Kim hit the tree canopy, which slowed her fall a bit. Her parachute was ripped to shreds, though, and her fall continued. Next, she hit lower-lying trees on the edge of the clearing she had been aiming for, before finally ending up in a marsh. She felt utterly disgusted and disgusting, but she found she'd escaped without so much as a bruise.

Shego was nearby, removing her chute. "Always trying to show off, princess!" she mocked.

Ann Possible landed deep in the clearing, unbuckled and jogged over to see if Kim was ok. "Don't give me scares like that!" she breathed in relief.

Shego scowled. "Your precious princess was in no danger."

"I didn't think she was, but the two for one sale on those mission clothes was over and you know who she'd be asking for money if they got ruined."

Shego shook her head. "Enough! Kimmie, you saw the fighting with that replicant. You'll have to give up on the goody two shoes right now. We won't be offered a second chance and they're not like Drakken. They won't leave you tied up while they gloat. They will do the sorts of things you saw. I'm not fighting in this if that's the likely result."

Kim understood Shego's point of view, but also understood this was an attempt to push her into far darker paths than she had any intent of going on.

"I'll do whatever I have to to beat them, but you remember what Patrick said when Drakken was producing the replicants. The shrines talked of getting power from terror, pain and death. We don't want to be making them stronger, that really would lead to us being defeated."

"Yeah, right, you believe that nonsense?"

Kim paused, but Ann Possible took over. "This cult obviously does, which means that if we kill them, they'll be braver. However, if we stun them, they'll think themselves weaker."

Shego mulled this over. It was the thought process of a lunatic, but as Shego felt the Possible family were half lunatic, Shego had to consider the possibility that this was a valid interpretation. Besides, if it was true and she obtained the secret, she could let her sadistic streak out a bit more. It would make her more formidable. If it didn't work, she could still have some fun.

"Perhaps. But if I decide to eliminate someone, you two back off."

Kim and Ann glanced at each other. They needed Shego, and Shego knew it. There wasn't time for debate and the situation in the base might make all argument superfluous anyway.

"You do what you need to do."

"I was planning on it. Second thing, we scout. If there are multiple entrances, we should attack by different ones. Close but different. That way, they can't just bomb that exit and have done with it. Anyone got a problem with that?"

Ann spoke up. "That's an excellent idea!"

Shego blinked. Mrs Dr Possible hadn't been sarcastic or obsequious. That had been a genuine compliment. It wasn't often she got those, particularly from a designated foe whose intelligence, she reluctantly admitted, was actually quite considerable.

"This way then."

The three of them moved in the direction the Kimmunicator indicated the beacon was still transmitting, with Shego in the lead.

"Stop!" Kim shouted.

Shego snarled. "Why? Got a stone or a frog in your shoe?"

Kim moved a foot and a half in front of Shego. She had been right, it wasn't a trick of the light.


Kim picked up a rock and threw it into the ground just across from the tripwire. The rock, and two feet of ground either side fell into a pit with spikes at the bottom.

Shego stood, arms folded. "Finished?"

"You very nearly were. If you'd fallen face-first onto that trap, you'd not be able to stop yourself landing on those spikes."

Shego smirked. "Do you want to lead?"

Kim wondered if Shego intended for her to land on any future spikes. It took every ounce of will-power to not grab control from this lunatic, but she needed Shego to be committed.

"You can lead. There is one thing I'm still unsure about."

"Only one? What?"

"Why you are helping. And don't say the money, you could have stolen that in an afternoon."

Shego pondered. You're mine, she thought, but this was probably not the ideal place to explain that, given Kim's mother was capable of giving her a flying kick into the pit.

"Insurance. Any threat so big that you'd actually beg me for help with is a threat so big that it won't tolerate anything else."

Kim blinked. Beg? The tweebs... They must have simulated her image when they called Shego. She must remember to beat them up before thanking them.

It took about twenty minutes to reach the hillside. Other than the beacon, nothing indicated anything unusual about it. A further thirty minutes of searching yielded four concealed entrances. Scanning the entrances showed tunnels leading down, so no possibility of breaking in through the roof.

Kim handed Shego a large pack of plastic explosive and some detonators, then set to work rigging up a shaped charge on the entrance she had selected for not going through. This was to show confusion over who had entered where, dividing any defences.

On the entrance she did want to use, she asked Wade to scan and open the lock, as it was purely electronic.

Within seconds it was done. Seconds later, she remotely detonated the explosives on the other door. She didn't know what Shego was doing, but hoped she had timed her entrance by the explosion.

As a matter of fact, Shego had. She'd used just enough explosives to smash open a door and she entered through it. If the defenders thought explosions were a decoy, there would be much less trouble this way.

Shego travelled maybe half a mile on the downward slope beyond the door. So far, nothing. No alarms that she could hear, no running feet. Concerning but not devastating. Her energy blasts could take care of most ambushes. She observed that the lights were bright in the tunnel, maybe indicating minimal lighting or darkness in the base. That would leave anyone entering totally exposed to any defences. She wondered if Kimmie had figured that out.

As she reached the final corner, she saw what she expected - total blackness. That meant a welcoming committee. She smiled inwardly. She was going to give them something to welcome. She had brought along a few of Drakken's bombs, plus a few empty spheres. The bombs would come in handy later. She packed a sphere with high explosives, some flash powder plus detonator, then threw it hard down that last stretch, throwing an energy blast at the lights. Getting back round the corner, she waited until she was rewarded with a powerful shockwave and the screams of the injured and dying. Her eyes were only slowly adjusting to the dark, but they would have a hard time seeing her if she acted fast. Their own night vision would be temporarily lost from the flash powder.

Not one to waste an opportunity, she ran as swiftly as she dared down the remaining passageway, entering what seemed to be a large cavern. Wounded guards struggled to get weapons ready. Her energy blasts, intensified by her anger, eliminated them without mercy.

Now the alarms sounded.

In the other tunnel, Kim and Ann had waited. They'd known a tempestuous Shego would help matters. As soon as the alarm sounded, they rolled smoke bombs and a concussion grenade into the cavern, paused to let the weapon fire identify where the guards were. The concussion grenade only stunned a few, but it was an opening. Dividing the remaining guards between them, they silently ploughed their way through the foe until there was nobody left standing. Conscious of Shego's warning about guards re-entering the fray, they'd compromised on the ethical issues by breaking arms and legs even amongst the defeated. Those could heal, just not quickly enough to return to the fight. This had required putting on knuckle dusters, weapons they personally abhorred but saw as an alternative to Shego's murderous philosophy. The weapons had been supplied by Shego, just in case. It was possible there were more severe injuries, but they lacked the time to check.

Scrambling over the makeshift defences, they headed around the periphery to the entranceway for the door they'd blown up. Sure enough, there were lots of guards there, waiting. Smoke bombs and hand-to-hand combat left these guards in no better shape than the last lot. Kim hoped this was enough to maintain any confusion amongst the defenders.

They continued around to the next entrance, which was unguarded. Advancing towards the centre, they realised they were getting close to an underground aircraft hanger. It didn't take long to find the fuel tanks and conceal explosives there. This part of the base had few guards, which suggested the guards were concentrating around where the attackers were supposed to be.

Occasionally, in the distance, they'd see green glowing plasma and explosions, followed by terrified screams. That was probably another reason for so few guards.

They rigged a few charges on a couple of aircraft, before running towards the action. Shego must not, under any circumstances, get captured.

Once well clear of the hanger, the explosives were detonated. The chain of explosions rocked the whole of the cavern and, from the sounds of it, brought down some of the roof. If that didn't help Shego, nothing would.

Shego found herself face down on the floor, a thin layer of rubble on top of her. Her ears were ringing so much she was unsure if her eardrums were intact. Incoming fire had been virtually zero for a while, as the defenders tried to get better positions. She wasn't quite sure what had happened, except that behind her was a distant fire of gigantic proportions and the stability of the cavern had been compromised. She suspected Kim was to blame.

Ann Dromeda's room was a mess. A large amount of the ceiling was now floor. She, herself, was looking around, disgusted. She gathered the talismans of power, one for siphoning the negative energy of those near her, one for prophecy and one for mind control. The incomplete talisman of immortality was left. Leaving the room, she headed towards the battle. It didn't matter whose negative energy she stole, she became more powerful. She would win by default.

As she approached the first battle scene, she saw a woman in green and black hurling plasma bolts everywhere. The air was thick with impending death. Breathing in, Ann Dromeda sucked that death into her, along with the anger, jealousy and rage of the woman. Power! Such power! A slight green aura started emanating from around her, as the woman collapsed, totally drained of everything that kept her going and kept her from hiding in herself.

Ann Dromeda glanced at Shego. Down and out for now, perhaps an amusing toy later. She seemed to have the stamina to last maybe even a few weeks of entertainment.

A metal sphere landed at her feet. It exploded, sending Ann Dromeda flying backwards. Her energy had absorbed the blast, but she was almost ordinary again. A woman and a girl advanced on her. She flew into an attack frenzy, but whichever one she attacked was able to dance away with little effort whilst the other landed blow after blow.

This was not easy for Kim, a grossly unfair fight. Well, unfair except the enemy had superhuman strength and speed, albeit only marginally superhuman. She was going to be a mass of bruises with some Kim in between them after this.

The battle raged for well over an hour, a war of attrition that saw Ann collapse exhausted and injured before Kim landed the decisive blow. Ann Dromeda was down but quickly healing. Kim ripped the talismans from her, and Ann Dromeda fell back, defeated.

Kim rushed to her mother, who was semi-conscious. Not certain of the ethics of this, Kim placed the talisman that had glowed when Ann Dromeda was healing over her mother's neck. The talisman glowed again and Ann's injuries started to heal, fixed by the suffering of others. Kim decided her mother probably shouldn't get told about that.

Shego had managed to work her way over to Ann Dromeda. Picking her up, she threw her onto a protruding metal spike in a burning, collapsed structure. Ann Dromeda weakly screamed in agony from both impalement and the fire. The rush of torment poured into Ann Possible, who began to recover consciousness.

Kim rapidly removed the talisman and threw it and the mind control talisman into the fire.

Shego barely noticed, enjoying the smell of the seared flesh of someone who could have killed her. She waited until she was satisfied Ann Dromeda had cooked enough, then used plasma blasts to smash the skull open and send brain matter everywhere.

Kim looked on, wordless, before trembling a little. If Shego ever went solo, Kim could expect no more mercy than that.

Shego's evil smile confirmed her fears.

Ann wandered over to her daughter and looked at the talisman. "What's that?"

"Something that's supposed to tell us about the future. The man who murdered the replicants? I haven't seen him. And he had a talisman for stealing power, too. We need to finish this."

Ann nodded. Kim put on the talisman and thought about the man. The image came up quickly and Kim nearly gagged. The man had been disembowelled over a tank of piranhas. He was still alive, but had no healing amulet and would have been beyond its capabilities in any case. Kim saw that it was some of his agony that had healed her mother. It hadn't been necessary healing, just useful, but they could leave the sooner for it.

She shuddered, realizing that the great fight between good and evil had a lot to do with convenience.

She then thought of Catherine, hoping she had survived, having been placed in peril unintentionally. Catherine was in intensive care and the doctors looked grave. Kim floundered for the talisman that could heal, then realized she had destroyed it. Besides, feeding off suffering in hospital would make things worse for many more.

Removing the amulet, she pulled out her Kimmunicator.

"Wade? I'm going to need a ride."