"Y-you don't have to do this," Ron stammered.
"Yes, yes I do," the woman smiled heartlessly.
"No, r-really, as long at it isn't too juicy, I can keep a secret," Ron said quickly, desperately.
"Maybe, we can trust him," the girl asked hopefully.
"Yeah," Ron nodded enthusiastically to his friend. Turning back to the older woman, he managed somewhat firmly, "Yes, you can."
"No," she said, her eyes piercing, unblinking. "This is too … juicy." Her smile broadened as she drew out the last word.
Looking at her smile made Ron very, very queasy. "Is this gonna hurt?" he asked, trying to control his breathing.
"Don't worry, Stoppable-san, it doesn't hurt," the girl consoled him, placing her hand gently on his shoulder. Then she paused. "At least … I don't think it does."
"Ohhh, man." Ron's hands began to shake. He hugged his arms close to his body. And then his body began to shake.
"It doesn't hurt, does it?" the girl asked.
After a second's thought, the woman answered her, "I don't think it does." Then she added casually, "So what? Even if it does, he won't remember anyway."
"I'm sorry, Stoppable-san," his friend said, earnestly. "It'll be okay."
Ron closed his eyes tightly and tensed up in expectation.
"Here we go," he heard the woman's voice say.
After shaking in the darkness that lay behind his eyelids for what seemed a long time, Ron opened his eyes.
"Uh," he began sheepishly, "does it take a while to start or should I already feel it?"
The woman and the girl stared at him in disbelief.
"Impossible!" the woman cried.
"Wha-what's going on?" the girl asked nervously.
"Shh—let me try it again," the women said stepping forward.
This time Ron kept his eyes open.
"Whoa—that's pretty!" he breathed, looking about him.
"I don't understand. It has never not worked—it worked not two hours ago!"
"Maybe," the girl said hesitantly, "maybe he's immune."
"Yes, obviously! But how?"
Ron stood watching their discussion with an almost calm detachment—almost. He was relieved that whateveritwas wasn't working on him, but he didn't want to un-tense his body and appear relieved. He felt that might be rude.
"I-I guess," the girl said looking into Ron's eyes, "we'll just have to trust him."
"Yeah," Ron nodded, his body relaxing automatically. "I'll keep it a secret, no problemo."
"Stoppable-san," the girl said taking his large left hand in both of hers, "Please, you must never tell another living person what you learned tonight. Never."
Ron was going to ask if it would be okay if he told his best friend/girlfriend Kim Possible the secret. He shared everything with her, and he knew that she would keep the secret, too. But the warmth beading in the girl's eyes stopped him, and he found himself nodding assent before asking the vital question.
"Because if you do tell anyone," the woman's frigid voice snapped Ron's attention back to her. Her eyes were just as compelling as the teenager's were, but for much different reasons.
He was about to nod when she suddenly drove her fist through the cinderblock wall not two inches from his right cheek.
Once the agonizing noise had died down and Ron had stopped clutching his ears and shaken the dust from his hair, the woman reiterated her sentiment. "If you break your vow, I'll do something to you that will hurt. Something you cannot forget."
To be continued ...