The request was puzzling Wade and whilst Wade loved mysteries, this one raised all sorts of red flags. Indeed, flags of all colours except green.
The plea for help seemed ordinary enough, but was signed Sapphire. A name Wade and Team Possible regarded warily. A quick scan to see if it could be the Sapphire that Kim had tangled with before revealed the sending address had been registered an hour ago and the Internet account used to log into that email account ten minutes after. The email account had simply appeared, it wasn't even a case of anyone breaking in.
That ruled out any of the mad geniuses Kim was used to dealing with, none of them were good enough to make anything just appear, and those who came close wouldn't be so sloppy as to do things in reverse.
"I'm telling you Kim, be careful. I've set you up with a ride."
"I'm always careful, and thanks."
The journey was uneventful, or at least as uneventful as a military transport helicopter ride to a remote hilltop on the edge of the Appalachians ever was.
"Thanks for the ride, General Justice."
"Not a problem, Kim, least I could do after you saved our base from stampeding buffalo."
"No big, once the nectar was washed off, the bees went back home."
Kim and Ron jumped from the helicopter. Rufus, as usual, wore his helmet but stayed in Ron's pocket. Once they reached a low enough altitude, they pulled their rip cords in anticipation of guiding themselves over to a large parking lot. Even Kim was a little nervous of landing on the property of the folks here, their form of southern hospitality included a lot of high velocity lead.
Kim's descent was pretty much as anticipated. Ron's was almost, with the exception of his pants. Those continued descending at their previous velocity.
"Aww, man!" Ron exclaimed.
Fortunately, the wind was in his favour and he reunited with them on touchdown.
Once he got dressed and they'd disposed of their parachute packs properly, they walked up a trail to the house. It was a fairly tumbledown building, two storeys high and four rooms wide, with decaying but moderately safe wood. Kim knew the area treated wooden buildings poorly, even solid oak ones. She needed more information. Grabbing the Kimmunicator, she contacted Wade.
"Hey, Wade, I need a scan of the building, please and thank you. Also, when was it abandoned?"
"Scan coming up. It's listed as brand new, but the scan is showing that it's a hundred and fifty years old, abandoned maybe twenty years ago."
She put away the Kimmunicator and saw... Sapphire. Who had not been there a moment ago.
Ron yelped. "She's a ghost!"
Sapphire grinned. "It is alright, I'm not a ghost. You must be... Ron."
She held out her hand and Ron nervously shook it.
The pause made Kim suspect Sapphire had her own equivalent of the Kimmunicator.
"Why am I here? What's the sitch? And where's your friend, Steel?"
"I understand your concern. Neither he nor I may get involved in this. I am here to give you two things, the... sitch, you call it, and a gift. The sitch is simple. This is a ghost building that has become real. The building that exists in the present, the real building if you like, has become a ghost. You need to untangle them and send the past back to where it belongs."
Kim looked concerned. "I know I said I could do anything..."
Sapphire reached forwards and touched the sides of Kim's head. Kim found she could not flinch, move away or block her. Sapphire's eyes glowed a brilliant blue for a few moments.
«Can you hear me, Kim?»
"Yes, of course I can hear... oh..."
"Try to speak only with your mind."
«This is impossible.»
«Nothing need be impossible, for a Possible, Kim.»
Kim's eyes widened. "What have you done?"
"You now have certain... abilities. These will stay with you on this... sitch and will help you complete it."
"If you have these powers, why are you asking me?"
"I'm not allowed to tell you, Kim. All I can tell you is that time has become confused here and that in many regards it is no different from the things you already do."
"What about Ron?"
"Yeah!" squeaked an indignant rodent from Ron's pocket.
"And you're Rufus!" Sapphire smiled down at the naked mole rat.
Kim crossed her arms. She was going to get an answer.
"Ron and Rufus will accompany you and help you overcome some of the dangers. It would be difficult to explain, but the part that requires power, you must do alone. We have followed your many sitches and that is often how it is. We know Ron is a close friend and that he can be very helpful to you, and that is how we see him here. The key part you always do and that is what we are asking here. It merely requires a slightly different skill, a skill you now have but must discover. I am forbidden from telling you more."
Sapphire turned to Ron.
"This is no more dangerous than any mission you have been on and there are tasks you and Rufus can do that will help your friend. These tasks require nothing more than the talents you already have, but they are still important. You are not any less important here."
Ron seemed mesmerized by Sapphire's eyes and Rufus also seemed affected.
"Ummm, uhhh" Ron stammered.
Sapphire smiled, then turned back to Kim. Kim was not entirely mollified, but was nonetheless satisfied that Sapphire had actually considered Ron and had not brushed him off as irrelevant as so many of those who asked for her help did.
"What do I do about creatures?"
"That is as much as I can tell you. You will have to determine if there are any creatures yourself. There may not be. You can assume nothing, other than that you have the ability to do this."
With she turned and vanished.
«Good luck...» Kim could hear Sapphire telepathically telling her.
Kim slumped forwards, exasperated, then straightened. If she could do this, then she could do anything. And since she could do anything...
She reached for the door handle, but felt a definite warning that something was wrong. She considered ignoring it, then relented. She had been given powers, necessary powers. Entrusted with them, for a situation she knew could be dangerous. She decided she should use them. Blocking Ron from barging in, she gestured he should follow her. Confused and complaining, he did.
Following this sense, she came to a window that didn't scream danger. She slid it open and climbed inside. Ron followed.
"Why are we going in this way? The door was over there!"
"It felt like a trap. Just trust me on that."
"Aww man, why can't I have powers like trap detect...argh!"
His foot had gone through a floorboard. One alteration later, compliments of Kim's lipstick laser, and he was free. Treading rather more cautiously - at least for the first few minutes - he followed Kim into the hallway.
There, they could see ghostly outlines of old-fashioned but obviously much more modern people wandering around.
Kim needed information and turned to the one person who might help.
"Wade! I need a scan, there's something strange going on here, please and thank you."
"I'm seeing... I'm not sure what I'm seeing. I'm detecting things that don't seem to be there. Uhhh, Kim, I'm going to have to make some adjustments to the Kimmunicator and order some stronger soda."
The Kimmunicator went dark.
Kim, however, had the information she really needed, that what she saw was something real and not a trick of some kind.
Still, she didn't know what to do, yet, and Ron's role was still a mystery. They headed to the staircase, Kim having a hunch that the real mystery had to be above or below.
"Should we split up, like they do in Gloopy Dew?" Ron asked.
"That's a cartoon, Ron. And isn't the point of that that the monsters aren't even real in the show?"
Ron basked in the knowledge that Kim secretly watched cartoons. Or had done, some time.
"We go down", said Kim eventually.
In the cellar, the ghostly activities continued but only in one half. In the other half, the room was empty, poorly lit and devoid of anything strange beyond being in the wrong time. Well, almost empty.
Emerging from the shadows were Drakken and Shego.
Kim slid easily into a fighting crouch, Ron did some cartoon kung fu, fell over and lost his pants. "That's not fair!"
Shego snorted in derision and matched Kim.
Drakken looked nervous and moved around the edge. "Just get rid of her so that we can leave!"
"My pleasure", Shego said.
Kim launched an attack first, however, sending Shego slightly off-balance.
Drakken shoved Ron backwards and bolted for the stairs, only to reappear near Shego. He tried again and the same thing happened.
"Gnnnnnnggggghhh!" Drakken snarled. "That should have worked!"
"What should have worked?" Kim said conversational, dodging a plasma blast only to watch it suddenly reappear at the back of the room and slam into Shego's back, sending her flying.
"The time anomaly here, you should have broken it when you entered the house. We should be in the present, you should be trapped a century ago and be dead by now."
"You created this anomaly?"
"Yes... well... no. But we're going to escape... trap you, rather."
"You got stuck in the anomaly and need our help to escape."
"Then... tell Shego... to... stop fighting... me." Kim said as she parried blow after blow.
The woman in question, dressed in tight-fitting green and leather, backed off, staying on guard. "Mention rescuing me to anyone and your life will be hell."
"Your secret is safe with me. But why were you here? The family here can't have had anything you or Drakken wanted."
"Dr D wanted to steal the source of the anomaly. Got us trapped here."
Kim decided she didn't want to know for how long, or if that would mean anything.
Ron had got to his feet by this time and was wandering around. He bumped into a table, knocking over a piece of equipment Drakken had set up. It crashed to the floor, sparking.
"You buffoon!" Drakken cried, scraping together the fragments. "We needed that to escape!"
In gathering things, he revealed a trapdoor buried in the dirt floor. His focus was on his invention, so it fell to Shego to notice the exit.
Carefully, she pulled it open. A dark set of stairs led down.
"You're rescuing us, pumpkin, you lead."
So Kim was the first to go down. It led to a wooden landing, with various doors. one was open and revealed an empty bedroom with a window onto a glorious afternoon. She realized this must be the floor above the main floor, that reality curved and twisted itself up in every direction. Ron had done his thing, so what was her power?
She could hear Shego hiss angrily beside her. "Is there no leaving here?"
Relaxing, she tried to let herself think. What was given to her? She was supposed to... She was...
Then it occurred to her. What she always was, even without power. If she'd needed to know anything else, she was sure she'd have been told. She wasn't any different, she was what she had always been, she was just souped up a little for this sitch.
A wooden house that needed to be gone in this time so that the present could be there.
"Everyone get back upstairs to the stone cellar. Drakken, is your device destroyed?"
"No... no... why?"
"You need to be able to get to the ghost basement, the one with people in it. Once you can do that, in order for any of us to escape, I have to... do something."
Shego glanced suspiciously at Kim. Since when does Kimmie hide things?
"I'm staying with you, pumpkin."
Kim sighed. She should have known. "Ok, but stay out of the way."
Shego's eyes could have narrowed further only with the aid of razor blades.
Ron and Drakken went upstairs, Drakken ordering Ron to stay back with every footstep.
"So, what's your plan, princess, and don't tell me you don't have one."
"This building is supposed to be destroyed, so we destroy it. If we keep going down, we'll end up in the hall, then back in the basement. We destroy everything."
"Be careful, Kimmie, you might enjoy evil."
"This isn't evil, this house somehow forgot it was destroyed, we're just reminding it."
"If you say so. So what do we do?"
"Start with the roof and go down."
"How were you planning to do this without me?"
I'm still not completely sure, thought Kim. She stretched out her hand and willed it to burn. Flames shot from it.
Shego raised an eyebrow. "I hope you weren't planning to point that at me."
Kim realized there had been a temptation, but had fought it. Shego was evil, yes, but she was still a person and, right now, a person who needed rescuing. Killing someone just wasn't Kim's way, although she realized some had doubtless died in evil liars from her actions.
She had deeply regretted that such things might happen and had long sworn she would make reparations to any widows or orphans should she know of them. Discretely, as publicly no such deaths must ever occur.
She hadn't known, but it was in part her compassion that had resulted in her being selected and in the choice of power.
"You're safe, and it's on loan anyway."
She almost regretted saying that, but then decided that a Shego who felt that Kim was more of a threat would switch from play-fighting (she had no illusions there) to full kill mode, taking no prisoners.
Shego looked at her, searching for any hint of a lie. Detecting done, she shrugged.
"Then let's blow the roof off this place."
Drakken finished the device and yelled down - or was that up - the stairwell.
Moments later the sounds of many, many explosions filled the basement. Device in hand, Drakken breached the loop and Ron lept through - almost destroying the device again but Drakken saved it.
The sounds of explosions now came from above Drakken, fire shooting down the staircase a few times.
Shego and Kim charged down the stairs and the explosions reached the part of the cellar without ghosts. Drakken focussed on the machine and saw nothing. Ron was covering his eyes in response to something in the room he was in, so saw nothing either.
Kim and Shego hared across the collapsing basement, picked up Drakken by his arms and carried him through.
Just in time. The older building started to collapse, burning wood and toxic smoke flooded the basement up to the bounds of the loop but not beyond. The burning got more and more intense as time itself began to compress. Stone cracked and shattered in the heat.
As Kim had expected, as the old building was destroyed, the new one reinserted itself, becoming more solid by the moment.
"We need to leave before anyone knows we're here." Kim suggested.
Shego nodded, not seeing much point in staying with nothing to take.
Drakken had gone to where he'd travelled through from the larger basement, but it was now solid wall. "Hmmm. Well, doubtless it was destroyed in all that fire, anyway."
A quick and silent exit later and Drakken was pulling up his flying car. Kim went over to some nearby trees, where she expected to meet two people. Unbeknownst to her, Shego followed.
"Ok, the house is back. I've untangled time. You can take the powers back now."
Sapphire smiled, amused. "That was a difficult assignment. You did well."
"I destroyed something that wasn't doing any harm."
"It was doing harm. Had it stayed, the loop would have spread and destroyed all future, for all time. It was doing far more harm than any lair."
Kim didn't look reassured, Shego noted. That girl really takes caring so seriously!
"The powers have now been removed", said Sapphire. "You are back to normal."
So Kimmie had been serious about that!
"And thank you." With that, Sapphire and Steel turned and vanished.
Shego felt her temper rise. Her Kimmie, casually dismissed! No talk of returning favours, and it was obvious that those who had hired Kimmie could have done the work with far less risk and effort. Kim was cheap labour placed at risk. Shego had no problems with henchmen doing that, that's all they were fit for. Her Kimmie, no.
She left before Kim could notice her.
Kim pulled out her Kimmunicator. "Hi, Wade, I need a ride."
«So, she worked out as the new Amber.»
«Why Amber, Steel? It's not a true gemstone.»
«She is not a full operative or specialist, she is a technician.»
«She could be an operative, though.»
«Not whilst she has her regular tasks on Earth to do.»
«We're going to call on her again, though.»
«Yes. She needs to learn her abilities. All of them. And the responsibilities they carry. We're definitely going to call on her again.»