Kim allowed the misery fostered by the thought that she would never see Ron again, even to say good-bye, wash over her. The sadness seeped into every laceration and fissure that Lorwardia had inflicted upon her. Too disheartened to cry, all she wanted was to curl tighter into the snug crawlspace in which she was hiding, to curl tighter upon herself until she was no longer there.
And then she remembered.
Shaking her head, she smiled and sat up.
Pity fiesta's over, Possible.
She pulled her makeshift sling from her cargo pocket, placed it back over her shoulder, and adjusted it so that her right wrist was held close to her chest. Then she gingerly extracted herself from her hiding place and began to investigate the Shield Generator building.
"There has to be something I can do," she whispered. She made her way to the far wall to see if there was any additional wording there that could prove useful. At first, the oscillating interior lights made it difficult to tell if there was any writing other than the tall block lettering identifying "Generator #1" and "Generator #2." And, of course, the angry Lorwardian voices in the not-so-far-distance above didn't help her concentration any. However, before long she made out lines of smaller text beneath the larger labels. Underneath "Generator #1" was the word "Arena"; underneath "Generator #2" was the word "Port."
Her mind immediately went back to the opaque bubble she had seen covering the hover port when she had first arrived as well as the similarly composed "dome" that had encased the stadium. Recognizing the titanic import of the building in which she was trapped proved to be so invigorating.
How likely is it that the Lorwardians who designed this building also designed Warhok's ship?
Although it would have been much easier if she possessed an independent light source and if the Lorwardian voices hadn't increased in unpleasantness or sounded closer every minute, Kim undauntedly searched every yard of the building's ground floor and half of it's second. She searched until she discovered what she knew she would find.
Although "Spankin'" was the phrase Kim would normally use under such circumstances, she felt that since Ron's words had given her the strength to begin this mission, she would use his phrase to conclude it.
"Boo-yah," she whispered.
Bruvile was attempting to marshal his troops within the grotto under the falls. However, he kept being interrupted by Gogcider's shouted demands from his comm device. Impatiently waiting at the front entrance to the Shield Generator Complex, his confederate insisted that if an effective pincer movement was to be achieved against the War Criminal, they needed to coordinate their attacks. Exasperated after the fifth such verbal harangue, Bruvile killed the comm device. After lifting his foot to confirm it had been smashed to smithereens, he charged his warriors pell-mell down the ill-lit tunnel at the rear of the grotto. In the end, formation didn't matter. The only thing Bruvile really cared about was preventing Gogcider from taking sole credit for the target's death.
Although the two legions did enter the first floor of the building at the same time, this was due to happenstance rather than planning. Furthermore, the meeting of the two forces was far from coordinated. In fact, pushing matches broke out among several warriors from the rival companies. And, of course, the most ferocious skirmish was between the two illustrious Synod members themselves.
Eventually, all the fighting ceased when a high whistle broke over the warriors' heads.
On a raised platform at the rear of the building was the War Criminal. She favored them with a smile. "Hey!"
Immediately, Brivule targeted the alien with his plasma canon. He received a sharp elbow to the ear before he could fire. "Frackle!" he cried, clutching the side of his head.
"Imbecile!" Gogcider hissed. "Even with one eye, I can see she's located the switch!"
"Th-the switch?" Brivule repeated densely.
"Everyone hold your fire," Gogcider announced to the room.
"Everyone hold your fire," Brivule repeated to his troops.
Gogcider leaned down to Brivule and whispered, "Get Hegemon on the comm."
"I can't," Brivule shouted back.
"Why not?" Gogcider demanded.
"It's dead," Brivule replied.
Rolling his eyes, Gogcider huffed, "Fine." However, before he activated his comm device, he beckoned to one of his warriors. After receiving his captain's whispered instructions, the warrior promptly retreated to the other side of the building.
Gogcider pressed a button on the hands-free device in his ear. "Hegemon, she has located the switch."
Hegemon was only partially successful in suppressing a sigh. As a result, his head, which had been steadily feeling less anguished over the past dozen or so moments, began throbbing anew with sharp pain.
After taking a moment to re-center himself, he replied evenly to Gogcider via the comm link on his desk, "What does she want?"
Through the device he heard Gogcider bellow, "What is the meaning of this, War Criminal?"
He then heard her faint reply. "A ship."
"'A ship?' What is the meaning of that?" Hegemon heard Gogcider demand.
She wants a ship back to her home world, you fool.
Hegemon winced. Even thinking in anger caused him pain.
"I want safe passage on a ship back to Earth," came her faint, patient reply.
Heading off what he knew would be an outraged and utterly useless response from his confederate, Hegemon spoke, "Tell her, this will be discussed, Gogcider."
"What?!" Gogcider screamed.
"Tell her, Gogcider, and then lower your voice," Hegemon explained in a less patient tone than the earther had used, "so she cannot hear what you are saying to me."
Hegemon's mind was swirling and not just from pain. There were so many questions he needed to have answered, and he was certain his Synod confederate could provide none of the them. Chief among these was how the earther had learned about the switch. Following that, where had she learned to speak such fluent Lorwardian? He checked once again and confirmed (once again) that his Mentor-provided translating device was indeed not active.
The Doctor was highly displeased.
Having the Tardis "track" Kim's DNA was not bringing them any closer to finding her. Although it had certainly taken them to places where she had been, it was not doing so in chronological order. It was only when the Doctor could closely examine a DNA sample (hair, but, occasionally, dried blood) via the sonic screwdriver could she determine how long it had been since Kim had been present at the location the sample had been found. For example, the first place it landed after the stadium was atop a giant matrix of lights suspended over an immense underground forest of Gallifreyan trees. The next place was among the chimneys in the rock formation that bordered the stadium. Testing the samples proved the obvious, Kim had been at the rock formation before she had been above the forest.
And then the Tardis took them back to the stadium.
"What's wrong?" Yaz ventured softly.
The Doctor threw up her hands in exasperation. "It's the zeiton-5! It's having an echo chamber effect on the tracking systems. They direct us to the next sample, but in a completely random order. If we keep going like this, sure, we might get lucky, but we might just end up back where we started."
"Like now?" Jack asked.
"Yes," the Doctor hissed.
"I wonder what Wade would do," Ron muttered to Rufus. He had been trying to brainstorm his own solution, but he was hopelessly overwhelmed by the science-bordering-on-magic used by the Doctor. His recourse was to speculate on what the smartest person he knew might suggest.
"Of course, Wade!" Yaz cried.
"Wade?" the Doctor asked.
"Right!" Jack declared. "He's the entire reason we were able to reach you! He got Martha's phone to work in less than five minutes."
"Ok, great!" the Doctor nodded, grabbing her cell phone. "Let's give him a call."
Ron took the Roncom out of his pocket. "I'll get you the number."
"Why don't you just call him with yours?" the Doctor asked.
"I don't have a signal," Ron explained. "I'm guessing Lorwardia isn't on Hurtle's network."
The Doctor touched her glowing pen against the Roncom's screen. "Now it is."
Ron had five bars. He speed-dialed Wade.
Before the first ring had finished, Wade Load's anxious face appeared on the device's screen. "What's going on, Ron? Did you find her?"
"Not yet," Ron said, "we actually need your help on that, buddy."
"Uh, sure," Wade nodded. "What's going on?"
"Let me speak to him, Ron," the Doctor said as she took the device. "Hello, Wade. I'm the Doctor."
"Okay," Wade said after a moment.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"N-nothing, I thought Kim and Ron said you were a man."
"Typically, I am. This—" she gestured to her face, "is just the latest thing. Don't give it a thought. The problem is that all my scanning capabilities are occluded by the zetion-5 in the planet's atmosphere and, well, under the planet's surface, too. Tracking Kim by her DNA signature has been the most useful method, but even that isn't providing an accurate chronological time signature."
"Did you need me to repeat any of that?" the Doctor asked.
Wade shook his head, and then furrowed his brow in thought. "I imagine your ship has its own unique signature? And anything from your ship would have a similar if not the same signature?"
She nodded. "Yes and yes."
"Do you think you could track that signature successfully even with the amount of disturbance you're getting?"
"I believe so," she replied. "But I don't see how that will help us find Kim. To my knowledge, she doesn't have anything from the Tardis."
"She does," Wade smiled.
"Right!" cried Ron. "She's got your flute!"
"My … flute?" The Doctor gave Ron a puzzled look.
"Well, your recorder," Wade explained.
The Doctor's expression did not change. She looked at Wade's image and then back at Ron. "No, she doesn't."
"Yeah, she does," Ron nodded eagerly. "You left it in her room when we were kids."
"No," the Doctor shook her head slowly. "I didn't."
"Huh?" Wade and Ron said in unison.
"I'm not sure what you guys are referring to, but I had my recorder long after you helped me defeat the Yeti at Paisley Manor, Ron."
"Are you sure?" Wade asked.
"I am." She nodded sadly. "I may be over two thousand years old, but my memory is still razor sharp."
The defeated looks this statement produced couldn't help but move her.
"I'll perform the scan for any Tardis signature on the planet," she said pressing a few buttons. Glancing absently at the scanner display, she continued, "But I'm not going to find—" Her eyes suddenly got large.
"What?" Ron asked eagerly.
"I usually hate it when I'm wrong, guys," she said breaking into a broad smile, "but I'm loving it today!"
"You found something?" Yaz asked looking over her shoulder.
"Yes! My recorder. Right there," the Doctor exclaimed, pointing to the display. "Thanks, Wade!" she said as she tossed the Roncom back to Ron. "Hold on everyone!"
"Boo-yah!" Ron yelled.
"She's got to be there," the Doctor said and then her smile faded slightly. "That is, if she still has the recorder."
Kim kept her hand steady on the end of the recorder. She had stuck its mouthpiece into the open space in the middle of the switch, effectively turning the instrument into an extended lever for turning it off.
She had been pleased with the Lorwardians' initial shock and encouraged by their apparent willingness to negotiate. But now she was starting to have doubts about their sincerity. The judge she'd hit with the rock outside the stadium had claimed he was going to discuss her request with someone called Hegemon, but that had been a while ago. And, for the past few minutes now, he had been staring intently at her, speaking softly to himself, and occasionally pressing the device in his ear.
He looks far too pleased with himself to just be arranging my ride.
She considered making a threatening gesture with the switch but was worried she might flip it by , of course, that concern led directly back to the elephant in the room.
What will I do if they call my bluff?
Almost from the moment she had been abducted, Kim had been steeling herself to the possibility that she wouldn't make it out of this stich alive. As her time on Lorwardia went on, an abject feeling of inevitability had grown stronger. If anything was possible for a Possible, then an end to her incredible string of luck was possible, too.
I'll just have to be brave.
Then she remembered the conversation she'd had with Ron and her cousin Joss junior year. Joss believed that since Ron was so full of fear yet always joined Kim on her missions, that he was the true hero. That he was the brave one. A few months ago, Kim had even reminded Ron of that fact. If only the Lorwardians had waited to abduct her ten, even five, minutes later. Then she would have been able to ask Ron for his advice for on how she could deal with her fears.
And I am so frightened right now, Ron.
High in the rafters on the opposite side of the building, Gogcider's sharpshooter was awaiting his orders. The War Criminal's skull was centered in the sites of his plasma cannon. The plasma setting was red; only one shot would be necessary.
He was at ease. Accustomed to waiting, he knew the value of patience as well as the dangers anticipation could bring. Yet, he found he wasn't completely centered in this assignment. The building itself was the most likely culprit. Particularly, its random noises: hisses of steam, knocks from the shield machinery, and what he was certain was the scurrying of vermin on the pipe just above him. Regardless of these distractions, the assignment would have a satisfactory end.
"Let me see her," Hegemon said to the comm link. Within a few seconds, an amber-colored hologram of the War Criminal hovered over the device.
"Closer," he instructed and braced for Gogcider's reply. For whatever reason—perhaps his confederate's placement of his corresponding comm link in his ear, whenever Gogcider whispered through the device, his voice became louder, tinnier and generally more unpleasant than his bellowing voice in person ever could.
"Why?" Gogcider hissed.
Hegemon winced and then spoke slowly, "I need to see her eyes."
The image increased in size until the young earther's head towered over Hegemon, each eye as large as his own head. He watched them intently as the pupils darted this way and then that. He examined them as they blinked, squeezed shut momentarily, and then opened wide once again.
"Well?" his confederate cursed.
"A moment," Hegemon said calmly. Although it would have been much easier if the image was in color, he was close to making his judgement.
A momentary flicker in her left eye, and he knew. The War Criminal did not want to die. More importantly, she did not want to kill. She was bluffing.
"She will not do it," he pronounced.
Immediately, the image of her vanished, and Gogcider whistled, "Excellent."
Before Hegemon could even ask what his confederate had meant, Gogcider killed the call.
"Do it," Gogcider's voice echoed in the sharpshooter's head.
Just as he pulled the trigger, a piercing pain erupted on the right side of the warrior's head. Instead of one direct, precisely aimed shot, three arcing, errant plasma blasts came from his weapon. It tumbled from his hands onto the floor five stories below.
When he touched the side of his head, his fingertips came back wet. Outraged, he looked above for the source of the cowardly blow he'd received. He recognized the incoming object as a ratchet an instant before his vision went completely black.
Two plasma blasts sailed above and behind the switch's panel, but the third came within six inches of Kim's head. Acrid smoke from the small explosion triggered a coughing fit. As she tried to recover, Kim discovered that she was on knees and she realized she was no longer holding the end of the recorder. Quickly, she looked up and saw that it was no longer in the switch; the switch, fortunately, was still in the 'on' position. Looking frantically around, she found the recorder teetering on the edge of the platform. As she reached for it, it disappeared, falling among the Lorwardian warriors on the floor below.
"Okay, we're going to materialize around Kim," the Doctor said. "We'll get her and get out. And we'll be cloaked while we do it."
"Cloaked?" Jack asked. "Why?"
"Because I have interfered enough with this race's culture, that's why," she said firmly.
"And you can do that?" Jack asked.
"Yes, completely invisible and silent. Did it once before," she explained. "Eavesdropping on President Nixon, long story."
"Silent?" Yaz asked after a moment. "I didn't know the Tardis could be silent."
The Doctor nodded. "A little trick I picked up from the wife."
"Wife?" Jack and Yaz exclaimed in unison.
Ron was far too worried about Kim to take any notice of the others' conversation, let alone to say jinx.
Luckily, Kim had landed on her left shoulder. Her right wrist had slipped from the sling, but it didn't feel any worse than it had. She had leaped to the first floor before she had even taken the time to make the rash decision to do so. It just felt imperative that she not lose her only weapon.
When she had recovered enough from the fall to sit up, she realized that the Lorwardians beneath the platform had jumped back (maybe in fear of the explosion, maybe in fear of her). They surrounded her in a semi-circle about ten feet in diameter. And two feet to her left was the recorder. She snatched it up with her left hand. Unfortunately, since this was also the hand that she had been supporting herself with, she collapsed hard on the floor the moment she grabbed it. Quickly, she scrambled back to a sitting position and, with difficulty, stood.
As she caught her breath, she took in the forces that were now encroaching upon her. There were dozens of large Lorwardians. Some had weapons drawn, some were extending their powerful arms. They were all smiling unpleasantly; a handful were laughing. In the right corner of her eye, she noticed the judge who had shot her approaching. He was brandishing a large blade. His sadistic expression reminded her of Warhok, and she idly wondered if they were related.
She took up a fighting stance (or as close to one as she could manage with a single arm) as their shadows engulfed her.
Let me be brave. Let me be brave.
And then she modified what she had every reason to believe would be her final thought.
Let me be like Ron. Let me be like Ron. Let me be like Ron.
She was in a cave. Although it was dimly lit, there was an amber glow emanating from somewhere behind her. However, before Kim could even begin to orientate herself, the walls echoed with a familiar cry.
As she was swallowed in an embrace, her senses were enveloped in 'Ronness.' The echo of his voice in her ears. The smell of his skin and clothes. The taste of his kiss as it throbbed in her delighted mouth.
I didn't think heaven would be so dark.
The fantasy that she was in paradise was swiftly belied by a sudden burst of pain from her wrist.
"Honey, Honey," she said breaking the kiss, "you're hurting my hand."
"Sorry, KP!" he said releasing her. "What's wrong with you hand?"
Before she could answer, Rufus appeared on her shoulder and gave her cheek a hug with his tiny paws. "Hiya!"
"Hi, Rufus!" she smiled. "Where are we?" she asked, still majoring dazed.
"The Tardis," Ron smiled, his eyes watering. "It looks majorly different, but this is the Doctor's Tardis."
"Really?" she blinked her eyes clear. "I-is he here?"
"Jack? Yeah, he's right over there," Ron pointed behind her with his chin.
"What? J-Jack?" she turned, and the Torchwood agent was about ten feet behind her, standing in front of a ferociously large, glowing crystal. Even when backlit by this giant pulsating stone, his smile was incandescent.
"Good to see you, Kim," he said.
"Jack! I saw you get shot! I thought—"
"That was I dead?" He shrugged, "That's kind of my thing."
She started to laugh. "Complicated?"
"Meh?" he raised his hand and gave the so-so gesture.
An unexpected buzzing sound drew Kim's attention to her immediate right. A blonde woman wearing what looked like an oversized hooded raincoat was running a silver and glowing "pen" along the length of Kim's body.
"Mild dehydration, some malnourishment, eww, that wrist looks nasty—we'll take care of that." The woman called over her shoulder, "Yaz! Get some water for Kim." Then she looked Kim in the eyes. With an ebullient smile, she asked, "What's your favorite biscuit?"
After a confused moment, Kim replied, "Uh, buttermilk."
"Right," the woman slapped her forehead. "You're American! Cookie-what's your favorite cookie?"
"Uh," Kim stammered.
"I'll surprise you!" she sprinted away.
Kim shook her head and tried to remember what she had been saying. "N-no, Ron, the Doctor! Is he here?"
But before Ron could answer, the blonde woman had returned. "Surprise!" she beamed. "I got you a Jammie Dodger." She held out a small cookie to Kim.
"Hey, MsD," Ron began, "I don't think Kim is really that hungry right now."
"Wait! Y-you're the Doctor?" Kim exclaimed.
"Yes," the Doctor nodded with a smile. "I know what you're thinking, Kim, and it is a great, if very long, explanation, but first, let's take a look at that hand."
As the Doctor slowly waved her buzzing "pen" over Kim's wrist, another young woman appeared with a glass of water. "Here you go, Kim," she smiled. "I know this isn't the best time, but I just wanted to say what a great honor it is to meet you."
Kim returned the smile and downed the glass quickly.
"My name's Yaz by the way. Would you like another?"
"Please and thank you, Yaz."
Yaz took the glass, and as she headed back for more water, she let a small squeal escape her lips.
"What was that?" Jack asked bemusedly.
"She said 'Please and thank you,'" Yaz grinned.
As Kim exchanged another nuzzle with Rufus, it occurred to her that Ron had been oddly silent for the past few moments. Glancing at him, she saw that he was staring at the injuries on her shoulders. And at the scar near her bellybutton. "What is it, Honey?" she asked gently.
"What did they do to you, Kim?" he muttered sadly. His voice was low, but she caught the dangerous edge that was hiding among its layers of misery.
"It's okay, Ron," she whispered urgently.
"No, it isn't," he shook his head and closed his eyes. When he reopened them a second later, they were cobalt and pupil-less. Spectral screeches and gibbers began to echo in the far corners of the console room.
However, before the Doctor could step in, Kim had placed her hand gently against her boyfriend's cheek. "Listen to me, Ron. The ones who rule this planet are very, very evil. But not every Lorwardian is."
The monkey chittering faded, and Ron's eyes turned back to warm cocoa.
She kissed his forehead, and he took her hand in his.
"I know, Honey, I know." She said as she wiped the tears from his eyes with her other hand.
"Well done, Kim," the Doctor said softly. "Well done."
It was just as Ron began kissing her hand that Kim realized that he was holding her right hand. "My wrist?" sheasked, looking to the Doctor.
"All set," she smiled. "I'll get to work on those blast marks in just a few."
"Doctor," Jack said as he approached. "I was just thinking about that monument we saw earlier."
She sighed. "Don't remind me."
"Actually, Ron just reminded me of the reason why the Lorwardians first came to earth, and I think there's a connection."
"Huh?" That had gotten the Doctor's attention. "What was the reason they came to earth?"
"Kim?" Jack prompted.
"Well, Warmonga said she was searching for someone called 'The Great Blue,'" Kim explained. "What monument?"
"The … Great … Blue?" the Doctor said slowly. Suddenly, both palms shot to her forehead. "Oh, oh, OH!"
"What's wrong, Doctor?" Yaz asked, water sloshing about in the glass in her hand.
"I've changed my mind," the Doctor replied. "I need to speak to the Lorwardians before we leave."
"Wait, we're still on Lorwardia?" Kim asked.
"Waitaminute, Doc," Jack began, "I thought you said you were finished with interfering with their culture."
"I did," she nodded. "But I just remembered that a wise person once said you should always do what you're best at."
"Interfering?" Yaz asked soto voice as she handed Kim her glass.
"Exactly," the Doctor grinned.
"Would this 'wise person' happen to be …?" Jack began.
"Of course, it was me. Stop acting smart, Jack!"
"What are you going to do, MsD?" Ron asked.
"Saving Kim from the Lorwardians is great," the Doctor explained, "but making sure they never come back for her or for anyone else is better."
"Coolio, need any help?" he asked.
"Actually, Ron, can you do that mystical monkey thing one more time."
"Sure, how much do you need?"
"Just enough that they wet themselves," she smiled.
"Can I help, too?" Kim asked.
"Of course," the Doctor nodded.
"What would you like me to do?"
"Just be yourself." Then the Doctor shot a quick look to Ron and then back to Kim. "You know, amazing."
"What do you mean she vanished?" Hegemon asked wearily. After Gogcider had ignored his repeated attempts to reconnect, the hot-headed Synod member had contacted him screaming and bellowing. It had taken several moments for Hegemon to make sense of his confederate's ravings through the fog of pain the communication had inevitably caused.
"What do you think I mean?" Gogcider cried.
"What about the switch?" Hegemon asked calmly.
The switch that keeps all our air from drifting into space, you fool.
That thought hurt, but Hegemon did not regret it.
"The Air Shield Generator's switch," he said slowly if not patiently.
"That?" Gogcider waved dismissively. "It's fine."
"So, the War Criminal is gone?" Hegemon asked.
"No! Didn't you hear?" the former marauder was choking with rage. "She's vanished-cloaked!"
"She's cowering in a cloaked cylinder or … box. Our weapons are useless against it!"
"Where did that come from?"
"What does it matter? I need you to authorize the deployment of a WDM terrestrially, so we may attempt to breach it."
Before Hegemon could begin to explain the inherent foolishness in deploying a World Domination Munition on one's own world, sudden movement in the Synod's cavern caught his attention.
The chamber's three view screens were descending from the ceiling on their own. As he absently looked over the controls on his desk to retract them again, they turned on. On the screens was a view from inside the Shield Generator Complex. Hegemon immediately picked out the switch at the top of the picture. Then he noticed random plasma blasts striking a space near the bottom of the screen. This negative space seemed to be absorbing the blasts.
"Gogcider," Hegemon began with irritation that he knew he would soon regret, "are you broadcasting your assault to compel me to –"
"Of course not!" came the outraged reply.
When Hegemon glanced at the screens again, he saw that a 'door' had opened in the middle of the negative space. And that earthers were exiting it.
As soon as the Doctor stepped from the Tardis, a barrage of crimson plasma blasts erupted about her.
Once the blasts faded, she shook her head and chided, "Do you really think we're daft enough to walk out here without shields?"
She was followed by Kim and Ron. Kim stood to her left, and Ron flanked her on the right. After they too had received a fair share of misguided and harmless blasts, the Doctor shouted, "All right! Enough!"
The Lorwardians lowered their weapons.
"Now, before we begin," the Doctor explained, "I should probably let you know this is being broadcast live to every screen on the planet."
The Lorwardians exchanged worried glances.
"Now that I have your attention," the Doctor continued, "Article 57 of the Shadow Proclamation clearly states that Earth is a well-established Level Five planet. And you lot think you can just invade it on a whim? That you can take one of its citizens hostage without so much as a by-your-leave?"
Although her 'shooting' judge had visibly stiffened at the mention of the 'Shadow Proclamation' (whatever that was), Kim could see that he wasn't cowed by the Doctor's words.
"Who are you to impugn the honor of the Lorwardian Empire?" he spat.
"No fear, I was just getting around to that," the Doctor smiled. "This is Kim," she said gesturing to her left. "You remember her, right? The young woman you abducted and dragged back to the heart of your glorious empire. She's been here-what? A day, maybe a day and a half. And she OWNS it, doesn't she?"
"She could have turned off your planet's shield generators and sent all of your oxygen flying into the void if she'd wanted, and you know it."
The 'shooting' judge fumed, but he said nothing.
"This is Ron, her boyfriend," the Doctor pointed a thumb to the right. "Let's just say, he's not pleased with the shabby treatment she received."
On cue, a cerulean glow encircled Ron. He levitated five feet from the floor, and simian hoots and screeches echoed throughout the building. The air surrounding his floating form began to turn red, and a violent wind swept over the assembled Lorwardians' heads. Even before Ron's aura had shown its prehensile tail, many of the warriors began fleeing toward the building's main entrance. The 'shooting' judge as well as a small handful of others (including one Kim recognized as her shorter green judge) maintained their positions although they most definitely looked nervous.
"As for me," the Doctor began, but then called out to Ron, "take it down a few notches, Ron."
"You got it, MsD," he replied, and the wind and hoots lowered accordingly.
"As I was saying," she smiled, "I'm the Doctor."
The short judge grew pale and turned to the 'shooter' one. "The Time Lord that the Mentors warned us about!" he cried in agitation.
"Silence!" bellowed his confederate.
"And the three of us have a message for the rulers of this so-called empire," the Doctor said sternly. "Earth and any other planet you may have in mind to conquer or oppress is hereby under our protection."
Even though he said nothing, Kim could see that 'shooting' judge was practically apoplectic with rage.
"Oh, and one more thing," the Doctor added, "when you talk about us, and you will, do NOT use our names. You see, only our friends can call us by our names. And the rulers of Lorwardia are definitely NOT our friends."
She removed the sonic screwdriver from her jacket pocket and pointed it at the remaining Lorwardian warriors, "You lot, you can just call us …" She pointed the screwdriver in the air and turned it on. The cloaking deactivated around the Tardis, and the blue police box immediately appeared behind the trio. "The Great Blue."
A wave of shock passed visibly over the Lorwardians. Within seconds all of them, including Kim's judges, were prostrate on the ground, begging for forgiveness.
"Word of advice," the Doctor said sternly over their pitiful lamentations, "you do NOT want to be our enemy. If I were you, I'd look into changing that."
And with that, the Doctor spun on her heel and reentered the Tardis.
As Kim went to follow her, exaggerated motion on a platform near the ceiling caught her eye. Peering up, she recognized the figure of Moth waving good-bye to her. She smiled up at him and with her right hand enthusiastically returned the gesture.
Hegemon looked at the screen closest to him for a very long time after The Great Blue had departed.
Even the noise it made when it left matched the legends.
This thought opened the floodgates, and his mind was suddenly buzzing and percolating with ideas. Ideas of things that needed to be done and changes that must be made. The promise of sleep that had tormented him all day like a tempting mirage ever-receding just beyond his grasp had ceased to matter. There was too much to contemplate and accomplish.
It was only after he made his fifth comm link to his Synod colleagues that Hegemon absently realized that his head no longer hurt.
"So, guys," the Doctor began.
"Yes?" Kim asked. She was reclining next to Ron. His arm was over her shoulder, hugging her close.
"What do you think?" She performed a semi-graceful three-hundred-and-sixty-degree twirl.
Initially, Kim didn't know how to answer. The hooded overcoat, the rainbow-striped t-shirt, the bright yellow suspenders, the baggy blue pants that ended mid-calf, and the work boots were the stuff of a fashion night-terror. And, of course, that only served to reinforce the claim that this woman standing before them was, in fact, the same disheveled person they had met when she and Ron were twelve. Of course, she wasn't going to say that. Fortunately, at the last moment, Kim detected a flash on the Doctor's left ear.
"I really like your ear cuff," Kim said in full honesty.
"Really?" the Doctor blushed. "Thank you, Kim. No one's ever complimented me on that before." She smiled, "And I really like your stripe-violet is definitely your color."
"It is bondigity," Ron agreed and gave her cheek a kiss.
The Doctor smiled at the couple. "However, I was actually talking about my body."
Now, Kim definitely didn't know how to answer. She shot Ron a glance; he looked understandably uncomfortable.
It took her a while, but the Doctor read the awkwardness in the young people' expressions. "That is, I always ask my old friends who knew me back when I was a man what they think of me now that I'm a woman."
"I don't recall anyone asking me for my opinion," Jack hollered from the other side of the console room.
"That's because everyone already knows your opinion, Jack," the Doctor yelled back.
"Burn," Ron called out.
"Well, I think we're both just majorly confused," Kim admitted after sharing a look with Ron.
"Understandable. As a Time Lord, I am able to regenerate my physical form and …," she registered Kim's non-plussed look. "And … I don't think I ever mentioned to you that I wasn't human before, right?"
"Yeah," Kim nodded slowly, "I think I would have remembered that."
"Well, I knew," Ron offered.
"Since when?" Kim asked.
"Jack told me."
"Basically," the Doctor explained, "when my body gets too damaged or too old, all my cells change and rejuvenate. Essentially, I become a new person. A new person with the same memories."
"Did you know that?" Kim asked Ron.
"Nuh-uh," Ron shook his head.
"Yep, yep," Rufus nodded.
"Really?" Ron looked askance to his naked mole rat.
"Oh, of course, he did," the Doctor said with an absent wave. "I told Rufus everything when you two were napping in my rocker."
"Okay," Kim began, "so you changed from an older gentleman into a young woman?"
"Yes," the Doctor smiled and then frowned. "Well, eventually, I did, yes. Actually, I've had twelve faces since you last saw me."
"Twelve? Is it an annual thing?" Ron asked. "I mean is there like a special day?"
"No, no, no," she shook her head. "Hmm. Maybe I should have explained this first. It's been, let's see, eleven years since you've last seen me, but it has been more than sixteen hundred and fifty since I've last seen you."
"What?!" Kim asked astonished.
The Doctor nodded.
"Wait, hold on," Ron said sitting up. "If it's been that long, how can you even remember us at all? Let alone what you told Rufus while we were taking a nap in your rocking chair? I didn't even remember it was a rocking chair."
"I always remember my friends," the Doctor said simply.
"Oh my gosh," Kim said suddenly. "That means that it's been almost that long since you've seen Zoe?"
"Zoe?" Ron said. "Oh, yeah! That really cute girl from the future. And Jamie!"
"Yes," Kim replied. "The highlander with the ferociously good legs."
"Yeah—hey!" Ron exclaimed.
She gave him a gentle elbow. "Right back at 'cha, Mr. 'Cute Future Girl.'" Then Kim noticed that a wistful look had passed over the Doctor's features. "Doctor?"
"Sorry," the Doctor sighed. "Just old memories. Say, speaking of which," she took the recorder from her jacket pocket. "Here, Kim, you dropped it on the floor when Ron first snogged you."
"No, no, Doctor, this belongs to you."
"Nah, not anymore," she gave it to Kim. "I couldn't even remember leaving it in your bedroom. Take it, for luck."
"Thanks, Doctor. Actually, I have a question about it."
"Well, I tried to play a song on it earlier and then I was able to read Lorwardian language and understand everything they were saying."
"Ah, yes, the Tardis translation circuits."
"Let's pretend Rufus doesn't know what those are," Ron interjected.
"Yes," the Doctor nodded," let's pretend because I remember telling him all about them, too.
Kim good-naturedly arched an eyebrow at her boyfriend.
"Basically, when you travel in the Tardis," the Doctor continued, "the translation circuits allow you to interpret all other languages as if they were your own. The recorder was created by the Tardis. When you played it, those circuits activated for you."
After a moment Kim said, "I hope you're not insulted that Ron and I thought you were a dream for most of the time since we met you."
"Of course, not," the Doctor said. "I've been mistaken for worse things. I've even been forgotten."
Concerned about the sudden dip she detected in the Doctor's last sentence, Kim said hastily, "I've always remembered you as one of my childhood's great mythical figures."
"Like Snowman Hank," Ron agreed.
"Well," Kim said shooting her boyfriend another 'brow,' "like Santa Clause."
"Well, that," the Doctor grinned, "is a very easy mistake to explain."
"It is?" Kim brightened, pleased that the Doctor's spirits had improved.
"Certainly," the Doctor laughed over her shoulder as she walked back to the console room, "who do you think gave you that red bike for Christmas in 1997?"
Kim echoed her laugh. And then said, "Wait, what?"
"Your stop, Captain Cheese," Yaz called out.
"I'll definitely miss Tokyo's street food," Jack said as he made his way to the Tardis's doors, "but now that the Lorwardian 'sitch'" -and he did throw air quotes around 'sitch'—"is over, it'll be nice to be back in London."
He shook hands with Yaz.
"Until we meet again, Captain Harkness," the Doctor said as she exchanged a salute with the Torchwood agent.
"Always a pleasure, ma'am," he smiled.
"Thanks, Jack," Kim said, holding out her hand to him.
He took it in his and then gave her a questioning look.
"Sure," she nodded.
He raised her hand to his lips and gave it a respectful kiss. "My pleasure. Wish we could have done more."
When he got to Ron, Jack opened his arms wide for a hug. Ron smiled and did likewise.
"See you later, dude," Ron said as they embraced.
"Oh, I'm counting on that," Jack replied cheerfully just before planting a big smooch on Ron's lips.
Kim's mouth fell agape, but, fortunately for all involved, Jack ended the kiss quickly.
"You are one lucky woman, Kim," Jack beamed. "Looks, brains, and an incredible kisser to boot."
Despite herself, Kim said, "Sure is, especially when he doesn't know one's coming."
"Yeah," Jack laughed, "I definitely got that." He flashed another incandescent smile to everyone and exited through the doors.
Kim snagged her tottering and blushing boyfriend, pulled him close, and kissed him behind his ear.
"More biscuits?" the Doctor asked.
"Oh, no," Kim sighed, "I'm good."
Ron, his mouth full, nodded to indicate that he wanted to take up the Doctor's offer.
"Actually," Kim said, "I was wondering if Ron and I could have a moment alone."
After the Doctor returned to the console table, Ron finished his last cookie and asked, "What's up, KP?"
She took both of his hands in hers. "I have a confession to make."
"Ever since this sitch started back in May, I haven't been totally honest with you."
He gave her a look that simultaneously expressed anxiety yet also urged her to continue.
"You kept asking me if I was concerned or worried about the Lorwardians, and I kept telling you I wasn't."
As he waited for her to continue, he maneuvered their hands so that hers were now in his.
"That wasn't true." She paused. "I was frightened."
"That's okay, Kim."
She smiled ruefully, "No, it isn't, Ron. I mean, yes, it was okay that I was frightened. But I should have shared my true feelings with you. Instead, I tried to convince you that everything was fine. That I was fearless." She shook her head. "I was really trying to convince myself. And to do that, I had to lie to you."
He didn't say anything. Only leaned in and kissed her forehead.
"I was so, so flawed," she laughed. "I didn't know how to handle my fears, yet I'm dating one of the world's foremost experts!"
"Hey, that's right!" He laughed. "I've practically got a PHD in panic. You can always come to me, Kimila, if need the downlow on being scared."
"I realize that now," she smiled slightly, but it quickly vanished. "But when I got to Lorwardia, I discovered my biggest fear. And I don't think your advice would have helped."
"What happened, Kim?" he could tell that she was struggling to maintain her composure. He put an arm around her.
"It wasn't anything that happened. Or anything they did or threatened to do to me."
"You had to know I was coming for you, right?"
"Exactly," she nodded, wiping away a tear. "That was what I was afraid of."
"I kept imaging you in one of my dad's Kepler rockets coming to rescue me." She took a couple of deep breaths.
"Okay, sure. What's so scary about that?"
"Lorwardia is almost three hundred light years from Earth, Ron. Even if the Kepler could go the speed of light and it so can't, it would be three hundred years before you got there."
"Yeah, I get it," he said sadly. "I'd never be there in time to save you."
"No, no, Ron," she said. "Forget about me! What about you?"
"Okay, I'm totally lost."
"Ron, the thought of you growing old in that ship, wasting the rest of your life in the depths of space—that was the WORST THING I could ever imagine."
"No, Kim, you're wrong," Ron said a little louder than he had meant to. "I wouldn't be wasting my life. I'd be doing the most important thing I ever could—I'd be trying to save you."
"I know what you're saying, Ron. And, believe me, I so appreciate it." She gripped his hands, "But don't you see? You'd be spending your entire life trying to save me, and I'd already be dead."
"I don't care!" Ron cried. "I'd still do it."
"I know you would, Honey," she took his face in her hands. "But listen …" she broke down. Once she had regained some control, she raised her pooling eyes to meet his. "Ron Stoppable, you deserve so much more than a life spent all alone."
Kim and Wade neared the end of their Roncom call.
Although Wade had no idea how she'd done it, "Karin" had repaired Kim's room so that it appeared as if the Lorwardians had never attacked. He was still theorizing how she could have persuaded contractors to work so quickly, and on such short notice, and without him noticing when Kim tactfully changed the subject by asking about Michelle. Fortunately, Kim's roommate had woken up a few hours after Ron and Jack had left in the Tardis. From what Kim could surreptitiously gather, Michelle had only lost her memories from right after Wade's arrival. This was lucky, not the least because the young woman hadn't been too shocked when she found Wade sleeping at the kitchen table early Tuesday morning. Wade suggested she get a CT scan in case these lost memories were due to a concussion.
"Thanks for everything, Wade," she said. "You rock."
"Any time, Kim."
"And you know what else?" she asked. "I love you."
"Uh, me too," he replied in voice that was only slightly awkward.
After the call ended, Ron said, "That's great about Michelle. I was so worried Elda had erased her memory back to junior high."
Kim smiled faintly. "I still can't get my head around the fact that she tried to save me."
"You should have been there, KP. Elda was seriously amped about getting us off our butts to rescue you. And if she hadn't been weirded out by the Tardis, she would have joined the party."
"Here it is!" Yaz cried from the console room.
"So that's where I put it!" the Doctor cried in reply. "Did I ever tell you that I turned my first radio into a clockwork squirrel?"
Kim looked over her shoulder at the console room. "You know, Ron, we must have the most unusual group of friends in the world."
"In the universe," he corrected.
Suddenly, an unpleasant screech like someone switching radio stations filled the Tardis causing Kim and Ron to cover their ears.
"Sorry!" the Doctor called.
Once the static gave way to sound, the air was filled with a pleasant, slowly building melody.
Kim suddenly griped Ron's arm. "Ron?" she breathed eagerly.
"Do you hear that?" she asked with a broad smile.
"Uh, the song?" he answered, somewhat confused by her amped reaction.
"You don't recognize it?" she asked.
"Well, yeah, it's from our childhood. From one of your father's records."
"I don't think so, KP," he shook his head. "I've never heard this before in my life."
"Really?" She seemed majorly disappointed.
"Well, I don't remember it," he said. "I mean, I like it, but it's totally new to me."
"Wow," she frowned. "I was so sure that I'd heard it from one of the tapes you made me or when I was over at your house when I was little."
By this time, the song had majorly upped its tempo, and Ron found that his feet were tapping along. It also hadn't escaped his attention that his girlfriend was humming along the melody. He stood and extended his hand to her. "Would you like to dance, KP?"
"You know I would," she smiled. Grabbing his hand, she pulled him toward the source of the music near the Tardis's console.
When she saw them approach, the Doctor explained, "We thought you two might like some music."
As the duo began an impromptu tango around the console, Yaz grinned, "And, apparently, we were right."
The Doctor and Yaz watched as Kim and Ron spun each other around the room. They made unlikely dance partners. Kim was all fluid motion and grace. Ron, on the other hand, was complete and utter improv. Yet, somehow, improbably, they always managed to be in the right place and the right time to complement each other's movements. This proved especially true as the song reached it conclusion. When the final notes faded, the two were in each other's arms.
Yaz wasn't sure if she should clap, but the hoots and cheers the Doctor made when the song ended her decision a moot one.
"Would you like to hear it again?" the Doctor asked.
"Please and thank you," Kim beamed.
The Doctor pointed her "pen" at the portable radio laying on the console, and the song began playing again.
"What is that?" Ron asked.
"Oh, this? It's my sonic screwdriver," the Doctor replied.
"Wait, I remember that," Ron said. "But Jamie said it could only make noise."
"Well, I've given it a few upgrades since then," the Doctor explained.
The second dance proceeded pretty much like the first. The couple did a slow dance for the song's first movement and then commenced with their unlikely paired solos during the up-tempo middle part. This was almost torpedoed when the Doctor decided to accompany them with her own odd "dance." She raised both hands over her head, bent her knees and began running up and down shaking her body from side to side as she went. Fortunately, Yaz was able to intercept her before she could cause any serious damage.
"What were you doing?" Yaz asked, trying hard not to laugh.
"The 'Drunken Giraffe' obviously!" the Doctor huffed.
As the song came to its close, Kim found that she knew the words well enough to sing along. "And now when twilight dims the skies above/Recalling thrills of our love/There's one thing I am certain of/Return, I will, to old Brazil." As the closing notes faded, Kim and Ron clung to each another. And they stayed that way when all was silent save for the random beep from the Tardis.
After a few minutes, the Doctor approached them. "Would you like to hear it again?" she asked.
"Actually," Kim said softly, "I think we're getting tired." She motioned to Ron, whose head was resting on her shoulder and seemed only a few seconds away from sleep.
"Would you like a copy of the song?" the Doctor asked.
"Please and thank you," Kim whispered.
The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at Ron's pocket that contained the Roncom, and it buzzed. "All yours," she said.
Kim and Ron were both asleep. Kim was in Ron's lap and he was sitting so that his back was supported by one of the large crystal stalactites that encircled the central console.
"Shouldn't we be getting these sleeping beauties back home?" Yaz asked.
"Yes, Jamie, I suppose we should get them back to bed," the Doctor answered.
"Sorry, Yaz," the Doctor apologized. "Mind's drifting." She turned a couple of knobs on the console. "I still don't understand how she found my recorder in her bedroom."
"And you're sure that you used it after you met them?"
"I'm certain. And, yet, how else can it be explained?" She sighed. "Okay, let's take them back."
Suddenly, the Tardis pitched unexpectedly to the left. The motion was violent enough that Yaz almost lost her footing. However, before she could even cry out, the Tardis righted itself. She shot a quick look to Kim and Ron; they were still sleeping. "What was that?" she asked softly
"Not sure." The Doctor was busy checking over instruments on her panel of the console. "But it looks like we've landed safely."
"We landed? I didn't hear the noise."
"I decided to keep the breaks off," the Doctor explained. "I don't want wake them."
"So that's the trick you learned from your 'wife'? 'Taking the breaks off' prevents that wheezing, groaning noise," Yaz asked with an arched eyebrow.
The Doctor nodded.
"Why don't you always leave them off?"
The Doctor looked scandalized. "I LIKE that noise. It's a fantastic noise!"
Yaz urgently put her finger to her lips.
"Sorry," the Doctor whispered.
"When did you plan on telling me about her?" Yaz asked pointedly.
"I didn't," the Doctor admitted. "But I guess I'll have to soon." She looked over at Kim and Ron. "Until we meet again, Team Possible." The Doctor flipped a lever on the console, and Kim and Ron vanished.
"Where did they go?" Yaz asked in a panic.
"In her bed," the Doctor replied calmly. "When we landed, we landed atop of Kim's bed, and we just now took off again—leaving them as undisturbed as possible."
Kim shifted uncomfortably on the bed in the darkness. Ron's arms were draped over her shoulders and his legs were tangled up with hers. However, that wasn't what was making her so uncomfortable. Something in her pocket was. Drowsily, she dug into her right cargo pocket. This wasn't easy because it was underneath her. Finally, she pulled out the Doctor's recorder and absently tossed it to the side.
With difficulty, she turned over so that she was facing Ron and then pulled him closer to her. As she did, he reacted by pulling her closer to him. He felt so warm, so good. She stroked his thigh and inadvertently turned on the Roncom in his pocket. It began playing "Brazil" softly. She was going to try to turn it off, but then decided she wanted to fall back asleep to the music. Typically, she never needed anything but complete darkness to fall asleep. But she had already noticed that the nightlight was on.
And it was on. It was casting shadows all over the room, even under the bed. In fact, Pandaroo's shadow practically obscured the Doctor's recorder which had landed right beside the plush under the bed.
In fact, the only place that wasn't touched by these shadows was the loft's entrance where a little girl stood on the top rung staring at the couple sleeping in her bed.
"Hold up," the Doctor said suddenly. She checked the readings and then checked them again. "We've got to go back."
"What's wrong?" Yaz asked.
"We dropped them off at the wrong place," the Doctor breathed.
"What do you mean? They're not in her bed?"
"No, they are in her bed," the Doctor said as she scrambled with the controls. "However, they're not in her bed in Tokyo. They're in her bed in Colorado. At her parents' house."
"That's worse," Yaz said, her eyes getting extremely wide.
Finally, Kim could take it no longer, she needed to find out who the couple were sleeping in her bed. She climbed down the ladder and retrieved her mother's flashlight. As she reclimbed the rungs, she thought she saw a couple of flashes of light in the loft's opening. However, once she poked her head into the room, the only light was Ron's nightlight.
She climbed into the room on shaky legs. Taking a deep breath, she pointed the flashlight at the bed and switched it on.
It was empty. And then she noticed the song wasn't playing either.
She stood in the semi-darkness for a couple minutes, not sure what to think. Or what to do next.
Then she remembered Pandaroo. She began to search for him by pointing the flashlight at every likely place he would have been. After a few moments, she realized she could just turn on the bedroom light. Once she had done that, it took her hardly any time at all to locate him under the bed.
But then she found something else.
No, that can't be.
Nervously and without really thinking about what she was doing, she picked up the recorder and tossed it into a box in her closet and slid the closet door shut. She flipped off the light, climbed down the ladder with Pandaroo under her arm, and went down the stairs, two steps at a time, until she was safe under her Pandaroo baby blanket and just two feet from her sleeping best friend.
After everything she had experienced that night (whether she had dreamed them or not), Kim didn't think there was any way she would be able to fall back asleep. However, within five minutes she was.
The magical combination of the softness of Pandaroo, the remembered tones of a recently heard melody, and the snores of her very best friend soothed Kim Possible's mind enough for her to begin to dream once more.
Author's note: The song Kim and Ron dance to is "Brazil" as performed by Pink Martini. Special thanks to MrDrP for introducing this song to me. It was integral to a scene he devised (but, unfortunately, never used) for one of his excellent stories some years ago. He generously allowed me to riff of his concept for this story.