Disclaimer:

Kim Possible was created by Mark McCorkle and Robert Schooley, and is copyright Disney Corporation.

Sapphire & Steel and all characters thereof are the creation of P. J. Hammond and copyright ITC.

Time is the creation of the universe, copyright uncertain.

Kim was relaxing after a hard day's school. She was never quite sure why classes with Mr Barkin were more exhausting than fighting villains. She supposed this had to do with adrenalin in the battles and the total lack of it – other than during the shouting – in class. However, she was competitive and wasn't going to let herself appear weak by asking, complaining or making a fuss. It was no big, except she needed very good grades.

The Kimmunicator bleeped. "Go Wade!"

"There's a message from a Mr White. Apparently his entire family has just vanished into thin air!"

"Thin air?" Kim asked incredulously.

"He was on the ground floor of the house, went upstairs and it was deserted. And get this! It didn't look like his house any more!"

Kim hated paranormal sitches after being beaten up by a jackal-headed God that had possessed a wrestling promoter. There was only so much you could do no matter how much you told yourself you could do anything. Villains were problematic and dangerous, to the point where a mistake would be fatal, but they followed a code of sorts and a logic of sorts. Even ones with alleged mystical powers. You could exploit that to get an edge. She hoped this was something like that, or that there was some other simple explanation.

"I'll need a ride."

"Already on the way, Kim!"

Wade disconnected and Kim snuck a swing of black unsweetened coffee. It was as revolting as the last dozen times she'd done this, but she was now more awake. She grabbed her mission rucksack as a huge black car pulled up in front of the house.

They swung by Ron's house and Kim dragged him - and Rufus - away from the television. Ron had been zoned out, as usual, watching cartoons.

It was an hour's drive to the house. An uneventful hour, in which Kim filled Ron in on the details whilst Ron filled her in on the reasons why Scampy and Bitey was more important. "It was the last marathon of the month!"

"Yeah!" said Rufus, sticking his tongue out at Kim.

"People are missing, Ron! Focus!"

"I am focussing! On what I'm missing!"

Kim sighed. Ron's heart was usually in the right place, unless displaced by his stomach, his greed or his need for children's television. He really did care about other people, it's just that sometimes he forgot that the world didn't run to Ron Time and things had to happen now rather than when he got round to them.

They reached the house and Kim thanked the driver. They discretely changed into mission clothes in a sheltered spot, then proceeded to the front door.

The doorbell was answered by a somewhat distraught man, who led them in.

"Hi, I'm Kim and this is Ron."

"Thank you for coming so quickly! I can't imagine what has happened! I'm Sam White. It's so terrible..."

"Can you show us?"

"Oh, certainly! Certainly!"

He led them up a newish wooden staircase, the walls covered with a fairly bland but modern white wallpaper. It had been early evening downstairs. However, as they ascended, it seemed to be getting brighter and not from lights, from outside.

By the second floor, the walls had a rather garish Victorian look to them and the staircase had become oaken with a very dark, thick polish. Looking back down, Kim could see the ground floor... and that it, too, had the same wallpaper and same style of oak staircase.

She pulled out her Kimmunicator. "Wade?"

Nothing. No satellites, no signal, and then nothing at all as the battery plunged rapidly from full to zero before her eyes.

"Ok, that's weird."

She looked round a few of the rooms. It was mid-day outside. The road was a cart track and none of the nearby properties she had seen when outside were visible.

Ron and Rufus were also investigating, finding antiques that looked brand new. Ron dismissed them as unimportant, then forgot about them entirely as he ran to something that was large, with a glass front. It looked old, but it was unmistakably a television.

"Hey! Let's watch the rest of the marathon!"

He switched on the television but nothing happened. There was a low sound, like a motorbike engine in slow motion. The room flooded with a light that seemed to come from everywhere. Ron and Rufus faded and vanished.

Kim and Sam, the man who had let them in, ran towards the door and watched in horror as Ron seemed to melt into the air.

Sam gulped. "That... that was the noise I heard before I went upstairs..."

Kim's eyes narrowed. Whatever his faults, and yes she'd seen the television and Ron's position relative to it, Ron did not deserve whatever was happening to him. And now she understood a little of what had happened to everyone else.

She approached the television. That didn't seem to do anything. It was blank and was switched off. She wanted to switch it on, go where Ron was, but knew she had to understand the threat first.

A quick examination of the boxes in the room showed brand-new clocks and silverware, some with bills of sale that were dated 1850. She was no expert and, without Wade, had no means of telling, but the items all looked genuine.

"I need to contact Wade, but I can't do that here."

Sam was shaking with fear. "Mumumummmiss? Kim? If we go downstairs, things start working."

Kim had not thought of that. She grabbed a clock and they went downstairs. By the time they reached the ground floor, it was early evening again and everything looked... normal.

Kim set the clock down and pulled out her Kimmunicator. Strangely, the battery was full again. She tried calling Wade.

"Hey, Kim!"

"Wade, I need to to analyse something."

She pointed the Kimmunicator. at the clock.

"It... looks like a hundred and fifty five year old clock. Badly rusted and filled with cobwebs, though."

Kim blinked. It had been brand-new and in perfect condition when. She selected it. But Wade was right. Worse, as she watched, the wood was disintegrating and turning into powder.

"Can you tell what's happening to it?"

"Extreme entropy. It's undergoing total molecular collapse!"

"You mean it's ageing."

"Yes, at a fantastic rate! And it's accelerating!"

By the time the boy genius had finished speaking, there was nothing more than a pile of dust, some rust-coloured, equal to about a clock's worth.

Kim paled very slightly. If whatever was going on could do that to a clock, and that whatever had Ron...

The doorbell rang.

Sam headed over to answer it, nervously. "I'm not expecting anyone..."

Two people stood outside, a man and a woman. The man dressed in a dark grey, with a stern expression on his face. The woman was in an electric blue dress.

"Uh..." stammered Sam.

"You sent for us", the man said.

"I did? I..."

"You did. Now step aside. We have work to do."

Kim, watching from further in, was puzzled. They were English, at least he was as the woman had not spoken yet. She did not need some outside group interfering in her sitch, this was her mission.

Sam, unsure what to do, let the two people in.

The woman turned to Kim. Her eyes started to glow a vivid blue.

"Your name is Kimberly Ann Possible. Your friends have been taken out of time. They are in danger, as is everyone in this house, unless we stop it. You can help us or you can fight us, but there is really no point in the latter. We can deal with the break in time, but we cannot deal with the scientist who caused it."

The eyes stopped glowing.

"Who are you?"

"I am Sapphire and my rather taciturn friend's name is Steel."

"Who do you work for?"

Sapphire seemed to chuckle.

"Oh, none of your Earthly organizations."

That didn't help Kim's mood.

"I can do this without help."

Steel turned to her, his voice colder than an arctic blizzard.

"Can you? Can you turn time back for this clock? Can you fight horrors beyond your understanding, horrors you can't hit, reason with or trap?"

"You said a scientist was controlling all this."

"He unleashed some... creatures... that are now controlling this. He can do nothing about them or to them and neither can you. We can."

Sapphire took over.

"But the scientist must be stopped."

"Why can't you do that?"

"Our authority can be a little... limited when it's just a human, with human technology, doing human things. We can clean up the mess, but it's not our problem to clean up villains."

Kim was deeply unhappy about this, but she decided it was not too bad of a compromise. It might work. She was being asked, ok told, to fight a very ordinary villain. She understood that that was part of her resentment. Her normal mode of operation was to have Wade pick from the list of requests and ask her. Here, she was being told by someone she didn't know what the sitch was. Ok, she'd accepted the sitch this was a part of, so really she'd had her input, only it wasn't what she'd been offered. True, it was now what she preferred, but orders were a problem. She seethed in frustration.

Sapphire must have sensed something and tilted her head for a moment as if listening to something.

"You have been in situations where others have given orders and then taken credit for your work. We have no interest in telling you what to do or how to do it, or in making false claims. We need you, Kim. We can't do this without you."

Kim was mollified to a point. There was a supernatural component to the sitch, Sapphire obviously had some supernatural powers and Kim had worked with people in the past in a fair division of labour.

Steel spoke again. "What, exactly, has happened and where has it reached?"

Sam explained his version of events, then Kim recounted the change in time, wallpaper and stairs about half-way up, along with Ron vanishing into the television.

Steel nodded grimly.

Sapphire spoke up. "The dates are wrong. Television had not been invented then and would not be invented for another seventy years."

"That's the time break, then. The scientist extracted something from the future. Mixing past and present in dangerous ways. Will they never learn?"

Sapphire considered this. "The creature is in the television then. Will you freeze it?"

"The time break is in its own past. I would be freezing the entire loop. That's too much time and I'd be trapped in it. No, we're going to have to try something else."

Kim grew restless, none of this involved her. She could do nothing about creatures or weirdness with time.

Sapphire addressed Kim again. "Please show us the room where the television is. We may learn more there."

Kim started to lead them up the stairs, but at the tenth stair Sapphire suddenly gasped. Kim span around, expecting something bad, but Sapphire shook her head and kept climbing.

«What was it, Sapphire» Steel thought.

«I'm not sure. Another time break, I think. The loop ends here!»

«Sapphire, be careful!»

«I always am, Steel!»

Sapphire suppressed her pain, as time knotted, writhed and span every few stairs, forming a cat's cradle of causality. Her time sensitivity was being shredded and diced, making it difficult for her to be sure of anything. She explained as much to Steel.

«They always know it's us, and we know they learn. That they'd use our abilities against us was only ever a matter of time» was Steel's response.

The upstairs room was in glorious sunshine, the sun unmoved from where it had been when Kim had been there previously.

Steel noticed where Kim was looking and guessed her thoughts. "There's time here, but it is so entangled, it might go immediately to night or yesterday morning. It's caught up in the same few moments, for now, but that won't last long. Now, when Ron was using the television, where was he exactly?"

"He was standing in front of it, slightly bent towards it, turning it on."

"Sapphire, can you do it?"

"I can't take time back like this, Steel, it's too confused."

Steel nodded. "Alright... Kim... Maybe we need your help for this as well. We need you to go in and stir up some trouble."

"And then you'll get Ron and me out."

"We'll... try."

That didn't sound hopeful at all and Sapphire's anxious expression didn't help.

"What do you need me to do?"

Steel spoke. "Once you enter the television, you'll be in a room like this. Only it will be in the present day. Outside of it, you'll find jumbles of images, heaped together from different points in time. Things the creatures are collecting and using to weaken the fabric of time. Always, these things will be the old together with the new, preferably with some trauma or tragedy connected to them. A mix of times and terrors. It's not a real place, it's a... concept, if you like, that real things can be kept in. What you'll need to do is place old things in rooms that are old, new things in rooms that are new. You don't need to be tidy, you just have to unpick the knots from the inside."

Kim frowned, so Sapphire took over.

"They know us, they're doing this to weaken us, they will have traps in there that would destroy us. They don't know you, though. You aren't an operative. There will still be traps, traps that would destroy Sam or any other human. But not you, because that is one area you are skilled in. Be careful. None of your technology works here, it's down to your ability."

Steel picked up again.

"Now, stand as you last saw Ron and switch on the television."

«I hope this works!» Sapphire thought.

«You mean, you don't know?»

«There are two creatures there, I can feel them, and the Agency's records suggest Kim gets caught a lot.»

Kim's last thoughts before vanishing was that the sun seemed to be reflecting from many different parts of the screen.

As she had been told, she found herself in the same room but it was heavily modernised. The sun was setting, the television was replaced by a desktop computer and Ron was curled up in a corner shaking slightly.

Comforting him produced only strange ramblings that sounded like "The nacos! The nacos! Lemon sherbet hedgehogs!"

Giving that up for the time being, she reached the landing. Again, as she'd been told, neat piles of objects lay everywhere. Swords and arrows with a stack of yPads. The latest children's novels on top of a bundle of yellowing newspapers describing grizzly murders. A very old fountain pen dripping red ink that looked suspiciously like blood stuck through a pack of space food.

Touching one of the swords produced a vivid image of a screaming woman protecting a child before both were savagely cut down. Kim nearly gagged as she had felt the mind of the killer, been the killer in some way.

"So that's what he meant by tragedy."

Kim found a side room that was very old and dusty. She knew these old objects weren't uniformly old, so if mixing things of different times was bad, she was going to be organized even if not tidy. She threw the swords and arrows into the far corner, grimacing as she felt the deaths they were a part of, fighting the urge to become one with those events.

And then she realized she'd almost walked into one of the traps. She had avoided it by her sensibilities alone. She suspected Ron had not been so lucky and had become part of one of the horrors. She didn't know which horror, or if he could ever be brought back, but she certainly would be stuck like that forever if she hadn't resisted.

The fountain pen was next. She used her hair-dryer to hold the space food, then hammered the pen from out of it with the Kimmunicator. The Kimmunicator was then used to flick it through the doorway to a different corner.

The novels were scraped off with the hair-dryer. The grappling hook was then pushed behind the twine holding the newspapers together. The rope was then used to pull the papers. She had no wish to be murderer or victim.

Those out of the way, she decided she didn't trust the newer items and found innovative ways of getting them into a different, modern room, again placing things in different corners.

She felt a twisting in her stomach, as though the knots Steel had talked of were being tied there. It felt like more needed to be done.

Downstairs, she could hear the low sound she had heard before. That was bad news before and she didn't expect that to change.

There were three statues on the staircase, one of a woman and two of children. Kim wondered if these were the family members who had gone missing.

Kim wondered what else she could do. She couldn't fight the creatures, nothing else was mixed, ... but Steel had mentioned the bad things as part of the deal, of unpicking the knots...

She headed back to the old room. Which one? Which one?

She grabbed the sword, as she was familiar with this hellish vision. Once again, in front of a woman and child. This time, she tried to control the person, the vision. She tried to throw herself to the ground, anything to change the sequence of events. But try as she might, she could do nothing and she watched the events unfurl again and again, totally helpless.

She threw the sword to the ground, screaming in frustration, and shed a tear for the victims. The tear struck the blade and dissolved part of it.

Stopping, puzzled, she remembered something else Steel said. About this place as a concept. She had not changed the association, but maybe she'd just changed a small part of the concept. She'd pitied... She'd pitied! She was a reluctant crier at best, but maybe that didn't matter. She'd destroyed part of the hate-filled concept with pity. She wondered what more she could do...

«She's winning...» Sapphire reported. «She's succeeded in destroying one of the knots...»

The pen was the next target. Kim studied it hard for a moment, before deciding that the concept there was hate. She didn't want to get in the mind of this person, fearing the trap would be worse. But she was sure that it would involve an emotionally vulnerable person, someone who could be blackmailed or threatened. She vaguely remembered hearing of people who believed in curses so much they'd think themselves to death if they received one.

Someone, maybe a bit Ronnish, or like some of those she saved, who really needed someone who would stand up for them and who could offer sympathy. She wasn't great on sympathy, but she could make an effort because saving the world included saving those in need, reaching out to them and pulling them out of danger.

She glared at the pen and offered her hand to an imaginary person needing it. It felt silly, but right. After a few moments, there was a faint glow. Suddenly, the ink boiled and the pen dried up. Kim grinned inwardly at that. I really can do anything, she thought, if I can defeat ideas in a room that isn't really there.

«That's the second» Sapphire noted.

«One more to go and we can do what we came here to do» Steel replied.

The murder report was last. Not touching the paper made it difficult to read much, but it looked like the suspect was murdered in the back of a police wagon. So it was some time after. There was much violence, but which part mattered? The killer's murder? There was only a little bit more she could see. The accused had claimed he was innocent. They all do, she snorted.

He also said the killer was someone important, that he had proof and that he'd tried to protect the victim. Ok, this was more interesting. She couldn't tell if any such proof existed, or if he really had been trying to protect the victim. (From what?) But that was surely grounds for wanting to hear, wanting to protect him until he could be heard, wanting justice to be done, wanting it to be done to the right people, wanting it done right.

The newspaper caught fire as her passion for truth and indignation at the failure of justice hit it.

«Now, Sapphire!»

Sapphire's eyes glowed a vivid blue and a bright light flooded the room around her. Her dress billowed and swirled. There was a creaking sound, followed by a crash.

Ron and Kim slowly materialised in front of them as that part of time snapped violently back into shape.

Ron shook himself, dazed. "I was turning on the TV..."

Sapphire smiled. "And you fell asleep."

Kim looked puzzled, her memories of the conceptual universe fading. She knew she had done something, she felt that same positive glow she felt after any mission in which she could see visibly the benefits to others. She just couldn't remember what...

Steel turned to her. "Are you ready to stop the scientist?"

Kim nodded, sure there was something else he'd ask her to do. But before she could ask, Sapphire came over. "Kim? Ron? Hold my hands."

Sapphire's eyes glowed the moment Kim and Ron complied. A moment later and Kim found herself in a large, dark room. Not pitch black, but dark nonetheless.

"Ron?"

"Over here!"

Ron had got caught on the one metal spike in the entire building. Freeing him was easy enough though. A quick check resulted in a light switch. This, in turn, yielded a fairly typical mad scientist's lair, except no mad scientist.

Instead, there were control panels, a central control column, some torture devices in one corner (Kim noted they didn't seem to have been washed since last use, which was a double yuck in addition to the yuck of the idea in the first place) and a couple of doors. She suspected one of those was going to get used in the near future.

"Hey! Look what I found!" shouted Ron.

What he had found was an antique sword – a sword she found very familiar except she couldn't place where – placed inside a machine.

A vague feeling that mixing the old and the new was a bad idea arose in her but she pushed it down until she had a better idea. Her side of the sitch was to deal with a scientist, not a sword.

A tall, balding, man wearing a white lab coat entered the room, together with two... bodyguards? If they were guarding him from others, they weren't doing a good job of it. One had a leash. Oh. This was a prisoner. He might also be the scientist, or someone forced to work for him.

They moved behind a machine. The man wasn't in immediate danger, but Kim needed to know more before freeing him. Things were weird and she needed to be cautious. Less so Ron, why was annoyed that she had dragged him here instead of him showing his kung fu moves.

"Shush, Ron!"

"Why? I'd..."

"Shush!"

The guards had heard them, had dropped the leash. So much for finding out more. She scolded at Ron who barely noticed as he gibbered and squawked at the approaching figures, showing his best immigration of cartoon fighting, before running away.

One guard chased him, the other approached where Kim was hiding.

Kim moved quickly, pushing her gymnastic skills to the limit as she evaded. She made no attempt to approach the guard, however, staying out of reach.

The scientist, on losing his guards, gave an evil laugh and approached the central control column. That's what Kim needed to know. He might be a prisoner of someone equally evil, but he was the one she needed to deal with.

She cartwheeled over to him before landing him a blow that threw him clear of the machinery. Startled, the scientist growled and kept forwards, only to be on the receiving end of a kick that sent him flying. He struck his head on the wall and slumped to the ground.

An amused voice spoke behind her. "He was already my prisoner, you know. And, besides, it will now take some time before he can recover enough to show me how to operate this machine."

Two mad scientists. Great.

She turned slowly, expecting to see a gun. There wasn't one, just something she suspected was an electric cattle prod. Also, two guards, one holding a knife to Ron, who was whimpering.

They hadn't noticed Rufus, though, who was climbing up Ron then along the underside of the guard's arm...

"Does any of this belong to you?"

"No, I'm a thief. Having things that don't belong to me is an occupational hazard."

Keep him talking...

"Do you know what it does?"

"It unleashes infinite power!"

A madman who was also an evil scientist. Great. Still, that can be easier than the obsessively misguided.

Rufus reached the wrist.

The mad thief saw Rufus, shouted. The guard tried to fling Rufus away, but Rufus bit down to maintain grip. Ron twisted free, grabbed Rufus and smashed into the controls. As Rufus had been biting hard, his removal left the guard with less skin and less blood.

Ron hitting the machine caused all sorts of things to happen, which Ron tried in his panic to stop first by hitting levers and pulling buttons and then trying the other way around. "I'll fix it! I'll fix it! Gaaak!"

This last bit came when Kim grabbed Ron by the collar. Something bad was going to happen and she wanted it to not be to them.

The thief and guards had the same idea. They fled.

In a bid to ease her still nagging feeling, Kim smashed the case and took the sword.

Everything faded to white.

They were back in the house, which was back to normal. There was no sign of Sapphire or Steel, or indeed the sword. On checking upstairs, Sam's wife Martha was there with two young children.

"Hello! I hadn't known Sam had invited people round!"

Kim wasn't sure how to respond. She had barely any understanding of what had happened, she couldn't have explained.

"I'm Kim Possible, I was told there'd been trouble..."

"Oh, Sam's always exaggerating. We needed a babysitter. Are you a babysitter?"

"I... do some babysitting, yes."

"Well, it was all such short notice and I'm sure a teen like yourself has lots of demands on your time."

Kim choked slightly on that.

"So I'll pay triple the normal rate to both of you to make up for the inconvenience."

Kim thought this generous, especially as she must look a mess and hadn't actually been called to babysit. Still, it looked like it would help explain things and she needed the money. Club Banana was running a new line next week.

«She did very well» Sapphire thought to Steel.

«Yes, a cautious thinker. We've not seen many of those. She will need more experience before the higher-ups can evaluate her. She looks promising as the new Amber or Amethyst, but you know the rules. The next one is solo.»