Operation: B.U.T.T.E.R.F.L.Y. [Worm Post-GM/Codename: Kids Next Door] (2022)

Accessing Mission File:

Baking Attempt Thoroughly Tempts Eerie Rabble-rousers, Enraging Delightfuls

Mission Details:

Sector V’s first attempt at securing the Delightful Children’s birthday cake goes poorly, and so Numbuh 818 makes an effort to correct their mistake with chaotic results.

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Sector To Mission Report - Incident “Spring Bries”

So the Shogun had cornered us and there was nowhere for us to go. No convenient vents to blast open, no pipes for us to shoot and send steam into the cheese ninja’s faces, nothing hanging overhead that we could sending crashing down on the Shogun stupid head. We were as good as done for.

I don’t know how he did it, but suddenly Numbuh 404 was just

gone

. He was right next to me, the Shogun was looking

right at us

, and somehow he vanished. Me and the Shogun noticed his absence at the same time, and then 404 was back, using a mozzarella whip to knock the ninjas aside.

I blinked then, and so I missed what happened next. The Shogun swung his sword, and somehow 404 stole it from him mid-swing.

Sector To is known for our spies and stealth experts, but 404 is far beyond anything else I’ve seen in my time as sector leader. I’m formally nominating him for the annual KND Hide-and-Seek competition. Those other guys don’t stand a chance.

---

Numbuh 362 set the report aside for proper filing and chuckled. “Sounds like you’ve got competition, sir.”

“Oh?” came the filtered response. “Do tell.”

“Numbuh 404 sounds like perfect Spy Division material. Apparently he gets up to impossible stunts.” 362 grabbed the next report and smiled. “Can you believe Numbuh 1 and 818 actually found that thing?”

“I know, it’s a huge shock. It changes everything we know about our own history…”

“It does?”

“No, not really,” they admitted. “But it’s definitely interesting. So many fairy tales, and now we have to worry whether any of them are true?”

“I’m pretty sure we already had operatives swearing up and down that stuff like that really happened.”

“Yes, but moreso.”

“Oh, this is interesting. Sector Q encountered a villain called the Big Idea, who seems to have some sort of kinda electric powers?” 362 frowned, shuffling through the papers. “Or maybe light? He was using some kind of machine that let him move things by manipulating their shadows, and he was somehow going to use this to… uh…”

“Well, what was his plan?”

“I don’t think even he knew,” 362 guessed. “The report says he tried to use it to knock over their Treehouse, but I’m getting the sense that it was a last-minute decision on the Big Idea’s part.”

The other operative made a disgusted sound. “Ridiculous. Can you believe that? The Big Idea, and the best he can do is a half-baked plot that’s been done before better. Power wasted on stupid adults.”

“Do you ever wonder why it seems like only the villains have powers? Electricity, fire powers, lizard powers, cat control, whatever it is the Nogoodnik has going on… It seems like every week some new weirdo with magic abilities comes crawling out of the woodwork.” Numbuh 362 huffed in annoyance. “Where’s our superpowers?”

There was a long silence, and then Agent NIL leaned forward. “You know 362, that’s an excellent question. And it reminds me of a research log I saw just a bit ago… Yeah, here it is.” The mysterious operative pulled a sheaf of papers from a nearby stack and skimmed through it. “Yeah, here we go. Numbuh 535, unnatural sense of balance, Numbuh 747, extreme strength even compared to his size, Numbuh 818, can talk to insects…” NIL set the papers down and hummed thoughtfully.

“Huh. Well forget I said anything then,” 362 shrugged, turning back to the stack in front of her.

“Oh. Oh no, I don’t think I will. Rachel, you’ve given me an idea,” NIL said, rising from his seat and hurrying away. “I have to check some things. I’ll see you before you see me.”

He vanished into a panel in the wall, as he usually did, and left 362 alone. She turned back to her desk and sighed. “He left me with all the paperwork again…”

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Delightful Manor, Back Garden

“Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you… Happy, Happy Birthday… to you…”

The guests sang very nearly in unison, and their pitch had improved greatly. But there was still room for improvement. “Very good, that was the best rendition yet,” the Delightful Children From Down the Lane said. “But not good enough. Melvin, you were a quarter of an octave too high.”

“I d-don’t even know w-what an octave is…”

“So you’ll just have to sing it again.” Their guests groaned miserably, and the Delightful Children smiled. “Take care to watch your pitch this time.~”

They started singing again, and the Children allowed themselves to tune out. They’d invent some new complaint once they were done, so it didn’t really matter if they listened or not. They were more interested in the imminent arrival of the Kids Next Door. Actually inviting them as they had was highly irregular, but they were feeling sporting. After all, they were new operatives. The Delightful Children were willing to give them the handicap of a warning, because they would surely need it. Crushing them utterly would carry no satisfaction if they didn’t even have to put effort into it.

They wondered how it would go. Numbuhs 11 and 9 were excellent playmates, and the 8’s had been wonderfully amusing to watch bumble around. The new Numbuh 1, however, had a more personal grudge against them, and that was likely to invite an entirely new dimension to their game.

Because that was what it was, a game. And they’d been winning it for ever so long. It was only sporting to give the new players a chance before they were crushed utterly.

Especially Numbuh 818.

The singing came to a fearful stop, trailing off as the guests watched them warily. The Children had begun scowling as they thought, and they forced themselves to regain their composure. “Yes, it’s obvious that rendition wasn’t up to snuff. From the top.”

“Happy birthday to you… Happy Bir--”

“HOLD IT!”

They looked up to see a pair of SCAMPERs descending towards the Manor garden where they’d set up the table. The doors opened and five kids jumped the rest of the way to the ground.

Numbuh 1 took point, the other four fanned out behind him. Numbuhs 3 and 4 stood to his left, 5 and 818 to his right. Missing from the line-up were Numbuh 2 and Numbuh 11, but they were probably piloting the vehicles. The Delightful Children disregarded their cheering guests and smiled.

“Greetings, Kids Next Door. We were beginning to think you weren’t coming. We don’t suppose you’re here to watch us eat our cake?” they asked, knowing good and well what their answer was.

And, as if he too knew the script by heart already, Nigel scoffed, keeping his GUMZOOKA trained on them. “Hardly. We’re here to seize your cake for ourselves so that every kid here gets a slice!”

“Is that so? Then let the game begin…”

The garden was lovely this year. They had a sort of vague hope one of the operatives had a pollen allergy. That would be funny. Still, it was a shame what was about to happen to the flowerbeds.

The ground shuddered as their seat backed up from the table. A glass dome slid over them, and their personal vehicle of doom emerged by way of breaking through the grass. The Moderately Destructive Machine rose into the air, a pair of arms emerging from the ports along its chassis.

“Kids Next Door, BATTLESTATIONS!”

Holly and Kuki broke away as the other three jumped forward onto the table. The two of them made their way to the party guests to begin untying them so they could get away from the battle.

Wally jumped straight for the cake, but the Delightful Children’s machine swiped him out of the air and into a bush. One of the SCAMPERs fired a missile, which the Children’s machine caught and sent hurtling off into the distance.

Nigel and Abby fired directly on the machine, but their gumballs and hot sauce did little more than dent the metal.

It was a poor showing thus far, the Delightful Children noted. Still, they had expected as much. They’d give them five minutes to shape up. After that all bets were off.

Numbuh 4 returned, landing directly on top of their glass dome. He slammed his fists against the glass, attempting to break through to them to no avail. They set the Machine spinning, tossing him away again.

“Is this all? We have to say we’re disappointed, Numbuh 1.”

“Oh yeah? Try this on for size!”

They watched, amused, as he shot at them again. “Oh yes, do keep trying that. Gumballs are such an effective weapon after all--”

One of his gumballs made it inside one of the Machine’s ports and began rattling around inside the vehicle’s depths. From the look on Nigel’s face, that was the goal the entire time.

Very well.

The Delightful Children slammed a giant metal fist into the table, breaking it in half and catapulting Numbuh 1 and Numbuh 5 as well as their cake. The cake they caught, but the operatives found themselves tumbling through a small tree.

Numbuh 818, having finished her half of the party guests, pulled out a metal butterfly net. Or at least it looked like one, though the net had been pulled taut to look like a dream catcher. They fired a cannonball at her, and she avoided the subsequent explosion of vanilla frosting. Then she loaded something into the net, and swung it from the other end like a sling.

A moment later, a beetle the size of a softball impacted the glass dome, uncurled, and hissed at them.

The Delightful Children activated the windshield wipers, and it fell off gracelessly.

“How pitiful. Oh hello again Numbuh 4. Third times the charm?” They smacked him out of the air. “No, obviously not.”

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Numbuh 4 went hurtling through a window and thumped against some bookshelves. Growling, he dusted the broken glass off himself, ripped a leg off a chair, and jumped straight back out, completely oblivious to the enshrouded man sitting in the dark room.

Father blinked at the unexpected intrusion. He stood and walked over to the window to observe the fight.

“Wow, would you look at that? Red, orange, yellow… all they need is purple and they’ll have the whole rainbow out there.” He blew on his pipe for a moment, wondering if he should do something about it.

After a moment, he closed the curtains and walked out of the room. He had to get the housekeeper to clean up this mess.

-----------------------------------

The Moderately Destructive Machine had sprouted a few additional arms to better fend off the KND, who had slowly begun improving during the fight.

Numbuh 2 had landed the SCAMPER and ran in carrying a FRAPPE, and this proved to be an actually effective weapon, freezing the Machine’s arms in place for Numbuh 4 to shatter with his club.

“Is that from the chair in the third-floor library?!” the Delightful Children asked, aghast.

Numbuh 4, seeing the strike coming this time and batting the arm away. “What, you afraid you’ll get in trouble?” he sneered.

The Children’s expressions darkened, and a new device extended from within, blasting him with a laser and forcing him to jump behind cover.

“Hey, I have a question,” Numbuh 818 asked, jumping up on top of their protective dome. She started prying the dome open with her net with limited success.

“What?” they asked testily. The very sight of her annoyed them.

“Whose birthday is it actually?” Holly asked, pausing to look at them. Her spider crawled down from her back and out of their view to the underside of the vehicle.

“Whos--It’s our birthday, idiot. Why did you think you were here?”

“Well, yeah, but which one of you?” Numbuh 818 stopped her futile break-in attempt in favor of just whacking the dome with her staff. “Unless…,” she added, “You somehow have the same birthday?”

“It’s my birthday.”

“You’re all talking, which one is it?”

“Ooh, is it the glasses girl?” Numbuh 3 chirped, popping up on their other side. “I bet it’s the glasses girl. Happy birthday!”

The Delightful Children scowled. “No, it’s not my birthday, it's my--” They growled, spinning the Machine again. Numbuh 3 went flying, but Holly managed to hold on. “Why does this even matter, you little impostor?”

Holly blinked. “Impost--? I guess it doesn’t matter, I was just curious. It was also a useful distraction.”

“Distrac--” The spider crawled onto their control console, waving its legs at them. “AGH?!”

Reflexively, they attempted to smash it, but it scuttled away and they hit a button instead. The arm that was still holding the cake spasmed, throwing it up in the air. Panicking, they ignored the spider still crawling on the floor and scrambled to catch it. They succeeded, nearly throwing 818 off in the process, and the cake was leaning to the side now, but it was still intact.

“Ha! You call that a distraction?” They kicked the bug aside when it tried to climb up David’s leg. “Nice try, bug girl, but it takes more than that to stop us.”

“Oh, no, that was still part of the distraction,” Holly said, jumping off the Machine on her own.

“What?”

“Fire!”

The Delightful Children turned in time to see the other five operatives fire their weapons all at once. Gumballs, ice, hot sauce, golf balls, and Numbuh 4’s chair leg fired from a crude crossbow hit them all at once, flipping the Moderately Destructive Machine flipping end over end. Miraculously, the cake stayed firmly in place, but the Delightful Children were tossed about inside the cockpit. A rattling sound came from inside the mechanisms.

They took a moment to gather themselves. David shook his leg, dislodging the spider that was still in there and had latched onto his pants.

“...Well done, Kids Next Door,” they said, aggravated. “We sincerely didn’t think you would know what you were doing, but you’ve certainly proved us wrong.” They smirked darkly. “Which means we no longer have a reason to hold back. And it looks like it’s time for the party favors!”

They pressed a big blue button.

What was supposed to happen was that every weapon in the Machine would emerge, aim itself at the nearest moving target, and fire all at once. This would have included a giant buzzsaw, the frosting cannon used previously, and a series of lasers with effects ranging from mild sunburn to bruise-inducing concussive blasts.

What actually happened is that only half of those weapons unfolded, until the buzzsaw began to extend, then stopped short, the mechanism prevented from moving further. The Delightful children had enough time to realize that the rattling from that gumball had stopped before the entire machine shuddered, metal shearing metal as parts tried to move and couldn’t.

The Machine spasmed, arms and weapons flailing and firing randomly, throwing the cake high in the air, before it suddenly stopped and fell out of the air, directly into the sole remaining unblemished flowerbed.

There was a moment of silence as the KND operatives came out from behind cover to observe the situation.

(Video) Unusual Kids Born with Super Unique Conditions

One of the guests poked his head out from behind a tree. “Is it over?” Melvin asked.

Charlotte crawled out of the wreck, shaking dust off herself.

“Looks like it…” Nigel said uncertinaly. “Is that how this normally goes?”

“Well, let’s see…” Cree walked over from the SCAMPER, listing off her fingers. “Kids are rescued, a drawn-out fight where the Delightfuls kind of stomped you until everything went wrong for them, then the uh…” She looked around. “Where’d the cake go?”

The Delightful Children pulled themselves out of the wreckage, groaning and looking distinctly green. “The Moderately Destructive Machine… that was our favorite assault vehicle…”

“Are they alright?” Holly asked.

“Who cares?” Wally shrugged.

The tall Delightful in the back staggered, the others mimicking the motion a half-second after. “What did you do to us…?”

Charlotte chittered, and Holly frowned. “Oh, Charlotte bit… one of them? You’re sure it was just one?” she asked, watching all five of them look distinctly ill. Hesitant, she walked over to the villains.

“Numbuh 818, what do you think you’re doing?” Nigel demanded.

Holly shrugged helplessly. “Well, I’ve got the antivenom, and I… It’s not okay to just let them suffer is it?”

The others murmured uncertainly. Nigel scowled and firmly looked away, but didn’t say anything. Cree just made a sort of what can you do gesture and folded her arms.

Stepping forward, Holly pulled a capsule out of her pocket. “Uh, you can just take this and--”

“Don’t come any closer, you freak, we--hurk.”

Frowning at that comment, Holly just took advantage of their weakened state and forced the pill down the tall one’s throat. “Yeah, you’re welcome, whatever.”

Numbuh 5 scratched her head. “Uh, so… where did--Oh.”

Holly looked up and took a hurried step backwards. The cake finished falling, hitting the Delightful Children dead-on and splattering all over them.

The quintet froze, eyes wide.

“Yeah, there it is,” Cree said nonchalantly, curling a third finger in. “Cake is ultimately ruined for both sides. Now it’s a normal birthday mission.”

“Are you ok--ay…?” Holly trailed off, startled at the look of sheer hatred the Children leveled at her. Holly turned and walked away. “I think we should go.”

“Yes, let’s,” Nigel sniffed. He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Alright, party guests, everyone get in the SCAMPERs, we’ll take you home!”

-----------------------------------

Later

The team walked into the debriefing room and sat in the tire pit, dejected.

Cree raised an eyebrow at their behavior. “Whoa, guys, what’s eating you?”

“What’s eating us?” Wally asked. “What about what we’re eating? I was looking forward to that cake!”

“We failed the mission,” Numbuh 1 said stiffly. “Our first time fighting the Delightful Children and we lost.”

Cree scoffed. “Pfft, you didn’t fail the mission.”

“We’re supposed to steal the cake and give it to the kids who would have been forced to watch them eat it, weren’t we?” Holly asked.

“Instead it got destroyed,” Nigel confirmed.

“That’s what always happens,” Cree insisted. She walked around to the podium and leaned on it, giving them a reassuring smirk. “Listen, in all my time as an operative, I’ve only seen the Delightful Birthday mission succeed completely once, and that was the one time Sector Q and Sector N backed us up because the Delightful Children had rented out an entire stadium for their party. We thought they had a big blowout planned, and it turned out it was just to hold more hostages--anyway. Every other time, either we lose, or the cake gets destroyed. Every time. And yeah, it sucks,” she conceded, “but it doesn’t make you a failure. If it did, then that makes me and Numbuh 9 and the 8’s all failures too. Numbuh 5, you were at the last birthday mission, don’t you remember what happened?”

Numbuh 5 winced. “Ooh, yeah… It took forever to get Numbuh 5’s hair clean.”

“You may not have gotten the cake for the kids, but at least you kept it out of the Delightful Children's mouths too,” Cree said. She grinned. “And you got to humiliate them too. Did you see the look on their faces? Hilarious.”

“Yeah, it was pretty good,” Hoagie agreed. Kuki giggled at the memory.

“So you guys came out of it better than normal.”

Nigel considered that. After a moment he relaxed, satisfied. “Alright, yeah… Yeah, that makes me feel a bit better.”

Holly hummed. “...And you know… maybe we can make it a complete success after all?”

Cree frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean. Maybe I could make a replacement cake?” Holly offered.

Cree stared at her, face blank. “What.”

“Hey, yeah!” Hoagie said. “Numbuh 818’s a great cook! Remember those brownies she made when we were cadets?”

Kuki nodded. “They were really good!”

“Hold on, this is the first I heard about this,” Abby said. “You gave Numbuh 5 oatmeal raisin when it could’ve been brownies instead?”

“The kitchen in the Treehouse is kind of weird,” Holly said, “so I haven’t done much. But I bet I could make something anyway, I’d just need to find a good oven. And the ingredients, of course…”

“Are you serious?” Cree asked. “818, you were standing right there when the cake fell, did you not get any on you? You didn’t taste any?”

“...No? I was dirty from the fight, I wasn’t going to eat any that got on my dress.”

“Oh man, you missed out. There’s a reason the mission is ‘capture the cake’ instead of just ‘save the party guests.’” Cree sighed contentedly. “I remember that time they had a red velvet cake, two years ago. I managed to sneak a taste and it was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Nothing else has ever compared… I don’t know where they get their cakes from, but the day I find out is the day the KND lays siege to a bakery.”

“Is it really that good?” Kuki asked.

“I wouldn’t say it’s worth dying for… but it might be close.” Cree shook herself. “I don’t really see the point in trying to replace something like that. There’s no comparison.”

Holly blinked, taken aback. “Excuse me?”

“Don’t bother with the cake,” Cree said again. “There’s no way you can stack up to theirs, so why waste the effort?”

Holly stared at her. “...Well, I mean. It wouldn’t be wasted. We’d have a cake, then.”

Cree just shrugged. “Whatever. You kids do what you want.” Cree froze, mouthing her last sentence to herself. “Excuse me, I gotta go do… something. Hope your cake goes well.” She hurried out.

Holly stared fixedly ahead.

The others exchanged looks, and Abby carefully reached out to put a hand on Holly’s shoulder. “Hey, you know Cree didn’t--”

“...Can’t stack up? What does that mean, can’t stack up? I’m not as good as someone else, so why try?” Holly brushed her hand off and stood. She held a hand to her chin, thinking, pacing from one wall to the next. Is that really what she thinks? How does that make any sense, she’s never even had my cooking. She doesn’t know!”

“Er,” Nigel began. “Numbuh 818, are you--”

“It’s going to be chocolate, with three--no, five layers!” She counted, ticking off her fingers. “I need an oven. The ones in the Treehouse suck. Hoagie!”

Numbuh 2 jumped. “Me?”

You are going to help me.” Holly grabbed him by the wrist and started dragging him to the door. “If I can’t find a good oven, we’ll build one.”

“But I--okay?”

The door closed behind them, leaving the others to sit there awkwardly.

“...Do you think we should do something about that?” Numbuh 3 asked.

“Yeah, we should wait until she’s done and then we’ll eat,” Wally declared, kicking his feet up. “Who cares whether it’s as good as the other one? Cake is cake.”

“Works for me,” Numbuh 5 agreed. “Though maybe we should see if she needs more help than just Numbuh 2.”

“Numbuh 818 doesn’t need help in the kitchen,” Nigel said confidently.

“Numbuh 2 might, though…”

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Bee’s Knees

“Alright Kenny, so: a customer buys a bag of fruit gummies, a honey cake, and a chocolate bar. The total comes out to $6.54 and they hand you a twenty dollar bill. What is their change?”

“$13.46,” the teen replied instantly.

Taylor nodded. “I’m impressed, you didn’t have to think about that at all. Are you still in school?”

“I’m a junior at McClintock,” Kenny confirmed. “I don’t really have any extracurriculars, so I don’t have to wait until summer to start, I can be here at four every day.”

“Alright then,” Taylor said. “Any particular reason you chose to work here instead, say, the arcade, or the Chicken Bucket?”

Kenny tilted his hand in a so-so motion. “I don’t wanna work in fast food if I can avoid it. Can’t stand the grease, plus have you ever been in one of those kitchens? It’s a cesspool back there. As for the arcade…” He frowned. “Uh, I’m too likely to run into some of my classmates there.”

Taylor’s eyes softened. “Oh, I understand entirely. Well, you seem like a fine young man, so I--”

The bell over the door rang and Holly walked in with a determined expression. Hoagie followed after her looking faintly worried.

“Oh, hello honey,” Taylor called. “Is something wrong?”

“I gotta bake a cake,” Holly said. “Can we use the store’s ovens?”

“What’s wrong with the one at home?”

“Not big enough. This cake is going to be taller than me.”

Kenny raised his eyebrows. That would be a tall cake indeed.

Taylor shrugged. “I don’t have a problem with it. Just be careful. Make sure to let me know when you start baking so I can help keep an eye on it.”

“Thanks Mom.” Holly walked purposefully into the kitchen.

“Hi, Ms, Hebert,” Hoagie said awkwardly, following.

Taylor turned back to Kenny, who had been waiting politely for her to continue. “Alright, as I was saying, I just want to ask you about one of your references. How exactly do you know Professor Large?”

Kenny closed his eyes, looked pained. “I don’t… Okay, that’s a long story. Basically, a lab chimp broke his entire collection of dangerous diseases and I got infected by… pretty much all of it.”

Taylor stared at him. She took two steps backwards, not taking her eyes off of him. “You seem to have recovered admirably.”

“Yeah, they all kind of… canceled each other out?”

“That’s not how that works.”

“I thought so too, but that’s what the professor said.” He shrugged, not really willing to go into it further.

“And that led to you putting him as a reference, why exactly?”

Kenny shrugged. “I’ll be honest, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought you’d see a professor on my resume and be impressed.”

That was fair, she supposed. And in a way, it had worked. “...Here, let me show you how to run the register.”

------------------------------------------

“Hey 818, your mom already has some chocolate cake mix,” Hoagie said, climbing down the stepladder with the bag in his hands. He looked around.

Numbuh 2 had never really given much thought to what the back rooms of a store looked like, but he’d seen cartoons and comics and caught glimpses through those employee only doors at the CostMore. He’d been left with the idea of cavernous gray rooms with shelves of boxes stretching up into shadowy ceilings. The door behind the register of the Bee’s Knees was not that. There were the shelves of course, a few boxes of name brands, but mostly it was jars of sealed plastic containers of homemade confections. A cooler filled with soda hummed in the corner by the door. An extremely out of place barrel sat right next to it.

Most surprising was that a quarter of the room had been cordoned off into a kitchenette with cabinets, a simple sofa and a coffee table. There was a microwave, a coffee machine, and a state-of-the-art stovetop oven that still looked brand new.

“Why does your mom have a kitchen in her store?”

“What?” Holly looked up from the list she was making. “Oh. It’s for making stuff right here in the store. Also it’s the break room. Also Charlotte heard her telling Grandpa about a safehouse? That’s not important, get rid of the pre-made mix. I’m making this from scratch.”

Hoagie shuffled nervously. “Are you feeling okay, Holly? I’ve never seen you this mad before… or, mad at all even.”

“Mad? I’m not mad, why would I be mad?” Holly said. The tip of her pencil snapped off and she threw it across the room where it rolled under a shelf. “I only offered to make a new cake, and got shot down for not being good enough before I even had a chance. Why would I be mad about that?”

“Er…?” Hoagie looked down to avoid her eyes and saw a team of ants carrying the pencil back to her while a stag beetle sat on top, sharpening it again. “I mean, I’d be mad if someone didn’t let me build something just because someone else had already done it better?”

(Video) COCOMELON BABY FOLLOWS US HOME! Can AUBREY & CALEB Escape THE CRAZY DOLL?

Holly sighed. “Okay, no. Sorry. I just--it’s one thing to be told I’m not good at something, but to not even be allowed to try? How am I supposed to get better?”

“But Numbuh 11 is letting us try,” Hoagie pointed out.

“Only because I complained, and it’s obvious she doesn’t expect much. Well, I’ll show her.” Holly huffed and took her pencil back. “Thank you Clarise. Now, I’m gonna need the best ingredients I can find. I’ve prepared a list, but we might need to look up where to get some of this. I know there’s some really good sugar mines, but where can we get butter?”

Dragging a stool over so he could join her at the counter, Hoagie inspected her list. “Hm… Well… I guess you don’t want to go to the store?”

Holly frowned, then shook her head. “I guess if we have to, but I want to see what my options are first.”

Hoagie closed one eye, thinking. “Well… you already know that a lot of our weapons use food as ammo…”

----------------------

Kids Next Door Secret Super Farm & Depot

“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet y’all!” The auxiliary operative shook their hands vigorously as they stepped off the SCAMPER. “I’m sure glad to meet ya, c’mon!”

The skinny boy in the hat as big as he was led them through the farm, which stretched for acres in every direction.

“Let me introduce myself,” he said cheerily. “I’m Numbuh High Noon, and I’m the chief security officer of the Super Farm!” He led them past rows of corn and fields of potatoes. “Sorry fer the long walk, we usually have a few wagons around but they’re not doin’ well right now.”

“What do you mean?” Numbuh 2 asked.

“Ah, well.” Numbuh High Noon scratched the back of his neck. “We’re just the farm, you know, and it’s kind of a waste of resources fer us to get around the base with a COOLBUS or a SCAMPER like yours. Not to mention they’re awful big, and we need as much space for the produce as possible. We’ve been using the old Scampers that use the dogs, and they--never you mind that. I heard y’all were in the market for some fresh supply?”

Holly pulled out her list and handed it over. High Noon inspected it, reading slowly.

“Hoo-wee, you lookin’ to assault a castle? This’ll mess up anyone who tries to mess with you, guarantee it.”

“Oh, no, we’re not using it for--”

“Watcha lookin’ for on those eggs? You want a nice big splatter? Or are you lookin fer a shell hard enough to crack the plaster? Oh, yer a tall one, maybe you got a plus size weapon? We got some emus in and they just started laying. Soon as we can get the eggs away from ‘em without getting our arms broke, we’ll be in business.”

“Actually, I want--”

“And this butter, and the milk, yer in luck. We jest had a big batch go spoiled in the sun and it reeks like you would not believe. Any adult you hit with that is gonna be showering fer weeks, guarantee it. And Numbuh Goose Egg managed to make the runniest, nastiest butter you ever did see.”

Holly waited until she was sure he was done, then corrected his misconception. “Actually, I’m looking for, um, good ingredients. For cooking.”

High Noon looked at her like she’d said something crazy. “818, what kinda operation do you think I’m runnin’ here? This is the primary ammunitions depot for the entire Kids Next Door. This food ain’t for eatin’, it’s for bashing faces in. We’ve been breeding crops and animals for their worst, not the best.”

Holly frowned. “Well, alright, sorry for wasting your time--”

That said…” he said, cutting her off, “There’s always a few odds and ends that don’t meet our standards, which means they might meet yours.” He straightened his hat. “Goose Egg always sneaks some of the butter away when she thinks I’m not lookin’, and I doubt she’d eat the stuff we put in the weapons.” High Noon folded his arms. “But, well…”

“Well what?” Hoagie asked. “We take the stuff you don’t have a use for, everyone’s happy, right?”

High Noon coughed. “Well. I don’t think I can exactly just give it to you.”

“Are you serious? You don’t even want it,” Holly argued. “You distribute tons and tons of garbage food to the Sectors for free, but you want to charge for the actually good stuff?” She paused. “That argument sounded better in my head.”

“I don’t really have much use for money,” High Noon clarified. “I basically live on the base, and so do most of the others. We eat the castoffs ourselves, so if you wanna take the cream of the crop we gotta get some compensation.”

“You’re eating the vegetables?” Hoagie asked, surprised.

“Corn and potatoes ain’t so bad. Numbuh 41 likes carrots, but I could take or leave ‘em.” High Noon shrugged. “So, what do you have to offer?”

Hoagie hummed. “Well… You know, these pathways you have might work for a modified SHOPPINGDART. I’d need to alter the wheels for the uneven ground, and maybe make it electric instead of using the turbo nozzle, and you’d have an easy way to get around the farm without relying on your dogs. The shopping cart would be useful for carrying the produce, too. If you’ve got some shopping carts and a couple riding mowers I can have three built in about an hour.”

“And I can walk around the field and make sure there aren't any bugs messing with the crops--”

High Noon clapped his hands. “Sold, let’s get you yer ingredients. I think I jest might have something your speed after all. In fact, I can guarantee it.”

---

He led them to a massive chicken coop. Most had clearly been bred for making nasty eggs like he’d said, but near the back he’d shown them some much healthier-looking birds.

“How many eggs you think you need?”

“Let’s say two dozen, just to be safe,” Holly guessed. “I’m making a lot of batter.”

High Noon whistled. “Well, let’s see if ol’ Gilda is in the mood today. Gilda!” he hollered, tapping on the back wall of the barn. It seemed as if he was just knocking for no reason, but closer inspection revealed he was in fact tapping in very precise places. After a complicated sequence, a panel slid open, and golden light shone through the gap.

Holly shielded her eyes, and when the light had faded, she beheld the most glorious hen she’d even seen. The only one she’d ever seen were the sickly ones near the entrance of the barn, but still.

She was taller than Holly sitting down and her feathers glistened like gold. She stirred as High Noon approached and glowered at him reproachfully.

“Howdy girl, we just need a few eggs and we’ll be out of yer--there you go.”

Gilda stood up from her nest, revealing a great many normal-sized eggs with a curious golden sheen. High Noon started scooping them up.

“I thought you said they were bred to suck?” Holly asked, incredulous.

“Yeah, well.” Numbuh High Noon shrugged. “All them good genes had to go somewhere, right?”

---

The butter was much less dramatic, but it was still good butter. Holly was almost afraid that they’d run into a cow made of diamonds or something for the milk, but they never even went into the dairy barn. A girl who turned out to be Numbuh Goose Egg just handed them a few bottles with a smile.

“So I’m guessin’ yer baking something?” High Noon asked while Hoagie worked on the new vehicles. The farmers had provided a cooler for them to keep their spoils in while they fulfilled their ends of the bargain.

“Oh, yeah. 818’s baking a cake to replace the one we lost at the Delightful Children’s birthday party.” Hoagie gave the SHOPPINGDART a test start, and it hummed to life easily. “That one’s done, wanna give it a spin?”

“Oh, sure.” Numbuh High Noon jumped into the driver's seat. He hesitated. “Now, jest so I know what’s what: you’re not saying that your friend is replacing the cake for the Delightfuls, right?”

Hoagie blinked. “Wha--no, of course not. Why would we do that?”

High Noon relaxed. “Okay, good.”

Before he could go tearing out into the fields, Holly came in slightly covered in mud. “Okay, bad news and good news. Bad news is that the grasshoppers and aphids in your fields are shrewd negotiators. Good news is that they have way lower standards for good food than humans. They’re willing to just take some off the top of the final products of nastiness instead of attacking the crops themselves, and as a bonus I got them to agree to keep less reasonable pests away from the fields.”

“I’ll take it,” High Noon said. “Thank you kindly, folks. Pleasure doing business with you. Save me a slice of cake, alright?”

----------------------------------

Numbuh 2 chuckled to himself on the flight back.

“Thinking up puns again, Hoagie?”

“Yes actually, but that’s not why I’m laughing.” Numbuh 2 shook his head, amused. “Numbuh High Noon actually needed me to tell him you weren’t making the cake for the Delightful Children, can you believe it?”

Holly didn’t answer.

Numbuh 2 swiveled in his chair to stare at her. “Numbuh 818, can you believe it?”

“Well, no of course it’s not for them, but--”

“Holly?!” Hoagie gasped. “What’s--why would--are you serious?!”

“They were jerks who were gonna make everyone else watch as they ate, but it was still their birthday that we ruined,” Holly said. “If they asked for a slice--”

“You can’t feel bad for the Delightful Children!” Hoagie insisted. He took his hand off the wheel so he could throw them up into the air. “They’re monsters! Also, they’re rich and they can just buy a new one themselves.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Holly said. She spun her chair around for a bit and sighed.

“Are you alright?” Numbuh 2 asked, looking at her worriedly. “You’re not still mad, are you?”

“I’m frustrated,” Holly said. “Maybe if I’d had some of their cake I’d know what I was working towards… I dunno.”

“It’s going to be great,” Hoagie said. “You turned all that junk at the Arctic Base into something worth eating, and now you’ve got good food to work with.”

Holly nodded at that, perking up a bit. She was looking forward to the baking itself. She couldn’t wait to see what came of it.

Hoagie snickered to himself, changing the subject. “Hey. 818. You know what baking makes you?”

“It makes a cake.”

“No, it makes you a batterfly.”

Holly groaned.

“Not a fan? I guess I was kind of milking it.”

“I don’t want to egg you on.”

“I’ve got lots of butter puns, I can churn them out all day!”

“Please don’t.” Holly was smiling against her will.

“Don’t be chicken!” Hoagie said gleefully. “I don’t mean to bug you, but you knead to get used to my baking jokes! I’ve got a million of them!”

-------------------------------------

Sector V Treehouse

Cree grumbled. She’d been reading the same comic book page for the past ten minutes and hadn’t absorbed anything. She couldn’t even remember what superhero this is.

“Major Glory’s overrated anyway,” she said to herself, tossing the comic under her bed. She slumped into her bean bag chair, staring at nothing. You kids do what you want. You kids.

Cree was still kicking herself over that. She couldn’t believe she’d said something like that.

Her communicator rang, and she picked it up, hopeful for a distraction. “Hello, this is Numbuh 11. What’s up?”

“Numbuh 11! Good, I’ve been meaning to talk to you but you always seem busy,” the kid on the other side said.

“It’s Sector V, there’s always something going on. But I’m here now, so go ahead.”

“I’m Numbuh 11th Hour. I’m the official Twelfth Birthday Party Coordinator, and since yours is only a couple weeks away, we want to make sure it’s a good one, deserving of such a successful operative as yourself. If you could find the time to come up to the Moonbase to discuss things--”

Cree clicked the device shut, cutting the call.

“...I need some fresh air.” She stood and walked outside.

-------------------------------------

Bee’s Knees

They stowed the ingredients away in the employee fridge with a big note saying DON’T TOUCH. Walking outside to avoid the small crowd of customers inside, Holly and Hoagie checked some things off the list.

“What now?” Hoagie asked, leaning against a truck parked on the curb. “The flour?”

“Mm. The farm took up more time than I expected,” Holly said. “I guess store-bought flour is fine. I’m going to get the expensive stuff though, I’ve been saving my allowance up.”

“You really want to spend your allowance on a cake just to prove yourself to Cree?”

“It’s my money and I can spend it how I want,” Holly huffed. “Now, I think I know the best place to get the chocolate. Do you read the RUMOR Mill?”

“Not really?” Hoagie pulled a stick of deodorant out of his pocket and unfolded it into a communicator. “The Treehouse is kind of outdated compared to other sectors so it doesn’t really connect to the secondary network, just the primary one. All missions, no chatrooms.”

“Really?” Holly asked. “Well I just read the print editions.”

“Oh, pfft.” He waved a hand dismissively. “You’d think a kids newspaper would have more pictures. I’m working on updating the Sector V mainframe, but there’s just so many projects.”

“Anyway,” Holly said. “A volcano made of chocolate appeared in Hawaii a couple weeks ago, and that’s where we’re getting the good stuff.”

“Really? Should we invite the others if we’re going to Hawaii?”

Holly paused to consider that. “...No, not this time. We can fly out there anytime, but I want to get this cake done today if possible. I’ll make a better cake than anything the Delightful Children ever had.”

“I thought you were getting over that.” Hoagie said. The initial worry had long since faded into amused exasperation. “818, Cree isn’t like 274 you know…”

Holly smiled. “I know, but I still want to do my best, and if my best just so happens to be better than theirs…” she trailed off, not really needing to finish the sentence.

Well, Hoagie could understand that sentiment at least. He was proud of his own high score in Yipper Wrestling Club.

(Video) Toy Master's Escape Room Challenge

They scurried to where they’d parked the SCAMPER.

Behind them, the ice cream truck started its engine and drove off as well, the driver inside making a call.

--------------------------------

Sector H - Volcocoano Forward Base

They could smell the chocolate from miles away.

Sector H in Hawaii was situated not where one might have expected. Unlike Sector J, which sat on top of a titanic palm tree on a sandy beach, Sector H was further inland on the island of Maui, and was nestled in the branches of an enormous acacia. A mix of both traditional and modern Hawaiian architecture was spread out in the tree, and Holly admired it for the brief moment they sped past it before heading to the base on the new island of Koko Wela.

The base was still being constructed, a tree being rapidly grown by some means Holly couldn’t discern. It was growing fast enough that she could hear it creaking as they walked past, and Charlotte, who could hear different sounds than she could, found it highly disturbing.

What was already in place looked reminiscent of an oil platform. From what they could tell, it had been built with the expectation that the tree would grow out from under it, eventually lifting it into the sky. For now it just sat on stilts. A massive drill pointed straight down to the ground, and a pumping station had been set up over two other holes. Operatives were everywhere trying to get things built.

“Excuse me,” Holly said, and was ignored. The boy she’d tried to hail hadn’t even heard her. The second attempt went better. “Excuse me?”

“Oh, yes hello?” A girl stopped what she was doing, carrying a wheelbarrow filled with bags of cement mix. “Are you the security we asked Moonbase for?” she asked. “That was fast, we only just sent the message!”

“No, we’re here to pick up some chocolate,” Numbuh 2 said.

Holly tilted her head, concerned. “You guys need security? I heard the situation was handled.”

The girl, whose name tag identified her and Numbuh 5-0, waggled her hand in a so-so motion. “It’s handled for now, but Numbuh 30c thought it was better to be careful. If the adults change their minds about leaving us be, we’d pretty quickly be surrounded.”

“Makes sense,” Hoagie said. “So, do you have any leftovers just lying around, or do we need to put in a request, or…?”

Numbuh 5-0 hummed. “Well, it depends on what you’re after. Right here we’re just collecting hot cocoa. If you want that you can take as much as you want.”

“Maybe next time,” Holly said. “I need it for a cake I’m baking, and I was kind of banking on their being more than just the hot chocolate.”

“Oh there is,” she assured them. “Have you looked down? The sand is cocoa powder.”

They checked their shoes. Hoagie scraped some of the substance off and sniffed it. “Hey, it is!” He made to stick it in his mouth, but Holly slapped it off his hand.

“Hoagie, that was on the ground! That’s unsanitary!”

5-0 snickered. “Anyway, there’s a cave a little ways up the mountain we discovered where actual chocolate bars can just be mined out of the ground. Numbuh 626 is up there right now, just follow the signs.” With that she picked up the wheelbarrow again and went on her way.

---

As they went, Holly and Hoagie looked around. Now that it had been pointed out to them, they couldn’t help but notice that almost everything was made of some kind of chocolate.

There were more plants than you’d think a brand new island would have, though it was mostly just grass and flowers. Made of fondant, with sprinkles for pollen, if the way they broke under their feet was any indication. Holly almost wished she’d brought more than just Charlotte. Most of her bugs would’ve loved this place; it would be like the promised land to them. On the other hand she’d never get them to leave…

“Aloha!” someone called.

A small shack had been erected next to a hole in the ground, and a short Hawaiian girl in a red dress waved at them from the door.

“I was just about to head back, but I can help you if you want,” she said.

“Are you Numbuh 626?” Holly asked.

“I am,” 626 agreed. “I’m still getting used to being kinda-sorta famous!”

“Numbuh 818 told me about what you did on the way here,” Numbuh 2 said as they climbed down into the mine. “How did you convince all those adults to leave you guys alone?”

“Oh, you know…” 626 pulled a flashlight out and slapped it until it came on. “There’s so much to go around, us kids can’t really ever make a difference. Herschel Chocolate plans on selling it to millions, and so even if we drank our fill every day it would only be a drop in the bucket.” She jumped over a rock, then turned around to inspect it. “That wasn’t there before… be careful, we might need to shore up this tunnel. Anyway, I mostly just told them that their real competition was each other. We’re just kids selling lemonade, but only one company can have all the cocoa to themselves. So now Herschel and Bestlé are at war with each other on the opposite side of the island.”

“And that was all?” Hoagie asked. “I mean… it’s kind of amazing that they listened to you at all.”

“People listen when I speak,” Numbuh 626 said, and gave no other explanation. “Here we are,” she announced. She picked a lantern up and turned it on, lighting up the tunnel.

As promised, fully-formed chocolate bars were embedded in the walls. In places they looked more like tiled walls than a cave, there were so many chocolate squares everywhere. They stuck up out of the ground like crystals in a video game. Holly plucked one from the ground, and it broke off at the naturally cut edges. They looked exactly like store-bought candy bars with the sole exception of the logo, which they didn’t have stamped on yet.

Holly took a bite and hummed happily. “This is really good,” she said.

“Oh, so you get to eat off the ground,” Hoagie grumbled. He picked a square up himself and popped it in his mouth. “Ooh, this one’s dark chocolate.”

“Yep!” 626 pointed off deeper into the tunnel. “There’s also white chocolate deeper in, and Numbuh 808 swears he found one with caramel inside it but no one believes him.”

“Numbuh 2, grab some dark ones, I bet that’ll be good to mix in,” Holly said, snapping off a few of her own.

“Is it really okay for us to just take these?” Hoagie asked.

“Sure, why wouldn’t it be?” 626 said. “We’ve got so much, and we’re only just starting to mine it all out.” She grabbed one of her own and started eating. “Grab what you need and let’s go.” The tunnel shuddered, a minor tremor shaking a few squares loose. “But quickly.”

Not needing to be told twice, Holly and Hoagie fille their bags with as many chocolate squares as they’d hold and let 626 lead them back out.

“So why were you out here by yourself?” Holly asked as they climbed back to the surface. “Numbuh 5-0 said the others were worried about the adults coming back, is it safe to be alone?”

“No, I’m fine,” 626 said.

“But I don’t even see any weapons on you,” Hoagie noted, climbing up the ladder first.

“Well--”

Hoagie yelped, and the girls climbed up faster to find him sitting in a pile of ice cream, shivering.

Five men in white uniforms were brandishing weapons at them.

“FREEZE!”

Hoagie scrambled to his feet in time to avoid a rain of waffle cones, Holly jumping to avoid them as well. She knocked a few out of the air with her bag, but with five different weapons firing all at once she had to keep moving. There wasn’t any cover out here, and they weren’t giving her a chance to retaliate; their vehicles were just behind them, maybe if she managed to get behind one she could--

“OH, I get it, freeze.” 626 laughed. “Cuz you’re using ice cream. That’s really funny! Which of you came up with that?”

The Ice Cream Men aimed their weapons on her but didn’t fire when 626 made no move to dodge or get out of the way. She just smiled sweetly at them.

“What, don’t be shy,” she said, “I wanna know who came up with something so clever!”

They hesitated. Slowly, one of them lowered his weapon and raised his hand. The second from Holly’s right, and the only one who didn’t have five o’clock shadow. “I thought it would be funny, cuz, cuz we use frozen food to fight, to yell ‘freeze’ at youse.”

“It was funny, wasn’t it Numbuh 2?” 626 asked.

Hoagie jumped at being singled out, but he laughed nervously and said, “Y-yeah, I thought it was pretty… cool.”

The Ice Cream Man snorted, while the others groaned. “Brat, don’t encourage him,” the shortest one said.

“Why not?” Numbuh 626 asked, as innocent as can be. “I think if he has a talent he should use it, and good comedy is so hard to find. I mean, have you seen what passes for TV right now?”

“Ugh, tell me about it,” the short man said. “Just last night I was watching the new Wimpsons and it was an actual beat-for-beat retread of an old one. They got a horse, again. If it weren’t for the new and improved animation I’d have thought it was rerun.”

“Well I can’t say much to that, I’m not allowed to watch it,” 626 said. While the Ice Cream Men had been talking, she’d walked closer to them and was now within arm’s reach of the first man who’d talked. “Would you like some?” she asked, holding out her chocolate. “There’s plenty to go around.”

“Oh, uh, thanks.”

Holly and Hoagie exchanged bewildered looks. What was happening?

“So what brings you out here anyway?” 626 asked.

“Oh, we got told by the bosses that we could find chocolate out here--”

“Frankie, shut up!”

“But she’s so polite!”

“Why thank you!” 626 said, curtsying.

“Yeah, we were told to follow those brats,” Frankie said, pointing at Holly and Hoagie. “And I think the implication was to stop them?”

“There’s no need for that,” 626 assured. “There’s plenty to go around, and now that you’re here you can just set up your own claim elsewhere. The candy and beverage companies are fighting on the north side of the island and we’re pretty set up here on the south, but I think you’ll find some mostly unstaked land to the west, that way,” she finished, pointing.

The Ice Cream Men had the distinct impression something was wrong, but couldn’t quite place what it was. But they looked at this little girl’s sincerely smiling face, and then at the other two who, having been given a moment to gather themselves, had now drawn weapons. The Ice Cream Man collectively decided it wasn’t worth the bother.

“...Thanks kid, we’ll go gather some and head back home, right boys?”

The others murmured agreement, piled into their trucks, and drove off.

The three of them were left in silence, and Numbuh 626 turned and beamed at them.

“How did you do that?” Hoagie asked in wonder. “You just talked, and they stopped.”

“Like I told you earlier. People listen when I speak. I don’t know why, they just do. Now, let’s get you going, we’ve got a lot of work to do here still.”

----------------------------------------

Bee’s Knees

Holly bounced into the store. “Hi Mom! Hi Uncle Big!”

Professor XXXL waved at her, taking his attention off the cowering cashier. “Why hello there Holly!” He held his arms wide for a hug.

Holly ducked under his arms without seeming to notice the invitation. “Bye Uncle Big! Busy busy!”

The Professor blinked, not used to being ignored by anyone, particularly not Holly. “Sssay, what’s up with you?” he asked, but she was already slipping into the back. He turned to Numbuh 2 for an explanation. “What’s eating her?”

“It’s more like what we didn’t get to eat,” Hoagie said. “We lost the cake at the--actually, I’m not sure I should be telling you this,” he interrupted himself, suddenly remembering that this man had been in prison at the Arctic Base before.

“Oh, pshaw!” XXXL scoffed. “I’m trustworthy, isn’t that right Kenny my boy?”

The cashier looked like he wanted to floor to swallow him up. “You put me in the hospital, Professor.”

“And I paid the bills! And provided all the samples needed to cure you! Honestly, you never saw Chimpy being so ungrateful.”

“Alright, alright,” Ms. Hebert said, coming out of her office. “Move along, Hoagie. Kenny, you can take your break now if you want, I need to talk to Xander here.”

“Thank you ma’am,” Kenny said emphatically, hurrying into the back. Hoagie followed more slowly.

“So, you had an update on my order?”

“Ah yes, they’re growing quite well, though I won’t know if the mutations took hold until they’re fully grown,” XXXL said, pulling a few crumpled pictures out of his lab coat. “See, there’s your mantis, it’s already up to my waist, and here’s the beetle’s pupa, that’s me standing next to it.”

Taylor looked, and her eyes widened. “Lord, it must be the size of my car.”

“And it’ll have a few molts left after it emerges, too!” he agreed enthusiastically. “I love working with insects, they’re so fascinating!”

“Where am I even going to keep it?” Taylor muttered. “I should have thought of that. I might need to rob a bank after all just to afford the warehouse I’ll need to house these things.”

“Oh?” XXXL handed her the photos. “Did you have something else in mind?”

“I was going to attack city hall,” Taylor said, skimming through the photos again. “There’s a few local ordinances I take exception to. Plus the HOA, they’ve been harassing me about my beehives, which they shouldn’t even care about since they’re in the backyard. I didn’t even sign their contract, and they still think they can tell me what to do with my property.”

XXXL sucked air through his teeth. “Ooh, you might have some trouble with that. There’s three homeowner’s associations in Adultville, and one of them is headed by a member of GUISE. You should make sure you know which one you’re dealing with before you try anything.”

“Ugh. I’ll put a pin in that then. Maybe I’ll just do something out of town then. There was that bank back in Aron City that made things unnecessarily complicated, and I swear they were doing it on purpose--”

Something in the kitchen exploded.

“We’re okay!” Holly called. “Hoagie’s upgrading the oven!”

Taylor sighed. “I think I’m getting a stress headache. Alright,” she said. “Is the mayor a GUISE member?”

“No, but he’s in a lot of pockets,” XXXL said. “You’ll need to make a heck of an impression if you want him to change some things and not immediately have someone pay him to change them back. Luckily, I think assault by a mantis-man might do the trick, for a while at least.”

“Let’s hope.”

------------

Kenny watched, fascinated, as the two small children worked. The boss’s kid prepared multiple bowls of chocolate cake batter with only occasional glances at a recipe book. The other kid was steadily taking apart the oven, inspecting each piece, and adding parts from the staff microwave. Already it looked totally different; it was still the same shape, and he could see the appliance it had once been, buried underneath all the new parts, but somehow the kid had made the thing bigger as he worked.

Kenny had been watching the entire time and he still had no idea how he did it. “Are you guys sure this is okay? I’m not going to get in trouble for not stopping you, am I?”

Holly paused in her stirring, looked at the plastic shell that had once been a microwave and the twisted remains of the coffeemaker. “...We can rough you up a bit if you’d like, so you can claim you tried to stop us,” Holly offered.

(Video) Panorama: Pro-GM Bias Revealed!

“...I’m good,” Kenny decided. He wasn’t sure if they were kidding, but either way it wouldn’t be a good look. He didn’t want to say two first-graders beat him up, he’d never live that down.

Hoagie finished replacing the last heating coil and wiped his hands. “Okay, I think I got it. If I did it right, this baby will heat the entire inside of it evenly all at once. No crusty outside to the cake, it’ll be the same all the way through. I think I’ll call it… uh…” He tapped his chin. “The Over… Very… something with an E then an N. Or maybe I could call it the roasteroven. Or maybe I should save that one, a roaster would be a good thing to call a toaster-based weapon.”

“What about a macrowave?” Kenny suggested. “Cuz it’s bigger than a microwave.”

“Hm…”

Holly poured the batter into two large circular pans. “As long as it works, you can call it whatever. Do you know how fast it’ll bake?” She set the pans inside, one above and one below.

“Your recipe says it takes half an hour to bake?” Hoagie asked. “Should take five to ten in the macrowave. Yeah, I like that name.”

It did, in fact, take exactly six minutes to bake to Holly’s satisfaction. She prepared three more pans, the last two small enough to sit side by side in the oven, and while those baked she started icing the two bottom layers.

What frosting she’d found wasn’t terrible by any means, but it wasn’t homemade either. It wasn’t a big deal for Holly, who considered the icing the least important part of the cake, as opposed to the actual cake part of the cake, but she didn’t know how the others felt about it. Next time she baked she’d go to the trouble of doing homemade frosting.

Kenny took the stirring spoon and tasted the leftover batter. “Hey, whoa. This is really good, actually.”

“You think so?” Holly asked. “I’m kind of… nervous…” she trailed off, watching the older teen eating directly out of the bowl. “Uh. That’s the kind of thing I’d expect from you, Numbuh 2.”

“I wanted to, but I saw the ants around the bowl.”

Kenny stopped and began inspecting the bowl carefully. He swallowed harshly and set it back down.

“Hey, shoo, shoo!” Holly ordered, waving the ants away. “Sorry girls, but this isn’t for you!”

As the ants dejectedly walked away, the macrowave dinged and Holly was able to finish.

Kenny checked the clock. “Wow, that was fast. You kids are something else. Do you want any help getting that outside?”

Holly brightened. “Would you? Thanks a lot.”

He carefully lifted the platter with both hands. The cake swayed a little, but by virtue of its shape and thick frosting it didn’t seem in danger of falling over any time soon.

Taylor and the professor looked up as they walked back into the store proper. “Oh, that… was fast.” Taylor’s brow furrowed. “Wait, what did you do to the--”

“Bye Mom, thanks for letting us use the kitchen! I’ll save you a slice!”

They hurried out before she could say anything else. Kenny set the platter down in the SCAMPER and they took off.

Kenny watched them go, a little perplexed at the flying van, but that wasn’t a really big deal. He’d seen weirder. Honestly he was more concerned by the fact that it was a kid driving.

A car horn had him stepping back from the road as three ice cream trucks drove by. He watched those too, since it was kind of unusual to see more than one at a time, which is why he saw their wheels pull up off the road when they started flying after the kids.

It wasn’t a long journey to the Treehouse, but Hoagie had decided to go slowly just in case. “So 818, what are we going to do after we get back? Aside from eating the cake, that’s obvious.”

The SCAMPER shook, but they disregarded it. It was probably just turbulence or something.

“I think we should try and call back the kids who the Delightful Children had captured. That was kind of the whole idea earlier, that since we couldn’t get their cake, we’d--”

Hoagie froze and turned to the radar, frowning.

“...Numbuh 2?”

They shook again, then a waffle cone pierced the hull. “We’re being attacked!”

Holly bolted to another seat, the one usually taken by Numbuh 3, and flipped on the radio. “What is it, who’s attacking?”

“It’s Ice Cream Men again!”

The SCAMPER sped up, but evasive maneuvers were limited with its current cargo. It was limited to diving low and hoping the flying trucks would try to avoid the buildings, but unfortunately it only opened them up to ramming attacks from above.

The lead truck fired a boulder of rocky road, narrowly missing the SCAMPER’s engines.

“Hello, can anyone read me? Numbuh 1? Numbuh 5?” Holly said into the radio.

“...*kzzt* Numbuh 818? What’s going on?”

Kuki’s voice responded.

“Numbuh 3! We were on our way when we were attacked out of nowhere! We’re currently flying over--”

“Fifth Avenue!” Hoagie shouted, pulling to the side. “Heading towards the mall now!”

“--and we can’t fight back without damaging the cake!”

“We’ll be there as soon as we can,”

Cree answered.

“Hang tight guys.”

“Numbuh 2, doesn’t this thing have any weapons?”

“Of course it does,” Hoagie said, insulted. “But they’re all on the front and I can’t turn around like this. I’m definitely fixing that after this, and maybe adding some kind of… gyroscopic containment unit,” he muttered to himself, keeping most of his focus on flying.

Another ice cream cone penetrated the hull, this time splitting apart into a grappling hook. Then another, on the other side. A third broke through the door, and then yanked it off.

The lead ice cream truck drifted close, matching their speed. Its own door slid open, revealing--

“Why hello again, Numbuh 818, Numbuh 2. We must say, your delivery service leaves much to be desired.”

Holly gaped at them, completely thrown. “I--What are you doing here?”

The Delightful CHildren looked at her with thinly veiled disappointment. “Is it not obvious? Perhaps we were giving you too much credit.” They calmly stepped over and grabbed the cake, passing it back to the tall one so that they surrounded it on all sides. With exaggerated sarcasm, they said, “Thank you, Holly, for delivering our replacement cake to us. We prefer vanilla, but chocolate will have to do.”

“Wha--no, we’re not doing that,” Holly said, shifting from confused to annoyed. “We beat you, it’s over. Give it back!”

“You beat us? How adorable. You Kids Next Door bumbled into defeating us, just like you always do on those rare occasions we don’t crush you under our heel.” The Delightful Children wagged five fingers at her. “And after every birthday party you operatives have crashed, is it not only fair that we return the favor at least once? Turnabout is fair play, Holly.”

Holly’s eye twitched.

Numbuh 2 coughed. “Uh, guys? I don’t mean to interrupt whatever is happening, but the mall is just ahead, and we’re really close to the ground.”

The Delightful Children turned to look out the windows at the fast-approaching building, and Holly stepped into their personal space.

She slapped the tall kid’s hands with her butterfly net and then used it to lift the cake out of their reach when they reflexively relaxed their grip. “Numbuh 2 pull up!”

Hoagie pulled the steering wheel as hard as he could, and then things got confusing.

The SCAMPER turned nearly vertical as it ascended fast, shuddering with the effort of doing so with the Ice Cream Trucks still attached. This left Holly and the Delightful Children struggling to keep their footing. The Children braced themselves against the open doorway, while Holly braced herself against the Children, planting one foot in the short blond’s face while holding the cake at the end of a long pole and out of their reach.

“Agh, get off of our face!” They grabbed her ankle and shoved, sending her falling on top of them and only barely keeping the cake level. Then the Children screamed as bugs crawled out of her backpack and into their clothes. They started swiping at themselves and each other to get the insects off, which included Clarise.

Male stag beetles are famous for their large and showy mandibles, but they aren’t actually all that strong at biting. Their jaws are more for grappling and tossing other stags than anything else, and are useless for much else. Female stag beetles, however, have much smaller jaws and a very painful bite. Clarise latched onto the pigtailed girl’s nose and didn’t let go.

The Delightfuls’ flailing made keeping the pole balanced magnitudes more difficult, but after five seconds of vertical climbing Hoagie finally brought it level again, and the passengers all collapsed onto each other.

Holly let the cake settle back on the floor, looking slightly worse for wear, and then turned her attention to fighting back. Standing in the middle of the Delightful Children’s huddle made it hard to maneuver, but curiously they seemed to have an even harder time hitting her than she did them, until the tall one grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her into the air.

Or tried to.

Holly was quite tall herself, and just kicked off the ground and sent them all sprawling again into the neighboring truck.

The shock from their fall caused the truck to dislodge from the SCAMPER and pull away, leaving the cake behind.

The Children snarled, throwing her off of them. “Get off of us, you impostor!”

“That still doesn’t make sense!” Holly fired back. She grabbed the waffle cone gun from the passenger seat (to the driver’s ineffectual protests) and pointed it at them, but they closed the distance and grabbed it themselves, starting a tug of war that Holly was outnumbered in. “I bet you were behind those guys in Hawaii too!”

“Of course we were! They were supposed to stop you and maybe ruin the mining operation as well, but for some reason they decided it was better to live and let live! We don’t know how you did that--”

“Actually I didn’t, it was--”

“--and we don’t care!” They jerked the weapon away from her and fired it.

Holly ducked under the ballistic cone, feeling it rustle her hair. Her eyes widened as she remembered where she was standing. The truck driver yelled as the dashboard exploded into a shower of sparks.

The flying truck spiraled out of control, hurtling towards the ground at alarming speeds. They crashed into a treetop in the mall parking lot, which bent so far that its trunk snapped, sending the truck rolling into a stop on the curb, upside down.

Holly pulled herself out of the wreck with a groan. She could already feel bruises on her arms and legs, that was going to be fun. “Charlotte, are you okay?”

The spider chittered in her backpack, poking her head out and hissing. Holly turned at the warning to see the Delightful Children standing up as well, looking ruffled but otherwise fine.

“What were you thinking?” she snapped. “You could have killed us all!”

They scoffed, shoving her out of the way so they could exit the vehicle. “As though we would do something so foolish,” they said, like a bunch of liars.

“You just did!” Holly growled. “It’s a cake, not something worth killing over!”

“Then you didn’t make a very good one, did you?” they sneered.

“If you wanted it so badly you could have just asked! There’s more than enough to go around!” Holly told them.

That seemed to actually throw them for a loop. But then they folded their arms and turned up their noses at her. “We were never going to sully our tongues with anything you made anyway.”

“Then what was the point of this?” Holly demanded. Charlotte agreed, waving her legs at them.

“The point,” they said through gritted teeth, “is that you’re nothing and we want you to know it! You’re nothing compared to us!”

Holly shook her head in disbelief. “If that were true you wouldn’t have bothered, but whatever.” She glanced towards the driver’s seat. “Is your guy okay?”

The Children stared at her, as though confused why she would ask, but a pained moan from the Ice Cream Man answered the question for them.

A familiar sound had them looking up to see Holly’s reinforcements arriving in the COOLBUS, and the Delightful Children tsked. “Looks like playtime is over.” They turned and started walking away. “Until next time, Holly Hebert. I’ll make an example of you yet…”

Holly ignored the ominous threat, utterly done with whatever they were going on about, and instead faced the flying bus as it landed.

Numbuh 4 was the first one out. “Alright, we’re here! Who’s butt do I get to kick?!”

Holly chuckled softly. “No one, Wally. Fight’s over.”

“What?! Aw, you mean I could have stayed at the base?”

“Simmer down, Numbuh 4.” Cree walked over and looked her over. “You alright? What even happened?”

“It’s not important, just some weirdos trying to steal the cake,” Holly said. She tried to step onto the bus and winced. “I am a little sore, but it’s fine. Where’d Numbuh 2 get to?”

“He’s hovering overhead,” Numbuh 1 reported. “Here, let me give you a hand.”

“Wait, I heard cake,” Wally said. “You made it after all then?”

“Of course I did.” Holly grunted as Nigel helped her onto the bus. “I still want to get some to all those kids from earlier, but I feel like being a little selfish right now. Who wants a slice right now?”

As if she needed to ask. Whatever else had happened was quickly forgotten in the face of chocolate cake.

And it was really good.

---------------------------------------------

End Transmission

Final Notes:

What the heck was all that about, anyway? Are the Delightful Children always that weird? I mean, I guess I’d take it personally if it was my party being ruined, but still…

-Numbuh 818

They are, in fact, always kind of weird. I wouldn’t worry about it. Also 818, I take back what I said earlier. That was a seriously good cake. I don’t think I’ve seen that many kids fight over the last slice before.

-Numbuh 11

I’m still waiting for my slice!

-Numbuh High Noon

I saved a couple, don’t worry.

-Numbuh 818

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“Holly?. “Really?” Holly asked.. “Anyway,” Holly said.. “Are you Numbuh 626?” Holly asked.. “You think so?” Holly asked.

Taylor pulled her attention back to the target building and focused on the mayor’s office.. Long time no see, I didn’t recognize you out of costume.” Which was a bold-faced lie, considering Edna’s “costume” consisted of her normal outfit plus a short cape and a simple mask, but Taylor wasn’t going to admit to being snuck up on by Edna of all people.. “Ben and I didn’t part on good terms, Edna,” Taylor said flatly.. Taylor could believe it.. “I’m always on call, Taylor.. “Edna,” I don’t think that’s technically illegal , she didn’t say, because frankly Taylor didn’t really have it in her to encourage her to commit real crime.. “I’ll think about it,” Taylor said.. Over Taylor’s shoulder, Xander observed as the mantis finally got fed up with Holly’s antics and pushed her away from it, though unfortunately for the poor thing Holly only seemed to take it as encouragement.. “Look, uh, I don’t trust most adults, but you know Numbuh 818’s in the Kids Next Door, and you don’t seem to care, and she’s never said a bad word about you and even Numbuh 1 seems to kind of like you and he’s the most paranoid guy I’ve ever met--”. “...So I don’t really understand the animosity between kids and teens,” Taylor said.

Nigel looked up.. Holly took them in.. “Holly, you know that that’s not--”. “Holly--”. Nigel looked away.

These 27 iconic food characters more than prove that theory.. Did people love him?. Lovable, enthusiastic and bulging with muscles, Tony is best known for closing all Frosted Flakes commercials with the brand's signature slogan, "They're grrrrreat!". Decked out in a top hat, monocle and white gloves, he was easily the most formal nut people had ever seen.. Customers didn't love the change; and thanks to the negative reviews it garnered, Burger King retired the King as its primary mascot in 2011.. The poor Trix Rabbit just wanted a bowl of his favorite cereal.. He wears sunglasses all the time.. He doesn't care about anything as much as his Cheetos.. So, the brand's mascot, Buzz the Bee, spends commercials proving that to people.. Horatio Magellan Crunch (aka the Cap'n) lives and works on a boat called the S.S. Guppy and goes on adventures discovering new types of Cap'n Crunch cereal.. The Vlasic Stork was introduced to the world in 1974.. Kids, however, didn't seem to care.

Facility Name Caldwell County Detention Facility Facility Type County Jail Address 2351 Morganton Boulevard Southwest, Lenoir, NC, 28645 Phone 828-759-1511 Capacity 185 City Lenoir Postal Code 28645 State North Carolina County Caldwell County Official Website Website. If someone was arrested in Caldwell County, they will most likely be at the Caldwell County Detention Facility.. This guide will make it easy to find a loved one, stay in contact, learn about the jail, and send money if you need to.. The Caldwell County Detention Facility has been around since 1999.. Because there are several types of prisoners at the Caldwell County Detention Facility in Arkansas, it is important to do an inmate search in order to find information about where the inmate is being housed.. You will need the information found in an inmate search to send mail, visit, or keep in contact.. To search for an inmate from the Caldwell County Detention Facility homepage , you will click on inmate roster.. If you wish to stay in touch with an inmate in Caldwell County Detention Facility, here are the ways you can do so:. So, if you do not know if an inmate has your number, it is best to write your number on a letter that is mailed to them.. Caldwell County Detention Facility. If you do not find the inmates ID number when doing an inmate search, you can call the facility to get those details.. If you wish to add money to an inmate’s commissary account, you can do this by contacting Commissary at 828-759-1511.

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