Written for thepsychicclam for Yuletide 2011. Thanks to my husband for unfailing support and help with ideas. Thanks to Hope of Dawn for hand holding at the end. Thanks to Olna Jenn, thenewradical and Valerie for beta reading and other help.
"What is it?" Isabella prodded the device that looked like a toy train with the toe of her shoe.
"Don't do that!" Candace snapped. "Who knows what it does?" She studied it with suspicion. With Doofenshmirtz, assuming the worst was the only smart thing to do. Isabella knows better.
"Choo-choo!" Doofenshmirtz leaned as far toward the apparent toy as his bonds would allow. "That's Choo-choo, my train!"
Candace ignored the defeated dictator. "We'll have Dr. Baljeet take a look." She turned around, taking stock of the room. Isabella and her team still surrounded Doofenshmirtz, watching for any escape attempt. Johnson and Buford stood in the doorway, ready to warn her if an enemy approached. Candace nodded her approval.
The white haired man was attempting to do something with a phone. "No, I don't know the current codes. This is Francis Monogram. If you go back four years- Yes, I can hold."
Candace considered taking the phone away from him. All she knew about him was that he'd worked for Doofenshmirtz and had eagerly admitted the rebels to Doofenshmirtz's inner sanctum. She only hesitated because he seemed to have some sort of plan while she wasn't sure what came next. I never thought past this point. Everything's supposed to go back to the way it was, but years of Doofenshmirtz can't be erased instantly. She frowned as her eyes fell on Phineas, Ferb and Perry. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
Recognizing Candace's tone, both boys jumped and put their hands behind their backs, trying to look like they hadn't even thought about touching the control panel in front of them. Perry the platyborg chittered but didn't move.
Phineas leaned down, attempted to pick up the platyborg but found him too heavy to lift. After a second, he gave up. He looked up at Candace with wide eyes. "But Candace- We need to figure out what it does." He tried a smile.
Candace stared at Phineas. Her every protective instinct screamed to send the boys home. But if they were anyone else, I'd be recruiting them. They're good, maybe even as good as the them from the other universe. The Resistance consisted primarily of children and teens, and she couldn't afford to be picky. Except we don't need new recruits, do we? We have Doofenshmirtz. There's no more Resistance. It's done. Isn't it? She felt herself relax a little. Then the enormity of change that lay ahead started to seem like a chasm. On the other side was 'back to normal,' and she had no idea how to get there.
"Choo-choo," Doofenshmirtz said softly. He was almost crooning. "Choo-choo. When I was a boy, back in Gimmelshtump, I had a toy train. Then I lost it. It's a sad, sad story."
"Are you trying to make me feel sorry for you?" Candace joined the Firestorm girls in glaring at Doofenshmirtz.
"Is it working?" He looked hopeful.
"Not even a little bit," the white haired man said.
The Firestorm girls growled an agreement.
"If you let me keep Choo-choo, I'll cooperate." Candace couldn't believe the deposed dictator was trying to bargain. "It's a train. Really. It's just a train."
"What could you possibly have that we need?" Candace demanded.
The white haired man looked thoughtful. "You'll give the orders we demand? Give us your passwords?"
Doofenshmirtz nodded emphatically. "Whatever you want."
Candace went stiff. "You can't imagine-"
"Young lady," the white haired man interrupted. "Everything's about to change. People aren't ready for it. At the very least, he can order the factories closed and send everybody home. People will be safer there."
"We don't know that it really is a train," Johnson put in from the doorway, "and we don't know you. We follow Candace."
Even Buford muttered an agreement.
Before Candace could stop him, Phineas crossed over to the supposed toy and picked it up. He held it in front of his eyes, turned it over, and frowned. He poked it with one finger. "I think it really is a train, Candace." He turned it again and used a finger to spin the wheels.
Candace gritted her teeth. Snapping at Phineas wouldn't do any good. "You'll forgive me if I have someone else take a look at it, just to confirm that." The thought of giving Doofenshmirtz anything that he wanted rankled. She looked at the white haired man. "I don't know what you're trying to do, but you need to run things by me before you go any farther." Before you make anything worse.
The white haired man cleared his throat and offered her his hand. "Francis Monogram, formerly Major Francis Monogram."
Candace hesitated only a second. "Candace Flynn." She shook his hand firmly.
"I'm trying to reach some of my old associates." He looked a little embarrassed, and she wondered why. "We need the National Guard or something similar. Nobody knows what to do without Doofenshmirtz, and we need to prevent riots and looting. Everything's going to be disrupted, including food supplies, as people realize that they don't have to do what he-" Monogram waved his hand at Doofenshmirtz. "-ordered. Are you ready to give orders to all the people in the Tri-State Area?"
Candace swallowed hard. "If I have to." Will they listen? Mom will kill me. She raised her chin. "We've been working to stop Doofenshmirtz for years."
Monogram cleared his throat again. He looked around the room. "And you've done an admirable job, an admirable job." He hesitated. "I expected someone older." It sounded almost like a question.
Who is he- a collaborator- to question us? But this National Guard sounds like a good idea. We need something. Candace looked at Doofenshmirtz. "If- if- my experts determine that this thing really is just a train, you can have it, but the cooperation better start now. First, I want you to tell everyone in the building to leave. I want nobody left but my people." She looked at Isabella. "We'll prop him up in front of the screen so that the ropes don't show."
Having Doofenshmirtz order everyone in the building to leave took no more than a minute. The broadcast closing the factories and sending all non-essential workers home took longer because they had to work out the exact wording and figure out how to feed the words to Doofenshmirtz while he was on the air.
"We don't want to close the hospitals or the fire department," Johnson pointed out. "There are jobs that need to be done even now."
Nobody was entirely happy with the final wording, but it did more or less what they wanted it to. A few minutes of broadcast time and the entire Tri-State area started shutting down. Candace hated feeling so powerful.
After the broadcast, Candace delegated Isabella and Buford to stay with Monogram and Doofenshmirtz while Monogram interrogated the deposed dictator. She sent the other Firestorm girls out to alert the Resistance and to bring back reinforcements. Phineas and Ferb went into Doofenshmirtz's private lab. Candace thought about stopping them, about sending them home, but she suspected that they were safer here, at least for now.
Candace and Johnson went to Doofenshmirtz's surveillance center. He had told them his passwords and explained that the controls might be a little awkward as usually the place was staffed by Normbots. The room itself was larger than Candace expected. It had two doors and a large window. What's the point of a window in a place like this? she wondered.
She and Johnson busied themselves figuring out how everything worked. By the time the Firestorm girls started returning, Candace and Johnson were able to steer them carefully around pockets of remaining employees and into key areas for controlling the building. Isabella broke in occasionally to provide passwords and other information.
Candace leaned forward and clicked on her headset. "Holly, they still haven't cleared out of the room ahead of you. Hold back. We don't want more prisoners." She could hear Johnson giving Adyson's group the go ahead to move her group into the prison bloc.
"Find out who's in those cells," Johnson said. "Some of them might be ours."
Candace itched to simply release all those prisoners, but she knew that doing that would be as good as announcing that Doofenshmirtz had fallen. Much as she wanted to make that announcement, she believed Monogram when he predicted violence. We didn't win this just to lose now. She hoped Monogram could make good on his promises. We can only sit on this for so long. Each person we bring in makes the news getting out more likely. "Gretchen, you're clear to go ahead. Find out if any Normbots are left. Doofenshmirtz says not, but-" I don't trust him. "See what else you can control from there."
She leaned back and scrubbed her hands over her eyes. "We've almost got control of the building," she told Johnson. "Most of the people left aren't in critical areas. I think we give them ten more minutes to clear out and then arrest whoever's left. We'll find room for them in the cells."
Candace couldn't see Johnson salute, but she heard it in his voice. How do I start a conversation? The other Candace made it seem so easy. For the first time, Candace found herself feeling awkward being alone with a boy. "We can't afford for anything to go wrong." She turned to look at Johnson.
Johnson stiffened then relaxed. He smiled at her. "We've won. Nobody knows it yet, but we've won."
"I'll relax when the National Guard arrives." Candace pulled out her ball and squeezed it until her fingers hurt. "Monogram promised they would, but we don't know him. He's not one of ours. And Doofenshmirtz could still escape."
"And do what?" Johnson sounded calm, utterly reasonable. "Without the Normbots, he's done. Nobody likes him, and none of the collaborators have enough power now to take over."
"But who's in charge?" Candace knew she shouldn't be asking the question, shouldn't let anyone see her uncertainties. I'm supposed to be the strong one. "Us? We may have been the Resistance, but adults aren't going to listen to us." And what do we- I- do? The past four years have been all about Doofenshmirtz. I don't have anything else. "Mom is going to kill me when she finds out." She hurled the ball at the floor so hard that she missed the return bounce.
"My mom's going to be pretty mad, too." Johnson stood up and went after the ball. "She might not let me out of the house again."
"Maybe we could just not tell them." The idea appealed to Candace. But the longer I spend here, the more likely she is to notice, especially with the boys gone, too. She might come out of the basement any time. "Assuming something happens soon."
Johnson smiled and tossed her the ball. He returned to his chair and gave his monitors a once over. "Nothing new here, sir."
That seemed to end the conversation. Realizing too late that she could have smiled back, Candace turned back to her monitors. She kept her ball in one hand. I'd like to see him smile again. She busied herself cycling through the cameras in the building, checking rooms she'd previously marked as clear. Nothing unexpected on the monitors. What are the boys doing? On the screen, she saw Phineas up to his elbows in the guts of some machine while Ferb lifted, inspected and rejected a series of tools. They seem to be all right.
She let the silence stretch for a minute then she cleared her throat. "So what do you think you'll do now that we don't have to worry about Doofenshmirtz?" That should be safe enough. She glanced over at Johnson.
He looked thoughtful. "I hadn't really thought about it. I mean, I never really thought we'd win. There were too many Normbots." He rubbed the back of his head. "I suppose... I'd like to take my little sister to a park. There's got to be one left somewhere."
"Parks are good places to put statues, and Doofenshmirtz loved statues." Candace scanned the monitors. The last few employees were packing up to go. "It seems wrong to just send them home. Some of them are as guilty as Doofenshmirtz."
"People know who the collaborators were. Once everyone realizes the Normbots are gone, really gone, it's going to get ugly." Johnson stood and started a circuit of the room. He paused at each doorway, looking out. "I think I'd like to learn to play the guitar. I started, before, but my teacher disappeared."
They were both silent for a moment, thinking about the disappeared. Some had been disintegrated by the Normbots, not even leaving a body to show what had happened.
Seeing that the room Holly's group was heading for was finally clear, Candace gave Holly the go ahead. That's the last group. The building is really ours. Somehow, the thought didn't spark triumph.
After a long pause, Johnson said, "What do you want to do now that Doofenshmirtz has been defeated?"
Candace turned to face him. She bounced her ball once off the floor. She caught it and threw it again. "I want to go to the beach," she said. She remembered one perfect afternoon, not long after her mom and dad married. Phineas and Ferb had split their time between running in and out of the water and building sand castles. Candace had brought her friend, Stacy, and they'd romped through the waves together. "I don't think the boys can even swim." She bounced the ball once more then tossed it at Johnson.
He caught it and threw it back in a single, easy motion. "I know Suzy can't."
Candace caught the ball. She prepared to throw again then stopped. "We shouldn't be playing. We're in the heart of enemy territory."
"It's not really enemy territory any more, sir." In spite of his words, Johnson turned his attention back to the monitors.
"Call me Candace. We're working together."
"I'm Jeremy, then."
"Jeremy." Candace tried out the shape of the name. "Maybe we could all go to the beach." She let herself dream a little. "I bet your sister would like that."
"We could have a fire and toast marshmallows." Jeremy sounded like he could almost taste the marshmallows.
Jeremy laughed a little. "Hotdogs, too. Think we can do it this summer?"
I definitely like that laugh. Candace considered Jeremy's question. "Maybe. It's the beginning of August." How long will it take to get back to normal? And what's 'normal?' Can Mom and Dad get their antique store back? "The changes came in fast. Maybe they'll go away just as fast." She watched as images of her people taking over operation of Doofenshmirtz Tower paraded past. "My brothers look so happy, taking those machines apart." They weren't happy before. Safe but not happy.
"They're really good at what they do, just like you."
Candace felt a little glow of pride at the compliment. She knew she was competent. But having Johnson- Jeremy- say it! "I never knew they were good at anything. I was too busy protecting them." Even knowing that Jeremy couldn't see her, she waved a hand at the monitors. "All of this, all these years, it's been about them, about protecting them from the world." Was I right? Say I was right.
"And you did it." Candace could hear the smile in Jeremy's voice. "Doofenshmirtz is gone, and your brothers are safe. We're going to take our families to the beach."
I did. They are. We will. Candace found herself smiling. "Yeah. I guess so." Maybe all of this will work out. Maybe the other Candace is right. Jeremy is cute, and I like him. He seems to like me. I suppose we'll see.