Wade whistled as he sat back and looked at the name on his screen. He had been right; the answer was there the whole time. He didn’t feel the satisfaction of knowing that he had cracked one of the most insidious plots of all time, instead he felt the cold chill of fear run down his spine. The stakes were higher than he had thought and there was a good possibility that he was in very real physical danger. He pondered his next move. If he stopped looking, they would know he had figured something out and they’d probably come down on him from all sides with deadly force. He’d seen what they were willing to do last year when they went after Kim. More than twenty people had been killed just because they were in the way, who knew how many more had been silenced that hadn’t made the nine o’clock news.
If it was a government agency, they would come after him within legal constraints using people and possibly hand weapons, he could avoid those. This group would just drop a bomb on his house and to hell with the neighborhood. They’d drop a bomb everywhere he might have a house. He created another ferret program and sent it out while carefully crafting two more that he could send out later. The next two programs were crucial, if he could write them correctly, he would throw off whoever was watching him and buy everyone some time. If his programs weren’t convincing, they’d be on him like a ton of bricks.
Maybe I’m just being paranoid, he thought to himself. Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of the X-files and I’m blowing it all out of proportion… It was possible that no one was tracking his movements through cyber-space. He hadn’t been able to find anything that indicated he was being monitored. Then he looked at the name on the screen again and realized he was probably under estimating the danger. It proclaimed their arrogance and absolute confidence. Last year’s attempt had not been about killing Kim, it had been a brilliant piece of misdirection. While nearly every government agency had been focused on Kim’s situation, the real culprit was infiltrating their systems, setting up for something big. The worst part was that she was inside the system now, and there was no way to alert anyone without her knowing.
He wondered if anyone else had figured it out but decided, without excess egoism, that no one else would be smart enough or motivated enough to do so. His problem now lay in the fact that he couldn’t tell anyone without giving away his knowledge. So he amused himself by figuring out who he would tell if he could figure out a way to tell them without getting everyone killed. It was a short list.
“Where to, Miss?”
Bonnie sat in the cab momentarily confused. She didn’t want to head back to the apartment, because she knew Ron would come there as soon as he noticed she was gone. She hoped Ron would head there when he noticed. Would he even notice? Of course he would. He was probably already looking for her. Or, he might be showing everyone his scar, again. She thought about waiting right there to see how long it took him to come outside looking for her, but realized immediately how pathetic that was. She allowed herself a small growl of irritation.
“What?” she retorted snappishly.
“Hey,” the cabbie said defensively, “It’s your dime, you wanna sit here all night and look at th’ pretty buildings, it’s fine by me…”
“Huh? Oh… Just head toward Lakeside, I need to make a phone call.” She dialed the number and waited. “Tara?” she said hopefully. “Hi, it’s Bonnie… Yeah, I know it’s late but… I’m fine… Could we meet somewhere…? Yeah, I know the place. See you in half an hour.” She hung up the phone. “Driver?”
“Wabash and Jackson, please.”
“You got it, Miss.” After a few minutes he spoke up again. “Do you think he’s worth it?”
“The guy that’s got you all messed-up… you think he’s worth it?”
“That’s a good question.”
Gemini removed his goggles and indicated to his henchmen that they could do likewise. The seals on the cloning tank opened with an impressive hiss and steam poured out into the room. Silhouetted in the tank’s open door was an impressive female figure. She strode out of the capsule with confidence and looked around at the laboratory. The henchmen averted their eyes from her naked form, she didn’t seem to notice. She nodded to Gemini with approval. “No disorientation this time.” She said, and then looked puzzled. “But there seems to be something missing…”
“Perhaps your clothing…?”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” she snapped. “I’m missing part of my… her… memories.”
“You didn’t think I was going to share everything with you, did you?”
Dr. Director emerged from the shadows, resplendent in her GJ uniform, and looked over the clone with her good eye. The clone stared back defiantly.
“Very good.” The uniformed Woman said crisply. “Get her a uniform and put her in with the others for orientation.”
“Aren’t you coming with us?”
The uniformed Dr. Director exchanged glances with Gemini. “Why would I do that?”
“Well,” the naked clone drawled, “Isn’t orientation for all clones?”
“She’s got you there, Sis.” Gemini laughed. He was very pleased. Each of the clones had recognized that their greeter was a clone right away, and none of them showed the initial grogginess that had plagued the first series. He would have to thank Dr. Drakken for his outstanding efforts. Perhaps he would have Epsilon clean the man’s cell tonight. Pi arrived with a clean uniform and an eye patch for his newest clone. “Excellent.” He chuckled. “Sis, Sis, please go to the east wing. Pi will show you your quarters and see to any needs you have.”
He picked up the phone and waited. There was a series of clicks and electronic background noises that went on for some time. Then a woman’s voice impatiently said, “What?”
“Phase three is complete.”
“Excellent.” She said, sounding pleased. “And the tests?”
“Exactly as predicted.”
“Who knew that conquering the world would be so easy?” She laughed dryly. “In three months they’ll be begging us to take over.” She laughed again, and this time, he joined her.
Ron looked around for Bonnie and didn’t see her right away. He began searching for her and found that the house was much bigger than he had originally thought. But after about fifteen minutes he realized she wasn’t there. He asked around and someone told him they thought they had seen Bonnie leaving about half an hour before. He went downstairs and got confirmation from the doorman. A woman matching her description had exited the building and got into a cab about thirty minutes before. He hailed a cab for himself while calling Bonnie’s apartment.
“Hey! Bonnie,” He said to her answering machine. “It’s the Ron-man…” that wouldn’t go over well. “Um… it’s Ron.” he continued in a more contrite tone of voice. “Hey, you left the party without telling me… I’m just calling to make sure you made it home… Um… Pick up… If you’re there… Hello…? OK… Well, if you get this, give me a call… Just so I know you’re OK… OK…?” He hung up and tried her cell phone, same result and basically the same message. He clung to the hope, no matter how ridiculous it seemed, that she had gone back to his place and would be there waiting for him when he got home.
She hadn’t and she wasn’t.
“That’s totally spankin’”
Shego glanced at Kim suspiciously, but the red head was serious. “You think it’s a good idea for me to work for a government spook?”
They were relaxing together in the Jacuzzi tub. Kim had come home late and bruised. She had gone out to rescue some high school kids and ended up fighting off state of the art killer robots with used athletic equipment. Shego had offered her a massage and snuggle in the tub. Partly because she had been a little worried and partly because she just wanted to see the little red head naked.
“You’re always so melodramatic, Shego.” Kim said dismissively. “Why do you have to say ‘government spook?’ why can’t you just say ‘NSA’ or ‘Special Agent Thomas?’”
It hit Shego like an icy breeze off Lake Michigan, Kim really trusted the government. Despite everything she heard on the news, all the crazy situations in the world and everything she had been put through by that idiot and his clones, Kim really believed that the G-men were out there fighting for ‘Truth, Justice and the be-damned American way.’ She wasn’t sure how to deal with that kind of youthful idealism but, there was a part of her mind that began calculating the advantages.
“Kitten,” she said hesitantly. “You know that these guys all have their own agendas, right? They’re going to use whatever tools they can get their hands on to accomplish whatever goals they have in mind.”
Kim giggled. “You’re too cynical.”
“You’re too trusting.”
Kim just giggled again and began singing the theme song to her favorite TV show. “Super teen extraordinaire…” Shego tuned out the words and just sat back drinking in the sight of her red haired paramour. The girl was always filled with life and energy when she came back from helping someone. Shego wondered if there was any way she would ever be able to take joy in the small things the way Kim did. At least she got to experience a small piece of it, because seeing Kim like this made her feel good. And as a bonus, when the red head came home all bubbly and full of fun, it often resulted in a round of very playful loving. Shego surprised Kim by picking up a line in the second verse, “Floyd the barber cuts his hair…” and was rewarded by Kim tickling her feet.
Soon they were both tickling, and tickling led to other kinds of touching and caressing but the giggly mood prevailed and when Kim intoned in her announcer’s voice, “And now, another episode of silly sex with Kim and Shego…” They both roared with laughter. The silliness gradually gave way to passion.
Later, as they lazed together on the couch, just enjoying being next to each other, Shego couldn’t get Kim’s remarks out of her head. The girl couldn’t really be that naïve, could she? And there was still that part of her mind that was coldly calculating how to use it to her advantage.
When Bonnie wound down, Tara reached across the table and laid a hand on her arm. “I’m not sure you want to hear this, but it sounds like he is trying to do right by you.”
“I know!” Bonnie said sorrowfully, “That’s why I feel like such a bitch! But when he’s with her…”
“Are you sure they aren’t doing it anymore?”
“Yeah,” Bonnie said, then continued with a sheepish smile, “you know she’s…”
“Yeah.” Tara suppressed a small shudder.
“…but that doesn’t help.” Her frustration was more evident now. “He’s so… alive when they’re together.”
They lapsed into silence for a few minutes. Then Tara asked, “Have you ever told him about the night you…?”
“You mean, Josh’s Party?”
“Yes.” The blonde replied with a grimace.
“He was there, he knows what happened…” Bonnie’s expression was dark.
“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ And I’ll bet you ten dollars that he is completely unaware of what happened and why that night changed your life.”
“You think I should…”
“I’ll go one better than that. I think you have to tell him.” Tara looked anxious for a moment and continued quietly, “He should know that you were interested before he got the haircut and the clothes.”
“I’ll just sound so…”
“I was going to say ‘image conscious’ but, yeah.”
“That’s it right there!” Tara exclaimed. “That’s what I’m talking about. He’s probably worried that you only liked him because of how he changed and that’s why he acts differently around you.” She sat back triumphantly.
“Hmmm,” Bonnie said thoughtfully, “those psych classes are already paying off for you.”
“I think,” Tara hesitated and looked away for a moment, “you should take some time to get to know Kim better too.”
“Put your hostility on the back burner for one minute and think, Bonnie. If you can see what she does that makes him… however you like him, then maybe you can figure out how to do it for yourself.”
Bonnie sat back and sipped her coffee. She had a lot to think about.
Special Agent Thomas read the report very carefully. Eighteen hundred people blinded in Idaho and no one knew what had caused it. The medical examiners theorized that it was a neurological agent released into the town’s water supply but, so far, testing hadn’t revealed any such thing. All they had was half a town of suddenly blind people and an undercurrent of fear throughout the country. He looked through his notes and checked the projected time line; it was consistent with his fears. According to his calculations, the first attacks should have started about a week ago. He was pretty sure that electronic records would be monitored, so he went to the local library and began going through periodicals, trying to find a hint of an attack that had happened last week.
Eventually he found the story he was looking for. A rural community in South Dakota had suffered a bout of what seemed like food poisoning. The odd thing was that nearly everyone in the town was affected but there had not been any sort of community gathering. Of course a town suffering from food poisoning was a lot different that one suffering from blindness, but the pattern was the same. More than half the town suffering from the same illness and the local medicos on site had tested the water and air and everything else they could think of but hadn’t found anything suspicious. He needed to get the results of the South Dakota tests and put them next to the results from Idaho. No, he needed to get them compared by someone who knew what to look for, but who could he trust? And how could he get the information to them without her finding out?