Autumn

Numbuh 362 was having a very frustrating day.

First, she had gotten up that morning to find her younger brother screaming at his teammates over the phone because one of them had canceled on a big mission he'd been planning. Her parents had made her be the one to deal with him, and after that aggravating ten-minute argument (she'd ultimately pulled the Supreme Leader card just to end it), she was running late to get to Moonbase.

Not that it seemed to matter, because when she arrived at Moonbase, Numbuh 86 was nowhere to be found. When she asked, it turned out that the usually dependable redhead had called in absent. Normally, her Global Tactical Officer was there to help lighten her workload, essentially sorting through every matter that made it up to them from the communications officers and handling the more trivial ones herself unless something really serious required both their attention. Rachel T. McKenzie had once worked without a Global Tactical Officer, but after having someone there for just one day, she didn't know how she'd ever managed the workload of a Supreme Leader without assistance. All morning, she found herself desperately missing Numbuh 86's support.

Having slogged through the night's backlog of requests and reports from the other side of the globe all by herself, Numbuh 362 just barely caught the tail end of her lunch break. However, just before she was able to bite into the slice of pizza she'd bought from the Moonbase cafeteria, she was interrupted by Numbuh 65.3. He had, of all things, a written complaint from Numbuh 363, her younger brother, about Sector V, again. It said more or less that he'd cancelled his mission, blamed Numbuh 1 for it, and was currently sulking in his room at home. She didn't even bother to read it all before throwing it away with her leftover soda.

It was almost 2 o'clock by Eastern Standard Time when Numbuh 362 realized that she still hadn't seen Sector V's weekly report. Odd. Numbuh 1 was one of the few sector leaders she could count on to always turn in a report on time. Then again, the last she'd heard, the Teen Ninjas had managed to quite literally gum up most of Sector V's equipment in a recent attack, so perhaps they were busy trying to salvage what they could and get replacements for what they couldn't.

She was feeling restless, it was a relatively slow afternoon, and Numbuh 362 was sure that Sector V would appreciate it if she could speed up the process of getting them new equipment. It was an act of kindness, she told herself, not a small piece of revenge against her younger brother.

"Patch me through to Sector V," she ordered the nearest communications officer as she leaned back in her armchair.

She expected to reach the comms hub of Sector V's treehouse and was surprised when the screen in front of her instead showed the Uno household's front lawn. Apparently she'd been redirected to the mailbox camera. The Teenz raid must have done more damage than she'd thought.

A very harried Numbuh 1 came running toward the screen, dragging a rake behind him. He stopped a few feet away, cutting everything below his shoulders off from view.

"Numbuh 1," she greeted briefly, "How's your sector's status?"

The boy saluted, "We're doing fine, thank you for asking. Numbuh 362, sir."

"What about the equipment you lost in the Teen Ninjas' attack?" she inquired.

Numbuh 1 replied, "I've already sent a full summary of damages to Global Command, but our base is still fully operational as of yet. We'll be alright until they get around to replacing some of our vehicles."

With a sigh, Numbuh 362 said, "Well, I'm glad to hear that Sector V is on track, at least."

"Rough day?" asked Numbuh 1 sympathetically.

"Yeah," answered the Supreme Leader with a tired nod, "Numbuh 86 called in absent, and you wouldn't believe how annoying my brother is being today. Or maybe you would, since he's usually complaining about you and your team."

Numbuh 1 winced and said, "Well, if he's upset because of Numbuh 85, I'm really sorry about that. And you have my personal apologies for Numbuh 86's absence."

Curious, she sat up and inquired, "What's that about Numbuh 85?"

"He and his sector and Numbuh 86 are all here right now," responded Numbuh 1, "Didn't you know?"

"No, I didn't. What's going on, Nigel?"

"Hold on," he said, coming closer to the camera.

He adjusted the lens' zoom and stepped aside, allowing Numbuh 362 a view of the simply enormous pile of leaves covering the rooftop of his house and spilling into his yard. Startled but morbidly intrigued, she toggled the camera controls in front of her and panned around to get a view of the street. It was just as smothered in feet upon feet of red and orange leaves.

"For crying out loud…!" exclaimed the Supreme Leader, "What happened?!"

Numbuh 1 turned the camera back around to face him. He answered, "Well, it's autumn. Leaves fall. We've been clearing the front yard all day."

"Right. Of course. Ginormous treehouse. But aren't you supposed to have the 2x4 technology to handle this sort of thing?"

"We lost it in the Teenz' attack," grimaced the apologetic sector leader, "And my dad is making me help him clean up the yard today and tomorrow."

Numbuh 362 was beginning to feel confused, "Okay… But how did Fanny and her brother get involved?"

Numbuh 1 shrugged as he replied, "Well, my teammates agreed to rake the leaves with me, and then I think Numbuh 86 felt sorry enough for us that she came and dragged her brother with her to help. It was unexpectedly nice of her. And Numbuh 85 invited 84 and 83 to join us, too." His expression became one of irritation, "But then things started snowballing when my dad caught onto the idea."

"What-" she was about to ask, but interrupted herself at the sight of several people in the background, "Salty rainbow munchies! Nigel, the Delightful Children are right behind you!"

The bald boy turned around, then turned right back to face the camera as he responded blandly, "Yeah… Like I was saying, things snowballed."

If she'd thought seeing the Delightfuls was shocking, it was nothing compared to what happened next.

Father, of all people, walked into the background dragging three large, paper bags. The silhouetted man who was the Kids Next Door's worst enemy handed the overstuffed bags one by one to the Delightful Children and then shooed them toward the curb. Then, he turned and looked directly at the camera. Or rather, at his troublesome nephew in front of it.

"Hey!" shouted the supervillain accusatorily, "You're supposed to be raking leaves like the rest of your pals!"

Nigel yelled back frustratedly, "We changed shifts with the teenagers ten minutes ago! This is the extra rake meant for Chad, if the lazy traitor ever bothers to show up!"

"Another one trying to skimp out on hard work? Figures," growled Father caustically, "How many times do I have to tell those hooligans that if they don't finish today, they're coming back again tomorrow!"

The grass under his feet was beginning to smoke.

Numbuh 362 watched the screen in front of her with disbelief written across her face as the 11-year-old leader of Sector V berated the KND's most dangerous enemy on his front lawn.

"Stop burning the grass!" exclaimed Nigel, "You'll get us both in trouble again! And I won't hesitate to sell you out when it's not my shoes malfunctioning at the same time!"

Father adopted a defeated slouch and whined, "Monty's just the worst," before dragging his feet as he walked offscreen.

Nigel turned around to face the camera again and said, "I'm sorry, Numbuh 362. As much as I would love to stay and talk, it's my team's turn to drop off the bags - and I'm sure you're very busy as well, sir." He hurriedly signed off, "Kids-Next-Door-rules."

The only thought running through the Supreme Leader's head by the end of that call was that the world used to make a lot more sense than this.