Standard Legal Mumbo Jumbo: I don't own Kim Possible, trust me, you'd see a big difference if I did. I also don't own Gungrave: Overdose, or any and all Robert Frost poetry. Honestly, anyone who thinks I do needs to read the first installment of this series.

Fire and Ice

Chapter 2: Something Wicked This Way Comes

The heat was stifling, but that was no surprise. It had been just as hot the day before, and the day before that. In fact, aside from the storm a week and a half ago, it'd been this hot for the entirety of the month Monty had been in Bombay.

It might have been more bearable if he hadn't been confined to the mansion with a book shoved under his nose from sunup to sundown. Or even if he could just shed his coat and open his shirt up... But no, that wasn't a possibility. That was never a possibility. After all, "A Fiske must always look his best."

He sighed and dutifully continued down the wide hallway, past the occasional maid or manservant going about their daily duties, all of them making very sure to avoid eye contact with the young master. None wished to risk upsetting his father by stepping beyond their bounds. The elder Fiske was known for being quite heavy handed with his treatment of the servants, and seemed to have one sacked and replaced once a month. It apparently made the others work that much harder.

Monty held in another sigh and continued his slow walk towards the study, hoping desperately that he didn't appear to be dragging his feet too much. As always, it was another several hours with the tutor, and then dinner, hopefully dinner alone. The last thing he wanted to deal with were those beady dark eyes watching and assessing his every action when all he wanted was to finish his soup.

In truth, all Monty wanted was to return to the family estate in London. He ached for it. This country was hot and sticky and dull. And while he had always taken to languages with relative ease, he didn't grasp the point of it; he never got to talk to anyone anyway. At least in London the weather was better.


The deep, even voice behind him stopped Monty dead in his tracks. It was a calm and even tone, but underneath it was a hidden edge. It was like each word was a threat wrapped in velvet. Slowly, stiffly, with the obedience of a soldier, Monty turned to face the large shadow looming over him.

"Y-y-yes, Father?" he managed to stammer out. Even after thirteen years, he still couldn't help but fall into that same annoying speech impediment when faced with his father's full attention. Though he was at least pleased that seven years of corrective elocution lessons meant his father was the only one who could still bring it out of him.

The elder Fiske simply looked down at his son, his whole body radiating authority and confidence. Monty may have had several reasons to be scared to death of the man, but he still envied that sense of power.

"Montgomery," he began, "I understand that you've become quite… dedicated, recently."

Monty nodded slightly. He knew what his father was referring to. At the manor in London, he would often run off with whichever servant boy close to his own age he could force into whatever adventure or game he thought up. Ever since he and his father had come to India, however, Monty had had little choice but to focus solely on his studies.

His playmates were inevitably sacked the moment word reached his father, but Monty didn't allow himself to shed any tears over it. After all, they were just servants, and he had wanted to be served. But there were only adults at the Bombay residence, and they were lousy for games. So there was little to do but study.

His father's eyes narrowed slightly. "Indeed, I am quite pleased that you're beginning to understand your role. I had begun to feel that having you prepared as my heir was… a matter worth reexamining."

Monty winced, but he knew better than to speak after many painful lessons on the matter.

"As you have no doubt been informed, I will be away for several days. In an ideal world, I would take you with me to learn from my example. However, this is not an ideal world, and so I have decided that you are to remain here in my stead. Bates shall remain here as well, thus allowing for a measure of supervision."

Rubbing his lips together, Monty wasn't sure if he was being baited into asking why, or if it was better to simply remain silent and silently rejoice at the temporary reprieve. He settled on the latter option, which turned out to be the correct one.

The elder Fiske looked Monty over one more time, then nodded slightly. Reaching behind him, he retrieved a brown leather bag and placed it on the ground in front of Monty. The boy eyed the bag warily, glancing back up at his father every few seconds.

"Open it."

Nervously, the boy leaned down and fidgeted with the bronze clasp until it finally snapped open. A black and white blur shot out from the dark and slammed hard against Monty's chest. The young boy screamed in horror and fell back hard onto the floor, then slowly bent his head forward to look at whatever horrible thing his father had just unleashed on him.

He found: a pair of round curious eyes looking up into his in wonderment, two pairs of leather paws gripping and crawling up and down the folds of his coat, and a thin black tail swinging back and forth. He stood up just as slowly, still half-convinced the creature's warm demeanor was a deception. Monty couldn't hold back his smile at the sight of the little monkey as it skittered up his body, finally coming to a rest on his shoulder. It rubbed its tiny head against his much larger one, squeaking its devotion.

It was quite a distraction, and Monty actually almost missed the sound of his father clearing his throat in warning. He had ignored his father for a moment! Only a minute ago, he would have thought such an act impossible. Reflexively, Monty shot straight to his feet, doing his level best to put the sensation of the little monkey tugging on his right ear out of his mind.

"I see you enjoy him. Think of him as some incentive to continue this degree of dedication." His father stated plainly. "Am I clear? Do not make me regret this, Montgomery."

Monty nodded quickly. "I un-understand, F-Father. Thank you."

His eyes widened when his father, who had already began to turn and make his way down the hall, stopped suddenly. His wide shoulders tensed rigidly. He walked back to his terrified son at an intimidating pace, then knelt down so their eyes were level. He placed his hand on the shoulder of his son that was not currently occupied by a primate.

"A Fiske never thanks anyone, Montgomery. We simply take what we deserve and have earned. When you thank someone, you admit to the weaker position. And weakness is always unacceptable." The fingers on Monty's shoulder started digging into his soft flesh, and he could feel tears begin to sting the corners of his eyes.

"Do you understand, Monkey-man?"

"Yes, Father, I―p-p-pardon?" Monty blinked. What had his father just called him? But the grip on his shoulder shook, again and again.

"Monkey-Man!" There it was, that name again! Only this time the voice was deeper, so much deeper, and impossibly rough. And the awful shaking continued, this time gaining force.

And suddenly everything was dark, and everything was red. And the looming shadow that had been his father continued to shake him back and forth, threatening to pull his arm from its socket.


Until he lost his balance and slammed hard into the wall. The thick metal of his gauntlets clanked loudly against the steel surrounding them both.

"WAKE UP, MONKEY-MAN. TIRED OF STUPID DAYDREAMING!" came Fangoram's impossibly rough and deep roar. His beady eyes bore deep into Monkey Fist's own.

Glancing around in confusion, the erstwhile Montgomery Fiske could see gore and limbs piled to the ceiling. The air smelled of smoke and copper, a scent thick enough to suffocate. The walls surrounding them were dented porous scraps, with some bodies rammed through halfway. Chipped and cracked fragments of riot gear and spilled steaming bowels lined the floor, even beneath his armored paws. The alarm was still screaming at him, drowning out any coherent thoughts.

Looking down at his hands, he saw them slathered in dripping blood, tangled sinew stuck between the metal jointed fingers.

Oh sodding Hell… don't tell me…

Turning to Fangoram, who stood over him in annoyance, filthy with human remains. "I blanked out through the whole bloody fight?!" roared Fist.

Fangoram shrugged his enormous shoulders and turned, hauling back up the substance container. "FIST WAS HERE, AND NOT HERE. KILL MORE THAN FANGORAM."

Here and not here… I'm sick and tired of skirting both at once… Eight years and I'm still not just here. His dark eyes narrowed. He reached into the tall pile of cooling human meat, shifting bodies around in annoyance until he found what he was looking for. This one had merely died from being struck too hard against the floor. The body's clothes were mostly unsoiled by blood and other organic filth. He tore the poor soul's shirt off completely, using it to wipe himself clean as best he could, cleaning between each finger joint and wrinkle of his dark gray coat. Thankfully, the material was waterproofed, or the gesture would have been pointless.

He looked up suddenly, noticing that his enormous ally had set down the container and was now rifling through his own pile. Fang finally grunted in satisfaction and pulled free his catch; a somewhat-deformed pack of cigarettes. Without pause, he opened the pack and bit down on the unfiltered cancer stick contentedly, pulling it free and lighting it with the zippo found in the pack. The long drag he took immediately reduced the cigarette to ash. He then moved on to the next, deciding to savor this one.

Fist could only stare. The sight of this huge blue… thing, surrounded by a virtual mountain of prison guard corpses, standing there and sucking on that tiny cigarette… If he hadn't snapped years ago, he certainly would have done so now. "What in blazes do you think you're doing?!"


Monkey Fist nodded without really knowing why. "Hmph, yes, well. Bully for you, then."

Kim could hear the cacophony blaring from the current director of Global Justice's office long before she saw the door.

The air pulsed with the dissonance of various news segments in a vast assortment of languages, all speaking over one another as they reported news that ran the gamut from the severe to the mundane. There were excited voices of game show hosts, nature documentary narrators, Internet podcasts, and even a few recognizable cartoon characters' squeaky caricature voices polluting the air around her with unfiltered information.

Kim frowned deeply at the pervasive din and quickened her pace down the corridor, at the end of which there was a rather impressive chrome entryway. Her dress shoes clacked hard against the steel beneath her with each frustrated step.

The chaotic sounds filling the gunmetal corridor still weren't loud or distracting enough to drown out Kim's own bitter, hateful thoughts.

The single greatest concentrated stockpile of international resources on the entire fucking globe, and she can't be bothered to soundproof her own damn office! Jesus!

To be fair, one needed full security confirmation, a set of regularly switched out access codes, and visual identification from the Director to even enter Sector A of the Millennium Complex. And she had been ever-so-smugly granted that just minutes before.

So the only people being bothered by these sounds, then, were the unlucky souls who'd been granted the "privilege" of an audience with one of the most powerful individuals on the planet.

Kim, of course, could have cared less about any of that. Her mind was currently focused on more important things, chief among them her recently reanimated ex-arch foe―or perhaps late arch foe was the more accurate term. Semantics aside, she really needed to get back to Shego ASAP. One did not bring a woman back to life after eight long years simply to leave her alone with her thoughts.

Kim couldn't even imagine what was going through Shego's mind right now. Especially after she had dropped that bombshell about Candis on her only minutes earlier.

After hearing that the sister of the man she had shredded into bits now ran Global Justice - and from an office in this very facility - the late thief had simply stood stock still for a brief moment, taken a few steps back, and flopped back down onto her transfusion chair, saying nothing more than:

"Well, ain't that just the damndest thing."

Kim wasn't able to get much of anything out of Shego after that. She had seemed far more interested in the metal between her slippers than on the concerned redhead looking over her.

I should be back there. I never should have left, Goddamn it! Not now. Her eyes narrowed behind her glasses and her lip curled back slightly.

Is this Candis' way of tugging the leash? I already know the setup. I'll jump through all the hoops she wants after I finish with Shego! Oh, but that's not good enough, is it, Candis? "Sit, Kim! Stay! Roll over―good girl! Now you get to go back to work as your treat!" What utter crap...

After what seemed an eternity of headache-inducing noise and bitter thoughts vying for her attention, Kim reached the large automatic doors. Their surfaces reflected her sour expression back at her. She sighed and pushed her glasses back to the top of the bridge of her nose, taking a deep breath to try and settle her mood.

She reached for the intercom to announce her presence. But as always, the doors slid open with that villainous "Vwhoosh!" Se or Senior Senior had liked so much.

Kim set her jaw and stepped beyond the threshold, into the chaos that was the office of Candis Jing Du.

The office was enormous and spacious, more like a conference room spaced to comfortably sit well over fifty bodies than a single person's workspace. Its size was made all the more jarring by the fact that, aside from the single large metal desk at the end of the room, it was void of any furniture. This forced any visitors to stand around uncomfortably, something that Kim was sure Candis enjoyed.

Along the walls were holographic displays that cycled through various media, from blogs to news sites to television channels, never staying on the same image for more than a minute. The room had originally been constructed as a monitoring station, built for the express purpose of cycling through media to try and pick up woven-in codes, subversive messages, or the occasional subliminal mind control signal.

It had been decommissioned during the tenure of Betty Director, but Candis had insisted on this space as the perfect spot for her office. No one was sure why she would choose to surround herself with such discord, but it was Kim's firm belief that Candis used the room specifically because it unbalanced and intimidated people.

She marched to the desk and glared down at the lone occupant of the office.

Candis was a small and slight woman, barely above five feet in height, with short black hair clipped down at the base of her neck. Her features were more obviously Chinese than her brother's, and Kim thought she looked closer to an older and smaller Yori than a female Will Du.

Throughout Kim's tenure at Millennium, she had never actually seen Candis wear the Global Justice Uniform as her predecessor had, and even now, the woman was wearing a modestly cut navy blue business suit. The only noticeable marker of her GJ affiliation was a modest bronze badge fashioned after the GJ logo and pinned to her lapel.

"Mute," said the Director.

The room was suddenly silent.

Candis briefly looked Kim up and down, then began to speak. "It's been awhile since you and I have had a chance to discuss your progress, Doctor Possible," she stated calmly, her words laced with the faintest hint of disapproval.

"And considering that you've finally achieved your first notable breakthrough since you arrived here, I felt that now was the time to do so."

Kim glared at the woman and placed her hands on her hips, not minding that her glasses were sliding down slightly with the abrupt motion, "Well, I am deeply sorry to disappoint you, Madam Director, but now is actually not a good time. It is, in point of fact, the worst possible time to discuss this. But, you know, I'm glad I could satisfy your entirely inconvenient whims. Now, if it's not too much trouble, may I go back down to the lab and resume the work that you pay me to do? Thank you."

She pushed her glasses up and spun around, about to march off. Candis's voice halted her. "If you hadn't severed your ComNet connection, we would be having this discussion in the comfort of our respective workstations. I abhor wasted time, you know that. But you had to force my hand."

Her expression tightened, "Now, you will come back here and give your report. Doctor."

Gritting her teeth, Kim mentally counted to ten and turned around, walking back over to the desk and meeting her employer's eyes. They stared at one another for almost a minute. Finally, Kim gave in and took a breath.

"At 05:00 PM today I initiated the Ver. 12 forced cell regenesis on Reanimator 01, Shego, real name: Magdalena Ashley Vincent, twenty-three years old at time of death. At 05:20 PM I began seeing noticeable spikes in Reanimator 01's brain activity readings." Kim stopped and licked her lips, trying to keep from involving herself in the recent memories in front of the Director.

It was easier to simply recite the words if she didn't think about the weight behind each one.

"And at 05:30 PM Reanimator 01 regained cognitive ability and as of right now that is the current situation," she stated flatly. She crossed her arms over her chest and added an annoyed, "May I go now?"

Candis looked down at the desk's surface, her expression vacant for a moment, then looked back up at Kim.

"That information is irrelevant."

Kim's eyes widened; she wasn't sure she'd heard right. Candis continued on all the same. "I didn't hire you because I wanted to see if it was possible for you to take a Class S wanted fugitive - a wanted fugitive who single-handedly decimated this organization, by the way - and bring her back from the grave."

"That is merely a side project that I allowed you to proceed with because it is related to your research and focusing on it seems to keep you motivated. But when I ask you to give me an update on your progress, I am decidedly not referring to your little pet obsession."

She stood back up and leaned in close, her brown eyes wrestling with Kim's olive. "I'm referring to Panacea. And that is all I care to hear about from you."

Kim's lip curled, and she could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. "I thought you assigned me your little spy so it didn't matter if I told you anything or not."

Candis leaned back slightly and regarded Kim with mild annoyance, "If Veronica wishes to keep me apprised, it's because she cares about your research. Perhaps as much as you do."

Her expression hardened. "I'm certain you don't believe me, but I also don't care whether you do or not. All I want from you is your report."

Tapping her shoe lightly on the carpet, Kim sighed and lowered her head slightly, her bangs obscuring her eyes. "No progress. Well, no real progress. Wade thinks we've cracked 0.000000001 percent of its command/control matrix with our current system, but Doctor Flanner is skeptical."

"And what does she think?" Candis asked calmly.

Kim frowned. "She... she thinks there is no progress to be made."

The Director nodded and thought that over for a moment. "Now that you've had success with your other project, perhaps you can give Panacea your undivided attention. One hopes Doctor Flanner's assessment will prove... premature."

Kim nodded, ignoring the sensation of her nails digging into her palm. "Am I dismissed?"

Candis stared at her thoughtfully. She finally nodded and sat back down, turning her attention to the work at her desk.

Kim was nearly out of the room when Director Du called after her. "Congratulations, by the way. Give Ms. Vincent my regards."

Kim breath caught in her throat, and she turned back to the desk expecting to see the Director's accusatory gaze directed her way. But Candis was still focused on the documents and paying her no mind.

For a moment, Kim thought she noticed the space behind the director shift, the colors distorting ever so slightly, but she chalked it up to her nerves. She was out of the room and nearly running back to her lab moments after.

Several minutes alone in her office passed as Candis continued to pretend to focus on the documents in front of her. When she saw Kim's form swiftly retreating from her sector on one of the screens, she gave a shuddered breath and spoke.

"Was that all you needed to hear?"

The air to her right shifted and bent, and out of the corner of her eye Candis could see the rippling distortion was vaguely human in shape as it moved. While she could not see it with any clarity, she could feel its weight settle as it sat at her desk.

When the second voice spoke, it was young and feminine and had a relatively understated haughtiness accompanying its words. "Well, she's definitely changed. The Kim Possible I remember didn't even vaguely resemble her."

Candis smirked slightly. "You sound quite sure. I fail to see why. You two were not exactly what most would consider close." Her right eye twitched almost imperceptibly. Idiot! Nearly slipped there.

"Be that as it may," said the clearly annoyed spatial distortion, "my employer, Mr. Senior, has been a very generous supporter of this project and yourself for some time now. And he has recently brought up some very real concerns."

The Director's eyes narrowed, but her voice remained clear and calm. "You can tell Mr. Senior that I know what he's implying and that he has no leverage to force my hand. Also, be sure to remind him that any apparent 'generosity' on his part has already been reciprocated at least three times over."

A slight chuckle came out of the thin air at Candis's side, but when the voice spoke again it was far from jovial. "Regardless, you personally are still deep in his pocket. You wouldn't even be in that chair were it not-"

Candis cut the invisible woman off harshly. "The last thing I need to hear is a history lesson from you."

"Heh. But on a similar note, don't you think that Possible is no longer qualified to complete this project? It's been quite a long time for us not to see any appreciable success on her part. She's been working on this for how long now? And what does she have to show for it, if anything?"

Frowning, Candis turned back towards her desk. "Then you haven't been paying any attention."

She stood and made her way over to one of the media screens. After taking a moment to clear her throat, she stated calmly, "Sector T, basement floor 3, lab 4. Now."

The screen clicked on, then cut to a color HDCCTV feed of Doctor Possible's lab. Its only current occupant was a tall woman with a head of long and impossibly dark black hair. She had pale green skin, and was wearing nothing but a hospital gown. The woman was currently looking over several discarded piles of clothing at her feet, and shifting them out of the way to go over even more from the numerous boxes and suitcases around her. They could see her dark black lips moving as she sorted through the clutter but there was no sound accompanying the image.

Looking the woman over, Candis felt her heartbeat suddenly pick up its pace but she ignored it as best she could.

"Slow zoom to crop on subject tagged MA_Vincent003," barked Candis. The camera began to zoom in on the woman, then stopped just before her foot went out of frame.

"Do you know what this is?" the Director asked calmly, making a vague motion towards the image of the woman in front of them. "Yesterday, it was a corpse being kept in storage, nothing but lifeless meat. It displayed not even the most basic hint of life. That woman there has been dead for over eight years."

Candis frowned and her voice became slightly more guarded. "Doctor Possible brought her back. With nothing but a flash drive of unintelligible notes and the will to do so, she has done something previously thought not just impossible but insane by every reputable scientist on Earth."

Candis smiled, briefly overwhelmed by the enormity of the discovery. "Even ignoring the numerous spiritual implications, one fact, one incredible fact, remains: Kimberly Ann Possible has irrefutably proven that there can be life after death."

Candis switched off the security feed. After a moment spent digesting the gravity of the Director's statement, the cloaked figure finally spoke up again. "I will admit, that's impressive, even if the result is… slightly less than ideal. But I'm afraid I fail to see how that so-called achievement is relevant given what her actual project entails."

"It's a start," Candis added curtly. "And if she could do that, then I have full confidence that the crafting of Panacea is soon in coming. I'd bet my life on it."

"You are," the air responded callously. "And she's just as likely to fail as to succeed, Ms. Du. You should know better than most that nobody is perfect."

Candis's smile suddenly distorted into a cruel smirk. "That's a rather ironic statement, considering the source."

The distortion shifted, and suddenly it stood over the Director, as imposing as an invisible shape could manage. Candis felt a hand on her shoulder, its fingernails stopped just short of digging into her flesh. She looked up and stared straight into the presumable eyes of her invisible company.

"A lot can change in eight years, so don't go judging me by your standards," the hidden woman stated bitterly.

Candis casually shrugged the hand off and stepped away, turning her attention to the hundreds of muted, but still active, images wallpapering her office.

"Is there anything else?" she asked, slightly fatigued. "I have a lot to get to today."

The distortion made a movement Candis interpreted as a slight nod. "There is, in fact, one other thing. Mr. Senior wants you to assign one of his more trusted personnel to Sector T. He feels that Kim Possible requires a closer set of eyes than you can provide here."

"Veronica Lawless-"

"Is neither trusted nor confided in," the voice cut off. "See to it that this person is integrated into the database, and I'll take care of the rest."

Candis moved back to her desk and took her seat, considering the voice's proposal. "Just being down in Sector T is not enough. This person needs to be able to carry their own weight."

"Again, that's for me to worry about." The distortion's tone changed suddenly, becoming more jovial. "So don't worry, Candy. Compared to Panacea, this is the easy part." She heard the voice chuckle to itself and suddenly go silent, leaving the Director alone with her thoughts.

Candis didn't need to look up to know she was suddenly alone. She took a shuddered breath and reached into her desk drawer. A moment later she retrieved a small red inhaler. She considered the small device for a moment, but then sighed and placed in back in her desk, slamming the drawer shut with more force then was necessary.

"Candy, is it?" she asked the air around her.

Shego groaned once again as she heard the fabric rip again.

With a labored sigh, she pulled her arm out from her sleeve and glowered at what had been one of her favorite black cotton tops.

She scrutinized the piece of fabric in her hands once more, as if attempting to turn it back into a proper shirt using only her mind. Then, with a sigh, she tossed the ruined shirt onto a steadily growing pile of same, the 100% cotton carcasses laying slightly to the right of her transfusion seat. Her mood grew bitterer and bitterer with each new piece of dusty, ill-fitting clothing.

Gosh, this is fun, Shego thought to herself as she began to sort through for something new to try on.

And to think, I never once considered that buying so many tight clothes would come back to bite me in my now-probably-very-manly ass. She smirked humorlessly as she continued to sort through the mess.

Well, I sure know better now. Always plan for the remote possibility that you'll be blown to bits and brought back as She-Hulk. Seems obvious in retrospect.

She sighed and pulled out a baggy gray sweater she had exclusively reserved for what she had called her "mental health days." Said days had mostly been spent napping or reading or whatever other indoor activity suited her fancy and didn't force her to waste energy and time prettying herself up.

The seams were well-worn; that was a testament to how often Shego had taken those mental health days before…

Before the end, right? Shego thought to herself. She frowned and shook her head.

Not the end, not the end, not the end! You're still here, you stupid bitch, and still alive… sort of. She tried to maintain the illusion, but thinking those thoughts only did so much good if she didn't believe any of it.

Doing her best to shove her maddening thoughts out of the way, Shego dug through the various articles of clothing, determined not to stop until she found something that wasn't obviously out of the question.

Tight shirts, faded jeans, evening wear, some of her racier nightgowns… they were not even worth trying on. It'd taken her a little while, probably due to a strong degree of denial on her part, but she was finally getting a sense of what would fit her and what would not.

Sadly, her hundreds of pairs of underwear, running the gamut from comfortable to sexy, were all right the hell out. It was heartbreaking having to throw out all of her expensive unmentionables like that. Or rather, it would have been, if it didn't attest to her possession of even more impressive chest than she'd had during her breathing days.

Compared to all the things she'd had to give up, bigger boobs were a crappy consolation prize. Having a great rack, or a nicer build in general, did not exactly make up for being a numb corpse girl.

If anything, it merely drove home just how unfamiliar Shego was with her own body.

You don't miss your pulse 'til it's gone, Shego mused to herself. She finally found herself a pair of cotton sweatpants that matched her sweater and pulled them on, securing them tightly to her waist with the sash. She was lucky she'd bought them baggy or they'd have come up too short.

Now if only I could find some fucking underwear in my size, or at the very least some panties. Going commando didn't work for me before, and it certainly doesn't now…

Shego frowned and checked herself out one more time. There were no mirrors in this room, but she really needed one.

When she'd first been reanimated, she had not been in the most healthy mental state. As Mayhem, she had been hard-pressed to care about cutting people in half, let alone how she looked. If she'd cared, she would certainly have done something about that choppy dyke-cut Drakken had given her. Thinking about it now, Shego realized she had almost no idea what she looked like at the moment.

Looking down at herself, she could tell she was at least a few inches taller, and her muscles had never popped out like they did now. But if those had been the only changes, she wouldn't have felt nearly as self-conscious and awkward as she did.

She raised her right hand and examined the still unfamiliar digits. Each and every one of her fingers ended in an inch-long curved talon, not a nail. They looked more like solid bone than keratin. She pinched the air, and the sound of her index finger tapping her thumb was a disconcerting click, not unlike two marbles colliding. After that, she tried curling her fingers into a fist. The resultant sound was sort of like hearing several pins being dragged across a piece of leather. If her skin hadn't become so tough, she wouldn't have ever been able to make a proper fist again.

Her eyes moved down to her wrist and were greeted with a pair of new additions. There were two tiny metal rings embedded in the skin above her major arteries. Or rather, where her major arteries had been.

Their purpose was obvious enough. If - or rather when - she needed a transfusion, the person giving it to her could just plug the tubes in instead of having to shove in the thick needles. Reaching up, she could feel similar plugs along either side of her neck and ankles.

Well, guess I better look into some bracelets or collars… Not too big a thing, particularly considering how much my old uniform used to cover. She looked down at the discard pile, noting the dessicated remains of several of her uniforms.

It was heartbreaking seeing them in that pile, tossed aside like an old prom dress. They were the lightest, most durable, and above all the most expensive body armor available. At the time, anyway. And she had gotten to design the color scheme. That was the only reason she'd kept them after going rogue.

Hego had pitched a fit when she'd given him that ultimatum. She'd only be a member of his little band of idiots if she got to design the costumes. It had been back during her fashion designer phase, when she'd been young and stupid. Hego had wanted a Superman outfit with an "H" on it...

Heh. Y'know, all things considered, I was one seriously fickle kid. Adventurer, fashion designer, police officer, hero - she scoffed and tossed another shirt on the large pile behind her - teacher… that one almost stuck too, God forbid. But nothing seemed quite as comfortable a fit as being a supervillain.

And that's what got you killed, came a stray unwelcome thought from beyond the edge of her consciousness. Was it worth it, giving up the classroom for the claws?

It was! Shego insisted to herself. I knew the risks, I knew Drakken was an incompetent boob, and I always went to bed knowing that there was a damn good chance that I'd end up as a splatter on the wall from one of his fuckups.

She blinked as she suddenly remembered the sight of a towering darkness looming over her. The sensation of numbness crawling across her spine as the light faded, punctuated only by her employer's anguished cries. She remembered the air, thick with the combined smell of smoke and gunpowder and copper, so thick you could taste it. The last thing she'd ever smelled as a living being had been the stench of Hell, and then the final beat of her heart had come, and then she had ceased to be. That was how she had died. That was how she had died. Her! Everything she had been, everything she could have been, everything she was - that moment of senseless violence had been the terminus of all three paths. That was not the end she had wanted.

Yeah, she had known that there was always the possibility of her own demise. Those in her career of choice rarely made it to the nursing home. She was a professional, of course she knew that. Every criminal who aims higher than knocking over gas stations for meth money knows they could die at any time. Even so, there was a very real difference between knowing and knowing.

Yeah. Yeah, it is different when it happens, she accepted. And I was an idiot, too slow on the uptake. I've got nobody to blame but myself. Hego's a genius compared to me.

Suddenly Shego's eyes widened and she covered her mouth in horror. Holy shit! Eight years! My family is eight years older! Oh, please don't tell me Hego's still working at that faux-Mexican grease factory!

She shoved that thought into the deepest, darkest recesses of her psyche, then built a wall around it with her next thoughts. Well, what the fuck do I care? It's not like we kept in touch… I doubt they'd even recognize me. I don't even know how I look. I have got to find a mirror.

With a weak groan she shoved past the pile, having given up on finding an acceptable outfit. She stalked off towards the door she believed led out into the main building. She reached for the control pad and was about to key in the sequence she'd watched Kim input when she left to meet with…

I'mmm gonna save that thought for a much later date. Right now I just gotta find the nearest mirror and see what the damage is. And then I'm gonna get me some sexy clothes that fit and don't show off my oh-so-attractive blood ports. She smirked. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

But she remained where she stood, just looking at the door in a stupor. C'mon, Shego! What're you, stupid? Just key it in and you'll find a bathroom with a mirror. How hard can that be?

But Kim should be back soon… countered another part of Shego.

So what!? She's already put a "monitoring system" in me. She can find me if she damn well needs to! She sighed and slumped her shoulders. ...Ah, shit. No point in lying to myself.

The simple fact of the matter was that she just didn't want to be out there alone. It was pathetic and childish, but it was the truth. She didn't expect to see any familiar faces beyond that door. And she was not about to take on a building loaded with GJ agents in nothing but a pair of worn-out PJs.

As bizarre as it was, Kim was the only human connection she could currently hold onto. Kim Possible, the annoying little brat that used to cause her nothing but grief and frustration. Kim Possible, the doctor. Or scientist. Or whatever the hell she was now.

How pathetic was that? She barely knew the woman who she now relied on. That was what Shego's life was now. Trapped in a body she couldn't understand and emotionally and physically reliant on a woman that barely resembled the young girl she used to know.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen," she stated bitterly to herself. "What a cliché." And it's even more of a cliché when you point it out using a cliché. Which I just did. Fuck me.

She shook her head and, walking back to her pile of clothes, lost herself in the monotony of sorting through them all.

Kim finally came through the door five minutes later. Her hair was slightly perturbed, with stray strands of red hanging above her face. She seemed slightly flushed, and her glasses appeared moments away from falling away completely. She quickly set her face back into its jovial position and looked up with a bright sunny smile, a smile strained somewhat by disuse.

"I'm back, Shego, sorry for the…" She paused when she saw the huge pile of clothes Shego had scattered on all sides, as well the dejected look on her face as she continued to pull articles free from the various cases.

Kim bit back a frown and responded as cheerfully as she could manage. "Y'know, I was kinda hoping we could have done that together. I was the one to keep track of all that for you this whole time. Just call me the keeper of the storage shed!" She saluted the green woman goofily.

Shego didn't bother to look up as she responded. "No point. I'm pretty much wearing the only outfit in this mess that doesn't make me look like a complete freak show. Right now I just look like a partial freak show that only owns a pair of pajamas."

Kim blinked and took a moment to sort through that somewhat confusing declaration before understanding finally took hold. Almost immediately her cheeks flushed red with embarrassment.

"Omigod, Shego, I'm so sorry! I'm an idiot, it never once even popped into my thick skull that you'd—"

"Ah-buh-buh!" Shego held up a clawed index finger, shushing Kim in the same way she did with the last doctor in her life. "Don't start with the pointless apologizing, Kimmie."

She gave Kim a weak smirk and added, "There's more than enough on my mind at the moment then to go adding your little guilt trips to it, 'kay?"

You and me both, Kim thought tiredly, then mentally berated herself for presuming to compare their current situations.

"Sor- er… Yeah, that… so… need any help?" she finally asked, making a vague gesture towards the empty suitcases and strewn-about clothing.

"Nah, see, I got a system going here. Heh." Shego waved her off with a weak, probably forced, chuckle.

She pointed to the medium-sized pile to her right, "This here's my Fucked Up Through Stupidity pile; which is made up of clothes I was dumb enough to try on. Mostly jeans, expensive dresses, lacy underthings, y'know. The clothes I actually liked."

She moved on and pointed to what was easily the largest pile laying between herself and the transfusion chair. "Aaaaand this here is the Thrift Store pile. These are all the clothes that would have gone into the aforementioned pile had I been dumb enough to try them on. Well, except for my uniforms. There's no way in hell I'm selling those."

Kim's expression tightened in memory of Shego's infamous harlequin catsuits.

"And this tiny pile here is the Stuff I Wouldn't Normally Be Caught Dead In, But Which Somehow Still Fits Due To Cruel Irony, Too Much Ice Cream, And Bloaty Days pile. I know, I know; I'm working on shortening the name, but nothing else seems to get the main idea across." She flicked another baggy gray sweatshirt onto that pile with a disgusted air.

Yeah, she's adjusting well, Kim thought, sighing to herself. This was so much easier when I was just imagining it.

She walked over to the pile of damaged clothes and began sifting through them to see what was salvageable. Thinking of a possible solution to the clothing issue, she paused in her sorting and looked up at Shego while mentally biting the bullet.

"Well… I'm hesitant to bring it up, but this is a GJ facility, so it's pretty well-stocked to say the least. Finding some nice clothes for you in this place shouldn't be too hard, so… no big, right?"

Shego rolled her eyes and slumped slightly. "Gah, don't remind me." She pointed at herself. "Blue? So not my color. Trust me."

After another pause, Shego asked a question that had been rolling around in her head since Kim's return. "By the way… well, how'd that go anyways?"

Kim's shoulders stiffened and she began to sift faster through the clothes. When she heard Shego's foot tapping impatiently on the tiles, she finally spoke. "How'd it go? Um…"


Kim sighed and stood, placing the folded pile on the table besides the monitors. "Yeah, um, not too well." Her expression hardened slightly. "She and I have some… serious disagreements about my priorities."

"Me, you mean," Shego stated flatly.

"No!" Kim explained, frantically waving her arms as if to banish the thought, "Not you, I mean…"

She seemed to lose her energy all of a sudden and reached for the rolling chair. After slumping into it, she cast Shego a tired look and pushed up her glasses. "Honestly, your name didn't even come up, really, just… it's nothing. There's no need to worry."

Shego regarded Kim with a difficult-to-read expression for what felt like a whole minute. Kim averted her eyes slightly and had to keep from wriggling uncomfortably in her seat. But thankfully, Shego finally shook her head. "Whatever you say, Doc…"

Kim gave a weak laugh and took off her glasses to play around with the hinges. "Stop calling me 'Doc'. It's way too creepy coming from you."

Shego waved her off and smirked, placing a hand on her cocked hip. "So… this is gonna sound kinda weird, but…"

"Yes?" Kim asked, mentally ecstatic for the change in subject.

"Do you have a mirror on you?" Shego asked, trying to hide her hesitance. "Like a compact or something?"

"A mirror?" Kim asked, then reached into her various large pockets until finally feeling out the requested item. "Yeah, lemme just… here you go."

She handed the small compact over to Shego, trying not to frown when she noticed Shego's hesitance in taking it. Turning away from Kim, Shego hesitantly eased open the small makeup tool until she got a clear look at her face.

For five minutes, she didn't move.

Kim lost her patience and eased up to try to look over Shego's shoulder to see her expression reflected in the mirror. She regretted that action seconds later.

"…Good God, what's wrong with my teeth?!" Shego cried, startling Kim enough that she tripped on her own feet and stumbled back. Her hip smacked against the edge of the table, sending knives of pain up and down Kim's side and making her eyes tear up. She hissed and tried to rub feeling back into her abused hip.

"It's really not that―" Kim attempted to say from between her gritted teeth.

"And wrinkles! I have wrinkles!" Shego shouted in indignity at the mirror in front of her. Her eyes were focused on the deep, dark worry lines around her eyes. Her right hand suddenly erupted in black flame and she looked as though she were about to punish the small looking glass for its transgressions.

But Kim managed to breathe a sigh of relief when Shego extinguished the flame and dropped the mirror from limp fingers. "Jesus, I look like I'm forty… A forty-year-old vampire shark thing…My life has become the plot of a B-horror movie."

Kim wasn't sure what she could say to help appease the recently animated thief. The fact of the matter was, she did look older. Her whole body had been restructured leaving her taller, more muscular, and just all-around bigger than she'd been before. But there were other changes, like her claws and her waist. Said waist was thinner than her frame allowed, a testament to all the organs Drakken had removed from her abdominal cavity. Now it was just flesh, muscle and bone, and appeared unnaturally constricted as a result.

But what Shego was focusing on were the numerous lines of stress and dark skin framing her eyes. It added years to what had once been a picture of almost alien beauty. Dying certainly did not do Shego any favors in the looks department.

"Shego…" Kim began, wracking her brain to think of a tactful way to appease the undead thief's mood. This seemed to have the exact opposite effect, however; Shego flashed a bald-faced sneer at Kim.

"What, can't plaster on another fake smile, Pumpkin?" Shego stated coldly, crossing her arms. "Shame. It really worked for you."

Kim blanched. She struggled desperately to stay supportive in the face of such a cruel remark. "Wh… I…just…"

Shego regretted her words almost as soon as they'd left her mouth. And Kim's shameful stupor in front of her only served to make her feel like dirt. IDIOT! What the hell is wrong with you?! She's probably the only person alive who cares about you and you jump down her throat? Real tough, smartass.

She winced and turned away, keeping from making eye contact with Kim. Shrugging, Shego spoke with a resigned dispassion.

"Shit, Princess, I'm sorry, I... I just..." she sighed and walked over to the other side of the lab, "I dunno what to do with myself..."

There was a tense silence then, as both parties retreated inwards. Neither was sure what to say, or if there was even anything to say in the first place. Eventually, Kim made the first move, leaning down and picking up one of Shego's catsuits, running the soft but sturdy material between her thumb and index finger. The familiar colors helped to center the redhead's thoughts.

"This thing…" Kim made a vague hand gesture towards the transfusion equipment and Shego, "All of this, it's just until I find a way to help you. I don't want you to feel like this is it..."

She looked up at Shego and walked towards her, turning the woman around so that they were making eye contact. Kim placed the folded uniform in Shego's hands and added with a smile, "We'll get back to the way things were."

Careful, Kimmie. Shego thought immediately, Don't make promises you can't keep.

She mentally put a dead stop to that thought as soon as it came. Remember that lame motto of hers. She got you this far, right?

She noticed Kim looking up at her with nervous apprehension. Doing her best to summon up a smile, Shego spoke, laying the old snark on thick.

"Y'mean like me kicking your ass?"

The relieved expression all over Kim's face was so obvious that it almost hurt to watch. The redhead sighed and tried to look put-upon, but Shego could tell she was happy to hear the Shego she knew. "Ha ha. It has been a while, but I do not remember you ever kicking my ass, Miss Shego. I seem to recall exactly the opposite, in fact."

"Well, memory is the first thing to go..." The green woman smirked, looking at her claws dismissively.

"No it's not! Shut up!" Kim protested, trying to hide her smile under a weak mask of indignation. This was more like it, what she'd been hoping for this whole time. It was nice to see that the Shego she remembered was still in there underneath all that frustration.

It was quite obvious from the familiar smirk on Shego's face that the green woman concurred with the sentiment. "Too bad we can't see who's got a clearer memory of our little altercations."

To Shego's surprise, Kim actually seemed to be considering her suggestion. "Well… y'know, we could always…"

"Um, exactly what could we always, Kimmie?" Shego inquired cautiously. "Because if we could always what I think we could always..."

Kim flushed slightly at the relatively stupid idea she'd come up with."I kinda have carte blanche to use the training field as I need to, and…" She glanced around the cluttered room. "You gotta admit, this room is getting pretty stuffy."

It took a moment for Kim's suggestion to sink in fully. When it did, Shego gave Kim a look of arch disapproval. "You're kidding. Tell me you're kidding. Do you rent or own that timeshare in Crazytown, Possible? We can't fight!"

Kim winced and rubbed the back of her head sheepishly. "Well, not seriously, no. But…"

She smirked impishly and crossed her arms. "As your doctor, I'm gonna have to insist."

"That right?" Shego asked, quirking an eyebrow slightly. She cocked her hip and placed a hand on it. "How do you figure that, exactly?"

Kim turned to the various monitors lining the walls. She pointed to a particular screen and cast Shego a knowing look. Shego, in turn, stared blankly at the screen for a minute and then back at Kim with a wry smirk. "Yeah, Dr. D just expected me to understand all this science-y crap too. I'll tell you what I told him: not in my contract."

Kim sighed and pointed to various shifting numerical values. "Your nerve impulses and operational state keep fluctuating between seventy and eighty percent. That's not too bad, but it still bothers me. I really think giving you a chance to stretch your legs will do you some good."

Shego was about to protest, make up some excuse, or just say she wasn't interested. But the determination on Kim's face stayed her tongue. Being stubborn wouldn't do her any favors right now. Not here, in this... place.

She groaned and rubbed the back of her head, grudgingly resigned to her fate. "Argh… alright, but am I just gonna go in this?"

She gestured towards her gray sweater and sweat pants with a slightly curled lip.

Kim, however, was not to be denied. She quickly waved off Shego's concerns, grabbed her by the hand, and almost dragged her out the door. She only paused to enter the passcode. "I'll see what I can find on the way there. You just focus on getting your head in the game."

"Whatever," the pale woman replied as she reluctantly left the safety of the lab. "Lead the damn way, Doc."

"I really hate you calling me that," Kim scoffed as the two left the room. Had she not been so distracted, however, she would have noticed her companion's eyes widen slightly as Shego cast one final glance back at the room.

Because, in the moment before the door automatically sealed shut, just for a fleeting instant, she saw a figure on the chair. A figure wrapped in black tatters and shredded metal. A figure whose single smug beady black eye stared at her knowingly from between bone-white bangs.

Dez shoved another wad of popcorn in his mouth as he glared over at the screen in front of him. He munched the buttery kernels idly as he watched one of his favorite action films, Steven Seagal's Silent But Deadly, playing in full big-screen surround-sound ultra-hi-def splendor. Too bad he was having such a lousy day so far or he'd have actually been able to enjoy it.

Shifting in his recliner slightly, he winced. His tailbone still hurt from his encounter with that arrogant skank down in the crypt. Dez reached for another handful of popcorn but grimaced when his fingernails scraped the bottom of the plastic bowl. That had been his last bag, and he'd be damned if he was going to move for another hour. He licked his lips and the surrounding area, trying to lap up every last morsel of salted-butter residue trapped in his scruffy half-beard. He wanted to look his best for his assistant. Not that he cared about her, but you just never knew when some broad would spread her legs.

"Milanda!" he shouted over his shoulder. "Milanda, get your lazy assistant ass in gear and assist me in getting some more popcorn!"

There was no reply. He tried several more times; nothing. Onscreen, Seagal shouted, "I kick your face, baby seal ninja hooker!" Eventually, reluctantly, Dez slowly stood up. He looked over at her, sitting at the work table, busy doing… whatever she did when he wasn't making her "pick up" something he "dropped."

He turned off SBD - as action cinema aficionados such as himself often referred to it - and stalked over, trying to hide his limp as best he could. He stalked up to the young woman, who was busy sketching stuff on some datapad, and lowered his head so he was well into her personal space.

"Milanda, sweety? Your boss needs junk food to make with the brilliance. So how's about you get off your fine ass and get me some?" He batted his eyes at her mockingly. "See, I even gave you a compliment."

The dark woman looked up into Dez's eyes, blinked, and went back to work. Her middle finger rose up in salute. "Sure, boss. I'll totally get right on that. Definitely by next year."

The young man's right eye twitched slightly. "You'll be so kind as to remind me why I don't can your ass?"

"You don't can my ass 'cause you can't can my ass and you like lookin' at my ass." She smirked. "Which you better, 'cause Director Du said she was tired of you going through RAs like you go through lotion and tissue. So I am here to stay, motherfucker, because I will walk in here one day and have your job if you keep this up."

"Oh, be still my beating heart," Desmond drawled. "And what better things do you have to do, Miss Signy, than fetch your loving and remarkably attractive boss some delicious consumer-poison?"

He smirked and sat on the table, reaching over and shoving her work to the side before she could stop him. "And as if you didn't put on that oh-so-daring top just to get my attention." He pointed at the dark blue tanktop she wore right beneath her labcoat.

She snorted derisively at him. "You are a dick with a brain, you know that? And I mean that real damn literally. You are a Goddamn penis that walks upright, boss."

Dez grinned. "I try." He lost the grin almost immediately. "Now, Archie's practically ready to take his first steps off the assembly line, so I know you're not here for that. Goofing off on my time, babycakes?"

Milanda quirked an eyebrow and gave a wry smirk. "Scared of the competition, Dez? That's okay, I don't blame you. You're tried and tired. I'm young and brilliant. And one day you will be fetching my… um… well, not popcorn. I eat better than your nasty ass. But I'll think of something nice and demeaning for you to take care of."

"Hey, if you want my attention, honey, you need only ask. I mean, it's really just the two of us in this big lonely place and I'm a charitable guy." Dez smirked, blowing a kiss her way. Milanda actually had to keep herself from ducking the gesture in horror. She liked to think she was a little more mature than that.

"Sorry, bossman. I would just feel so Goddamned guilty about coming between you and your soon-to-be outdated Apples." She stressed her personal nickname for his AAPs and watched as his smile tightened across his gums.

"Signy, I do not make Goddamn candy-colored, overpriced MP3 players," snarled Dez. "Nor do I make candy-colored, overpriced computers for girls."

Milanda snickered. "No, you make candy-colored, overpriced missile launchers for men with tiny dicks. Same dif, bossman."

Dez ground his teeth. "They are so much more than...!" He caught himself before he did anything lawsuit-worthy, opting to knead his forehead instead. "You and Possible, I swear… There is just something to be said about chicks who think they've got two brain cells to rub together. Daddy always told me to stick with whores. But there I go, thinkin' I know better…"

"I see where you got your charm." A grin sliced it's way across Milanda's face and her eyes narrowed. "You tried to make a move on Frankenstein, didn'tcha. You picked quite a day, I heard she actually smiled. Scared the livin' shit out of Doc Sebastian over in Android Studies."

Dez barely suppressed a snarl. "The Corpse Bride allegedly - a-fucking-llegedly! - pulls off a miracle and suddenly she's the talk of the complex. Not like anyone even knows what the hell that creepy broad does…"

"Aw, don't feel bad, Desmond. You can still get her attention." Milanda smirked. "All you gotta do is drop dead. Which I'm fine with. No more grabbin' popcorn for your fat ass."

"Ha. Ha." Dez scoffed crossing his arms and turning his head up. "One of these days, you bitches are gonna realize just how much you crave my man-meat, and then we'll be in real business."

"And until then," the young woman interrupted, trying her best to shake off the unpleasant image, "You can spend some time with Apple-13. It's been trying to get your attention all morning."

Dez blinked, seemingly stunned by the sudden work-related change of topic. He quickly resumed grinning his slimy grin. "Whatever, babe. I'll go and have me a little chat with Thirteen, and you can think your dirty fantasies about my retreating behind."

He grinned and sauntered off with a slight swing in his stride, as his research assistant contemplated the pros and cons of throwing a wrench at the behind in question. She'd made tougher decisions in her life.

Dez cried out as a hard edge of metal struck the back of his left knee and dropped him hard. "Dammit, Signy!"

When he whipped around to confront her, her empty chair was spinning in lazy circles. "Typical."

Taking the tattered remains of his dignity with him, he shuffled back over to his loveseat and fell into it with a groan. After allowing himself a moment of silence, Dez typed in a set of quick commands, changing his television screen to an interface HUB. The screen displayed a large yellow hexagon with six smaller hexagons surrounding it in a shifting pattern. It was Arachnophobia's Artificial Intelligence avatar, designed to vaguely represent its body's optic cluster.

"Good Morning, Dave," came an annoyed deep voice, pushing the bass of the speakers.

"Don't you start," Dez warned. He knew letting it have access to the entertainment archive was gonna cost him. But combat AIs were always so boring without getting a chance to take in different types of data. "So… what's up, big guy?"

"Desmond, I am aware that my frame is past its final testing phase. When am I to engage in live field tests?"

Dez smirked. "Well, aren't you the eager beaver. The simulations not good enough for you?"

"These simulations are based on programming sets ten years behind my intelligence. I am bored. I wish to be uploaded into my frame."

Dez scoffed and leaned back in his seat. "No can do, pally. Not 'til we run some more checks on your conversion servos. If those lock up, you could turn yourself inside out trying to fix it."

"Unacceptable. The tests are conclusive. When will you let me out of this box?"

"Stop quoting evil robots! It's, y'know, weird!" Dez snapped, snatching his drink from the table and taking a big sip. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and looked over at the screen.

"Bah. I suppose I've got nothing better to do than to load you up. What's going on at the fields? Anyone out there?"

"Doctor Possible is logged as having entered the area. She is… accompanied. But the data on her companion is contradictory at best."

Dez paused and looked down into his lap for a moment. "Accompanied, you say?"

"Correct. Facial pattern does not match any registered employees, nor does her biorhythmic pattern."

Dez was silent for over five minutes. He just sat and stared at his drink, his eyes narrowed in troubling thoughts. Finally he looked up at the screen and tossed his drink over his shoulder into the wastebasket behind him. The cup bounced off the rim and rolled across the floor, splashing soda and ice onto the concrete. After a brief sigh, he elected to ignore the fumble.

"I didn't hear that," he stated finally.

"Must I repeat myself?" Thirteen asked, annoyed.

"No, no. As far as I know, that training field is empty. I'm just sending you in to stretch your legs." Dez stated more to himself than to Arachnophobia as he began typing furiously into the command console, prepping the transfer systems.

"Yup," he smirked, "That's my story and I'm sticking to it…"

Inside the men's prison block of the Middleton Correctional Facility, the inmates were restless, fully aware that something was seriously wrong beyond the immediate walls. The alarms had stopped ringing some time ago, and the guards had all but disappeared - evacuated, probably - well before that.

The last any of the incarcerated men saw of a person in authority, they had been rushing in full riot gear towards the main entryway. Then the emergency lights had come on and the prisoners were left with nothing but their thoughts.

But now the only noise was from the discussions and arguments between the inmates themselves. All of them had the same thought on their mind.

This would be a damn good time to check out.

Several had preexisting escape plans in mind already and went to the back of their cells to see if they could be rushed to completion. Others bickered over whose contacts outside had arranged this sudden and conspicuous intervention. The sounds of their frantic and angered voices bounced back and forth across the huge wing, drowning out individual words in favor of a senseless din. But the older, more seasoned villains knew better than to place any faith in such a hunch.

Duff Killigan leaned back, his hand reaching down into the bedframe. It had taken some doing, but he had managed to fabricate a passable weaponized ion-putter with a little help from a few genius types a few cells down. It'd cost him an arm and a leg but was worth every penny.

He didn't know what was happening, but if it came down to his short game, he wouldn't be empty-handed.

"Hey, Duff! D-Man! Scotty!" yelled his highly obnoxious neighbor. Duff gritted his teeth and prayed that Ed would get the idea and mind his business. And, of course, the Scotsman was shown no such courtesy.

"Dude, you seein' this? Seriously. What goin' down, man? You'd know, right? Keep your ear to the ground? Yeah, you know. Seriously, do you know?" There was a nervous edge to the mechanic's voice that undercut his typically exuberant attitude. As idiotic as Motor Ed often was, he was a longtime member of a dangerous business, so instincts were bound to develop. Were that not the case, the blond thug wouldn't have bothered to say a word to Killigan in the first place. They weren't fans of each other, though Killigan's animosity towards Ed greatly outweighed Ed's animosity toward Killigan.

"Dinnae bother me now, ye daft grease stain," Killigan hissed as he glared through the reinforced bars.

Duff's flat dismissal didn't seem to provide Ed any comfort. "Whoa, ya sound tripped out, bro. What gives? Why are ya gettin' all uptight, Scotty? It's makin' me nervous, seriously."

Killigan hissed a breath through his teeth and spoke close to the bars so it wouldn't get any further than Ed's ears, his dangerously enhanced golf club held tightly behind his back. "I've told ye before not to call me that, lummox."

"But if'n ye want my advice," he answered in all seriousness, "ye'd best stay on yer toes, lad."

There was a tense silence on the part of the mad mechanic. Duff considered the unlikely possibility that Ed was actually considering the possible outcomes.

"You think this shit is serious, D-man?" he finally asked, seemingly taking on an air of caution. Duff almost couldn't believe his ears. But a distraction kept him from responding.

The main door leading into the men's cell block was a four-foot-thick block of electrified and reinforced military-grade ceramic lined with a titanium alloy mesh. Many unnatural, monstrous and enhanced prisoners had tried and failed to get past that overpriced vault door over the years. It was one of the main reasons that the guard's and inmates had dubbed the blasted thing Hell's Gate.

So, of course, when the door in question exploded off its hinges, zoomed clear across the room, and imbedded itself in the far wall, it was reasonable enough for Killigan to consider it a distraction. Then Duff saw the juggernaut and the wraith clearly as they stepped through the dark hole, and he was afraid.

"Serious, lad?" Killigan stated darkly as his fingers tightened around his putter. "Aye. As serious as it gets."

Chapter 2: End

Author's Notes: I dedicate this chapter to my Beta-readers, FFordesoon, and Eoraptor. Without them this would have been downright illegible. And also to my readers for staying tuned despite the LONG wait for this chapter. I'm really sorry about that, and I take full responsibility for it. I'll try to insure that it not happen again. ;)

Now remember, Reviews are greatly appreciated. :P