Chapter 1: The World Turned Upside Down

Alone, Cree Lincoln stood with her arms crossed over the logo of her university hoodie as she scowled disdainfully at the unconscious forms of her enemies.

Well, her enemies once upon a time.

Wallabee Beetles: wearing his hair in the same bowl-cut as always, but sporting a new denim vest over an orange T-shirt and ragged jeans. Kuki Sanban: pretty in her mint-green blouse, pleated skirt, and dark slippers - her ponytail was starting to slip out of place. Hoagie Gilligan: a bit slimmer than he had once been, and dressed in cargo shorts and blue, unbuttoned flannel like a lazy tourist in summertime. Cree noticed that he had given up the aviator cap and goggles for a pair of yellow-tinted glasses. The last of her captives was Nigel Uno: unexpectedly dapper in a red, semi-formal dress shirt and tan slacks. The sunglasses were gone, replaced by regular prescription lenses in a rectangular wire frame.

The four minors lay sprawled on the wooden floorboards, separated from her by the solid, iron bars of a low-ceilinged cage. Afternoon was turning to chill evening outside the tall windows. Cree impatiently clicked her tongue and clenched her fists tightly. A sour expression spread across her face.

How pathetic, she thought with self-loathing, that I've had to resort to this.


Hoagie was the first to wake up. Groggily, the 16-year-old lifted himself up into sitting position and rubbed his eyes. His fuzzy mind gradually cleared, and upon focusing his eyes the first thing he noticed was the metal bars surrounding him. The second was the groaning of his fellow prisoners.

"Oh my god, Nigel! Kuki! Wally!" He tried to stand and rush to the aid of the nearest of his friends but banged the top of his head against the tarnished, grey ceiling with a loud, echoing clang.

"Ow!" He winced and felt his head as he fell back to a sitting position. "That's gonna bruise later…"

Wally came to not a moment too soon, mumbling curses under his breath as he pulled himself up with one of the cage bars as support. He forced his eyes open and, confused, he said, "What the…? Hoagie…? Aw crud, Kuki!" Wally snapped to alertness.

There was dried blood crusted on the side of the teenage girl's face - not much, but it stood out against all the green that Kuki wore. Upon closer investigation it didn't seem to belong to her. Kuki was already trying to sit up as Wally offered her a shoulder to lean on.

"What…? Wally…? What happened?" Kuki asked, disoriented.

Nigel sat up last with a groan of complaint, waving Hoagie away when the brunet offered him a hand. The bald boy regained his bearings a bit more quickly than the others had and rubbed at his sore neck. "Ugh… Guys…? Where- Are we in a cage?"

"Seems like it." Hoagie answered flatly.

"How did we get here?" Kuki asked.

Wally shook his head, "No idea, Kooks."

"Is this my treehouse?!" Nigel suddenly shrieked, his head whipping from side to side as he took in the well-lit environment surrounding the cage.

The view outside the windows certainly looked like his neighborhood (the large and increasingly dilapidated mansion down the road was a rather distinctive, if run-down, landmark), but the appearance of the room itself… the place was massive, constructed completely of giant glass panes and countless wooden planks. Various consoles made of junk and held together with duct tape were strewn along the walls. A veritable jungle of tubes, wires, and appliances hung from the ceiling. How anyone had the time or resources to build what was practically a second house in the tree in his backyard, Nigel had no idea.

Wide-eyed, he said, "Cheesy poofs, how... Did Joey and his friends do all this?"

"Glad to see you're all awake now," Cree interrupted caustically.

"Huh?" was Wally's startled reaction.

All four captives turned to look at the tall figure just a few yards away. She cast a dark figure and a long shadow in the orange light of sunset.

Squinting over the top of his glasses, Nigel identified the speaker, "C… Cree Lincoln?"

Hoagie puzzledly added, "Abby's sister?"

"The one and only." Cree stated, deceptively calm in her tone of voice.

Tugging at one of the bars of the cage, a frightened Kuki asked, "Why are we locked up?"

Oozing hostility, Wally tacked on, "Yeah, what's this about?".

A moment of silence as Cree's shoulders rose and fell. Quietly and tiredly, she sighed. Then, in a strong, sure voice, she spoke to the captive teens, "I need your help. We need it."

"You sure have a funny way of asking for it," Hoagie responded, "Do you always ask people favors by locking them up first?"

Cree replied vaguely, "I'll let you out soon enough, so don't complain."

"Who's 'we'?" Wally asked, rightly suspicious of the near-stranger who seemed to be holding them captive. He continued, "Who the hell are ya working with?"

"You'll know them when they get here," Cree responded, "It would've surprised you to see us all on the same side."

"What's that supposed t' mean?"

"Shut up."

"Hey!"

She ignored him. She wasn't even looking at them anymore. Pacing back and forth across squeaky floorboards while muttering to herself, Cree was becoming more and more preoccupied. It was beginning to make the captive teens nervous.

"So, um," Hoagie hesitantly began, laughing uneasily, "Cree... What do you want our help for?"

Cree stopped pacing. She turned and looked at them, her gaze penetrating and hyper-focused on something beyond the four teenagers.

"... Abigail," she finally said, "I need you losers to help me rescue Abigail. The easiest way to explain it right now is that she's been kidnapped."

"What?!" They all exclaimed.

Hoagie was shocked, saying, "But she was just at school yesterday!"

Kuki worried, "Is she okay?"

"Shouldn't you call the police?" Nigel suggested frantically.

Cree snarled, "This goes way over the police!"

"Well, why us?!" Wally asked, panicked.

Cree laughed bitterly before answering, "Why you? Because the adult villains are busy covering their own butts, the Teen Ninjas are already gone, and the Kids Next Door wouldn't help me even if they didn't have their own crisis to deal with!" she threw her hands in the air in frustration before glaring at the four trapped in the cage, grumbling, "Trust me, you're my last resort... And this'll make a lot more sense once you're recommissioned."

Nigel, Hoagie, Kuki, and Wally all came to the conclusion that Abby's sister was probably crazy.


They spent the next thirty-five minutes in a silence that was broken only by the occasional "Are you gonna let us out yet?" from Wally or Hoagie. Every single plea went ignored by an increasingly frantic Cree.

Where are they? she silently asked.

The four teens inside the cage sat in a loose circle as they alternately spent time afraid for their friend Abby and contemplating their own dire situation. They did not engage in conversation for fear of setting off another bizarre rant from their captor. With only their own thoughts and wonderings for company, their moods grew ever darker as the sun neared the horizon.

Everyone from Cree to Kuki jumped when an optimistic ding~ sounded from a pair of elevator doors behind Cree. Apprehensive and on edge, the caged teens watched as the doors slid open to reveal…

"Mushi?"

"Tommy?"

"Joey?"

Cree was as furious as her captives were incredulous.

"You're forty minutes late! What took you brats so long?!" she yelled.

"Hey!" shouted Wally, "Don't yell at my little brother!"

He was paid no mind by Cree, but Joey seemed to cringe in embarrassment as he did his best to hide himself in Wally's hand-me-down orange hoodie.

Mushi, dusting lint off her purple button-up jacket, answered Cree acridly, "The museum display was a phony, so we wound up digging through storage for the stupid module. It's not our fault you gave us bad information."

"Hmph," Cree acknowledged the girl with a grunt.

Tommy, the spitting image of Hoagie just a few years ago, eagerly waved at the trapped teens, exclaiming, "Hi, Hoagie!"

Hoagie wasn't so amused.

"Tommy, what are you doing here? What's going on?" he questioned his brother adamantly as he gripped the bars of the cage.

"Didn't Cree tell you guys?" Joey spoke up. In great contrast to his brother's boisterous personality, Joey was a quiet boy who had a tendency to speak softly.

Cree scoffed, "I told them what they'd understand and more, but they probably think I'm nuts."

"We're on a time crunch here, people!" huffed Mushi.

"Don't I know it," Cree grumbled, "C'mon, let's get this done with and make for the safe house. We still have a decent window."

She walked over to a yellow lever on the wall and pulled it up. The cage holding Wally, Kuki, Hoagie, and Nigel split into pieces and retracted into the floor, folding up like spider's legs. The four teens stretched and enjoyed being able to stand up.

"Uh, Cree?" Tommy appeared nervous while consulting his Game Boy, "There's a problem with the safe house. Those hijacked S.C.A.M.P.E.R.s we knew were coming are an hour ahead of schedule. They're already between us and point C."

Cree cursed under her breath.

"How much time do we have?" she asked.

"ETA, 40 minutes."

"Damn it, we're stuck," Cree quickly took charge, "Okay, plan B! We stay here instead. Once recommissioned, Sector V should have the old access codes to reboot their treehouse computer, and with that online this is the second most defendable place in the entire sector."

"But we don't have the recommissioning module!" exclaimed Joey.

"..." for several moments, Cree stared at him blankly. Then, she exploded, her rage shaking the very foundations of the treehouse, "You don't have it?!"

The boy meekly elaborated, "I-It's probably still being repaired. He said he'd catch up to us."

Tommy complained, "See, this is why I said we shouldn't trust that guy to fix it!"

"A broken module is as useless as one we don't have," Mushi countered.

Hoagie tentatively interrupted the conversation, "Hey, uh, I don't know what this is all about, but it sounds like there are some really scary people on their way here, so... could we maybe leave and go home?"

"No!" Cree barked.

"Yeesh, you don't have to shout," Kuki commented sourly.

"There's no time for this, we have got to get out of here A-S-A-Now!" responded Cree.

Frustrated and fed-up with feeling like a fish out of water, Nigel yelled, "We're not going anywhere with you! Not unless we get some answers, so would someone please explain what's going on?"

Tommy leaped at the opportunity and eagerly babbled, "You used to be part of a super secret organization of kids who fight adult tyranny that you got mind-wiped about on your thirteenth birthdays, but now there's a bunch of evil adults called the Executives who are beating up other evil adults, and they trapped the Kids Next Door global command on the moon and kidnapped Numbuh 5, and now they're after you guys but we don't know why, so we're gonna help you remember so you can help us beat the bad guys!"

"... That makes no sense whatsoever," Nigel deadpanned.

"Who's Number Five? What about Abby?" asked Wally, bewildered.

"Why are the kids next door so important?" Kuki questioned.

"This is some kinda joke, right?" asked a skeptical Hoagie, "I mean, a memory wipe? ...The moon? That is so ridiculous."

Tommy exclaimed, "It's the truth, I promise! You'll thank us when you're recommissioned."

"You have to believe us!" begged Joey.

Cree spoke with urgency, "I know you have no reason to, but trust me when I say that you're in danger, and we're trying to help."

With a dismissive wave of her hand, Mushi flippantly tacked on, "You can take your chances with the Executives if you won't listen to us."

That drove a major point home for the abducted teens. The question of whether they believed their abductors/siblings' excuses or not was not nearly so important as the question of whether they would follow them or not.

"Okay…" Nigel began slowly, "So, allegedly, there are some very bad people who are on their way here…"

"... And they want to kidnap us," finished Hoagie.

Kuki added, "And you think the police can't help."

Cree grumbled, "You understand that much, at least."

Wally, feeling every bit as lost as his friends, said, "So what? We're on our own? What about our parents?"

Joey, oddly enough, saluted. The young boy snapped off a report, "Already evacuated. Same goes for all your families - even Granny Gilligan."

"Are you with us?" asked Tommy.

The four teens in the center of the room took a moment to glance at each other. Worried looks were exchanged between them, and then in unison, they said, "We're with you."

"Good," Cree nodded. Then, to the children behind her, she said, "Okay brats, we have thirty-five minutes to hole up somewhere secure. We can't afford to wait here and hope the recommissioning module arrives in time. Ideas?"

"Mr. Boss' house?" tossed in Mushi.

"It's on lockdown. We don't have the time to break in there," stated Cree.

"The elementary school?" suggested Tommy.

"Unoperational like the rest of the KND's bases," replied Joey, "What about the high school?"

Cree shook her head, answering, "Fried. Teenz are in worse shape than the Kids Next Door."

He felt a little in over his head, but Hoagie put in his own two cents nonetheless, asking, "Why can't we just hide somewhere until this blows over?"

Cree responded derisively, "Because they have access to KND tracking technology. It doesn't matter where you are, they'll find you. This is why we need a place that can lock up tight and preferably fight back. Without a fortress we are sitting ducks."

"Eh-hehehe…" Hoagie laughed uneasily, intimidated by the girl's demeanor. "Right, of course…"

The three children and one adult returned to discussing their options. Several ideas included a candy pirate's ship (which was not in the area), a soda bar (which was too far to make it to with only Cree's car and Tommy's rocket hat - now able to carry up to two passengers), and desperately, the Gilligan house (which while full of 2x4 tech, was nowhere near well-defended). The debate was quickly growing heated.

"Um… excuse me?" Nigel hesitantly interrupted.

"What?" snapped Cree.

Nervous and uncertain, he fidgeted as he continued, "Well, uh... I have a key to my uncle's place just down the lane. No one's lived there in years, but… I think the old security system is probably still functional. Would that work?"

"... Yeah," Cree said after a moment's appraisal, her voice dripping with irony, "The most defendable place in the entire sector? That would work," she clapped her hands together and gave a sharp command, "We'll explain everything once we're safe, so let's move out!"

"To F-Father's house? The Delightful Mansion?" Joey's voice was barely a squeak.

"Why do people always call it that?" Nigel wondered out loud.


3 years and 6 months ago…

KND

As the Supreme Leader of the Kids Next Door, Numbuh 362 had her own private office on the Moonbase. It was a sparsely furnished room that held only a few seats and a desk within. The only personal items that graced its walls were two pages of a calendar, taped side-by-side. One had half its days crossed out. The other had a date in the middle of the month circled in red.

Numbuh 362 gave a weary sigh to herself as she lifted a black marker to the first calendar. She caught a whiff of its sharp, chemical scent as she drew an squeaky X through yet another square on the grid.

Knock knock, at the door.

She capped the marker and turned toward the sound to reply, "Come in!"

The clunky, metal entrance opened, and in walked Numbuh 5 of Sector V. The door shut after her with an echoing clang.

"Good to see you, Numbuh 5," greeted the Supreme Leader.

A wary expression on her face, the girl cautiously replied, "Good to see you too, Supreme Leader, sir."

Several chairs were readily available, but neither chose to sit down.

"I hear Sector V has been having a wild time of it lately," said Numbuh 362 casually.

Numbuh 5 nodded, "Yeah, life's been crazy, baby..." she trailed off as glanced sideways at the calendar pages on the wall, and she said, "A month, huh?"

"Thirty days," stated Numbuh 362, "Which is actually related to what I want to talk to you about."

Numbuh 5 raised an eyebrow and simultaneously braced herself, "Uh-huh?"

The blonde girl tucked her arms behind her back and straightened her posture before she said, "I want you to be the next Supreme Leader."

"Sir - Numbuh 362 - Rachel," Numbuh 5 spluttered, all composure gone, "You gotta be kiddin' me, girl!"

Not a hint of a joke on her face, Numbuh 362 replied, "I mean it with all seriousness, Numbuh 5. I want you to take over once I'm gone."

"Oooh, no no no no no. Numbuh 5 wasn't built for this!" exclaimed the wide-eyed field operative shaking her head.

She quickly turned and reached for the door.

Numbuh 362 grabbed Numbuh 5's shoulder, halting the harried girl and saying, "Wait, please just hear me out."

"Why should I?" she responded hostilely, pushing her superior's hand away, "Baby, I got a million reasons to walk away from this, and ain't nothin' you say that's gonna change that."

"Well, if you won't even give me a chance to convince you," Numbuh 362 crossed her arms, "My plan B is a game of tag the same day I'm decommissioned."

Narrowing her gaze accusatorily, Numbuh 5 shot back, "You wouldn't."

"I would," Numbuh 362 didn't hesitate in her response.

The staring contest between them ended when Numbuh 5 grudgingly looked away and crossed her arms. She'd calmed down considerably.

With careful thought, she said, "Alright, Numbuh 5's listening. What on Earth makes you think she'd be a good leader?"

Numbuh 362 opened the door and gestured for her to follow.

"Come walk with me, and I'll tell you."


Author's Note: Character designs are more or less just TKG's designs of a teenage Sector V. Wonderful fan artist on Pixiv. Just google "TKG pixiv" if you want to look up some of her work.