cloudmonet’s kim stories

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Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Rufus, Monique, Felix Renton, Wade Load, Dr. Betty Director, Will Du, Dr. Drakken, Shego, 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 February of Kim and Ron’s sophomore year of college, nearly three years after “So the Drama,” and shortly after my earlier story, “How Darkness Comes.” This story © 2005 by cloudmonet.

It was Tuesday afternoon at five, and two rows of people sat on the mats at one edge of the martial arts room at Northwestern State University. Standing on mats in the center, Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable were stretching, doing warmup exercises, taking no notice of their audience. Ron’s pet naked mole rat, Rufus, sat on the windowsill, watching attentively.

Kim and Ron smiled at each other and bowed, then began making moves which looked half like a mirroring dance, half like a fight staged in slow motion. Ron spun away from a kick. His right arm raised in rhythm to block a punch aimed at his jaw, while his left fist moved toward Kim, who ducked under his arm to try to get behind him, but he turned the other way and parried her moves. It looked well-choreographed and rehearsed, but in fact it was all improvisation and response. After about ten minutes of this, Kim asked Ron, “You ready for action, babe?”

Without waiting for a reply, she lunged into him, flipped him over and threw him to the mat. Suddenly the action was as quick and difficult to follow as a pair of cats, hissing, tumbling, clawing and kicking at each other. Ron hit the mat. Ron hit the mat. Kim hit the mat. On the windowsill, Rufus was imitating some of their moves.

“Good one,” Kim said, grabbing at him but finding herself flipped down again.

“You let me do that!” Ron complained. “I never get you twice in a row.”

“You got me fair,” she said. “Try for thirds!”

She did a flip and a tumble, tripping him, but he somersaulted back to his feet. They lunged toward each other, and somehow managed to throw each other down.

“Does that count?” Ron asked.

“I don’t know. That was weird.”

“No, this is weird,” Ron said, making a bunch of parody postures and monkey noises.

Rufus smacked his head with his front paw in exasperation.

Kim laughed but jumped at Ron, who was suddenly all business, spinning and tumbling out of the way. They circled each other warily. Kim charged at Ron. He moved aside at the last instant, tried to trip her, but instead of going down she slipped her foot under Ron’s leg and kicked. He responded correctly, moving with her kick and doing a cartwheel away from her, but she ducked down, grabbed his arms, flipped him to the mat and jumped on top of him.

Ron tried to bring his knees up to his chest to kick her off, but she pushed his legs apart with her own knees. With a sudden effort Ron rolled them both over. Kim flipped him off with one arm and jumped to her feet. Ron jumped at her and knocked her down, but somehow, after a brief bit of tumbling, she had him face down with his arms pinned behind his back.

Rufus hopped off the windowsill and scampered onto Ron’s shoulder as he stood up.

Then came the questions. “What do you call that move where he tried to trip you and you kick-flipped him?” asked one of the martial arts students who almost always managed to watch them practice.

Kim said a few words of Chinese, adding, “I hope I pronounced that right. It means, ‘miscellaneous dirty trick.’ ”

“You’re kidding, right?”


“Does Ron ever win?” Almost every time, somebody would ask this one.

This time, Ron replied, “Does anyone here feel like being defeated?”

Rufus glowered at the person who asked this.

“You should’ve seen him last week,” said Kim. “I won’t say exactly where we were, but let’s just say on the wrong side of an international border somewhere in the Hindu Kush, being rushed by about twenty guys wearing black turbans. How many did you take out, Ron?”

“At least five, maybe seven,” he replied. “A couple of the guys I hit, I think you or Yori hit them too, so I’m not sure.”

“Ron almost always wins, when he’s not fighting me,” said Kim.

Dot dot dadot! rang the kimmunicator. “Darn!” Kim said, quickly rinsing off the soap, rushing out of the shower stall, wrapping a towel around herself, and fumbling through her pack.

“What’s the sitch, Wade?” Kim asked, but the face on the screen was so not Wade!

She had pale skin that might have had a slight greenish tinge, slightly wavy black hair that was shorter than it used to be, and her lipstick was no longer nearly black, but a slightly enhanced pink. “G’day, Kim,” she said with a chuckle. “Aren’t video phones fun?”

“Hey, Sheila,” Kim replied. “This is kind of a surprise.”

“I hope it’s a good surprise.”

“Sure, I guess,” Kim said, smiling. “What’s up?”

“My mate, Kelly, wants to talk to your mate, Felix.” Kelly, a young Australian woman with dark hair and tanned skin, crowded her head beside Sheila’s, saying, “Please, Kim, can you get Felix for me?”

“I’m not in the dorm. I’m at the gym. It’ll be awhile. What’s your number?”

“Five,” said Sheila.

“Five?” asked Kim. “You mean you’ve got a communicator?”

“The one from the test car.”

“I think I feel okay about you keeping it, but I don’t know how much Wade trusts you.”

“I understand,” said Sheila.

“I’ll call back.”

“See ya.”

Kim shut the kimmunicator off and put it away.

“So do we have a mission?” Ron asked. He was wearing spotted boxer shorts and pulling on his cargo pants.

“No, it was just Sheila from Australia. Kelly wants to talk to Felix.”

“Oh— okay,” Ron said, pulling on a maroon sweatshirt. “Really?”

The warm sunny February day became a cold, cloudy night. Kim and Ron walked back to the dorm holding hands in Ron’s coat pocket. Rufus was snuggled in his other coat pocket.

“You’re getting better, you know,” she said.

“Really? Booyah!”

“I don’t want you to get overconfident and reckless, okay?”

“Do I seem reckless?” Ron asked.

“No, you don’t,” Kim replied. “When you and I and Yori charged into those desperate terrorists swarming up the hill, I never was so proud of you.”

“It tanks that a couple of them got away with the plane.”

“General Chao shot it down. Game over.”

“Don’t know if it’s ever over for those guys,” said Ron. “They’re as persistent as Drakken used to be, and there’s a lot more of them.”

They entered Mathom House and climbed the stairs to the third floor, but telling Felix about Kelly’s call seemed awkward, because he was holding hands with Belinda in the lounge. Kim’s roommate, Monique, was sprawled on her bed with a textbook and a highlighter pen, listening to some music that almost defied description. Kim and Ron did an about face and went to his room.

“There’s some improvement on the usual chaos,” Kim said, hopping up on Ron’s bed and sitting with her back against the wall.

Rufus scampered to his nest in an open plastic container on the counter, did a bit of digging in the shredded paper towels and curled up to go to sleep.

“I don’t mean to let it get messy,” said Ron. “It’s just— a lot of times I leave in a hurry.”

Dot dot dadot! went the kimmunicator.

“Like, right now, maybe,” Ron said.

“What up, Wade?” asked Kim, but it was Kelly’s face on the screen. “Oh, hey, Kelly. I’m sorry. Felix isn’t here yet—”

“What? Yes I am,” said Felix, rolling to the doorway.

Ron got up, stuck his head out the door to look behind Felix.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

Ron whispered into his ear, “It’s Kelly from Australia. She wants to talk to you. If Belinda’s coming over this could be awkward.”

Felix broke into a big smile. “Kelly?”

“That would be, yes he is here,” Kim told her, and passed the kimmunicator to Felix.

“G’day, mate,” Kelly said.

“Hey, sweetie, I’m so glad—” Felix waved his other hand at Kim and Ron, who edged out of the room, closing the door behind them.

Kim sighed. “I guess we could sit in the lounge.”

“Do you ever wish we just had our own room?” asked Ron.

“Only every night you’re not beside me,” Kim replied. “Whoa! Did I just say that? I did, didn’t I? Well, if we did— if we could share a room, it’s gotta stay more straightened up than your room usually is.”

“I’m fine with that.”

Kim sat down on one of the couches and Ron sat beside her. “Don’t think it can happen unless we’re married, which we said we’re not doing before we graduate, cause we don’t have our own income.”

“Oh, yeah, the income thing.”

“It’s a growing-up thing for my dad.”

“Argh, I’m twenty, and you’re twenty in a few weeks,” Ron complained. “When are growing-up things gonna stop messing with us?”

Kim gave Ron a patient smile. “We really don’t want to get Dad started about being a lab assistant in graduate school, and Mom’s medical school loans. She was still doing her advanced studies when I was born. When we got engaged, he went on and on about this stuff.”

“What about your mom?”

“She’s different,” said Kim. “She’s been wanting to see us married since— I don’t know when the idea first occurred to her. But she can’t support both of us through college, and I wouldn’t ask for anything like that.”

Kim and Ron turned their heads toward the sound of Felix’s wheelchair rolling down the hall.

“Kim, Ron, we got a mission,” Felix said, passing her the kimmunicator.

“What’s the sitch?” Kim asked Wade.

“We got a hit on the site from Lisa Tudor Home Designs,” said Wade. “Have you heard of her?”

“No,” said Kim.

“Oh sure,” said Ron. “She makes cooking stuff, and curtains, and bedding. She’s got a cable TV show, and a distribution deal with Smarty-Mart.”

“Right,” said Kim. “That explains it.”

“Actually, I made your first grappling hook gun with the housing of a Lisa Tudor hairdryer,” said Wade.

“Okay, go on.”

“Their corporate jet is in trouble,” said Wade. “They’re circling Seattle with broken landing gear. You’re close enough to get there in time to save them.”

“So what’s the plan? I can get onto the plane, but then what? Bring in parachutes for everybody and then try to land the plane or let it crash? Is there any way I can attach pontoons or something?”

“Emergency pontoons! What a great idea!” said Wade. “I don’t have anything like that, but maybe by the next time this happens, I will. Meanwhile, we’re talking parachutes for seventeen.”

“That’s a lot of parachutes,” said Kim. “I don’t have that many.”

“You will when you reach Seattle,” said Wade.

A small black jet with “KP” monogrammed on the tail flew north over the Willamette Valley toward Portland and Seattle. Felix’s wheelchair was locked in place at the control panel.

Dot dot dadot! went the kimmunicator.

“Knockout, this is Baby Bear,” said General Branson. “Are you in a secure location?”

“Secure? We’re inside my jet, moving toward Seattle.”

“This is about that delivery of black hats last week,” Branson said. “You won a jackpot.”

“Go on,” said Kim.

“His name’s Zafir Al Mali, better known as Zafir the Scorpion,” the general said, showing a picture of a fierce-eyed, black-bearded man wearing a black turban. “There’s a reward of 12.5 million dollars on his head. You delivered him to us alive from a hideout we couldn’t have cracked. Now, for the protection of you and other members of your squad, we’ll do a no-publicity, tax-prepaid distribution. You’re the leader, of course, so it’s your call how to split the reward, but I’d recommend an equal distribution.”

“Do I get a share?” asked Felix.

“Don’t turn it down,” Ron said firmly. Rufus hopped out of Ron’s pocket and climbed onto his shoulder.

“Excuse me for a moment, Baby Bear,” said Kim, putting him on hold. “What, is greed raising its ugly head? That mission wasn’t about money.”

“It’s a growing-up thing,” Ron argued. “Grown-ups get paid for their work. This is our work, fighting villains and saving people.”


“I’ve been thinking about this, Kim. I don’t see how we can hold down regular jobs and bail whenever we have a mission, even if our regular job is working for the Red Cross or Disaster Relief. If we don’t want to work for Global Justice, cause we want to keep on making our own decisions about what missions to take and how to handle them, and we don’t want to charge fees, how are we gonna live, if we don’t at least accept reward money?”

Rufus, as he often did, made facial expressions indicating agreement with Ron’s position, whatever it was.

“You’ve got a point,” said Kim. “It just feels different. I’ve never taken money for saving the world.”

“That income thing delaying our marriage? Problem solved,” said Ron.

“Now you’re tempting me,” said Kim.

Her expression of annoyance slowly changed to thoughtfulness as she turned the kimmunicator back on. “Uh, Baby Bear,” she said. “Three of the people fighting with me were Global Justice agents, and I don’t think they’re allowed to share in a reward like this.”

“Probably not,” said Branson. “Give me their names. I’ll ring Patch and discuss it with her. At least they should get promotions.”

“Will Du, Steve Rasp, and George Wind,” said Kim.

“Got ’em,” said the general. “And the other members of your squad?”

“Ron Stoppable and Felix Renton, who are with me here, Yori and Hirotaka in Japan, and Sheila Jones in Queensland.”

“Is this by any chance Yori of” asked Branson.

“You know her?”

“Ohhh yeah, Black Shadow, Ghost of Asia. Let’s just say I’ve worked with her. The details are sensitive.”

“I’ll bet,” said Kim. “Now Sheila Jones—”

“I’ve heard about Sheila. She’s the pregnant woman my crew took to Darwin with Patch’s boys. They talked a lot about jumping on that croc with her.”

“She’s the one.”

“Okay, that makes six cash awards, three career promotions. The money should come through real soon. Baby Bear out.”

“We’ve got four million dollars,” whispered Kim.

“Probably more like two and a half million after taxes, but that’s still a lot, isn’t it?”

“Yeah!” said Kim, looking into Ron’s eyes and impulsively kissing him. Rufus looked back and forth from Kim to Ron, then dove back into Ron’s pocket and went to sleep.

“Should we start telling the others?” asked Ron.

“Give me some time to get used to how this feels,” said Kim.

“I think it feels pretty good,” said Felix.

“We need to be discreet,” Kim cautioned him. “We don’t want revenge squads coming after us.”

“Don’t spend big bucks just to impress the ladies,” said Ron.

“I understand,” said Felix. “I’ll be cool.”

“Speaking of ladies, what is the sitch with you and Belinda and Kelly?” asked Kim.

“I wish I knew,” said Felix. “Right now they both seem really interested in me. I think I like Kelly better, but I don’t know her as well, and she’s way far away.”

“What do they know about each other?” asked Kim.

“Kelly thinks I broke up with Belinda— that’s what I thought at the time! And Belinda doesn’t know Kelly exists. I’m bad, huh? I didn’t mean for this to happen, and now, I just want to make sure I make the right decision.”

“So sorry,” said Yori, trying to hold her communicator steady while kicking an opponent. “I will call you back when I have vanquished—”

“As if,” growled a deep male voice.

“You’re gonna be so vanquished! Bye Kim.” Yori turned off the communicator, clipped it to her belt, and focused fully on kicking, punching, and blocking.

“Now I’m gonna worry about her till she calls back,” said Kim.

“Two million dollars?” asked Sheila. “Really? I didn’t think there was any payoff to being good. What was the guy’s name?”

“Zafir the Scorpion,” said Kim.

“Oh yeah, the news said this dude got caught by a special forces team. That was us, wasn’t it?”

“We don’t want to be identified,” said Kim. “This kind of heroism can get us targeted for revenge.”

“I’m used to being discreet, believe me,” Sheila said.

“Baby Bear will get in touch with you.”

“Cleared to land at Sea-Tac Airport,” said Felix, and the small black jet touched down at a runway in the general aviation section.

Kim opened the side door, to find a FedEx driver with four packages at the bottom of the ladder.

“Miss Possible,” he said. “Seventeen parachutes, packed and ready to use, courtesy the Puget Sound Skydiving Club, sign here.”

Kim signed, and passed the packages up to Ron.

In a few minutes they were airborne again, and Wade had Kim patched through to Lisa Tudor’s satellite phone.

“Hi, I’m Kim Possible, on my way to save you, but to make this work, I have to give your pilot very precise directions, so if you could please pass your phone to him, we’ll do it.”

“Okay,” said Lisa, a pleasant looking middle aged woman with straight brown hair. “Harvey, Kim Possible.”

“What is the sitch with the landing gear?” asked Kim.

“Hydraulic failure, mechanical jam.”

“What’s the slowest airspeed you can maintain safely?”

“A hundred eighty.”

“Ouch. That’s like a category five hurricane. Okay, slow down to that speed, and let’s cruise straight south over the valley toward Portland. How much fuel do you have left?”

“Enough to reach Portland, but why go that way?” asked Harvey.

“To match speed with you, I need you going in a straight line,” said Kim. “It’s February, it’s night, it’s cold. You want to be over nice, flat, dry land when you bail. That’s the only direction you’ll get it.”


“My first priority is saving your lives. If I can, I’ll save your plane. At least, I’ll make sure no one gets hurt by it.”

“What I’m trying to say is there are two passengers who can’t possibly bail out,” Harvey protested. “One’s in a wheelchair, and the other has frail bones.”

“Okay,” said Kim. “I can handle that, I think. Tell me the person in the wheelchair doesn’t weigh 300 pounds.”

“They’re both rather small,” said Harvey.

“I’ll call you back as soon as I’m in position.”

“She wants us to do what?!” Lisa Tudor exclaimed.

“This really is the best way to get out of a plane that seems destined to crash,” said a male executive aide.

“What about Aaron and Denise?”

“I told her about them,” said Harvey.

Suddenly brilliant light came through the windows on one side of Lisa Tudor’s jet. The satellite phone rang.

“Kim here,” she said. “I want you to open the boarding door, but make certain everyone stays well away from it, cause there’ll be a wind that’ll just suck you right out of there if you’re not careful, understand?”

“You stay in the cockpit, Harvey,” said Lisa. “Seatbelts on, everybody. Scott, you’re the strongest. Do you think you can open that door?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Scott, gripping the railing with all his might while turning the door latch. A loud hiss of wind quickly became a roar as the door fell open, the steps dangling in the wind. He pulled himself away from the door.

“Remember, Ron, aim well in front of that open hatch,” Kim shouted, standing at her own jet’s sliding door with an four parachute packs bundled in front of her and a jetpack on her back.

“Got it,” he replied.

She jumped out of the plane, pressed the controls that spread the wings and fired the engine of her jetpack. In an instant she was gripping the railing of the other plane, retracting her wings, and moving inside. She turned around to see Ron gripping the railing, retracting his wings, and following her.

“Okay, we’ve got nine parachutes here,” said Kim, undoing the harness over her chest that held them all. “We’ll go back to the other plane with the two people who are unable to bail and get the rest.”

“You’re smaller than I thought you’d be,” said Lisa. “I thought you were like this big Amazon.”

“I’m very strong,” said Kim. “Okay, here’s the man in the wheelchair, and I’m guessing maybe the older lady’s the one with frail bones.”

“I prefer elderly, but yes,” she replied.

“Elderly, right, sorry. I’m Kim, of course, and you’re—”

“Denise Throckmorton. You may call me Mrs. Throckmorton.”

“Okay, Mrs. Throckmorton, I’m gonna have to carry you back to my own jet.”


“You do want to survive this experience don’t you?” asked Kim. “You have to leave the plane. If you can’t bail, I’ve got to carry you.”

The old woman hesitantly unbuckled her seat belt and walked toward Kim, who wrapped her left arm around her.

“Just press your body completely against me, put your arms over the top of my shoulder. That’s good. I got you. Here we go!”

Kim took a step backwards, jumped off the edge, fell out of the plane, and extended her wings and slowly fired the jet engine, to avoid jolting Mrs. Throckmorton.

Dot dot dadot! went the kimmunicator.

“That’s gonna have to wait. You’re too scared,” said Kim, whose jetpack was now lifting her and Mrs. Throckmorton toward the bright spotlights of her small black jet. In a moment she grabbed the railing, retracted the wings, and stepped inside the jet. “Mrs. Throckmorton, are you okay?” Kim asked.

“We’re inside? We made it? This was crazier than bailing,” she said, sinking into a seat and fastening the belt. She was sweating and panting.

“You’re not having a heart attack, are you?” asked Kim.

“No, I don’t think so, just really, really scared.”

“Then pardon me a moment. I should take this call.” She took the kimmunicator out of her pocket.

“Konichiwa, Kim,” Yori said, wiping sweat off her forehead with her other hand. “Forgive me if I was brusque and rude, but the villain I was subduing was being unpleasant.”

“I assume you won the fight.”

“He is so subdued.”

“I need to talk to you in private, later. I’m in the middle of rescuing some people from a plane with broken landing gear.”

“Is this about Baby Bear and the Scorpion jackpot?” Yori asked, her stern face melting in to a big smile. “Cause the Ghost knows all about that. Hugs and kisses to Knockout and Naco. Gonna hit the ice parlors tomorrow with Freaky Hair Boy, do the bond, get a roof, get happy. The Ghost is giddy!”

“Whoa! Seriously?” asked Kim. “All tomorrow?”

“We’ll get to work and see how much we finish. Bye now.”

“What’s that all about?” asked Denise Throckmorton. “Ice parlors? Freaky hair boy? It sounds like drug dealer talk.”

“No, not at all,” said Kim. “Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, and she’s getting engaged. Not that I want to be rude, but the details are so not your business.”

“Is a scorpion jackpot some kind of hypodermic needle loaded with smack or crank?” Mrs. Throckmorton asked.

Kim growled and gave her an annoyed Kim look.

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.”

At that moment, Ron appeared in the doorway, holding Aaron tightly. He carried him inside and placed him on the seat next to Mrs. Throckmorton.

“What’s wrong?” he asked Kim.

“Yori called about the secret business last week, talked in code, and now our elderly friend thinks she’s some kind of drug dealer.”

Ron choked back laughter. “Yori?” he asked. “Mrs. Throckmorton, last week we were clobbering terrorists. Never mind exactly who or where. There was classified and top secret stuff involved, okay? Drug dealers aren’t the only guys who talk funny to keep secrets.”

“You’re spies?”

“We prefer to think of ourselves as heroes, but sometimes this involves—”

“We do what needs to be done, all right?” Kim interrupted. “Sometimes it has to stay secret.”

“Better get on with it, Kim,” said Felix from the cockpit.

“Let’s go,” she said, bundling four more parachutes into her harness.

“How many more do we need?” asked Ron.

“Bring all of them,” said Kim.

The hard part of the landing on Lisa Tudor’s jet was grabbing the railing before retracting the jetpack wings. Kim’s jet, of course, was built to make these stunts convenient.

“Okay, we should have parachutes for everyone else,” said Kim. “Put them on.” She pulled the kimmunicator from her pocket and told Felix to turn off the spotlights and return to Seattle with Aaron and Denise. Kim and Ron checked the straps on everyone’s parachute packs and tightened them when necessary.

“You’re the leader,” Kim told Lisa Tudor, handing her a radio beacon. “You know everyone on your team. Shortly after you hit the ground, a rescue team will find you. It’s your job to make sure they find all the others. Harvey, turn the plane around, back toward Seattle.”

“Roger that,” said Harvey, chattering a bit on the radio, banking the plane to make the turn.

“Okay, we’ll be over open farmland shortly. When I give the word, I want you to run toward that door, jump into the air to clear the steps, count to five, and pull your ripcords. Lisa, you’re last, so everyone should land to the south of you.”

“I understand.”

“Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!” said Kim, and one by one the Home Designs executives and aides jumped out of the plane, last of all Lisa Tudor herself, leaving only Kim, Ron, and Harvey the pilot.

Kim sat in the copilot seat, reading the serial number of the plane to Wade, who pulled up the plans and schematics. She plugged the kimmunicator into an electrical outlet and Wade scanned the plane’s systems.

“Harvey’s right,” Wade’s voice said on the radio speakers. “It’s a hydraulics and mechanical problem. Go back into the cabin and look at the monitor screen there, and I’ll try to show you what’s happening.” Kim and Ron looked at the screen.

“This is how it’s supposed to work,” said Wade, animating the diagram. “This is where the hydraulics failed. Of course, the jet has separate hydraulics for each control system. It’s the wheels on the right wing that are jammed. They’re about the size of the tires of a small car. You may or may not be strong enough to budge them, not that I’m recommending you go out there and try.”

“Is that a challenge, Wade?” Kim asked.

She clipped a line to a solid grip inside the plane, another end to her harness, and eased out the door, clinging to the railing of the dangling steps. Unfortunately, the landing wheels in question were on the opposite side of the plane from the door. She fired her grappling hook gun and rewound it several times before actually hooking on the edge of the partly opened landing gear cover. She tugged on the line, leaned on it, put her weight on it, then with a sudden jolt the cover lurched down, lowering the pair of wheels, leaving Kim dangling from the plane by her safety line.

Ron was already pulling on the line, bringing her in. In moments their strong hands clasped each other’s forearms and Kim was back inside.

“Now all we need to do is close the door!” she said, going back into the cockpit.

It lurched a little bit, made some funny noises, and didn’t want to close completely without being tugged.

“The landing gear are down, Harvey. Call Sea-Tac and let’s do this!”

Belinda intercepted Kim, Ron, and Felix in the lounge on the third floor of Mathom House.

“What a drama!” said Belinda. “You had us glued to the news. Everyone on the third floor was watching.” She took Felix’s hand. “I worked it out so we can be together tonight. I hope you don’t mind, but it’s late and kinda hard to back out now. Yvonne went to sleep in Kim’s bed, so you can stay with me and Kim can stay with Ron.”

“Okay,” Felix said, slowly smiling at her.

“Booyah!” Kim and Ron said together, followed by “Jinx! You owe me a soda.”

They ran to Ron’s room. Kim latched the door, sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off her shoes and socks. Rufus hopped out of Ron’s pocket into his plastic nest box and snuggled into the shredded paper towels.

“It’s after midnight,” Kim said, looking at his alarm clock, “so happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Back at you,” Ron replied.

“Just think,” Kim said, “in a few months we’ll be married, sitting beside each other on the edge of a big soft bed, and you’ll unzip my wedding gown—”

She grabbed him and started kissing him. His hands slipped easily inside her black mission shirt.

In Queensland, it was still daylight and still summer. A green Volkswagen bug rolled up a rutted track on the edge of town through a eucalyptus wood to a drive beside a weatherbeaten house with bowed front steps. A black-haired, suntanned man in Khaki shirt and shorts locked the car. The steps and porch creaked as he walked to the door, holding a Valentine behind his back.

“G’day,” said Sheila, opening the door with a smile and giving him a quick kiss. “You’ll never guess what happened today.”

A small black jet with “KP” monogrammed on the tail flew southwest over sagebrush hills dusted with snow toward Reno. Inside, Kim sat at the controls. “It was sweet of Wade to offer to pay for this trip, but this isn’t a mission, and we can afford a few personal flights.”

“I can’t believe they’re getting married so instantly,” said Ron. “They just got engaged this morning.”

“It’s a ninja thing,” said Kim. “Do it quickly and quietly, so your enemies don’t know you’re not paying attention. I don’t care. I want a real wedding with our families and friends there to watch. I want to wear a strapless white gown with flowers in my hair, and dance in your arms at the reception.”

“Sounds like summer vacation.”

“I’m thinking spring break.”

“Yori, you’re beautiful,” said Kim.

In the glittering hotel lobby, Yori wore a blue silk dress with embroidered flowers. “It is fitting for a bride to be as beautiful as she can manage,” she replied, with a smile and a blush.

“I think you can manage quite beautiful indeed,” said Hirotaka, wearing a dark gray suit with a blue shirt and a gray tie.

Kim was wearing a blue jacket and matching skirt with a pink silk blouse, and Ron a black mission shirt with a brown suit. Rufus was peering out from his coat pocket.

“Let’s do this,” said Yori, taking Hirotaka’s hand and leading him over to a small alcove. On the counter was a push-button bell next to a sign saying Ring bell for marriage. Hirotaka smiled and pressed the bell.

A smiling gray-haired woman in a dark gray robe came to the counter. “Oh, is this a double wedding, or are some of you witnesses?” she asked pleasantly.

“Just me, and my Hirotaka-san,” Yori replied.

“Then, if you would sign the certificate here, where it says bride, and also the registry.”

Yori did this.

“And then your very lucky man, sign the certificate where it says husband, and the registry too.”

Hirotaka signed both places.

“And then your friends, where it says witnesses.” Kim and Ron also signed.

“Now for the ceremony, would you like secular, Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu— stop me if I say the one you want.”

“What kind of Buddhist do you have?” asked Yori.

“Would you want Japanese or Zen Buddhist, maybe?” the woman asked, thumbing through the large loose-leaf notebook.

“Just make sure I’m not placing myself inferior to my husband.”

“This is Reno. We do it your way. I have feminist mods of nearly everything. Here we go.” She read a philosophical and religious preamble about the nature of marriage, its relationship to worldly things and the progression toward enlightenment.

“Will you, Hirotaka, love Yori, and no other, as long as you both shall live?”

Hirotaka held her hands, looked into her eyes, and said, “I will.”

“And Yori, will you love Hirotaka, and no other, as long as you both shall live?”

Yori smiled and said, “I will.”

They slipped wedding rings on each other’s fingers.

“I now pronounce you wife and husband,” the woman said. “You may now kiss each other.”

Yori and Hirotaka were already kissing.

Kim and Ron slipped their arms around each other’s waists.

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