cloudmonet’s kim stories

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Finals Week

Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Rufus, Wade Load, Monique, Yori, and Hirotaka are characters from the Kim Possible show, created by Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, owned and copyright © by the Walt Disney Company. The story takes place in January of Kim and Ron’s sophomore year of college, nearly three years after “So the Drama,” and shortly after my earlier story, “Art Attack.” This story © 2005 by cloudmonet.

Snow thinly covered the grass around the campus buildings of Northwestern State University. The bare maples and oaks made complex patterns against the pale January sky. It was finals week, when every one hour class that met two or three times a week mutated into a three hour essay test at a totally different time and place. Some classes asked ten questions, or five, which made each one way too important. Each professor wanted lengthy and intelligent discussions written in longhand.

“Seems like every time I do this, it gets harder,” Ron said to Kim as they walked toward the student union. “My hand cramps up, I can’t think, I can’t spell, and all my ideas come out sounding stupid.”

“I think I did okay,” said Kim. “I so hope Dr. Hubris can follow all my brackets and arrows. I really miss not having a cursor to type words where I want them whenever I think of them.”

“Yeah, lineal thinking, not one of my strong points.”

“Next, Art History,” said Kim, walking up the steps to the main entrance.

They got trays of pizza slices and salad from the cafeteria and sat down at a table. Rufus nibbled at a bowl of nachos while Kim and Ron discussed Art History.

“Okay, so Monet and Manet are the Impressionists,” said Ron. “Monet with an ‘o’ did blurry water lilies and haystacks, and the other one did the naked girl at the picnic. They’re called impressionists after a Monet painting called ‘Impression, sunrise.’ ”

“That’s right, and Renoir was another one,” said Kim. “He did lots of blurry women. They were all trying to capture ephemeral color effects by painting really quickly.”

Dot dot dadot! went the kimmunicator.

“Wade, it’s finals week,” said Kim, “and we’re so not over the worst of it.”

“I thought the next one was just art history,” said Wade, looking seriously concerned.

“Yeah, but then sociology with Dr. Grunion, and that’s major. What’s the sitch?”

“My security’s been compromised. I’m beaming you a random endemic encryption routine. This’ll take about three minutes, and will give anyone who tries to intercept and decode the routine a nasty virus.”

“Ouch!” said Kim. “Okay, but make it fast. We’ve got art history final at one.”

“You got it,” said Wade, and his face was replaced on the kimmunicator’s screen by a random assortment of progress bars.

“Who could compromise Wade’s security?” asked Ron.

“This is bad,” said Kim.

“What’s bad?” asked Monique, Kim’s roommate and close friend, coming to sit at their table. “Was the history final worse than you thought? I think I just aced microeconomics.”

“I think I at least B’d history,” said Kim.

“C minus, probably,” said Ron.

The last progress bar on the kimmunicator reached 100%, the screen shifted through rapid color and pattern changes, and then Kim’s dad’s face appeared on the screen, talking way too quickly for anyone to understand what he was saying, and then a series of random video game images, Yori’s face, also talking way too rapidly for anyone to decipher, then Wade’s face, again at high speed, then suddenly slowing down to say, “I need you in Middleton, as soon as possible.”

“But it’s finals week,” said Monique.

“I think I can do art history in about an hour,” said Kim. “How about you, Ron?”

“Ulp,” he said. “Depends entirely on what she asks.”

At 2:45, Kim and Ron were in the office of the university president, Phillip Fogg, wearing their mission clothes.

“We’ll try to be back in time for our sociology finals tomorrow afternoon, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this one,” said Kim. “Even if I knew what’s been compromised or stolen, I probably couldn’t tell you. If it’s not as dangerous as I’m afraid it is, believe me, we’ll be back here immediately.”

“Well, subject to the approval of Dr. Grunion—”

“A sociology prof should understand national security,” said Kim. “Thanks, Dr. Fogg. We gotta go.”

Kim and Ron leaped down the steps, hopped on the stealth bike, and whispered away on walks supposedly closed to motor vehicles.

Phillip Fogg sighed, picked up his telephone, and punched a whole bunch of numbers to call Eliza Grunion’s office.

A small black jet with “KP” monogrammed on the tail settled down on the runway and taxied to the general aviation section of the Middleton airport. Kim shut down the engines and got out of the pilot’s seat. Ron handed her backpack to her, she put it on, opened the door and lowered the steps, to find herself surrounded by security guards.

“Uh, guys, I think you know me, Kim Possible—”

“Just stand right there, Miss Possible. We have orders to scan for weirdness.” The guard who spoke walked around Kim and Ron with a handheld scanner.

“What is that? It tickles!” said Ron.

“Identity confirmed,” he said. “You’re not synthodrones, clones, or wearing hidden neural compliance chips.”

“What about brainwashing shampoo?” Kim asked. “Attitudinator influence? Too many hours spent watching bad soap operas?”

“Not likely, Miss Possible,” said the guard. “Your brain functions are normal. So are Mr. Stoppable’s.”

“Really?” asked Ron.

The black limousine pulled up in front of Wade’s house, an apparently modest home on the flatter side of Middleton. Kim walked up the steps and knocked on the door. Wade opened it and Kim and Ron walked in.

He was now almost as tall as they were, still overweight but way thinner than he used to be, and he looked seriously worried. He led them into his room, and closed the door.

“This is where you usually see me, of course,” Wade said, gesturing to the multiple monitors and keyboards around his desk. “This is my internet stuff, and that server rack is where I host our websites. But my advanced engineering gear is down in the lab.”

He slid apart the clothes hanging in his closet to reveal a handprint sensor, which he touched, opening a sliding door to an elevator. Kim and Ron crowded in beside him. It was rather small. He pressed his thumb on the down button. Very gently the elevator began to drop, with ever increasing speed, then it slowed down, stopped and the door opened.

“Check— it— out,” said Ron, looking at the teal walls, eight foot wide monitor, racks of servers, and arcane engineering equipment. Rufus hopped up on the table, sniffing the nanomanipulating tools.

“How far underground are we?” asked Kim.

“We’re in the Precambrian batholith,” said Wade. “Outside these walls, solid granite, and no sign of a tunnel. I don’t know how they got in.”

“I think I do,” Kim replied. “What did they take?”

“A laptop computer,” said Wade. “But not just a regular laptop. This one was an experimental model, powered by a 15 terahertz laminated chip spiked with encapsulated antimatter.”

“What’s that in gigahertz?” asked Kim.

“Fifteen thousand,” Wade replied.

Kim whistled.

“Let’s pretend I don’t know what encapsulated antimatter is,” said Ron.

“Nanocrystals with antimatter inclusions,” Wade explained. “I could try to explain why a chip made with these doesn’t explode with the force of a thermonuclear bomb, but first I’d have to explain superstrings, eleven dimensional brane theory, and a number of other complex quantum issues.”

“Yipe,” said Ron.

“But this encapsulated antimatter chip can explode with the force of a thermonuclear bomb if— what?” Kim asked.

“If it’s heated to the melting point of the nanocrystals, about 2500 degrees Celsius. An article on the Central Asian Jihad website suggests you could level a small city this way. Without intending anything of the sort, I seem to have made a superweapon, and it’s been stolen.”

“By Central Asian Jihad, sounds like,” said Kim.

“They may not have it yet,” said Wade. “To get stuff like this they usually hire thieves who don’t know who they’re working for.”

“Do you have a tracking device on the chip or the computer?” Kim asked.

“The moment an unauthorized person turns it on, it wirelessly connects to the internet, informs me of its location, and files a crime report at the local jurisdiction. Which would be fine if the thief meant to use it as a computer.”

“Let’s look at your elevator,” said Kim. “Is there a way Ron and I can get on top of the cart?”

“You think they tunneled into the elevator shaft?”


Wade got out some special tools, put a small crate on the bottom of the elevator, stood on it, and removed screws from the ceiling panel of the cart. He tipped it up and removed it. Above their heads, elevator cables and hundreds of feet of dark shaft.

Kim got a miner’s light from her backpack and strapped it on her head. It took Ron a few moments to find his. By stacking three crates, they were able to raise their heads above the walls of the cart and see the shaft. It was, as Wade said, cut into granite at this level. “Can you make the elevator move slowly?” Kim asked Wade. “Can we stop it wherever we want?”

“There’s a stop button,” he replied. “Let me patch in a heavy duty resister to reduce the power to the motor, and we can creep upwards.” He went into the other room, opened and closed some drawers, made a bit of noise, and came back.

He was barely able to squeeze into the elevator beside the crates, but pushed the button, and with a creak and squeal, it slowly began to rise. “You watch those two walls, I’ll watch these two,” Kim told Ron. “I’m guessing we’ll find trouble near the surface, but we’ll see.”

The cart rose through layers of rock, and then for awhile the shaft was lined with concrete. “I think there were some layers of shale,” Wade explained.

“So far, it looks like they’ve done a good job,” Kim admitted.

“Whoa, stop!” said Ron, “and how about down about four feet?”

Annoyingly, the elevator settled ten feet, leaving whatever it was hard to see. Kim climbed on top of the cart and looked up. “Seems like a round vent, but it’s only about nine inches in diameter. Unless the bad guys have their own molerat, I don’t think we need to worry about this.”

“Probably more like eight inches,” said Wade. “I specified 20 centimeter vents.”

Kim climbed back down to the stack of crates. “Okay, continuing—”

They stopped for two more 20 centimeter vents before coming to a layer of limestone with a roughly hewn hole in one wall.

“I think this is it,” said Kim, standing on top of the cart and pulling herself into the hole. “This is tight, but it gets bigger— whoa!” Her legs slid into the hole.

“What do you see?” asked Ron.

“I’m in a cave with some pretty cave formations, and, uh, footprints in the muddy floor, looks like about a woman’s size five. A few months ago I would have said, ‘Aha! Shego!’ She does have feet that small, but there’s no way she could squeeze through that hole now. She’s way too pregnant. Send Rufus in, see if he can recognize the smell.”

Rufus ran up Ron’s arm through the hole and into the cave. He sniffed the track Kim found, and a few others, and shrugged, looking confused.

“Can you squeeze through, Ron?” Kim asked.

“Not with the backpack,” he said, taking it off and pushing it into the hole. “I think if I twist this way, uh, I can’t move. My arms are pinned and my feet are kicking in the air.”

“I’ll push,” said Wade, grabbing Ron’s legs. Kim, on the other side, got a grip under his shoulders and pulled him through.

“Apparently not with my pants, either,” said Ron.

Kim chuckled and smiled at him.

“I got them,” said Wade, pushing the gray cargo pants through the hole.

“Ewww, now they’re all wet and muddy,” Ron said as he put them back on.

“Let’s follow the trail,” said Kim, and they made their way through a network of small rooms and tunnels, following the small footprints for more than an hour, till they found themselves at the bottom of a large room with many formations, looking up at a metal catwalk with a railing, and a small group of sightseers led by a guide.

“We’re in Lowerton Caverns,” said Ron.

“You’re not supposed to be down there,” said the guide.

“We came in this way,” said Kim.

“That’s a dead end passage.”

“No, it isn’t,” said Kim. “And if you’ll just move away from the railing, we’ll come up there where you want us to be.” She pulled her grappling hook gun out of her cargo pants pocket and shot the hook at the railing. Ron embraced her, and she winched them up and they climbed over onto the catwalk.

“Hi,” said Kim, taking off her muddy glove and offering her hand to the guide. “I’m Kim Possible, and I’m following someone who I think is a foreign agent. Do you have any security camera recordings that might show who’s been in and out of here?”

“Uh, only in the gift shop,” said the guide.

“Which would be—”

“I know how to get there,” said Ron.

“Excuse us,” said Kim, and they hurried ahead, on catwalks and a winding gravel trail through room after room to the elevator up to the gift shop. She got out the kimmunicator. “Wade? Get somewhere you can do some research, okay?”

They were in the elevator going up when Wade’s face appeared in his bedroom. “Sorry, that slowed-down elevator took awhile reaching the top.”

“We’re in Lowerton Caverns, going up toward—” the elevator door opened to a room filled with a huge miscellany of nearly worthless tacky souvenirs. Outside the large windows it was dark.

“The gift shop,” said Wade. “So we want security camera records from last night.” He began typing furiously. “This shouldn’t be too hard to get.”

“Look for a small, possibly muddy woman with your laptop, or something big enough to hide it in.”

“Like her?” Wade asked, showing a picture of a young Asian woman carrying a laptop with a scratched case.

“Okay, she cleaned herself in the bathroom, but missed some mud on the back of her hair,” said Kim. “She looks a lot like Yori, don’t you think?” Ron frowned at the kimmunicator screen. “She’s— I don’t know, older, her nose is wider, and her face is a bit more—”

“Maybe the guy at the cash register remembers seeing her,” Kim said, walking over to an older man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap. “Excuse me, sir, but I’m Kim Possible, and I’m looking for this woman. I think she’s been here.”

“Been here? She works here!” the man said, with a bit of country twang in his voice. “That’s Wanda, the new tour guide. She’s Chinese or something. She’s off tonight, but she should be back tomorrow afternoon.”

“I got her,” said Wade.

“Excuse me,” said Kim, moving away from the cash register.

“Wanda Hu, 801 Maple Street, number 11, in Lowerton. She started working at Lowerton Caverns about three weeks ago, the day after you went back to college, and made her heist the day your finals began.”

“On my way, but she’s probably already gone.”

“I got her driver’s license and thumbprint, which I’m checking against a number of databanks. I’ll let you know when I find out more.”

Kim and Ron stepped outside to the parking lot. “We’re at least half a mile out of town,” she said, looking at the distant blur of lights. “It’s uphill, too.” Dot dot dadot! went the kimmunicator. “You need a ride to Lowerton, don’t you?” asked Wade. “I’ll send my limo.”

In about fifteen minutes, the long black car pulled into the Lowerton Caverns parking lot. Kim and Ron got in the back, and the car sped away toward Lowerton.

Wade’s face appeared on the video screen. “I got some records of her from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. She’s got a long list of names, but uses ‘Hu Khan’ the most often. Seems to be a mercenary who favors anti-American causes. Has black belts in several kinds of martial arts I’ve never heard of before.”

“So when I find her I’m in for a real fight.”

“She could be over-rated, but don’t count on that.”

“The apartment complex is right around the corner from here, Miss Possible,” said the limousine driver.

“Thanks. Already studying a plan of the building,” Kim replied. She got out and led Ron, not around the corner to the apartment complex, but to one of the houses. “Two fences to hop, and we’re behind the building,” she whispered. This fence-hopping got the attention of a dog in the next yard, who barked loudly for quite awhile before someone opened the back door to the house and yelled, “Shut up, Farley!”

Kim and Ron crouched quietly in the shadows. The back of the one storey apartment building had no windows, and metal doors with no handles or locks on the outside. Kim looked around, saw several plastic garbage cans sitting on top of a wooden pallet, and whispered, “I want the pallet. We need to unload it silently.”

This was none too easy, because the containers were nearly full, but soon they were carrying the pallet to the unmarked back door of apartment 11. By twisting it diagonally, they were able to brace the door against the retaining wall below the fence. Then they squeezed past the garbage cans and walked around the side of the building to the front door of number 11. An inside light brightened the curtains in the front window. Kim stuck a plastic card in the card lock, which was able to read and send the signal the lock wanted, and in a moment she was opening the door.

“Missing finals, Miss Possible?” asked a heavily accented voice, a small Asian woman wearing jeans, a camouflage T-shirt, and a small backpack. “You very good at tracking. Are you so good at fighting?”

Like a panther on hyperdrive, Wanda sprung, not at Kim, but at Ron, seized him from behind with one hand and held fingers pointed at his windpipe with the other. “Maybe I just destroy fiancé,” she said. “Make you plenty mad. Give me better fight.”

Ron unexpectedly bent his knees, kicking backward with both feet off the floor, twisting away from Wanda’s hand stab as he fell, and Kim was kicking Wanda in the head before they landed.

Wanda and Kim were wrestling and kicking, and Ron was trying to rip open the zippers on Wanda’s backpack to retrieve the deadly laptop computer. Wanda threw a punch over her shoulder that knocked Ron backwards to the floor.

“That should give him bad concussion,” Wanda said. “Gonna have headaches for years. Now I fix you.”

Wanda and Kim threw punches, chops, and kicks at each other with catlike speed, but dodged most of each other’s blows.

“You are fast, I’ll give you that, but I’ve fought worse,” said Kim.

“Who? Shego? That girl has no stamina. Green glowy power makes her strong but wears her out, makes her weak. I can fight for long time— good lungs, good blood, plenty oxygen to muscles.”

Kim gradually let herself slow down, hoping to fool Wanda into believing she was tiring while still moving fast enough to block or avoid the blows.

Suddenly a heavy lamp came flying across the room at Wanda’s head. Somehow she sensed this and ducked by head-butting Kim to the floor. The lamp smashed against the wall. Wanda spun around and faced Ron, who was evidently not as incapacitated as she believed, and holding the other lamp.

“You wanna throw stuff, boy?” Wanda said angrily. “I can throw stuff very good. Gotta lotta sharp knives inna kitchen.”

“No you don’t,” said Kim, grabbing Wanda’s wrists, but she twisted out of Kim’s grip and got into the kitchen, throwing a few dirty plates at Kim’s head before getting a long pointy knife in each hand.

“All I gotta do to win this one is get away,” she said, from the back door, but the back door wouldn’t open. “Oh, ho ho ho,” she said, “You gonna trap Wanda Hu Khan? Very dangerous move.” She threw a knife at Kim, who managed to dodge it, even though it seemed to change direction in mid flight. Then she flew through the air with the other knife at Kim, who spun to the side, grabbed her, and threw her into the wall.

Meanwhile Rufus, who was clinging to Wanda’s backpack, chewed through one of the straps. Kim pulled it off Wanda’s other arm and tossed it to Ron. Wanda lunged at Ron, who threw it across the room. Kim did a frontflip, caught it, and tossed it back to Ron before Wanda reached her, and Ron ran out the front door and around the corner to the limousine, with Wanda on his heels.

Kim lept through the air totackle Wanda. Ron threw the backpack into the limo and yelled, “Get this out of here, now!” Then he turned to see Wanda picking up Kim and throwing her backwards at a tree, but somehow Kim managed to twist in midair and grab Wanda’s wrist, pulling them both down to the ground.

“Good move, girl,” Wanda said, putting a choke hold on Kim. “Now whatcha gonna do?”

Kim flipped over backwards, slamming Wanda against the tree and breaking her hold.

At that moment two blue and white Lowerton police cars pulled up and four officers rushed towards Kim and Wanda. “Break it up, break it up!” a big black policeman shouted sternly.

“It’s a— a home invasion robbery— these two stole my— my—” Wanda gasped.

“I’m Kim Possible, sir. This woman is Hu Khan, an rogue foreign operative who stole a dangerous item from a secret laboratory.”

Two officers led Kim and Wanda apart for separate questioning.

Dot dot dadot!

“What’s that?” asked the officer questioning Kim.

“It’s my kimmunicator,” said Kim. “Kinda like a video phone. This’ll be Wade, the owner of the stolen item. Can I answer?”

“Go ahead, but whatever you say might be used against you.”

“What’s the sitch, Wade? I’m being questioned by the Lowerton police about brawling in the street.”

“The stolen laptop isn’t in the backpack,” said Wade. “Either it fell out in the apartment, or it wasn’t in the backpack in the first place.”

“Oh, officer, please don’t let Wanda go back to the apartment before we check this out.”

“Kim! He put handcuffs on me!” Ron exclaimed.

“This one seemed dangerous,” said the big black officer. “He gave me a funny look.”

Suddenly an engine started, and with a squeal of tires, a car roared down the other street.

The officer who’d been questioning Kim ran around the corner. The big black one held his gun on Kim and Ron. “Don’t move,” he said.

“You’d better chase that car,” said Kim. “That laptop contains a microprocessor made with encapsulated antimatter that could make a multimegaton explosion if it’s melted.”

“Gotta admit, I never heard that one before.”

“It’s totally true!” shouted Wade.

The other officer came running back. “This Hu Khan woman knocked out Green and Mulligan.”

“Wade, you got her vehicle registration and license number?” Kim asked.

“XLB9026, a 2003 green Toyota, and I’ve called for backup,” said Wade. “I’ve got the car on spy satellite, but it’s gonna be out of view before long. It’s on highway 20, going west at about 120 miles per hour.”

“I so wish we had the stealth bike,” said Kim.

“Since when is a teenaged boy a police dispatcher?” asked the black officer.

“Since he was about ten,” said Kim. “Can you let Ron out of the handcuffs, please, and let’s start chasing her.”

“This is so non regulation,” said the big black officer. He was wearing Kim’s night vision goggles and driving down highway 20 at 130 miles per hour with his headlights off.

“For Lowerton police, maybe, but you’re acting as Homeland Security agents right now,” said Kim.

“Kim’s right, Lou,” said the other officer, who was wearing Ron’s goggles. “Hu Khan can’t see us in her mirror, won’t know we’re closing in.”

They came up on and passed car after car like they were all standing still, just barely managing to keep control. Even a slight curve meant a dreadful squeal of tires. But there, ahead, gradually getting closer, was another car going almost as fast as they were.

“Officer Bert,” said Kim, “there’s a button on the top left side of the goggles that’ll give you digital magnification. Press it three times and you should be able to read the license plate.”

“Oh now, that’s cool. Why don’t they issue stuff like that for us?” he replied. “Yeah, that’s Hu Khan’s car. How do we make her stop? We don’t want to make her flip over and possibly go fireball. That makes the laptop go big boom.”

“We just follow her, Bert,” said Lou. “There’s curves, there’s towns, there’s traffic. Eventually she runs out of gas.”

“Kim, where’s that backup Wade called in?” asked Bert.

“I’ll ask him,” said Kim.

“No good,” said Lou. “What if Hu Khan has a scanner?”

“Wade just updated the kimmunicator’s encryption routine. Nothing but static or silence for anyone else.” She turned on the kimmunicator. “Wade, I’m in the patrol car about half a mile behind Wanda’s car, moving, looks like about 105 miles per hour. Where’s that backup?”

“Overhead and closing in,” said Wade. “You might want to slow down. They’ll be using a silicon phase di—”

The kimmunicator went dead. The motor of the police car went dead.

“Hit the brakes or you’ll kill your motor,” said Kim.

The police car slowed down.

“What’d he say?” asked Officer Lou.

“A silicon phase disrupter,” said Kim. “Its beam interferes with the function of most silicon-based computer chips. It shut down the kimmunicator, shut downyour patrol car’s computerized fuel injection system, and Wanda Hu’s, too. It wouldn’t work on an older car. Let us out and let us have our goggles back.”

“We’re the police,” said Lou.

“You can shoot her, maybe, but I can beat her up and bag her alive,” said Kim. “The neighbors won’t complain way out here.” Kim put on her goggles just in time to see someone coasting to the ground near Wanda’s car on a black parasail.

“Let’s run, Ron,” she said. “Our backup will probably need help.”

They ran down the road to Wanda’s car and across a wet meadow toward two figures fighting.

By the time they reached the fight, it was over. A woman in black ninja garb kneeled over Wanda Hu Khan, binding her wrists with duct tape.

“Tape her ankles, too,” said Kim. “We’ll carry her.”

“Kim Possible,” said the ninja girl. “The honor of finally capturing Hu Khan I must share with you, because you softened her up.”

“Yori!” said Kim.

“Of course,” she replied, pulling off her ninja hood.

“Where’s the laptop?” asked Kim.

“Here it is,” said Ron, picking it up and putting it in his backpack. A swirling wind blew in their faces as an unmarked black helicopter landed on the meadow a hundred feet away.

“Let us carry Miss Khan to the helicopter,” said Yori. “We will take her to Singapore, where the authorities will deal most sternly with her.”

“The only way I will ever go back to Singapore is with that computer, a timer, and an appropriate detonating device,” said Wanda.

Yori suddenly dropped Wanda’s head end and ran away, covering her nose and mouth with her ninja hood. Kim wasn’t quite so quick, and got sprayed in the face by a pungeant yellow gas from a cartridge in Wanda’s mouth. Wanda strained her arm muscles and managed to rip the duct tape binding her wrists. She was tearing the tape binding her ankles when Yori and Hirotaka jumped on her together.

“Perhaps these would help,” said Officer Lou, snapping his handcuffs on Wanda’s wrists. “And you are—”

“Yori,” she said. “I come from Japan. I’m what you might call an agent, like Kim Possible. Bringing Hu Khan to lengthy imprisonment is high on my ‘to do’ list. Her crimes are many and she is vicious. She’s confessed to planning to destroy the city-state of Singapore with the anti-matter in the computer chip.”

“I confess no sucha thing,” said Wanda.

Ron, without his backpack, was kneeling over the unconscious Kim. Her heart was beating but she was barely breathing. Rufus scampered around her head, looking worried. Ron took a quick deep breath and blew air into her lungs. He backed away from the pungeant odor that came out, took a deep breath and blew more air into her. She coughed, gasped for breath, and blinked open her eyes. “Ron!”

“Kim, baby, are you okay?”

“I think so. Did she get away?”

“Nah. Yori, Hirotaka, and Officer Lou got her. Yori knew her trick. I guess Hu Khan is kinda like ‘Hu Dini’ when it comes to escaping. She’s handcuffed. They’re arguing about whether to take her to Singapore or Lowerton Jail.”

“And the computer?”

“Officer Bert’s guarding it.”

“And your head?”

“What about it?”

“When Hu Khan punched your forehead, she said you’d have headaches for years.”

“Babe, she just blasted chloroform in your lungs, and you’re worried about me getting punched two fights and a car chase ago?”

“Do you have a headache?”

“A bit, but I think it’s from your chloroform.”

“This is so my worst nightmare,” Wade said, on Kim’s dorm room computer. “My chip has been classified a Z-12 military weapon. The Defense Department wants to hire Lode Tech as a defense contractor. They want me to make encapsulated antimatter bombs. Kim, I don’t want to do that.”

“You can’t bury technology, Wade. What you’ve discovered how to make, someone else will discover.”

“Maybe, but it’s not worth it,” said Wade. “You need a huge amount of energy to make encapsulated antimatter. It’s not like Uranium, where the energy’s been baked in by an ancient supernova explosion, waiting to be released. You have to put it in there yourself. I used the Helios Alpha Accelerator. Making a supercomputer, you get something unique that might be worth the expense. A bomb? It’s making one the hard way, and only better for terrorists, who want their weapons really small.”

“Why don’t put it to the Defense Department that way, rather than letting them waste a bunch of taxpayer money finding out for themselves the hard way?” asked Kim.

“How’d the sociology final go?”

Kim sighed. “Not sure.”

“Boo-yah!” exclaimed Ron, standing in the doorway.

“Really?” asked Kim. “Yesterday, you were pretty sure you failed, or got a D.”

“Well, Dr. Grunion knew we had the mission, and noted the difference between the quality of my test results and my papers, so she offered to give me an oral exam. She asked me a lot about the video games paper, cause that was my best one, and she was wondering, you know, how much of the thinking was mine and how much was yours. I knew that stuff inside out. She asked me some more stuff, but then this was cool— I talked about the mission as an example of how different cultures can interact unpredictably. A Mongolian mercenary agent with a grudge against Singapore reads a Central Asian Jihad website article about how to make an antimatter bomb, and gets a job at a cheesy American tourist cave with tunnels near the secret lab with the part she needs—”

“What are you gonna do about that cave?” Kim asked Wade.

“It’s blocked by a rockslide, about two hundred feet from my elevator shaft. Your brothers detonated some solid rocket fuel boosters.”

“So Dr Grunion goes, ‘I’ll give you a B,’ ” Ron said.

“Did you ask what I got?”

“You got your A.”

Kim got a big smile, leaped from her seat, and hugged and kissed Ron.

“Uh, okay, later on, guys,” Wade said, and the screen went blank.

Kim’s roommate, Monique, appeared in the doorway. “Is it party time?” she asked.

“I’d like some party time, if it’s okay with you,” Kim said, looking at her over Ron’s shoulder.

“Just let me get my Business Computing texts, and the room’s all yours till the main library closes.” Monique came in, found her books, and left, saying, “Happy hotness,” with a smile.

Kim giggled and locked the door, saying, “She’s so funny!”

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