescension, the arrogance, the elitist snobbery - it was all there.

'But I guess if Probable brought you in tow, it proves he's not a total waste.' Donnie leaned in closer and Kim had to fight the urge to recoil. 'Take it from me Kim - Probable's a jerk. It won't take long before you get totally sick of him. Once that happens, look me up.' He winked again as he stood up and returned to the team.

From the crown of her head to the soles of her feet, Kim felt her skin crawling. It was as if Bonnie had been changed into a dude and was suddenly sweet on her. With a shock she understood why Grimm had stammered and fled when Bonnie had been hitting on him back at home. She felt like running away herself, preferably into the girl’s shower room to soak under one of the taps and think happy thoughts.

Monique had a knowing smile on her face. 'So maybe this means deep down that Bonnie...'

'Don't...!' Kim interrupted swiftly, '...even think it!'

By this time, Grimm had come out of the boys locker rooms dressed in a leotard that matched the rest of the team. It didn't really go with his auburn hair, but beyond that he blended right in with the others. His eyes flicked over to the bleachers, spotting Kim and Monique. He shook his head disdainfully.

Donnie called the squad together. 'All right losers,' he said, and Kim shuddered as another wave of Bonnie vibes washed over her, 'The next competition is coming up, and we're not gonna win it the way you've been practicing lately. I want you all to do your routines as if you had my skill level - as impossible as that may seem.'

The rest of the squad didn't seem to buy his words completely, but nor did they look as incredulous as Grimm looked, who stood standing at the end of the line and rolling his eyes. Donnie's attention fell on him.

'Probable - since you were the latest to suit up as usual, that means you didn't stretch out properly with the rest of the squad. So while the rest of us are doing real gymnastics, you'll stay by the sidelines until you've gone through my coach-approved stretching routines.'

Grimm rolled his eyes again and slouched off to the sidelines near the bleachers while Donnie and the rest of the team began rotating through exercises on the rings, the balance beams and some flips.

Grimm was only a few feet away, and it looked like he was trying to ignore Kim. 'So tell me,' she said, raising an eyebrow and smirking at Grimm. 'If you and I are so much alike, how come you're not leading the Riddleton Gymnastics team?'

Grimm let out a soft laugh as he continued stretching. 'Why would I want to be in charge?' he said. 'Back to back meetings, getting chewed out by the coach when things go wrong, and having to put up with all the hijinx and whining from the rest of the team? What kind of crazy ding-bat wants that kind of mess?'

Kim felt a slight sting at his words, for he had wrapped up the experience of head cheerleader pretty succinctly. But still, there were perks to being in charge. 'I guess I should have known the big chair was too big for small fry like you.' she said, trying to sound sly.

Grimm shook his head, smirking. 'You're a plate-glass window.' he said. 'Trying to make me feel jealous or inferior by taking veiled jabs at my masculinity and suggesting that only 'real' men are put in charge of things.'

Kim frowned. Grimm's knack for playing head games gave him an annoyingly cunning gift for seeing straight through any head games someone else was trying to play.

'Have you ever bothered checking behind the throne, Kim?' he went on, looking at her keenly. 'There's a lot of power there. Power that doesn't take nearly as much effort to maintain, and which makes you much less of a target. Take Donnie.' he said, nodding towards the gym floor where Donnie strode among the various team members, shouting instructions, correcting their posture and so on.

'I could lead the team, if I wanted to.' Grimm said. 'But I let Donnie run around, barking out orders, setting team practice times. But everyone on the team knows I'm the best gymnast. And when they want to win, they all look to me. Sure he's tried to get me thrown off the team by setting schedules that I can't comply with. He actually did get me thrown off once. It lasted a week - right up to the next competition. They got thrashed so bad the coach was practically begging me to come back half-way through the match.'

An unpleasant gleam entered his eyes. 'Since then, I've been dropping veiled hints every so often that I've been thinking about asking the coach to be team leader. It's kind of like what you've been doing with Bonnie. Donnie's been in a raging panic every day since I started, wondering when I might start talking to the coach behind his back. You see that dog and pony show he's doing right now with the squad, acting like he's the greatest gymnast on the face of the Earth?'

'He's been trying to spread rumors about me all the time, to make me look bad enough that they won't dump him as team captain. But I just keep practicing and focusing on being the best. The more he bad-mouths me, the more they don't believe him. So by doing next to nothing, I make myself look good and he makes himself look bad. It's win-win for me, no matter how the dice rolls.'

'He's right about one thing though.' Kim said coldly. 'I'm already sick of you.' Grimm smirked, but had finished stretching, and he moved off to join the rest of the squad.

'Like what you've been doing with Bonnie?' Monique said when they were alone again. 'Girl, did you pull a Grimm on her?'

Kim flushed. She didn't like anyone drawing any similarities between her and Grimm. 'She was totally badgering the rest of the squad!' she said. 'I just did it to get her to back off and leave them alone.'

Monique paused for a moment, shaking her head. 'Part of me wishes I could have been there to see it.' she said. 'But that's gonna make it tougher for me to slam Grimm when he does it...' And they both fell silent in their thoughts, their attention drifting back to the gym floor.

The gym squad was good - though it was clear that Grimm had the most natural talent and aptitude. Donnie was simply no match for him, and typically wound up shouting things like 'Good hustle, team!', which Kim recognized as attempts to make it look as if Grimm were doing well because of his direction.

The football team practiced mostly outside, so Kim didn't see much of them. But the Riddleton cheer squad had all arrived and begun their practicing further up the basketball court. And they were pitiful. Their routines were stiff and half-hearted, without any dynamics or energy. And Kim saw it was mostly because all of them were keeping half an eye on the gym team, giggling furtively. Ms. Darken stood on the opposite side of the court, watching everything, shaking her head and grimacing every time someone on the cheer squad took a fall. And they fell a lot.

After their fifth attempt at forming a pyramid failed with another collapse, Kim couldn't stand it any longer. 'Guys!' she said, stumping forward, and the squad turned to her, looking at her with obvious stranger anxiety. Kim lowered her voice. 'You're embarrassing all of girl-kind like that!' she said. 'Keep your eyes off the gym team and keep your heads in the game!'

'Yeah?' said one of the girls, a younger-looking one who seemed to be the rookie, 'I suppose you think you can do better?'

'What's your name?' Kim said, her eyes snapping onto her.

'Charlamagne.' she said. 'But everyone just calls me Charlie.'

'Well listen Charlie,' Kim said. 'You're one of the spunkiest ones on the squad, but you're wasting your time trying to prove you're as tough as the others when you've got other roles you should be filling. You're the smallest and the lightest - you should be at the top of the pyramid, not the bottom or the middle.'

Charlie looked like she wanted to argue, but she fell silent with an expression that clearly said, yeah that makes sense. Kim asked the rest of the squad to sound off.

'Rachel.' said a girl with short crimson red hair.
'Aimee.' said another with flowing brown hair and a tan complexion.
'Jessie.' said another with curly brown hair.
'Tina.' said a taller, thinner girl with strawberry-blonde hair.
'Heather.' said one, who looked more exotic than the others.
'Jackie.' said another.
'Haya.' said the last, a Japanese girl with a pony-tail.

Kim started walking among them and re-arranging them. 'Tina, you're the tallest, you should be the center the squad forms up around. Jackie, you're the strongest, you should stay next to her so you can be in a better position to catch the falling players during pyramid routines. Aimee, Jessie, Heather, Rachel - you're all good tumblers. You need to stay on the wings and keep the crowd focused on you so the other members can set up the complicated stuff. Haya, you should be joining with Charlie for the moves that need the highest jumps.' Once she had them re-arranged, she stepped back. 'All right - go through one of your routines and let's see how it looks now.'

The squad seemed to agree, but they were still shuffling as if they didn't know what to do. 'Um.... we don't really have any set routines.' said Rachel sheepishly. 'Do you... know any?'

'Here, let me help.' she said, and she took a set of spare poms from the floor by the sidelines. She reset the boom box and stood in front of the rest of the Riddleton squad, waited for the song to go into it's second measure, then went through one of the basic routines she used for drills on the Middleton squad.

'It goes, step step, pirouette, step step pirouette, arabesque, pirouette, arabesque, pirouette - the step step and slide - step step and slide - pirouette and kick with the left and split!'

Slowly the Riddleton cheerleaders picked up the rhythm and started following her lead. Before long, they were matching her to the point where Kim could start adding more advanced moves to the mix. To their credit, they managed to keep up with her.

'That's it!' Kim said. 'Now kick with the left, kick with the right and handspring back and pirouette and pose!'

The song ended, the squad wound up in a group pose that looked as if it had been choreographed for a magazine cover. There was a sudden outbreak of clapping and whistling. The gymnastics class had stopped their practicing to watch and they were all applauding, except for Grimm, who stood at the sidelines next to Felicia with an annoyed expression.

'You're amazing!' said Rachel, and a look of sheep-like loyalty was on her face. 'It's like you've done this a million times! I don't think we've ever performed that well.'

  drakken's lament

'It's no big.' said Kim, and from the bleachers, Monique loudly cleared her throat. 'I mean... thanks.' she ended.

Ms. Darken watched the whole thing from the sidelines. Her left eyebrow raised almost imperceptibly.

'Wow!' said Felicia, elbowing Grimm in the ribs. 'I don't think I've ever seen Ms. Darken that impressed...' Grimm let out a low growl and said nothing.

'Kim Possible!' Ms. Darken was walking briskly up to the cheer squad, who looked wary at her approach. 'You're heading up the cheer squad for the duration of your stay in Riddleton.'

Kim set down the poms and shook her head. 'I'm just visiting, and you've already got a leader on the squad. I wouldn't feel right taking her place...'

'Uh, we kind of don't have a squad leader either.' said Rachel. 'We were all just kind of... winging it.'

'An embarrassingly accurate summation.' said Ms. Darken, her steely eyes flicking across the rest of the squad. 'We haven't had a squad with decent organization all year. Thank goodness the sports teams haven't needed them for their wins. But I get tired of Riddleton High winning most of its games and then getting mocked by other schools because of our pathetic cheerleading.'

'They're not pathetic.' said Kim. 'They just need...'

'A leader.' said Ms. Darken, cutting across her. 'I quite agree. I know a natural when I see one. It would be an insult to you and this school to ignore that kind of talent. You're in, Possible.'

Charlie was looking just as eagerly at her. 'Uh, Kim?' she said, her earlier bravado now faded to timidity. 'Ms. Darken is right. I mean, you saw us - we stink. We could really use your help.' The rest of the squad shuffled nervously, but all of them were nodding and looking at Kim with pleading eyes.

'Work up some routines and bring them tomorrow.' said Ms. Darken, as if the matter were settled. 'And don't stop working the squad until they've got them down pat. Maybe some of what you've got will rub off on the rest of them before you go.' Then she turned and walked away as regally and stiffly as if she were balancing a book on her head.

The squad was still looking at her. 'Pleeeeeeese?' said Rachel pitifully.

Kim sighed. 'All right...' she said, and immediately, they all whooped and threw their poms into the air.

Part VI: Angst 2.0

'Hey Possible - way to go!'
'Saw your moves, Possible. Can't wait to see the squad once you're done with them!'
'You looking for a BFF while you're here?'
'Possible, you should totally hang with us after school..!'

Comments like this followed Kim like a rippling wave wherever she went through the halls on her way out. Grimm followed a few steps behind her, looking unsurprised but also slightly grumpy.

When they were finally outside and moving towards the Sloth and the Ksikkihkíni, Kim finally spoke to Grimm directly. 'Well this is interesting.' she said smugly. 'I've only been here one day, and I'm already more popular at your school than you are.'

'I don't doubt it.' said Grimm, taking a helmet out of the trunk. 'Popularity isn't my bag. I've never wanted the spotlight - in fact, sometimes the spotlight can be colder than backstage.'

'Quit ripping off Knight of Faerun.' said Monique.

'What?' said Grimm with a shrug. 'He's smart.' Then he got onto the bike, with Rueful scurrying into his backpack.

'Hey, waitasec!' said Monique. 'Where are you off to?'

'Home.' he said. 'School's over for the day - go back and help Mrs. Fatigable with Indy.'

'What about our jobs?'

Grimm looked at her in confusion. 'What jobs?'

Monique rolled her eyes. 'You said you arranged for us to be transferred to the Riddleton branch of Club Banana while we were here.' she said. 'So where is it?'

'Get real.' said Grimm, sounding peeved. 'That was just a dodge to get your boss in Middleton to give you some time off without firing you. No one's expecting either of you to show up for work out here.'

Monique stood there sputtering. 'But... our jobs...!'

'Are totally safe and will be waiting whenever you decide to go back to Middleton.' said Grimm impatiently. 'As far as they're concerned, you're working at the Riddleton branch and putting your time in fair and square. So stop worrying. Do your homework - get some training in - whatever, I don't care. I hear Kim's got some cheer routines to work on....' And with that he started the bike and zoomed off.

Kim and Monique stood staring after him for a few seconds. 'That.... jerk!' Monique said at last. 'What if we needed the money, he ever think of that?'

'There's nothing we can do about it right now.' said Kim, sounding resigned. Secretly, she was grateful that she wouldn't have to deal with a job on top of everything else while she was in Riddleton. Whatever she had said to Ron, having a job while going to school, being a cheerleader and doing missions had been more of a pain than anything else. 'Let's just go back and be glad that things are OK back home.'

'If he wasn't lying about that too....' said Monique darkly.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

Grimm finished his homework with a heavy sigh. Ms. Darken had been as merciless as usual, but a few hours steady going and he'd caught up with everything. He checked the email at his computer again. The only thing in his inbox was the one message he had been bouncing back and forth to Jade all evening.

Subject: Jade
Any word from Twitch yet? Any alerts from your detector?
GP

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Subject: Jade
Any word from Twitch yet? Any alerts from your detector?

No and no
Please stop asking - I get the message.
I'll let you know as soon as it happens!
- J

He closed his inbox, his mind troubled. He found himself thinking again of what had happened during gymnastics practice, how Possible had literally swept the entire school off their feet in one afternoon. Whatever he had said, he was jealous. Not of the attention Kim had gotten, but how effortlessly it had seemed to happen.

He worked hard at being the best, and hard work was what he believed in. He'd earned his skills and his stripes with blood, sweat and tears, and smugly knew how much he was respected for it, even though no one ever said anything flat out. He worked from the sidelines, out of the spotlight. It was where he was most effective.

But there was a difference between being the best and having charisma. And he couldn't deny that Possible had charisma - an indefinable something that just made people like her - want to follow her. Even he had felt it, though he would sooner have worked for free than admit it.

He tapped his finger on the desk, remembering a night several months ago in Drakken's lair, when Kim had broken in and confronted him.

Kim glared up at him. Then she unbuckled her backpack, letting it drop to the floor with a thud. Then she threw her grapple gun down next to it. 'I didn't come here to fight. I came to talk.'

Grimm felt confused for one brief instant. Then his cocky smile was back in place. 'Talk is cheap Kim. If you're thinking to divert me, think again.'

'I haven't stopped thinking since our last fight.' Kim said. 'Thinking about what you said. And... you were right about me.'

Grimm shook his head. 'Nice try, Kim.' he said. 'But girls don't ever admit that guys are right - about anything!'

'I do.' said Kim. 'Can we talk... alone?' she said with a pointed glance at Rhonda.

And with resentment, he remembered how he had dismissed Rhonda - his best friend - to check the corridors so he could be alone with Kim.

'I understand you a lot better than you think.' Kim had said. 'I know you spend a lot of nights awake wondering if you'll ever find anyone. Worried, that in spite of everything you've done, no matter how skilled you are, that it still won't impress anyone enough to want to go out with you.'

Grimm glared at her. 'How do you know that?' he said.

'Because I know me.' she said. 'And I felt the same way.' Kim looked up at him. 'We're not... so different.'

Grimm chuckled, thinking he could see where she was going. 'Nice.' he said. 'Is this where I'm supposed to say that you and I were destined for each other - and I repent and forsake my evil ways? Or do you expect me to believe that you're prepared to walk away from your life just so we can go out?'

'I'm not asking for either.' said Kim. 'I'm just asking... for a chance.'

Grimm raised an eyebrow. 'A chance for what?' And despite his training, despite knowing how dangerous Possible was, he found himself doing nothing while she came up to him and took his hand. He felt his mouth going dry. His mercenary work had kept him pretty much dateless through all of high school. He hid it behind his air of cockiness, but one thing he had really wanted for a long time was someone who really understood him - a kindred spirit - a girlfriend.

And he had realized with a shock that Kim was just such a person. They were on opposite sides of the fence, but they were similar in so many ways, and more than anyone else, she seemed to understand him. Her eyes were so green - deep and beautiful. For a moment he found himself lost in those eyes, soothed by the sound of her voice, and thinking about... possibilities....

'Is this so bad?' Kim said, squeezing his hand lightly.

Grimm's eyes softened for the briefest moment. 'I...' he said, but in the reflection of Kim's shining eyes, he saw a flicker of movement. He whirled around and saw Ron standing at the console. 'You!' he said, his voice furious. And in a splintered second, all of what he had just felt withered into ashes.

He - the master player - had been played. Played by a girl with a pretty face and charisma. And he felt a rage like he'd never felt before as Kim, the girl he had actually thought he might care for, clamped an electro-magnetic manacle around his wrist....

He hadn't let on how deep it had cut him, being played and having the rug pulled out from under him so neatly. And suffering the humiliation of being captured and thrown into a police wagon just like all the other super-villains he'd seen on TV reports. He'd laughed while watching those reports, at how careless those villains had been.

While handcuffed in the police wagon, he'd been ready to swear off girls forever. The first one he had ever thought he might like and she'd burned him. Then Rhonda had turned it all around with four words.

'Out there... in here....'

He didn't want to admit this to anyone else either - but the time he'd spent shipping with Rhonda had been the must fun he'd ever had. They'd been friends forever, but somehow being able to hold hands with her, and kiss her... had changed everything. Plus getting even with Possible in the Zorpox sitch had been icing on the cake.

His eye drifted to the photographs on the wall which Rhonda had taken, capturing Kim Possible's anger and humiliation. But without Rhonda, it just didn't seem as funny. Grimm stared at the pictures for a few minutes, then got up with a growl and started collecting his practice clothes and the communicator. He glanced up at the hole near the ceiling that was his only window and saw things fading to a dim grayish blue.

'Almost sundown.' he thought. 'Well - some darkmatching in the training yard could be useful.' Then he headed out of his room towards the stairs.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

Kim and Monique had also set to their homework once they were back at the Fatigables. Kim had a tough time focusing with Indy crawling around her, over her and under her while she sat at the couch. On the other hand, he had sat nearly still, watching while Kim went in the backyard to work on some routine ideas for the Riddleton cheer squad. He laughed and clapped during some of the trickier flips, and even managed a somersault of his own.

Monique seemed unsure what to do with herself. As long as Kim had known her, Monique had been a hard worker, and she suspected that this sudden time off had left her feeling confused. She had tried helping out with Indy, but it was clear that she didn't have as much of a knack for it as Kim.

Another meal had been delivered from Sato's, and Monique seemed distant while they ate, using a fork to prod her food back and forth, but not eating much.

'Something wrong with your order?' said Kim, who was enjoying her meal so much she was sure it was somehow triggering endorphin releases higher than average.

'No.' said Monique. 'I'm just... bored I guess. Do you know how long it's been since I had a day off?'

Kim shook her head, and found herself suddenly curious.

'Never.' Monique said at last.

'Then you should enjoy it while it lasts.' said Kim.

Monique laughed, and Kim could sense bitterness in it. 'I don't really know how to enjoy myself.' she said softly. 'I've never had time to.'

Kim blinked. 'Monique - is everything OK? You've been kind of... wiggy since we left Riddleton High.'

Monique set her fork down quietly. 'I was just... kind of counting on working at Club Banana while I was here.' she said.

Kim smiled and bumped shoulders with her. 'I think we can go a few days without the latest catalog.' she said.

'It wasn't about keeping up on the fashions - or having extra time for homework.' Monique said quickly. 'Even if our jobs are waiting when we go back, the time I'm not working is still time I'm not earning anything! My parents need the extra money for...' She stopped, seeming to catch herself and looking embarrassed.

'Monique?' Kim said. 'Spill - why do your parents need extra money?'

'House payments.' Monique said, almost in a whisper. 'They had an adjustable rate mortgage when they got the house, and it's been adjusting up lately. We've had to go without some things to make the payments.'

'What things?' Kim said, alarmed. 'Monique, you're not...'

'It's nothing drastic.' said Monique, shaking her head. 'We're not starving or anything. But we've dropped cable, newspapers and a few other things here and there. We had to.'

Kim was stunned. Monique had never spoken much about her life - somehow whenever they got together, it was always Kim who got focused on - her life, her missions, her problems. She'd just assumed, since Monique had never spoken about it, that she didn't have any problems to deal with. 'You... never said anything.' Kim said, quietly.

Monique lowered her head. 'I didn't want to distract you.' she said. 'You've got enough to deal with every day without little ol' Monique throwing her problems on the pile next to everyone else's.'

'Monique... I help people with their problems.' she said. 'That's what I do.'

'Saving the world from Drakken or Senor Senior Senior is one thing.' Monique answered. 'Helping a family that's just getting by month by month? That's something else.'

'Monique...'

'Look... just drop it.' said Monique, standing up. 'And... forget I said anything. Really. There's nothing you can do anyway.'

Kim felt helpless as Monique went out through the sliding glass door and into the backyard. She didn't stop, but went out through the back fence and into the wooded area behind the house.

Kim looked at her best friend's half-eaten meal, and felt a stab of anger at Grimm. For all his smoothness and skill, he was still ham-handed in dealing with people. He had taken Monique out of work without any regard for how it might affect her - or her family. And even as she thought about it, she could practically hear his voice in her head.

'So what? She said she was ready to help you out, right? She agreed to come with you, didn't she? If she didn't mean it, then she can bail anytime she wants.'

And Kim felt ashamed. After the battle in Basalton, she had sent Monique home, given her every chance to step away from the sitch and take care of her own house. But she had come back, asking her forgiveness, and begging for the chance to prove she was a true friend. Once again, it was Kim and her problems that Monique had focused on, setting them before her own needs and even her own family.

Kim felt sudden tears lurking behind her eyes and got up quickly to clear away the dishes, trying to focus on something else. Her eyes lingered on the gate where Monique had disappeared.

'You came along to prove you were good enough to be my friend.' Kim thought, 'For what it's worth - I think you're a better friend than I am...'

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Monique wasn't sure why she left the house, or where she was going. She just knew that she couldn't stay in the same room with Kim, couldn't face her pitying eyes. She regretted having said anything to her. Now whenever Kim looked at her or talked to her, she'd have to deal with her BFF's silent pity. She ran her hand over her eyes, dashing away a tear.

'Why'd you have to open your big mouth?' she thought. 'Kim punches goons through plate glass windows - she doesn't raise money for families just because they can't afford cable!'

She found herself a few dozen yards away from the house, having followed a thin path into a wooded glade. There was a clearing that looked like a glowing, green dome, with the fading sunlight still captured among the overhanging leaves. An occasional shaft of yellow light stabbed down through the canopy above. All was quiet except for a soft rustling. There was a sawed stump in the clearing that caught her attention. It was the exact height of a chair seat, and she felt drawn to sit down there.

The wood was hard, but not uncomfortable. As she settled down, Monique saw several signs nailed to the trunks of the trees in front of her, only a few feet away.

Calm. Peace. Tranquility.

Monique chuckled. She had obviously wandered into one of Rhonda's haunts. Looking around further still, she saw an Indian dream weaver hanging from one of the tree branches, and in the knot of another tree there was a carving that looked like a bear paw. The ground right in front of her was dug into what looked like a fire pit, with a stack of dead wood piled next to it.

She wasn't sure why, but she found herself tipping branches and logs into pit. She fished a lighter out of her pocket and before long she had a small fire crackling in front of her. The night wasn't that cold, but the yellow glow was oddly soothing.

Sitting back down on the stump, she looked back at the signs. Tranquility. It didn't seem like the sort of thing for a mercenary/villain team to post up in one of their hideouts. But she closed her eyes and listened to the fire popping, and the endless sighing of the leaves.

It was nice, she thought. It wasn't doing anything to actually fix her problems, but somehow she just felt better. The warmth from the fire stole over her like a warm bath, and she felt her mind drifting....

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Kim went back upstairs after cleaning up with Indy twisting and fidgeting in her arms. He toddled off and disappeared under the bed while she took out her Kimmunicator and started trying different frequencies.

Ever since the previous night, she had been trying to contact someone from Middleton - her parents, Felix, even Ned if she could figure out how. But a wall of static met every attempt to call anyone outside. She went through the range of frequencies incrementally, hoping that at least one of them would break through. She needed a contact outside to try and zero in on Riddleton, so she could blow the whistle on Grimm's cushy little setup. But she felt a growing frustration as every attempt met with failure.

So she was surprised when the static suddenly formed into a clear image showing Dr. Director, sitting behind her desk as normal. 'Possible.' she said. 'You're raising quite a ruckus.'

'Dr. Director!' Kim said. 'I'm so glad I got in touch with you - I need you to....'

'It's not going to happen, Kim.' she said, breaking across her.

'What?' she said. 'Listen, you know that mercenary team I told you about? I'm right here in their hometown... I mean their lair. If you can pinpoint my signal, you can...'

'Your signal didn't reach me, Kim.' Dr. Director said, shaking her head. 'I came to Riddleton to contact you.'

Kim stared. 'Riddleton...' she said. 'You know about Riddleton?'

'I'm here to ask you to stop trying to expose Riddleton to media attention.' she said seriously.

'What?' said Kim. 'But Team Probable engages in criminal activities! I thought you'd want to help...'

Dr. Director sighed. 'Kim - I knew about the existence of Probable and his group before you asked me back at our base in England. I didn't want to lie to you - but Riddleton is ranked with code five levels of security. It's classified top secret. And you would be doing more harm than good if you keep trying to penetrate the wall of secrecy around that city.'

Kim couldn't believe her ears. 'What are you saying?' she said. 'That you want to let Team Probable just... get away with what they're doing?'

'It's not as simple as that.' said Dr. Director, shaking her head. 'Team Probable has fed us covert information about several super-villain activities. In exchange for that information, we've given him a certain amount of..... leeway.'

'Probable... works for you?' Kim said, her voice rising.

Dr. Director gave a hollow laugh. 'No - he's a mercenary. I honestly wish he did work for Global Justice - he's very skilled at what he does. But the intel he's given us has been valuable enough that I've had word from the very top to leave him alone.'

'I don't believe this!' Kim said. 'Global Justice makes deals with criminals?'

Dr. Director sighed again. 'Kim... do you know how Global Justice got word about the Transducer you stole from the last HenchCo convention?'

'Wade told me about it.' said Kim.

Dr. Director shook her head. 'He told you after we told him. And we told him after Probable passed the word to us. He was also the one who fed Big Daddy the info on Duff Killigan when you partnered with Agent Du. He's given us valuable intel on a number of occasions. He's never actively worked with us...'

'Of course not!' Kim snapped. 'Because he's just been stringing you along with tidbits to keep you off his back!'

'Kim - listen to me. This is bigger than your feud with Probable. If you persist in trying to draw attention to Riddleton, you'll set off a firestorm. Riddleton is full of dignitaries, covert operatives, ambassadors, military brass - and their families. Everything in that city is equal to the protection it's given. If the media, and by association the public, started broadcasting the town's location it would draw spies, thugs, snipers and terrorists like moths to a flame. There would be massive chaos, trying to find a new safe haven. The lives of hundreds could be set at risk - not to mention any national secrets which any spy might find as a result. Would you risk innocent lives just to settle a personal grudge with one mercenary?'

Kim looked down for a moment. 'It can't be that cut and dried.' she said. 'There has to be a way to bring him to justice without hurting anyone else.'

'If you can think if a way, I'd be delighted to hear it.' Dr. Director answered. 'But until then I strongly urge you to stop anything you may be planning with regard to Riddleton and it's inhabitants.'

Kim sighed heavily. 'I'll get back to you on that.' she said.

'I hope not.' said Dr. Director heavily. 'I've kept the Riddleton black operatives from moving in on you up until now. They've honored my request because of the work I do. But they're monitoring every attempt you make to contact the outside, and after this call ends, the matter passes out of my hands. If you make any more attempts to break the electronic fence surrounding Riddleton, their orders are to arrest you in the name of national security - and they know exactly where you are.'

'You're kidding.' Kim said.

'Note serious face, Kim.' she answered. 'I say this as a friend - please listen to what I've told you and act accordingly. If I need to speak to you again, I'll contact you, not the other way around.' Then the Kimmunicator screen went black and the static popped up a moment later, hissing in her ears.

Kim took off the Kimmunicator and threw it angrily into her book bag. But she had to chase after it a few seconds later as Indy popped up, snatched the Kimmunicator and disappeared back under the bed with a laugh.

Part VII: Could Be Teen Spirit

Ron was pacing back and forth. Without any discernable 'ground' in the spirit world, it wound up looking more as if he were dog paddling. But his voice was high and shrill as he spoke, as if to himself.

'Does Kim love me? I mean... what if she doesn't? What if she does, but she changes her mind later on? What if she's changing her mind right now?'

Rhonda sighed. Ever since their conversation about what had happened when Kim had lost and then regained her memory, Ron had been in a state of thinly veiled panic. He had been pondering, fretting over and micro-parsing what Kim might have meant by saying 'I think I love you' instead of simply 'I love you'.

'I think I love you?' he squeaked. 'As in - I think I'd like salad for dinner, but if something better turns up I think I'll change my mind?'

It had gone on for what felt like hours, with Ron drifting back and forth between doubt and semi-doubt, until Rhonda just wanted some quiet. Finally she put her hands over her eyes. 'Ron?' she said, raising her voice to cut across his squealing. 'Why does it matter to you - if she's doubting or not?'

This did indeed make Ron pause. 'Because...' he said with a slight blush, 'I really like her, and I want her to really like me.'

'Why?' she said again.

'Why?' Ron sputtered. 'Because she's the best thing that's ever happened to me, that's why! I've been her friend for ages and... if we weren't best friends I don't know what I'd do.'

Rhonda nodded. 'OK. Have you ever told her that?'

'No!' Ron said. 'Guys don't talk like that - it's fruity!'

'Well, if she's not sure how you feel, then how can she be sure about how she feels?'

Ron sputtered again, but didn't answer. At last he said a bit defensively, 'Yeah, well does Grimm know how you feel?'

'I.... THINK so.' she said with a short laugh. 'But... if I ever get out of this place... I'm gonna make sure he knows.'

Silence fell again, and Rhonda found herself thinking about what she had just said. She and Grimm had been shipping for several months - but they'd been friends since Pre-K. They knew each other really well, and sometimes it felt they knew each other well that they didn't need to say anything, or talk about their feelings. But more than anything else now - she wanted to talk about how she felt.

And as the emotional longing to speak to him set in, the mists around her grew pale and drew aside. She gasped, looking as if through cloudy glass at a wooded glade that looked familiar. And she also saw Monique, sitting on the sawed stump of a tree in front of a campfire, looking as if she were meditating.

'Hey!' she shouted. 'I see your best friend's.... best friend!'

Ron whirled, looking around, but could only see Rhonda staring in front of herself with a dazed look in her eyes. 'What? Where? I can't see it!'

Rhonda look a closer look at the grove and where Monique was sitting. 'Hey.... this is my stay-in-touch-with-nature spot!' she said. 'They're in Riddleton.... Grimm brought them to Riddleton?'

'Where's Riddleton?' Ron said. 'What's happening?'

'It's our hometown.' Rhonda said. 'Woah... Grimm must really be desperate if he showed them where we live.'

'Man this tanks!' Ron said, pulling at his hair. 'How come I can't see her? I was the one training you!'

'Yeah, well you're not exactly following what you taught me.' Rhonda said. 'What happened to Yamanouchi, and inner peace and serenity and all that stuff?'

Ron stopped his pacing. 'Right.' he said. 'I forgot the guy who needs the Ron-man's training the most is the Ron-man... So, what's Monique doing?'

'She's just... sitting there.' said Rhonda. 'Maybe she's been reading my 'peace and tranquility' signs.'

'Maybe that's why you can see her!' Ron said. 'Because you're... in synch somehow!'

Rhonda had to admit there might be something to his idea. She had been feeling emotion, dwelling on what she might say to Grimm if she could talk to him again, and Monique also looked like she was trying to get something off her mind. 'If Monique's in Riddleton, then pom-pon must be there too.' she said. 'They came all this way to try and save you.... that should give you a pretty good idea how she feels.'

And through Ron's mask of doubt, there came a faint, grateful smile.

And then the vision was open to his eyes as well, suddenly and clearly. He could see Monique sitting quietly in the grove, a pale fire blazing in front of her. 'Woah - trippy!' he whispered.

'Hey, welcome aboard!' Rhonda said, smiling as his eyes focused on the same things that she was seeing.

Ron reached out and tried to tap Monique's shoulder, but his hand passed through her. 'Still can't touch anything...' he said, trying to keep frustration out of his voice and maintain the good vibes he was feeling. 'And I can't see Rufus or Rueful anywhere - they were the only ones who could see us.'

'Maybe animals can see spirit stuff easier than people can.' Rhonda said. 'I bet the tree-hugger who teaches my Earth Sciences class would love to know that.'

'So what do we do?' Ron said. 'There's no telling how long this will last...'

'Every time I come here to meditate, animals would always come up and hassle me.' Rhonda said. She puffed a few times as if gearing up to lift something heavy, then held out her hand. Ron looked at her questioningly. 'It worked better when we were touching somehow.' she said. 'Maybe spirit strength is something that can be pooled.'

'For what?' Ron said, taking her hand. 'What are you gonna do?'

But Rhonda was already sitting in the Lotus position, her eyes closed, and a look of concentration and calm on her face. 'Come on, animal friends...' she muttered. 'If you can hear me, I need your help....'

Ron wasn't sure exactly what Rhonda was trying to do, but he could sense that she felt it was important, and he focused on keeping himself focused. Nothing seemed to be happening, but he soon saw a flashing light wink in and then out in the air in front of Monique. It was joined by another, and then another, until Monique was surrounded by tiny, blinking lights.

'Fireflies...' Rhonda said quietly. 'The first time I really noticed my connection with the forest, these were the animals that followed me. They made signs and symbols in the air for me.'

'Will they do it again?' Ron said hopefully.

'I think so.' said Rhonda. 'What do you want them to say...?'

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Monique felt her glumness fading away. She wasn't sure what kind of mojo the grove had, but she liked it. She felt a little ashamed, thinking that she had made a fuss over nothing. Her family would come through somehow - she was sure of it. And it didn't do anyone any good at all to just spread the worry around. She was just getting ready to get up and go back inside when she felt something land on her nose.

'Ewww, bugs!' she thought, and she swatted, slapping herself on the face as whatever it was took flight and avoided her hand. Her eyes opened. The fire had burned low to embers, but there was another source of light further away in front of her. And her mouth fell open.

A swarm of fireflies were hovering in the air, their wings making a soft rattling sound. But they were arranged unnaturally, their glowing abdomens forming a pattern of light that traced out a single word.

BOOYA

Monique stared in amazement, wondering if she were seeing things, or had maybe fallen asleep. Convinced that she wasn't imagining, she reached out to the hovering swarm. They broke formation and she drew back, worried that she had ruined something amazing. But the fireflies reformed into another word and she put her hands over her mouth.

MON

She was simultaneously frightened and enchanted. Sudden understanding broke over her, and she spoke in a faint whisper.

'Ron....?'

The lights scattered and reformed.

YO

'Ron...' she said again, talking to the shimmering lights in front of her. She wanted to run and get Kim, but she was terrified of leaving and ending whatever was happening. She felt silly, talking to fireflies, but if there was any chance that Ron was watching, that he knew something they didn't... 'We're trying to save you - but we can't reach you! What should we do?' she pleaded.

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Rhonda was breathing hard, as if she had run a minute mile. 'Whatever you want to tell her, hurry!' she said. 'I don't know how long I can keep this up!'

Ron nodded, fighting with his own confusion and hesitation. How could he tell Monique what to do to save them when he wasn't sure himself? Finally, he settled on telling her what he had been telling himself ever since he was banished to the spirit world....

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Monique watched as the fireflies fluttered and buzzed, re-arranging themselves and slowly forming one word after another.

TELL - KIM - NOT - 2 - GIVE - UP

Sudden tears welled in her eyes as two more words took shape.

LOVE - HER

And the fireflies scattered around her, flying up into the dim twilight while she reached after them.

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The vision around them faded, though Ron could still see Monique faintly, like a shadowy ghost moving through the mists around him.

drakken's lament

'That's it...' said Rhonda, gasping. 'I'm tapped out...'

'It's OK!' said Ron. 'It worked - the message got through! I don't know what good it'll do, but at least they'll know we're all right.' He kept his eyes focused on Monique, who seemed to be running, and he lifted Rhonda up, following after her. But as Monique passed into what looked like a house, the vision faded completely and shadowy mist surrounded them....

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'Kim!' Monique shouted, thundering up the steps towards Rhonda's room. Kim was sitting at the desk, looking angry about something, but her expression softened when she saw the look on Monique's face.

'Monique, what's the sitch...?'

'I saw Ron! He's OK! I talked to him...!'

Kim stared. 'What?' she said.

But Monique was nearly babbling in her haste. 'Well OK, I didn't actually see him, I was in the woods back there when it got darker and these fireflies came out - and they started texting in the air in front of me and it was like Ron was there telling them what to write and...'

'Monique!' Kim said, her voice soft. 'You're kind of freaking me out here...'

'Booya - he said booya!' Monique said.

'He always says booya.' Kim answered.

'With fireflies?'

'Monique - please!' Kim said loudly, getting up and taking her by the shoulders. 'Do you have any idea how this sounds...?'

But to her surprise, Rufus had leaped out of his pouch, scurried up Kim's arm and perched on Monique's shoulder, waving his tiny clawed arms at Kim and shaking his head. 'Mmm-mm! Mmm-mmm!' he squeaked.

Kim stared in confusion, but Monique was looking at Rufus as if they were sharing some kind of understanding. 'You saw him too, didn't you?' she said. 'Was that what you were trying to tell us back at Wade's place?'

'Mmm-hmm! Mmm-hmm!' Rufus nodded, giving a thumbs-up sign.

Monique plucked him up and gave him a gentle hug with her hands. 'You're the freakiest pink thing I ever seen, but right now I love you!' she said.

Kim sat back down, flabbergasted. Either both Monique and Rufus had lost their minds, or... 'You're serious?' Kim breathed. 'You talked to him?' With sudden and fiery intensity, she leaned forward. 'What did he say?'

Monique was shaking in her excitement. 'Well he was spellin' things out with fireflies, so he didn't get in much, but he said don't give up. And he said... he loves you.'

Kim leaned back in the chair, and for several seconds she said nothing, a roil of several emotions coursing through her....

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'You talked to them? You?' Grimm was glaring at Monique and looking angry. Kim was still battling with her anger at Grimm, but for the moment they were still allies and she felt they should call him over and tell him what had happened.

She had expected him to be skeptical at first, like she had, but Grimm seemed to accept the story without question. But instead of seeming glad that Ron had somehow contacted them, he looked frustrated.

'So you believe us?' she said.

'Of course I do.' he snapped, pacing back and forth in Rhonda's room. 'I was there the first time Rhonda pulled that trick with the fireflies. Ron may have been telling them what to write this time, but it was Rhonda's mojo that made it possible. That means wherever Ron is, Rhonda's right there with him.'

'So why you illin' like that?' Monique said. 'Thought you'd be glad your GF came through.'

'I should have been the one she contacted first!' he snarled. 'I'm her boyfriend! I'm the one who....' and he paused, his cheeks flushing red. 'Who cares for her.' he finished. 'Why you and not me?'

Monique shrugged, feeling uncomfortable with his obvious jealousy and anger. 'I donno.' she said. 'Maybe 'cause you were too busy messing with our heads...'

Grimm looked even angrier for a moment, but then he stepped back as if considering. 'What were you doing when you saw this?'

'I was just chillin' in the woods back there.' she answered.

'In Rhonda's sanctum sanctorum?'

'In her.... her whuh?' Monique said.

'Her sanctorum - the place where she goes to focus her powers!'

'I... guess so.' Monique answered. 'Just looked like a bunch of trees to me.'

Grimm turned, dashed out of the room and down the stairs. Kim and Monique hurried after him as he bolted through the back door, through the yard and into the glade. It was dark by then, and only a few coals remained smoldering in the fire pit. He had fished Rueful out of his pack and set him gently on the ground, where he stood on his hind legs, his nose snuffling in the air.

Kim and Monique stared at him in silence. He was looking around the grove as if he expected to see something, but at least Rueful let out a low trill and shook his head. Grimm's eyes lowered and he was biting his lip. 'Whatever they had going here, it's gone now.' he said quietly. He stared hard at Monique. 'If it happens again - call me.' he said fiercely 'I don't care if it's 3 o'clock in the morning, I want to know.' and he stumped out of the grove and back into the house.

He had already left by the time they went back inside. 'Some first day, huh?' said Monique.

Kim laughed weakly. 'Yeah.' she said. 'Listen - what Grimm said just now. Call me before you call him, will you?'

'You know it girlfriend.' she said. Then she paused. 'If it happens again? Does this mean they could be watching us right now? Watching us all the time? Oh man - when am I supposed to shower?'

'Ron's a gentleman, don't worry.' said Kim with a smile, remembering a night on the shores of a beach outside of Big Daddy's casino. 'He knows when to look away.'

'He better.' Monique grumbled. 'Or I'll punch so hard his spirit will feel it...'

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Once Kim and Monique were back inside, they didn't see Grimm double back and re-enter the grove. He sat down on the stump and began chanting to the Great Bear Spirit again, keeping his head bowed. Rueful scurried around him, his eyes darting back and forth.

There was no way he was going to give Possible the satisfaction of knowing how hard this had hit him, or how desperate he was to see something for himself. He knew after his experience at Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin that it was possible to spiritually see someone.

Tell Kim not to give up and I love her.

He felt resentful. 'It should have been me!' he thought. 'I've been trying to contact you since this happened, Great Bear Spirit. Why won't you answer? I let myself be turned to stone for her and I know I saw her then - why can't I see her now?' He struck his knees with his fists. 'It should have been me.....'

There was a sudden beeping from his hip pouch and he fished out his communicator impatiently. 'What's the sitch?' he said, trying to keep his voice even and not take his frustration out on Jade.

'I know the day's mostly over, G-Man.' she said. 'But you just got a hit on your website.'

Grimm sighed and shook his head. 'Tell them they'll have to wait.' he answered. 'I've already said, I'm not taking any more jobs until Rhonda's back.'

'It's Mr. Matter.' said Jade quickly.

This made Grimm pause. 'You're kidding.' he said. 'We haven't heard from him since I was in...'

'Junior High.' Jade said. 'I know.'

He sighed again. 'I really don't want to be distracted from finding Rhonda.' he said. 'I think she's found a way to start sending messages from the spirit world, and I don't want to miss any of them because I was too busy...'

'Well, this job doesn't sound tough.' Jade said. 'And since anything that involves bringing Rhonda back kind of involves finding Monkey Fist, I don't think this mission will distract you too much. We're stalled with Monkey Fist until Twitch gets back to us.'

For a few seconds there was silence. Then he spoke again, still sounding reluctant. 'All right, get the low-down from Mr. Matter while we gear up. Call us back in five.'

Jade stared at him. 'What's this 'we' I just heard?' she said. 'You can't be thinking...'

'...of bringing Possible along?' Grimm interrupted, smiling faintly. 'That's exactly what I'm thinking. I went on a mission with her and put up with the goofiness. I hope she's ready to go merc, because this time she's coming on a mission with me.'

                   
   
Chapter 21

When you do this with evil - you risk playing by evil's rules...

Author: Turnabout is fair play. As you've probably noticed, these chapters set in Riddleton were a flimsy excuse for me run Kim through the same gauntlet that Grimm had to go through when he was in Middleton. First meeting the families, then going to school, then going on a mission. We've gone through most of that - and once it's done, we can get back to pushing the MAIN plot along!

Special thanks goes to fanfiction author DarkWarrior on this one, because a while back, he wrote a neat story called 'The First Odd Job', which profiled how Grimm first became a mercenary. I'll be lifting bits and bobs from that tale to write the next chapter. If you want to read it and get some clues as to what will happen, then I recommend reading (and reviewing) his story!
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3900910/1/

 

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