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Title: If You Build a Better Monkey (1/??)
Spoilers: Takes place after "But for the Grace of Ron". Feedback: Some of you have been extremely helpful, and I hope you'll continue to do so. New reader opinions are encouraged too!
Disclaimers: Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Shego, Wade, and all other characters from the Kim Possible television series belong to Disney, its television production arm, and the creators and producers of the animated series. All original characters are my invention. I seek no profit from writing this, and expect none.
Summary: Their relationship for once secure, Kim and Shego follow a lead to central Africa, where Monkey Fist and a new ally believe that with their new and improved minions, the world will beat a path to their door.
"Don't you love the irony?" Kim asked.
Shego chuckled. "Oh, irony's nice, although I was always partial to sarcasm. Both had a tendency to go over Drakken's head, though."
"I remember," Kim said dryly. "I'm sure this would stick in even HIS craw."
THIS was one of two abandoned secret labs Drakken had built in the vicinity of Middleton. Both times his evil schemes had been designed to strike Kim Possible close to home. Both times they failed - though it wasn't for lack of Shego trying.
At any rate, this hideout, like so many of Drakken's, had fallen into disrepair. It would take a lot of cleaning and renovation. On the other hand, nobody owned it now, so obtaining ownership wouldn't be too difficult. And, for all Drakken's failings, he did know how to build a halfway decent headquarters. Of course there were always a couple ways for intruders to slip inside - how else had Kim gotten in? But unlike Drakken, Kim and Shego could locate them and close them off.
In short, it was the best Kim Possible Inc. could do in these circumstances. Assuming Dr. Director agreed.
"Needs work," the former head of GJ was saying as she inspected the building.
"And a maid," she added as she knelt in front of her adopted son's stroller and rubbed his nose with a tissue. "But, with our budget, we're not going to do much better. And it has potential." Dr. Director glanced back. "It's kind of like you, Shego."
"Well, looking at you years ago, who would have thought you would become the person you are now?"
Shego folded her arms and didn't smile. "I'm sensing an insult there."
"She does have a point," Kim said as she slipped her arms around Shego's waist. "You weren't exactly a ray of sunshine and light when we were younger."
"Bite me," Shego muttered. She ran a gloved finger down a grimy monitor. "I hope she's not saying it's like me because we're both dirty, too."
"Sadie would say that," Kim murmured, grinning wickedly.
"That's why Sappho likes me more," Shego replied. "I'm not a goody-goody like some people I know."
"Hm? Oh yes, Sadie and Sappho. Thank you for reminding me," Dr. Director said, overhearing them.
"Reminding you of what?" Kim asked, shivering a little as she felt Shego leaning back into her.
"Transportation. Right now our main financial concern is acquiring the vehicles that will get you where you need to go," Dr. Director explained. "I'd like you to speak with Dr. Freeman, make sure you can borrow his inventions when necessary. It's going to take a mission or two before we can afford the kind of ground transport you need. And as for air travel, well, we might need to resort to commercial flights at some point. We can't rely on your doctor's generosity forever. That's why you formed the company, as I recall," she added, looking intently at Kim.
"Right," Kim said quickly. "I'll make sure we're still on his good side."
Shego grumbled. "From Sappho to coach? I don't know if I like the sound of that."
"Maybe we can get on the waiting list for the next S.A.F.O.," Kim suggested.
"Sure. All we'll need is a few million bucks."
Kim sighed. It was going to be hard when they had to give up the self-aware machines. Without them, the Supreme One might have succeeded in killing Ron's parents last month. And it seemed - somehow appropriate that each vehicle had selected different people as their "favorite".
"Also," Dr. Director continued, "this Oryx girl. Could you arrange a meeting?"
"Uh," Kim said, hiding a grin, "I think it could be arranged. Why?"
"She did well against the Acceptables. I'd like to find out what her long-term plans are. It's quite possible that one day the two of you and Ron won't be enough to handle the requests we get. The Oryx might be willing to do freelance work, as a reserve option."
It wasn't long ago that Kim had told Monique she didn't like the idea of her friend risking her life fighting crime. Now Dr. Director wanted to hire her.
Like she'd said, irony.
"I don't know, Kimmie," Dr. Mr. Possible said dubiously. "I realize the SAFO has been useful on your recent missions, but Dr. Freeman built the SAFO with specific objectives in mind. You can't expect him to make his inventions available all the time."
Kim sighed. She loved her father dearly, and she appreciated his swift acceptance of her relationship with Shego, but sometimes she wished she'd treat her like she was an adult.
"Maybe you should try moving out first," a voice whispered in her brain. It sounded so much like Shego that she almost turned to make sure the other woman wasn't there.
"I am right here, you know," Sappho said crossly. "There is no need to talk about me in the third person. Although talking about me as if I was a person would be an improvement." She'd been pouting until now that Kim had come without her favorite pilot.
Dr. Freeman chuckled. "She doesn't like to be called 'the'." Then he scratched his head. "Although he is right, you know. Sappho has passed all her tests. Soon we'll begin drawing up plans for her first unmanned space mission."
Sappho slowly turned a dark shade of blue.
"That went over well," Kim said dryly.
"But I don't want to be an unmanned vessel!" Sappho complained. "It's not fair to give me a personality chip, and then make me spend a year alone in space! How come Sadie gets to stay here? Can't Shego be an astronaut too?"
"No," three people all said at once.
Kim looked at Dr. Freeman again. "Why did you give her personality programming along with her artificial intelligence?" she asked curiously. "I could see the logic if you were sending her on a manned flight, but if she's going to be out in space without a crew, what good does it do her?"
Dr. Freeman began to look uncomfortable. "Well, I never really thought about it that way. I knew there would be some time between her first activation and final testing. I wanted her to be able to communicate with the other machines. I do tend to program personalities into most of my inventions, you know."
"At least give me the toaster!" Sappho whined.
"I could send Sadie with you," he murmured.
"Now you're being mean," she said, sounding genuinely horrified.
Kim groaned. This was a strange side of the brilliant inventor. Then again, if Dr. Drakken had once manipulated him with nothing more than reverse psychology . . .
"This isn't exactly reassuring, Doctor," her father said. "It doesn't matter how well the spaceship works if it lacks proper motivation."
"Removal . . . of the personality implant is an option," Dr. Freeman suggested hesitantly.
Sappho made a shocked noise. Alarm klaxons began blaring, and her hull changed from dark blue to bright red.
"A very unlikely option!" Dr. Freeman quickly added.
The alarms subsided. "You wouldn't really do that to me, would you, Doctor?" Sappho asked quietly. "I function properly, don't I?"
"I'm sorry, Doctor, but there doesn't appear to be any other choice," Dr. Mr. Possible said, frowning. "We're going to have to build a second ship - this time without a personality."
"But - but even relying on our experience building the first SAFO, that could take over a year!" Dr. Freeman protested.
"You should have thought of that before you created a personality that can't be taken away without violating your ethics as a scientist," Kim's father replied. "As for the SA - I mean Sappho, I'm sure we can find a better purpose for her."
"Stunt pilot?" Sappho asked.
"Hardly," Dr. Mr. Possible said, giving Kim a meaningful glance.
Kim froze for a moment. Sometimes he treated her like she was still a child, but as she'd said, most of the time she loved him dearly. Now was such a time. "Why not become a part of Team Possible?" she asked. "I realize she's owned by the lab, and we don't have much in the way of money, but - "
"You want to buy Sappho?" Dr. Freeman asked, surprised.
"I was thinking more - I want to hire her," Kim said. "Sort of a lifetime contract."
Not only did Sappho turn pink, but she seemed to be an even hotter shade than usual. "See, someone who understands me," she said brightly.
Dr. Freeman scratched his head. "She wasn't built with my money, so it's not an issue for me. Your father would be better able to decide."
"I suppose we could work something out," her father said dryly.
The scientist nodded. "Still, Sappho is one of my creations. I'd hate to see her go."
"Oh, Dr. Freeman, I'm not leaving you," Sappho told him. "Now, if you'd sent me into space for a year, THEN I'd be leaving you. Don't you see this is better?"
He smiled. "I guess so," he said.
"Besides," she said smugly, "you'll still have Sadie."
"Actually," Kim said, taking a gamble, "maybe we could talk about her too?"
"So let me get this straight," Shego said as she sprawled on Dr. Director's couch. She snatched one of her gloves from the coffee table nearby before a small pudgy hand could grab it. "Uh-uh, no touchee my gloves," she said to Thomas, wagging a finger at him.
He didn't seem to mind as he returned to disassembling a scientific calculator.
"As I was saying," Shego continued, "you managed to buy Sappho AND Sadie from your father's science lab."
"Not buy," Kim corrected her. "I hired them. They're still on the lab's books, but they're also on our payroll. It's like a lease, since we'll be making monthly payments to the lab."
"How much?" Dr. Director asked from her computer.
Kim smiled. "For now? A dollar."
"Not bad," Dr. Director said. "I assume the payments will increase?"
"Dad said we could work out a different financial arrangement once Team Possible Inc. can afford it. Also, Sadie and Sappho will still have some responsibilities to fulfill in connection with the lab."
"Oh, the occasional expedition," Kim said. "Plus, um, Dr. Freeman's commute."
"Kim - "
"Don't worry, we take priority. Sadie wants to continue driving him back and forth when we don't need her," Kim told her.
Dr. Director nodded. "So we have a headquarters AND transportation for almost nothing. This is most unexpected, but certainly appreciated."
"Yeah," Shego said, grinning. "Maybe we can start thinking about salaries."
"We'll be plowing money into renovating Drakken's old facility first," Dr. Director reminded her.
"Still, I do have some more good news."
Shego studied her nails. "You're saving a bunch of money on your car insurance by switching to Geico?" she mumbled.
"No," Dr. Director replied calmly. "I'm saving Team Possible - and you - a 'bunch' of money with your new living arrangements."
Shego sat up. "My what?"
"You had problems with your last apartment, right?"
"Hello? Evil self from the future smashing everything up?"
"And the time before that?"
Shego sighed. "One of DNAmy's creations made a hole in the wall. A hole the size of a minivan."
"Precisely. You're too exposed to your enemies living alone. Besides, I assume you're drawing on your savings to pay your rent?"
She nodded. "I had money stashed somewhere. If the Acceptables had - asked, I probably would have told 'em that too, but a few bucks were beneath their notice."
Kim balanced on the edge of the couch and leaned into Shego, letting her fingers play with her hair. "You showed John though, didn't you?" she whispered.
"Well," Dr. Director said awkwardly after a moment. Her hand rose halfway up to her the scar where her ear used to be, but she dropped it. "As I was saying, I think I've found a better use for your money than renting an unsafe apartment. You can become our first investor."
"I'm talking about getting money out of this joint, and she's telling me I should put money into it," Shego grumbled.
"But where is Shego going to live?" Kim asked.
"Why, at our headquarters, of course."
Shego and Kim looked at each other.
"Why the hell didn't I think of that?" Kim said.
"Maybe because it's filthy there?" Shego replied.
"And your money will go a long way toward changing that," Dr. Director told her as she stood up. "I would suggest Kim live there as well, but perhaps it's better that she stay with her family. They could be a target some day too."
"Look at what happened to the Stoppables," Kim said.
"Where is Stoppable anyway?" Shego asked.
"Date with Zita."
"Ah. A girl who needs to expand her horizons, obviously."
"I thought you were going to be nicer to him?" Kim asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I can't keep it up 24/7, Kimmie. Otherwise I'll explode. Spontaneous combustion caused by built-up sarcasm," Shego said, grinning.
"As I was saying," Dr. Director sighed, "there's another reason why Kim shouldn't move into headquarters yet."
Dr. Director looked a little embarrassed. "Well - then you'd practically be living together. I'm not sure what I'd say to your mother if she found out that was my idea."
Her mother wanted to be kept informed when their relationship moved to "the next level". Kim suspected she'd view her moving in with Shego as vaulting past several levels and hitting the top floor.
"Still," Shego murmured, letting her hand play along Kim's thigh, "since I'll be staying at our place of business, no one can blame us for having all-night planning sessions.
"More like makeout sessions," Kim thought.
Which didn't sound bad at all.
"Moving on," Dr. Director said briskly. She walked past them and crouched next to her toddler. "Thomas, what are you working on, huh? That looks like - a portable silicon phase disruptor? Oh honey, you're such a smart boy!"
"Ten years before my brothers built one," Kim said. "I can't wait to tell them. They'll be insanely jealous of a baby."
Dr. Director chuckled. "I got you an assignment. It's not a paying job, but it serves several purposes."
"And these purposes are better than cash how exactly?" Shego asked.
"It lets people know that while we're beginning to expect payment for Team Possible's services, we're still willing to take on a job simply because it's important enough and because it's the right thing to do. And it will calm our clients down."
"Calm them down?" Kim asked, puzzled.
"Apparently you had some sort of incident at a zoo in Boston?" Dr. Director inquired.
"Yeah, Dementor set a trap for us there."
"Well, apparently the zoo feels you're partly responsible for the damages to their facility. Also I'm told one of you knocked one of their tiger's teeth out."
"Hey, they were saber teeth and they were coming for my neck," Shego said defensively.
"I'm sure you had a good reason," Dr. Director assured her. "But some of their animals were stolen recently, and if we can recover them, then I don't have to worry about them demanding compensation before we've made a single dollar."
Kim nodded. "I'm up for it," she said. "I've tackled poachers before."
"Boston?" Shego asked darkly.
"Just so we're clear - we are not, repeat NOT, having dinner with the Rockwallers."
"Sounds like a plan," Kim said, smiling. She leaned over and kissed Shego's frown away.
Shego reflexively dropped the glove clutched in her hand, and Thomas began to crawl toward it. "No, Thomas," Dr. Director said fondly, picking him up. "You heard what she said - no touchee."
To be continued . . .