At a Moment's Notice
The morning after, he approached the team and tapped his fingers together, masking his insecurity about the deal with Father that they were currently unaware of. He’d managed to get back into the tree house after he had disappeared by throwing pebbles over the side of the balcony; he’d awoken Numbuh 3 who’s room lead directly out onto said balcony, and after calling to her, she’d thrown down to rope ladder. He climbed up and had gone straight to bed once he was safely inside. Miraculously, he’d managed to convince her that her getting up to help him was just a dream to ensure she wouldn’t tell her teammates about it.
“I, uh, couldn’t help but overhear that you don’t have any activities planned for today, so may I make a suggestion?” he asked with his head tilted downwards.
“What do you have in mind, Numbuh 19th Century?” their leader replied; he was standing behind the podium on the stage of the main control room with his teammates lounging on the circular couch below.
Immediately Numbuh 3 shot up and happily squealed: “I’ll get my suit on!” Soon after she left for her room, the others agreed. Numbuh 5 looked up at Numbuh 1 who had a fastidious expression and smiled.
“Come on, Numbuh 1, it’s a nice day out and we could all use a break,” she said. When the others joined in to persuade him, he considered it and finally approved. He adjusted his shades: “Okay, everyone get ready for the beach. We’ll leave in five minutes.”
Ex-Numbuh 19th Century remained silent as the kids ran past him, eager to leave, and forced himself to appear somewhat engaged in the general mood. He headed out the door to the balcony without hearing Numbuh 3 return with her suit on and a P.I.P.E.R. in her hand.
“We’re going to the beach today! Wanna come?” she asked – she was talking to the leader of Sector R and, by extension, had caught him in a good mood.
“Sure, why not?” He responded, “I’ll gather up my crew and join you. When’re ya leaving?”
“Right now.” She turned her head when she heard Numbuh 2 calling for her from another room, so she spoke faster and added, “Just meet us there, okay? Gotta go - bye!” Then she hung up and skipped into their S.C.A.M.P.E.R. merrily.
. . .
On the other side, Numbuh 593 searched his tree house for his scattered teammates. In the main control room watching TV was Numbuhs 652 and 650, so he put his arms together and leaned over the top of the couch in between them.
“I got an invite from Sector V to go to the beach. Are either of you interested?” he asked, switching back and forth from looking at each of them. The girls grinned and approved; Numbuh 650 rose to her feet and spoke as she headed away.
“I’ll grab the baby and wait for you guys in our ride,” she informed them, referring to Numbuh 641 as “the baby”. He was the youngest as they all knew.
“I’ll find James,” Numbuh 652 offered, standing.
“I’ll snag our suits in the meantime, kay?”
“Thanks, Johnny!” With that she briskly worked her way up to her dark companion’s room. When she reached it, she knocked on the door before opening it; inside he was on his bed with his earphones in – his music player was in his hoodie pocket. Once he caught sight of the girl near him, he pulled it out, paused the song that was playing, and removed the earphones with his hand.
“What’s up, Wilkins?” he asked casually. She stepped further into the room and smiled.
“The rest of us are going to beach,” she replied, “You tagging along this time?”
The last time they’d all gone as a sector, Numbuh 666 had gotten horrible sunburned, lost his swim trunks in the water thanks to a crab mistaking him for kelp, and had needed to keep a towel around his waist until they got back home that afternoon. It left a scarring impression on him – since he was rarely unlucky – and so he made a pact not to return to the beach again.
“Not a chance,” he scorned, “But thanks for offering at least.”
“Well, suit yourself. We’ll probably be back in a few hours.” Then she closed the door behind her and ran off to join the others. In his room, he laid down and drifted away with his music like he’d be busy doing beforehand – he hoped that his friends would enjoy themselves.
. . .
It wasn’t long before they landed in the sand with the vast ocean offshore and when the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. doors parted, the kids of Sector V piled out in blissful enthusiasm for play. Last to step out was the small former operative who was the only one not sporting a bathing suit. The weather was fair: not too hot, there was a nice breeze picking up, and the waves rolled onto the sand warmly. As beautiful as the day was, he was discouraged about the fate of his comrades. Remembering his task, he sighed and returned to the aircraft and found the team’s emergency weapons in the compartments about the seats.
While taking each one and malfunctioning their circuitry or snapping rubber bands out of place, he noticed one weapon that sparked a memory: it was a S.P.I.C.E.R. He picked it up and examined it, brushing his hand over the handle. His eyes softened as he murmured, “I remember you now…” A brilliant revelation swept over him as he realized the invention was one of his own; he gasped, understanding that it meant he had been the scientist of his sector back in the day.
Rather than disabling it, he stowed it away in his shirt for safekeeping, and then resumed his task with the other weapons. Several minutes later when he exited, they were all disabled.
“Hi, Numbuh 19th Century!”
He yelped at the sight of Numbuh 652 as she made her way over to him – she was wearing a two-piece pink suit where the bottom half was a skorts, and not too far behind her was her leader in a yellow T-shirt and swim trunks with lightning bolts on them.
“Nora?!” he shrieked, “Why are you – what are you doing here?” Numbuh 593 noticed how unsettled he was and narrowed his eyes, taking a moment to watch for his body language and tone of voice.
“Numbuh 3 invited us to enjoy the beach with you guys,” she replied happily; She tilted her head, looking down at her feet with a shy smile, “and I heard you’d be tagging along, so…” She looked up and also saw the fear in his eyes, so her countenance expressed worry. “Are you okay?”
“What, me? I’m fine, couldn’t be better in fact.” He rubbed the back of his neck and glanced around. To his horror he saw Father lying in wait for the perfect chance to strike the kids, so he gulped and started pushing her towards her team’s flying car. “You must leave at once before –”
“Hey, let her go,” Numbuh 593 interrupted, yanking him away from her. He held his arm firmly. “What’s with the hasty retreat?” His bionic eye shifted settings again and commenced visually recording – he instigated that something was about to happen that connected to him. Just as the poor boy was about to speak, Father stepped out from his hiding place and addressed the frolicking kids. When they saw him, they stopped playing and looked towards their leaders for instruction.
“Kids next door, battle stations!” shouted Numbuh 1. His team claimed their weapons from the S.C.A.M.P.E.R. and pointed them at the silhouetted man, but he only laughed.
“Go ahead and shoot,” he encouraged, planting his feet firmly into the sand, “I won’t move.” Each kid pulled the trigger of their gadgets, but nothing happened despite their efforts. They looked at each other and shrugged; Numbuh 4 in particular started hitting the side of his S.P.L.A.N.K.E.R. as his frustration increased, but his efforts were in vain.
“Why won’t this stupid thing work?” he exclaimed. He gave up and threw it over his shoulder at the same moment that Father cackled menacingly.
“Seize them, children!” he yelled, pointing at their targets. Out from under the sand between them, the Delightful Children from Down the Lane emerged in a giant octopus contraption, also laughing like their caretaker. The mechanical legs of the beast rose and individually chased down the KND operatives as they scrambled to get away.
Numbuh 593 saw a tentacle coming his way and dodged it – then he grabbed his best friend’s arm and pulled her to the ground with him to avoid another one. He looked at her as she lay over him and said, “Get Numbuhs 641 and 650 to our ship and activate the defense system on it.” She lifted up off of him and ran to the water’s edge while he distracted the robotic octopus from seeking her out.
Numbuh 641 was caught in the villains’ clutches before she could reach him, and right after him – while the sea water slowed her down – was Numbuh 650, snatched up by a tentacle. Both screamed in the coils and desperately tried to free themselves, but they failed and were dropped into the top compartment of the beast’s head. They banged on the glass side by side with Numbuhs 2, 3, and 4; none knew it was sound proof.
Watching these events unfold from below, ex-Numbuh 19th Century gasped at the sight of the kids in Sector R was captured alongside Sector V – he went directly to Father and protested.
“You gave me specific instruction to lead Numbuh 1 and his team into this trap,” he stated unhappily, moving his hand in the direction of the rob-octopus, “but you can’t take Nora and her friends. That wasn’t part of the deal!” Father bent down and patted his head.
“True, but I’m killing two birds with one stone,” he replied coolly.
“But it’s not fair –”
“Enough of you!” Flames surrounded the shady adult at a moment’s notice, scorching the sand beneath his feet: “You can’t do anything to stop me anyways.” The small boy quaked in horror by the amount of destruction taking place around him, and then he shrieked when he felt someone’s hand pull him back by his caplet. He was turned around and found himself looking into a highly enraged leader’s face. The bionic eye was fiery red, just like streaks in his hair, and he growled.
“You set us up?” he interrogated in a raised tone of voice. The former operative stuttered in response. “I knew you were nothing but trouble since I first heard about you! It started with trash-talking Numbuh 86, then you single-handedly destroyed the Kids Next Door ice cream space storage center, and then you tried romancing my best friend to push me outta the picture, but that wasn’t enough, so now you’re helping Father!”
He threw him into the sand and pinned him down with his foot on his chest, aiming his modified saw blade weapon with the extendable drill point between his eyes and added, “I should’ve done this when we met in the Children’s Prison a week ago.” The smaller boy cried out in alarm and attempted to remove his holder’s foot, but he hadn’t the strength to do so; before the blades touched his skin though, Numbuh 652 threw her arms over him.
“Don’t you dare hurt him!” she protested with wide eyes. Both boys were caught by surprise.
“But, he led us into a trap –”
“He didn’t expect us to arrive. I heard him say it wasn’t part of the deal that we would be captured too.”
Numbuh 593 lowered his weapon and stepped back when she pushed his foot off of her new friend; his expression morphed from rage to embarrassment, and then to heart-break.
“C’mon Nora,” he mumbled helplessly. She helped ex-Numbuh 19th Century to his feet and grabbed his and her leader’s hands: “Let’s get out of here!” He could only obey and stop recording.
As if the initial plan wasn't bad enough, now even more children have been captured and are in need of rescue. Numbuh 19th Century's just lucky Numbuh 652 is so forgiving or he'd be toast.