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

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

Chapter 26:
Journey
Or: Monkey Shines

Part I: The Magical Mystery Tour

After her experience at the fountain, Kim had spent the rest of the day mulling it over in her head, trying to work out what the Mystical Monkey could have meant by it all. 'Not ready to save Ron?' she thought bitterly. 'What exactly does he want from me? I've saved Ron on missions more times than I can count. I've always had his back, even when he messed up and got us captured... if there are dues, then I've paid them a thousand times over!'

She found herself getting more resentful over it as she practiced in the training areas with the other students, imagining the Mystical Monkey's head in front of her as she punched targets. 'He doesn't know anything about me.' she thought angrily. 'I've known Ron since we were in Pre-K. So where does Mr. Monkey get off acting like he knows something I don't about Ron?'

She wanted to discuss it with Master Sensei and learn what he thought. But as she approached him while he oversaw the training of several students, he held up his hand. 'I believe I know what you wish to ask me, Possible-chan.' he said, not looking away from the students. 'You are troubled - I have seen it in your eyes all day. But if you think that I can explain the wisdom of the Mystical Monkey, I fear I must disappoint you.'

'Why?' Kim said. 'You've studied here your whole life - at least I think you have. You said you communed with him. Who would understand him better?'

Sensei sighed. 'There is a great difference between knowledge and wisdom.' he said. 'Sometimes the most knowledgeable man in the world will also be the most foolish - while those who are considered ignorant are the most wise. What you learn from the Mystical Monkey is a matter that should remain between the two of you, Possible-chan. I cannot advise you.'

Disappointed, Kim resumed her own exercises before going back to her room to study the homework textbooks she had brought from home to stay caught up with her schoolwork.

The following morning, she put on her mission clothes and went to Toshimiru's dojo, her mind firm and set. The pilot ninja had retrieved another order of Nacos, and she brought them with her, even though she was resentful enough that she felt like dumping them off the rope bridge.

The Mystical Monkey was sitting in the Buddha’s lap again, his fingers curled and his eyes closed in meditation. As Kim entered, his nose twitched and his eyes popped open. He smacked his lips as he looked at the bag. 'Food for thought!' he squeaked. 'That sound like a fair trade!' And he shambled over to her, snatching the bag and fishing out a naco, which he began eating noisily.

As he crunched and slurped, Kim cleared her throat. 'I've been thinking,' she said slowly, nervous, but determined to speak her mind. 'And... you're wrong.'

The Mystical Monkey had finished off the first Naco and glanced up at Kim, his mouth still full, but he raised his long, white eyebrow and rumbled in his throat in a tone that clearly said, 'Oh?'

'You said I wasn't ready to save Ron.' she said, wanting to finish her thoughts before he could empty his mouth. 'I've been saving Ron for a long time. I've known him for a long time - way before he had Mystical Monkey Power. Before you could have even cared who he was. He's my boyfriend, and I'm ready to save him now - no matter what you might think.'

'Oh hohoho!' the Mystical Monkey cackled. 'I like you, red - you cheeky! Everyone else always try to suck up to me because of all that meditation they do in the library. It's all, 'ooooh wise Mystical Monkey, teach me the meaning of life', even when I tell them the answer is the letter "Q". So you think I wrong, huh? Well, I gonna give you the chance to prove me wrong! What you learn yesterday?'

'I learned to never shut my eyes when you're around.' Kim growled.

The Mystical Monkey laughed in a series of short screeches, sounding just like a screaming monkey. 'Smart girl!' he said, then took a swipe at her with his staff, which she easily dodged. 'What else?'

'You said I needed to want Ron back as badly as I wanted to breathe.' she said. 'That's ridiculous. How am I supposed to spend every waking moment acting like I'm about to pass out from lack of oxygen?'

The Mystical Monkey rolled his eyes. 'Jeez, red. You so literal!'

'Ron's trapped in some other dimension!' Kim said. 'I don't have time to play games! Just tell me what I need to do to save him and I'll do it! If you don't believe me, try me when my back isn't turned!'

The Mystical Monkey looked at her carefully. 'You never had a master before, have you?'

Kim blinked. 'A master?'

'Didn't think so.' he said. 'You can do.... I think sixteen kinds of Kung-Fu. That pretty good for someone your age. You study it all by yourself?'

Kim remembered in middle school and High school, all the time she'd practiced cheerleader moves, practiced to the point where it was as easy as playing hopscotch with Ron. And one day she'd picked up a book on Kung-Fu, and wondered if all the leaps, kicks and other moves were anything like cheerleading. And she had discovered that it came naturally. She seemed to pick up on every move in each book simply by studying the illustrations and pretending is was a cheer move for practice. Once she had the basics down, she moved on to the more advanced stuff, and even mixed it in with her cheer routines, combining her tumbles and flips with Kung-Fu for a style all her own.

It had been so easy, and had come so naturally that she hadn't done much by way of class study in a dojo. She'd taken a few classes, but she picked up on the basics so quickly that she got bored and went back to practicing on her own. She nodded to the Mystical Monkey.

'Mmmm. That explains why you so impatient.' he said. The hot head apprentice always think they know better than the master. Especially when they got talent!'

'I don't think I know better.' said Kim, protesting. 'I just don't see why you can't lay it out for me. I can do anything.'

'I trying to help you.' said the Mystical Monkey. 'You just gotta trust me, red. Even if you try to force me - I wouldn't be able to bring back Chosen One like that. If you want a doctor to cure something, and he say he can't right away, can you punch doctor out and cure disease? You may not like it, but you gotta accept that some things gotta be done a certain way.'

'But why?' Kim said. 'If you want to teach me, then explain. You're the Mystical Monkey - can't you see all? And know all? Can't you just bring Ron back now? Or even tell me where Monkey Fist is? It would be so easy...'

The mystical Monkey laughed raucously. 'You funny!' he said. 'You been saving world for what, four years? You should know by now that not how things work! Only bad guys GIVE stuff to their followers! The good guys gotta work for it! That why bad guys always lose! They donno how to stick it out when things get tough! Sure, they keep coming back - but only so they can try another 'take over world quick' scheme.'

Kim looked down helplessly, her simple solution now seeming naive. 'Just once - why can't it be easy?'

The Mystical Monkey sighed, shaking his head. 'Listen.' he said. 'I like you red - so I be serious with you. If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth it. Bad guys always looking to do things fast and easy. The good guys always working hard to stop them. It help them grow. It make them stronger. Bad guys just don't get it. That why good guys always win on the long road. Cause they want it more - they suffer more. If I make things easy, you might not win. I not gonna do that to you, red. I want you to win.'

Kim smiled bitterly. 'I was kind of wondering if you were on my side.' she said. 'What with the drowning and all.'

'Don't feel bad, red.' said the Mystical Monkey. 'You not the first one who think they know better. They all do. It the funniest thing in the world - everyone always suck up to the master, asking for advice. Then when they hear advice, they get mad because it not what they expected. And they say to the master, the teacher, the whoever, 'well I show you!' And they try to do it their own way. Sometimes they make it - sometimes they don't. But all of them realize later they'd have got what they wanted faster if they just listen to the master in the first place. Just like Sensei.'

'Sensei did it too?' Kim said, amazed.

'Ho, yeah!' said the Mystical Monkey, cackling. 'He not always old you know - he young and hot-headed once too! Ask him to tell you what happen when he try to prove he better than me!'

Kim shook her head. 'He said what he talked with you about was between the two of you.' she said.

The Mystical Monkey chattered even louder. 'Yeah, he would!' he laughed. 'Ah... it nice to know he mellow out later on though. He a lot like Toshimiru.' He sighed and stretched his back. 'Well come on, red.' he said, holding out his hand. 'Chosen One not gonna save himself you know.'

Kim eyed his hand warily.

'Oh, don't act so nervous, I not gonna bite! Besides, humans taste funny.' he said.

She put her hand in his, and looked around in surprise. The dojo seemed to be fading away, as if a gray, billowing smoke was rising from all around, though she couldn't feel or smell any smoke. 'What's happening?'

The Mystical Monkey chuckled. 'Admit it red - you didn't think I had any powers! Bet you thought the Great Bear was cooler than I was! We going on a spiritual journey so we can see just how ready you are to save Chosen One!'

And darkness fell as the gray mist blotted out her vision completely.

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

Dr. Drakken threw a large switch on a control panel inside the mountain lair. There was a series of loud thunking noises as lights activated, rising from the base and to the high crown of a massive machine which stood like an alien construct in the rough interior of the stone cavern.

The towering machine rose up to the very roof of the cavern, and was tipped with a spiked electrode like a thorny robotic finger. Drakken paused to admire the machine, and heard a voice from beside him.

'Impressive. You have done well, Dr. Drakken.' said Monkey Fist pompously. 'Or I should say, it seems you have done well. It remains to be seen if the Jammer will actually work.'

Drakken felt nettled. 'Nnnnn! Of course it will work!' he sniffed. 'It's fully functional and I can prove it right now - just a few minutes of operation and every satellite orbiting the Earth will be nothing more than space junk!' He reached for the controls.

  UAJ

But Monkey Fist seized his wrist in a vice-like grip with his stony fingers. 'Not yet!' he said, and he sounded angry. 'We never wanted to take down Earth's satellites.'

Drakken spluttered. 'Then what was the point of building this thing...?'

'Can we run lower powered signals through half the satellites around the earth? The ones which are above the half of the earth under nightfall?'

Drakken ran calculations in his mind. Satellites passed in and out above the dark side of the Earth in it's rotation and in each satellite's orbit constantly. But it wouldn't take much to set the Jammer so that it would affect any satellite passing under the night side of Earth, and then release it as it passed into day. 'Yes.' he answered at last.

'And can we transmit signals without detection by Probable's device?'

Drakken sighed. 'Yes! As long as you don't interfere with any satellite's normal operations, it shouldn't trigger their detector....'

'That will do.' said Monkey Fist. But let us test it first. Sskipoyiwa - are you rested? Are you prepared?'

Maze nodded, looking towards the Jammer. There was a lift at it's side, and halfway up, surrounded by gantries and catwalks, there was a glowing, hollowed interior with a larger Immersion Pod apparatus, cannibalized and connected to the Jammer.

'Then it's time to begin phase one.' said Monkey Fist.

Maze took the lift and was carried upwards past brightly lit sections of the Jammer, filled with wires, components and other things he found alien. He strode into the hollowed out section, more nervous that he'd felt the first time he used the mini-Jammer. The platform within the machine was mirror like and gleaming, with piercing white bands that led towards a veritable cage of wires and harnesses. He placed the Immersion cap on his head, stood in the wide circle of the Immersion boots, and slid his arms into a set of tubes. A whirl of sound surrounded him, a dull throbbing noise that continued to grow.

Monkey Fist nodded to Drakken, and Drakken activated the hatch control which slid away a section of the cavern roof. With another flick of a switch, the thorny apex of the Jammer slid up until it was poking through the roof and into the sky. 'Remember - we must not be detected yet.' Monkey Fist said. 'Whatever measures you must take to mask us from detection, use them.'

'I know what I'm doing.' Drakken muttered resentfully. 'All systems are go - shall I continue, or would you like to lecture me some more?'

Monkey Fist smirked. 'By all means - proceed.'

And from within his place inside the Jammer, Maze felt his vision expanding. It was more powerful than the mini-Jammer. More powerful than anything he had imagined. He chanted softly, and his awareness of the shadows encompassed not a small area - not even a large area - but half of the globe. Every ripple of darkness, every shadow and shade was open to his awareness, and his influence over it was enhanced as well.

He concentrated his will. Those who slept at night around the world were mostly unaware. Those who were still awake noted only that the night seemed deeper somehow, the darkness thicker, that the stars shone less brightly.

But the crows heard the call. Every crow blinked awake, and knew there was a command they could not ignore. With a storm of wings, crows across half the world took to the skies. And at Maze's command, they gathered in huge, roiling murders and flew to the locations which their new master fed into their minds.

And in thousands of gathering places beneath the night sky, golems stood guard beside large crates. In each location Maze and Monkey Fist had visited, they had taken or created a new golem. It hadn't been too difficult - especially in the more populated regions - to find a victim to petrify and enslave with the golem enchantment. By placing their guards in out of the way areas, usually outdoors in forested places outside of cities, they had blanketed the earth with enough gathering points to accomplish their goals.

At Maze's command, the golems opened their crates and began patiently fitting tiny spikes onto the beaks of every crow that gathered at their several locations, and they tirelessly continued their labors through the night.

Before long, tens of thousands of birds were taking to the night sky, with their orders and missions irresistibly impressed into their minds. And as the golems labored, thousands more crows gradually joined their numbers every hour the night went on, scattering hither and thither to do their work....

sskipoyiwa

Part II: The Greater Sacrifice

Kim had felt a moment of uncertainty when the mists rose around her. She felt briefly as if she were falling through the air. She could see and hear nothing, and the only thing that felt solid was the hairy hand of the Mystical Monkey. She kept a firm grip on him, and as suddenly as the mists had risen, they parted and vanished.

But the dojo was gone. Light and color meshed and reformed around her into a gaudy pantheon of red, green and yellow. The smell of ancient wood and burning incense was replaced with a cooking smell that was all too familiar. She was inside Bueno Nacho, standing in front of Ned, who was holding a job application.

'I remember....' Kim said, looking around. 'This was when Ron and I got jobs at Bueno Nacho.' She put her hand out, trying to touch the shoulder of her younger self. Her hand passed through like vapor. 'What is this?' she said.

'Duh.' said the Mystical Monkey. 'This your memory, red. We seeing what happen in the past.'

And Kim gasped with sudden happiness, for standing right next to her was Ron. Younger looking, staring around with a bored expression, but the same Ron she'd been aching to see for so long since his disappearance. But as she reached out to take his hand, she passed through him as well.

'Memory red...' said the Mystical Monkey. 'What I just say? They can't see or hear or feel us.'

'But why am I seeing this?' she said.

'Donno.' said the Mystical Monkey. 'We find out together, I think.'

And Kim heard Ned talking. 'When can you start?' he said.

'Born ready, sir!' Kim heard herself answering eagerly, and she knew what she was thinking, because she remembered it plainly. Her mind was occupied with the timetable of how many days and hours she would have to work so she could buy a fashionable green jacket and then quit.

'And you?' said Ned, turning to Ron.

'Me what?' Ron said, and looked surprised.

'Isn't this your application, Mr... ah, Stoppable?' said Ned, holding up another sheet of paper.

'What?! I didn't...' and he turned helplessly to Kim. 'You didn't!' he wailed.

'It'll be more fun if we both work here!' Kim saw herself answer, and fearing that wouldn't be enough, she pulled out the big guns.

'Oh, no! No! No, not the puppy-dog pout!'

And so they had taken on the jobs. And Kim saw time pass swiftly, seeing the glaring humiliation in her eyes as she served Bonnie, who ordered Kim with sneering delight. But she'd wanted the jacket so badly, she even put up with Bonnie, knowing that it would all be worth it once Bonnie saw her wearing the jacket.

But none of that prepared her for what happened next. Learning that she just wasn't very good in the kitchen. She'd expected food preparation to come to her as easily as cheerleading, or Kung-Fu. And Kim watched herself as Ned shook his head at her efforts, demoting her to 'cheese duty'.

And she watched as Ned, dazzled by Ron's culinary style, promoted him to burrito folding. And Ron, in typical Ron-ness, had let it go to his head.

'Hello?' Kim saw herself saying to Ron. 'Kim to Ron! You didn't even want this job!'

'I didn't know what I wanted, Kim!' Ron said with an impassioned gleam in his eyes. 'I was lost, adrift in the wilderness. But that was then. Now I belong. I belong to Bueno Nacho! Yo amo este lugar!'

And Kim watched as she saw herself learning that Ron had been promoted to Assistant Manager, and the subsequent argument they'd had when she was getting ready to rush after Dr. Drakken and his plan to take over Wisconsin.

'Ron, an evil wacko is in the Dairy State with a giant laser drill! I'm going. And I was hoping you'd come with.'

There was a hurt look in Ron's face as he answered. 'To be your sidekick? That's what this is all about, isn't it? You just can't stand that I'm better than you at something!'

'You wouldn't even have this stupid job if I didn't fill out your application!' she shot back.

'Kim, we could argue all day, but it's not gonna get this floor mopped.' He said uncomfortably, probably not wanting to admit Kim had a point.

'Mop it yourself, boss! And find a new nacho-drone! I quit!'

Ron stared after her. 'Yeah?' he said, 'Well, find a new sidekick!' And as Kim watched herself storming out of Bueno Nacho, Ron turned to Ned angrily. 'What are you looking at? I want that floor to sparkle!'

'Ah, the young.' said the Mystical Monkey, shaking his head and taking another Naco out of his bag. 'They say that youth is wasted on them. So impatient...'

Kim felt a little annoyed. 'Both of us harshed out back then.' she said. 'It was a major minus for me to sign him on without telling him, but then he went all Little League on me at the same time...'

The Mystical Monkey shrugged. 'Maybe there something here you not seeing, red.' he said quietly. 'I not sure who made the bigger sacrifice...'

The vision rippled and dissolved, and Kim saw a flashing blur of scenes pass before her. She saw herself and Ron, best friends in middle school, both awkward, but neither above or below the other in their minds.

But as time passed, she became more confident, more stylish and beautiful. She became more popular, more accepted by the other students. While Ron followed after her, seeming just as awkward as before.

She studied Kung Fu. She became a cheerleader. She became more popular than ever, and everyone seemed to expect great things from her.

While Ron continued following in her wake. And no one seemed to expect much from him. Indeed many, Mr. Barkin's voice somehow louder than the others, said that he had no remarkable skills at all.

And while they didn't say it to him directly, somehow he seemed to pick up on it. Low expectations. A plotted course of mediocrity. All the while Kim seemed to be rising higher and higher, while he got smaller - not by shrinking, but by staying the same. And he seemed to stop trying to excel, simply because no one expected him to.

Then totally by accident, simply because Kim had wanted Ron along for the ride, he'd found something he was good at. A boss who encouraged him to the point where he actually overtook him, and he found himself in a position of authority and trust. He was doing something he enjoyed, and doing it well. And for the first time in his life, a sense of genuine accomplishment. And a gleam of hope that maybe, just maybe, he could do more than be just a shadow behind Kim's rising star...

Then a call from Wade, a plea for him to help Kim as she battled Drakken in his lair at the cheese wheel. And Ned smiling as Ron was forced to stand at a crossroads between two paths. 'Well, well, well. Looks like you've got a choice to make, Stoppable! What's more important? Your sacred duty as assistant manager - or your role as goofy sidekick?'

And Kim saw the pained realization dawning in his face. 'Well, that's no choice at all.' he said, and Kim could feel his disappointment like a solid aura around him. 'I guess it's time to say... buenos noches, Bueno Nacho!'

And Kim knew what had happened next. Ron had come to her aid. And even though he'd been captured again, they still managed to save the day. And when they returned home, they sat at Bueno Nacho, and he handed her a box containing a stylish green jacket which represented the last of his money from the job he'd given up....

The vision faded into a billowing of gray mist, and Kim stood beside the Mystical Monkey in the midst of a silent void. 'I... I never realized that job meant so much to him.' she said. She thought about later in Senior year, when she'd gotten another job herself - a job that she blew off more often than not. She'd simply done it as a hint to Ron that he should get a job, so he could afford to take her on more 'grown up' dates and ditch his coupon book. She remembered his numerous tries and failures throughout the many shops at the mall. When all the time, he'd walked away from a job he was really good at - again, for her sake.

'Mmm.' said the Mystical Monkey, nodding. 'One man's trash, another man's treasure.' he said. 'That very nice of him. Very giving.'

Kim felt guilty. Her own objections to him staying at Bueno Nacho now seemed not only pathetic, but selfish. They'd forgiven each other while tied up in Drakken's lair, but somehow after seeing it again, it felt rushed and perfunctory. 'You're entitled to excel.' she remembered saying. But even so, he had stayed at her side. He had never returned to Bueno Nacho to get his job back, and she had never motivated him to try.

But before she could dwell on it any longer, the mists around them seemed to be parting again. 'Oooh, here come another one.' said the Mystical Monkey. There was a musty, plastic smell that combined books with floor cleaner. The bright sunlight of day was now dark.

Kim glanced around. It looked like the Middleton High school hallway. The lights were low, and she heard music coming from the direction of the gym. The Mystical Monkey stood beside her. 'Why are we here?' she said.

'Beats me, red.' shrugged the Mystical Monkey. 'This your spiritual journey - I just here for the Nacos.'

Kim peered in through the doorway to the gym. Soft lights from a disco ball in the ceiling swirled around on the floor and she saw the shadowed figures of people dancing to a slow, romantic song.

'This is the Spirit Week dance.' she said. 'I was here with...' and she gasped as she saw a younger version of herself, dancing with Josh Mankey. She looked strange in her own eyes - not quite as mature. And it looked even stranger, seeing herself from the outside, especially when she was with someone besides Ron.

'I seeing more about this now.' said the Mystical Monkey, as if he were learning things himself. 'You were freaking over this dance, big time. Almost didn't go. But someone help you get through all that...'

'Ron.' said Kim softly, and was suddenly struck by a deep regret that it wasn't Ron in her arms on the dance floor.

'So where he at?' said the Mystical Monkey, looking around. 'He fought by your side that day - he help a lot. Why he not here?'

Kim shrugged her shoulders. 'He... he never came to the dance.' she said. 'I didn't... I don't... know where he was.'

There was a sudden thumping noise behind them, and the Mystical Monkey whirled, going into a kung-fu pose. 'Aaaaa!' he screeched. 'You got rats here? Rats with hammers?'

Kim stared at the door of a closet. She remembered hiding in there because she was so worried about Josh and the dance that she couldn't bring herself to face him. She walked slowly to the door.

'Hello?' Ron's voice came through the door, sounding slightly muffled. 'Hellooooooo? Anyone out there? Helloooooooooooo? Aw c'mon, the music's not that loud!'

Kim gasped, and she remembered. After Ron had encouraged her, she'd stepped into the hall and asked Josh out. And he'd accepted, instantly changing her nervousness and fear to relief and happiness. Josh had said he was coming to pick her up. Then Ron had blared out from the closet, using that stupid megaphone, saying he needed a ride too. As she passed by with Josh at her side, she kicked the door shut on him. She assumed he had simply left the closet on his own afterwards - after all, who would design a door that locks from the outside? And later that evening, she had been so elated about being at the dance with Josh, and showing up Bonnie, she had completely forgotten about Ron.

She reached for the doorknob, trying to open it, but her hand passed through it like vapor. 'Oh.. Ron...' she said, putting her hand to her chin, 'You spent the whole dance in here?'

She passed through the door and saw Ron, lying on a makeshift table he had made by stacking boxes of custodial supplies. He was staring at the ceiling, listening to the distant sound of the dance music. He sighed heavily.

'Oh man!' said the Mystical Monkey, coming through the door to stand beside Kim. 'You leave him in here? That really harsh, red! What he ever do to you?'

'I didn't leave him in here!' said Kim, protesting. 'I just... forgot him... in... here...' she ended, feeling foolish.

Then suddenly she was standing in cheerleader practice, when Ron flounced into the gym talking through that megaphone, declaring how his social calendar was free for any of them. Kim saw herself, her face flaming red with embarrassment as Ron was shot down again and again.

Then they were back in the dark closet and Kim was looking down at Ron as he kicked his feet against the side of his bed of boxes. 'Oooooh.' said the Mystical Monkey. 'You think he a geek, make you look like geek in front of the cool people. Well, I guess that as good a reason as any.' he said, shaking his head. 'Still - he put himself on the line for you - he help you go out with the guy you wanted. This seem like a pretty lousy way to pay him back, red. Did you even try to set him up with someone so he could enjoy the dance too?'

Kim said nothing. She sank down onto a box herself, staring at him, a feeling of deepest shame coursing through her. Ron had been clumsy and tactless about a lot of stuff that day. But in the end, he was the one who had gotten her together with Mankey. She remembered how happy she had felt that night, like everything had gone her way. She hadn't even noticed that Ron wasn't there.

There was a sound of footsteps outside the door, and Ron sat upright, twisting at the knob and calling out. 'Hey! Hey!' he said. 'Door need open here! Hello??'

A shadowed form paused in front of the small frosted pane of glass near the top of the door. 'Stoppable?' Kim felt a chill. It was Matt and Cliff. Two of the less memorable guys on the football team, but jocks nonetheless, who had never had anything good to say about Ron until he started winning games for them in his Senior year. 'What are you doing in there?' came Matt's voice, sounding amused, and a malicious edge already creeping into it.

Ron answered with his usual cheerful, unflappable voice. 'Ah, just chillin.' he said. 'But I feel totally chilled out now, so if you'll just put one hand on the doorknob and give it a quarter turn....' he said expectantly.

Matt's voice came laughing back, with Cliff chuckling in the background. 'You don't sound too chill to me, Stoppable.' he said. 'Catch you later.' Then he and Cliff strode back into the gym. Kim had passed through the door and was shouting.

'Not cool, guys! Not cool...!!!'

The Mystical Monkey poked his head through the wall. 'They can't hear you red.' he said, his eyes looking sad. 'They just shadows from the past.'

Shadows or not, Kim wanted to slug them both. She heard Cliff talking to Matt, their voices already fading. 'Wish I knew who locked him in there.' he said. 'Wouldn't have thought of it myself - good one!'

Kim stumped back to the Mystical Monkey. 'I remember them at the dance that night.' she said. 'I thought they looked a little too smug about something.' she re-entered the closet and Ron was sitting back down on the boxes with a sigh.

'Oh man, this tanks.' he said.

'Oh... Ron...' she said, feeling a tear running down her cheek.

  neglect

She felt time passing by, like a film passing in fading scenes. The music kept playing, then there was silence. The lights gradually faded to total darkness. Only the silvery gleam of the moon passing through the outside windows filtered into the closet beneath a crack in the door. Ron lay asleep on the boxes, curled up and lying on his side.

Kim remembered how she had felt going to sleep that night after getting home from the dance - contented and warm - she had never slept better. Ron twitched, his face looking like it was half mashed into one of the boxes.

'How long do I have to stay here?' Kim said softly, staring at Ron's sleeping form. She felt so guilty she couldn't stand it any longer. She wanted to leave, to not have to look anymore.

The Mystical Monkey shrugged. 'Donno - how long did he have to stay here?' he said, shaking his head. 'You not held by walls red. You want to leave him again? Door right there.'

At his words, Kim felt as if a lance had pierced her. She said nothing, but stayed there motionless.

Time kept passing. The pale light of dawn slowly rose. There was a sudden bang as the door opened and the custodian came in. 'What the...?' he said, staring down at Ron, who suddenly shot up, a trickle of drool running down the corner of his mouth.

'Wha? Wha?' he said. 'Mr. Barkin? Is the answer E=McHammer?'

The custodian shook his head. 'Kid, what are you doing in here? School doesn't start for three hours!'

Ron's eyes slowly came into focus. 'Oh man!' he said. 'I gotta get back home! He tore out of the closet, then paused. 'Uh... are the bathrooms clean yet?' he said sheepishly.

The custodian sighed. 'Make it quick!' he said.

Kim walked silently beside the Mystical Monkey as they followed Ron down the sidewalk through the dim morning light. 'Oh man - mom is gonna kill me...' he said, holding his head in his hands. And indeed as he went into his house he was met with a hail of angry screeches from Mrs. Stoppable, while his dad looked on shaking his head.

Kim watched, biting her lip as they chewed him out for his late return. The explanation of a closet didn't seem to satisfy them very much, because he wouldn't tell them how he wound up in the closet in the first place. The tongue-lashing seemed to go on forever before he was finally allowed to go up to his room and get cleaned up.

'Why didn't he ever say anything?' said Kim miserably. 'He didn't do anything wrong, I'd have backed him up...'

Ron was talking to Rufus. 'OK little guy,' he said. 'Not a word of this to Kim! She had a perfect night, and it's gonna stay that way!' Rufus was nodding and giving the thumbs-up sign.

Grey mists rose up and Kim's vision was blotted out. Then she and the Mystical Monkey were back in the dojo, and chiming bells were tinkling around them. The Mystical Monkey was in front of her, looking slowly up into her eyes. 'You a lucky gal, red.' he said quietly. 'He give up being happy so you could be happy. Not many people will do that, even for someone they love....'

Kim felt her lip trembling. The Monkey's words about who made the greater sacrifice went through her mind. 'Yeah....' she said, and her voice was a quiet whisper. 'He's... one in five billion.'

Part III: It's All Geek To Me

Wade stood in a 'tech silo' which Mr. Omo-Sa had allowed Jade to build a long time ago in a secluded corner of their yard. It was a place where she built devices which their clients, or which Grimm needed, but were too large to fit into her room or the garage.

He and Jade were working on Dementor's Counter-Jammer. He was welding circuitry into various components. Jade was wrestling a slat of shaped steel into place around the Counter-Jammer's frame, a rivet gun hanging from the belt around her waist.

Besides the clanking and electrical buzzing sounds, they were working in near silence. They also weren't looking at each other. When Jade later passed near him, he spoke up and said, 'Pass the level?'

She paused at a workbench and handed it to him with her eyes looking at the other side of the room. 'Here.' she said, and once he'd taken it, she started back towards the framework she'd been working on.

And Wade was suddenly tired of it. He put his welder down with a clatter and pulled up his mask. 'OK that's enough,' he said. 'I'm sorry I kissed you, OK? Can we just forget it? I'm tired of us acting like your parents.'

Jade turned around with her eyes squinted, shaking her finger at him. 'Don't.... use 'kissing' and my parents in the same sentence!' she said.

'We should be close to finished with this thing, instead we're barely started.' he said, gesturing to the skeletal framework in the middle of the room. 'We're just not jiving like we did before.'

'Jiving?' Jade said. 'We never jived - all we did was go at each other...' and she stopped, red patches blooming on her cheeks. 'You know what I mean!' she said.

'I know.' said Wade. 'But this quiet politeness - it's just too weird! I think we did better work when we were rivals.'

'I'm not the one who kissed all that away!' Jade said. 'I was fine hating your guts, and then you ruined it...' and she halted again.

'Ruined it?' Wade said. 'You mean you don't hate my guts anymore?'

Jade turned away. 'I donno...' she said. 'I mean... a first kiss? That's not something you're supposed to just forget about.'

Wade felt even more uncomfortable. He didn't know it had been her first. And he had kind of hijacked the experience by springing it on her like a ghost in carnival haunted house ride. 'Well.... it also doesn't mean you have to start dating the guy.' he said. 'Sometimes people are better off being rivals. It keeps both of them on their toes.' And he suddenly thought about the fortune cookie he'd opened his first night at the Omo-Sa house. A strong adversary may lead you to even greater strength.

As much as he hated to admit it, he liked having Jade as an opponent. Tech and engineering came easily to him - so easily that he coasted sometimes. But after his first electronic duel with Jade, he'd known the infuriating thrill of having someone out there who was just as good as he was. Jade was cute and everything, but the awkweirdness after the kiss had sapped all the challenge out of their temporary partnership.

'Besides,' he said out loud as if thinking, 'It's not as if I really liked you.'

She looked back at him, a cold gleam in her eyes. 'Oh yeah?' she said. 'Why not?'

'Well,' he said, thinking carefully, 'How could I like someone who thinks she can make integrated circuits without silicon oxycarbide?'

Jade's eyes narrowed, and the red in her cheeks was darkening to purple. Wade didn't watch much anime, but he wouldn't have been surprised to see a big red 'X' pop up on Jade's forehead.

'Not to mention I could weld a better superstructure than this out of balsa wood - which doesn't even weld.' he went on. And Jade looked she was about to go up to three X's. 'Besides, there's a girl in Montana I kinda like.' he finished.

Jade had a quiet look on her face for a moment as her face seemed to relax. Then she smirked. 'Well I hope she's got bad eyesight,' she said. 'How else could someone fall for a second-rater like you? I mean, what kind of techie tries to defeat a golem with waveform harmonics? Even the Mythbreakers knew better than that!'

And the angry defiance returned to Wade's face as well. 'We'll see who's second rate once I've got my components assembled and you're still reading the instructions for yours!' he said. And they both resumed welding, pausing only to glare at each other and make occasional insults as they worked.

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

Kim waved her hand in front of her face, trying to part the mists that surrounded her. Another vision seemed to be rising. The Mystical Monkey was still beside her, looking curious. This time when the vision came into focus, Kim saw herself, sitting at the kitchen table in her house with Ron sitting next to her.

She was nodding her head while Ron glared at her and spoke. 'What are you doing?' he said, but Kim started as she heard him speaking with her own voice.

'Your hair!' Kim saw herself answer, but it was Ron's voice that came from her mouth. 'It's so flippy!'

Kim squinted as she looked back and forth between Ron and herself. 'This was when Drakken's machine switched our minds.' she said.

The Mystical Monkey was standing beside her, the ragged hair on his head barely reaching to the height of her belt. 'Not everyone get the chance to really walk a mile in someone else's shoes.' he said, pulling the tuft of hair at the base of his chin. 'Lots of people make big changes after seeing themselves from the outside for a while.'

And Kim winced as she saw herself in Ron's body being strong armed by the D-hall bullies, but pretty much ignored by everyone else. After the last couple of visions, she cast her mind back, trying to determine if there was anything she'd done 'wrong' here that she was supposed to be looking out for.

But all she saw was herself 'wallowing in low expectations' as she put it to Ron later in the hallways. Ron, in her body, was beset by all the committees and representatives that he, or she, was supposed to be helping out with various projects.

As Ron was being dragged away to plan for the upcoming cheerleader contest, Kim saw herself saying, 'I am so history...'

The vision shifted to the cheer contest in the blink of an eye and Kim saw herself in Ron's body, twisting her hands as Ron clumsily tried to fumble his way through a cheer routine on stage with the rest of the squad.

And after just a few seconds, she couldn't stand it any longer. She charged onto the gym floor, pushing her own body out of the way to take control. The crowd was surprised at first, but after a few successful moves, they seemed to forget their shock. And before long they were cheering loudly for the Middleton squad as she used Ron's body to lead them through.

Ron, in Kim's body, had a look of intense relief on his face, trying to back unseen onto the sidelines.

'You seem kinda worried about him making you look bad,' said the Mystical Monkey, tapping his chin. 'Weren't you worried what using his body like that for would do to his reputation?'

Kim shrugged. 'I figured he couldn't complain.' she said. 'I made sure the bullies stayed off his back from then on - and most guys would love to work with the cheer squad on stage like that. He could only go up in cred with the stuff I did for him.'

'So you figure he not have a reputation to ruin? A reputation like yours?'

Kim didn't answer as the mists rose again to blot out the vision.

They were back in the dojo again, and Kim shook her head, pushing her hair away from her forehead. 'What is all this?' she asked.

The Mystical Monkey was slurping from his soda cup. 'What you talking about?' he said, shrugging.

'Was all this just to make me feel guilty about stuff that happened years ago?' she said. 'We were both teenagers - we're still teenagers! We both had times when we acted stupid. Why not show me that time when Ron got rich off his Naco royalties? About how he got all full of himself, and hired a posse of phonies and totally blew me off? And then how he lost it all when he kept all that money in his pants for Drakken to steal?'

'Why you dragging his problems into this?' said the Mystical Monkey, looking confused. 'If you don't need him to beat that Drakken guy, then you don't need to point out his problems so yours won't look so bad.'

Kim felt like he'd slapped her in the face. 'I... I'm not!' she said.

'Then why you bring it up?'

'Because all I'm seeing here is the 'Kim's-a-jerk' version of 'This Is Your Life!' Kim answered hotly.

'I not showing you all this, red!' he said, looking almost insulted. 'All I doing is starting the ball rolling - you controlling where it goes!'

Kim shook her head in disbelief. 'Why would I want to see all that?' she said.

The Mystical Monkey shrugged. 'A person's spirit a funny thing red. Lotta times spirit will understand things the brain doesn't.' And suddenly the mists whipped up again, whirling around them both. 'Ah - case in point!' he said.

The mists swept and billowed, and this time when they parted, Kim couldn't see Ron. She saw a room plastered with movie posters, and shelves lined with action figures. She was at Cousin Larry's house.

'Oh hey, I remember this!' said the Mystical Monkey. 'This where Chosen One get some of my power! He so funny - I don't think he know how much he acts like a monkey even though he scared of us!'

And Kim knew what was happening. Wade had pulled a 'virtual flake' on Ron with his holo-Kim, sending him to ask Monty Fiske some more questions, not knowing that he was about to reveal himself as Monkey Fist. She had spent the time at Larry's house listening to him droning on about the movies he'd seen, school, the movies he'd seen, chess, the movies he'd seen... on and on like a travelogue that just wouldn't end. And she'd zoned out, nodding her head mindlessly, and tonelessly agreeing with what he was saying about the toy line based on one of his favorite films.

doubt

'...a rather dramatic error on the part of the manufacturers, given that the Senators wore only purple.' he was saying, a look of smug superiority on his face.

'Really Larry? Isn't that fascinating.....'

Kim winced, surprised at how sarcastic and insincere she sounded.

Then the call came on her Kimmunicator - Ron was being chased through Fiske's manor by 'Monkey Fist' - master of Tai Shing Pek Kwar, criminal and megalomaniac.

Kim looked at herself as she stared into her old Kimmunicator. 'I don't know what to do!' she heard herself saying frantically. 'If I were there I could help him out, but...'

Larry held out his hand. 'Give it to me - I have an idea.'

Kim flinched when she heard herself answering him. 'This isn't one of your stupid science fiction games Larry!'

The Mystical Monkey grimaced. 'Ooooh...' he said. 'He all the way across the room, and you still reach far enough to rip his heart out! And I thought I was good!'

She felt another wave of guilt at the Mystical Monkey's words - Larry was just trying to help, and she had jumped all over him. The fear and stress she had been feeling seemed like a small excuse for lashing out and practically stomping on everything Larry enjoyed.

But she watched as her younger self sighed and handed over the Kimmunicator. And then came the improbable ending - some nonsensical advice about a 'Cloud Guardian'. And Ron had used the Monkey statues, been gifted with Mystical Monkey Power, and actually defeated Monkey Fist. Kim remembered her stunned disbelief, after all of Ron's bungling on missions, to have him emerge from the manor as the winner....

Time shifted forward. The sitch was over, and her younger self was still in Larry's room, listening to him talking about movies again as if nothing had interrupted them.

'...and the rebellion on Vernalus was given such a passing mention in the film, I wrote my own story about the battle. You can imagine the debates that raged when I posted it on the fan site, Kim.'

'Really Larry?' said her younger self, and again Kim could hear the poorly feigned interest.

'I'm not boring you am I?' said Larry, seeming to catch on at last.

But now Ron was there and he stepped forward, his eyes wide, his face eager. 'No, no, no, go on please - this is fascinating stuff.'

Larry's attention turned to him at once. 'Hey, wanna see outtakes from Moon Beyond Ios?'

'The deleted footage of the shrieker race?' Ron squeaked, looking like he'd won a free lunch at Bueno Nacho.

'Got it at the 99 Tulsa Convention.' said Larry proudly.

'Score!' Ron squealed, pumping his fist.

Kim was looking as her younger self smiled at them. 'You guys are the greatest.' she said. 'When the chips were down you both came through. I'm really proud.'

Ron's eyes sparkled. 'So you gonna watch with us?' he said.

Kim watched herself sidling out the door. 'Not even a chance. Later guys.' she said. And the mists rose around them again, dissolving the vision into nothingness.

The Mystical Monkey was scratching his head. 'I know a lot of stuff red, but I can't figure you out! First you say you proud of them - then when they invite you to join them you slam a door in their face. I know women are famous for changing their minds but yeesh...'

'I wasn't really proud of myself that day.' said Kim. 'I know they came through, but...'

'You still not wanna be seen with them when they doing geek stuff?' the Mystical Monkey said, cocking his head and glancing up at her.

Kim sighed ruefully. 'Yeah.' she said.

'So what geeky about the shrieker race?' said the Mystical Monkey. 'Moon Beyond Ios was a cool movie.'

'It was a cool movie.' Kim admitted. 'But it's so not cool to talk about a movie for months after you've seen it, and quoting it all the time, and dressing like the characters...'

'Why?' said the Mystical Monkey. 'You talk about the games you've cheered in after they over. You try and dress like and talk like people you think are cool - what the difference?'

'It's just a movie.' said Kim.

'It just a game.' said the Mystical Monkey, making clumsy imitations of cheer poses.

The mists parted again, and now Kim was standing outside of a hospital wing decorated with pumpkins and streamers colored orange and black. And she remembered, it was the Halloween when she'd accidentally used the Centurion armor. It responded to battle stress and gave additional protection to the person wearing the nano-technology bracelet. But in Kim's case, she had been stressed not by Drakken or Shego, but by a pantheon of lies she had told over the course of the evening.

She'd lied to her parents and to Ron so she could sneak off to a garage party where Josh Mankey was dressed in a pirate costume she thought was oh-so-cute on him. She had felt badly about bailing on Ron, but the thought of Josh or Bonnie seeing her in that silly unicorn costume had been too much. And given a choice between an evening of serving punch to hospital patients or cozying up to Josh, there was no choice in her mind.

But the stress activated the bracelet, and the nanites continued to gradually swarm over her body until she was wearing armor that was so tough she was mopping the floor with Shego, Killigan and Drakken, who had shown up to steal the Centurion project.

She watched as everything came out. After her reluctant confession, her stress, and the armor disappeared. But she watched herself being frowned on by her parents, who had just declared she was grounded for a month. She saw her face fallen in disappointment as she told Josh Mankey she couldn't go back to the party with him.

But Ron suddenly appeared at his elbow. 'Psst! Mankey! I'm sitting on a list of every insomniac in Middleton!' he said, tapping a piece of paper in his hand.

Josh raised an eyebrow. 'You're talking... trick or treating?' he said in that dreamy voice that made Kim's knees go weak.

'But you gotta wear this!' said Ron, handing him the front end of the two-person unicorn costume. Kim remembered how she had expected Josh to laugh and refuse.

Instead he took the costume and said 'Ha ha! Sweet!' Then he and Ron started walking off, following a route that Ron had picked out, and she heard Ron saying 'Booyah!'

And Kim saw herself calling after them, sounding abashed and forlorn. 'So, maybe next year I can go with you guys? Guys....?'

Then she and the Mystical Monkey were back in the dojo. It was no longer day. The sky outside the door looked deep and red, so Kim knew the sun was setting. The Mystical Monkey was shaking his head and tutting softly. 'So....' he said, as if he had just seen something interesting under a microscope. 'Geeky stuff OK when cool-guy-hunky-face in on it, huh red?'

Kim couldn't think of a thing to say. They stood looking at each other in silence for some time.

The Mystical Monkey eventually glanced out towards the sunset. 'Guess we're done for now.' he said. 'Come back tomorrow - we start early.'

Kim walked silently to the exit, feeling somehow worse than she had the other day at the fountain. As she reached the stairs, the Mystical Monkey's squeaking voice called after her. 'And bring more....' he started.

'Nacos.' Kim said quietly, cutting across him. 'Yeah... I know.'

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

It was night, and a policeman strolled the dark streets of his beat in Go City. Things were quiet, except for the occasional chatter from his walkie-talkie, but in a city protected by famous super-heroes, things were often quiet. He walked through the plaza in front of a high-rise building, when he suddenly heard a tapping and scraping noise.

Taking out his flashlight, he looked around through the plaza, trying to find the source of the noise. He heard the tapping again, coming from higher up. He turned, and the beam from his flashlight landed on a large bronze statue of Hego that was built to honor Team Go. A faint tap-tap-tap came to his ears again, and he turned his light, zeroing in on the noise. His flashlight revealed a large crow, which was perched on Hego's left arm. It stared with a baleful eye down at the policeman for a moment, then began pecking at the back of Hego's hand.

The policeman yelled up at him, angry that the bird was scratching at the statue of a man they all respected. 'Shoo!' he said loudly.

The crow ignored him. The policeman stared, seeing a flash of metal. There was some kind of spike or tool attached to the tip of the crow's beak, and the bird was using it to peck at the statue.

The policeman stooped and picked up a pebble, throwing it up at the crow. His first throw missed, but he picked up more stones, getting closer to the offending bird with each toss. 'Beat it!' he shouted. One stone struck the statue's arm a few inches from where the crow was perched. The crow let out one harsh croak and took flight, disappearing into the night sky.

The policeman stayed there for a few minutes to make sure the crow didn't come back. The statue was tall, otherwise he would have climbed up to see if the bird had damaged it. When nothing happened for a short while, the cop left the plaza, wondering if he should file a report on what he had seen. He decided better of it, and eventually his mind went to other matters.

On the back of the statue's left hand, grooved deeply into metal, three strange characters had been etched. And as the residents of Go City slept, they were unaware that there were other crows perched on statues across the city, tapping and scraping with tiny spikes on their beaks....

    doubt    
                 
 
Coming Soon:
Chapter 27

What is the fairest gem that the riches of worlds can produce?
And will still be priceless when the proud monarch's costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse?

Author: If you guys can't figure out what Maze and Monkey Fist are planning by now - then I'm very, VERY disappointed in your riddle-solving abilities.... ; )

Also, if anyone can think of any more things which might be included as part of the visions Kim is seeing, forward examples in your reviews, or send via PM, and I'll include them... As you've guessed (and if you haven't, shame on you), Kim is having to take a close look at herself as part of her spiritual journey. Anything you can think of that might fit along those lines from the actual TV series, pass it along. Many minds are better than one alone....


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