Operation There is No Operation
Cheerfully discounting the live action segments of the KND finale episode.
Fifty-seven 'urgent' reports regarding everything from deadly papercuts to too-thin toilet paper down. Only a hundred and twelve more 'urgent' reports left to go before she could take a lunch break. Yes, today was looking to be a swell day to be Supreme Leader of the Kids Next Door, wasn't it?
But when three operatives came in her office, one bearing a very distinctive tie, all thoughts of paperwork left Numbuh 362's mind. The first two were... well, as Supreme Leader she should never allow herself to consider an operative unimportant, but that was just the word she wanted to apply to them in comparison to the prisoner they were toting between them.
"Supreme Leader, you requested this operative brought to you immediately upon capture, sir!"
She put down the reports carefully, and beamed at them. "Yes, yes I did. Good work. You can let go of him now. I'd like a moment alone with our friend."
The operatives exchanged glances, while the prisoner started looking understandably nervous. "Are you sure that's wise, sir?" the second operative asked.
"It'll be fine. Go on... you know, there's a hotdog eating contest taking place the next floor down if you're interested?" The operatives drooled and were out with barely a pause for formal goodbyes, and Numbuh 362 smiled to herself. Kids were so easy to manipulate. And she ought to know, being one of them herself. She was still a kid, after all. Letting her gaze linger for a quiet moment, the prisoner fidgeted, straining at candy cane handcuffs that wouldn't be breaking any time soon. "So, I take it the snot-drying injection worked as our scientists thought it would," she put out there as a conversation starter.
Numbuh Infinity smiled awkwardly, giving up his futile attempts to break free. "Yes, sir. I'm afraid my little teleportation trick is all dried up. I confess I wasn't at all prepared to have my escape mechanism blocked off like that."
A flicker of anger, long buried, burnt its way to the surface of Numbut 362's mind. There were issues tangled up in this that weren't really anything to do with Numbuh Infinity. Frustrating issues. She'd probably end up acting a little irrational if she let herself go. But then, maybe some intimidation would get the self-confident operative to cooperate quicker.
"And what did you expect, Jerome?" To her satisfaction, he flinched at the use of his real name. It had been carefully calculated to remind him of her position and make him feel vulnerable. Clearly it was working even better than she'd dared hope. "Did you think the Supreme Leader would just shrug and let it all slide? A blatant shadow organization within the KND, working for its own goals, completely outside of the normal command structure? Independent and answerable to no one? What did you expect me to do about it? Ignore it, maybe?"
Numbuh Infinity visibly gulped. "N-no sir. We, we aren't answerable to no one, there are higher authorities-"
"Higher than me?" she snapped, the flicker of anger threatening to turn into a real fire and burn something. Was this how Father felt in his rages, maybe? Full of frustrated rage, all the wild destructiveness of a tantrum but tangled up in a shell of 'mature' poise and self-control.
"Well, y-yes, that is to say, um-" Numbuh Infinity looked like he wanted to hide.
And just like that, fire turned to ice. Numbuh 362 smiled, and it wasn't a nice kind of smile. "Then maybe you can tell me why no one ever told me there was a higher authority. Why the leader of the entire planet's kids in the fight against adulthood had no idea about any of it, until you guys slipped up and got too obvious when you were recruiting Numbuh One. He might keep secrets fine, but the rest of his team sure doesn't."
Infinity tried for a pacifying tactic, which amused her. She'd been brooding over this for far too long, had replayed how the conversation was supposed to go far too often, to just relax now. "Please, try to understand," he said in his most soothing voice, hands up in a reconciliatory gesture, "we never meant to weaken your authority. It's just a matter of jurisdictions, you see? You have Earth. Other Supreme Leaders have other planets. And coordinating it all is the Grand Supreme Command, seeing to the interplanetary business and such..."
"You may not have meant to weaken my authority, but that's just what you did when you executed orders behind my back! You've been here a long time Jerome. Tell me, how many of the other Supreme Leaders knew about all this? Did Chad know?"
"Not while he was leading the KND," Infinity replied promptly. "Higherups consider it a... conflict of interest. After he became a double agent, we talked to him. As far as I know, sir, you're the first Supreme Leader on this planet to be aware of the Galactic KND."
"Great." She turned to face the window, so he wouldn't see the disgusted sneer on her face. But she couldn't quite stop the sarcastic words coming out of her mouth. "First Supreme Leader to know she's not a real leader of anything, don't I feel super."
"Please, sir. It's not like that. The limited operations we take on behalf of the Galactic KND aren't even relevant to your job-"
Quick as a whip, Numbuh 362 turned on him. The desk that had been in the way was very quickly not in the way anymore, and she wasn't sure if she'd sidestepped it to get to him or just vaulted straight over it, the heated buzzing in her head making it difficult to think. Suddenly, her voice had the desire to pull an imitation of Numbuh 86. "HOW DARE YOU STEAL ONE OF MY TOP OPERATIVES AND THEN TELL ME IT'S NOT RELEVANT!"
He cowered, trembling. "P-please, sir! You had a replacement all lined up, didn't you? Y-your brother... and you h-hardly seemed particularly close to Numbuh One when we sent him to the Galactic KND, after all... we were just doing our best for kids everywhere, and surely it hasn't cost you anything, except m-maybe some dignity? I'm sorry if you feel we hurt your public image as Supreme Leader, we'll do anything to make it up to you! I swear!"
The public image? Well, yes, this was about that. She was upset that this shadow organization had undermined her authority and by extension the authority of the entire KND. That was why she was angry. No other reason. Numbuh One just happened to be involved as a side issue. But that side issue would be the one she would clamp on to and not let go, if only because it stood for other things. As she felt herself calm, she realized she'd actually clenched one fist and half-raised it as though she'd been going to hit Infinity. Stupid. Talk about having a Father moment. At least there weren't any other operatives to see their Supreme Leader acting like this.
"Anything, huh?" she asked, very gently.
He seemed to sense what she'd planned, eyes widening so she could actually see them through the shades. "Anything that would not violate the authority of the Galactic KND, of course."
Numbuh 362 looked at him like he was a bug squirming on the carpet. "I guess telling me where Numbuh One is so we can bring him back from playing hooky would fall under that violation stuff, right?"
His gaze drifted to the floor. "Yes, sir," he said timidly but with dignity. "It would."
"Too bad. Look, Jerome. The jig's up. Game's over. Go to jail, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred bucks. You can either tell me everything I want to know now, right here in private, kid to kid... or you can tell me later, whether you want to or not, disgraced operative to Supreme Leader. What'll it be?"
Watching Numbuh Infinity steel himself in preparation, she couldn't help but feel a little twisted pride. No amount of mere talking was going to change his mind, he was sticking to his guns to the end. She'd have to make things really uncomfortable for the poor guy, but he'd brought it on himself. "I'm sorry, sir. I'll tell you anything you want to know within my authority, but I can't tell you how to get in touch with Numbuh One or any other member of the Galactic KND. If that means I'm a traitor and have to be decommissioned, then just get it over with."
"Decommissioned? Don't be silly, Jerome." She meant to go for a scary, sort of villainy voice, but instead she just sounded tired and depressed. Which she guessed she was. Dang it. She took his sunglasses off and put them in a pocket. If she let him have the things where he was going, they'd just get trashed. If he still wanted to try to be a decent operative afterwards, she could give them back to him. "I'm not going to erase your memories when there's even the tiniest chance I can get what I want out of them. If you want, I can get you decommissioned after the interrogation, once you've told us everything. But not before."
He blinked, and started to panic again. "Th-the interrogation?!"
She ignored him and picked up a tin can and string, calling in on an obscure section of the Moon Base science division. "Hey, guys, get me Numbuh V8 will you? We've got a new prisoner for him to get 'friendly' with, if you know what I mean."