I... Don't know what I'm really doing here, it seemed like a fun little project albeit not my usual kind of material, given the context and setting. Ah well, in decommissioning especially I saw a lot of potential for the usual angst that I find I crave, so I decided to just brush up on my writing a little with this piece. First time writing KND ff, obviously, and given the general tone of the canon, possibly one and only. Enjoy.
Kuki looked just the way she had after Nigel left.
Some part of her still looked as if she had no idea what was going on, and yet from one look, Wally could tell that she fully understood. They had all known this day would come sometime, but it was simply too soon.
It had always been too soon.
All along they had blissfully proceeded, till the day Nigel had gathered them into the TV room, announcing that he had just turned twelve years old, triggering an awkward and rigid silence. Up till that point, birthdays were something everyone knew of, but of which no one spoke. They had then revealed to each other their birthdays and ages, only to find out that Kuki was next in line.
They had shrugged off that night with a laugh, claiming that one year was a long time, but each one silently tossed and turned in their respective beds after lights out.
Only at the moment Nigel stood in front of them dressed in his spacesuit did they truly understand the gravity of their separation, and unforgivingness of the circumstances. Perhaps it could have been said that when Maurice had been given the slam, they were force-fed a taste of what was eventually to come. However, nothing quite prepared them for the change that they all once thought they would naturally come to accept. The system, ever faceless and nameless, continued issueing them missions, pressing them to adjust and elect a new leader amongst themselves. With a sigh and a indifferent wave of her hand, operative 362 had dismissed them from headquarters, hiding the sting of helplessness behind her light blonde fringe and Samurai helmet. So they did, they moved on, adjusted, shifted Abigail back into the former seat that Nigel had held unquestioned from the very moment he arrived. Without his guidance, trudged along the path on their own.
They had gotten used to living life without their intrepid leader. That, hurt more than actually losing Nigel.
Numbed partially by necessity and partially by denial, they had carried on. Diving endlessly into missions and assignments, they found themselves fighting off villains that suddenly seemed to be even more familiar to them than the operatives they used to know. Those who had grown of age and been decommissioned, whom they would still bump into every now and then. At the candy store, the Delightful Children's mansion, at The Point, at the Romantic Burger even. Picking fights, flirting, copying each other to be cool, getting into detention and being, well... Being teenagers.
It was that moment frozen in time when Hoagie turned to Abigail muttering those habitual words. "So, what now Numbah one?"
That was the moment that everyone held their words, time suspended itself in thin air, the atmosphere was fragile enough to shatter with a single exhaled breath. And then, unannounced, everyone turned to look at Kuki, who turned down to stare at her purple Rainbow Monkey.
She turned back to her operations window and resumed the click clacking of fingers on keyboard, everyone else soon too following suit. Wally however, allowed his gaze to fix on her a tad longer than the rest. He knew how heavy the weight on her mind had become, it had been a long time coming, and it affected her throughout. Just as the past few days, she was acting like herself, yet nothing like her usual self. One lapse of attention, and she would be nowhere in sight. Despite this, despite her abnormal behavior, despite the situation, Wally knew exactly where to find her. He strolled up to her room, staring at her protective facade of a heavy curtain with a large messy number "3" painted on it.
He knocked, to no avail. "Kuki, ya in there?" No response, which he took as he cue to gently push the door open.
She was seated on her massive soft toy bed, knees to her chest, gently rocking to and fro, her favorite Rainbow Monkey cradled delicately in her arms. He paused for a moment to note the ever slight dusty feeling he got from entering her room. Soft toys that were at one period always in tip-top condition from her constant care, attention, and "cruddy tea-parties", now by and large sitting around her room collecting dust. Save a lucky one or two favorites.
And the costume that she hung over her bed.
"Heya..." He whispered, seating himself gingerly on her bed, controlling his urge to gag from the floral scented air refreshener he smelled in the air. She didn't look up, green sleeves draping over her knees as she cooed to her precious toy. He heaved a sigh, his mind blocking out the mental countdown of mere hours to her 13th birthday.
"Hey Wally." Came her usual slightly Asian accent that hadn't changed a bit in the past years.
"Huh? Yeah whot?" He spluttered, momentarily levetating himself off her bed in shock, before his nerves settled from that look of silent consent in her eyes. "Iz'ere som'in ya want?" He whispered, gaze soft as his hand gently scooped up the end of her oversized sleeves. She shook her head, sending the both of them spiraling into another conversational limbo.
His eyes darted around the room as the silence continued. "Wally, do you remember ?"
He scoffed, throwing a glance at the makeshift costume hanging just over the head of her bed, reaching out to poke at the tail patched together with blue socks. "A'course I do, stupid ol' costume." She laughed, and he knew all too well why she'd brought it up. The incident had been the first time that he ever said what his heart truly felt, under all the aggressive boy talk and violence addiction. Albeit in a reasonable enough disguise for the rough-edged Australian, she had let him know, in her own subtle and silly way, that she understood.
Her rocking paused, and he turned to stare at her black crown of hair."It's going to be tomorrow isn't it." She whispered, hugging her Rainbow Monkey closer, and Wally did little more than nod, despite the fact that the inanimate smiling face on her soft toy was royally creeping him out.
"Yeah, and you're gonna be a cruddy teenager like the rest ov 'em." She giggled, and nodded.
There was more silence, save the occasional beeping from outside that someone else soon enough tended to.
"Ya gonna be alright?" A nod, more silence. He heaved a sigh, and pushed himself up off the bed. She jumped from Wally's sudden stirr, and turned to look back up at him. He himself equally shocked by her sudden movement turned to stare at her.
In that moment their eyes met, but before either of them realized it had even happened, Wally turned away from her, his face flushed red and his fists grasped tightly.
"Good fer you then, I oughta go out and... Uh... Finish fixing my spankin' gun, yeah."
She watched silently as he pulled his orange hood over his head and walked out of her door.
He watched silently the next day as she walked into the wooden barrel of a spacecraft, hands cuffed, guided by two heavily armed KND operatives.
"C'mown Numbah 4, we're given permit to go along." Abigail sighed, holding onto the Rainbow Monkey she'd received from Kuki when the guards informed her that nothing was allowed to be brought along. Seeing his lack of response she gave him a slight nudge, ushering him towards their own spacecraft. He looked at it, turned to look back at Kuki's room, and shook his head.
"I don't care whot happens. You guys go on a'ead, I'm stayin' here an' takin' care 'a ya work ya slackers." With that he turned to walk away, and before Abigail could follow, Hoagie had already grasped her shoulder and shook his head. She shot one final look at the back of his bright orange hoodie and worn out jeans, before turning on the balls of her feet and stomping towards the Sector V spaceship.
"Selfish lil' good fe' nuttin'... Just when she doggone needed him the most he goes 'un..."
He stayed in the TV room, waiting, watching as the large spacecraft slowly took off, and their own smaller one followed behind. He could have counted the number of times he remembered himself showing weakness like he did at that moment. When Nigel left, when Maurice had been "decommissioned", when... Well, that was pretty much it. There he stood, inclined against the windowsill, watching, waiting to see for certain that the ship had traveled far enough to not turn back.
When it had, he took off, rushing into Kuki's former room.
"Bastards, bastards... Why Kuki, why..." It was the first dead end for him, and it just had to be her. Nigel had left for greater purpose, Maurice was revived as a Teen operative. Kuki? She was just plain gone. There were no ifs ands or buts. No denial, no excuses, no arguing. He fit himself into the space he'd occupied the day before sitting in the room quietly with her, but this time there were no oversized green sleeves for him to gently grasp without having to feel the awkwardness of actually holding her hand. But, she was no longer there. He knew where she'd gone, on a one way trip to losing the Kuki she'd once been, forever. It was an undeniable dead end.
And it had to be her.
He lay there for several minutes, on the bed that he'd used to openly loathe and gag at. He used to complain that her room was always full of junk and useless things, so much so that no one could ever walk around in that room properly. He realized that it only took removing one thing to make it seem this empty.
Mid-thought, his phone started ringing.
More out of habit, and in the same mindset of denial that he'd sunk into when Nigel left, he immediately flipped it out and answered.
"Numbah 4 'ere."
He heard panicking keyboard pounding and the rushed voice of Abigail. "Getcho ass up here man, I'unno whut ah'm seein', but Numbah 5 don't think is lookin' pretty."
"Kuki, what happened to 'er? Is she safe?" He hollered, and Abigail held her head away from the phone momentarily to stave off the sonic bom.
"I'unno man, but Numbah 5 think it's her causin' all 'at damn rackit, it don't look right." Before Wally could respond, the phone had been hung up, but not before he heard a electronic sounding "Mayday, mayday" and frenzied screams in the background. Screams that he recognized. Without thinking, he kicked himself up off her bed, starting towards the exit... That is, before he caught a glimpse of the costume. He hesitated, remembering all too well the literal hell Kuki had put him through that day... "Awh crud." He muttered, before snatching it off it's hook, and racing towards where he remembered Hoagie parked the personal ships.
"Numbah 5, is Numbah 4 getting here anytime soon? I seriously doubt the ship will make it to the Moonbase in time!" Hoagie groaned as he struggled to steer clear of the spaceship holding Kuki. It was moving irregularly and from the ruckus that they started hearing on the videocomm, it didn't take a genius to figure out that something had gone wrong. Then came the video feed. Images of their own gentle loving teammate scratching at the insides of her cell, ramming herself against the doors like a schitzophrenic madman, screaming and kicking for all she was worth. Her arms dotted with bruises in potentia, and there was a deranged flare in her eyes rivaling her outburst in operation S.H.A.V.E.
"Jis' board 'em man! We gotta calm her down before we git inta space!" Abigail shouted, shoving Hoagie away from the driving wheel, he scrambled to regain control of the ship as Abigail scowled.
"We can't! Our craft is too large to board anything right now, unless she calms down we can't do anything but wait!" He dodged the oncoming shrapnel while Abigail continued trying to take control.
"Awh man that ain't right!" Abigail screamed, her hands slapping against her forehead. "It don't look like she's gonna calm down ANYTIME soon ta Numbah 5," Her voice tensed as she turned to look out their windshield, "You tell them dummies in that main ship that they needa stop before we git inta space, otherwise everybady's gown be in trouble!"
"Alright I got it!" He reached for the radio button, then turned to look up at their commando from his seat. "What about Numbah 4, isn't he going to be here anytime soon?"
"Alright, I'll call him I'll call him, geepuz man." She growled, digging for her phone and dialing for Wally. In the moments after she'd lifted the phone to her ear, there was autditory silence, bar the whirring of their engine and the monotonous bleeping Abigail heard through her phone.
"I can't pick up you idiots, I'm bloody driving here!" Their comrade's voice came in on their radio, indicating he was at least in range for transmission. "Numbah 2, I need those coordinates!"
Hoagie heaved a sigh of relief before reaching for the transmission board. "They're goin' to you right now, but hurry!"
"Right on ya." He muttered, gritting his teeth and stepping on the gas as if it'd go through the floor.
"Mayday mayday, we need backup, operative Numbah 3 is displaying signs of mutiny, I repeat, send backup, operative Numbah 3 is displaying signs of mutiny, code red!" The operatives in the engine room of the transportation vessel took nervous glances every now and then through the metal caging separating them from the impending menace, but with the way that the girl was acting up, even metal didn't manage to put their hearts at ease. They brushed off cold sweat as they heard instructions coming in through the radio.
"Just step on it, try to make it to the Moonbase as fast as you can!" They exchanged glances before gulping, and reaching for the secondary rocket ignition.
"Almost... Whut the... Hey! Whudda they think they're doin'?" Wally screeched into the radio as he saw the glare of rockets on the target starting to give out an alarming glow.
"Looks like they gonn' gun it, Numbah 2, let's go get Numbah 4 and go after that ship!" She swirled herself into the middle chair, seating herself down just as Hoagie turned the ship around.
The transport vessel arrived on the Moonbase collection pad after a white-knuckled ride for both the guard operatives, and they heaved a deep sigh of relief as they touched down. The sudden impact coming from behind them in the holding chamber however made both of them jump and scream, before tearing themselves from the driver's compartment. Operative 362 walked up to the ship, expression ever the same, one of attempted indifference. "They never go without a fight huh..." She muttered, gesturing for the operative beside her to hand her the prepared tazer. She cocked, loaded, but before a shot could be fired, there was a large obstruction.
The first thing ahe saw was Abigail's face smiling down at her from the window of the ship.
Wally jumped off immediately and ran towards the holding vessel. He could still hear screams from inside and hear her banging against the walls, crying and begging. His habitually violent fists grasped tightly, but stayed by his side even as the security ran up ordering him to freeze and raise his hands in the air. He silently complied.
"Operative Numbah 4, what is the meaning of this?" Hollered Operative 86 as she marched up to the plaform. "Such behavior could warrant your immediate decommissioning you know, ya stupid boy?"
"I... Know..." The words were squeezed out through gritted teeth as he heard the cries starting to escalate again. "I just need to talk to her."
Abigail and Hoagie exchanged glances momentarily, before Abigail dropped her formalities and shoved her way through the guards that had been holding them at bay away from the scene. "Alright alright, hold it right there, this ain't cool." She tut tutted, strolling up to operative 86, as operative 362 too shoved her way through the ruckus and arrived on site. "Look, Kuki's scared a' goin', it ain't like you ain't never seen this before, so we got Numbah 4 here to help chill her down an' all."
"Oh?" Operative 362 replied, raising an eyebrow, her sarcasm about as subtle as a bundle of TNT. "Why thank you Numbah 5."
"Mah pleasure." Abigail said with a little mock tip of her hat. "Now, will you puh-lease, jis let Numbah 4 in there."
There were nervous looks all around, and Wally kept his fists in a tightly rolled punch ready state. By hook or crook, there wasn't going to be anyone standing between him and his friend this time. Not again, not anymore. Operatives 362 and 86 exchanged glances, before Numbah 362 pulled her hands back behind her back. "Very well then, cuff him." Before Wally could protest, operative 86 stepped in again, close, too close for comfort.
"I'm warning you, boy, you've got 5 minutes to calm her down, or else you're decommissioned alongside her."
Kuki lay where her body left her when the last of her energy had been drained, stunned, and slightly in shock. She knew what was going on though, she heard noises, she could feel the atmosphere. Something had happened, and with the entire surrounding silencing itself, she too started to calm down. She heard shackles being released, locks being snapped open, and the gears in heavy bolts shifting and giving way. She tensed again, and the door soon opened while Kuki lay on the ground, gnarling at the figure who'd just stepped into the carrying vessel.
"I thought you were only gonna act like a cruddy teenaga' after this o'l mess." The remark was satire, but his voice sincere, and Kuki pushed herself up off the floor of the vessel as Wally rushed to her side. "You idiot, I shoulda known girly girl woul'da been scared outta ya skin." He whispered as she reached out to him, but she pulled back once she saw the red welts on her arms from ramming herself into the vessel walls. He gently coaxed her hands from in front of her chest where she held them, staring, eyes full of pain.
"I won't remember anything anymore Wally..." She murmured, and Wally leaned in closer to hear what she was saying with that hoarse, worn out voice. "I won't understand what you're hinting at when we make inside jokes, I won't remember all the little things that happened, I won't remember how you like your soda, I... I won't remember you, at all..." With that she looked up, and Wally saw the same sentiment reflecting into himself.
"I know Kuki I know." He whispered, allowing his fingers to touch hers for once, instead of the fabric of her sleeves. "But I'll remember, right? An' I'll keep on tellin' ya till I get decommissioned too, then you can tell me everything I said ta you!"
He had no idea where that idea came from, but it seemed to be working. On Kuki, yes, but more than anything, on himself.
"But Wally, I'm still scared..."
"Yeah yeah, I know ya are ya dope." He breathed, tears already escaping from his eyes. "But just look at me tilll it happens awright? Not at any of these other doofuses, just me... They don't care about you, I... I do, so keep yer eyes on me ya hear?"
"On all of us." Abigail added, kneeling down next to Wally while Hoagie joined their little huddle on the other side. "Numbah 5 don't wanna be left outta this one man, that ain't right..."
"All for one." Hoagie stammered, his voice congested. "And one, for two."
"... Three." Kuki added eventually, laying her sored hand on Hoagie's fleshy palm.
"Four." Came Wally's waterlogged voice, as he gently grasped Kuki's hand in both of his, cuffs and all.
"And Five." Abigail finally muttered, setting her hand on that of her teammates. "Don't worry sugar, we gotcha' covered." The Asian girl nodded feeling the reassuring pat on her back, before pushing herself up off the vessel floor. The collection of hands fell away one by one, leaving only her own entwined with Wally's. He leaned against her, his head inclined against her shoulder.
"Go on Kuki, we gotcha..." He whispered, and she nodded, eyes tightly shut and moist. "It's bout time ya grew outta them cruddy monkies anyway." She giggled with a nod, for the first time since the previous day. He heard what he'd come to hear... And that made it all worth while.
"Your 5 minutes are up Numbah 4, we have a mission to do." Operative 86 barked as she marched up to the vessel door, and gestured for them to step outside.
Kuki stepped into the building without fuss, and her teammates followed in silence, Wally's hands still cuffed.
The process was quick and merciless, but the very second the button was pushed, Wally jumped up off his seat running towards her before being aggressively reprimanded.
A minute or two was all it took. Before they knew it, it was time to send an unconscious Kuki back to the Sanban household. Hoagie drove in silence while Abigail tended to Kuki alongside Wally, fanning the girl with her red hat while Wally smoothed his fingers over her chilly hands. The trip back to Kuki's house was a long one, and her belongings had already been moved back to her home from the treehouse. Such was the efficiency of the system, they'd already experienced it when Nigel left. As Hoagie pulled over outside the Sanban household, Wally stared at him with vengeance.
"Hey, whot gives? Didja have to drive so bloody fast?"
Hoagie snorted and opened his mouth to protest, but Abigail shot him a frown.
"It had ta happen Numbah 4, lis' jus get it over n' done with..." She whispered, running a finger along Kuki's cheek for the last time. Wally heaved a sigh, before heading to the doorstep, where he rang the bell. It seemed like her parents had been waiting, and her father immediately came out to bring his daughter into her room, Wally following close behind. The sky had long since darkened, and the only light poured in from the corridor as gently removed Kuki's sports shoes and laid his daughter on her bed. Wally stood outside the room, shifting, uneasy, but his eyes never leaving the dark green of her oversized shirt.
"Take your time son." Were the last words he heard before her father stepped outside, leaving him in a momentary embarrassed confusion.
Thudding steps going down the stairs calmed his nerves, and he slowly approached the bed, gently shifting her fringe off her forehead. He sat himself on the bed next to where she lay, and took hold of her hand while she slept on, peaceful in slumber, and never to be the same again. No longer able to stop the sting of tears in his eyes, he squeezed them shut as he lowered his head to rest on her chest.
When he raised his head once more, there was an ever familiar looking costume resting on her chest, and he smoothed his hand over her cheeks, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear.
He leaned down one last time to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Go grow up Kuki... Just don't go gettin' no boyfriend or nothing, I'll beat him up real good like."
"Go be a cruddy teenager, I'll find ya."