Hello, child protective services, how may I help you?
Hello, I… I'm calling about the children who attend The Umbrella Academy.
The Umbrella Academy, sir?
Yes, I have… information, as to how Hargreeves treats his children behind doors.
How does he?
He abuses them, I suppose. They are tortured in horrible ways under the guise of training their powers, and despite what he may say in interviews, his children’s wellbeing is the furthest thing from his mind.
Can you give me evidence?
All you have to do is visit the Academy and talk to the children to know that there is something seriously wrong. They don’t have names, only numbers, and they have been forced to kill.
...Alright. That is definitely worth investigating, we’ll send an agent over to talk to the children. When is the best time?
Tomorrow, after the bank robbery.
What bank robbery?
Thank you for listening to me.
They had just gotten back from their very first mission, and they were all riding the high of victory. Two knew that the others were a little disappointed that dad ushered them into the car too fast for anyone to interview them, but he was a little glad. He didn’t want the humiliation of stuttering on live tv, especially when he still felt cool for yelling ‘real men throw knives,’ without stuttering. Six was quiet, but nobody wanted to comfort him because he was covered in blood, and that was pretty gross. He was getting it all on the leather seats.
Dad had to handle something when they got back. “I have to clean up your mess,” he had said, rather ominously, but Two was easily distracted with trying to one up his brother when he started boasting about how hard he threw that guy out of the window.
Six wanted to take a shower, but Pogo told them that they needed to stay to do their mission briefing, whatever that was. Two hoped that Pogo would let Six take a bath soon, his sniffling was making him sad, and he wanted to keep feeling cool.
Turns out a mission briefing was just going over what happened during the mission, as well as any reports on whatever injuries they got. One was pleased to say, there was none. Pogo checked something off of his clipboard, and then calmly looked up as someone knocked the door, even though it made them all jump.
They looked at each other, disbelieving smiles wide on their faces. As if this day couldn’t get any better! They never had visitors before, and they waited in anticipation as the person knocked on the door again.
Someone was supposed to open the door for them, right? That was how they did it on tv. Looking around, Pogo was already leaving, and Two realised that mom was probably on the other side of the building, making them dinner, so Two would have to step up and be a good son and open the door for her. Especially since One looked like he was considering to open it himself.
“I–I’ll get it!” he declared, with barely a stutter, running to the door before anyone else interested in opening it could catch him. It took a few tries, since he didn’t use the door enough to know how to jimmy the lock open, but once he did, he was faced with a tall woman also in a suit, sporting a friendly smile, and Two couldn’t help but smile back, even though mom told him not to talk to strangers.
“Hello,” the tall woman said. “Do you know where your father is? I need to speak to him.” he could feel his siblings had already moved from the center of the room to the walls around the door, hiding from the new person, but still close enough to eavesdrop. Two made himself a little bigger, because he knew that some of their faces were peeking past the door frame and he wanted to give his siblings more room to hide. The nice woman might be a robber in disguise who wanted to get revenge on them.
“He’s, H–he’s d–deal–dealing–”
“He’s busy,” Three piped up, moving a little past the door frame and leaning against his back, gaining confidence. Two was very pleased that he was the new team protector, and One wan’t. He was doing great today. Three continued. “And you can’t talk to him, ‘cause he’s busy.”
The new person didn’t seem to mind that Three had repeated herself–a habit she got from having to sustain her rumours–she just blinked a bit, and smiled again.
“That’s alright, I just want to ask you a few questions.”
A pause. The others were definitely visible now, staring curiously at the new stranger. It was strange to talk to new people. Aside from his nannies that he didn’t really remember, he never talked to strangers before. It was scary, but also kind of fun.
“...Can I come inside?”
Two blinked and looked at the rest of his siblings. None of their faces revealed any answers, not even One’s and he was supposed to be the one to make decisions. Hesitantly, he looked behind them where Pogo used to be. He was hiding as well, but Two could just make him out in the shadows. They made eye contact and Pogo nodded, so Two took that as permission to let her in.
He stepped back, almost tripping over Five and Three in the process, both letting out sounds of protest.
What were people supposed to do once they invited someone inside? He couldn’t remember, but Three seemed to know, actually taking the tall lady’s hand and guiding her into the living room, delighted to be talking to someone new. They all trailed behind them, unwilling to let her be alone with a stranger
She was yammering about couches and how uncomfortable they were and stuff that didn’t really make sense, but the tall lady listened to her dutifully as if what she was saying actually mattered, instead of snapping at her to shut up, like dad did.
“Wow, you have an… interesting home, don’t you?”
Three nodded, sitting her down on the most comfortable couch they had. “Dad’s lived here for a long time, so he’s collected all sorts of stuff. He traveled a lot.”
“Give me a second.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a little square object, pressing a red button.
“What's that?” Three asked, as they all leaned in for a closer look. It didn’t look that cool, not compared to the stuff that dad had in his lab, but it was certainly new.
“It’s an audio recorder, I’m using it to record our conversation.”
“Why?” Five snapped, glaring at her.
She seemed to take it in stride, simply smiling patiently instead of getting all flustered like some nannies used to do. She was probably used to kids like Five. “So I can listen to it later when I need to remember something from our conversation. Don’t you ever wish you could do that?”
Not really, since he lived with everyone he knew, all he had to do was ask them what he forgot, but One was nodding and so was Three. Five crossed his arms dubiously, and didn’t say anything else.
“So, you said your father traveled a lot?
“Yeah.” Three answered
“Is that what your father is doing now? ” she had a very nice voice, soft and slightly stern, but not mean, like dad’s stern voice was. It was a bit like mom’s, but somehow more...real.
“I don’t think so? He just told us that he was gonna clean up our mess, and then he left.”
“Does he leave you home alone a lot?” The woman asked, her voice gentle, and Three was so caught up in the joy of being a host like on tv, that she actually took a deep breath to tell them about mom and Pogo, before Five kicked her in the calf, and One answered for her.
“Not really, he doesn’t travel a lot, now. He’s just going to be gone for a few hours.”
“How old are you?”
“Eleven.” Five stated proudly, he was very happy about entering double digits.
The lady hmmed. “That’s too young to be left alone.”
“You don’t need to worry, cause I look after them.”
“So–so do I!” he piped up, blushing a little at his stutter, but the lady didn’t seem to mind.
The lady smiled, but it seemed a little strained this time, before she jumped a little, as if she’d been electrocuted. “Oh! I'm sorry, where are my manners? My name is Carol, what are yours?”
They looked at each other. They didn’t have names, what were they supposed to say?
“Uh, we..” Three started, “we don’t have names.”
“Oh.” The smile slipped off her face a bit, before coming back a little weaker. “well– you must have something that people call you.”
One nodded. “Everyone calls us by our numbers. I'm One and that’s Two, and she’s Three–”
“I'm Five.” He cut in.
“Yeah, and…” he looked around the room, but Four and Six was nowhere in sight. “Where did Four and Six go?”
“Six is Prob– is prob– is probably–”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I don't know where Four could have gone off to, though.” Five interrupted him, and Two resisted the urge to deflate. It would be nice to finish a sentence for once.
Carol stared at them, with a solemn expression in her eyes, like she heard bad news that was exactly what she’d expected it to be, but she was still disappointed.
“...I can go get them?” Three offered.
“I–yes, it would be good to have all of you children here,” Carol wasn’t smiling anymore, and Two missed it.
“All of us? So should I get Seven as well?”
“There’s seven of you?” Carol looked up, “Why weren't they at the bank?”
“Cuz she’s not special.” One and Two both nodded, and Five just crossed his arms.
“She doesn't have powers, like us,” Five teleported from one side of the couch to the other, only overshooting a little bit, which he no doubt would boast about once Carol left.
Carol looked a bit shaken, as if she didn’t see them use their powers on tv, unless they didn’t film it? That was unfair, Two had made some really good throws.
“Right, powers, of course, you have powers, how could I forget?” Carol smiled, shakily, but it made Two feel a little better anyway. She rubbed her forehead, and turned to look at his sister.
“...Three, darling, why don’t you get your siblings? I need to ask you all some questions.”
She nodded and ran off, but once she was gone Five crossed his arms, glaring at the lady suspiciously. “You’ve already been asking us a lot of questions. Why? What do you want from us?”
She smiled. “Nothing, I just want to make sure you’re safe.”
“We have powers, we can protect ourselves.” One flexed to prove his point, but he had seemed to have forgotten that his strength didn’t manifest itself in his muscles, or whatever dad told him that one sparring session, so he just looked like a normal kid flexing.
“You’re children, you shouldn’t have to protect yourselves, or other people. You parents are supposed to protect you.”
“He does!” One nearly yelled, and Two and Five rolled their eyes, readying themselves for a rant they had heard many times before. “He takes care of us, he made sure we were strong enough before we fought those guys at the bank, and he feeds us when we’re good, he gave us a place to live and sleep and the tattoos are so it’s easier to identify us, and–”
“Shut up, One, we get it.”
“He doesn’t–training? What’s–” Carol took a deep breath, and she was suddenly calm again. “Tattoos?”
Two, feeling tired of being left out, stepped forwards and showed her his tattoo. A little umbrella with his number printed in the middle of the umbrella, neatly surrounded by a circle, stared at her innocently.
One showed them his tattoo as well, and after a little while, so did Five. Carol stared at them with the solemn expression again. “Are those real tattoos? They all… have your numbers?”
“Yeah, so he doesn’t mix us up.”
“Don’t be stupid, One, he did it ‘cause we belong to him. We’re his things.”
“Sev–seven doesn’t… be–bel–ong?”
Five blinked, tilting his head thoughtfully. “I don’t know. I think he just forgot about her.”
Two nodded, that made sense. Carol gently touched his wrist, fingers barely brushing his tattoo. “Who did this to you? We need to revoke their tattoo licence immediately.” They all shrugged. They had just been directed into the entrance room and the man and his chair and his buzzing needled was suddenly there. Two shuddered at the memory, trying to ignore the phantom pain of how much it burned.
She shook her head sadly. “And your training?”
“For our powers, or just to make us better at fighting. It depends.”
“Can you elaborate?”
One nodded, eager to please. “My power is super strength, so he makes me pick up really heavy stuff. One time I picked up a train carriage,” One paused, clearly intending to leave it at that, but Carol waited patiently, encouraging smile on her face, and that was enough to make One murmer, “but… but my body hurt so bad afterwards, that I couldn’t get out of bed.”
Two remembered that. He had to feed One soup. He opened his mouth to talk about his training, but Five beat him to it, not having the patience to wait for Two to stutter his way through the explanation. “Two’s powers are kinda lame, but he has two of them, so I guess that makes up for it. Dad makes him throw knives at us, and if he can’t hit the target behind us, then he has to train his other powers. He was to stay in a water tank for days, until he passes out.”
Two held back a shudder at the memory, but still, he corrected Five on a detail he missed. “I–I didn’t just thr–throw knives a–around you, D-dad ma–made m–me, ma–ma–made m–m–m” he gritted his teeth, trying to picture the words in his mind fast enough before one of them took over for him. He saw Five sigh in the corner of his vision, and open his mouth to talk over him but Carol put a hand on his arm, shaking her head.
“Let your brother finish what he has to say, how would you like it if your siblings interrupted you all the time?”
Five didn’t say anything, but he did cross his arms and let Two finish. He decided that he liked Carol.
“H–he m–makes me, th–throw knives at p–pe–people he brings. Some–sometimes they d–d–die.”
Two nodded and she stared at him with that same solemn expression, but Five spoke up, glad that it was finally his turn. “Dad just makes me teleport to different places, most of the time if I do too much it makes me throw up.”
The others weren’t here to talk about their training, so Two nudged One, urging him to tell her.
“Uh, oh, yeah, Three rumours people to do stuff like make the back of their head explode. She says that dad says that it’s not really training her powers, and more trying to finding the limits. Four’s powers are useless, he just sees dead people, but he’s super scared of them, so dad puts him in a mausoleum to make him get over it. I think dad just makes Six kill stuff? Like rabbits, I think. But he always comes back from training all bloody.”
Carol blinked, and opened her mouth to say something when Three suddenly barged into the room.
“I'm back!” she yelled, towing Seven in one hand and Four in another, who was holding Six’s hand, even though he was still bloody.
“I thought Six was going to have a bath?”
“I was trying to get him to have one!” Four cried. “But he just spaced out, and I couldn’t bring him back, and I didn’t think he could take a bath on his own, ‘cause he was just standing there staring like Two does sometimes, but I didn’t want to give him one myself, so–”
“Okay, Four, we get it.”
“Oh dear god,” Carol whispered. “Where did all that blood come from?”
“The Horror did that, not ben.” Three said.
“The Horror is his power. It’s basically an octopus that lives inside his belly. It kills the bad guys we round up.” Five told her, and Carol sighed, putting her head in her hands and taking a deep breath.
“...Alright. Okay.” She looked back up, and stood up, brushing out her suit. “Thank you for telling me all that, you were very brave. I'm going to leave now, but I'm coming back later, alright? And with Six…” she stared at him with a pained expression. “Try to be quiet and calm, I'm sure he’ll come back, but in the meantime, why don’t you try to wash the blood off of him?”
“That’s what I've been doing!” Four yelled, “but I don’t wanna see him naked!” and Carol nodded.
“I know, I know, but still try. A naked, present, brother is better than a bloody, distant, brother, right?” They all thought about it, and nodded. He guessed it wasn’t that weird. It wasn’t that long ago they were taking baths together.
Carol nodded, picking up her audio recorder and looking at it sadly. She made her way into the entrance room again, and they all trailed behind her, most of them confused, but some of them sad to see her leave. She opened the door and looked through it for a while, before looking back at them. “I’ll be back, just pack up your things in the meantime, okay?”
She closed the door, and they all stared at where she used to be in confusion. Pack up their things? What did she mean? Were they moving?
A slow rhythmic thump brought their attention to Pogo, who was slowly making his way to them, his cane tapping on the porcelain floor.
“I see our guest has left?”
“I suppose you’re wondering what all that was about.” they all nodded again, but Seven especially. She must be really confused, she wasn’t even there when Carol knocked on the door like Four and Six was.
Pogo nodded, looking terribly sad, and Two felt the strange urge to give him a hug, but dad said that weakness like that was for babies, so he held back. “That woman… was from an agency. An agency that protects children in danger.”
One blinked. “But we’re not in danger.”
“Trust me when I say you are, One. I denied it for so many years, but it’s clear that if this continues one or more of you will die.”
They stared, stunned. Silent in the face of that information. “Bu–b–but. We have p–powers.” he said, but even to himself he sounded weak and scared. He hated feeling scared. Three held his hand, and so did Four, and he was tempted to shake them off until he realised that Three was sniffling, and Four was shaking.
Pogo looked at him, and he looked so terrifically old, his dark eyes drinking them in as if it would be the last time he would ever see them. “You are still children, and even with your powers, you are still vulnerable. You don’t deserve anything that your father put you through and it’s unforgivable that it took me this long in the first place.”
“You… called them?” One sounded small, nothing like the big leader dad trained him to be.
Pogo closed his eyes, and nodded. “They will take you away from the academy. I don’t know where but it will be safe. Away from your father.”
“No.” One whispered, shaking his head. “no! No no no NO NO NO NO!!” One screamed, and they all scrambled out of the way, Four having to pull Six out of the way because he still wasn’t coming back–why was this happening–the day had started out so perfectly–why was everything changing?? He just wanted everything to go back to normal–he hated Carol–this was all her fault–
“Master One, Master One!” Pogo walked forwards, closer to One who had broken the porcelain floor just by slamming his fists on it. Usually Two would be teasing him for acting so childish, for having a tantrum just like a little toddler, but all he could feel was confusion and pure sadness.
“One.” Pogo murmured, moving to stand in front of their brother, who had stopped breaking the floor and was just sobbing, so hard that body jolted with the force of it. Pogo kneeled down, even though it obviously hurt his knees, and he pulled One into a tight, tight hug, one that only a chimpanzee could give.
One clinged back, just as hard. Pogo rocked him, and Two desperately wanted to be hugged by Pogo as well, just for long enough so that all the horrible unfamiliar feelings would go away and everything was right again. “You cannot imagine how–incredibly difficult this decision was for me to make, so it must be even harder for you who has no choice but to go through with it.”
One sobbed, and Three let go of his hand and started inching closer, and closer, until she was hugging him. The others followed her, until there was only him and Four and Six left. With a guilty glance back, he moved towards the group, joining in on the hug, and maybe shedding a few tears himself.
“I don’t want– I don't wanna leave– why did you have to do that, Pogo, wh–y–y.” One sobbed out, asking the question they all had in their heads. Pogo held them tighter.
“You know why, One, although perhaps you don’t understand. I promise you, I promise you, you will understand one day, and you will be grateful, because I truly believe that this is the best for you.”
Nothing more was said after that, and eventually, they all managed to regain control of their tears, except for Four, who was still crying into Six’s shoulder. Six looked like he was coming back a bit, he was crying as well.
Pogo let go of them all, and stood up with a grunt, moving towards Four and Six and hugging them both, which was gross, because Six was still bloody, though he guessed the blood was dry by now. He murmured something into Six’s ear, and even received a little nod from him, before wiping the tears off of Four’s cheeks and turning back to the group.
“You need to pack up your things, now. Clothes, things that are important to you, but not so much that you can’t carry them.” They all nodded miserably, even One.
Pogo’s lips thinned slightly, and he continued, “you should say goodbye to your mother as well. I don’t know when you’re going to see her again, but don’t tell her that you’re leaving. Reginald programmed her to prevent that happening.”
Two didn’t even wait for Pogo to finish. He rushed away, running all up all the stairs and into Mom’s kitchen, launching through the door and giving her the tightest hug he’d ever given anyone before in his whole life.
“My, my! What’s all this about then, silly?” Two shook his head, hiding his tears in her blouse. He tried and failed to bite back a sob when mom abandoned what she was doing, and turned around to wrap cool arms around him, and he knew that he wasn’t supposed to tell her what was going on, she would stop them and ruin all of Pogo’s hard work, but another part of him knew, knew deep inside his bones that wouldn’t happen. She was their mom, robot or no, and if a chimpanzee could decide what was best for them, then so could a robot.
Mom stroked his hair. “Take your time,” she hummed, “imagine the word in your mind.”
“We’re– we’re leaving.” Mom froze.
He nodded into her chest, not daring to look at her, “Pogo thinks it would be best. He thinks we’re not safe here.”
“Not safe.” Mom murmured, staring off at the wall over his head. “Not safe, no this place is not safe. The children receive physical and emotional harm and a human mother would attempt to take her children out of the environment.” Her voice had gotten more and more flat as she talked, sounding more and more like the robot the others always claimed she was.
“Mom?” he asked, hesitantly, still hiding in her blouse. Had he messed it up for everyone? What if Pogo was right and one of them did die and it would be all his fault? “Mom?” he tried again, finally looking up at her. Her face was twitching slightly, her arms tightening and loosening periodically, as if she was fighting some hidden battle. Then, suddenly, she stopped, smiling down at him and becoming his mom again.
“Well, if you’re leaving, I should give you your birthday present now!”
“We have birthday presents?”
“Mmhm!” Mom let go of him, and reached into her pocket, and Two sagged a little, disappointed. The present couldn’t be that good if she could fit one for all seven of them in her pocket. His disappointment only increased when she brought out a little folded slip of paper.
“Th–this is our b–b–birthday present?”
Mom smiled. “I know, it may not look like much, but it’s the biggest thing I can give you. You don’t have to open it on your birthday, but open it with your siblings, please?”
He looked at it. The paper looked old and worn, and he could see the imprint of words on one side. She had obviously carried it for a long time.
Two swallowed. “I promise.”
Mom smiled and pulled him in a hug again, and this time he felt a little better, because even if mom was going on the fritz and had given him a grocery list, it was still from her, for them to have once they were gone, so that made it special.
Too soon, mom pushed him back. “You should probably start packing, Two, you don’t want to be late.”
He nodded, and just to stretch out this moment a little longer, he said, “I knew it, I kn–knew that you would–wouldn’t tell. I–I knew it.”
Mom nodded and kissed his forehead. He wiped away any residual tears and forced himself to leave. Closing the door behind him so he wouldn’t run back in and never, ever leave. He could hear her turning back to the meal, humming as if nothing had happened, as if she wasn’t making seven dishes for nobody.
In a blur, he packed up his bags, meeting with his siblings and appreciating the sight of Six with no blood on him anymore, and looking reasonably alert, though he was clinging to Four like a lifeline.
Carol came back, along with a few police cars, which made Two a little happier, but not by much. He sat in the front with Four and Six sitting in the back, ignoring the police lady telling him what all the buttons on her car did in favour of staring at the little slip of paper.
It taunted him, daring him to open it.
Biting his lip, he looked into the back seat to see Six and Four conked out, and the police lady finally realised that no one was listening. It was quiet.
Just a peek. Just a peek and he wouldn’t look at it again. Hesitantly, he unfolded it, planning to glance at it only for a few seconds, but as soon as he realised what he was looking at, he stared, dumbfounded.
Everette Liam Luther
Betty Allison Audrey
Alexander Gabriel Theo
It was a list, he realised, a list of… names? Mom was planning to give them names? She wanted to make them people? He swallowed thickly when he realised that mom never got enough time to decide on a name for Five. It was really happening, they were really leaving, and it was likely that they were never coming back. Nothing would ever be the same again.
A sob punched its way out of him, and he didn't bother to hold it back anymore. Dad wasn’t here.
The police lady kept glancing at him awkwardly, obviously not used to crying children in her cool car, so Diego quietened himself to only sniffling. Diego… yeah, that felt right. Diego. Looking back at the list he could agree that the other’s names fit as well, and could also agree that none of Five’s names worked as well as the others. It wasn’t quite… Five.
Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that they were leaving. He didn’t know what real kid’s lives are like, but he was pretty sure that they weren’t forced to murder people, and he didn’t like seeing his siblings sad, and he saw them sad in the academy a lot.
With his siblings and his name, then he was sure that they could deal with anything life threw at them.