It is now ten years after the "Darkwing Duck" TV series took place. A lot of things have changed, such as ... well ... everyone's ten years older and five years wiser. Hence the title of this series:
By Kim McFarland
"-And if ANYTHING happens, call on SHUSH for backup!"
At first she had tried to argue the point, then realized the futility of the matter. Darkwing was going out of town on a mission for SHUSH, and he just could not imagine that Gosalyn, as Quiverwing, would be able to protect the city of St. Canard by herself for a few days. At first she had tried to convince him that she was more competent than he gave her credit for. Soon, however, she realized that it was much easier to agree with him - and then do what she normally would anyway. Now, if only Dad would finally run out of advice and get going already!
Darkwing noticed her glazed expression. "-Are you listening to me?"
"Yeah, I am." she said, having heard her cue to reply. "If anything happens, I'm to call Gizmoduck for help."
He glowered at her. She grinned back. Darkwing sighed and glanced at Launchpad. "Hopeless."
"Why don't we get a move on." Launchpad suggested, hoping to avert a possible squabble. "She knows what to do, DW."
"But, if you're really worried about this assignment, why not swap with me? I mean, witness protection - how tough can that be? It's perfect for a beginner like me." Quiverwing suggested with a straight face.
"Because, Gosalyn, SHUSH specifically requested ME. This is a case that requires the skill of Darkwing Duck!"
"Yeah, right. I saw the file too. Ooh, it must be a dangerous assignment, being bodyguard for Idaho the Fan Dancer'."
"What-" Darkwing sputtered. "That file was Top Secret!"
"You've got to be kidding. I have Top Secret clearance too, remember? And I saw the picture. I know why you're so dead-set on this assignment." she said teasingly.
"DW, we'll be late." Launchpad interjected.
"Since when are you the Type A' around here, LP? All right, let's go. We've got a body to guard."
"Don't worry, Dad. You'll only be gone a few days. What can happen?"
As the dome closed Darkwing said, "Have you ever heard of foreshadowing'?"
Quiverwing watched as the platform lowered. A minute later the Thunderquack burst out of Audubon Bay and headed south.
He was FINALLY gone! She was beginning to think that he would never trust her to take over for him. He acted like the city would fly apart at the seams if Darkwing Duck wasn't there. What an egotist.
"What did he mean by foreshadowing?" she thought out loud.
That evening Darkwing and Launchpad arrived at the Kit Kat Klub for their appointed rendezvous. Darkwing was rather surprised when he saw the place. "Launchpad, what kind of a club is this?"
"Oh, actually this is one of the better ones." Launchpad replied offhandedly.
"Better ones of what? I thought we were supposed to meet her at her theater." He looked around. The place looked more like a bar. The "stage" was small, barely fifteen feet across, and had a short runway separated from the patrons' seating area by a plexiglas barrier. "What kind of a theater has a stage like THAT?"
Launchpad said uncomfortably, "Ah, DW - d'ya know what a fan dancer is?"
"Someone who dances with fans, right?"
"Er... a fan dancer is a kinda exotic dancer."
"So? What's the big deal?"
Launchpad's reply was cut off when music started blaring over the loudspeakers. It was not particularly obnoxious music in and of itself, but any music became obnoxious when the listener was right next to the speakers at the side of the stage. The lights dimmed, focusing attention on the stage area. After a few bars the curtains parted, revealing a redheaded woman. She held two large ostrich-feather fans in her hands to obscure her body. Only her face, hands, and legs could be seen. She held her pose for a moment, then began to dance. As she did the fans moved quickly, revealing for a flash why she had been holding them in front of her body.
Launchpad glanced over at Darkwing. He was not surprised at the expression of shock and fascination on Darkwing's face. He decided to forego any further explanation and just let Darkwing watch.
She stepped forward onto the runway as she danced, the fans flickering, never allowing more than a glimpse. In contrast, her body moved slowly and sinuously to the music. Not bad at all, Launchpad thought appreciatively. But as he looked at her face he got a feeling of déjà vu. Had he seen her before? Maybe he had met her while visiting Omaha?
She played to the crowd, working her way from one side of the stage to the other, making eye contact with everyone near the stage. Not like some, Launchpad thought idly, who acted as if they were ignoring the audience that they were dancing for. But then, that was in places much worse than this, where they did not even have the glass to protect them.
When she reached Darkwing's side of the stage those closer to her could see expressions of recognition, then surprise, flicker across her face. She regained her composure without faltering in her act. Launchpad had seen the look; he had been staring at her face, trying to remember where he had seen her before. She seemed to have recognized him too. Or was it DW?
With a flurry of feathers she completed her act. As she passed offstage Launchpad saw her wink at them. Launchpad nudged Darkwing with his elbow. "Ya met her before?"
"Who?" Darkwing replied in a dazed voice.
"Her! Y'know, Idaho! Didn't'cha see the look she gave us?"
"Oh. I, er, I didn't notice." He had been too intent on the activity of the fans.
"Oh. I thought maybe I've seen her before, 's'all."
Darkwing shook his head. "I can see why she needs a bodyguard." he breathed.
"Hey, snap outta it, DW!" Launchpad grinned. "Ya act like you never seen... heh heh heh."
Darkwing was less amused. "How is it YOU know so much about these places, hmm, LP?"
"Oh, I used to work at one." Seeing Darkwing's look of shock, he hurried to explain. "I don't mean like that! It was after I moved to St. Canard from Duckburg. I hadn't made any new friends yet, and I got bored and sorta went to one of these clubs. I didn't really have anything better to do. One night some guy started bothering the ladies on stage. That got me mad, and I made him get out. They offered me a job as a bouncer right there. I was between jobs then, so what the heck. It wasn't a bad job - I mostly stood around looking tough. The ladies were most of 'em really nice people, too."
"You're pulling my leg, aren't you."
"No. They really were nice people."
Darkwing sighed. "Why don't you get us something to drink, Launchpad?"
"No problem-o." Launchpad went over to the bar.
When Launchpad left the table Darkwing suddenly felt self-conscious. It wasn't as if anybody here intimidated him... he just wasn't used to places like this. It was a relief when, a few minutes later (what was Launchpad doing?) One of the "theater" employees beckoned to Darkwing to come backstage.
He was guided to a small dressing room. The word "IDAHO" was stenciled on the door. Darkwing paused uncomfortably, then said, "Is she-?"
"She is waiting to see you." was the answer.
"Oh, er, yeah." Darkwing said. "Well, er, can't keep the lady waiting." He rapped on the door.
"Come." A sultry voice answered.
Nervously he turned the door handle. She was sitting at her makeup table, her back to the door. She was wearing a robe, thankfully for Darkwing's blood pressure. However, the robe was made of a translucent fabric, which only blurred her outlines.
Her reflection looked up and saw him. He could see that she had been wearing something behind the fans after all: a minimalist bikini that was close enough to the color of her feathers to blend in under the bright stage lights. She turned around, and he found that the effect of her clothing was exponentially more distracting from the front. "Er, uh-"
She stood and walked over to him. "You are Darkwing Duck. I am flattered that SHUSH sent the best of their men." she said in a husky, heavily accented voice.
"Uh, yeah..." He shook his head, trying to clear it. He realized that he was gawking like a schoolboy, which was not the best thing for his heroic image. But she was so worth gawking at!
"Perhaps I'd better slip into something less comfortable. I'll only be a minute." she said and winked at him. His heart skipped a beat. She stepped behind a screen for a moment. When she came out again she was wearing a green satin robe. It was still distracting, but at least it was opaque.
Darkwing shook his head again and laughed nervously. "Sorry, I guess you get people staring at you like that all the time."
"In my line of work, you get used to it. If someone doesn't stare, I worry." She smiled.
"Uh, well, uh, - so, miss-"
"-Idaho, uh, why is it that you suspect FOWL is out to get you? Aside from the obvious." The moment he said that he flinched, realizing how stupid that sounded.
She did not seem to notice. "It is not merely a suspicion. Twice in the past two weeks agents of FOWL have tried to speak to me'. The first time, a man came to the club. He was rather tall, wore a white jacket, and spoke with an accent-"
"Was he a chicken with a metal beak?"
"Yes! You know him?"
"Steelbeak! He was their top man in St. Canard, until I drove them out." Darkwing said, seizing the chance to say something impressive.
"Really? One man could defeat FOWL?"
"Yes - when the one man is Darkwing Duck!"
She looked impressed. "He made me an offer which he said I could not refuse. It was difficult, but I did. He was not pleased. The next time, he met me on my way home with a half-dozen of his Eggmen outside the club after the show. It was only luck that allowed me to escape. I have since been living in fear that they would come back. But now that you're here..." her voice trailed off as she regarded him through half-closed eyed. Her gaze was not dimmed, but focused. She smiled and leaned forward. Darkwing was sure that someone had just turned the thermostat up.
"Hey, DW! I got'cha your drink. Sorry it took so long, but you'd think these guys had never heard of a calimaritini."
Darkwing gritted his teeth. Launchpad sure knew how to spoil a moment! "Thank you, Launchpad." he grumbled.
"No problemo." He entered the room to hand Darkwing a glass.
"Launchpad?" Idaho said in surprise. She turned to look at him.
Their eyes met. Launchpad, too, looked surprised. "Feathers?"
"She's called Idaho', remember?" Darkwing considered trying to retrieve his drink, which was still in Launchpad's hand. Then he got a good look at it and decided not to.
"DW, this is Feathers Galore! Remember, I told you once. Now I know why FOWL is after her. They want their old agent back, right?"
Darkwing looked back at her. Momentarily flustered, she stared back. "I... yes, I used to be one of their agents, it's true. That was years ago. It's not something I'm proud of."
"I can see why they want you back." Darkwing said, then realized that he had done it again. If he had said something like that to Morgana, his tailfeathers would have been singed in a second.
She did not seem to notice. "FOWL guards its secrets jealously. They hold people's lives cheap, and they do not want anyone leaking information to the authorities. They would sooner kill me than let me alone! That's why I took another name."
Darkwing heard his cue. "Well, fear not, miss. Darkwing Duck is on duty, and no Eggman, small, medium or jumbo, can get past me!"
"Yes. I know that I am safe, in your hands." She shot him a smoky gaze, then slipped behind the screen to change into her street clothes.
"DW..." Launchpad whispered. "Breathe."
Darkwing let out the air that he had not realized he had been holding in.
Meanwhile, in a small movie theater in St. Canard, it was a dark and stormy night. On the movie screen two people were driving through a thunderstorm. Or trying to; their car had just gotten a flat tire. In the theater house things were hardly drier; the audience was in the middle of a twenty-one-water-gun salute.
Gosalyn was holding a newspaper over her head with one hand and shooting a water gun into the air with the other. Onscreen, the man and woman had just exited the car. The woman held the newspaper she had been reading over her head in a vain effort to keep the rain off. The audience chanted in unison, "BUY AN UMBRELLA -"
"-YOU CHEAP - darn it!" Gosalyn growled when she heard her beeper go off. The noise was, thankfully, not audible over the general noise level. She looked down. A red light was flashing. The crime alert. Of course.
She exited the theater, throwing a comment about "chicken legs" over her shoulder as she did. She went to the restroom. It was devoid of toilet paper, but that was to be expected whenever she went to this movie. She went into one of the stalls and looked at the small liquid crystal screen on the beeper. MASSIVE DISTURBANCE. Well, that was vague!
She left the theater and boarded her motorcycle. Fortunately, the theater was not far from the Audubon Bay Bridge tower. As she changed out of her sequined bustier and fishnet stockings into her Quiverwing leotard she watched the onscreen monitor.
By the time she was in uniform she was giggling. Giant slugs were loose in St. Canard! She knew she shouldn't laugh, but the idea of slugs the size of sports cars was so silly. Especially since these creatures' eyes all seemed to be crossed, giving them a dopey expression. Because of their weakness, she just could not take slugs seriously, even if they seemed to have machine parts attached to them. She opened her rack, grabbed a handful of arrows equipped with salt canisters, and stuck them in her quiver. Then she leapt onto her Ratcatcher and drove back down the bridge's cable support, thinking that she would be back at the theater before the Floor Show began.
Even if she had not gotten their location from the crime monitor, she would not have had any trouble finding the slugs. Their shiny, sticky trails led her into the middle of the city. She had to watch out when driving over the trails; she almost wrecked when her front wheel stuck in one. "This is gonna be one for the road crews." she said to herself. It would be the first time they would have to spread sand on the roads in the middle of Summer.
The trails converged on the city park. Normally the dim lamplight was romantic. However, when it shone on giant slugs it rather lost the effect. The creatures had been hard at work, doing what slugs do best to the foliage on a massive scale. She decided not to waste a dramatic entrance on these creatures, since there were no observers present. She nocked a salt-canister arrow, took aim at the nearest slug, and let fly. The arrow struck true, and the canister sprung open, spraying salt all over her target and the surrounding beasts.
And nothing happened.
"What the heck?!" she said to herself. "Did someone mix the salt and sugar up again?!" She took out another arrow and touched her finger to the crystals sticking to the loading hole. She tasted; definitely salt in this one. She loaded and shot that arrow. It exploded. The salt flew in all directions, then settled on the slugs.
Again, the slugs did not notice.
"All right, what's going on here? Salt always does slugs in!" she muttered to herself as she felt around in her quiver for something else to use.
"Not any longer!"
Gosalyn looked around at the sound of the all-too-familiar voice. It issued from a larger slug, about the size of a bus, which did not have any metal parts. She took aim with an arrow. "Dr. Slug!"
"That's right, my little pretty! Too many times you have driven me back with your table salt. But no longer!" The slug cackled. "I have developed bioengineered cyborgs which are immune to salt! Now, nothing can stop me!"
She rolled her eyes. "You gotta get a new dialogue coach." She nocked an arrow tipped with a large circular saw blade. "Let's see how your squishy cyborgs stand up to THIS!"
She shot the arrow. It sank easily into the soft body of her target, cleaving it in two. "Hah!" she said to Dr. Slug.
"Watch!" he replied gleefully.
The two halves of the slug writhed in the lamplight. She could see that they were changing, lengthening. Soon the tail end had grown a new head, and the head end had replicated its former tail. The two smaller slugs began foraging to increase their size.
Dr. Slug cackled again. "You cannot defeat these! If you try, you will find yourself up to your neck in MORE slugs! All you can do is surrender!"
"No way, not to a blob of slime like you!" Quiverwing shouted. She shot a battery-equipped arrow at another slug. It was the equivalent of a "bang stick"; on impact it released an electrical shock powerful enough to stun an elephant. A slug's moist body would conduct the electricity perfectly.
The arrow struck. The electricity raced over the body of the slug, momentarily lighting up the translucent tissue, revealing the metal parts embedded in the flesh. The electricity disappeared into a box near the middle of the creature.
"Thank you!" Dr. Slug jeered. "My cyborgs usually get their energy from what they scavenge. Supercharging their batteries is so much more efficient!" He pointed as the slug Quiverwing had electrified moved off at double the speed of its fellows. "You see, you puny vertebrates cannot hope to defeat me! You have one day to vacate the city, making way for the reign of the slugs!"
Quiverwing would have replied to this particularly bad speech, but she saw the supercharged slug extend a metal arm up to the power and phone lines. It chopped through one of the lines. The loose ends fell onto the sidewalk, trailing sparks. The other slugs moved toward the electricity. As she went off to deal with the current problem she heard Dr. Slug cackle, "Happy hunting!"
Darkwing and Launchpad had escorted Feathers back to her flat. Darkwing had been disappointed that no FOWL baddies had tried to interfere. He would have appreciated the opportunity to show off.
Now they were in a building opposite Feathers', watching to make sure that nothing happened to her. "Vigilance is our watchword, Launchpad." Darkwing announced.
"Is that why you been watchin' her window with those binoculars for hours?" Launchpad said in a flat voice.
"We mustn't let our guard down for a moment! If some FOWL fiend broke in, a minute's delay might mean life or death!"
Launchpad snorted. "Feathers could hold out. She got a kick you wouldn't believe."
Darkwing looked away from the binoculars. "What are you talking about?"
"I toldja, I met her before. This was back when I was in Duckburg, workin' for Mister McDee. At first we, ah, didn't get along. She knows karate, or fu jitsu, or whatever it is where you yell real loud and kick holes in the wall. And I'll tell you somethin' else, this whole thing seems kinda fishy to me. Why didn't she tell ya she used to be a FOWL agent in the first place? Seems like that'd be kinda important to the case."
"She didn't have time! You walked in before we even got down to details." Darkwing retorted.
"Someone was trying to get down to somethin'." Launchpad said in a low voice.
"Excuse me?! What was that supposed to mean?!" Darkwing snapped.
"I mean, she was comin' on pretty strong to ya. She's only just met'cha! Doesn't that look kinda suspicious to you?"
"You know what it looks like? It looks like you're jealous that the hero always gets the girl!"
"Huh. No problemo." Launchpad replied with sincerity.
However, after a few more hours even Darkwing was tiring of staring at the scenery. He handed the binoculars to Launchpad and said, "I'm about to fall asleep. Maybe a quick shower will wake me up."
"OK, DW." Launchpad took the binoculars, but did not put them to his eyes. He could see well enough without them. He leaned against the window frame and watched.
Minutes later, a dark car pulled up in front of the building. Two people got out of the car. When he saw them begin fiddling with her door he ran to the bathroom and pounded on the door. "DW! Something's up!!"
Darkwing did not reply; Launchpad heard only the hissing of the shower. DW must not be able to hear him. He couldn't afford to waste time. He scrawled a quick note on a message pad, put it on the door, and dashed out.
They had managed to break in. Launchpad ran into her house. He did not hear anything at first, which was surprising; he would have thought Feathers would be fighting like a wildcat. When he located them, in her bedroom, one was holding her arms behind her - she had a robe on over her nightgown, and was gagged - and the other was watching the window with his hand on his gun. Launchpad shouted, "All right, let 'er go!"
Both stared at him, apparently surprised. Launchpad took the opportunity to snatch the gun. And fumble it, but at least it wasn't within easy reach of anyone any more. For good measure he kicked it under the bed. Then he balled his fists and said, "Let 'er go, or I'll make ya let 'er go," trying to sound fierce.
The two did not look like they knew what to do. Feathers began struggling. The one who Launchpad had disarmed swung a punch. Launchpad caught his wrist and shoved him back into the wall. Then he turned to the one restraining Feathers. He seemed to have his hands full just with holding her. Launchpad started to try to free her when he heard a voice behind himself say "Hands up!"
He looked around. Oh, great, he had found the gun! Launchpad raised his hands. And Feathers suddenly leapt forward and kicked the gun out of his hand with a stifled karate yell. After that it was just a matter of subduing the two thugs and tying them up.
After Launchpad ungagged her and placed the call for the police to pick them up she said, "If you hadn't come... they would have had me. I - I don't know what would have happened."
"How'd they catch ya, anyway? I know about that kick of yours."
"I was asleep. Before I knew it, they had dragged me out of bed and were going to kidnap me." She put her hands on his shoulders. "You saved my life." she said softly, and gazed into his eyes.
"Uh, it's all in the job." he said uneasily.
"Just like you saved me from FOWL - and those lions - all those years ago." she murmured, her eyes nearly closed. She started to slide her hands around his neck.
He caught her wrists. "Hey - a simple thank you' will do just fine."
"Words can be so formal." she breathed.
They both startled. Darkwing, clearly unhappy at having missed the action, was standing in the doorway and glaring at them. Feathers, flustered, said, "He just saved me from these FOWL agents."
"How d'ya know they're FOWL guys?" Launchpad asked. "They look like any old crooks to me."
She turned the collar back on one's coat. There, on the laundry tag, was the logo of a taloned claw grasping a globe.
"That's good enough for me." Darkwing said. "The police are here. Let's take out the garbage."
"Thank you both." she said as they left.
Darkwing and Launchpad handed the criminals to the police and made a brief statement. Then they went back to their stakeout room.
"DW, that was a little too easy-" Launchpad began.
"What?" Darkwing snapped.
Launchpad knew that he ought to keep quiet while Darkwing was in this mood, but he wanted to make his point. "Well, one of them had a gun, but he acted like he didn't know how to use it. Or like he wasn't planning to. And they hardly fought. That doesn't seem right."
"Not everyone's a supervillain, Launchpad."
"Well, she said they grabbed her outta bed. But she was wearin' a robe, remember?"
"So they dressed her. They couldn't kidnap her in just a nightie, could they?"
"Well, then, how'd she know those guys were from FOWL? She didn't see the tag until she showed us! What about that?"
"Launchpad, you wouldn't recognize a maiden in distress if she bit you!" Darkwing said, exasperated.
"Bet I would!"
"Just drop it!" Darkwing ordered.
"OK, OK." Launchpad sighed, defeated.
Feathers sat on the edge of her bed, pretending to be straightening her mussed makeup in her compact mirror. Fortunately, it had not gotten too smeared. She had picked the right brand for the occasion.
She clicked a switch on the back of the device, and the mirrored surface was replaced by three black silhouettes in front of a FOWL logo. "What do you have to report, Agent Galore?"
"Everything went according to plan." she answered. "It was the sidekick instead of the hero who rescued me, but it caused some jealousy. I can weaken their team spirit."
One of the silhouettes, a husky man with a Massachusetts accent, chuckled as he said, "Divide and conquer. You always did use your feminine wiles to your best advantage, Feathers. Continue as planned. Over."
"Over." she replied and snapped the compact shut.
The ringing of the telephone jarred Quiverwing out of a rather unpleasant dream. She would have ignored it, except it was the line from SHUSH. The sound had only been going for half a minute, and it was already giving her a headache. "Why me?" she moaned.
She fumbled to the telephone and said "Yeah."
Honker spoke. "Gosalyn, did you know that the city is covered with slime?"
"Yes, I know, I know! I was fighting slugs all night. What time is it?"
"Are any slugs rampaging through the streets at the moment?"
"Then lemme get back to sleep. I was out fighting those dang things until 6:30. And before you ask, YES I tried salt, and it doesn't affect those monsters. Neither does electricity. They finally went away when the sun came up. If you got any bright ideas, save 'em for tonight, because I'm gonna have to do the whole thing over again and I'm out of ideas."
"Um, all right. Call me when you wake up, then."
"OkayIloveyoubyebye." Gosalyn mumbled as she dropped the phone more or less on its cradle.
Launchpad spent the early part of that day serving as bodyguard for Feathers. Darkwing would not be pleased, but he had spent the rest of the night after the incident at his post at the window. He had fallen asleep sometime during the early morning hours, and Launchpad thought it would be better to let Darkwing get some rest. It wasn't likely that anything was going to happen immediately, not after last night.
Being a bodyguard wasn't a bad line of work, Launchpad decided. He didn't even have to make an effort to look tough. All he had to do was follow Feathers around like a tame bulldog while she did her shopping. People quickly got the idea. And, thankfully, Feathers did not try to repeat her advances from last night. Even the thought made him uncomfortable. It was bad enough that Darkwing had fallen for her.
She suggested that they take lunch at a delicatessen that had just opened up. Launchpad agreed; lunch was something he rarely disputed. When they had gotten their sandwiches and sat at a table she said, "Does this remind you of anything?"
"Huh?" He said around a mouthful of sandwich.
"You remember, when we first met. It was in New Delhi."
"It wasn't anything like here." Launchpad said, looking around.
"No. I mean, this is a new deli..."
"Oh, yeah. I didn't get it."
"Oh well, it was a bad pun anyway."
"Hold that thought." Launchpad said as he got up. He went back to the counter, then returned with something wrapped in wax paper. She looked at it curiously. He said, "I suddenly got a craving. Want one?"
She opened the paper. Inside were several pickles. She laughed. "Did you ever get that smell out of your trench coat?"
"Nope. Threw it out. It didn't fit any more anyway. Pickle juice musta shrunk it or something."
"Launchpad..." she said in a softer voice. "I know that you don't trust me. I suppose, with my past, I can't blame you. I was once a FOWL agent. But that was so long ago. I can't make you trust me... but I want you to give me a chance to prove myself."
"Why're you teasin' DW like that?" he asked suddenly.
"Why am I doing what?"
"You know. Flirting with him until he can't think straight. Why're you messin' with his mind?"
Blank surprise. "I didn't know that was how it looked! I was just trying to show him my gratitude for his protection. I didn't know he would take it so seriously."
"When ya walk around in a see-through robe, what d'ya expect?"
"I was not expecting him backstage so soon after my act." she said, looking embarrassed. "Really, Launchpad, I am not trying to come on to him'. I admire him, for his past exploits as well as for protecting me... but it is not Darkwing who I am interested in."
"Say, whatever happened to that Von Beak guy? Whassisname - Bruno?"
"Oh, him..." She looked upward, as if searching her memory. "He was arrested when the DIA found you. I don't know what happened since then."
"Hmm. Woulda thought you'd'a kept track of him, seeing as how he meant so much to ya."
She brought the conversation back to the script. "Not after I met you. Yes, it sounds corny, but it's the truth. After our little adventure, I couldn't see that man again."
"I guess it would be kinda hard, if he's in jail."
"Launchpad, may I ask you a personal question?" She batted her lashes.
"Er, yeah, I guess..." he answered warily.
"Why are you Darkwing's sidekick'? You should be a hero in your own right. You were, for the DIA."
Launchpad shrugged. "I just am. I like it like this."
"Well, whatever the reason, I am very lucky, being protected by TWO heroic men."
"Hey, it's our job." Launchpad smiled blandly and went back to his sandwich.
"And I AM grateful... although I have more reason to be grateful to you." She said in a husky voice, "And I hope to express my gratitude." She picked up one of the pickles and licked the juice off before biting in.
Launchpad choked on his sandwich.
Later that afternoon Gosalyn arrived at the Audubon Bay Bridge Tower. Honker was already there, working with the chemistry equipment. She walked over and said, "Did I bite your head off this morning? Sorry."
"It's all right, you were no worse than you usually are in the morning. I saw what must have been going on all night. You must have been dead on your feet."
"Dead being the operative word. I was so wiped when I finally knocked off I didn't shower first. Now I got slug slime all over my sheets. Ugh."
"Speaking of which." Honker pointed. He had set up several small racks with slime-covered cloth. "I've been analyzing samples of the slime which protects them from salt."
"Double ugh. What'cha find?"
"Well-" He paused briefly and nudged his glasses into place. Gosalyn recognized the sign that Honker was about to launch into one of his incomprehensible scientific explanations. "It's a carbon based organic gel. I've spread it on cheesecloth to test its permeability to various substances. Salt, for example." He took a teaspoonful of salt and poured it onto the cloth. "It doesn't mix with the substance at all, so it does not permit osmosis."
"Tu hablas ingles?"
"Um, well, it keeps salt from drying the slug out."
"There's something I would never have guessed." Gosalyn muttered.
"I've tested it with other substances as well. It also repels common insecticides and garden poisons."
"Dr. Slug sure did his homework, didn't he? Well, is there anything that WILL go through the stuff?"
"Not much yet. Just water." Honker said. He dropped a spoonful of water on one of the cloths. It dripped through immediately.
"Well, that helps. I guess." Gosalyn shrugged. "Say, they all scrammed at dawn. Crawled into the sewers. Maybe they're afraid of light?"
"Slugs?" Honker looked at the ceiling as he thought. "Well... tell me what happened last night."
She began with her arrival at the part and her conversation with Dr. Slug. When she mentioned the slug's duplication he asked jokingly, "Was the slug crosseyed?"
"Now that I think about it, yeah! They all were. What's that mean?"
"They were? It means that Dr. Slug borrowed some planarian genes in his bioengineering project. Brilliant."
"Planaria? What're those?"
"Flatworms. They reproduce by splitting into two."
"Oh, those arrow shaped things in biology class that look crosseyed?"
"Does that help us?"
"No, not that I can see. It just means that if you cut the slugs with their genes in two - or more - they reproduce."
Gosalyn groaned. "Great. This helps a LOT."
Honker knew how to jar her out of this frame of mind. "Well, you know, you can call Gizmoduck to help, or your Dad. This is a pretty tough case."
"HONKER!!" she shouted. "I will not! There's got to be some way to clobber these things! They can't be invulnerable! We just gotta find out how!"
"What would your Dad do?" Honker prompted.
"Something silly. Like getting them into a giant microwave to fry their metal parts. Or luring them into a stadium filled with boiling garlic butter." She started to laugh in spite of herself.
Honker grinned. His mind was still on the substance's permeability to water. Maybe the slugs all retreated at dawn because heat and sunlight cause them to dehydrate? That made sense, as the membrane did not block water loss. He would have to do some more tests...
When Launchpad returned to the hotel room that afternoon Darkwing was awake, and in no better a mood than he had been in last night. "Launchpad, I told you I was going to take care of this!"
"You were up all night. I thought you'd wanna sleep in." Launchpad replied mildly. "All you missed was a bunch of shopping. I brought you some lunch." He put the bag down on the table.
Darkwing unwrapped the sandwich silently. After several minutes spent picking onions, peppers, and other undesirable substances out of the sandwich, he deemed it edible. And promptly discovered the potency of wasabi.
He was distracted by the light flicking on and off at irregular intervals in the next room. After the tenth time he called, "Launchpad, what are you doing?"
Launchpad appeared with a piece of paper that had been scrawled on in various gaudy colors. "Something I found. Glow in the dark crayons. Wouldja believe it? The yellow and red ones work the best. Can't hardly see the blue. Wanna see?" He reached for the light switch.
"No, I do not wanna see'."
"Could be useful for secret messages."
"Frankly, Launchpad, I don't care."
"Jeez. What's eatin' you, DW?"
"When I give you orders, Launchpad, I expect you to carry them out! No to go off on your own!"
"I was just tryin' to let you catch some sleep."
"I know perfectly well how much sleep I need! I can go for days without sleeping. But that's not the point-"
"You get all punchy if you do. Not to mention crabby." Launchpad said, irritation beginning to show in his voice.
"You haven't begun to see crabby!" Darkwing said, standing up from the table.
"I haven't?" Launchpad folded his arms.
And I'm telling you for the last time. You are going to behave tonight around her! No more sneaking around behind my back!"
"Is THAT what all this is about? I toldja, I wasn't-"
"I know what you told me, LP. I'm not interested in hearing it again. Just follow orders, sidekick."
"But, DW, you haven't listened-"
Launchpad stared at him in disbelief. He paused a moment to nerve himself, then said, "I think you'll forgive a woman anything if she bats her lashes at you."
"What?!" Darkwing said, glaring into Launchpad's eyes, expecting him to back down.
To his surprise, Launchpad held his ground. "Just like Morgana. You fell in love with her even though she was a criminal. And you forgave her for barbecuing you I don't know how many times. Now you don't wanna hear anything suspicious about Feathers, just 'cause she's flirting with ya. You're jealous of whatever you think is goin' on between us, which believe me is nothin'. I wouldn't trust her as far as I could throw her." he said in a level tone.
Darkwing started at him for a few moments, then turned his back on him. "I don't want to hear any more of this garbage. You are going to clam up and do as you're told, or I find a new sidekick!"
"I'm gonna prove there's somethin' fishy goin' on, DW." Launchpad insisted.
"YOU couldn't prove the sky is blue!" Darkwing shot back over his shoulder before he slammed the door.
"Are you SURE this thing is gonna work, Honk?" Quiverwing said for the fifth time that evening.
Honker lectured absently as he fiddled with the settings on the device, "This giant electromagnet will attract the metal encased in the slugs' bodies. It will pull them out of the city, across the bay, to the magnet. According to my calculations, the bay water, since it contains no salt, should pass through their protective slime and cause them to burst." As an afterthought he added, "Megavolt could sue for royalties, if he had patented the original design. That's what I copied it from."
"Yeah. But, will it work?"
"I don't know." he replied.
"If it doesn't, Dad's gonna have one heck of a laugh." she said to herself.
Feathers sat alone in her dressing room at the Kit Kat Klub, mentally reviewing her plan as she put on her makeup for the show. From what she had seen tonight, she had managed to drive a wedge between Darkwing and Launchpad faster than she had expected. Darkwing was acting very cool toward his sidekick tonight, as if he wished that Launchpad were not there at all. Maybe she could split the pair up completely. That would put Launchpad out of the line of fire.
A knock at her door broke her chain of thought. She put on a robe and went to the door, anticipating who her visitor would be.
She was not disappointed. Darkwing stood, his hat in his hands, the brim slightly crinkled where he was gripping it a little too tightly. Launchpad was leaning against the far wall, his arms folded, looking as if he was trying unsuccessfully to look like he was not watching them closely. She put on a warm smile. "Darkwing. What a welcome visit."
"Uh - I, uh, just wanted to reassure you that there's no chance anyone will be able to get to you here tonight. I'll be watching from the back of the audience, so I can keep an eye on everybody. And Launchpad will be backstage, so nobody will be able to get in that way."
"I feel perfectly safe." She smiled and brushed her hand across his shoulder, pretending not to notice the effect that had on him.
"Uh..." he said when his body temperature returned to normal. Lowering his voice, he said, "Let me know if Launchpad, uh, steps out of line. He's been acting a little funny lately."
"Oh, no. He is a perfect gentleman. Very friendly." She allowed a trace of warmth to creep into her voice. From the frown that appeared on Darkwing's face, it had had the desired effect. She added, "We're only old friends, don't worry."
"Worried? Me? Nahh!" Darkwing said a little too vehemently.
She heard a beeping, like that of a travel alarm clock, go off within her room. "I must finish getting ready for my act. I'll see you after the show." she said, her hand brushing his cheek. She smiled and closed the door.
Launchpad could practically see Darkwing's heart flutter as he left to take his place in the back of the audience. The poor guy had it bad. He really couldn't see what she was doing to him, either. He couldn't argue with Darkwing; he wasn't good enough with words. It would only make Darkwing angrier. He would have to prove it somehow.
Launchpad hoped that he was wrong after all. Maybe Feathers was just acting funny because she used to be a spy. Maybe she really did see something in Darkwing, as Morgana had once. He would like to think that Feathers really had given up her career as a spy.
Feathers opened her makeup compact. The beeping stopped. One of the three FOWL silhouettes said, "Report, Agent Galore."
"Everything is going according to plan. In another day or so I will be able to split Darkwing's team up. Without Launchpad or Quiverwing Quack, he will be easy to wipe out." she said in a businesslike voice.
"Events in St. Canard have accelerated the schedule. It is ripe for FOWL takeover now. Complete the mission immediately."
"Immediately? Myself?" she repeated, taken by surprise.
"Immediately. Darkwing Duck must be eliminated before he tries to return to St. Canard. Is there a problem, agent Galore?"
"No - no problem. Mission will be completed tonight."
"Eliminate him within the hour. You have your orders. Over."
"Over." she echoed and closed the compact.
She had not expected to have to kill him herself. She was originally supposed to be the decoy who set him up! "I should never have put trained assassin' in my resumé." she said softly to herself as she put on her bright red, poisoned lipstick. Then, just in case, she checked the bullets in her hidden gun.
While Honker and Gosalyn waited the last few minutes for dusk she inventoried her arrows. She had picked anything that might be useful - canisters of various gases, a few ultrasound sirens on the off chance that slugs would be susceptible to high pitched sounds, and some even more esoteric ones. She did not know why she was so nervous this time. After all, she had been battling evil for years with her father; she was good enough not to need his help to waste a few slugs! Right?
As the sun sank below the horizon, she took out her binoculars. She scanned the city streets. "Nothing ... nothing ... wait! Yep, here they come!" she exclaimed as she saw the first of the creatures ooze out of a manhole.
"Let's wait until they're all above ground." Honker said. "Below ground, they won't be pulled into the bay by the magnet."
"Don't hit it until I give the signal. Flare arrow." she told Honker. He nodded. She gunned her motorcycle and drove across the bay into the city.
Feathers emerged from her dressing room carrying her fans. Launchpad was standing to one side of the stage area, still leaning against the wall with his arms folded. Holding the fans carelessly by her sides, she smiled at him. "I'm glad you two are guarding me; I'm beginning to wish that was bulletproof plexiglas out there."
"Don't worry 'bout it." Launchpad said. He noticed her new red lipstick. It looked garish on her, he thought.
She signaled the CD jockey, who nodded back and selected a disc for the player. Then she glanced back at Launchpad. He was looking directly at her, watchful but disinterested. It was almost as if he knew - but that was impossible. Still, it made her nervous. The music began. She smiled at Launchpad and said, "After all these years, I still get stage fright sometimes."
"Break a leg." he replied.
On cue, the curtains parted slightly and she stepped forward. Launchpad glanced at the CD operator. He could not see Feathers' dressing room from where he was sitting, and his attention was firmly on the stage. Launchpad went into her dressing room to look for anything suspicious.
The most obvious place to start was the makeup stand. Spies traditionally disguised the tools of their trade as everyday items. He checked her brush; it was not a telephone. Opening a drawer, he found a small handgun. Alarmed, he took it out and found that it was loaded - with blanks. What the heck? Her lipsticks were all normal, nothing hidden there - except one which had a skull and crossbones on its handle. He opened it. It smelled like almonds. Cyanide! And it was the same color as the one she was wearing! He broke off the lipstick and replaced the tube with the others. Her mascara container was heavy, he noted. And made of metal. He tried to open it; when he twisted the cap a small chamber slid out - revealing several bullets.
His breath caught. This proved she was a spy! Why else would she have all of this stuff? He heard the music, and realized that Feathers' act was nearly over. He fumbled with the handgun, taking a few of the blanks out. He shook the bullets out of the "mascara bottle". They spilled across the table, along with the blanks. He scooped them up hurriedly and jammed some blanks into the disguised gun. Then he grabbed the rest of the bullets and the lipstick and exited her dressing room just as the music was finishing up.
He just managed to make it to his post by the stage when feathers came back out. She glanced back at Launchpad, saw that he looked very nervous and was breathing hard, and smiled at him. He was not unappreciative after all!
As she slipped into her room Launchpad realized that some of the bullets in his hand felt lighter than others. He put his hand in his pocket and rolled the bullets around with his fingers, testing them. Some of them were blanks! Heart beating fast, he started to go back to the bar to show Darkwing the bullets and poisoned lipstick.
Darkwing was already backstage. Launchpad grabbed his arm and said "DW, I gotta talk to ya!"
"Not now, Launchpad." Darkwing said, annoyed.
"NOW!" Launchpad insisted.
The door to Feathers' dressing room opened. She was still wearing her stage costume. Darkwing's eyes bulged. "Darkwing, I was hoping you would come back. Come in, I want to tell you something." she said in a sultry voice.
"No!" Launchpad said, still gripping onto Darkwing's arm.
"Launchpad! Knock it off! Darkwing exclaimed, jerking his arm away. "Stop acting like a baby!"
Feathers watched with alarm. Launchpad must suspect something! That made the subtle approach impossible. She ducked back into her dressing room.
"DW, I can prove-" Launchpad started to whisper frantically. Darkwing started to walk away. Launchpad grabbed his wrist. "Listen to me!"
Darkwing jerked his wrist. This time Launchpad would not let go. Darkwing stared at him, surprised, then slapped him. "Don't be an idiot!" he shouted.
Feathers reappeared at her door, holding something in front of herself in both hands, as if aiming it. Launchpad shouted, "Look out, DW! She's got mascara!"
"WHAT-" Darkwing snapped as Launchpad shoved him aside.
As he fell he heard a gunshot. He looked up. Launchpad was standing stock still, his hand to his chest, his eyes wide with shock. Between his fingers, Darkwing saw bright red seeping through.
Feathers was staring at Launchpad, her eyes wide, the weapon still held in both hands in front of herself. A wisp of smoke curled up from it. "No!" she breathed when Launchpad took his hand away from his chest. It was stained bright red. Matching the smear over his heart.
"Launchpad!" Darkwing screamed.
Launchpad looked back at him. "I toldja." he whispered as he sank to his knees. "Get her!"
"Oh my God! Someone call an ambulance!" Darkwing shouted. The CD jockey, who had witnessed the incident, picked up a phone and dialed three digits.
Launchpad covered the red stain with his hands. "She's gonna get away!" he whispered urgently as he collapsed forward. Darkwing tried to support him. He compromised by lowering him to the floor.
"I'm all right! She's gonna get away! GET HER!" Launchpad hissed, his hands held tight over his chest. "You're wasting time!"
The CD player put down his phone and called "The ambulance is coming!"
"You're gonna be okay, buddy." Darkwing said frantically.
"I know." Launchpad said in a sigh. His eyes closed.
Darkwing looked up. She had not fled out of the back exit; and she had not gone past him. Did she think she could hide in her dressing room?! Darkwing drew his gas gun and ran in. It was empty - but a section of the wood paneling appeared to have been moved. He pulled at it. It swung open, revealing a secret door leading to a short hallway, which exited onto an alleyway.
Darkwing took off after the receding footsteps, blood in his eyes. She was not far ahead. He turned and corner and caught sight if her green robe. She was running in bare feet.
He caught up to her and shot a gas canister at a parked car ahead of her. It struck and exploded, releasing a cloud of fog, which she could not avoid running into. She emerged, coughing, at the other side. Darkwing leapt over it and landed in front of her. He spun, aimed his gun at her, and said, "Give up!"
She continued coughing, her eyes red and streaming. Slowly she raised her hands. Her robe sagged open, revealing her stage costume underneath. Darkwing refused to be distracted. "Oh no! Not this time!"
"I didn't mean to shoot him." she said, her voice ragged.
"You can't act your way out of this! I'm going to send you to jail for the rest of your life - if you're lucky!" he growled. He reached into his jacket for his handcuffs.
"Hi-YAAH!" she screamed and knocked him back with a sudden, vicious kick. He fell back against a streetlamp, momentarily stunned. She started to run again - but her vision was blurred, and she tripped over Darkwing. He recovered quickly enough to force her wrists together behind her back and cuff her.
As he dragged her to her feet she said, " I was under orders from FOWL High Command. I didn't want to-"
"Save it for the jury." he growled and chained her cuffs to the lamp post. He did not even want to hear a confession. All he wanted to do was get rid of her. At a nearby pay phone he called the local police station to have someone pick her up.
When he finished the call he saw that she was trying to pick the lock with a small tool. She must have had it hidden in her hair. He slapped her hand, making her drop it. "Don't even think about it!" Her eyes were still watering. "And I'll tell you something. If Launchpad doesn't live through this, I'm going to ask the judge for an eye for an eye'!"
She had no reply. He was near blind with fury. Because her hands were chained she could not wipe her eyes; tears spilled down the cheeks. He glared at her briefly, then reached for the sash of her robe. She tensed. He undid the sash, pulled her robe tightly closed, and retied it.
Darkwing waited, his back to her, for ten minutes until the squad car arrives. He described in terse, short terms what had happened as he turned Feathers over to them. Then he raced back to the Kit Kat Klub.
When he arrived the place was cordoned off by yellow police tape. He tried to step through it; an officer stopped him. He practically shouted, "Do you know who I am?!"
"You're Darkwing Duck-"
"That's right! And I'm on this case, so step aside! I have to find out what happened to my sidekick!"
"The man who was shot? An ambulance came from Grady Memorial Hospital-"
"Where is that?!"
"Just a few miles up the road." The policeman pointed. "But-"
Darkwing had already leapt onto his Ratcatcher. He sped away.
"What do you mean, he isn't here?"
Darkwing glowered at the admissions clerk. The clerk nervously looked at his computer screen. "The ambulance that went out to that location did return a few minutes ago. But I have no record of a patient checking in for a gunshot wound. And he would have been rushed through, if-" he stopped.
"If he were alive." the clerk said in a low voice.
Darkwing stared at the screen in silence for a moment. Then he demanded, "Where is the emergency room?"
The clerk pointed. Darkwing strode purposefully down the antiseptic hall. When he located the emergency admissions desk he said, "I'm looking for someone who got shot. Tall, redheaded duck. Where is he?"
The woman at the desk tapped a few keys on her computer and then looked back at him, her hands still poised over the keyboard. "Name?"
She typed quickly. When the screen came up blank she asked, "How is that spelled?"
"Just like it sounds. Launch Pad, one word. Emm see quack, second word."
She typed quickly. The blank screen returned. She asked, "When was he admitted?"
"Just a few minutes ago! They brought him here in an ambulance! He was shot in the heart!" he shouted.
Sadly she replied, "We haven't admitted any serious emergency cases for treatment in the last four hours. I would have seen him. I'm sorry."
Darkwing stared at her as he digested the implications. Then his gaze dropped to the desk in front of her. "I see. Thank you." he mumbled, and left.
The streetlamps turned on as the dusk deepened, illuminating the oily-looking slugs. They crawled about, searching out the power lines. Of course, Dr. Slug was commanding them.
She drove up to him on her Ratcatcher. She drew her bow and arrow and announced, "You're finished! Give up now!"
"Finished? I've just barely begun!" Dr. Slug responded. Two metal objects unfolded from his sides. He had built cyborg arms for himself as well, and for good measure had equipped them with weapons and tools. There was a buzz saw and two different kinds of ray guns, among other less identifiable items.
Quiverwing held her ground. "Not so fast. I have a secret weapon!" She grinned as she nocked an arrow and aimed it at him. Her bowstring twanged. The arrow exploded in a cloud of yellow smoke around Dr. Slug.
The smoke cleared. Dr Slug, unaffected by the smoke, said, "Puny vertebrate! It didn't work!"
"Oh no!" Quiverwing breathed, then looked behind herself towards the bay. A slug was creeping towards the shoreline. "NO! Not the new power generator!" she shouted, taking off toward the slug.
"A generator? Perfect for powering my cyborg slugs!" He followed Quiverwing.
"Yep. Perfect!" Quiverwing grinned to herself.
Honker waited, watching through a pair of binoculars. Quiverwing was doing something to lure the slugs close to the opposite shore of the bay. That would make it easier to pull them in using the magnet, and minimize damage to the city as well. Good thinking.
Quiverwing let the slugs outrace her by faking engine trouble on her motorcycle with the help of her smoke screen device. She ran the rest of the way to the bay, leaving her motorcycle behind. When she approached she saw the slugs milling about on the shore, searching.
She nocked an arrow. Dr. Slug saw her before she could shoot it and pointed one of the ominous-looking metal limbs at her. "Tell me where this new generator is, if you want to live!"
She pointed her arrow away, toward the sky. "But you'll find the secret weapon if I do!" she said in theatrical dismay.
"Secret weapon? What secret weapon?!" The slug looked around.
She let her arrow fly into the sky. "Just this one." she grinned.
On the far shore Honker saw a green light flare above the city. It spread into a letter Q, which shimmered briefly, then began to fade.
He pressed the switch.
Dr. Slug exclaimed, "Enough of your silly parlor tricks! You have no secret weapon!"
"I don't?" she replied. "Then what's happening to your army?"
He followed her glance. All of the slugs were sliding into the water, as if pulled in by some irresistible force. He himself was beginning to slip too, pulled by his metal limbs.
"Hope you like swimming!" Quiverwing grinned as all of the slugs and their master, still struggling against the magnet's attraction, slid into the bay and disappeared.
She returned to her motorcycle and drove back to the electromagnet. "It worked perfectly, Honk! They never knew what happened!"
"And, since the slime is permeable to water, it should have the reverse effect that salt has. It should cause them to swell up and burst." he added with a grin.
"So all we'll get is a bunch of slugless cyborg parts sticking to the electromagnet!" Quiverwing said. "Perfect! No cleanup! Though Neptunia'll be ticked, I'll bet."
They heard a noise from the water. They turned to see a slug's head emerge from the water. Followed by the rest of the slug. All thirty feet of it.
"Waitaminnit! They weren't that big before! What happened?!"
Honker groaned. "The water didn't make them burst. It only enlarged them."
"Great." Quiverwing searched her quarrel with one hand while keeping an eye on the slugs that were emerging from the water.
"I'll turn the power up. At least it'll hold them here, until we can find a way to-"
Honker pointed. One slug had struck the electromagnet. Sparks of electricity was racing around its body. It writhed, then went limp. "The magnetic field! They must have computer brains! Magnetic fields will erase them!" he said excitedly.
"All right! Turn the power up!" Quiverwing exclaimed.
He did. She yelped as she felt something yank at her from the back. Honker said, "What's wrong?!"
She was stuck to the magnet by her quarrel. She released the strap and said, "Never mind. It got the steel shafts of my arrows."
"Oh." Honker said. He watched the slugs, one by one, collide with the magnet and "die". Then the dials suddenly flared and went dark.
"Power surge." Honker said. "Blew a fuse." He opened a wiring panel on the front.
"Oh, that's great." she grumbled. "It never fails! How long 'til the city blacks out?"
"How many more slugs are there?" Honker asked, not looking away from the wiring.
She looked at the pile of slugs around the magnet. "We got most of 'em, I think. But I've got to get rid of the rest before they divide and multiply! If only I had a few more magnets to throw around." Her mind wandered back to a memory of when she had stick refrigerator magnets to her father's computer. He had not been at all amused. "Think fridge magnets would do it?"
"No." Honker shook his head. "It doesn't take a powerful magnetic field to scramble a chip, but that would be TOO weak. Hey!"
She followed his glance to her quarrel. She picked it up and took out an arrow. She had to pull it loose from the others; they had somehow clumped together. When she held it near the mechanical arm of an inert slug it jumped out of her hand and stuck to the metal. "YES! The electromagnet magnetized them!"
"Get ready." Honker said.
The rest of the slugs were emerging from the water, intent on carrying out their mission of destroying her. She tossed her quarrel to Honker. "Feed 'em to me, quick!" He caught it and started pulling the arrows apart to hand them to her.
She took aim with the arrow she already had. The computer brain was in the body somewhere... She let the arrow fly. It sunk into the soft flesh without resistance. Attracted to the metal of the brain case, it hit home. The slug contorted and fell, rendered inert. Honker cheered. She held out a hand to him, keeping her eyes on the remaining slugs; he gave her the next arrow.
Within minutes all of the cyborg slugs were dead. She looked at the bay, trying to discern any movement. There was none. "All right! We did it!" she exclaimed jubilantly.
She turned to him. "What?"
"What about Dr. Slug? I don't see him here."
"Ohhhh rats." she said. "You're a regular killjoy, aren't you?"
"Sorry." He shrugged apologetically.
She glanced through the pile of metal and slimy flesh surrounding the magnet. "These were his." She pointed to a pair of artificial limbs.
"Yeah. The magnet pulled them in, but he got away somehow. Must've just let 'em go once he realized what was happening. The main baddie escaped. Ain't it always the way?" she said in annoyance.
"What a mess." Honker commented.
"It's not that bad. He'll come up with some other superplan, and we'll defeat him again!" she declared.
"Uh, no, that's not what I meant." Honker gestured at the remains of the cyborgs. "This. It's going to get gamy when it warms up."
"Oh. Well, we just risked our lives to save St. Canard from being slimed to death. Let them clean it up. Just the thought of trying to get rid of this mess makes me tired." She suddenly realized it was true. They had been fighting half the night. "Maybe they'll just dump garlic butter all over 'em and let the sun do the cooking." she yawned.
Darkwing arrived at the hotel room late that night, physically and emotionally exhausted. He had been to each hospital in the area, hoping that Launchpad had been sent somewhere else for emergency care. None of the hospitals in the area could find any record of Launchpad. Which meant that he had not been admitted at all. Darkwing knew what the implications were, and he could no longer hide from them. There was nothing more he could do for his friend.
He felt miserable. He and Launchpad had been through so much in their crimefighting career, and now he was gone. One bullet was all it took. And he had taken that bullet to protect Darkwing from a danger that he had been too blind to see. If he could only tell him he was sorry for not believing him!
He would find out what had happened to Launchpad's remains in the morning, and make arrangements then. He would call Gosalyn with the bad news then, too. He couldn't bring himself to do it now. All he could do was try to go to sleep, and hope that this would all turn out to be a bad dream.
He turned the key in the hotel room doorknob. When he stepped inside a familiar voice said, "Out, out, darned spot!" Grinning, Launchpad held up gore colored hands.
Darkwing screamed and tried to run out. However, the door had closed behind him. He smashed face first into the door. Launchpad said, "Ow. That had to hurt."
Darkwing, dazed, said, "Oh my God - Launchpad, I tried to-" He froze when he saw the bright red on Launchpad's chest. Some of the red had smeared onto his arms and face.
"Tried to what?" Launchpad asked.
"I, uh, I did catch Feathers. That was your last request, you know. I'll nail her hard in court for you." Darkwing spoke quickly, trying to back away. As his back was already against the wall, that was not an easy task.
"Thank goodness! I was beginning to think you'd never believe me. Say, what's the matter, DW? You look like you seen a ghost."
"LAUNCHPAD! You're dead! Isn't there a light you're supposed to go into or something?!"
"Dead? Who, me?! Jeez, DW, I'm all right! I toldja, remember!" Launchpad insisted.
"Launchpad, I saw her shoot you! There's still blood all over you! You never made it to the hospital!" Darkwing said, exasperated.
"Oh, this stuff? It ain't blood." Launchpad reached out a hand to Darkwing.
Darkwing cringed. Then he smelled something. Almonds? And, now that he saw it up close, the substance looked more greasy than liquid. Hesitantly he touched Launchpad's hand. It was solid. And the red stuff came off in his hand. He sniffed it, then started to taste it to figure out what it was. Launchpad jerked his arm away. "Hey! Don't! It's poison!"
"Then WHAT HAPPENED? I could have sworn I saw her shoot you! Did you have this all planned or something?!"
"Well, I hadda prove that she wasn't for real, so I did a little snooping backstage-"
"Uh, yeah. Well, she had a little gun, but it was loaded with blanks. But her mascara bottle was a secret gun, and it had real bullets! I tried to switch the real bullets for the fake ones, but I didn't have much time, and I got 'em mixed up. I was afraid she was gonna shoot'cha for real."
"And the fake blood?" Darkwing asked.
"I also found her poison lipstick. That bright red stuff she was wearing when she invited you in, that was poison!"
Darkwing's breath caught when he realized the danger he had been in. Launchpad continued, "I took the stick out of the tube so she couldn't use it any more. I didn't have time to do anything with it. When I heard her shoot, I guess I was so scared I squished it in my hand. Then I saw the red, and for a moment I didn't remember I had been holding lipstick. I thought she shot me, and I just didn't feel it yet." He laughed sheepishly.
"Launchpad, you scared the life out of me with that death scene' back there!"
"Yeah, well, I was scared too. Then she froze when she thought she'd got me instead, and I thought you could get her then if I bought some time. But you didn't listen to me when I toldja I was all right."
"I thought you were just being heroic!"
"Who, me?" Launchpad grinned. "Nah. I was just tryin' to keep you from gettin' killed. I'm glad you got her before she got you. And I wish I could get this junk offa me. I've been scrubbing, and all it does it smear more." He took off his jacket and folded it so the stain was on the inside.
"I'll get some cold cream. That ought to do it. And... I'm just glad you're all right. I don't know what I'd do without you. I'm sorry I didn't believe you." Overcome with emotion, he put his arms around Launchpad's neck.
Launchpad returned the embrace. "Hey, DW, it's all right. Coulda happened to anyone." He patted Darkwing's back, inadvertently smearing lipstick onto the back of his cape.
Darkwing pulled back to look Launchpad in the eyes. "But... if you ever pull another stunt on me like that, I will kill you!"
That morning, after an intense session of scrubbing cold cream into Launchpad's feathers, Darkwing and Launchpad made their statements to the police concerning Feathers Galore. That business done, they reported the results of the case to SHUSH, and set off for St. Canard.
When they arrived at home Launchpad changed his coat for a clean one. It was a good thing he had a closet full of them. Drake tapped on Gosalyn's door. "Gos?"
"Yeah?" came the sleepy, irritated reply.
"Um... is it my imagination, or did I see a huge pile of escargot by the bay when I flew in?"
"Yeah. Rough night at the office. Giant mutant cyborg slugs overran the city. I'll tell you about it later."
Drake looked at the door blankly. Then he walked away, muttering "That girl sees too many horror movies."
All characters copyright © Disney. Story copyright © Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story the credits, or Gosalyn's age.
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