Title: If You Build a Better Monkey (3)
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.
"Maybe she's not the Snake Charmer," Ron suggested.
"Let's give it another half hour," Kim said.
Shego groaned and began filing her nails for the fifth time.
They'd been staking out Irma Newcastle's home for the past hour. Upon their arrival, Kim had told Wade to contact the Snake Charmer and arrange a time for the buy. The theory was that Newcastle would leave her home, and lead them directly to where she was keeping the stolen tiger, and perhaps other animals as well.
The theory wasn't looking so good, because Irma's car was still parked out front. Which left the three of them alone together, waiting. Shego itched for action, and she fidgeted relentlessly. Ron wasn't as talkative as usual. Obviously he hadn't quite figured out how to factor Shego into their conversations. Kim just tried to ignore those times when Shego would reach a leg out and run her foot up and down Kim's calf, turning her cheeks crimson.
"So," Ron finally said, "you don't look like a 34-B."
Her nail file bent in Shego's hand as she gripped it tightly.
"She's not a 34-B. Trust me," Kim replied.
"Do the two of you MIND?" Shego snapped.
"What do you have to be angry about?" Kim asked. "Okay, who wants a bunch of villains drooling over you in a chat room, but it's a sign of the reputation you have among them. I thought your image meant something to you."
"It does, but I want them fearing me, not undressing me with their eyes!" Shego retorted.
"Like you've never done that to me," Kim said slyly.
Shego and Ron both gaped at her.
"Anyway," Kim went on, "I'm jealous. Wade didn't say anything about ME having a shrine."
"Well, it is the VILLAINS Digest Online," Ron pointed out.
"You've got a board too," Shego muttered.
"You do realize how many of these guys you've beaten, right? They're obsessed with you." Shego sighed. "It's twice the size of mine, actually."
Kim grinned at her. "Ah, so you're the jealous one."
"Hardly," Shego said.
"I've got to see this," Kim said, pulling out her Kimmunicator.
Shego's hand clamped down on her wrist. "You don't want to do that," Shego told her.
"Believe me, Shego, I think I can survive villains debating my cup size," Kim assured her.
"It's not just that," Shego replied. "These are people who are attracted to you, but they ALSO hate your guts."
Kim looked at her. "Big deal, so they're plotting my demise. That's just whistling in the graveyard."
Shego looked exasperated. "They plot much worse things than your death, Kimmie. Believe me, I looked once. A lot of it involves leather and handcuffs, if you catch my meaning."
"Leather and - " A look of comprehension appeared on Kim's face, which was quickly replaced by one of revulsion. "Oh my God, that's sick!" Kim said, shuddering.
"Hello? Villains are sick by nature."
"Did you ever write things like that?"
It was Ron who spoke, and as Shego turned to look at him in the backseat, she could tell by his expression that he was completely serious. "I was practically fighting Kimmie once a week," she told him. "I didn't need to fantasize."
He leaned back, mollified. "What about Drakken?"
"All right, all right, enough!" Kim interjected. "I think we've discussed this enough for a lifetime." She put the Kimmunicator away again. "I vote we never bring this up again."
"Works for me," Shego said.
"They don't say anything about me, do they?" Ron asked.
"Not really," Shego said indifferently. "Nobody can remember your name."
"Aw, jeez," he grumbled. "They NEVER remember my name!"
"While this conversation has been so fascinating that I think I will erase it in its entirety from my memory banks when we return home," Sadie informed them suddenly, "someone is leaving Ms. Newcastle's home."
Everyone leaned forward to get a better look. A young woman in a raincoat emerged from the darkened doorway of her home and hurried down the steps toward her car. A duffel bag was in one hand.
"Finally, some action," Shego said, relieved.
"She could just be headed to the gym," Kim pointed out.
"Fine. At least I can get a good workout."
Three time zones away, Monique was sighing too. With her Club Banana a smoldering ruin, the company had moved her to its older location in the mall. She was luckier than most of her staff, which had been let go with the promise of their old jobs back once the store was rebuilt. Still, she was now the lowest-ranking manager on the totem pole here, and she found herself getting the crappiest shifts.
The Supreme One's evil knew no bounds, she thought.
She ran her palms over the countertop idly, wishing for either more customers, or for the clock to move more quickly. Monique was officially bored out of her skull.
A chime alerted her to a customer either entering or leaving the store, and she raised her head. It was in fact a new customer, and she went over to greet her. "Welcome to Club Banana," she said brightly. "I'm Monique, is there anything I can - "
"Yes, you can," the woman pushing the stroller said.
As she looked into Monique's eyes, the young woman's smile slipped. She'd never met Dr. Director, but Kim had described her to Monique. The eyepatch was a giveaway, and Monique noticed how her hair was brushed so as to cover the ear she'd lost. This had to be the former leader of Global Justice, and currently the woman in charge of much of the decision-making process at Team Possible, Inc. Why was she here?
"I can?" Monique asked uncertainly.
Dr. Director nodded. "Do you suppose you could take a break for a few minutes? We could go for a walk."
Monique found someone to cover for her before leaving the store with Dr. Director. Kim must have told her who she was. Okay, Kim obviously trusted this woman, but she could have warned her best gal pal first!
"I've heard a lot about you," Dr. Director said as they walked through the mall slowly.
"I've heard a few things about you too," Monique replied as Thomas gurgled happily in his stroller. She realized he was playing with what appeared to be the insides of an electric toothbrush. What kind of woman was this Dr. Director, anyway?
Dr. Director nodded. "I'm sure you have," she said. "There was a time I was quite the field agent."
"I got older," Dr. Director sighed. "When I was a 'guest' of the Acceptables, I got older a lot faster."
Monique rubbed the back of her head. That night in the Acceptables' base had worked out for the best, but some BAD stuff went down that night. Seeing Kim falling into that hole had been one thing. Desperately trying to save that baby - the very baby she was walking alongside now, she realized - from the capsized robot before it followed Kim into the blackness. That had been another. Although again, it worked out for the best.
"At any rate," Dr. Director went on, "I want to talk to you about the company I've been organizing with Kim."
"I hope you're looking for money," Monique said feebly. She knew what this was about, though. Oryx.
Dr. Director blinked. "Do you have money to invest?" she asked. "I wasn't exactly looking for investors as young as you."
"I have some set aside," Monique said. "Are your finances THAT bad?"
"Well, we have no revenues as of yet. And I have no intention of seeking investors outside of Kim's immediate circle of friends and family," Dr. Director explained. "The last things we need are stockholders whose sole concern is the ability of Team Possible, Inc. to turn a profit, rather than the safety and security of its team members. Currently we're paying off expenses with money invested by the Possibles, the Stoppables, and Shego."
"Shego?" Monique asked, surprised.
"Her current living quarters are above our headquarters," Dr. Director said. "She told me that a one-time investment beat paying rent, and that the sooner we were in the black, the sooner we could think about 'upgrading' her rooms," she added dryly.
Monique chuckled. "That girl will go the mile for you - if there's a way she can say later that she only did it because there was something in it for her."
"You sound like you know her relatively well."
"Yeah . . . well, uh - "
"Relax, Monique," Dr. Director murmured. "Shego has told me that she's been tweaking your fighting skills. Skills you'll need if you wish to continue being - Oryx."
"Keep your voice down!" Monique hissed.
Dr. Director smiled. "Relax, we're in a mall. The background chatter will drown out anything I say to you. If you've got money to invest, I'll gladly accept it with the promise of repayment with interest. But I was more interested in whether you were interested in 'freelancing' for Team Possible."
"You kidding? Why do they need me?" Monique asked. "Kim and Ron saved the world all by themselves when they were younger, and now they have Shego on their side. Nobody can stop them now!"
"Perhaps," Dr. Director agreed, "but they can't be in two places at once. Understand, Monique - there are multiple threats always confronting our world. That's why GJ was so large. There were always three dozen hot spots that needed our attention. The same applies today. I don't want to turn down a client, or have to choose between the public good and a paying customer, because we're committed to a single mission. And since there are only three members in Team Possible, I can't split them up without sending a single person a mission. There isn't a chance in Hell that I'd send any of them into a hostile situation with their backs unguarded."
Monique suddenly heard the voice of the woman who used to run Global Justice, not just a retired mother of one trying to raise money. It was the voice of a leader who was committed to combating evil, yet cared for the welfare of those beneath her. "All right, I get you," she said, "but I never got into this intending to be another Kim Possible. I've got a different gig, you know?"
Dr. Director nodded. "I know," she said. "You must realize how deeply I admire what you've done, Monique. You've faced something even Kim never concerned herself with - the ordinary crimes that happen daily to everyone. You may only make the streets safer, while Kim made the world safer, but for a lot of people, the streets IS their world."
"Thanks," an astonished Monique replied. "I don't get too many congratulations in my line of work."
"Because you're in the shadows, and Oryx doesn't want publicity."
"That's why I'm interested," Dr. Director said. "Some missions will require us to be stealthy, even sneaky, and Shego has that in spades. And when Shego told me the two of you have trained together, I was even more so. Kim and Ron - well, no matter how close she is to Shego right now, Kim and Ron are too close-knit to operate separately. They practically know what the other is thinking, their teamwork skills are so attuned to each other."
Monique smiled. "It doesn't take much to know what Ron is thinking. Bueno Nacho is usually a good bet."
Dr. Director smiled in return. "Perhaps. At any rate, if Team Possible needs to be in two places at once, Shego is the odd one out. She needs a partner, Monique, and this is NOT someone who plays well with others. Am I wrong?"
"No," Monique sighed. "You're not."
"It would be a lot easier for me to sell Shego on the idea of going on a mission without Kim if she had a partner she could trust," Dr. Director said. "And there aren't many candidates. Monique, I'm not asking you to become a full-time member. You've got your own priorities. But if you can't make yourself available in the future for occasions like these, then I'll have to choose between allowing a wrong to continue unchecked, and sending Shego into danger by herself. Both options hurts the company, and Kim."
"Since when have you ever known her to like it when the bad guys get away with something?" Dr. Director asked.
"Well - "
"And what if Shego comes back one day with injuries - or worse yet, doesn't come back at all - because no one was there to cover her - "
"All right!" Monique snapped. "You don't need to lay it on so thick. I guess I've got to, don't I? I just hope Shego won't mind having my rookie rear end along."
"Knowing Shego, she won't mind - but she won't let you see that, either," Dr. Director said ruefully. "So you're in? We all want you, Monique - not just because we can trust you, but also because we know what you're capable of."
If she was going to become an investor with her hard-earned savings, she'd better make sure it paid off, right?
"Oryx is in."
"Let usss get that cat moving," she hissed at the three well-muscled men working for her. They wore matching shirts, each with a different word on the front in small letters. "When our buyer findsss out hisss new acquisssition wasss formerly an extinct form of sssabertooth, he will undoubtedly pay us triple what the animal is worth."
"This is the last time I work for someone with a speech impediment," one of the men muttered as he led the heavily-sedated animal out of its cage by a noose around its neck tied to a long pole. Other exotic animals watched and squawked from their confinement.
"I'd rather she call us by our given names," another man grumbled.
"Asssp! Cobra! Be careful with that creature! It isss worth hundredsss of thousandsss of dollarsss!"
The Snake Charmer watched them move a little more carefully with disdain. She took a few steps after them, then tugged at the thigh of her costume a little uncomfortably. "Maybe I can afford something that doesn't chafe the skin now," she mumbled.
"This is SO lame," Shego groaned from their hiding place. "I feel like I'm trapped in a television set."
"I'd like to be trapped in a TV set," Ron muttered. "Maybe I could be the popular character, the one who gets all the girls. Or at least I could be on a show with no monkeys!"
"Can it," Kim hissed. "There are a lot of stolen animals in here, and we've got to take these people down without hurting them or letting them escape before they leave for the rendezvous."
"How about a decoy?" Ron asked. "It's what I do best."
Kim nodded. "Works for me."
Ron pulled Rufus and Ruby out of his pockets and retreated from their hiding place back into the shadows.
"We could always just dive in and beat them up," Shego pointed out.
"But like Ron said, this is what he does best," Kim replied.
Shego rolled her eyes.
"Ex-sssellent," the Snake Charmer said as the tiger was bundled into the portable crate in which it would be taken to the buy. She fondled the constrictor around her shoulders. "Sssoon the Sssnake Charmer will be the most famousss thief in the world!"
"Not if I have anything to do about it!"
The four criminals froze, then looked about wildly. "Who ssspoke!" the Snake Charmer called out.
"Who else but your greatest adversary? It is I, Snake Charmer! The Fearless Ferret!"
Back in their hiding place, Shego slapped her hand over her face.
"Imposssible!" the villainess shouted, still looking about for the source of the voice. "The Fearlesss Ferret is old and feeble now!"
"Just call me - Ferret 2.0!"
Ron came into view as he climbed onto a crate. "With my Wonder Twin Weasels!" he added, holding aloft Rufus and Ruby.
"Hah! You are just a boy! Asssp! Cobra! Python! Take care of him!"
The three goons ran forward, but Ron leapt over them, putting one foot on the shoulder of the thug bringing up the rear and bounding past them. Before they could recover and turn around, Ron ran toward the Snake Charmer and flung Ruby at her. The naked mole rat landed onto her face and hung on for dear life.
The Snake Charmer shrieked and dropped her snake. "EEEEEE! GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF!" she screamed as Ron dropped Rufus into the tiger's crate. Rufus instantly began chewing on the lock keeping it in.
"You wanted a decoy," Shego said as she stood up. "Enjoying it, Ferret Girl?"
"So not Ferret Girl," Kim retorted as she leapt out and ran after the hired muscle.
"You named your henchmen?" Ron asked the Snake Charmer as she pulled at Ruby. "That is so old school villain."
Pulling Ruby off, the Charmer threw her back at Ron. Ruby nimbly landed on his shoulder and crawled back into his pocket. "You insssolent pup! Where isss your costume?"
"Where did you get YOURS?" he shot back. "That looks like rayon, not leather. And the goggles? What do goggles have to do with snakes, anyway? I swear, everybody just HAS to update their look. Don't they get the original look worked best?"
"He's got a point," Kim told Shego, giving her green-and-black costume a glance as she plowed into the trio of goons, striking Asp in the jaw with her palm.
"Yeah, yeah," Shego grunted as she spun Python's head with a kick to his jaw.
"Leather isss expensssive," the Snake Charmer hissed as she picked up her snake, which had lain unmoving on the floor.
"What are you going to do with that?" Ron asked. "Constrict me from afar?"
She grinned nastily and held the snake like it was a rolled-up wet towel. Its head hung limply, and Ron realized it was either dead or a fake.
"Yikes!" he remembered. "Episode 23 - the Scales of Injustice!"
Then she pulled hard on the tail.
Luckily he dove out of the way, having recalled in the nick of time that a stream of toxic liquid would squirt out of the mouth of the weapon designed to look like a snake. It spilled onto the floor and scarred the concrete.
"If you want to be the Ferret, you can die like him!" the villainess cackled.
She didn't have the chance to say more, because Kim's fist struck her solidly across the face. The Snake Charmer collapsed and didn't get back up.
"I hate themed criminals," Kim said.
"Thanks, KP - look out!" Ron said, running at Kim.
She dove out of the way, and Cobra stumbled past where she had been standing. He'd escaped Shego's notice as she focused on pounding his partners into submission. Ron stopped his momentum with a shot to the stomach. "Biff!" he cried out as the fist connected. "Kapow!" Ron added as a second punch connected with his chin and dropped Cobra.
"You were really getting into that, weren't you?" Kim asked dryly.
"Hey, if somebody told you I was just a 21-year-old sidekick - "
"I know, somebody lied," she finished for him. Then she reached over and ruffled his hair. "Nice punch, by the way."
"Where's my compliment?" Shego complained as she dragged Asp and Python over.
"Nice costume," Kim said. "The original still looks best."
Shego snorted. "Better believe it."
To be continued . . .