Declaimer: I do not own Codename: Kids Next Door.
Codename: Kids Next Door
It was the last mission. End of days.
She would be gone, nothing more than a memory to others and to herself. A fading ghost clinging to recollections that wouldn't resurface no matter how hard she pulled at her hair or tugged at her heart.
Most people would have been spending this day with cherished friends, those they loved. They would be desperately trying to drag those precious people as close to them as they could, trying to leave some imprint. Trying to leave themselves some clue to their sudden unknown past.
Not her, she wasn't like those people. Yes, she stood on the edge and trembled at her fall, but she had been gifted early on in life with the knowledge that no one could truly be with you when you fell. In the end, when you faced the abyss and the point of no return, there was only yourself to rely on. For did anyone else truly understand?
The small water pistol in her hand felt suddenly big and overpowering, something that could crush her bones into a fine powder if only she gave in to its pressure.
Her fingers tightened over the gun and she didn't realize that a fine crack had begun to show in the plastic work. If she squeezed too hard than it would break and she would beweaponless, a lost little girl among the adults.
She pressed her body against the wall, her lower half almost completely blending in with the shadows on the wall cast there by the random lamps hanging from the woodwork. The shadows would have been to small for a normal person to use as cover, but she had been trained to use such darkness as a protective cloak. Even the smallest shade could be used as a way to make herself invisible.
"You ready?" she questioned softly, not bothering to look behind her.
Fanny—Numbuh 86—raised her fiery head and looked at her commander. For a moment excitement flashed across her eyes, but it died as quickly as it came. "Yes," was the monotone answer the commander received.
Numbuh 362—almost never known as Keelin—didn't know what to say to the younger girl behind her. They had been partners on and off for so long now. 362 had taken 86 under her wing as soon as she had set her eyes on the girl when she herself had been no more then a fledgling operative.
Now that same fiery redhead was pale and dead beside her. 86 had lost her faith and her trust in the Kids Next Door. 362 had seen it in older operatives before they were decommissioned. Burnout. Doctors, cops, even lawyers got it. Why shouldn't a kid who had given their life to a single firm face the same difficulty?
There was nothing 362 could do for 86, not now. 86 would be decommissioned in less then a month. Any help, any attempt to draw the girl out of her shell, would be forgotten too fast to do any good, to even stay with her.
And I'll be gone in week, 362 thought to herself and a bitter taste clogged the back of her throat. Instead of reaching for the smooth column of her esophagus like her mind told her to she clenched her fingers together and spared another glance 86's way.
"Come on," she said as she slipped behind a corner further ahead, her fingers wrapping around the pane for balance. 86 moved silently at her side, blending so perfectly with the shadows that for a moment 362 doubted she was even real.
"We should split up," 86 suggested, not even flinching at her words. Before, this young redhead would have had to be dragged away from her mentor and teacher, but now she seemed willing to allow the flow of life to swept her into its arms and take her wherever it pleased.
362 nodded, unable to come up with a protest. They would cover more ground this way and the mission would be done faster. No one wanted to stay in Father's mansion for very long.
As the redhead operative disappeared down a corridor cast in shadows, 362 turned and moved the opposite way. She pressed her hand against the hard, brown wood of the walls, memorizing their texture. Father's mansion was vast and expansive and one hall looked the same as all the others. However, each hall felt differently. If she managed to recognize the different feel of each one then she could return the way she came from when she made her escape.
But did she really want to escape? If she did then she would be placed in a prison hold on the Moonbase she had once controlled. A prisoner in her own fortress. Perhaps it would have been better if she simply stood there and disappeared from the Kids Next Door forever? She would be able to keep her memories that way.
No, she told herself. She would have her memories erased just like every honorable operative before her. If she didn't than she would be forced to work for the adults, driven mad by the memories of a life she was exiled from.
She didn't want that. She couldn't want that. Her very existence had been Kids Next Door. She didn't want to hate it. It was better to not remember at all than to hate the very thing that had shaped her life. She wouldn't stand for it.
362 had come to the Kids Next Door raw and young. What she had seen was a barely working rebel group inches from falling of the edge of destruction. She had taken command of the Moonbase and instilled new principals and ideas for the younger generation, shaping the base into what it was today.
Of course, she hadn't done it alone, but those operatives were long decommissioned or had betrayed the Kids Next Door to the adults. It made her shoulders shudder to think that such brave and respected Kids Next Door operatives would try to destroy the very thing they struggled to create. But the simple fact was that when you were a teenager you saw things in a new light. The important became less important and the less important became important.
She paused as she reached the threshold of Father's room, his very sanctity. She had breached it once before and the penalties had been costly. She would carry the tiny scar on her palm for the rest of her life, an imprint the decommissioning room could not erase.
There had been whispers in the Moonbase about Father. He was planning something. That was why he and his children had been quiet for so long. Soon he would launch an all out attack on the Moonbase and they would be helpless to stop him.
It seemed a little too odd for 362. Father was the sneaky kind yes, but he wasn't the kind to simply disappear from existence. He would always send his children to do his dirty work while he pieced together his latest scheme.
"What are you planning?" she wondered out loud as she stole up the stairs towards the brown doors outlined in gold.
"Nothing," was the answer she hadn't been expecting. It came from her side, a corner so filled with shadows it looked to be in relation to a black hole. No light was able to penetrate its murky depths… or able to escape.
But something else did. Gold hair splayed across bored brandy eyes and the thick pads of his football uniform made his lanky body look buff and muscular. She had never been on the short side of the gene pool, but he could tower over her if he got close enough.
"274," she whispered and reached for her water pistol. But the former operative had honed his reflexes while working for Father and he had it snapped from her hands before she could even get in one shot.
The boy twirled the plastic gun absently on his fingers. "That wasn't very nice, 362." He gave a low whistle, completely at ease with himself.
362 crouched down into a fighting position, waiting patiently for his attack. True, without her pistol she was virtually helpless against 274. Despite her feelings on the matter, he was a boy and had that advantage over her.
But the attack never came. She knew she looked at him in earnest confusion because he laughed out loud. "Just because I'm working for Father doesn't mean I'm going to attack you."
"What to do you want?" she snapped, wishing she had her water pistol in her hands.
"To see you," he answered, unabashed. He stuffed her water pistol into his belt. "You're turning thirteen in a few days, aren't you?"
"I'm not joining Father," she said through gritted teeth. "I refuse to join that man!"
He was frowning at her now, thoughtfulness replacing the cocky smile that had been on his lips. "You really don't know, do you? I thought you would have… but I suppose the Kids Next Door operations aren't as successful without me."
"What are you talking about?" she questioned, her curiosity piping, causing her to edge closer.
"Father has no concern for the Kids Next Door now." He shrugged his shoulders and moved close enough to her that she had to take a step back. He was, after all, the enemy. "There's something bigger going on."
She angled her chin and refused to let her rabid curiosity show. What had Father so enthralled that it would drag him away from the Kids Next Door? "I doubt it. Father's half mad with anger towards us."
"True," Chad agreed. "Very true, but the part of his mind that isn't mad has recognized the threat. He doesn't care what happens to you and the Kids Next Door, but he's doing all he can to see that he and his children and his allies are safe."
"I don't understand." She didn't have a problem admitting it. Chad was speaking in riddles and it wasn't like him.
"Hell's Gate…" he muttered under his breath and looked at her from under his dark lashes. Then the serious look disappeared from his eyes and a small smile brightened his face. "I've come to give you a birthday present, 362."
"Oh? What is that?" She bit down on her tongue and took another step back, touching the wall. She felt like a trapped mouse.
"Freedom," he answered and moved closer and this time there was no way for her to back up. "The tides are changing. The Kids Next Door are going to be swept up and crushed in the current. I'm offering you a rock to cling to. Join us, 362, before it's too late."
"I won't," she answered and her fingers clenched into fists. "You were my friend once, 274, so you should know I won't. The Kids Next Door is what made me. I won't betray that. No matter what you say."
"That's too bad… I'd hate to see you dead, Keelin. You were my friend, one of the few who I counted as friends." He was close enough now that his body could push hers deeper into the wall. His arm was above her head. His hot breath fanned her lips and their nose touched.
She smirked into his face and caused him to blink in surprise. Then her right fist came up and plowed into his smirking jaw.
Chad backed up and gripped his chin in pain. But he wasn't raging like she had expected from him. No, he was laughing. "Forgot all about that, Keelin. You weren't the leader for nothing."
"My name," she grounded out, annoyed, "is Numbuh 362."
The smile left his face again. "There's nothing I can do for you if you won't accept what I'm saying. You Kids Next Door operatives refuse to see what's in front of your noses. You think that the sudden depression taking over you, Fanny, every operative, is natural? No, it's already at work."
"If Father is not doing anything against the Kids Next Door than my work here is done," she answered calmly, shifting her weight so she faced an empty corridor.
As she turned and skidded down the hallway, Chad called after her, "We're not finished, 362. You were my friend so I owe you…"
She didn't answer, she kept on running. Whizzing past corridor after corridor, trying to get as far from Chad as she could.
Hell's Gate… what is that?
Fanny was waiting for her in one of the corridors. "Did you find what you were looking for, ma'am?"
"Yes. Father is not planning anything against the Kids Next Door… nor will he for quite a while." She frowned, remembering. "He has other concerns now."
"Good," Fanny answered. "Let's leave, ma'am. This place creeps me out." She turned and made her way down the corridor.
"I probably won't remember," 362 mused and Fanny fell silent. "Fanny… when we return to the Moonbase. You'll have to lock me up so I don't try to escape. The knowledge I hold on the Kids Next Door is more expansive than any other operative. You know that, right?" She said it gently, like a mother would.
"Yes," Fanny answered and nothing more could be said.
The Kids Next Door operatives from all over the world gathered on the Moonbase at one specific night. No one really knew why they gathered, but the legend was that this day was when they first rectified a treehouse to live in.
It was a time of partying and dancing. Even trainees were allowed to enter the Moonbase and for many it would be the only glimpse of it they would have until their training finished.
At one time, Numbuh 362 would have been a guest of honor. She, Chad, and any other leader in the Kids Next Door were honored on this day and night. They were heroes, martyrs to the cause. They were cheered and worshiped and admired.
But now she could only dimly hear the roar of the crowds against the solid steel of her jail cell. The silver light of the moon slipped into her corner and was her only companion. Even Fanny had deserted her post at the threshold of her ironclad doors to join in the festivities, though 362 doubted she would find them enjoyable now.
She felt, oddly, cast out, isolated from the people that had been her entire life. Her blood was cold and she shivered with the loneliness. So this was what all those other operatives felt like before they were decommissioned. Alone. Unwanted. Completely obsolete. An outcast.
It made her eyes water to think her old friends had felt this way and she had never considered it before. She stood on the edge of doom. Half in the world of the enemy and half clinging to the world that didn't want her anymore.
362 estimated that it had to be around eleven. The party was dying down, the voices of the children growing softer and softer from their exhaustion. By midnight most of them would be passed out. Then they would be allowed to take the next day off and rest before heading back to their sectors.
She had been born at one in the morning so she wasn't really thirteen yet. She would spend a full day as a teenager before they got around to decommissioning her. Most didn't get that chance. As soon as the computers said they were thirteen they were gone.
Minutes seemed like hours. She lay on her back on the cold, hard floor of the cell. She couldn't sleep, but she wasn't really surprised. 362 was too busy going over her past memories to sleep. She wanted to relive each and every one of them, even the ones that brought pain to her. They were her life, a life she would not remember for much longer.
Suddenly, a noise rose from outside her door. It was a strange noise, a low moaning of voices. Her eyes twitched with the cry when suddenly the moan turned into a scream. It rippled through the air, a soprano of voices all crying out for mercy at the same time.
She clapped her hands over her ears, almost screaming out as well. The voices made her heart twist inside her chest. There was so much pain there, so much pain and so much loss. It was like something was being torn away from the screamers, something of value and importance. Something they could not do without.
362 jumped to her feet and raced to the door, pounding her fists against it until they were raw and bleeding. The leader in her would not allow her to ignore her company's cries for help, even if they would have happily erased her cherished memories.
"What's going on!?" she demanded. "Someone unlock this door!"
But suddenly a silence descended on the Moonbase. It was the strangest silence she had ever heard. Like those voices had been ruthlessly silenced by a powerful hand. It was so abrupt, so sudden, so final that it made her shudder. What had happened?
The room was dark, even the moon's light couldn't slip in. 362 sank to her knees, her fingers lying limply on the doorframe. Crystal tears fell across her cheeks, creating a pale trail across her skin. Something inside her told her that she did not want to find out what had happened moments before.
It was deafening, this silence. She couldn't even sob softly. Something had stolen all noise from her, all will to talk. She was numb from her head to her toes. She wasn't even sure if she was breathing. It didn't feel like her lungs were taking in oxygen.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there, leaning against the door for support. She heard the clank-chank of boots against the hollowed floors of the Moonbase but she lacked the energy to call for help.
The door opened and she was tumbling forward, onto the floor. Her face smacked against the cold metal, but she didn't wince in pain or even try to move. She simply lay there, unsure of what to do.
"362," a voice breathed and strong hands were lifting her up. It was Chad and she had never seen him so serious. "I'd thought you'd be like them… like the others…"
"The others?" she repeated dumbly before her mind came to the conclusion that he must have been talking about the other operatives of the Kids Next Door.
A girl moved to them. Her skin was dark and her hair was in ebony dreadlocks. "My sister's there. Her and her little friends. Like all the rest."
362's eyes widened as she recognized the dark-skinned young woman. Numbuh 11, the best operative of her time, and one of the worst enemies of the Kids Next Door. She had been talking about her sister…? Numbuh 5 of Sector V?
Suddenly, panic spurred her limbs and she was pushing against Chad. He let go of her in surprise and she rushed past the two former operatives, towards the large meeting hall where the party had taken place.
There were bodies everywhere. Little limbs strewn about the place, like they had been gathered in the air and then thrown to the ground. Some were lying on top of others, some were huddled in corners. But their eyes were closed and their faces were peaceful. She saw the operatives from Sector V lain neatly at beginning of the room. Numbuh 11 had been tender with them, seeing to it that they had been unharmed and that they were in a comfortable sleeping position.
"Numbuh 86?" she questioned softly as she went deeper into the small room. She bent down and touched the redhead forehead. She was cold, so very cold.
"There was nothing we could do… for any of them…" It was Chad's voice, just outside her consciousness.
"Are they… they… are they… dead…?" She could barely manage to make her tongue produce the words. It felt big and fuzzy and dry in her mouth.
"No… sleeping," Numbuh 11—Cree—answered and there was a small sad lit to her voice. "But when they wake up they won't have any memories… of anything… their lives, the Kids Next Door, their families."
Chad bent down and put a hand on her shoulder as it trembled. "It's worse on Earth, 362. Father's… dead… it killed him and the Delightful Children."
"Yes. What I was talking about earlier. It opened." Chad's brandy eyes were sad. "The Earth is in turmoil. All the adults were killed by this force… their bodies couldn't handle it. A lot of the kids died, too."
"My… my sister…" Sonya, her whispered, panic making her head ache, what happened to Sonya?
"Anyone at a Kids Next Door facility when… when it happenedare fine. They just lost their memories. We," here Chad pushed and motioned to himself and Cree, "we in a subbasement of the mansion, Father had ordered us to wait it out. We heard it kill him… and his children. A lot of the younger kids are fine… some aren't. It's so hard to explain. It's like the Black Plague… it just swept through and destroyed… everything."
362 cradled 86's head in her lap, running her slim fingers through the crimped red hair. "What… what will we do now…?"
"It's not safe here, even now," Cree answer, bending down and looking into 362's eyes. "The children on Earth… who lived, they're half-insane now. We have to hide, we have to prepare. Who knows when this thing will rise again? We have to destroy it."
362 stood, placing 86 back on the floor. "I'll go with you… whatever did has to pay."
Chad nodded, pleased with her answer. "We're going to camp out in Father's basement. Wait until we know it's safe. It was a pretty big risk to even come here to find you. It can be anywhere…"
She moved to a window, unable to look down at the bodies of her friends, her allies, the people who admired her. Chad and Cree followed silently, allowing her to think.
Earth was blue diamond beneath them. Pure with a splash of white against the oceans. There was no way for anyone to tell the horrors that had gone on inside it from so far away.
"The children that live… and remember… what will happen to them?" she questioned, her eyes looking on the planet.
"Well, the ones old enough to understand… they gathering together. It really is amazing. The children survivors are doing that… surviving. Evenif we can't help them they'll get along with out us." Chad pressed a hand against the viewing glass at the side of her face.
"Who knows what the next few years will bring?" 362 questioned no one but herself. "The children, the survivors, might go back to their old ways of treehouses… or they might create a new world order." A considering look crossed her fair features.
"362?" Chad questioned, sharing a concerned look with Cree. He placed a hand on her shoulder and shook her gently. "362?"
"My name is not 362," she answered stonily, moving away from the Earth. "It is Keelin. The Kids Next Door is dead…"
"Yes… it is, isn't it? When they wake up they won't remember anything. We should take them to Earth to save them the fear." Chad looked back at the room. "They've had enough fear to last them for a lifetime."
"But it's not over," Keelin answered. "Whatever that thing was… whatever came from Hell's Gate, it isn't something that will simply fade into the background. It'll rise again, won't it?"
"Yes. It cannot sleep," Chad replied. "It was not made for sleep. For now it is resting, gaining energy. It will return and perhaps this time it will not rest until everything is dead…"
"Father… knew a lot about it, didn't he?"
"Yes," it was Cree's turn to answer. Other than his children, now dead, she was the one who knew him best. "He was studying it… and he knew what it would bring."
"Tell me everything. We must be ready for it when it rises again. We cannot let it take this world." The leader was coming back into Keelin, streaming into her veins and putting light into her eyes.
For the children that had suffered, there would be vengeance.
Word Count: 4111
Time: two hours
Beta: currently… indisposed
Author: Lizzy Rebel
Couples: none (slight Chad/362)
Characters/style: Chad, Cree, 362 angst/drama one-shot
Author's Notes: You might be confused… I understand. If you must know I hate this one-shot the most. I didn't want to make it that long and if I used all the pages I needed to explain how this came about it'd take a whole fic. But dun worry, I won't leave you hangin'. You might have guessed that THIRTEEN is the sister story to SUBZERO, which is the sister story to TOUGH (you might not have known that). Anyway, they are all the prequels to my multi-chaptered fic APOCALYPSE, which will go into more detail about Hell's Gate and that thing Chad mentioned. It should be coming out soon and I think it's looking pretty good! Of course, APOCALYPSE will focus more on the main operatives (1-5) than the minor ones I've been writing about.
Here's a watered down teaser:
The room was dark, filled with the clogging smoke of cigars. The king had ordered all forms of tobacco removed from the earth, but it was an idealistic order. Everyone knew that people did it anyway. Now they were just more reluctant to smoke in the public eye. Perhaps that was all the king wanted.
She took her seat in the uncomfortable wooden chair. Someone was sitting across from her—she hoped it was her contact and not some dirty pervert—and every time he took a deep drag of his cigarette a small bead of light broke into the room, gone as quickly as it had come.
"So, you're Kuki Sanban… a little younger than I thought," the man said and she was surprised. He sounded young as well, as young as she, and there was a strong accent to his voice, an accent she had never heard before. It wasn't raspy like the other tired mercenariesin the pub. There was life there, and determination and confidence. "A pretty little thing, aren't you?"
"Look," she snapped, her fingers wrapping around the fabric coveringher chest. She could feel the cool silk of her dark hair against her suddenly prickling neck. "I didn't comehere to be teased. Are you going to help me or not?"
"Funny… I heard you were a bit cagey. Don't sound cagey one a bit," the man mused, ignoring her words.
Kuki brimmed with anger. She was a little absent minded—her sister was always chiding her on it—but she could be serious when she had to be. "Listen, jerk, are you going to help me or not?"
There was a harsh bark of laughter and a little liton the desk the man sat behind flickered on. He leaned into the light and she saw that his face was handsome, high cheekbones shaped by light blonde hair and covering arrogant green eyes. "Oh, I'll help you, Kuki Sanban. But the question is, can you handle me?"
"I'm sure it won't be a problem," Kuki snapped, her eyes narrowing.
Her mouth opened to scream as he cupped her neck and brought her face closer to his. His hot breath fanned her lips. He smelt like ale and bread and cheese. Their noses were touching. They were only inches way, even with the desk between them.
"Maybe it will be…"