Disclaimer: I wish I was cool enough to have created Atomic Betty, but I'm not. I'm hoping that, since I live in the same city that it's produced in, this will impress them enough to let me write an episode or have a guest voice role, either of which I'd do for free, but I'm not counting on it.
Girls In Pink
The prarie winds were just starting to cool the evening air as Noah sat, dejected, outside of the bowling lanes. He would occasionally look up into the clear night sky as the stars shone brightly above, but mostly, he looked at his watch.
Betty was late.
And so here he sat on a bus stop bench, not enjoying the Friday night they had planned. He only stayed behind for two reasons when she did this. First, he wanted to make sure she was actually all right, and second, well, he always wondered what her excuse would be this time. If she hadn't been his best friend, he'd probably have left her behind several times.
A bright glint of light reflected off of his watch's face. Noah looked up, wondering what it had been. It was as bright as lightning, but the sky was still clear. Just as he stood to try and get a better look around, Betty came running from behind the building, her red pony tail trailing behind her.
"Noah!" She called as she spotted him and ran towards him. "I'm glad you're still here. Sorry I'm late. I... uh..." She struggled to remember her pre-concocted excuse, but Noah's frown told her it wasn't a good idea.
"Let me guess, caught in the storm?" he asked sarcastically, the lightning still in the back of his mind.
Betty sighed. "Come on, Noah, let me make it up to you." she said.
"It's too late, Betty. I'm supposed to be home by ten." Noah said angrily. "I'll see you later, if for once you make it on time!" and with that, he spun on his heels and started walking towards his home.
Betty sighed again, watching him go, then sadly boarded a bus.
Noah cut through the park on his way back. "Why does she always do this?" he asked himself. "No wonder no one else will hang out with her! I'm just the sucker who's known her his whole life, is my excuse." As he walked, another gust of air brushed past, but then it grew into a gale, almost knocking him to the ground.
"What the..." Noah started, but then, looking up into what he expected would be clear, starry skies, he found a large, dark shape hovering above him. Before he knew what he'd seen, a brilliant beam of light shone down upon him, blinding him, and he felt himself suddenly float away on a current.
The next morning, Betty was taking full advantage of a Saturday to sleep off both her school work and her duty as a Galactic Guardian. As she woke, she vaguely heard the television on downstairs, turned to the news, and her father's hushed voice murmuring, "How are we going to tell Betty?" It was that phrase that made her sit up, wide awake. Pulling on her robe and slippers, she went downstairs.
As Betty opened the door to the living room, her mother gasped, fumbling for the remote. "What's going on?" Betty asked, but then she saw it for herself. On the television screen, a serious looking newsman was staring back, and superimposed beside him were the words "Amber Alert", and a picture of Noah.
Betty's heart sank. "Oh no..." she muttered, too shocked to make it sound articulate. She soon got her wits about her, though. "What happened? Why are they talking about Noah on the news?"
Her father came and knelt beside her. "Betty, Noah's gone missing." He said, sympathetically. "The news said he didn't come home last night. Now, you were going to see him, weren't you?" he asked.
Betty nodded, weakly, still watching the screen. "Y-yes." she said. "But, he went home on his own afterwards."
Her father nodded, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. "I think you should tell the police that." He continued. "They'll want to know when and where he was last seen."
Betty regained her composure and nodded. "You're right. I'll go down there right now!" she said, determination back in her voice. She rushed upstairs to get dressed, and then back down and out the door with her skateboard, not even stopping for breakfast.
Betty rode her skateboard until her legs hurt, the wind making her eyes water. At least, she told herself it was the wind. There were only two things on her mind now as she weaved around the occasional pedestrian; getting to the police station, and hoping - praying - that they didn't...
Her bracelet chimed.
"NO!" Betty yelled. She ducked into an alleyway, and, finding herself panting, took one deep breath to regain her composure before activating her transmitter.
The holographic image of the Galactic Guardians' crustacean commander greeted her. There would be no blowing him off, Betty thought. "Atomic Betty reporting for duty." she said, snapping to attention and saluting.
Admiral DeGill bit on his pipe, and a bubble rose from the bowl up and out of the image's view. "Atomic Betty, I have a serious task for you. Maximus IQ has been upping the ante to try and discover your home planet."
Betty knew trying to protest would likely not work, but she did anyway. "Admiral, there's a situation here on Earth. My best friend could be in real danger, and I have to try and help the authorities here."
"I assure you, Betty, he will be in real danger if Maximus gets his hands on Earth's co-ordinates. He's been getting out the word that he will pay handsomely for any proof of your home world, especially for captured humans. Every bounty hunter in the galaxy has been trying to track down humans to abduct, not just the kind of joy riders who like to grab someone from a pre-contact world and do unspeakable things to them as a joke. I need you to leave immediately and see that that information does not get to him."
Betty sighed. She hated to admit it, but the Admiral was right. Noah, at least, was still on Earth, and he'd be in trouble too if Maximus had anything to say about it. "Yes, Sir." she replied.
The image of Admiral DeGill faded and Betty checked her bracelet's tracking system. Sure enough, her ship was in orbit. She sighed once more, kicked her skateboard vertical into her hand, and activated the transporter beam.
Aboard her ship and in uniform, she tossed her skateboard aside and shuffled miserably to the bridge, taking her seat. Her demeanor did not go unnoticed.
"Whoa, Chief," Sparky piped up from the controls, "you look like you just lost your best friend."
"Not funny, Sparky." Betty snapped. "What have you got?"
X-5 swiveled his head a full one hundred and eighty degrees. "Maximus has been offering large sums of money in return for examples of humans, presumably as proof that the mercenaries who bring them have been to Earth. From the communications HQ has intercepted, I believe I can fake an offer of sale and arrange a meeting where we can ambush him."
"Great, let's get going, I have to get back to Earth as soon as possible." Betty commanded.
Sparky engaged the hyperdrive.
Maximus eyed his latest acquisition. It stared at him from the transparent tube it was brought in. Brown hair and eyes, not like his adversary's, but the same silly expression, tiny ears, and ridiculous pink skin. No doubt about it, this was one of Atomic Betty's race. He turned to face the insectoid creature who brought the captive. Minimus, his psychotic face eyeing the boy, taunted him from outside.
"So," Maximus addressed the bounty hunter, "You say you got this one directly from its homeworld?" he asked.
"Yes," the purple-exoskeletoned insect hissed. "It's a young male of the species, just coming into maturity."
Maximus sighed in exasperation. "I'm not interested in breeding them! Just having known two is enough! Now, what is the location of this planet?"
The insectoid hunter looked surprised in all its blue eyes' multifacets. "Location? You said you wanted examples. That wasn't part of the deal. Competition in the abduction business isn't good for profits."
Maximus bared his fangs in anger briefly, but then stopped. "Fine, then. You just wish to be paid, I presume?" When the insect nodded, Maxiums reached into his crimson robe. "Well then... here!"
With a spray of chemicals from some concealed canister, Maximus hosed down the mercenary in a powerful insecticide. The creature coughed and sputtered, and finally rolled onto his back, legs and arms curling inward. "That will teach you to defy Supreme Overlord Maximus IQ! Minimus, dump him in his ship and set him adrift."
"Yes, your supreme impatience." replied Minimus' cowardly half, and he dragged the insect away by a wing to the airlock.
Maximus stalked over to the transparent tube again. "Now then, who do we have here?" he asked.
The boy was simply looking on, stunned. "I, uh, I come in peace?" he offered weakly.
Maximus erupted into laughter. "Oh, I love it! I always get a kick out of the reactions of those who have never seen something from off their planet before. What is your name?" he demanded.
"Noah." said the boy weakly, then asked, "How come you speak English?"
Maximus snorted derisively. "Actually, I'm speaking Rigellian, but by an amazing coincidence our two languages happen to be exactly the same. Now, I'll ask the questions here. I want to know where your home planet is located."
Noah blinked, confused. "Uhm, Earth?" he asked tentatively. Hoping he'd be let go afterwards, he tried his best. "Well, it's the third planet from the Sun, and..."
"Which Sun?" Maximus demanded. "Which star system? What's it close to?"
Noah looked flustered. "I... I don't know." he finally admitted.
Maximus looked like he was going to explode with rage. "Blast these pre-contact races, they can't even answer simple astronavigation questions!" Reason took hold again, however. "But if the whole planet is pre-contact, what makes Atomic Betty so special? No matter!" he exclaimed with a dramatic swish of his robe which startled Noah. "There's more of you where you came from, and soon, I'll know where to find your home planet! You can consider yourself lucky, Noah. You may soon be the last of your race alive!" He allowed himself an evil-sounding belly laugh until Minimus interrupted him.
"Sorry to interrupt, your Malevolence, but we're getting a message from someone offering a human for sale. They wish to meet us on the outer moon of Voleris to make the trade."
"Ah, at last, some progress!" Maximus exclaimed. "Set a course and get us there quickly. I have a planet to destroy, and a Galactic Guardian's heart to break!"
Minimus set the course at once.
Betty's silence was deafening. Even on an important mission, she was usually more talkative while in hyperspace. Now they were almost at their destination and the only words out of her had been barely audible acknowledgements of her crew's routine reports. Sparky and X-5 exchanged glances knowingly, and X-5 dutifully noted that Sparky didn't have the courage to speak up.
"Captain," X-5 stated, deadpan, "It's obvious that something is distressing you. If it is something we can deal with, we should before we are too involved in the mission to be distracted."
Betty took a deep sigh, actually kind of relieved that she'd been found out. "It's my friend, Noah." she said. "He went missing last night after I was late meeting him. We usually take the bus home together, but, he was mad, and stormed off." She looked down at the deck in front of her elevated command chair. "I was on my way to the police when I got called on this mission. And I can't help feeling it's my fault for not being there on time."
X-5 listened without offering much comfort as far as facial expression went. "You couldn't help it. It was an important mission. Anyway, when we return to Earth we can use the ship's sensors to track him down, which will likely be much more effective than anything your planet has to work with."
Betty nodded, smiling a little at that. "You're right." she said. Sparky gave Betty a comforting smile at seeing her a little more like her old self, but it was short lived.
"Of course," X-5 continued, "the chances of a missing juvenile being found safely after the first two hours following abduction are twelve thousand six hundred and forty two to one, so during the trip back to Earth I will be busy ensuring the scanners are optimized for necrotizing DNA."
Betty buried her face in her hands. Sparky scowled at X-5. "Just never know when to leave well enough alone, do you, Heart of Steel?" he scolded.
X-5 barely noticed. "Shouldn't you be getting ready to land? We're almost in orbit."
Sparky shook his head and returned to the controls.
Minutes later, on the surface of the moon, Sparky and Betty were preparing to meet Maximus on "business". Betty had changed back into her Earth clothes, with a wig of shoulder-length blonde hair and a pair of brown contact lenses to disguise her most prominant features. Sparky, meanwhile, was admiring the full suit made of Padonkian pig leather, specially treated to absorb all light in the vicinity, so as to appear a colour darker than black. His holstered ray gun and a hovering, head-circling sunshade completed his look to his satisfaction. He strutted with affected machismo in front of the mirror.
"Oh yeah. Who's a bad lookin' guy." he said, his voice an octave lower.
"No time for a fashion show, Sparky." Betty interrupted. "Maximus should already be here. We've landed far enough away that he shouldn't be able to tell our ship was cloaked. We have to get on board his ship and make sure he doesn't already have captives. It's up to you to convince him to take us aboard and negotiate."
Sparky swallowed at that prospect, but nodded. "You got it, Chief." he said nervously.
X-5 hovered closer to the two. "I've concealed an audio-video transmitter in Sparky's sun visor. I can monitor what happens to you and respond appropriately."
Sparky's smile returned. "Oh yeah? Can you monitor this?" he asked, spinning the hovering circlet rapidly above his nose.
Betty ignored him. "Good work, X-5. Sparky, we're on."
Sparky bound Betty's hands behind her back with restraints that looked real enough, but which she could easily break out of if she needed to, and, trying to look the part of a money hungry mercenary, led her by an arm out of the ship.
Maximus, once more, was impatient. He paced the command deck of his cruiser, making Minimus nervous. "Where are they? I want answers! I have a civilization to crush under my heel. I'm a busy Overlord!"
Noah looked on nervously from his capsule. It was quite clear from the alien's interrogations that destroying everything on Earth was exactly what he planned to do. "You can't!" he finally blurted out.
Maximus raised an eyebrow. Normally, being told that he couldn't do something would send him into such a rage he'd do something even nastier than he had planned just for spite, but this time, it might have been an interesting insight into the human mind. "Oh?" he said, walking over to Noah's prison. "And why not?"
"Because," Noah said, determined, "Earth doesn't have anything unique. You could find any sort of resources we had on any planet. We haven't done anything to you and we couldn't even be a threat. So why are you doing it?"
Maximus allowed himself a smirk. "Quite right, my boy. You are correct that your world has nothing that I couldn't find on a thousand others in the galaxy, but, it is the home of a certain Galactic Guardian." he snarled as he said the words, as though they left a bad taste in his mouth. "Once I lay waste to her home, she'll either be so angry that she makes costly mistakes, or so distraught that she can't concentrate. Whether I destroy her, or she destroys herself, I still win!" His smirk became a hearty laugh.
Noah was trying to think of some way to convince the crazed cat not to raze his homeworld when Minimus interrupted. "Ooo, Boss! Here they come." he said, pointing to the monitor. On it, a green-skinned bounty hunter clad in black was leading a fair-haired human girl towards the ship. Noah shook his head in dismay.
"Have the guards escort them in to talk. That way, if this one is as unforthcoming as the last, we can deal with him the same way." Maximus said, grinning.
"Remember," Betty whispered to Sparky. "You're in charge here, so, act like it."
Sparky swallowed hard and nodded as the small legion of guards descended the ramp of Maximus' ship.
"I've brought this human for Maximus." he said, loudly to mask his fear. "Take me to him, I want my money!"
"Right this way." the lead guard replied. On cue, the column of guards parted to allow Sparky to lead Betty up the ramp.
"Whoa." Sparky whispered as they boarded Maximus' cruiser. "That was easy."
"Yeah," Betty whispered back. "Too easy."
The guards led them through the ship to the bridge, and then up to the elevated command deck where Maximus sat, looking every bit the ruler of his domain. Noah's tube remained in the corner, just for show. As Betty approached, her gaze fell to Noah, and her face lit up. "He's alive!" she thought. "Thank Goodness!" Then, dread overtook her and she looked quickly to the deck. "Maximus has Noah!" she thought. "He'll recognize me! Even if I can get him out of here before he does, I can't keep it a secret all the way back to the ship!" Her mind raced while she kept her gaze down and away from Noah.
"So," Maximus began. "What have you brought for me? Another acquisition to add to my collection?" he asked, gesturing to Noah's tube as though showing him off.
"Uh, yeah!" Sparky replied, still trying to sound manlier than normal. "Swiped her right off the surface of the planet before anyone knew I'd been there!"
Noah looked at the girl. He wanted to reassure her a little, but she was looking away. Still, there was something familiar about her that he just couldn't quite put his finger on.
"Really?" Maximus said, feigning admiration. "That must have been some feat, then, not to be caught by local space forces."
"Nah, they don't have any..." Sparky started, but a swift kick to his shin from Betty convinced him to change his story. "I mean, yeah! One wrong move, and WHAM! Laser-fried bounty hunter! Now, how about that payment?"
Maximus frowned a little. The mercenary's story wasn't matching his first captive's accounts. He leaned back a little in his seat. "I tell you what. I'll double the fee if you tell me which planet this one came from."
Minimus' head twisted, and the psychotic side eyed the girl now. He stepped up to get a better look at the newest victim.
"Double it?" Sparky said, genuinely interested. It wasn't every day you could swindle the bad guy. "How much is that? I mean, uh, what sort of assurance do I have I'll get it all?"
Noah kept trying the place the female captive. Her hair didn't look familiar. He couldn't see her face, though. The clothes were nothing special, just a yellow and green sweater and skirt. His eyes widened with realization. "No way," he muttered.
Minimus reached under Betty's chin. "Huh, let's get a look at you, prisoner!" he said.
Betty couldn't stand the thought of Minimus touching her. Snapping her head back, she also gave a high kick, connecting with his wrist with a yelled "Hi-ya!"
"Ow!" Minimus yelled, jerking his hand away so hard it almost gave Betty whiplash.
Noah gasped. He knew that face no matter what colour hair she had, and the clothes proved it. "Betty!" he called.
Betty gasped in horror, looking over to Noah. Maximus was so surprised at the outburst he stood from his chair in a heartbeat. "What?" he snapped, then he caught sight of the wig sitting back on the girl's head, revealing bright red bangs. "Atomic Betty!" he snarled. "Guards, seize them!"
"Sparky, get Noah!" Betty called, breaking free of her false wrist bonds. She grabbed hold of the command deck's console and swung out her legs, sending Maximus' chair crashing back into him. Another leap, and she was over the rail, flying into battle with the robotic minions, leaving a trail of spare parts in her wake.
Sparky ran to the transparent tube holding Noah, trying to figure out the release mechanism, when he was tackled from behind by Minimus. Sparky flung the two-faced alien over his shoulder into the controls. With a whoosh of released air pressure, the tube containing Noah split along invisible seams, and Noah climbed, shaken, from the confines.
"Fool!" bellowed Maximus, reaching into a gaping sleeve to withdraw a large ray pistol. He seized Noah firmly by an arm, levelling the gun at his head. "Stop where you are, or I'll destroy this one!" he called out.
Sparky froze, a few steps away, but unable to act without risking Noah's life. Betty gasped, the few remaining robotic guards advancing on her slowly in their damaged state.
Maximus grinned evilly. "You Guardians are so predictable." he taunted. "You're too worried about saving someone else to save your own skin. I shall enjoy destroying you, Atomic Betty, but first things first." His gaze fell to Sparky, followed by the barrel of the ray gun. "If you thought I would pay you for this, well, think again!" he sneered.
Noah had had enough. It was one thing to capture him, but he wasn't about to accept this creature's threats against his best friend. He looked down, and saw Maximus's tail snaking out from his robe. Lifting his foot, he brought it down on that tail, stomping as hard as he could.
Maximus's fur stood on end, and he yelped in pain, letting Noah go and his aim fail. Betty seized the arm of one of the last robot guards and flung it at Maximus, letting them both land in a heap. As they fell, she ran back up to the command deck to rejoin Sparky and Noah.
"What do we do now?" Noah asked hastily.
Betty was about to answer, when her bracelet chimed. She cast a quick glance to the readout, then linked her arms with both Noah's and Sparky's. "We get out of here! Hang on!" she said. Tapping her bracelet's control, the three of them disappeared in a brilliant flash of light, just in time for Maximus to watch, helpless to keep them from escaping.
Betty, Sparky and Noah appeared in her ship's teleport chamber. Noah followed the two others, wondering how Betty had managed to change from her school clothes into a pink and white minidress without stopping. Sparky took over the helm of the airborne spacecraft from X-5, and turned its course up into the depths of space.
"Captain," X-5 reported. "I took the liberty of taking off in order to get into better position once Maximus had discovered you. I trust I was not too late in locking the transporter on?"
"All present and accounted for, X-5. Good work." Betty replied as they sped away.
Noah just stood in a corner, dumbfounded.
Maximus got up angrily, picking the still dazed Minimus up by his collar. "Get up!" he commanded. "Open a new transmission channel, so I can find someone else to bring me a human!"
"Yes, O Supreme Abusive One." Minimus said, running to the console and preparing the transmitter. "Ooo, you're on, Boss." he said.
Maximus composed himself. "Greetings, fellow underworlders. As you've no doubt heard, I, Supreme Overlord Maximus IQ, am willing to pay top credit for any information about where to obtain members of a certain loathsome species called humans. Let me assure you, for timely delivery of one, there will be great rewards..."
On Betty's ship, Noah was just starting to come to terms with what he was seeing, when X-5 piped up. "Captain," he reported. "Maximus is sending another transmission requesting to purchase abducted humans."
Betty watched from her command chair as X-5 played Maximus's broadcast on the bridge's viewscreen. "Oh no. He could get someone else!" she said.
X-5 reached into his chest compartment, and plugged several wires into the communications console. "One moment, Captain. I just have to re-route some power into the transmitter to override his signal."
"...There will be great rewards," Maximus had just finished saying on the viewscreen, when the image was replaced by a new one. He was holding Noah by an arm, and a ray pistol in a threatening manner at the screen. "If you thought I would pay you for this, well, think again!" he said, sneering with obvious bloodthirst.
"This was the image I captured from Sparky's visor transmitter," X-5 explained. "It should be a suitable deterrant to other bounty hunters."
Everyone else laughed.
Maximus stared at his ship's viewscreen in disbelief. The image of him holding the ray pistol was repeating on it, looking larger than life. "What?" he sputtered. "How did they...?" He struck the console with his paw. "They're scaring away my contacts!" he bellowed.
Minimus's psychotic face watched the screen as well. "Huh. That's what you get for being so cheap." he muttered.
Maximus glared at his minion and growled.
The trip back to Earth was routine and uneventful, but to Noah, it was better than every movie and amusement park ride rolled into one. As the ship came out of hyperspace and the planet began to fill the view ahead, Betty descended from her command chair and leaned over Sparky's shoulder, whispering in his ear.
"You want me to do what?" he asked, surprised.
"You heard me." Betty said with authority. "Put the ship into orbit on autopilot and wait for my signal. X-5, you go help him." she said.
Sparky looked at Betty, then Noah, then Betty again, and shrugged, but did as instructed. "Okay, Chief," he said, and, after setting the controls, got up from his chair and left the bridge, followed by X-5.
With the bridge cleared, Betty turned from the console to face Noah, leaning back against the chair. "So, uhm, now you know why I'm always late." she began.
Noah nodded. "Yeah. Good reason." he admitted. "But, how did you know where to find me?" he asked.
Betty looked sheepish. "I didn't." she finally admitted. "I knew you'd disappeared, but not how or where. I got lucky." She paused a moment, before looking at him seriously. "I was worried about you." she said.
"So was I!" Noah said with a chuckle. His smile made Betty feel better than anything in the universe. "So, are you going to erase my memory now, like in the movies?" he asked, looking a little concerned.
Betty shook her head. "No, we can't actually do that." she said with a smile.
"Oh." Noah said. "Well, if this is such a big secret you couldn't tell me, then, what are you going to do about it?"
"This." Betty said quietly. She reached up, holding each of Noah's cheeks in her hands, and leaned into him. Her eyes closed, and her lips found his for a few seconds. Suddenly, Noah's trip through space seemed boring by comparison. He still couldn't quite believe it when he opened his eyes and found hers, bright and green and sparkling, staring back at him. He was about to kiss her back to make sure it was all real, when Betty said, "Now, Sparky."
There was a noise of discharging power cells and a bright flash of light behind Noah's back. He gave a little groan, closed his eyes and fell forward, unconscious, into Betty's waiting arms. She tousled his hair a little. "Sorry, Noah." she said. "I can't just make you forget, so, this will have to do."
Sparky lowered his ray gun. "Nice shot," said X-5. "Though with your usual skill, I'm surprised you didn't disintegrate him." The robot hovered past Sparky and retook his seat.
"Hey!" Sparky retorted. "I know how to handle one of these. I didn't have it set that high!" He was about to holster his pistol when a thought occured to him. He glanced down at the weapon and checked the setting just to be sure.
Once in orbit, Betty and Sparky carefully put the stunned Noah into the transporter booth. He materialized in an empty bed in an empty room at Moose Jaw Heights' hospital. The doctors who found Noah were quick to give him a clean bill of health, but the inquiry as to how he got there unnoticed dragged on for weeks.
Bright and early the next day, Betty paid Noah a visit. She had hardly gotten in the door to his house before hugging him tightly.
"What was that for?" Noah asked.
"That's because I'm sorry for being late and you going missing and getting hurt and..." she started, ready to ramble on forever if Noah hadn't stopped her.
"It's okay, Betty. It wasn't your fault I got mugged, or whatever happened to me." he said.
"Do you remember what happened?" she asked, nervously curious about his answer.
Noah shook his head. "Nope. I was walking through the park, there was a bright light, and then, next thing I knew I woke up in the maternity ward."
Betty giggled. She hadn't realized just which floor of the hospital she'd transported him to. "That's all you remember?" she asked.
"Yeah. Except for this dream." he added.
Betty looked worried. "What was it about?" she asked.
"Well," Noah started, looking for the best way to answer, then asked, "Has your Mom's cat ever tried to destroy the world?"
Betty just giggled, and soon, they were both laughing together.