Standard Disclaimer: Disney owns Kim Possible, Rufus owns all the cheese, and I own the blank space between lines.
Chapter 1 – Not All That Glitters
Kim Possible arrived at history class to find there was a new student there. This new student looked wary and had a hunted but determined expression on her face. Kim's first thought was bullying, but it didn't look as though the other kids had noticed a new arrival yet. She made a mental note to try and talk to the new student, if only to establish if there was anything she should be concerned about.
On the lesson starting, Kim noticed one other thing, As the new student bent down to write, there was an ugly red line on the new student's neck that indicated to her a blade had been closer than desired some time in the recent past. Again, perhaps innocent, perhaps not. Kim refused to second-guess.
After a depressingly long class, they were finally released for lunch. Kim told Ron to go on ahead, that she would catch up shortly. Then, without appearing to do so, she got alongside the new student.
"Hi, err, I'm Kim, are you a new student here?"
The girl nervously smiled. "I'm Catherine. Yes, started today."
"Is there something wrong?"
Catherine stopped for a moment, took a deep breath and struggled inwardly for a moment before letting it out. "Does nearly being decapitated by a tribe of headhunters who have been paid to kill me count as wrong or weird?"
Kim's eyebrows rose. "Uhhhh... no offence but why would tribesmen be paid to kill you?"
Catherine pondered. "I help out on archaeology digs. I... might have found something. But I can tell you're skeptical. It's ok, everyone else thinks I'm crazy, you're in good company."
Being seen as dismissive and uncaring was a new one for Kim and it took her a moment to recover.
"Ah, well, it's just that..."
At that moment, the Kimmunicator beeped and Kim (together with Ron) headed off to another sitch. Catherine ate alone, absorbed in her own world. Nobody noticed, let alone bothered, her.
Next morning, she was woken to familiar chirping.
"Good morning Wade," she yawned, "what's the sitch?"
"That background check you asked me to run on Catherine Duncan? Turned up quite a bit. Her father, Patrick, is both an archaeologist and a radio astronomer."
"It gets stranger. Listen to this. Their plane crashed last year under mysterious circumstances and they were missing for five months. When they resurfaced, they refused medical attention but headed immediately to an island whose occupants are so dangerous, all contact is forbidden"
"When did they return?"
"Nobody seems quite sure. Catherine suddenly appears in Middleton three days ago, but there's no record of where she's staying. Nor is there any record of her entering the country. Her father might be in Australia, but if he is, nobody is talking."
Kim's brain ran out of red flags and was furiously dying all the other flags red to fill the need.
"I don't like the sound of this."
"Me neither. I'll let you know if I find out any more."
The new information indicated dangerous projects and maybe even headhunters but not necessarily paid killers or mysterious artefacts. That was going to require quite a lot more. Further, if Catherine was in the country illegally, Kim felt some moral obligation to notify someone. That terrified look, though, gave her pause. She would give Catherine a chance to prove there was a legitimate concern and legitimate reason to be there.
However, that day was busy. So she decided to wait until after school to trail Catherine home and talk there. Maybe in a safer environment, she'd be more honest and open. Ron, of course, came along too. That limited stealth, but Catherine seemed not to notice. Or, if she did, she didn't care.
Catherine got off the bus on the edge of some farmland at one of the outermost stops. Quickly, she moved through woodlands to what looked like an old abandoned barn. Opening the door, she slipped inside.
Kim could understand trespass in times of need, but it would not bode well for Catherine if there was no need. Following carefully, she glanced into the barn. There was Catherine, together with a younger girl who might have been a sister. They were eating a stew, using tree bark as bowl-plates. Next to the cooking pot was a stack of stinging nettles, a pile of acorns, a greyish powder, assorted weeds and the remains of a couple of crows.
Kim Possible tried hard not to vomit at the sight. This was well below survival needs and crow had a reputation for being the worst, the most disgusting, wild food that could humanly still be called edible. She could hear Ron going outside. Her suspicion wasn't lessened but it was diluted by pity over this desperate bid for survival.
Her attention was, however, sidetracked as a series of explosions opened up part of the opposite wall. Gunmen poured in, firing wildly. Kim threw herself to the ground and hoped Ron had as well. There was nothing else she could do, such was the chatter of automatic weapons.
Some of the bullets struck an old stack of fuel cans. They exploded into flame, which spread rapidly in the bone-dry straw. The attackers let off a couple more bursts, then fled.
Kim, however, had people to save. She ran to where the two girls had been eating. The younger girl was missing half of her head and a good portion her body was riddled with holes. Blood and brain matter was everywhere. Catherine, burned, wounded, in shock and cowering, was still alive. Kim pulled her up from the floor, kicked away the rotten side planking, and dragged them both to safety. Working their way around to the front, they found a hysterical Ron who was convinced Kim had been killed.
"Ron! It's me! I'm still alive and ok!"
Sobbing, Ron held onto Kim for an embarrassing few minutes. In that time, Kim had called Wade and had him notify the police and fire departments after he'd checked that all radar indicated the intruders had left. She had also called her mother.
"Mom, I have a sitch."
"No, a homeless teen whose sister was murdered in front of her and who is now in deep shock."
There was a pause followed by a sigh.
"Kimmy, boys would be easier. Please and thank you. Are you taking her to the hospital?"
"If someone's trying to kill her, that might not be a good idea."
There was another pause.
"How much does she have to bring with her?"
"What's left of what's on her back and some trauma."
"Are her attackers still around?"
"Wade doesn't think so. I'm going to scout round in case. Ron can look after Catherine."
Ten minutes later and the Possibles' car drove up. Kim had returned - no sign of anyone - but it was obvious the attackers would figure out someone had survived when the media was filled with reports and they mentioned only one body. She therefore made sure the police and fire crews were ok with leaving her name off the police reports this one time. It wasn't officially witness protection, but they trusted Kim's judgement on the danger.
Conveying the injured girl to the car was the easy part. The clothes had partially burned onto the skin and that meant using burn-safe padding. Given the twins' passion for in-house rocketry, the car was fairly well stocked on treatments and padding for burns, along with blankets for incidental shock victims.
What proved much harder for Kim and Ron was dealing with a girl slipping in and out of shock, as this made it harder to process their own emotions. Ron had not seen the murder, but what he had seen together with everything he'd heard and been told was going to give him a sleepless night.
Kim's support network was better but this was a very different scenario and she suspected she was going to need to ask her mother for a knock-out drop, a capsule she took when sanity was not an option. A rare occurrence, but not unknown. Ann Possible also had drugs for counteracting trauma. Those were only effective if taken within about an hour of the event, but this shock was recent enough.
Mrs Possible provided Kim and Ron with the needed capsules, and broke open one of each over a glass of water she was taking to Catherine. They were going to need their strength and sanity, and a mild deviation from official policy in the name of medical ethics wasn't going to kill anyone.
The next day, Ann Possible took the first day of sick leave in three years. There was speculation but none of it accurate or, indeed, malicious. The news had talked of a disaster, after all.
During that time, she stretched medical ethics to its limit to provide the pain relief and anxiety treatment needed, particularly after carefully removing the burned remnants of Catherine's garments - along with rather too much charred flesh. Life and death was in the balance and this was a battle Mrs Dr Possible was absolutely determined to win.
After that day came the weekend. It wasn't until Sunday night that Anne felt Kim could safely question Catherine. She contacted Wade, then set the Kimmunicator to silent so Wade could listen in and look up anything that might be of interest.
"Catherine? Are you awake?"
Catherine slowly turned her head, her eyes showing the agony but her expression betraying none of it. Kim had been impressed by Catherine's determination all weekend. That, together with the attack, had led her to think she'd misjudged Catherine.
"Who are trying to kill you? What was the artefact you found?"
Catherine's inner battle raged, to tell and risk or to keep some things hidden. In the end, she realized she had to pass the information on or risk the wrong people learning of it.
"There's a mystic criminal... oh, you probably think that's rubbish..."
"I've dealt with one of two of those," Kim said dryly.
Catherine blinked, then said slowly "you might understand this, then. There is this person. Ann Dromeda. She is a mystic who wants to become a demigod."
Kim nodded, so Catherine continued.
"We, my dad and I, have been excavating a series of ruined shrines. Each one contained a tablet with an inscription in an unknown language and a second tablet in an archaic form of one we did know. The one we could read provided a little information and instructions on how to find the next. There seem to have been twenty-seven shrines in all, we found only ten. That might just be enough, though."
"Enough? For what?"
"The information suggests that the full set of tablets, if you follow the text we couldn't read, would make you immortal and godlike in intelligence and strength. As long as we have the tablets, they can't complete the ritual to do this. The rest is useless to them. So we're keeping them hidden."
"In a safe place, I hope."
"Several. Dad has half of them, I have half."
"How did you find them in the first place?"
"We were looking up ancient star maps, ancient people recorded the stars a lot. That was part of dad's astronomy. Stars sometimes die and if you find a star map where there's a star missing, well, chances are there's something dark there that you can only see if you know where to look. Also, there's only a few places where any given star map could have been drawn, because of mountains, latitude and stuff, and only a few times because stars move relative to each other."
Kim was nodding not because she understood any of it but because Wade would and because she wanted to keep Catherine talking. It would keep her from thinking about recent events too much.
"We found some maps that were drawn in the wrong places and at the wrong time."
"Wait, what? What do you mean?"
"They're all from a long chain of islands in the southern hemisphere that didn't use tablets, or even writing, and weren't known about by the people in Siberia where the tablets were found. Nobody in Siberia used shrines that far back, but they were found in shrine that matched the shrines in the islands we found the ritual tablets in. Someone went to a lot of trouble to protect the secret."
"If these people are after the tablets, why are they trying to kill you?"
"Well, they know I won't talk and they know the tablets aren't on me, so I guess they don't want me moving them. They then have all the time to look."
Kim wasn't convinced but it was a starting point.
"What about your father?"
"We agreed no contact, so that if they found one of us the other still had a chance. I have no idea where he is or if he's alive."
That sounded depressing, but Kim had some sympathy for the problem. The tactic was crude and likely ineffective but two desperate people with no understanding of how to avoid a danger are going to try something and at least there was some rationale behind it.
"When did you last see him?"
"About a month ago. We split up in Johannesburg, South Africa. The idea was to mingle with crowds and get ourselves lost, then head out solo in the bush. We both knew enough bushcraft to last a while, before getting lost in crowds elsewhere. No paper trail between places. It was a gamble, but nothing else we had tried had worked."
Kim didn't mention that obviously this hadn't worked either. She tried changing tack. "So who is this Ann Dromeda?"
"I don't know much. We have the name by chance. Two people walking near a cave we had been excavating mentioned that an Ann Dromeda was after some people with tablets. One of them led an attempt to kill us in our camp a few days later, so we were sure that we were the people being discussed."
Kim frowned. "I need to get you your medicine, but I'll see what I can find out while I'm gone."
Catherine looked so utterly defeated and exhausted that Kim was concerned that help would be limited to finding this Ann Dromeda and maybe ensuring Catherine was buried decently. She was honestly not sure Catherine wanted to pull through, for all that she held her mother's talents in high regard.
Once away from the guest room, she turned up the sound on the Kimmunicator. "Did you hear all that?"
"Yes!" exclaimed Wade. "I've checked every database I can find, there are repeated references to a shadowy Ann Dromeda but nobody knows who she is or if she's even real. Everything linked to her has been traced to one or another of the criminal masterminds, but never to a single person. GJ think it's a name of a consortium, but they can't prove that either."
Kim was not impressed by GJ theorizing, they'd once believed Ron was the secret ingredient in Team Possible. Ron wasn't the secret anything of anything. Ron and secrets didn't mix. Another time, they thought cheese gave rodents superpowers.
"Any lead on the attackers?"
"Yes. Within hours of the police saying there was only one body, twenty henchmen were found dead in an abandoned shop. They'd been beheaded."
Kim was all for limiting deaths of henchmen. She accepted that in a self-destructing base, you didn't have time to head-count who had got out and you were usually a little busy running to offer help, but that was accidental not intentional. So for twenty to die, for no good reason as far as she was concerned, was a body-blow. These couldn't be passed off as unavoidable due to the nature of evil lairs and their security arrangements. But why beheaded?
Wade didn't know but was looking into that. The greenish tinge to his face suggested he'd had to look into something very different after reading the reports. She disconnected the call.
Ok, she was facing a mysterious master-super-villain who hired super-villains and then eliminated traces. So not good and so very much the drama.
By the time she'd got the medicine and settled Catherine down, she got a beep.
"The Australian Air Force wants you to deal with someone who has stolen a top secret set of plans."
"Any idea what sort of plans?"
"No, I... errr."
"Checked their computer systems to find out?"
"Yes. There's no record of them"
Kim was not normally suspicious, but the timing of an Australian operation was, well, suspicious and the fact that Wade had found nothing doubly so. Still, she arranged transport and got Ron, as usual.
Once at the air base, her suspicions were roused further. Apparently, the thief had some sort of mind control device and they'd need to install an implant in them to prevent them being taken over.
Faking an excuse, she got to the bathroom and called Wade, who agreed to monitor things through the Kimmunicator. That settled, she returned only slightly paranoid.
"Ok, give us whatever it is."
The whatever it is turned out to be a tiny microchip implanted behind each year. They didn't feel any different afterwards and forgot about it. Wade, however, continued monitoring.
They were dropped outside of a radio astronomy facility. Kim felt this should mean something but had trouble remembering. As they entered the building, they saw there were no guards and no security measures. This was not the usual arrangement of a thief. She failed to notice Wade trying to get her attention.
"This is too easy", whispered Ron.
"Agreed!" came the reply.
They crept into the control room, where there was one man operating the controls. He was not paying them any attention, if he had heard them at all.
Kim rushed the man and knocked him out. She felt a sudden urge to kill him and run, but fought it back. That would have to wait. She needed to know where the stolen thing was.
Alarms suddenly went off and Kim broke from her trance. Noticing the Kimmunicator for the first time in a while, she grabbed it. "It can't be self destruct!" she shouted. Suddenly the alarms cut.
"No, that was me", said Wade. "You've been under mind control and now you're under an aerial attack. Bombers are closing in on your position with orders to destroy."
Kim blinked. People attempting to destroy her wasn't unusual, but it was usually the people she was trying to catch and not the people who had sent her in the first place.
She looked around and noticed a hatch leading underground. "It's our only chance! Help me death him there."
"But he's evil!"
"Just do it!"
They dropped him down a fairly long shaft, they had no choice, and had just closed and locked the hatch when bombs started falling.
At the bottom of the shaft, they'd found a thick layer of crash mats. They also found the man had sustained a broken leg but nothing worse. There was a door off the shaft into what looked like a bomb shelter. They dragged the man into that as well, then closed the door there.
The vibrations from the bombs were less and their minds felt clearer than ever. A search yielded basic first aid supplies, a little food, some water and a pen knife, but nothing more. Certainly nothing that could be called a secret and nothing that was likely stolen.
"Wade, can you wake him up safely? I think this could be important."
The screen was distorted but she should see Wade give the thumbs up. A couple of electrodes snuck out of the Kimmunicator and attached themselves to the unconscious man. A quick jolt and they heard him stirring.
It took a while for him to revive, but when he did, Kim asked the question that had started bugging her when she entered the shelter.
"Can you tell us your name?"
The man looked brightly up at Kim. "The name's Patrick. Patrick Duncan. And you are?"
Kim nodded, her suspicions confirmed. "Kim Possible."
Ron butted in. "And her friend Ron Stoppable!"
"You don't look like the usual assassins we get around here."
Kim smiled ruefully. "They gave us implants."
"Where did they put them, if it's not too embarrassing?"
"Behind the ears."
"Deep or something you can remove yourself?"
Kim spoke into the Kimmunicator. "Can we remove the implants safely?"
She could make out that he wanted her to scan them. She scanned Ron's, then had him scan hers.
"Just lift them out gently on a knife blade." was his advice.
She wasn't sure about Ron's skills but this man seemed familiar with them. She handed him the pen knife and knelt to make it easy for him. She was not comfortable for those few minutes, she had never turned her back on a knife-wielding suspect before and wasn't inclined to make a practice of it.
Once her implant was removed, it was Ron's turn. It was no easier for him.
Once done, she sat by the man. "I really am sorry for attacking you. I didn't mean to."
"I suspect you did a few things not in your nature with these implants. You are not to blame if others break into your mind like that."
Kim nodded. She was familiar with mind control devices. "What is this place? It's not just a bomb shelter, is it?"
"No, it's engineered to passively jam this sort of mind control."
"Passive jam?" asked Ron. "Is that like strawberry jam? I was attacked once by an angry rack of strawberry jam. It was at camp."
Patrick grinned. "No, not like strawberry jam. It just means it doesn't use power, it can't be hacked and it can't be detected. I'm sorry if I'm having trouble placing your name, I've had a chaotic time recently."
"Your daughter told me."
Patrick looked up in alarm.
"It's ok, she's not well but she's safe."
"You said daughter..."
Kim sighed. This was really not the best time. "I'm sorry, her younger sister was killed by gunmen, she survived and is safe."
"If the reason they picked you is because they know about your connection..."
Ron gulped and Kim blanched. "Wade?"
"On it." The Kimmunicator went blank. A very long and painful minute passed before it beeped."Go, Wade!"
"Everything's ok there, but Jim and Tim are arming some rockets."
"I'm not sure who should be more worried."
Wade smirked and cut the connection.
Ron had got up and checked the door they'd come through. It opened inwards and revealed... The way out was completely blocked with rubble. "The entire building is probably rubble..."
"Errr, KP, how are we going to get out? It's Bueno Nacho's half price extravaganza tonight!"
"There might be a few more important reasons for getting out."
"Nothing is more important than half price nacos."
Patrick shook his head in amazement, then pointed out the side doors. "One of those should work."
The first one revealed a collapsed tunnel and an unexploded bomb. They decided to try the other and return to that one only if necessary. It wasn't necessary. The second door yielded a corridor for maybe half a mile.
Between then, Ron and Kim carried Patrick along the corridor and up a gentle slope for another half mile. Ron was exhausted by the end of it, but didn't drop Patrick or slip, stumble or fall himself.
At the top of the slope there was a plastic hatch.
"Wait before opening. Can you scan the vicinity for people?"
Kim nodded. She called Wade and asked for a scan. The signal was much better here. Within moments, Wade shook his head and gestured to be quiet. A challenge for Ron, but one he managed without bragging about his silence skills first. He did that after Wade gave the all-clear, which annoyed Kim although she respected the fact that he managed to wait.
Once in the open, discovery would be a matter of time. However, Kim and Wade had figured they couldn't get a ride. Patrick thought for a moment, then offered a suggestion Kim would normally reject outright. Unless it involved the twins. Wade had monitored the control signals and the effect. All he had to do was generate his own control signal, aimed at some minor figure nobody would notice. They could borrow a covered jeep for the journey to somewhere else, say with an airfield.
This proved a lot easier said than done and Kim was deeply bothered by the ethics. She was also acutely aware that stealthy break-ins or breakouts were the province of criminals. It did not come naturally to her. After about ten minutes, however, a jeep was parked over the escape tunnel.
"Once the hatch is open, let the sand drain completely. It'll make it easier."
Kim nodded, also unhappy about taking direction. Especially as he knew thief-like tactics. Maybe both sides were up to no good. She would keep her eye on him.
The sand out, Patrick boosted Kim to the point where she could actually get out of the hole without sending down too much sand. She lowered a rope. With a little help from Ron, Patrick also made it out, followed by Ron. Rufus stayed in Ron's pocket, determined not to fall down the hole.
Wade motioned them to wait, then gestured for them to move quickly. Ron and Kim carried Patrick into the back, where the three lay under a tarpaulin. It wasn't a long wait. A man clambered in to the driver's seat, then drove off to the north-west. Within minutes, they reached a tiny shanty town. The driver got out and walked away. Kim had no idea how to drive this ancient vehicle, but followed Wade's instructions. It was kangaroo hopping at the start, and some gear changes suggested the gears might never work again, but they managed at last to get to a town with an airstrip.
Fortunately, one of the pilots had been rescued by Kim the previous year and flew them all to a research station just outside the rainforest. From there, Wade got them a ride to an international airport and back to America. That part was very much no big, with the small problem that Patrick was suffering from mild convulsions.
Kim reached out to the one person who could help.
"Mom! It looks like he's having seizures! What do I do?"
Her mother's image on the Kimmunicator stressed the problems the distances caused. An image is just an image.
"Can you do a brain scan with the Kimmunicator?"
"I don't know, I'll check with Wade."
A second call.
"Wade! I need to run a brain scan, with the results sent to mom!"
A light emitted from the front scanned Patrick's head, before going out. Moments later, Mrs Dr Possible called.
"There's not much you can do right now, he's had several shocks to the head recently and it looks like he's prone to this sort of problem. There may be a little bleeding on the brain, so you need to get him to a hospital quickly."
Kim bit her lip, hoping she was not, in some way, a cause of serious health problems. Guilty or innocent, that was not her style.