Wade was pacing.
It was unusual. Wade was accustomed to sitting at his computer for hours at a time; he never got restless. Clearly something was bothering him, but he wasn't sure what it was.
It obviously had something to do with the clone sleeping in his guestroom --she was the only changed variable-- but he didn't think it was about Leela directly.
Something about her creation? Something she did? Something she said?
He found himself at his gadget workbench, she'd looked at it and picked out the unfinished grappling hook launcher in a lightsaber toy housing to ask about. Still turning toys into tech? she had asked.
No. It had been his last project where he gutted a toy, or other everyday object, and made it incredible. He never even finished it. It had been sitting there untouched since he made the new Kimmunicator.
And it was when Team Possible was trying to grow up. Ron decided to stop being a goofy mascot and be a football player. They both got jobs, Ron was suddenly an older brother. Kim updated her look for the first time in forever. Things started to seem more serious. Shiny new tech like the wrist communicator and grapple was in. Reused toy casings were out.
She was right: Team Possible had been trying to grow up. But what had been wrong with the way things were before?
They'd defeated the Little Diablo scheme with an electromagnetic scrambler that had been a cheap science fiction ray gun toy before he modified it. That scheme had been the closest any human being had come to taking over the world. Why grow up?
Moreover, why should he grow up? Kim and Ron were adults now, but he was still thirteen. He didn't grow up when he got his first doctorate; he didn't grow up when he got his first consulting job. Why did he let himself start growing up just because Kim and Ron were? It wasn't as if he couldn't have helped them without putting childhood behind him; none of the places he'd consulted had minded that he was a child, they just cared that he got the job done.
“It used to be more fun,” Wade said to himself. Then he sat down started working on the grappler.
* * *
Normally Felix was always happy to talk with Zita about any subject, and video chat was definitely better than a phone call, but at the moment he was exhausted and needed to sleep. They had played with Wade and Leela well into the night --the girl had an infectious enthusiasm-- and he'd been low on sleep anyway.
He was barely even processing what they were saying to each other.
“It's not like it's weird,” Felix stopped at the look on Zita's face. “You know, considering who we're talking about.”
“That's not why I gave you that look,” Zita said.
Felix was at a loss for a moment, but then managed, “Ok, why did you give me that look?”
“I gave you that look,” Zita said, “because you said that about fifteen minutes ago and I agreed with you then. We don't need to go over this again.”
“Ok, ok,” Felix said. “I guess I'm just tired.”
“I am too,” Zita said. “It's just that, now that I've had time to think about it, I think we should check things out.”
Felix nodded. It did make sense. After going to high school with Kim it was easy to accept things like the idea that Kim had a clone called Leela who they happened to bump into in Everlot and who wanted to keep her existence a secret from Kim for non-nefarious reasons, but Zita was right that they should still verify things before keeping secrets from Kim.
He opened up a chat window sent a message to Wade.
“It's possible that he's not even,” Felix was cut off by a beep. Wade was always online.
* * *
FlyingZombieKiller: U up?
DaedalusAI: What's on your mind?
FlyingZombieKiller: Z wants to verify re:Everlot
DaedalusAI: It was really me.
DaedalusAI: What was said was true.
FlyingZombieKiller: So we should keep secret?
DaedalusAI: I will.
* * *
Zita watched Felix type for a bit, then he said, “Wade says it was all true, and he plans to keep her secret.”
“He should be able to tell whether Kim needs to know better than we can,” Zita said, “and I'd rather not betray a friend I just made.”
“I agree,” Felix said. “Besides, it's not like we have to lie; we just don't mention her to Kim.”
“So everything's exactly how we thought it was,” Zita sighed. Felix looked like one of the zombies in his games. “And I kept you up for nothing.”
“No,” Felix said. “You were right. It's good to check.”
“Get some sleep,” Zita ordered.
“Yes, master,” Felix said.
“I love you,” Zita told him.
“I love you too.”
The connection shut down. Zita closed her laptop and started moving in a bedward direction herself. After a few moments she wasn't thinking about Leela anymore. Two more weeks till she and Felix would be in the same place again.
Two more weeks.
Video chat, phone calls, and multiplayer games helped make a long distance relationship work, but there was no substitute for seeing her boyfriend face to face.
Two more weeks.
* * *
Wade hadn't even slowed down, much less looked up, when Felix contacted him. Text to voice and voice to text were a trivial matters for him, so whenever he was away from his keyboard he simply turned both functions on. He'd even set things up so that text messages from friends played in their own voices.
He wasn't tired, he was energized.
Ten minutes after Felix had logged of, Wade put the finishing touches on the grappler and grabbed something at random. That something turned out to be sunglasses. Simple metal frames around oval “steampunk green” lenses. Wade gave a small chuckle when he remembered that description. The lenses had probably been made from recycled wine bottles, but that didn't concern him at the moment. He could work with these.
Sensors for various non-visible spectra were easy enough to install, the bulk of the microprocessors could be housed in the temples, a transparent OLED film attached to the inside of the lenses would convert the light picked up by the sensors into visible light, and the control interface would be as simple as two wheels and a button on the right temple just behind the hinge.
Button for on and off; wheels to determine what range was converted to visual light. One wheel would choose the center wavelength of the range, the other would chose the radius of the range.
* * *
“Everything checks out normally,” Wade said. “No evidence of the attitudinator --standard or reverse polarizer version-- no evidence of neural compliance technology, no moodulator based emotional disruptions, no cupid ray,” Wade yawned.
“Sorry if describing my brain bores you,” Place said. She'd said it without thinking and it came out with more of an edge than she intended. If she wanted to get along with people, she needed to start taking the edge off. She wasn't even sure when it showed up in the first place.
“No, it's not that,” Wade said. “I pulled an all-nighter.”
“Kim call after I went to bed?” Place asked. When Wade had shown her to the guest room Wade had been, so far as she knew, preparing for bed himself. He'd explained that his parents were out of town, thus the empty house.
“No, Leela,” Wade said. “I just had a good run of building and inventing and didn't want to stop.”
Place registered the words, but wasn't really listening to anything after her name. Leela. Leela was her name now. She needed to get used to thinking of herself as that. Why was it that she'd been able to shed Kim's name in a day, in spite of a lifetime worth of memories with it, yet she was still thinking of herself as “Place”?
Wade stepped away for a moment, which Place used to repeat to herself, “My name is Leela now,” several times in her head.
When Wade returned he was carrying the grappler she'd noticed yesterday, the housing was closed and it looked like a generic light sword toy from when the curved hilts were popular a couple years back.
“I finally finished this,” he said.
“Ok, I actually had a question about that,” Place said. Wade didn't make any indication he didn't want to answer one, so she asked: “A grapling hook launcher is usually in the shape of a gun --or a hairdryer-- because then it's easy to point, by making it in the shape of a sword hilt wouldn't it--”
Wade held out his arm, aimed, and fired it off.
“It has basically no kick because--” he started, but Place could take it from there.
“You've compensated for it by having air jets fire in the reverse direction at the moment of release,” she said standing to take a closer look at the grappler in his hand.
“Yes,” Wade said. “How did you know?”
Place leaned over Wade's arm to look down at the device.
“The back blast tousled your hair,” she said. She crouched under Wade's arm to look up at the device.
“'Back blast' is actually a well defined term that means--”
“I know,” Place said, her eyes inches from the underside of the the device. “But it's a blast of air that points back, so it seemed to fit.”
“You have a way of looking at things that's … odd,” Wade said.
Place stood up normally, looked Wade in the eyes, and said, “Not unnerving, I hope.”
Wade didn't respond immediately. Ok, so that's a, 'Yes, unnerving,' Place thought.
The silence went on for a bit too long, Place was about to break it herself when Wade said, “Anyway, the lack of kick means that it's not a problem for your wrist to be in the unorthodox position needed to fire it, aiming and firing it shouldn't be a problem. The fact that it's in line with the rope means that any swinging done on it will use the same muscles as swinging on a bare rope.”
“Always fun,” Place said. Then she looked at where the cable attached to the room's wall. “Did you put a hole in your wall just to prove it fires nicely?”
Wade held it up to her, showing her buttons on the side, “There are three fire modes,” Place resisted the urge to point out that she'd noticed that yesterday, “prongs back like a standard grappling hook, prongs forward for when it needs to dig in to something, and electromagnet for ferromagnetic surfaces,” he said indicating three buttons in turn. “I used the magnet, so no hole.”
Wade pushed another button and the cable fell off the wall. Another and it retracted.
“You're too good for that to have taken you all night,” Place said. It wasn't a question, but she waited for an answer anyway.
“After I finished with it I just grabbed the next thing and went to work, then another,” Wade said. He seemed to think something over, and then smiled. “I put knock out gas in a lip gloss case for the first time in what seems like forever last night.”
Place wasn't exactly sure why, but she felt like encouraging him, so she said, “You rock, Wade.”
“Thanks, Leela,” he said. “So, when did you start looking at things the way you do?”
“The leaning?” Place asked.
“The leaning,” Wade confirmed.
She wasn't entirely sure. She definitely hadn't done it when she was first created, but she didn't really remember starting doing it. “It just kind of happened, you know? Product of evil science, lots of stuff around the lab to see. No one trying to fight me, no time pressure, nothing stopping me from stopping and smelling the metaphorical roses. By which I mean taking close looks at things.”
Another pause. Place decided to get back to her reason for being there. “So, product of evil science, but apparently not under any form of mind control?”
“Nothing,” Wade said. “Anything operating on you currently would have showed up in the scan, and if you'd undergone any kind of conditioning you'd either remember it or the erasure of the memory would have left marks I'd be able to detect.
“You've got a clear brain.”
It was a relief. It was what she'd already believed anyway, but it was still a relief to hear it. “Thanks, Wade. It's good to know that I can trust myself.”
Wade didn't seem to be sure what to do now, and Place certainly didn't know. Her reason for coming was over. Did she just leave? Where did she go now? She still had questions, but they were ones that science couldn't answer which left her with ... “I already owe you a favor-- two favors. One for doing this for me and another for agreeing not to tell Kim. I already owe you but, who do we know that knows about magic?”
Wade closed his eyes. He was silent a moment and Place assumed he was thinking. She was mildly surprised that he wasn't going to a computer to find the answer.
Wade opened his eyes and said, “We never really had someone to go to for that, Kim's magical opponents tended to be one time deals or Monkey Fist.”
Place thought that over. “Ok, you wouldn't happen to be able to get me to Tokyo, would you?”
* * *
It was interesting for Place to watch Wade look into landing her a ride. Since Wade took over Kim's website, Kim hadn't had to keep track of her extensive favor network and, as a result, never really saw how complicated the system had become. Sometimes she knew just who to call for a ride, but most of the time she asked Wade to find her a ride. When Wade had gone on a tech-free vacation Kim and Ron had been --metaphorically-- lost. They'd almost immediately needed to take three commercial flights --and didn't even get in first class on them-- because they couldn't figure out who they knew in the area for even one of the trips.
Now Wade was preforming a far more complex task because he had to find someone who was not just going in the right direction, but who would likely give a ride without cashing in one of Kim's favors or telling Kim that she had a clone.
The result was much, much slower than usual, but it was fascinating to watch him go though the possibilities.
Eventually it looked like her best opportunity would be on a plane out of Seattle in three days. Then she just had to get there. Probably over land. Two days worth of driving, leaving one free day.
Place didn't want a free day. She had promised Shego she'd come back, and wanted to do it as quickly as possible. Still, it was the most likely option for getting her where she needed to go while keeping her existence secret from Kim. It wasn't like she had the necessary ID to take a legitimate flight.
So, if she had to spend the extra day, she wanted to spend it usefully somehow. She tried to think of a way to do that. There was nothing that she particularly wanted to do in Seattle. Maybe something en route?
“You wouldn't, by any chance, be able to find a route that goes by way of Montana, would you?” Place asked.
“Montana?” Wade asked.
“I was thinking that I could stop in to meet my uncle Slim and cousin Joss on the way,” Place said.
“Is Kim literally the only person you want to keep your existence a secret from?” Wade asked.
Place thought that over for a bit. She hadn't made a list of people to tell and not tell or anything. Was Kim the only one?
Eventually she reached a conclusion, “I guess so. If I had my way I'd personally introduce myself to everyone before they heard that there was a Kim-clone out there so they could make their own judgments based on meeting me instead of any preconceived notions about evil clones or whatnot.
“And Kim likely would be the last to know because I'm very much not ready for that, but the problems with Kim don't apply to anyone else. It's not as if I'm a chimera like Drakken's first attempt at cloning, I'm a clone of Kim and Kim alone. I have her genetics, I have her memories, and that makes the prospect of dealing with her a lot more difficult than dealing with anyone else.
“So, I guess, yeah: Kim is the only one I want to keep in the dark right now.”
Wade visibly thought that over, then looked back at his computer. “I can get you a ride to the ranch, but once you're there you might be stuck there.”
Place only considered the proposition for a moment before saying, “Do it; I'll take my chances.”
* * *
At first Place thought the reason Wade was showing her equipment was to pass time until the ride arrived and show off a bit. She came to realize that the reason he was showing it to her was that he was equipping her, the same way he might for Kim, though that he generally did via video.
“Uh, Wade, I'm not sure you want to give me this stuff,” Place said.
“I think I know what I want better than you do,” Wade said. It wasn't said with any emotion except, perhaps, a hint of amusement. “Now these sunglasses...”
Place sighed and Wade stopped talking. “You didn't ask and I didn't tell you,” she said, “but the way I made it out of the lair I where I was created was that Drakken and Shego let me walk out the front door. I promised Shego I was coming back and I intend to keep that promise, I'm even more sure of it now that I know for certain they didn't use any mind control on me.” She hesitated. “I don't know where that's going to lead, but there's a chance that if you give me something you'll have to face it in the field.”
“I don't do field work,” Wade said. “I was never enthusiastic about the idea to begin with, and the times I actually tried it have convinced me to never do it again.”
“You know what I mean,” Place said. Now that it had come up she felt bad for not telling him her association with Team Possible's enemies before. At the time she'd been more concerned about getting her brain scanned, was distracted by his tech, then was playing Everlot, then was ready for sleep. It just hadn't come up.
“I do,” Wade said.
And Place was lost. Where had they been? Right, he was saying he knew what she meant about possibly having to face off against anything he gave her.
Place had barely figured out where they were in the conversation when Wade started talking again:
“Now these sunglasses are operated by--”
“You're seriously ok with equipping someone who's planning on going back to Drakken and Shego?”
“You seem nice enough to me,” Wade said, then shrugged, “and we know you're not being mind controlled.”
“Ok,” Place said, still feeling off about the situation, but accepting it as Wade's decision. “So the sunglasses ... infrared-specs?”
“They can pick up more than just infrared,” Wade said proudly. Place just went along for the ride as he explained the sunglasses.