"Man, it's so weird how we keep coming to worlds that are so much like ours, but aren't," Ron commented. "I mean, first we had the Earth that had Tokyo and France but no Middleton, and now we're in San Francisco, about to head down to Los Angeles, but still no Middleton!"
"And yet Hollywood will probably be just as gross and phony here as it is back home," Kim remarked.
"Ew, CGI, uh-uh," Rufus chittered, pulling a face.
"What, you don't like movies?" Jade asked curiously as she helped pack Jackie's bag for the mission.
"Oh, we love movies and TV and stuff," Ron said. "We just don't love dealing with Hollywood types. We've had...experiences."
"Yeah. The business end of Hollywood? The actual movie stars? They can stay in their own little world," Kim said. "We'll stick to watching them be fake people on the screen, because the fake people they are on the screen are way more fun than the fake people they are in real life."
"Yikes," Jade said, eyes wide.
"Well, we are not going to Hollywood this time," Jackie said as he walked in. "Where we are going is east of Hollywood, out in the suburbs." He patted Jade on the head. "San Dimas is a nice, quiet little town where nothing ever happens. We'll be in and out with no fuss and right back on the plane. This will be easy. And boring."
Jade folded her arms and pouted, blowing on her bangs. "Tch."
"We leave in twenty minutes," Jackie said. "Get everybody together." He shouldered his bag and left the room again.
"Well, I could do with an easy grab and go," Ron said cheerfully. "I mean, after what we've been through lately, I could use a mission where nothing exciting happens. Ooh, maybe we'll have time to grab Mexican food!"
"Mmm, tacos, yum," Rufus agreed.
Kim raised an eyebrow. "In California, Ron?" she asked. "Where good food goes to die?"
"HEY!" Jade cried. "What's that supposed to mean? And hello, me and my family live in San Francisco!"
Kim winced. "Sorry," she said. "We've had some...let's just say weird experiences with restaurants in California."
Jade frowned at them, but sighed and shrugged. "Yeah yeah, we've got that rep for a reason, I get it," she agreed sourly. "But it's mostly pizza and fusion cuisine that go wrong here. Regular food is just, y'know, regular food." She tilted her head. "Or maybe it's just worse where you guys come from, since you're from some other dimension that has an Earth that's not the same as ours?"
"That...could be, yeah," Kim said. "Just...don't mind us if we say anything weird or offensive, okay? This whole multiple Earths thing is still kinda new to us."
Jade snorted. "Yeah, it's cool," she said.
* * * * *
Not many malls have thrift stores. Malls, after all, are bastions of excess. People go to the mall to buy overpriced name-brand retail goods or get the hottest new toy everyone has to have that all the other stores are out of.
San Dimas Mall just happened to have a thrift store, Kahoʻolawe Curios, which uniquely dealt in second-hand merchandise acquired (allegedly) in Hawaii, the owner's home state and ethnic background. The large, boisterous Hawaiian man who owned and ran the shop would happily regale any visitors with tales of his beloved home state and all the wonderful things his store had which were lovingly hand-delivered from the Islands to California so that "others may delight in the culture of the Islands without ever leaving home".
Everybody in town knew he was really a half-Samoan named Dave from Indiana who'd never set foot in Hawaii in his life, but nobody called him on it because he was a fun, interesting guy. Some of the locals even occasionally bought some of his dubious crap of questionable origin and value simply because his outrageous tales were worth the price on their own.
Dave had just opened his shop for the day when a colorful group of obvious out-of-towners entered. In recent years, San Dimas had seen its share of colorful groups of out-of-towners—the rumor going around was that there was some sort of roving historical cosplay convention that passed through town every so often, usually creating total chaos at the mall. The first two times, there had been multiple arrests; after that, the police decided the whole thing was just local color and did their best to keep order until the crazed cosplayers went away.
The group currently combing through the junk shop were...very eclectic. There was an effeminate Chinese soldier in full armor from a long-forgotten time, a pirate in a wine-colored longcoat and sailcloth breeches with long, matted hair and a mouth full of bad teeth, a stocky Arabian fellow in white silks and a fine turban with a thick, bushy grey beard and shrewd eyes...and Captain Kirk.
No, seriously. Captain Kirk. William Shatner. Like he'd walked right off the Paramount lot in the sixties.
Dave decided to make his opening pitch regardless of how bizarre his customers seemed. "Aloha, folks! Welcome to Kahoʻolawe Curios, your little taste of de islands in de greater Los Angeles area! If you see anything you wanna know more about, let dis kahuna know, I tell you all de good stuff!"
Shatner rolled his eyes. "Please, you're a bigger ham than I am." He looked around with interest. "Do people actually buy this junk?"
"They do indeed. And...err...are you really—"
"William Shatner, star of stage and television? Yes, yes I am. Is this really the year—"
The Arabian fellow suddenly went off in a loud string of Arabic, excitedly waving around a creepy-looking marionette of a monkey man. He banged it on the counter, gesticulating wildly at it and pulling an old tarnished lamp out of his sash.
"I think the bloke wants to barter, mate," the pirate said dispassionately as he studied a model of a volcano.
The Chinese warrior stepped forward suddenly, shouting loudly and colorfully and waving his arms. Everyone turned; in the confusion, the Arabian fellow's grip slipped on the puppet. He caught it by the leg...
In a bright flash of light, the Arabian merchant became a wooden puppet, the wooden puppet became a laughing, grinning monkey man, Dave, Bill, and the pirate became very confused, and one ancient Chinese warrior sighed wearily. "Aiyah."
* * * * *
"The tracker says it's this way...five miles," Twilight reported from the shotgun seat in the rental van.
The group searching for the Crystal was only supposed to be the world-hoppers, Jackie, Uncle, and Viper.
Somehow, the only one really surprised that Jade was with them when the plane landed was Jackie.
"Seriously, dude?" Ron had asked at Jackie's reaction. "Even I saw it coming a mile away."
"Yeah, my cousin Joss pulled exactly the same thing," Kim had said with a roll of her eyes.
"Looks like we're headed for the local mall," Viper mused as they drove through San Dimas.
"What would rare magical artifact be doing at shopping mall?" Uncle wondered.
"More importantly, why are there so many police cars headed the same way we're going?" Kim wondered. "That was the third one I've seen."
"There goes another," Ron pointed out.
"I hear an ambulance coming up fast," Viper added as the van joined the rest of the traffic in making way for the emergency vehicles.
Everyone looked at each other, eyes wide.
"Bad day," Jackie muttered.
* * * * *
"Well well well welly-well-well," the Monkey King said as he looked around at the collection of oddballs. "A-LOOOOOO-HA!" He twirled his staff. "Man, is it good to stretch my legs and feel the warm tropical breeze of—" He paused, then looked at Dave. "Err, what part of Hawaii are we on again?"
"Uhh...the Greater Los Angeles Area part?" Dave said, forgetting to use his fake Hawaiian accent.
The Monkey King blinked. "Really? Huh." He shrugged. "It's so good to be back in sunny Southern California! Where I've...never been before. Now, I've been to Northern California—" In a whirl and blur of magic, his green and grey outfit changed to a gaudy neon orange poet shirt and loose lemon yellow breeches with a lime green ascot, a raspberry beret, and cheap plastic sunglasses with pink flamingo frames. "Hated it," he said in a stereotypical homosexual voice, before reverting to his normal appearance. His gaze swept over the room and landed on the Chinese soldier. "Ah, you look like somebody who speaks my language!" Switching to Chinese, he leaned in close and asked in a sinister tone, "I'm looking for a man named Jackie Chan and his bratty niece. I have a score to settle with them. Do you know them?"
The soldier stared back at him defiantly. "I know of you, Sun Wukong. I know you are dangerous and not to be trusted. I do not know what madness you are up to, but I will not let you—"
"Bored now," the Monkey King said, pointing his staff at the soldier and yawning. A giant toilet appeared underneath the soldier and flushed. With a surprised yell, the soldier went down the hoooooooole...
* * * * *
The Chan Clan and Team Possible had just parked and gotten out of the van when a swirling hole opened up over their heads, dumping gallons of water and a soaking wet Chinese soldier on them. "What the—" Jackie spluttered, sitting up and coughing water.
"And now we know," Ron said in a bored tone, his wet bangs falling across his eyes.
"Okay, even by my standards that was random," Kim said, blinking.
"Hey, check it out," Jade said. "Living history lesson at twelve o'clock."
Jackie stared at the soldier, who was staring at him in surprise even as he tried to rid himself of some excess water.
Or rather, herself. The wet silk of her uniform left absolutely no confusion as to the soldier's true gender.
"You...you are Hua Mulan," Jackie said in a wondering tone.
"Whoa. The original Chinese tomboy," Jade said, eyes wide.
Hua Mulan looked between them. "You...know me?" she asked.
"You're a legend," Jade replied in Chinese. "Like, really a legend."
"You can speak her dialect?" Jackie asked.
"Barely," Jade said.
"Ask her what she is doing here—"
Sonata began singing. A haze spread over the entire group.
"Ask her yourself," Sonata said when she fell silent.
Jackie blinked. "Wh-what was—"
Mulan stared at Sonata. "What manner of spirit are you?"
"Oh, sweet, she can speak English now!" Jade said.
"Eh, sort of," Kim said. "It's a translation spell."
"Incredible," Mulan said. She shook her head and turned to face Jackie. "This place is not safe. A dangerous spirit has been set free."
"Of course it has," Ron groaned. "Because, y'know, nothing we ever do is easy."
"What sort of spirit?" Jackie wondered. "And what are you even doing in California in this time?"
"I was brought here by two strange young men with a magic box," Mulan said. "I did not understand anything they were saying, but I get the impression they are in the habit of abducting people from different times and places and bringing them to this..." She waved a hand absently. "Place. I was with a very strange group exploring some sort of shop when another such as myself released Sun Wukong."
"THE MONKEY KING?!" Ron screamed. "AGAIN WITH MONKEYS! IT'S ALWAYS MONKEYS!"
"Oh no. Not him. Anything but him," Jackie groaned, burying his face in his hands.
"Yeah, we've had more than enough of his monkeyshines," Jade muttered.
Mulan's brow furrowed. "Forgive me, but...would you happen to be Jackie Chan? And his...'bratty niece'?"
"Yes on both counts," Jackie said. "How did you know?"
"Because Sun Wukong is looking for you," Mulan said.
Jackie sighed tiredly. "Bad day..."