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

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

Chapter 6:
Loss
Or: Who Moved My Teams?


Rhonda stood with her arms hanging limp, gasping for breath. As she had guessed, Grimm had insisted on going back to the training yard the very next day after picking up their payment from the last job.

She reflected for a moment about how much she hated the training yard. It was a vast network of obstacle courses, compartmentalized with gates and high fences, meant to simulate various combat situations and scenarios. Even though it was in a large, wooded area a distance behind Grimm's house, various neighborhood kids who took to exploring the woods kept mistaking it for some kind of playground. So in addition to the high fences, Jade had been obliged to put defense networks in place to make sure no one stumbled into it.

And today Rhonda felt as if she'd gone through each area of the training yard a dozen times. Even with the power of the Great Bear Spirit, she always felt drained and exhausted at the end of each session. But she endured it, for one simple reason - Grimm was there. She didn't think it was fair. Even after hard workouts and training sessions, she thought Grimm looked even cuter in his disheveled state, while feeling that she simply looked sweaty and gross.

At last, he signed that it was time to take five. She slumped down to a sitting position, and vaguely heard Grimm's communicator beeping. Through the haze of her fatigue, she saw Grimm fish the communicator from his gym bag and activate it with a shrill beep that pierced the otherwise still air in the training yard.

Jade's face blipped onto the screen. 'Yo GP, what up?' she said, a smile on her lips.

Grimm smiled as well. 'I get the feeling you're about to tell me what's up.' he said.

'Can't pull one over on you.' said Jade, spinning around in her computer chair. 'You know that client who paid us so much and said they might need us again?'

'Yeah.' said Grimm.

'They're baaaaaaaaaaaaaack........' she sang mischievously.

'Sitch me.' he said, and his eyes went into sharp focus.

'Comparable job, comparable fee.' Jade said. 'Another snatch-and-grab operation. They say they want a device called the Waveform Harmonicizer, made by the Baxter Science corporation.'

Grimm raised an eyebrow. 'More technical components? Sounds like they're building something.'

Jade was well acquainted with his non-verbal cues. 'You want me to try and deduce what they're working on?' she said.

Grimm paused for a moment, thinking. 'Yeah. It couldn't hurt to know their end goal - for security reasons.'

'Gotcha.' Jade said. 'In the meantime, they said they'd like the item within a week.'

Grimm nodded. 'Then that gives us some time to plan out the operation. Get us any info you can on the Baxter Building and its security, and info on the Waveform Harmonicizer so we know what we're looking for.'

'I'm all over it!' said Jade.

'Thanks in advance.' Grimm answered, then with another beep, Jade was gone.

Rhonda was still sitting a few feet away, and looking woozy. But she spoke evenly as he walked back over towards her. 'Another job? Same guys?' she said, and Grimm nodded. 'Well... whaddaya mean 'plan the operation'? What's to plan? We find out where the thingy is, and I open a big ol' can of Bear Power on the place....'

Grimm shook his head slightly. 'Only if we need to.' he said. 'Part of controlling any power is learning how to decide when it's necessary to use it. We approach this job the way we have all our other jobs. What's our motto again?'

Rhonda sighed. Sometimes Grimm was just too ninja, but she answered dutifully. 'Move fast, move silently and leave no trace that you were ever there.' she said. 'But come on, that's not what we did in Go City and at Yoyodyne!'

'Those were exceptions.' Grimm said, sitting down next to her. 'Go City was a real life field test. And in the end, I think the field test proved more important that getting the emerald. On a real mission, things don't always shake out the way you expect. As for Yoyodyne...' Grimm paused, a look of fond recollection stealing across his face, '... that wasn't planned. I knew we'd meet Team Possible again, I just didn't know where or when. They predicted we'd be there, but they didn't predict you. We didn't exactly leave without a trace, but they still can't pin anything on us.'

Rhonda looked confused. 'But what about now?' she said. 'Didn't we prove that we can handle Team Possible? There's no need to hide from them anymore....'

'We're not hiding.' said Grimm, smiling. 'But just because we proved that we can clean their clocks, it's no reason to rush out and face them all fair and square. No, if Kim wants another rematch, she's gonna have to work for it. And part of that means she's gonna have to prove she's smart enough to track us down. If she can't....' Grimm's smile curled more wickedly, '...well, she'll always have that drubbing to remember us by.'

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Kim had spent several days after their defeat at Yoyodyne splitting her time between training with Ron and constantly checking in with Wade. There were no high profile thefts that he could find, though there were a number of smaller disturbances. Various equipment had gone missing from several famous labs, but most of it was slightly older equipment, rather than the newer cutting-edge projects. Some of them were thefts by other villains.

Motor Ed made off with several experimental engines from TurbineTech Labs, but he'd installed them on his bike and totaled it a block away. Shego had been seen stealing components from Applied Sonics Inc, and had escaped before Kim was able to get there. And there were several other thefts in which the perpetrators had simply not been spotted and gotten away clean. Kim was hesitant to blame all the unknown thefts on Team Probable, but she couldn't help wondering.

She shut her locker with a clang, looking down the hallway that led to the gym and to her next cheer practice. She let out a sigh and steeled herself for whatever fresh horrors Bonnie had in store from the wellspring of snarkiness that fueled her attitude.

'Hey, KP!' Kim turned at the sound of Ron's voice. He was also heading towards the hallway that led to the gym, a duffel bag under his arm. 'Looks like we're both heading the same way - gives us a chance to see how many PDA's we can sneak in before Barkin sees us.'

'And that would be zero, Stoppable!' said Barkin, looming behind Ron as if he'd appeared there by magic. Ron yelped, cringing and holding up his duffel as if to ward off a blow.

'Mr. Barkin!' he squealed, then laughed feebly. 'Ahhh... I was just... testing... to see how alert you were at enforcing your own rules. Well done! You have proved that you're worthy to monitor these halls!'

Kim rolled her eyes, and Barkin growled, staring at Ron as if he had lost his mind. 'Like I need your approval, Stoppable.' he said, his voice low and dangerous. 'All I need to do to stay on top of trouble-makers is to shadow the biggest trouble-maker of them all - and that's both of you.'

Kim put up a look of indignation, wondering what she had done to be included in Barkin's latest rant.

'What's my rule on PDA's in this school?' he said, crossing his arms imperiously.

'No one wants to see it, especially you.' they both repeated tonelessly.

'Exactly right.' he said. 'Now - unless I'm mistaken, you both have someplace to be. Possible - girls' locker room! Stoppable - boys' locker room! Double time!!'

They both turned and marched down the hall. 'Don't worry, PDA's are only delayed.' Kim whispered. 'They don't care about it at the dojo.'

Ron winced, remembering their after-school training sessions which were still ongoing. They split up as they entered the gym, heading towards their respective locker rooms, when Kim heard a beep on her wrist Kimmunicator. 'What's the sitch?' she said briskly.

'Another robbery.' Wade answered. 'The perps weren't spotted, but I'm pretty sure it was Team Probable. The equipment stolen was called the CMC Transmat. It's used to boost and increase the power of broadcast signals, both digital and analog. But in terms of rarity, there are several labs that have that kind of equipment.'

Kim fumed silently, wishing they had a better inside track on where Team Probable would strike next. 'If it's them, then their last few thefts have been centered around communications equipment. If you can guess what it's all for, maybe you can guess what they'll need next.'

Wade shrugged slightly. 'Well, they could be combined to make some kind of jammer. But they're too small to work on a big scale. And they could just be individual jobs for different clients. Separately, any one of those items would fetch a good price on the black market.....'

Kim nodded. 'Stay on it Wade.' she said. 'We have to find them. I've got a bad feeling that things are just warming up.'

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Grimm and Rhonda entered Grimm's room. Grimm had a large case under his arm and was looking buoyant. Rhonda looked a bit sulky as he put it down.

'Not sure why you're so happy.' she said. 'Those last couple of missions were boring. I mean, nothing happened at all! It was like they left the whatzit and the thing-a-ma-bob out on the doorstep with the milk for us to just swing by and pick up!'

'I know, it was great!' said Grimm. 'Those are the most exciting jobs, the ones that go so smooth it feels like you didn't do anything.'

Rhonda tried to grasp the concept, but gave up. She looked at Rueful, who shrugged his furry shoulders and curled around her neck. The computer on Grimm's desk beeped, the monitor going out of power saver mode to reveal Jade's face.

'Kaching, kaching!' she said, glancing at the case under Grimm's arm. 'Looks like another win for the team. Come by later and I'll prep the CMC for delivery to the client.'

'How much more stuff do they want?' said Grimm. 'Not that I'm complaining about the pay, but we do have other clients and we've kind of put them on the back-burner for this one.'

Jade shrugged. 'I'm not sure.' she said. 'I still haven't been able to get a trace on them, and the stuff we've already given them is making it even harder. I'm pretty sure they're already using some of the components we gave them to put a dome of silence around wherever they're hiding, and as time goes by they're sure to expand it.'

Grimm frowned a bit. 'I don't like being kept in the dark.' he said. 'But so far they've played a fair game. Have they lined up another job?'

Jade shook her head. 'All they said was the usual thing. Stand by.'

Grimm sighed. 'Then... stand by.' he said. And Jade's face disappeared from the screen.

Grimm turned and saw Rhonda idly stroking Rueful's head while he lay relaxed across her shoulders. Rueful looked perfectly content, but Rhonda was staring at the floor and looking glum. 'What?' he said, cocking one eyebrow.

Rhonda looked up slowly. 'I don't know....' she said. 'Just a feeling. None of our other clients ever bothered hiding from us. I'm getting a bad vibe. Let's just skip on any more jobs from this guy and keep him on the hook until we learn more about him.'

Grimm looked at her evenly. After their experience at Kwitcherbeliakin, he'd grown to have more respect for her instincts. It wasn't just female intuition or hunches - he knew that her instincts were guided in some way by the power of the Great Bear Spirit. 'All right - we do one more job for them and let it go for a while. I guess it wouldn't be good for business to focus on just one anonymous client, no matter how good they're paying.'

Rhonda smiled faintly. 'Thanks, Grimm.' she said.

Grimm blinked. 'For what?' he said.

Rhonda blushed. 'For just... listening.' she said. 'You've helped me become stronger, even though I whined and moaned about it. And you've never complained about the time you could have been spending on other stuff. You're... my best friend.'

Grimm's cheeks flushed in turn, but he looked like he was fighting it back. 'Don't get all schmaltzy on me.' he muttered, looking down as if embarrassed. And suddenly to him the room seemed uncomfortably quiet. 'I mean it's... it's not like I'm not getting anything out of the time I spend with you. You're not just a sidekick anymore, you're a partner. And building you up makes the team more profitable.'

Rhonda looked up. 'Is that the only reason?' she said. And despite his efforts, Rhonda definitely saw his face going redder.

'Of course not.' he said, and his voice was even quieter. 'It... never feels like work when we train or go out on missions because.... I like being with you.'

Rhonda felt herself going moon-eyed. 'That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard...' she said.

Grimm shuffled where he stood, looking surprised at himself. 'Hey... schmaltzyness - what did I just say?' he said. Then he cleared his throat and lifted the case again. 'Come on, we'd... better get this thing over to Jade.' And as Rhonda followed him out of the room, she was somewhat gratified to see that the edges of his ears were still bright red.

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There were several mountainous ranges across England. Most were desolate and uninhabited. But in one particular range there was activity. In a vast cavern that delved deep into the living rock of one mountainside, two men were standing. One was tall, wearing a brown cloak. The other was dressed as a ninja, though the outfit was more intricate and stylized.

Maze drew his cloak around him. He was still unaccustomed to the damper climate of England. 'Not that I disapprove of being closer to nature.' he said, looking around the vast underground cavern. 'But your manor would seem the more obvious choice as the place to coordinate our activities...'

'Precisely.' said Monkey Fist. 'So obvious in fact that it would be the first place Kim Possible would look. This place may be less convenient, but in the end it will be much more effective.'

There was a goodly amount of equipment that was already set up in the lair. Lights were glowing in the cavern roof, powered by a generator. A makeshift workstation with tools was set up at one end. Nearby was another table, roughly carved as if out of the stone itself, but flat and smooth on top. On this table rested the Oscillation Overthruster and the Waveform Harmonicizer. Both of these were connected to several cables which threaded across the cavern floor, linking to the generator and to several computer banks. And near that table, there was a tall pile of stacked girders, rows of unshaped sheet metal, and large spools of wire and cable. There were also numerous unopened wooden crates.

'My patience has limits.' said Maze. 'I have consented with the gathering of these... mechanical supplies because you assured me that it will solve the problem I have had with the creation of my servants....' He gestured to the other end of the cavern, where two statues stood silent and motionless.

'And it will.' said Monkey Fist, sounding impatient himself. 'Patience - a trait we will both need to develop. If we do not, then failure will lurk around every corner we turn.'

Maze nodded grudgingly. 'But if, as you say, we have gathered the components we need, then I see no reason to delay the operation we have discussed.'

Monkey Fist nodded. 'Just remember - there will be two targets, not one. Both must be dealt with or all our future operations will be set at hazard.'

Maze's expression darkened. 'I will require deep meditation. The medicine is extremely powerful. To extended it to two persons will require great effort, as well as assistance from you.'

'Very well.' said Monkey Fist. 'We will carry it out as part of gathering the last component. I will arrange things as we have discussed. Rest now - and you will soon see that I have not been exaggerating about the usefulness of these devices.....'

Maze nodded, and walked away towards a darker area of the cavern. He went to a pile of straw he had set up in an out of the way corner of the lair, with some warm blankets. He preferred to be out of sight of the mechanical sections of the complex, which seemed an ugly blight to him amidst the natural cavern.

As he passed by, the two statues turned with a grinding noise and followed him. As he laid down and closed his eyes, the statues flanked the area where his bed was set up and went motionless again. He had created the statues with great effort, but they had proved useful, being tireless servants who performed their duties without question. With their strength, they had brought all the equipment they needed to the lair. Monkey Fist also worked tirelessly, though he often looked envious when Maze slept or ate.

And Maze craved sleep now, pulling a blanket over himself. He would need all his strength soon if they were to succeed. He kept one hand clutched around his staff, even as he lay without moving. And he smiled to himself as he considered how much closer the plan was to beginning.

'Katasistsikoowa...' he thought, knowing that Rhonda could not hear him. 'Did you truly believe that I would slink away after my defeat? Did you believe that I would allow a pale-faced usurper to steal the power of the Great Bear Spirit? I may not be able to take the power away from you - but I can ensure that you no longer remain in this world to use it. The words of the Great Bear will come true - there will be only one.....'

When Maze had gone out of sight into the shadows, Monkey Fist went to the table where the Overthruster, the Harmonicizer and the Transmat were waiting. Since being awakened by Maze at the Yamanouchi shrine, he had not slept. He no longer needed sleep, or food. His stone body required neither, nor was it capable of using them.

The plus side was that he felt no hunger, weariness or pain. The downside was, he felt nothing at all. He had no sense of touch that he could discern, and could only tell if he was holding something too hard by whether it broke or shattered. But he had been patiently re-training himself for days, getting used to his new condition, tolerating the numbness. And despite the numbness, he felt a mental chill as he recalled being turned to stone and entombed beneath the Yono shrine - an experience he did not care to repeat. For now, his existence was in Maze's hands, and their destinies were woven together.

He carefully hooked up the CMC Transmat to the Overthruster and the Harmonicizer. He checked the computers and the other equipment carefully, consulting several manuals and other material. Computers and gadgetry weren't really his favorite things to work with. He much preferred the simple elegance of Tai Shing Pek Kwar and the subtle nuance of the mystical arts. But this was necessary, and as part of achieving his goals, he kept at it patiently. On this smaller scale, he was grateful to find his efforts were successful, and all three components were shown to be working properly, and in unison.

He smiled and sat down at the computer near the desk, the chair groaning under his weight. He composed a simple e-mail, grimacing once as his finger pressed a key too hard and nearly knocked it loose from the keyboard. He held back, trying to avoid putting too much pressure behind his long fingers.

To: TP
Subject: Another Task
We require a device from UNIT Laboratories - a device called the Universal Decryption Matrix. Our previous tasks have had no set timetable, but procuring this device is a matter of some urgency. We will pay triple our past fees if you can procure this device within the next two days.
We anxiously await your reply,
Anon.

Monkey Fist checked to make sure their connection was being routed and protected through all three devices before sending it off. He was just about to get up and start unpacking some of the crates when he heard a beep from the inbox. He smiled as he opened and read the reply.

To: Anon
Re: Another Task
I think that can be arranged -
TP

Monkey Fist checked the screens hooked to the Overthruster, the Harmonicizer and the Transmat. They listed several dozen attempts to trace the e-mail, but also that each one had been blocked. He now felt their lines of communication were secure enough to proceed. He worked with the controls for some time before he was satisfied, making sure his cell phone was connected through a series of wires and jacks to the hub which joined the three devices together. Then he opened the cell phone and carefully dialed a set of numbers...

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Kim flounced hurriedly down the stairs, heading towards the living room. She felt the fresh coolness about her that she always felt when she dressed after having a shower. Practice with Ron at the dojo had gone well again. Ron hadn't been able to unleash his power the same way he had on the practice dummy a few days ago, but he had still performed admirably.

She had come home and gotten cleaned up, and was just finished drying her hair when she heard her father calling from downstairs. 'Kimmy - it's for you!' She hadn't even heard the phone ringing. Or if she had, she had mentally ignored it since everyone she knew who wanted to talk with her did it through her Kimmunicator.

Kim stopped by the phone in the living room. She looked at it for a moment, wondering why the house even bothered with a LAN line when practically every member of the family had cell phones. She herself hadn't touched a regular phone in ages, a streak which was broken as she picked up the receiver. 'Hello?' she said.

The voice that answered was muffled and so distorted that she couldn't tell who it was. It sounded male, but that was only because it was deep. 'Is this Kim Possible, the famous crime fighter?'

'Yes.' she said, slightly unnerved. She cradled the phone receiver under her chin and brought up her Kimmunicator. It was tough to text while talking, but she sent a quick message to Wade. Need trace on incoming LAN line call to my house - urgent.

Even as Kim sent the message, the voice was speaking. 'You may be interested in knowing - there is a top secret lab called UNIT which is working on a device called the Universal Decryption Matrix.'

'Yeah.' she said offhandedly, not really listening, but staring expectantly at her Kimmunicator screen. And at last, against the dark blue of the screen she saw a string of pale blue letters appear. Trace is being blocked somehow. Never seen encryption like this before. The voice continued speaking as Kim texted back. Keep trying.

'It is highly.... probable... that this device will soon be stolen.'

The emphasis that was put on probable caused both anger and excitement in Kim. 'Who is this?' she said. But even as she said the words, there was a click and the dial tone buzzed in her ear. Barely a second later, she was talking to Wade. 'OK Wade - ethics aside - did you record that? Did you hear what he said?'

'Uh.... yes.' said Wade, sounding uncomfortable.

Kim frowned. 'Can you run it through your computer and unmask the distortion?'

'Sorry Kim.' he said. 'It's too heavily buffered. All the stuff I'm trying right now is making it sound even worse.'

'Can you tell me anything about it?'

'It's.... most likely male.' he said. 'And it sounds a bit... stony.'

'Probable - he said probable.' Kim said. 'Do you think...?'

'That someone's tipping us off to Team Probable's next target?' Wade said. 'Could be.'

Kim was quiet for several seconds. 'Where's the UNIT building located?' she said.

Wade smiled. 'Fortune favors the bold. I don't suppose it's any good telling you it could be Grimm setting us up for a trap - or maybe a diversion so they can hit someplace else.'

'D'oy.' said Kim, smiling back. 'I'm not planning to rush in blind. Keep your eyes on it and I'll have the Sloth ready to go with sub-orbital engines primed and ready.'

'How about Ron?' Wade said. 'Will he be ready to face off with Rhonda?'

'I'm not sure.' she said. 'But... fortune favors the bold.'

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Monkey Fist set down the cell phone, a wide smirk playing across his stone face. The stage was set, and now it was simply a matter of keeping an eye on both factions until they made their moves. The vision of a boy with an unkempt mass of blonde hair suddenly flashed into his mind. 'You idiotic buffoon!' he thought bitterly to himself. 'And they call you the 'chosen one'. The ultimate monkey master, the keeper of the Han. It will not be allowed....'

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The central building of UNIT was a large skyscraper with nearly twenty floors, though it was easily overlooked amid the other skyscrapers which surrounded it in the large city. The exterior gleamed with reflective windows, which were now darkened as night fell. UNIT specialized in computer equipment and experimental software. As such, they were a prime target for industrial espionage and had developed a multi-layered system to deter thieves. The main development took place on the upper floors, where access was much more difficult. Keycards were required at every door and alarm systems were active in every room that was not in use.

With such a high degree of electronic protection, it was considered there was not a great need for security personnel at night. A few watchmen were normally gathered together in the main security room, which had a panel of nearly three dozen screens, displaying the views from surveillance cameras mounted throughout the building.

And the guards were seated behind their consoles that night, each one of them assigned to oversee a certain number of the camera screens. It was dull work, which required an uncanny ability to ignore boredom and an even more uncanny ability to stay awake. The security chief himself was wrestling with that very issue, his chin nodding as his eyes tried to focus on several flickering black-and-white screens at once. All the other employees had gone home for the night, and watching the view of empty labs and offices was not the sort of thing that kept the mind actively engaged.

He twitched back to full awareness as another blue-suited guard stepped into the room, the thick metal door with the UNIT logo on it sliding shut behind him with a hiss. 'Calhoun?' said the security chief. 'What in the world are you doing here? You're on corridor patrol tonight.'

Barney Calhoun nodded, smiling faintly. 'Believe me, I know it.' he said. Patrol duty was a task they all rotated through, with one of them roaming the halls to make sure nothing was going on that escaped the notice of the camera crews. 'But a delivery boy from Java The Hutt just came by with this. He said it was paid for by the UNIT bigwigs. I guess they must actually realize that this stuff comes in handy on the night shift.'

It was then the security chief noticed what Barney was carrying - two drink caddys that contained a dozen large cups of gourmet coffee. The chief took a card that was tucked in the side of one caddy and whistled. 'Listen to this guys,' he said. 'A token of appreciation for all your hard work. Enjoy and stay vigilant - Leonard Kay, CEO, UNIT.'

The other guards were taking cups with expressions that ranged from delight to disbelief. 'Gotta be the first time those stuffed shirts even recognized that we exist.' said Barney, taking a sip from a cup he had already claimed for himself.

'Yeah.' said the security chief with a chuckle. 'Maybe they aren't the clueless cheapskates we always say they are.' He took a swallow through the straw in his cup. It tasted great, and wasn't too hot. 'Get back on patrol Calhoun - unless you can't drink and walk at the same time.'

Barney sniffed and went back out through the door. He held the cup, which warmed his hand as he walked and he swapped hands periodically to keep the cup from getting his fingers too hot. He was just approaching the elevator when his head began swimming. He blinked, swaying where he stood. The elevator door was only feet away, but his vision was blurring and he staggered. The cup fell from his hand and he collapsed to the floor, unconscious. Back in the monitor room, six guards and the chief were slumped over their consoles, not moving except for their soft breathing.

Outside, a small box that looked like an ultra-sophisticated cell phone was hovering at one of the reflective windows that looked in on the area where the security offices were located. A thin, red beam lanced out, cutting a small hole in the glass, which the device passed through. It swept over to the unconscious Calhoun and tiny claws seized his keycard.

The doors to the security office hissed open and the small device entered. A tiny screen tilted up, and Jade's face craned this way and that, looking around. She, Grimm and Rhonda had spent the previous day in hurried preparation; studying the building plans, finding security holes, memorizing floor layouts and exit routes, going over the guard shifts and the building security measures. Their client had requested two days to get the UDM, so the operation had been put into motion rather more quickly than they were used to. But so far taking out the security guards had gone smoothly.

She steered Grimm's communicator over to one of the camera consoles and looked around at the sleeping guards. 'Serves you right for relying on chemical stimulants to do your job!' she said, her voice sounding tinny through the speaker.

Wires snaked out of the communicator, interfacing with the security panels. Jade sat at her chair at home. Rhonda's voice beeped in over her own communicator. 'Grimm says - how's it going Jade?' she said.

Jade's eyebrows narrowed as she hacked. 'Tell Grimm this is tough. The UNIT security grid has multiple layers of encryption and... OK I'm in!' Another few minutes of furious clacking at her computer keyboard, and Jade tilted the communicator screen to look up. Every monitor had gone black, and all the consoles were deactivated. She licked her finger and touched her other arm, making a hissing sound with her tongue. 'Oooh Jade, you are hot, hot hot!' she said. 'Tell Grimm the surveillance is down - you're good to go!'

It was barely a few seconds later when Grimm and Rhonda slipped through one of the ventilation ducts and into the security wing. Grimm landed neatly on his feet in a low crouch while Rhonda landed on her backside with a squeal. 'Sorry GP!' she whispered.

Grimm motioned her to silence while his communicator skidded across the floor on tiny wheels. He scooped it up quickly. 'Thanks Jade.' he said, looking down at the screen where her face was looking back up at him. 'I feel blindfolded on missions without this thing. Are you in the systems deep enough to function solo?'

'Does iron rust red?' Jade answered. Her face fell slightly at Grimm's confused expression. 'That means yes.' she said. 'I've got full access to their security grid and I'll have all the keycard locks open by the time you hit the R&D section. Your chariot awaits!' There was a soft ding behind them, and the door to the elevator opened.

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Kim parked the Sloth in front of the UNIT building. The skyscraper reached up into the darkness of the night sky, its reflective windows wedged alternately between rising columns of smooth gray cornice, making the whole structure look like a row of alternating gray and black lines.

Ron got out of the car with Rufus peering out of his pants pocket. 'Nice place.' he said, looking up at the towering structure. 'Very homey looking. So what is it about this building that was important enough to interrupt my first Naco night in three days?'

'Hmmm-hmmm! Nacos!' Rufus squeaked, his tongue smacking around his large front teeth.

'I told you, Team Probable may hit this place.' Kim said.

'May?' said Ron hopefully. 'Let's go down to the local Bueno Nacho then - they may strike there too....'

Kim gave him her 'quit fooling around' look. 'We had an anonymous tip-off. Wade's been going over the building. So far it looks OK. If it is, we go back home. If it's not.... then we could be squaring off with Rhonda and Grimm before long.'

Ron looked nervous at the prospect, but he followed her as she made her way through a small plaza that surrounded the building, threading through some benches and a decorative bronze fountain. 'Uh... Kim?' and he paused, looking a little sheepish. 'No matter what happens, before we go in - I just wanted to say... thanks.' he said.

Kim also paused, turning to look at him. 'Thanks for what?' she said.

'Well, for everything.' Ron said. 'The training, the support, and.... well, for just being there. You've always believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself. And you've always stuck by me, even when I didn't come through or when I did something stupid. You're not just a bon-diggety girlfriend. You're the best friend I've ever had. I promise - I won't let you down.'

Kim felt a bit uncomfortable by the praise. She still felt badly about essentially browbeating Ron into tapping into his Monkey Power when he had admitted to her that it frightened him. She opened her mouth to say something, even though she wasn't quite sure what to say.

But Ron was already looking away and continuing towards the UNIT Building. Kim faltered, the air of a mission in progress settling around them both. She sped up and took the lead, but she resolved after the mission was over that she would make things up to Ron somehow.

They reached the main entrance with it's stern looking, but highly polished heavy glass doors. The security lock was glowing red, but they could see through the tinted glass into the lobby where the main desk was situated. They saw a uniformed security guard, but only his head and arms were visible, slumped over the desk as if he were asleep.

Ron tapped the glass, but the guard did not stir. He began dancing and waving his arms. 'Hey! Guard guy! It's not that late!'

Kim stared. 'No, it isn't...' she said. Even if the guard was just dozing, there was no way he could be sleeping through the racket Ron was making as he tapped his keys and mashed his face into the glass. The security lock also didn't give any indication that any alarms had been tripped by Ron's hammering on the door. She felt a rush of adrenaline. 'Wade - someone is here! The lobby guard is knocked out or something. Can you get us in through the front door?'

Wade was answering while typing. 'Could be tricky. UNIT's a high-profile, OK you're in!' he chirped. The red light on the security lock turned green and there was a friendly sounding beep. Ron's next push against it sent him tumbling forward into the lobby with a yelp.

'You rock, Wade.' Kim said, stepping inside. They crossed to the main desk, but were unable to rouse the guard. His breathing was steady though, and he seemed unhurt. A tall cup of coffee was still steaming next to his elbow. Wade's security scan slid across the cup without Kim doing anything.

'Knock-out drops.' he said. 'Not exactly highbrow, but effective.'

'So what now?' said Ron. 'This building is huge - whoever's here, we don't even know what floor they might have gone to...'

Wade was typing and looking left and right. 'The R & D labs are all on the upper floors. The UDM is probably there. Better take the guard's keycard. Most of the doors require one for access.'

'Sorry dude.' said Ron, slipping the card out of the guard's belt. He heard a beep behind him in the lobby and whirled quickly, but it was only the elevator door opening.

'I know it's not as exotic as coming in on the roof by parachute.' said Wade. 'But at least it's got muzak!'

As the elevator door closed behind Kim and Ron, the lobby remained quiet. Once the hum of the elevator fell and grew faint, there was another beep and a loud click as the security lock on the main entrance closed fast and the light blinked red.....

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

Grimm and Rhonda reached the first of about six floors that comprised UNIT's labs for research and development. Rhonda stayed at Grimm's elbow. The floor had a dim look, with most of the lights being off for the day and the few which remained on did not give much light to see by.

Grimm was holding up his communicator. 'Point me.' he said. But he did a double-take as a rattling hiss emanated from the device instead of Jade's voice. He worked the controls, trying various frequencies. But both the screen and the speakers were overwhelmed by static.

Rhonda bit her lip. 'What?' she said.

'I don't know.' he answered. 'Communicator's down.'

Rhonda looked around. 'So how do we find this thing without Jade?'

Grimm shrugged, looking up and down the corridor where he saw several rows of tiny green lights, one on each door. 'She's still got the locks disabled, no need to panic. Use your communicator and keep trying to get in touch with her. And in the meantime, we split up and check each lab. You and Rueful take the east side, I'll take the west.'

'Split up?' said Rhonda, looking fidgety. 'We're splitting up?'

Grimm smiled. 'Don't be so literal. And don't wig out - you know what the UDM looks like, we studied it together. If you see it, grab it. If not, we meet back here in ten and move to the next floor.'

Grimm turned left and opened a lab door, disappearing inside. Rhonda stared after him for a moment, then tapped her backpack softly. Rueful popped out and scurried down her leg. 'Keep your weasel-sense peeled, Rueful.' she whispered. 'I'll need your eyes and ears.' Rueful saluted and posed like a pointer hound, his tail extended behind him. Rhonda gulped, turned right and hesitantly went down the hall towards one of the tiny green lights.

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

Kim and Ron exited the elevator, the soft chime of the door alert sounding in their ears. Ron had on his whining face, his head tilted slightly to the side, his eyes almost closed and his mouth hanging slightly open. 'Awwww KP, how many floors are we gonna have to check? There wasn't anyone on the last three...'

Kim didn't answer directly, but she admitted to herself that Ron had a point. They needed a nudge in the right direction. She held up her Kimmunicator. 'Sitch me Wade.' she said. 'Tell us if we're wasting our time here....'

After a moment waiting for Wade to answer, she looked down in surprise. Wade's face was almost totally obscured by lances and bolts of static. His voice was patchy and intermittent, and she could only catch a word or two between protracted periods of hissing and popping. 'Kim...... -eing.... ja.... -ource! ....-rying..... break.....!'

'Wade!' she said, smacking the Kimmunicator with her free hand periodically. She tried standing next to a window, hoping for a clearer signal or something, but eventually the transmissions devolved into nothing but static.

'What's happening?' Ron said. 'Did we run out of internet or something?'

'I think he said we're being jammed.' Kim said. 'Try your communicator.'

Ron took out the small device from his pants pocket while Rufus poked his head out of the other pocket. Except for the static now coming in stereo, there was nothing. 'What does it mean?' he asked.

Kim's eyes narrowed. 'In general - I think it means Team Probable knows we're here and they're trying to make sure we can't find them. In the short term, it means we split up to cover more territory.'

'Uh....' said Ron nervously. 'Wouldn't that mean if we did find them that only one of us would be facing all of them? And that without communicators we'd have no way to call for help?'

'Don't worry.' said Kim. 'I'll be fine. And I know you'll be fine too.' Ron still looked like he would rather be following her than going off alone. She laid one gloved hand on the side of his cheek. 'Hey - this is what we've both been training for.' she said. 'I'll check the left hallways, you check the right. If you find someone... holler. If not, we meet back here in five and try the next floor. Go get 'em!' And with that, she turned left and started checking doors.

Ron turned right and crept slowly down the hallway. Even though Kim was on the same floor, the building was vast enough that he was quickly enveloped in stillness and it was not hard to imagine that he was totally alone. The dim, gray silence unsettled him and he went into karate poses several times at the movement of his own shadow as he walked. But he saw no sign of anyone, and heard no noises. He yelped as he felt a tug at his ankle, but quickly calmed down as he saw it was Rufus. The mole rat was pointing down another T-junction and chittering excitedly.

Ron gulped, knowing Rufus had seen something. He took out his communicator, but was again bombarded with an array of static. He put it back in his pocket, squaring his shoulders and trying to remember some of Sensei's calming techniques. 'OK Ron,' he whispered to himself. 'Time to step up again!'

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

Rhonda opened a door leading into another sprawling lab. There were only a few work desks in this one, and her footsteps echoed through the room, even stepping softly. She looked around, but she could see nothing that resembled the UDM. She was glad now that Grimm had made her study the design drawings Jade had hacked for them before the mission. Without him there beside her, and without Jade guiding them, the mission seemed somehow more foreboding. She touched the velcro patch on her left shoulder which covered her birthmark, wishing the power of the Great Bear included some kind of 'spider sense'.

'Hey, Rhonda!'

She started and whirled where she stood in the center of the lab. Standing in the doorway she had come through, she saw a freckle-faced boy with blonde hair, looking at her with eyes that were focused and determined.

Rhonda felt her nervousness fading. Here at least was something she had trained and prepared for, something she was used to. 'Hey there, doofus-boy!' she said with a sneer. 'I was wondering if you'd turn up!' She tapped the floor with her foot twice, and Rueful darted to her side, appearing as if from nowhere. Both Rhonda and Rueful went into a mirror pose, standing at the ready. 'I suppose you and carrot-top are the reason why our communicators went on the fritz?'

Ron blinked as he and Rufus went into stances of Tai Shing Pek Kwar. 'Don't play dumb lady, you're the ones fiddling with our communicators!'

'Did not!' said Rhonda.

'Did too!' Ron shot back.

Rhonda's face narrowed and her eyes glittered as if Ron's denial was some kind of clever retort. 'Did not!' she repeated more loudly.

'Did too!'
'Did not!'
'Did too!'

Rufus and Rueful were sticking their tongues out at each other as their masters continued back and forth. Ron was just about to switch and say did not to see if Rhonda would switch too like a Bugs Bunny cartoon when they heard a noise to their left.

They both looked to the side as another door opened on the west end of the lab. Grimm entered the room, but stopped as he saw both Ron and Rhonda facing off. 'So they are here.' he said, his familiar smirk creeping into place. 'I should have known.'

Ron felt his stomach going tight, a feeling which had nothing to do with a longing for Nacos. This was just what he had been worried about - facing Team Probable by himself. He glanced to the east end of the lab, hoping to see Kim come in through another door, but nothing happened. It was just him and Rufus. 'So it's me against the greesome threesome!' he said, trying to charge his voice with more bravado than he was feeling. 'And judging by the looks of you, this lab must be where they're developing the ugly stick!'

Grimm looked at him coldly. 'What's with you?' he said. 'We haven't even done anything.... yet.'

'What's up is your girlfriend be illin!' he said, pointing at her while Rufus nodded vigorously.

'Rhonda,' said Grimm, turning to her. 'Do you be illin'?'

'No!' said Rhonda quickly, but she looked sheepishly down as Grimm stared at her. 'Maybe.' she said again, more timidly. She glanced up at him, but her eyes flicked away almost at once. 'Yes!' she said at last, looking up at him. 'But there was a 'ch' sound in front, I swear!'

Grimm looked back at Ron as if sizing things up. 'Want any help mopping the floor?' he said.

Rhonda shook her head. 'You want to finish the mission, right?' she said. 'Go on - I can handle things here, even if Ms. Priss shows up too!'

Grimm nodded. 'You know the drill.' he said, backing towards the door he had come in through. 'We hook up back at the entry point when we're done. I'll be waiting.'

'Don't worry,' said Rhonda, cracking her knuckles. 'This won't take long!' Grimm disappeared through the door. Ron remained at the ready. Rhonda was walking towards him with a fierce smile on her face, tearing open the velco patch on her shoulder.

'Don't think your stupid lip gloss is gonna save you this time!' she said. 'We both know you've got nuthin!' She brought her hands together, closing her eyes, her voice rising in a soft chant.

Omahkkiaayowa, Omahkkiaayowa,
Nitohpoksiiyikitapiiyi!


Ron remembered this was what she'd done last time before she started kicking butt. He ran forward, thinking that if maybe he could drop her before she finished chanting, he could stop her from using her powers. He didn't like the idea of clobbering a girl who was just standing there, but he reminded himself of what Rhonda was now capable of. Just as he reached her, he saw her eyes open, and a white glare was glowing behind them like silver fire. Her hand gripped his and he felt a crushing pressure, a bluish glow surrounded Rhonda's body.

He gasped and shifted his stance, twisting and rolling with her throw as she went into a judo toss. He sailed a fair distance before landing on his back and sliding head first to the far end of the room with a squealing sound as his belt and his pants scraped against the tile.

Rufus scurried around the desks and through the legs of work stools and chairs, following after his master. But a streak of furry brown suddenly darted out in front of him and Rueful was rearing up in front of him. Rufus tried to feint and slide past him, but Rueful was very quick and flexible, his long body slithering through the desk chairs in pursuit.

Ron got to his feet just in time as Rhonda leaped forward, her leg coming down in a powerful kick that slammed into the floor like a pile driver. He rolled backwards, feeling a shockwave expanding around him like a bubble made of sheer force. There was a deafening boom, and he moved sideways, dodging as Rhonda threw one punch at him, then another.

He squealed and weaved, using every evasion technique he knew, barely staying ahead of her strikes. 'I'm gonna knock you so hard your Sensei will feel it!' she snarled. 'You think your Monkey Kung-Fu is gonna stop me? I've been training against Grimm, and he's a master, you scruffy-looking nerf herder!'

'Hey! Who's scruffy-looking?' he said, narrowly avoiding another blow which caved in the top of the lab desk next to him. But the crack about Master Sensei caused him to think about his training at Yamanouchi, and that set him thinking about his training with Kim. He remembered how he'd felt before that burst of power that had wrecked the target dummy.

'It comes when you call...' Kim had said. And he remembered being swarmed by Monkey ninjas while the Yono was going after his sister, and shouting; 'Where are my monkey powers when I need them?' And he realized at that time, he hadn't called on them - he'd just expected them to work when he wanted it to.

He was back against the wall of the lab now, and another punch from Rhonda plowed straight through the sheet rock as he stepped aside. 'Come on, Monkey Power....' he thought. 'If you're there, I'm calling you!'

And he opened his eyes, a faint smile on his lips.

Rhonda was sending a fist towards him, and was barely inches from connecting. 'Gotcha!' she thought. But she blinked, and in that split second, Ron had disappeared. She stumbled, and her punch crumpled a metal bookshelf that was against the wall in front of her. She looked around wildly, and saw Ron standing beside her, standing in a posture that was much more monkey-ish than he normally used. She struck again with a whirling kick, but Ron did a graceful pirouette and her strike hit empty air. She frowned, sensing something different. When Ron dodged her next wave of strikes, his body curling perfectly around her punches, she backed off a couple of steps. He looked relaxed and strangely zen, his eyes nearly closed as if he were thinking about something else rather than confronting a dangerous enemy.

'You've been holding out on me!' she said. 'Been studying ballet or something?'

Ron went into a crouch with one arm curved above his head and one curved below his chest so he looked like one of the plastic monkeys in a barrel. 'Ballet? I beg to differ - oooh, oooh, oooh!' and he twitched his arms tauntingly.

Rhonda nearly flinched, because he looked just like Grimm when he did that, a posture of Monkey Kung Fu that she'd seen him using reflexively hundreds of times. Rueful skittered to her side just as Rufus popped up beside Ron.

Rhonda gritted her teeth. The mark on her arm burned white and the glowing blue light surrounded her again. She screamed, a thundering roar like a bear filling the lab and making the floor itself quiver. Ron grimaced, and a similar blue glow blossomed around him. He smacked his fists together and the glow suddenly flared brilliantly, taking on the shape of a fierce monkey before fading back into the halo that clung to him. The two chosen ones faced each other, scowling.

'You know,' Ron said, looking at her and at himself. 'That was pretty cool.'

Rhonda paused. 'Yeah...' she said, and there was a touch of regret in her voice. 'Too bad no one else was here to see it.'

They stared at each other in silence for one more second, then at the same instant, they charged to the attack.

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

Kim had made the circuit of the main hallway that ran around the entire floor like a ring that connected the central block of labs. She was just about to open one of the doors, when she caught a glimpse of something moving down the long, tunnel-like hall.

She was staring at a lone figure who was also crossing the hallway on the opposite end. It paused, looking at her. The dim lights cast only a faint yellow outline on the figure. But there was no mistaking the spiky-haired silhouette. The figure called down the hallway, and Grimm's voice had an echoing quality is it came to her ears. 'We gotta stop meeting like this, Possible. People will start talking.'

The leather in Kim's gloves creaked as she clenched both hands. She thought about calling for Ron, but was sure if she took her eyes off him for one instant, she might lose him. For a few seconds, she said nothing, until Grimm finally piped up again. 'Isn't this where you usually say, "You are so going to jail"? I can't help wondering sometimes if you do-gooders ever get tired of the cat-and-mouse game.'

Kim was tense, every muscle ready and twitching. 'You can always come quietly.' she said.

'Uh-uh.' said Grimm, curling his own finger at her. 'Some of us actually like the game. Bring it!'

Kim ground her teeth together, racing down the long hallway towards him. Despite the fact that she was running as fast as she could, it still seemed as if she were moving in slow motion.

Grimm smirked as she got closer and closer. 'Gimme five, up high.' he said, then he crouched and darted to the side, disappearing around the corner. Kim rounded the turn and sped after him. He still seemed maddeningly far ahead, and was already at the next turn in the hallway.

'Down low!' she heard his voice shouting. She made the next turn, but saw no sign of him. She looked wildly to the left and the right, then heard a noise at an annex half way down the hall. She dashed towards the annex and saw a block of yellow light that was getting thinner and thinner before her eyes - the doors to an elevator sliding closed. She ran forward and caught one glimpse of Grimm, smirking out at her.

'Too slow!' his voice sounded just as the doors snapped shut. Kim clawed her fingers into the crack, trying to pry the doors open again, but a mechanical hum and a whirring told her it was too late. The elevator was moving up. She hammered the button for the next elevator, but lost patience and moved back into the hall. She saw a door at the end of the hall leading to the stairwell and ran towards it, throwing it open. She heaved herself up the concrete spiral. Whether she took the elevator or not, she couldn't be sure which floor Grimm would take as his exit - or perhaps he had climbed out and was hiding in the elevator shaft while sending the elevator itself ahead as a decoy.

She stared in helpless frustration at her blank Kimmunicator screen. There was so much Wade did for her, so much information that he gave which she took for granted, and she felt like she was flailing in the dark. She made a mental note to do something nice for Wade as well as Ron. Then she started checking doors on the way up, listening for signs of movement.

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

Grimm stole quietly down a hallway leading to the executive suites. His trained ears could hear nothing, and he was fairly confident that he'd lost Kim through the elevator and in the many corridors. He was determined to complete the mission - or at least verify that it could not be completed - before withdrawing.

He frowned as he took out his communicator, trying again to get in touch with Jade. But his screen showed only a persistent display of snowy static. But through the fog of static, he found he was now able to zero in on the UDM's general location. He was relieved that he could at least keep the goal of the mission in his sights, but after a few minutes, he started feeling more and more suspicious.

He didn't like the way things were going at all. Their communicators had ways to penetrate normal security jammers. The only way to block them was with specialized equipment. And someone would have to know in advance what kind of equipment to set up in order to do it. The only explanation was that someone had known they were coming and somehow set things up in advance.

And his frown grew deeper, latching onto that thought. The only one who could have known in advance that they were coming was their client. But it made no sense to him - the same client had hired them for the last few jobs they'd done, and hadn't warned Team Possible about any of them. Why wait until now to pull a double-cross?

And his memory flashed back to how he himself had used Adrena Lynn, and then left her to be arrested... once she'd served her purpose. He looked at the communicator screen again, still showing nothing but a vague directional location of the UDM, ghosting in and out like a lure meant to keep him diverted. And as plain as a light in the dark, it came to him that not only had someone known how to jam their communicators, but they were doing it so well that they could selectively decide what signals to let through. He felt a dark chill and paused in the hallway, his resolve to finish the assignment wavering. Too many things weren't adding up - too many coincidences that were too coincidental. It was time to bail.

He doubled back and went down a different hallway, looking for a stairwell so he could find his way back down to Rhonda. He couldn't trust his communicator any longer, which meant every electrical device, including the elevator, was now suspect. The next hall led to a large set of wooden double doors. He saw no cameras, but he proceeded cautiously. Even without his communicator he still had training in techniques to spot surveillance equipment, as well as using his senses to sniff out anyone who might be hiding nearby.

The corridor was obviously made for show, and for impressing stockholders and clients. It was lined with expensive art that companies often had near important rooms as an outward display of how powerful and successful the company was. There were paintings, sculptures and other such finery set in recessed alcoves on either side of the hall. In one section there were a number of statues of various kinds, some marble, some bronze, some granite. Grimm paid little attention to them, looking for any sign or light marked as an exit.

He was nearing the wooden door, but he could tell the hall was a dead end. He was about to turn and head back when he heard a rasping sound behind him, like the sound of stone being dragged across stone...

He rolled just in time to avoid the worst of it, but he still felt a sharp pain across his back as a heavy blow glanced off his shoulder. He rolled and turned to face his attacker, neatly going into a ready stance.

He was looking at a statue of Monkey Fist, which was blocking his way back down the hall. One empty alcove showed that it had been standing there and waiting. Grimm was surprised. His first thought was that it was some kind of robot, made to look like a statue, and designed to guard the corridor. Except no robot he had ever seen could affect the look that was on the face of this statue - a look of excitement and anticipation. And to his astonishment, the statue's expression changed to one of amusement.

'Most impressive, young Grimm.' And Monkey Fist's voice came from the statue, sounding cool and relaxed. 'Your senses and reflexes are as sharp as ever. It's good to see that the time I spent training you after your expulsion from Yamanouchi was not wasted.'

Grimm stared. The way the statue spoke, the way it moved and even the way it carried itself... But it couldn't be possible. 'Monkey Fist?' he said. 'The last I heard, you were returning to Japan on one of your mystical quests. Everyone thought you'd disappeared. What happened to you?'

The statue's lips curled into a smile and Monkey Fist went into a ready stance of his own. 'A great number of things.' he said. 'One of which was... an alteration in my plans to become the ultimate Monkey Master.'

Grimm looked back at him. 'So what are you doing here?' he said. 'I'm on a mission right now. If you wanted to hire me to help you find the Han, I should say that trying to clock me from behind was the worst way to get me to lower my rates....'

'The Han no longer interests me.' said Monkey Fist, his eyes narrowing. 'I am here on a mission of my own. I apologize for what must now happen - but that mission involves you and your friend.'

Grimm remained in his ready stance as Monkey Fist suddenly charged at him. Grimm could tell from the sound of his footsteps that Monkey Fist was heavy - much heavier than he'd been when he had hired Grimm to locate the first key to the Yamanouchi shrines.

He deflected Monkey Fist's strike, but felt pain in his hand. Even through his glove, it felt like his hand had been scraped across rough stone. He flexed his arm and shifted his stance in a practiced move of Tai Shing Pek Kwar, designed to throw an attacking foe off balance and leave them open to a follow-up strike. But he winced, for Monkey Fist did not budge or lose his balance. It was like trying to push against a heavy boulder and he was forced to duck and roll as Monkey Fist brought his other arm across in a sweeping blow that curved through the wall. His fingers left deep gouges in the paneled wood.

Instinctively, Grimm turned his roll into a low crouch and sent out one leg in a foot sweep. But he cried out in pain, for it felt as if he'd slammed his ankle into a solid wall of rock. And he saw Monkey Fist raise one foot, which clasped around his shin. Grimm tried to pull free. He had forgotten that Monkey Fist could grip with his feet as well as his hands, and the finger-like toes clenched around him like a vice.

He winced and tried striking at the foot, trying to cause pain so that Monkey Fist would release him. He altered his focus and his level of strength, trying to remember his training, to remember how to 'think through' objects when you were trying to break bricks or boards with your bare hands. But even this did not help. Monkey Fist did not even seem to feel the blow.

For the first time in a long while, Grimm began to worry. 'What... do you want?' he said, grappling with the toes and trying to pry them loose.

Monkey Fist gripped one of Grimm's arms with a free hand and squeezed. Grimm cried out. 'Young Grimm....' he said, and his voice was surprisingly silky considering how stony it was. 'Do you even need to ask? World domination.... of course!'

And the last thing Grimm saw was a stone fist, rushing at him with such strength that it powered through the block he attempted with his free hand. Then there was a sharp pain, a burst like stars in his eyes, and everything went black.

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

'Wade? Wade?' Kim said into her wrist Kimmunicator. But there was no response other than a squealing buzz of interference. She paused at the end of a T-junction, reflexively checking her Kimmunicator, even though it was still showing only static. She wondered which way Grimm had gone, or if he'd pulled the air-vent trick and was waiting for her to pass by and double back.

Her eyes flicked to the vents from pure instinct, looking for the telltale signs that someone had tampered with the grates, then she went on, choosing the left corridor. It ended in a door that led into another sterile white laboratory, this one geared up like a computer lab. She was sure that the jamming was something that Jade and Grimm had cooked up to limit her own capabilities. With her Kimmunicator not working properly and unable to reach Wade, she felt half blinded. She checked the lab quickly and was just finishing when she heard something behind her.

Kim started and whirled, her fist raised to strike. But she didn't see Grimm - instead she saw a tall, abnormally thin man with long black hair and a beak-like nose entering the lab, looking around as if searching for something. The man was grossly out of place, looking like a monk that had somehow appeared in the midst of this high-tech establishment and was trying to find his way out. He was dressed in a brown cloak and poncho and had two eagle feathers tied behind his left ear, just like Rhonda did. He held a long staff in his hand which looked like it was tipped with some kind of animal claw.

When he saw Kim's hands poised as if to attack he held out his other hand, his face looking concerned. 'Please - do not harm me!' he said, and his deep voice was soft and gentle. 'You have nothing to fear. My name is Maze and I am an enemy to Katasistsikoowa and Otaatoyiwa.'

'Who?' said Kim, and she did not lower her guard.

'You know them as Rhonda and Grimm.' Maze said. 'You wish to defeat them - I wish to help you.'

'Why should I trust you?' Kim said.

Maze nodded his head as if in understanding of her skepticism. 'Tell me,' he said, 'The girl - does she fight with great strength and does it seem like you cannot harm her?'

'How did you know...?' said Kim, surprised.

Maze nodded again. 'This is the power of the Great Bear Spirit.' he said. 'It is a mystical power that belongs to my people - the Blackfoot Indians. These two came among our tribe some time ago, they deceived us and stole the power for themselves.'

Kim nodded. 'Yeah,' she said, glancing back towards the labs. 'That sounds like something they'd do.'

Maze continued more quickly, sounding anxious. 'I am a holy man, who you might call a shaman. I was sent by my people to find them reclaim this power. I have strong medicine that I have studied for many years - I can grant you protection that will allow you to defeat her. I will help you - if you will help me.'

Kim looked over the strange man. She didn't know him, yet she had no reason to doubt his story. And she did know Team Probable, who had to be stopped. She still wasn't sure that Ron could tap into his Mystical Monkey Power enough to defeat Rhonda. And if there was any chance that this man could do something that would negate Rhonda's power or even weaken her... 'What do you need from me?' she said.

Maze smiled and stepped forward. 'Simply remain still.' he said. 'I will pray over you now, and when I have finished, Katasistsikoowa will have no power to harm you, Mi'kksiistsikomma.'

'Mi'kksiistsikomma?' said Kim.

'It means - Red Thunder.' he answered.

Kim stood without moving. Maze gripped his staff and closed his eyes, his voice sounding in a soft, rhythmic chant.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nitaanistsi'toyiiwa....

Kim felt a shiver down her spine as Maze continued to chant. She couldn't explain why, but she felt at once that something was wrong. Before she could move, every shadow in the room suddenly lanced out, enveloping her like a spider web made of darkness. Maze dropped to the floor, his staff clattered as it fell from his hand. Kim stood breathing softly for a moment, then opened her eyes. And with a scowling smirk, she reached down and took Maze's staff. Then she heaved Maze himself over her shoulder and began making her way back towards the elevator.

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

Rhonda shouted as her body was surrounded with a blue flame. The mark on her shoulder glowed brightly. Ron felt his body going light, his feet lost contact with the floor as he rose into the air. Loose objects that were close by rose with him and shrill, chattering screeches like the cries of innumerable monkeys rose against the bassy rumble of the roaring bear.

Ron fell back to the floor, a glowing field of blue shining around him, making his whole body seem blue itself. They charged and clashed in the center of the room. Each one caught the other's fist in mid-flight. They didn't see, but all the desks and tables, even the ones that were bolted down, flew away from them like leaves in a storm. A bubble of blue light exploded out from them and the walls of the room buckled and cracked.

They glared into each other's eyes, their arms straining and trembling as each one strove to overpower the other. Their teeth gritted, and blue light seemed to kindle within their very eyes. Ron moved easily, almost instinctively, through several postures of Tai Shing Pek Kwar, trying to throw her off balance. But Rhonda shifted and countered, her strength and her knowledge of judo matching him perfectly.

Neither of them said anything, or cracked any jokes. It was as if both of them were taken by a spirit which told them their battle was something too serious for fooling around. Ron struck, the glow around him again taking the shape of a fierce monkey with each blow. Rhonda seemed unhurt, her own glow surrounding her like a sphere of raw power, each of Ron's strikes sounding as if it were being halted by solid steel.

Unseen and unnoticed by either of them, Monkey Fist entered the lab. In one of his hands, he held a case containing the UDM. In his other hand he held what looked like a large cocoon of haphazardly twisted cables and wiring. But from one end of the cocoon, the lolling head of Grimm Probable was turning, and he moaned softly.

Monkey Fist ignored Ron and Rhonda, who were still some distance away, oblivious to everything but their own battle. 'Ah, you're awake.' he said, looking down as Grimm opened his eyes. At once, Grimm's eyes focused on him, and his body suddenly clenched as he struggled to move. Monkey Fist laughed. 'Don't bother, Grimm Probable.' he said. 'I had to pull quite a lot of wiring out of the walls, but rest assured, there was more than enough to bind you from head to foot.'

Grimm looked fiercely at Monkey Fist, still squirming inside his makeshift prison. 'Why are you doing this?' he snarled. 'You hate Kim Possible - why are you helping her?'

And Monkey Fist laughed, his voice devolving into a breathy cackle like a chattering monkey. 'You think I'm doing this to help Kim Possible?' he said. 'Oh no my friend. I promise you that is the furthest thing from my mind.' As he spoke, he took one loop from the many cables that held Grimm and laid both the case and the cocoon on the floor. He leaped atop one of the desks and looped the wire through one of the struts for the lab sprinkler system. Then he slowly hauled Grimm so he was hanging upside-down, securing the end of the wire to one of the heavier desks.

Then Kim Possible entered the lab from the far side, slightly bent under a burden slung over her shoulder. As soon as she saw Monkey Fist and the battle raging across the room, she nodded and rolled what looked like the limp form of a man from her shoulder and onto the floor. She held up a staff with a curved claw on the tip and two eagle feathers tied beneath it - a staff which Grimm recognized at once. He looked into Kim's eyes and saw a blackness lurking behind them.

'You....' Grimm said, his voice a whisper.

'Now all the pieces are on the board.' said Monkey Fist with an evil smile. 'Let the real game begin!' He turned and faced towards Ron and Rhonda....

Ron leaped forward with a whirling kick which struck Rhonda full in the chest. Rhonda grunted, bracing herself against the floor. She was blasted backwards by an explosive burst of blue light from Ron's strike, but her feet left deep gouges in the floor as her strength and protection countered the worst of it. She slammed backwards into a pile of desks that were already lying broken against the wall, clouds of dust rising around her.

Ron stood at the ready, and from the spiraling plumes of dust, Rhonda leaped forward, her eyes blazing, a roar like a bear thundered around him. Ron struck out, but Rhonda landed in front of him, her right hand gripping his wrist. 'Eat claw, monkey boy!' she snarled. And her left hand slashed across as she struck at him, five curves of white light spreading from her fingertips.

Ron tried to twist out of their path, but Rhonda held a tight grip on his arm with her right hand, slowing him down. As close as she was when she struck, Ron was only able to dodge four of them. The fifth slashed through his ribcage, leaving no mark, but at once Ron felt strange. The blue glow of the Mystical Monkey Power seemed to part like smoke, remaining on most of his body, but dissipating around his arms and chest.

And then Rhonda was holding him in a merciless hammerlock, a triumphant smile on her face as Ron gritted his teeth and sank to his knees beneath the increasing pressure of Rhonda's strength. Ron tried to focus, to restore the feeling of Monkey Power across his whole body, but his arms remained limp and weak. Without his full strength, he felt the rest of his body giving way. 'I'm sorry KP....' he thought. 'I just can't control it enough....'

Rhonda felt Ron's struggles weakening and laughed. 'Not too shabby, huh?' she growled. 'The spirit strike doesn't do any physical damage to people. Think of it as an all-purpose EMP blast. It takes the strength and power away from anyone it hits, even mystical power - leaving them as weak as a kitten! It's over, doofus-boy!'

'You're so right!'

Rhonda gasped and turned at the sound of this new voice. There was a heavy thundering of footsteps behind her, and then both she and Ron were tumbling across the floor, caught in a flying tackle. They felt a pair of inhumanly strong arms winding around both of them, crushing them together in a grip so tight it squeezed the air out of both their lungs.

Rhonda felt a hand with abnormally long fingers clamp over her mouth, muffling her as she tried to chant. The hand was cold and hard, not feeling like flesh at all, but like rough stone. Both Ron and Rhonda struggled, but the arms that held them seemed to match her strength, and Ron's strength was drained by the spirit strike. Ron felt a chill as he heard a familiar voice speaking behind his ear. 'We meet again, my monkey-phobic friend!'

Ron turned his neck slightly, mostly seeing Rhonda's ear, but also the familiar outline of a triangular-shaped head behind them. 'Monkey Fist?' he said. 'Who invited you to this party? I thought you were walking the path of the Yono!'

'Mmm-mmm Fmm! Wmmm mm hmmm umm mm bmmnngg??' Rhonda said, struggling to speak through Monkey Fist's hand.

'I still am.' said Monkey Fist, grinning. 'You left me to walk that path alone, buffoon! You left me buried beneath the Earth! But now I shall send you down a path, to a place from which you will not return! Sskipoyiwa!'

He shouted this last word, which meant nothing to Ron. But he saw Kim standing in front of them, her eyes looking cold and dark. She held a staff in her hand, and Rhonda's eyes widened.

'Mmmmvaay?' she sputtered, her mouth still covered. And Kim looked at her with a smile colder and more malicious than any she could have achieved on her own. She narrowed her eyes and concentrated, her voice sounding out in a low chant.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nimaataakaniiwa...

As Kim continued the chant, every shadow in the room pooled in front of her, like a slowly forming puddle of black water. Monkey Fist threw both Ron and Rhonda down on the floor between himself and Maze. They stood up at once, but as they moved forward, they found themselves halted. A swirling bubble like misty shadow was surrounding them both.

Grimm swayed as he worked his wrists, struggling in his wire cocoon. Monkey Fist had bound his hands tightly. He strained and used every escape technique he'd learned in his training. He knew he would eventually get free, but it would take time. Until he could loose the wires around his hands, there was nothing he could do. He redoubled his efforts, feeling the tendons in his wrists throbbing with pain, feeling the wires biting into his skin, but he ignored it, trying to power through. 'Hold on, Rhonda!' he thought.

'Hey.... cool!' Ron said, pushing against the shadow barrier. But Rhonda was pushing hard, her face turning pale.

'Oh crud...' she said. 'Not again!'

Monkey Fist stood in front of them, and Ron was momentarily impressed that a face which was made of stone could pull off an expression so smug. 'And now I bid you farewell.' he said smoothly. 'I only wish I could say... it's been nice knowing you.'

And Kim's brows knitted in concentration, her voice speaking in hurried mutters. Monkey Fist brought his own hands together, chanting alongside with Kim, a string of words they both repeated over and over again.

Sipimottakiksi, Sipimottakiksi,
Nikaahtomaana nitaaksiistapokska'siimiiwa!

From across the room, Grimm was shouting, struggling wildly in the wires which held him bound. 'Possible! You have to snap out of it..!'

Rhonda's eyes widened in panic, while Ron's face showed only confusion. As Kim chanted, the shadows within the barrier that held them in place swirled, and at the center of the bubble that contained them, an even darker shade began to grow.

Rhonda raised her hand, her fingers glowing with blue light, and she quickly brought it down. Her spirit strike tore open the shadow barrier, but Kim avoided the sickles of light and chanted faster, with more intensity. The dark core within the shadow barrier exploded into a vortex that howled like a storm which had been brought inside.

Ron had still been pushing on the shadow barrier and lurched as it collapsed under Rhonda's spirit strike. At that moment, Monkey Fist darted forward, sending both his hands out in a pair of jabs that knocked Ron and Rhonda backwards into the dark sphere. Like a globe of tar, they both sank into the orb of shadow, which continued to spread around them.

Then Kim was back in herself again. She shuddered for a moment, getting her bearings, and her eyes focused on Ron and Rhonda. They were both being pulled into what looked like a miniature black hole. Ron's hand was reaching out to her, his face looking surprised. Rhonda's arm was reaching towards Grimm and she was shouting his name, her voice tearing through the room in a piercing shriek that seemed as if it were growing steadily more distant. Then both of them were completely engulfed.

There was a sound like a thunderclap, and a burst of darkness that blinded Kim for one brief moment. When she opened her eyes, Maze and Monkey Fist were gone. And so were Ron and Rhonda. Only a spiraling swirl of dust remained in the center of the room, spinning weakly before fading away.

Kim stared with an open mouth at the empty space where Ron had stood, then stared at Grimm, who was hanging upside-down where Monkey Fist had left him, looking just as stricken as she felt herself....

Next:
Chapter 7

Ironically, they attract....

Thanks to all who voted Team Probable 'Best Villains' in the Golden Fannie awards!

Author: And now things are really taking off! Was this Maze's entire plan? Or is it only part of something even bigger? What did Maze and Monkey Fist do to Ron and Rhonda? What will Kim do now that she has Grimm apparently at her mercy? So many riddles - so few answers! Don't miss what's coming next as both Kim and Grimm begin their search for a friend in darkness!

A very special thank you goes to the Native American Languages website and the resident webmaster Laura Redish and her associates for their wise assistance in making the Blackfoot chants which were used for both Maze and for Rhonda.

To reach the Native American Languages website, simply follow the link below or do a google search for 'Native American Languages' or for 'Laura Redish'. Their website is a treasure trove of knowledge - well worth studying.... http://www.native-languages.org/

Character names in Blackfoot: (Courtesy of Laura Redish & friends at Native-Languages.org)

Kim Possible: Mi'kksiistsikomma - (mick-seest-sih-kum-mah) 'Red Thunder'.
Rhonda Fatigable: Katasistsikoowa - (Kah-tah-sist-sih-koh-wah) 'Never Gets Tired'.
Grimm Probable: Otaatoyiwa - (Oh-tah-ah-to-yi-wah) 'Cunning Fox'.
Monkey Fist: Maokiiwa - (Mau-key-wah) 'Monkey'.
Maze: Sskipoyiwa - (Sis-key-poh-yi-wah) 'Stands in Darkness'

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