Jackie, Jade, and their guests assembled for breakfast in the Section 13 cafeteria, along with Viper, who had decided to stick around out of curiosity. As Ron salted and peppered his fluffy scrambled eggs, a tiny pink shape scampered onto the table, making noises of interest and hunger.
"He-hey, Rufus!" Ron said cheerfully, wadding up a bit of scrambled egg and toast and offering it to the naked mole rat, who accepted it gratefully.
Kim blinked. "Where's he been all this time? I haven't seen him since we left Equestria!"
"In my backpack," Sonata said indifferently. "I had a whole stash of granola bars back there." She wrinkled her nose. "Had a whole stash."
"Eheheh, yummy?" Rufus chittered sheepishly.
"Oh, yeah, little dude digs granola," Ron said. "Almost as much as he digs Bueno Nacho!"
"You keep a naked mole rat for a pet?" Jackie asked curiously. "I was not aware they could be domesticated."
"Heh, yeah, Rufus is one of a kind, y'know?" Ron said. "A one of a kind pet for a one of a kind guy."
"I'll vouch for that," Kim said with a wry grin. "So, you and your niece just...live in a secret government facility."
"Unfortunately," Jackie said. "I must be the only archaeologist in the world who never gets to do any real archaeology. No, my time is spent fighting criminals and demons and evil sorcerers and recovering dangerous magic artifacts."
"And kicking major butt!" Jade added. "Nobody can kick butt like Jackie."
"Yes, but there is more to life than kicking butt, Jade," Jackie said patiently. "I could actually do with much less kicking butt in my life."
"Eh, not much you can do about it," Kim said indifferently. "I mean, there's always gonna be butt that needs kicking, somebody's gotta kick it, you know?" She sipped her orange juice. "Take my advice, just have fun with it. Think less about how you'd rather be doing anything else and more about how awesome it is that you can do impossible things and still go home and chill after!"
"I like her!" Jade said cheerfully.
"Hmm..." Jackie pursed his lips. "I...guess there's a certain logic to that philosophy?"
"Trust me, it's less stressful than freaking out every time you're hip-deep in supervillains and death traps," Kim said. "Now popping a zit on date night? That's stressful. Stopping evil villains and their dastardly schemes? No big!"
Viper laughed. "I'm with Jade, this girl's a great role model!"
Jackie tilted his head. "You are a teenager. How much experience with fighting evil could you possibly have?"
"Eighty-seven successful missions and counting," Ron said. "Although some of those were just one really long mission that had...I guess you could say a bunch of mini-missions?"
Kim gasped, fluttering her eyelashes. "You're keeping count? Aww, that's so sweet!"
"Yeah, well, it's a thing I do," Ron said bashfully.
Jackie whistled, blinking rapidly. "When do you find time for school?"
"Oh, I have plenty of time for school, homework, hanging out with Ron, then there's cheerleading practice, babysitting, mall time with Monique..." Kim shrugged. "Saving the world's more or less a weekend thing, usually."
"And she knows kung fu," Viper pointed out. "I mean, she put down as many culebra as we did, Jackie."
Jackie massaged his temples. "Stop, please," he implored. "You are giving Jade ideas. Bad ideas."
"You call bad ideas, I call good ideas," Jade said cheekily. "I think I just found a new big sister!"
Before anybody could say anything else, Uncle and Tohru burst into the cafeteria. "Uncle has located Monkey Crystal!" Uncle announced sharply, adjusting his glasses.
Everyone looked up with interest. "Where is it?" Jade asked excitedly. "Is it someplace cool? Are there gonna be monkey ninjas guarding it?"
"Pfft, monkey ninjas," Viper snorted.
"Hey. Monkey ninjas are serious business," Ron said, shuddering.
"Wait, seriously?" Viper asked, raising an eyebrow.
"We...have this one nemesis, he does have monkey ninjas," Kim said. "Anyway, Uncle, you were saying?"
"Atchaa," Uncle grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Coffee first, Uncle pulled all nighter."
"Here, Sensei," Tohru said, handing Uncle a steaming styrofoam cup. Uncle took it and sipped it, grimacing.
"Captain Black needs to buy better beans," Uncle grumbled. "Section 13 coffee tastes like back end of warthog. Anyway, as Uncle was saying, Monkey Crystal is in..."
* * * * *
The silence of a mid-sized southern California town's parking lot was broken by the sudden appearance of a phone booth in the middle of a handicapped parking space. The doors opened, and an assortment of mismatched people poured out, all dressed in outfits from different periods in history, led by two guys in their early twenties, both dressed in slacker attire. One had a shaggy mop of black hair; the other had a curly mop of blonde hair.
"Attention, historic dudes!" the dark-haired one said. "Welcome to picturesque San Dimas, California, in the year...uh...NOW!"
"The next phone booth to the past leaves in one hour," the blonde said. "Enjoy your stay, and have an excellent time here in the most righteous future that is today!"