Chapter 4
Enemy Mine

Back in the lair, Drakken stared with satisfaction at a towering pile of money. He and Shego had raided the City National Bank and made off with everything. With no Kim Possible to interfere, it had been child's play.

'Ah, money!' he said, giving the cash an affectionate hug. 'How I've missed you!' Shego stood back, staring at him.

'Would you like some time alone with it?' she said with her typical sarcastic air.

'Maybe.' said Drakken dreamily, staring with watery eyes at the currency. Shego shuddered and let out a breathy 'Ugh!' of distate.
The sound of a door closing interrupted them, and they turned to see Grimm and Rhonda walking into the room.

'I'm glad to see your heist was a success.' said Grimm. 'What did I tell you? With our help, the world is your oyster.'

Drakken smiled, but stared expectantly at him. 'And your mission?' he said. 'Do you have the item?'
Grimm handed Drakken a glossy photo of Kim and Ron, lying on the floor, covered in dust and tangled with rope, looking dumbstruck. Drakken took it with a gasp of delight and then broke into a cackling laugh. Shego looked at him with a raised eyebrow as he clutched the picture to his chest, tears of laughter rolling down his cheeks.

'Oh this is delightful!' he crowed. 'I'm going to digitize it and make it into a T-shirt!'

Grimm stood passively. 'I took a gamble with you not paying in advance.' he said. ''Because of us, your bank job was a success. So it's time to discuss our fee....'

'Yeah, about that....' said Shego, stepping forward. She was used to Drakken's crooked ways and thought she knew what was coming. 'Should I give them the 'standard' payment, Dr. D?' she said, sinking into a crouch and powering up her hands with a green halo.

Grimm and Rhonda went into fighting stances at once, but Drakken, still laughing so hard he had to steady himself against the table, held up his hand, clutching the photo in the other. 'No! Wait... wait a minute!' he said. He took a couple of breaths and straightened up. 'I was going to double-cross you and keep the money, but I'm just so goosed by all this I can't bring myself to do it!' He took some bundles of cash from the immense pile on the table and threw them to Grimm, who caught them deftly in his backpack. 'Take it!' said Drakken, practically dancing around the table. 'Take it - you're worth every penny!'

Shego stood amazed. He must be happy, she thought. Drakken not backing out on a deal was an all-time first. She stared at Grimm with slitted eyes. Drakken had never acted this happy with any of her work.
'We'll be on our way then.' said Grimm. 'You have the funds needed for whatever it is you're planning next. Must be big.'

'Oh it'll be big!' said Drakken, turning his eyes back to the money. 'It'll have the whole world begging me to take over!!'

'Sounds interesting.' said Grimm. 'Of course, there's no guarantee that Kim Possible won't show up and ruin that scheme....' he let his voice trail off.

'What?' said Drakken, whirling to them with his face suddenly fearful and angry. 'You mean you didn't finish her?'

Grimm shook his head. 'That wasn't the deal.'

Drakken stomped forward, livid. 'Oh I see your little game!' he said furiously. 'Get us hooked with the first job and then jack up the price! Well, that's just... wrong!' he said, his voice dropping to an aggrieved sulk.

Grimm stared back at Drakken. Rhonda stood beside him, grinning and waving sheepishly. 'You're free to try your scheme without our help.' he said. 'Aviarius thought he could go it alone after our first job together. Now he's in jail.'

Drakken raised his hand and opened his mouth as if to speak, taking in a gasping breath. Then he stopped. Then he repeated this action a couple more times before pausing and lowering his arms. His brow knitted into a scowl, and his teeth gritted. 'Fine!' he said, his teeth almost sparking as he gnashed them. 'How much?'

'Lots.' said Grimm cagily. 'But a lot less than what it would cost if Kim throws you back in prison.'

Drakken stared for a moment longer. 'You have a point there.' he said. He looked at Grimm coldly. 'Can you guarantee that Kim Possible will not interfere with the next phase of my plan?'

Grimm smiled and nodded, with Rhonda behind him nodding energetically. 'Believe it.'

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Kim stood sweating in her karate gi, her breath coming in ragged gasps. She had gone through every martial arts routine she knew, over and over again. Every muscle ached, but she couldn't bring herself to stop. Grimm's words kept tearing through her mind like a knife.

'Your moves are slipshod and amatuerish.'

She launched a flurry of blows against the wooden dummy, striking, kicking and leaping around it with all the skill she could muster.

'You split your focus in too many directions.'

With a scream, she struck out and snapped one of the arms off the wooden dummy. It thudded onto the mat. She fell onto her knees, wheezing and gasping. She clenched her fists, her nails biting into her skin.

''You may be able to do anything - but you don't do anything very well.'

She felt tears welling in her eyes.

'Kim?' she heard Ron's voice speaking timidly behind her. Quickly she fought back her tears and looked up. Ron was staring at her, and she could see the worry in his eyes. 'Are you OK?'
She didn't answer, but looked down at the mat, still panting heavily.

Ron walked up and knelt down beside her, putting a hand on her shoulder. He had been practicing too, but he had stopped after a couple of hours. He had left, with Kim saying she would only be practicing for a little while longer. That had been four hours ago. 'Wow...' he said, staring at the broken dummy and the two other broken dummies piled in the corner of the room. 'He really got to you, didn't he?'

Kim struggled to keep her voice even. 'He beat me, Ron. He didn't play me or trick me. He beat me. I tried everything I knew, and it wasn't good enough!' A horrible feeling of helplessness still hung over her like a cloud. Grimm had cut off the support network she had come to know and rely on. Ron, Rufus, Wade - all of them isolated from her during the fight until she was left alone to face Grimm. She had tried her level best to stop him, and she had failed. The only reason why nothing had been taken from the labs was because Grimm hadn't even wanted anything. He had set the whole thing up just to keep her busy - and she had fallen for it like a world-class sucker.

She felt a tear drop heavily onto her knees as she spoke. Gritting her teeth, she fought hard to control herself.
'Ron,' she said. 'Am I.... losing it?'

Ron's voice became defiant. 'No way, KP.' he said. 'Don't even think like that! So he caught us by surprise the first time out. No big - we're on to him now!'

Kim looked up into his eyes. There was no trace in him of the doubt or despair that she had been feeling. She sometimes wished she could be as full of wonderment as he was, for it seemed to put up a shield around him that no amount of defeat, or hopelessness or overwhelming odds could penetrate. She threw her arms around him and pulled him close. The tears she had fought back streamed down her cheeks.
'Oh Ron...' she said. Ron said nothing, but just held her.

The Kimmunicator made it's familiar beep. Wiping her face with her sleeve, Kim ran to her gym bag and fished it out. 'Wade! You're back on line?'

Wade's tired face stared out from the screen. 'Can't keep a good system down, Kim!' he said brightly. 'Jade did a number on all my computers, but I finally got things back to basic operational status.'

'So what's the sitch?' she said.

'I did a search for the names Probable and Fatigable. Jade must be shielding thier real locations somehow because I can't track them down, not even through their website. I've even searched for Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin and come up empty.'

Ron poked his head over Kim's shoulder. 'They've got a website, too?' he said. 'No way!'

Wade nodded. 'Yeah. They're a for-hire group of teen mercenaries, offering their help to any criminal or villain who needs them.'

'Drakken's their client.' said Kim. 'Grimm let it slip during the fight.'

Wade continued. 'You called it. While the brou-ha-ha was going in between you and Team Probable in the labs, there was report of a robbery at the City National Bank. Witnesses confirm it was Shego and Drakken.'

'Bank robbery?' siad Ron. 'That's kind of a step away from his usual 'take-over-the-world' routine.'

'He hasn't given up on that.' said Kim, realizing what it meant. 'He just needs money to make it happen.'

'And now he's got it.' said Wade. 'Which means...'

'On to phase two.' said Kim.

'Which is...?' Ron piped in, shrugging and putting his palms up in queary and looking expectantly at Wade.

'Sorry guys.' said Wade. 'No idea. All I can do for now is keep digging and keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.'

Kim knew better than to distract him any longer. 'Thanks Wade. Keep us posted.' She turned off the Kimmunicator, leaning against the wall.

Ron laid a warm hand on her shoulder. 'Don't worry KP.' he said assuringly. 'Next time, they're ours. We just need to find a way to put them off their game.' He stood up and moved to the door. 'Though in the meantime, I've still got poetry to write - and so do you. We're all about progression here.' Before closing the door behind him, he smiled. 'You've gotta learn to be like me. I don't care if I'm hip or not. I is what I is, and that's all that I is. Learn to embrace your inner Kim!'

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The bell rang shrill through the air next day at Middleton High. The marquee outside the school now read, "How To Cope With Failure". Kim reflected grimly that maybe the marquee wasn't changed to reflect the class content of the day, but was somehow rigged to comment on her personally.

In class, Barkin stood with a scowl on his face as one of the students continued his recital. The student had the typcial disinterested drawl of someone trying to prove that he was too cool and smart to be doing what he was doing, and yet doing it so badly he came across as neither cool nor smart.

'Janus was a dude, who had two heads....' he said, tugging at his sleeves as he spoke.
'He was a Roman god, but now he's, like, dead.'

With that, the student made a shoddy bow and shuffled back to his desk.
Barkin let out a soft sigh that turned into a muffled 'Ugh!'. 'Next up - Kim Possible.'

Kim stood before the class and cleared her throat. She had spent a sleepless night in front of the piece of paper she now held in her hands. Despite Ron's assurances, she had wondered if she was truly losing it - and if maybe she wasn't even 'hip' anymore. She also wondered if what she was doing with her life was making her weaker, uncool, and what kind of person she would eventually become as a result. The thankful faces of everyone she had ever saved or helped swam before her eyes as she pondered all of this and she had come up with one question - could she give it up and walk away?
And she knew the answer was no. She liked helping people - and she came to the understanding that she would do it whether they thanked her or not. It was just who she was - and she liked who she was. She held up her notes and began to recite.

As the days turn to months and the months turn to years,
And as the wonder of life finds it's challenge in fear,
When all the world rises in storm and in rage,
Join the power of youth with the wisdom of age.

All of life is a journey, from which we can't hide,
And it's most treasured secret - to savor the ride.
For with all it's grand vistas, its light and it's splendor,
There will also come darkness and storm clouds with thunder.

And what we become on this journey we take,
Depends not on others, but the choices we make.
And there will be many with all their own thoughts,
Who would choose your path for you more often than not.

Be steadfast and firm, to thine own self be true,
For no one can choose your path better than you.
They may say you're not cool, and that just isn't fair,
Past, present or future, it's hip to be square!

The class whooped and cheered. From his desk, Ron gave her the thumbs-up. Bonnie sat with her usual scowl firmly in place, which more than anything else, Kim took as a sign that it had been great.

'Well done, Possible.' said Mr. Barkin, standing up. 'You can't go wrong with rhyming couplets. This poem gets my best grade ever -
a B-minus.' Kim smiled and waved at the cheering class.

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Students milled through the hallways between classes. Kim checked in with Wade.

'Still nothing, Kim.' he said apologetically. 'I can't track them down. This Jade who's hacking for them keeps heading me off.'

Kim had a brief flash in her head of Janus. One head facing forward - the other facing back. Two directions. One personality. 'If Team Probable is as good as we are, then we may need to change our thinking.' she said. 'He's working for Drakken at the moment. Change your focus and try tracking him down. If we find Drakken, we'll find Grimm.'

'On it.' said Wade, and the screen went black.

As she closed her locker door, she saw Ron standing there looking at her. 'Here's a thought KP.' he said. 'If Grimm really is as good as we are, he might guess we'd try to find him that way.'

'What else have we got?' said Kim, her voice depressed and sullen. 'The only other thing we could do is wait for them to make their next move. The aggressor always sets the tone. We've got to take the fight to him.'

Ron looked pensive, running his hand up the back of his head. 'You know, I think they could be closet shippers.' said Ron.

'Shippers?' said Kim.

'Relationshippers.' said Ron. 'I think Grimm and Rhonda - they kinda like each other....'

Kim sighed. 'Ron, we're trying to find a way to beat them, not get them to hook up because you think theyd be cute together!'

Ron was waving his hands excitedly. 'No, follow me here KP. Maybe we can do both at the same time! You heard Rhonda.' he raised in voice to a squeak in mock imitation. 'He's not my boyfriend! It was the same sort of stuff we kept saying before we started shipping.'

Kim felt the wheels in her mind starting to work. 'Yeah.' she said.

'Well, you remember how when.... that guy showed up?' He still could not bring himself to say Eric's name out loud. 'I thought you would wind up with him and it totally threw me off my game?'

'And I got thrown off my game when Eri... I mean, that guy played me.'

'Yeah...' said Ron, rocking uncomfortably on the balls of his feet. 'I mean - maybe if we got team Probable thinking about shipping it would throw them off their game.'

Kim felt a smile creeping onto her face. 'Break out the matchmaking gear, Ron.' she said. 'It's time to get romantic!'

Chapter 5:
Closet Shippers

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