You actually think I own the rights to the Kids Next Door? Wish I did, but sorry, no. If I did, why would I be writing a fanfic instead of actual episodes?
Anyway, this is the first in a sort of series of stories I have planned. I guess you could call this an alternate universe or something, as it spins off the regular series and goes in a direction I don't think they'll take. This can be set after any of the episodes you wish: that's a way of fudging so if I want to include details revealed in newer episodes, I can. What? It's not going to hurt anything…
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Delightful or Lost Lass?
At first, the deviations were few and far between. Little, miniscule details that most wouldn't notice, or think noteworthy if they did. Only in retrospect would such minor things seem important, possible warning signs of what was to come.
Looking back, Numbah One would wonder how he, out of all of the Kids Next Door, could have missed such changes. As the leader, he prided himself on keeping tabs on all of their enemies, knowing their tactics and strategies and typical habits. Such details could make all the difference in battle, providing the edge they needed, the difference between a successful mission and escaping by the skin of their teeth.
Plus, the Delightful Children from Down the Lane were their foremost rivals and eternal enemies? How could he have not picked up on the fact that one of their creepy camaraderie was changing, even so slightly?
Maybe then he would have been better prepared when the situation slowly developing in the heart of their worst enemy suddenly directly affected his own team…
The change started so slowly, she wasn't even aware exactly when it began.
Little differences, seemingly inconsequential at first.
Watching just a little while longer as one of the Kids Next Door battled it out with their minion of the day.
Looking away just a little too soon when one of the enemy agents was getting beaten into the ground.
Her reactions slowly shifted until they were no longer exactly in tune with her comrades – changes so minute and yet glaringly different compared to the other Delightful Children.
It wasn't until she caught herself smiling that she became alarmed.
The Kids Next Door were being beaten back by one of their lackeys, the always hot-tempered Sir Toasty. One of them, Kuki Sanban, seemed utterly oblivious to their imminent doom, innocently asked her teammates if one of them could crank up the air conditioning, as it was getting rather warm. Both Nigel and Wallabee launched into an instant tirade, their indignant voices blending together as well as their words.
After they were finished, the girl blinked at them and commented, "What?"
It took a moment for her to realize that the faintest of smiles had curled her lips as she watched. While her face had turned back to its typical blank state the instant it dawned on her, secretly, a cold terror clamped frigid fingers around her heart then and there.
She had been smiling. And somehow she knew it was hardly at the prospect of the Kids Next Door facing their demise, although she hurriedly rationalized it that way all the same.
When their five rivals then evaded Sir Toasty's assaults and escaped, she was even more confused and concerned to note she didn't feel quite so frustrated with their evasion. She frowned and grumbled harmony with her fellow Delightful Children, yet somehow the edge had been taken off her hatred.
She wasn't even certain that was the proper name for her feelings toward the Kids Next Door anymore. Something was changing deep inside, but what she couldn't quite put into words. Nor did she want to, really.
It was a definite problem. Not only was she unable to pinpoint the cause of her new dilemma, she certainly couldn't broach the issue with any of her constant companions. Father had made it quite clear that being different was a very, very bad thing. Standing out in the crowd made you a troublemaker; differences meant you were unacceptable.
How would Father react if she approached him with this problem? For that matter, how would any of her comrades?
She couldn't risk being labeled 'not normal'; she dared not being singled out for being different. Father would be absolutely furious.
So she remained silent, the perfect little girl: seen but not heard. If she were fortunate enough, whatever was wrong with her would correct itself before anybody else noticed.
It failed to do so. Instead, things only worsened.
Her emotions, normally only coming into the scene extremely blunted when the rest of her group felt the same way, started to surface at the oddest and most inappropriate times. Seeing the Kids Next Door in action stirred unusual sensations that she couldn't understand or acknowledge as anything other than a danger.
She couldn't ask the other Delightful Children to aid her in coming to understand her worsening condition. Instead it remained her secret shame, gradually distancing her from the group she had been a part of for as long as she could remember. The very concept horrified the girl – yet she continued to keep mum. After all, acknowledging her difference would only strengthen the walls quietly building between them.
Still, she knew things could hardly stay as they were. If only there were some way to solve her problem without ostracizing herself in the process.
She had no idea the answer would be provided for her, or the form it would take.
Father had approached his Delightful Children with another brilliant plan to eliminate the Kids Next Door. It was wonderful in its simplicity: lure in their rivals with rumors of a nonexistent plot to turn a nearby playground into a brainwashing station that would make the local neighborhood kids into fellow Delightful Children. Once they arrived, the only ones needing rescue would be the Kids Next Door themselves.
As could be expected, the plan worked perfectly. Once the Kids Next Door showed up, their transportation was scuttled by the iron 'monkey bars' that shot up in a tight grid around the vicinity. Now it was only a matter of time before their mechanical mockeries of typical playground equipment finished off the five brats…
"Kids Next Door! Battle sta-ugh!" Nigel's trademark command was abruptly cut off as a swing caught him smack in the ribcage.
"Numbah One!" the other four chorused.
The shades-wearing boy clung desperately to the seat for dear life as it carried him up, far over the heads of his worried teammates. Suddenly, part of the metal plank opened, revealing a pair of shackles that instantly clamped around his wrists.
"What the…?" he exclaimed, trying in vain to pull his arms away as the swing continued its arc upwards.
Watching from a safe distance away, the Delightful Children chortled in monotone chorus. The swing's momentum would take it over the bar from which it hung repeatedly, taking the trapped boy with it, until boy and bar finally met at full speed. Even if the impact failed to break anything, Nigel would certainly be rattled, not to mention trapped and unable to aid his comrades as the other playground equipment dealt with them.
Glassy blue eyes watched eagerly as the swing crested the bar for the first time, taking the screaming Nigel up, over, and down toward his friends again. His cries for help were useless, for all of his teammates were busy trying to save themselves.
Two of the Kids Next Door had teamed up to take on the jungle gym, with little real success. Already the thick bars had managed to cage Hoagie, pinning the pilot to the ground. The more agile Abigail was doing an admirable job of dodging so far, but was focusing most of her shots on the cage surrounding her friend
Meanwhile, the remaining pair was dealing with the Delightful Children's own twisted version of a go-round. The ride had detached from the ground and transformed into a deadly flying disc, whizzing toward its targets in a blaze of brightly colored metal.
To the frustration of the creepy camaraderie, however, this particular weapon was turning out to have a fatal flaw. While the spinning circle's edge was razor-sharp, its sides were wide, flat and distinctly lacking in harmful objects. It also lacked any sort of restraints that could render its victims incapable of escaping their fate.
With a collective grunt of disgust, the Delightful Children ignored the not-so-deadly-discus and focused instead in watching their other creations push their rivals closer to the edge. All of them, that was, save one.
She watched, entranced, as Wallabee and Kuki evaded the spinning go-round easily. Suddenly, Kuki vaulted into the air and landed on top of the flying circle effortlessly. Her long raven hair whipping round her jubilant face, she threw her arms into the air and… laughed?
"Wheeeee! Numbah Four, lookit me!" she called down cheerfully.
The staring Delightful Child could only blink. Didn't she comprehend how much danger she was in? At any moment the go-round could flip and dump her off, practically guaranteeing a harsh landing for the bubbly girl.
Below the spinning disc and its ecstatic passenger, Wallabee gritted his teeth and glared upward. Obviously he understood how perilous his teammate's position was even if she was ignorant.
"Hey!" he shouted. "Down here, you overgrown frisbee!"
The deadly discus banked sharply in midair, nearly throwing Kuki off, and spun toward the blonde boy at full speed. The watching Delightful Child inhaled sharply, biting back a gasp: Wallabee was holding his ground instead of dodging out of the way. If he didn't move, the go-round's sharp metal edge would shear directly through his neck.
(Is he insane? He'll be killed!)
Her sky blue eyes widened a fraction more as her own thoughts suddenly dawned on her.
(But… Why do I…)
At that moment, her breath caught in her dry throat as the discus reached the still stoically standing Wallabee. The boy's bangs were blown upward by the force of the go-round's rapid approach, revealing the serious, hardened emerald eyes normally hidden underneath.
In that instant he ducked, and as the deadly discus whizzed overhead turned and delivered a powerful kick to the flat, smooth metal underside. The go-round was sent sharply off-course, and as it arced away Kuki hopped off and landed gracefully a few short feet away from her teammate.
The watcher gaped, completely forgetting to mask her shock. She could only stare at the blonde-haired fighter and wonder how in the world he had managed to pull that move off. Standing his ground like that…
Meanwhile, Numbah Five bit back a sharp cry as cold, unyielding metal snared her left ankle and slammed her down into the grass. The jarring impact caused her to lose her grip on her soda-pop laser gun, and the weapon flew through the air.
"Numbah Five!" Numbah Two shouted from inside the iron beast. Gripping the bars that pinned him down, he cried, "Are you okay?"
"Sure, Numbah Five's just peachy," she muttered sarcastically, pushing herself up and spitting out grass.
She stood, only to be yanked off her feet again as the iron bar clamped round her leg began to draw her closer to the possessed jungle gym. Digging her feet into the dirt, Five glanced around and sighed as she saw her weapon lying a good distance away. Fat lot of good it did her there. She'd have to think of some other way to convince this metal monstrosity to let go…
A whirring flash of color whizzed inches past her ear, and suddenly the jungle gym was a mass of twisted iron bars with a huge disc lodged crossways inside. Numbah Five blinked.
"…Now that's what Numbah Five calls timing," she observed mildly.
Her dark eyes widened underneath the shadows of her trademark crimson cap as she abruptly remembered that her teammate had been trapped by the jungle gym. Scooping up her gun, Five turned and raced toward the tangled mass of metal, mentally bracing herself for the worst.
Just as she reached the wreckage, part of the twisted metal lurched. A hand popped into view and waved in the girl's general direction.
"Hey guys, I'm okay!"
Five sighed in relief, then turned away. Numbah Two didn't need her assistance nearly as much as her other friends might possibly need it. A quick sweep of the area revealed that Three and Four were currently out of immediate danger: the former was dancing circles around a possessed tetherball pole and getting the chain tangled around itself, while the latter was squaring off with what appeared to be a mockery of a slide.
The same could not be said of their illustrious leader, however, and so Numbah Five dashed in the direction of the swingset.
The Delightful Children were, for the most part, rather annoyed that their perfect plan was turning out to have some fatal flaws. Still, these minor setbacks weren't keeping them from enjoying what little of their plot was playing out the way they intended.
"We do hope that you enjoyed your little ride, Nigel," they chorused, voices tinged with a malicious glee. "After all, it was your last…"
The leader of the Kids Next Door responded to their taunting by thrashing around vainly. As they had predicted, his swing's wild arcs had ended with him tangled up in the chains, back pressed tightly against the cool metal bar. His wrists were still trapped in the seat's shackles; his trademark sunglasses had fallen off during his futile struggles and now rested in the dirt below. The swingset reared up triumphantly, like it was proudly displaying its victim for all present to see.
"Numbah One!" shouted Five, skidding to a halt a short distance away and taking aim with her soda pop laser. "Hang on!"
"Does it look like I'm capable of doing anything else?!"
"Too late, Abigail," the Delightful Children drawled.
Numbah Five ignored their taunt and steadied her gun sights. Numbah One's squirming was becoming less and less forceful as the chains held firm, slowly choking the life out of him. There wasn't any time to concentrate on anything else, not even rebuking those pain-in-the-butt Delightful Children.
"Finish him off…"
Numbah Five jerked involuntarily at the sudden shriek. That definitely hadn't been Numbah Three, and was too feminine to belong to any of her male friends. But there wasn't any chance to figure out who it could have been, as the reason for the warning suddenly became clear.
A stretch of long, gleaming metal swung around sharply and slammed into the left side of the swingset's legs, sending it – and the still snared Numbah One – crashing to the dirt. The leader of the Kids Next Door grunted as he struck the ground, and Numbah Five hurried to free him from his chains, while a part of her mind noted what exactly the slab of metal was.
A short distance away, Numbah Four grinned wickedly even as he continued to swing the bar he'd yanked off of the now deconstructed slide like a baseball bat. He released it just at the height of its arc, and it flew straight toward where the startled Delightful Children were standing.
It crashed into the platform, splintering it, and the petite girl screamed again as she and her comrades were apart by the force of the blow. She had been the only one not absorbed in watching Nigel suffer… the only one who had looked away and seen Numbah Four knock the slide down… the only one who had seen the threat he had become.
She was also the only one falling to the left side.
As the debris from the shattered platform rained down, she reached out to her comrades with one hand, a wordless shriek issuing from her gaping mouth, wide, frightened blue eyes pleading for assistance.
An agonizing pain blossomed from the base of her skull, and inky fingers of darkness swiftly enveloped her blurring vision. The last thing she glimpsed was her four constant companions getting further and further away from her… Then she was completely cut off by blackness.
"Are you alright, Numbah One?"
"As fine I can be," he responded tersely, rubbing his sore wrists.
Numbah Five shrugged off his curt retort and slipped her lockpick back into the inside of her cap. One bent and retrieved his shades, rubbed the dirty lenses with the edge of his red sleeve, and slipped them back into their rightful place.
"Kids Next Door, status report," he commanded briskly.
"Ah, it looks like those prissy Delightful Dorks got away!" Numbah Four complained, glaring at the wreckage of the platform and the telltale hole to its immediate right.
"But at least we're okay, right?" chimed Two amicably as he hurried up to his teammates.
Numbah One glanced at the smiling pilot, then quickly surveyed the area. Numbah Three was still dancing circles around the now-defunct tetherball pole: she didn't appear to have even a scratch from the battle. Numbah Four was in similar condition: his blonde bangs were ruffled and wild, but no dirtier than the rest of the short fighter. Numbah Five's left ankle appeared a bit red and swollen where it had been snared, but the injury looked far from serious.
Best of all, with the Delightful Children having been defeated once more and their creepy creations turned into scrap metal, the monkey bars that had caged the entire area had retracted. They were free to go… even if their aerial transportation had been blown up on the way in.
"Agreed," he nodded. "Let's fall back to the Treehouse for the time being and plot our next move."
The others nodded and started back toward their base, some moving slower than others. Numbah Five tested her left foot and hid a wince: now that the adrenaline rush that the conflict had provided had all but drained away, her ankle was making its soreness well known. She knelt and gently massaged it with both hands, feeling the injury carefully.
"Are you okay, Numbah Five?"
She looked up, saw Numbah Two crouching next to her with a concerned expression, and smiled.
"Numbah Five is just fine," she insisted, standing back up. "Nothing a little R and R won't heal…"
"Still, let me help you with that."
Five shook her head, but obligingly leaned into the pilot's shoulder for a bit of support as she stood back up. They headed off toward the Treehouse, both glad that it wasn't that far away.
"Hurry up, Numbah Three," Two called back over his shoulder at the remaining member of their team.
Numbah Three either didn't hear his call, or ignored it for the time being, instead scampering around the wreckage of the 'playground' turned trap. Now that the danger had ended, why would it hurt to hang around a bit longer? The smashed remains of the jungle gym were now a perfectly good, if oddly shaped, monkey bars, and there was plenty of weird stuff lying around…
She skipped around the splintered remains of the watchtower, humming brightly to herself… then stopped dead in her tracks, eyes going wide.
…Okay, so obviously not ALL of the Delightful Children from Down the Lane had made a clean escape this time.
"Um, guys?" Three asked, turning and looking for her friends. "Guys? Hello?"
Naturally, she got no reply, her teammates having already departed without her. Numbah Three looked back at the motionless figure before her, completely clueless about what her next move should be. She didn't remember Numbah One ever going over a rule about what they should do in this sort of situation!
…Then again, she didn't remember a whole lot of what Numbah One said they should do in most situations.
Numbah Three stood staring curiously down at the unconscious girl curiously for a few moments. She had simply never been confronted with the concept of one of her enemies being injured and helpless right in front of her.
Right now, however, the girl lying in front of her didn't look like any sort of threat. In fact, the petite girl looked more like an abandoned, broken dolly than anything, with her glass blue eyes closed, her dress ripped in places, and even the pale pink bow in her long hair partially undone.
A smile appeared on the dark-haired girl's face. She didn't know what you did with abandoned enemies, but she knew exactly what you did with abandoned dollies: take them home, fix them up, and love them the same way you did your own dollies. And it was the same difference, right? Right!
Besides, she could always ask the others if they knew what to do later…