It is now one week after the episode "Darkly Dawns the Duck" took place. Big things are happening in St. Canard - from the point of view of certain characters, anyway...
Darkwing Duck in the Twentieth Cen-tureeeeee:
By Kim McFarland
It was a warm and humid morning. Steam rose from the streets and hung in a low haze. Drake Mallard was not thinking about this. He was thinking instead about how heavy the couch was, how difficult it was to maneuver through the doorway, and how unlikely it was that he would ever again buy furniture from a store that did not deliver. Launchpad's lack of appreciation for the laws of physics did not help the situation. Being taller, LP held his end of the sofa higher, which put most of the weight on Drake's end. Drake did not try to explain this to Launchpad; in the week since he had first met him he had come to appreciate that Launchpad's forte was not understanding abstract concepts.
They finally wrestled, threatened, and cajoled the sofa through the front door and into place in the living room. It was backed against one wall for now. Drake planned to put it in the middle of the room, but for the moment he wanted it out of the flow of traffic. He sat on it and wiped his forehead. "For the amount of work we're going to have to put into this, I could've rebuilt the tower! What a way to spend a Sunday."
Launchpad went into the kitchen, grabbed two cans of Koo-Koo Cola, and handed one to Drake. "Great workout, ain't it?" he commented cheerfully.
Drake rolled his eyes. Of course Launchpad would say that. Launchpad could probably bench-press the Ratcatcher.
Gosalyn walked in, carrying a desk lamp. Seeing Drake and Launchpad sitting on the haphazardly placed couch, she said, "Hey, what're you two goofing off for? We got lots more stuff to move!"
Drake answered, "Fine, Gos. You go on without us." trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
Launchpad watched as she pelted up the stairs. "Boy, she sure is excited." he commented.
"Yeah. It's the first time she's had a room of her own since she's lived at the orphanage." he said with an affectionate smile. He took a last drink out of his cola and set the can down. "Well, let's get her bed. It better have come disassembled."
They spent the rest of that afternoon moving furniture, assembling furniture, and deciding where to put furniture. Drake got tired of it very quickly; he wondered how Launchpad and Gosalyn managed it. Gosalyn had the limitless energy available to all children. And Launchpad - well, he didn't think about anything long enough for it to bore him. And he actually seemed to enjoy assembling things like cabinets and bedframes. He wasn't very quick about it, but he seemed to have a knack for figuring out how things fit together. Well, that made sense, Drake supposed, LP being a mechanic.
After all the beds and some of the other furniture was in place, Drake called a halt. "That's enough. I've got a meeting with SHUSH today, and I don't want to be a COMPLETE wreck." he said as he flopped down on the couch.
"Gee, I thought you'd forgotten." Gosalyn commented.
"Forgotten? Forgotten the single most important meeting of Darkwing Duck's career ?! Surely you jest!"
"I don't jest, and don't call me 'Shirley'." Gosalyn replied.
Launchpad grinned. DW was as excited about this meeting as Gosalyn had been about being adopted. When, soon after defeating Taurus Bulba, DW had been contacted by SHUSH, he had been thrilled. SHUSH was such a top-secret government agency that nobody even knew what the acronym meant. And they wanted Darkwing Duck to be one of their agents! As Darkwing had remarked as soon as he had stopped ricocheting about the tower, this was one heck of a career move.
In a building in downtown St. Canard, a secretary was startled to hear a small, muffled explosion and see the office filling with a dense blue smoke. From the vicinity of the door a voice announced, "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the metal detector in the airport of justice! I am Darkwing Duck!"
A shadow appeared in the fog. It approached her desk and said, "And I have a 4:30 appointment with Director J. Gander Hooter."
She looked in her book. "Ah ... yes. I'll let him know you're here. Please have a seat."
He did. She spoke into an intercom, "Mr. Duck is here to see you."
"Ah - that's 'Darkwing Duck.'" he corrected her.
"Dark Wing Duck is here to see you." she said.
"Excellent. Please send him in." a voice with an English accent answered.
"Mr. Duck, please come with me." she opened the door for him. She led him into Director Hooter's office, then left.
Darkwing found himself in a large office, the walls of which were lined with books and framed pictures. On the other side of a large, expensive desk of stained and polished wood was a small, bespectacled, rather elderly looking goose with gray hair - what was left of it was gray, anyway. Behind and to the side of the goose was a large bear in a gray suit. Darkwing assumed that he was a bodyguard. The bear said in a heavy Russian accent, "Was the office behind you filled with smog?"
"Ah-heh-heh, that's my trademark entrance smoke. It looks very dramatic to evildoers." Darkwing said.
The goose paused for a moment, then seemed to accept this. "Well, greetings, Darkwing Duck." he said, rising to shake his hand across the desk. "I am J. Gander Hooter, Director of SHUSH. This is my chief agent, Vladimir Gryzlikoff." Mechanically the bear shook Darkwing's hand.
Darkwing rescued his hand before any of the bones snapped. "Pleased to meet you." he said, working his fingers to make sure they were still in good order.
"You came to our attention when you defeated Taurus Bulba's scheme to use the Waddlemeyer Ram Rod to deplete St. Canard's gold reserves. An amazing story." Hooter opened a file folder; inside were clippings from several different newspapers.
Darkwing looked at the clippings as best he could, since they were upside down relative to himself. He picked one up. "Hey, I didn't get this one. Could I make a copy?"
"Certainly." Director Hooter said. "Please, Mr. Duck, have a seat."
Darkwing sat, saying, "That's Darkwing."
"Ah, yes. Darkwing." Hooter said, as if fixing it in his mind. "We have a case that, quite frankly, we believe that we need your help on. Our best agents have tried and failed because our enemy knows us too well." Gryzlikoff frowned, but remained silent.
"So, naturally, you call on Darkwing Duck!" Darkwing exclaimed a little more enthusiastically than he had intended.
"Exactly." said Hooter. He removed another, much thicker folder from his desk drawer. "The Fiendish-"
"Sir." interrupted Gryzlikoff. "I must detest. This ... person does not have a Top Secret security clearance, much less been deployed by SHUSH."
"We will take care of that later, Agent Gryzlikoff. At the moment the priority is solving this case. Darkwing Duck has demonstrated himself in his work against Taurus Bulba."
The bear folded his arms, clearly disapproving.
Darkwing shot Gryzlikoff a look. A career bureaucrat, he assessed, who thrived on red tape. Darkwing Duck knew the type. He was going to have trouble with this character unless he put him in his place early on.
Hooter continued, "We believe that the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny - FOWL for short - has been expanding its organization into St. Canard. FOWL, as you know, is the fastest growing organized crime syndicate in the country, possibly the world."
"Yes, I know. Go on, please." said Darkwing, who had not known.
Hooter leafed through the folder briefly. "Known FOWL agents have been active in St. Canard for some time now, but we have been unable to ascertain what they are doing. For example, they have been observed in Audubon Bay in a large machine equipped boat, but each time we have intercepted them we found nothing incriminating. However, this man was on board." he turned the folder so it was facing Darkwing.
Darkwing stared at the picture. It was of a rooster who was fairly dapper-looking, as chickens go, in spite of his prosthetic beak. "Steelbeak." he said, reading the name below of the picture.
Hooter turned the folder back. "Yes. Steelbeak is one of FOWL's top operatives. Whenever he appears, trouble follows." He closed the folder and looked at Darkwing. "FOWL has spies everywhere; we suspect that they may even be within SHUSH itself. For that reason, our usual methods are useless. Anything that goes through usual channels may be reported to FOWL. We need someone who is not associated with SHUSH, who can strike at their blind side."
"And Darkwing Duck is that one!" Darkwing said, standing up. "Fear not, Director Hooter, Darkwing Duck will crack this case wide open!"
"Do you always speak of yourself in last person?" Gryzlikoff asked drily.
Darkwing threw the bear a look. Hooter continued as if he had not heard. "You will report directly to me, to minimize the possibility of any leaks. We will issue you a 'panic button', which will call our troops in case you need backup."
"Backup? Darkwing Duck doesn't need backup." Darkwing scoffed.
Hooter gave Darkwing another folder stamped SECRET. "This contains all the information we have to date on the FOWL activities within the city."
Darkwing took the folder. "Darkwing Duck is on the case. I'll tell you how I've solved the case tomorrow morning!" he declared as he left the office.
"Very good." Director Hooter replied pleasantly.
When Darkwing passed through the secretary's work area, he paused and looked quizzically at the fan that was pointing out the open window.
No more furniture was moved around that evening. After ordering a pizza - he was not in the mood for cooking - he started going through the folder, planning how he would attack this case. Launchpad left him to it, instead spending some time with Gosalyn, who seemed jittery about starting at a new school the next morning. It wasn't like Gosalyn to be afraid, but what the heck, Launchpad supposed he would be nervous too. And he liked spending time with Gosalyn. It hadn't occurred to him that, although Drake was officially her adoptive father, Launchpad would almost be her parent too. He liked that thought.
After putting her to bed he came back downstairs. Drake was putting all the papers back in the folder. "Is Gosalyn asleep?" Drake asked.
Launchpad said, "Yeah. Boy, she's something, ain't she?"
"Huh? What did she do THIS time?"
"Nothin'. She just is."
"Oh." Drake smiled. He knew exactly what Launchpad meant. That kid had a way of getting under your skin. "Anyway, LP, we got a busy night ahead of us. SHUSH has asked for my help in fighting FOWL-"
Launchpad interjected, "The Foreign Organization for World Larceny?"
"Fiendish, not Foreign." Darkwing said. "Say, how'd you hear about them?"
"I, heh heh, once did a stint as an agent for the DIA. Since I was a ringer for one of FOWL's agents, they used me to spy on 'em. Remind me to tell you about Feathers Galore someday." Launchpad said with a grin. "So, what's the case?"
"Uh - right." Darkwing said, not knowing whether to believe Launchpad or not. "Well, they suspect FOWL of dumping radioactive waste in the bay, because FOWL ships pass through a certain area, and SHUSH investigators have found traces of radioactivity there. But they've stopped several ships as soon as they enter the bay, before they have a chance to dump anything, and found nothing at all. Hey!" he interrupted himself as the lights dimmed and flickered briefly. "Dang it, where's the fuse box in this place?"
"It did that before, too. I checked all the fuses. They were fine." Launchpad said. The lights returned to their normal brightness.
"Great." Drake muttered, looking at his VCR, which was now flashing 12:00. "After I just got that thing programmed, too. Well, anyway. The problem with this investigation is that it has been on SHUSH terms. They come in with clipboards and warrants, and expect to find what's probably concealed in a hidden floor. But if Darkwing Duck swooped down on them, they wouldn't know what happened! Launchpad, can you pilot a motorboat?"
"If it had an engine, I could fly a suitcase." Launchpad replied with a grin. "In fact, I did once."
"Whatever. All righty then - let's get dangerous!"
They drove to the tower, parked the car in a lot not too far from the bridge, and made their way to Darkwing's hideout. Drake said, "There has to be a better way of getting here! I'll never be able to fight crime if I have to fight traffic first!"
"Yeah." Launchpad agreed. How else could he get to the tower from the house, though? Unless he flew? The neighbors were bound to notice that, though.
Drake went behind a screen and changed into his jacket, cape, mask, and hat. When he emerged he went over to one of the movable platforms in the tower and removed a tarp. Underneath was a boat that bore a faint resemblance to the Ratcatcher. "The WaveShredder!"
"Whoa!" Launchpad said. "Now that's a boat!"
"'That's a boat'? Launchpad, this is a one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art powerboat! It's light enough to skim across the top of the water, reducing drag and getting up to ... well, I forget how many miles per knot, but fast! And it has special equipment for any purpose on the water you can name! And all you can say is 'That's a boat'?"
"Sorry." Launchpad said. "That's a neat boat! It looks as neat as one of the boats out of a Derrick Blunt movie."
"You think so?" Darkwing asked. That was where he had gotten his inspiration.
"Yeah. Say, I don't see any life vests."
"Launchpad! This is a crimefighter's vehicle, not a Woodchuck Scout boat! We don't NEED life preservers!"
"Okay, okay." Launchpad said uneasily.
They boarded the boat. As they did Darkwing punched a button on the platform, which started lowering through the bridge tower support. It stopped when it reached the water level of the bay. A door opened in the support, and the WaveShredder raced out into the night.
Within minutes they found the FOWL boat that they had expected. If the timing hadn't been exactly right, the logo of a taloned claw grasping a globe would have been the tip-off. Darkwing said, "Bring her in close, on stealth mode."
"What's 'stealth mode'?"
"This!" Darkwing said, punching a button. The engine's noise hushed down to an almost inaudible level, and the boat slowed.
Aboard the other boat, several men wearing the FOWL Eggman uniform scanned the sky for the usual SHUSH helicopters. A rooster in a white jacket said, "Dose guys aren't supposed to show up tonight, but dey say an ounce or prevention can save a pounding."
"Boss, we got a boat incoming." one of the Eggmen said, pointing.
"Well, whaddaya know? Can it be dat doze bureaucrats finally wised up?" Steelbeak said.
The other boat approached to within a few yards. Then its speakers boomed, "-yet, Launchpad! That wasn't the signal!"
The Eggman looked at Steelbeak in surprise. Steelbeak shook his head. After a moment more they heard the squeal of microphone feedback, and the announcement, "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the splint on the injured arm of justice! I am Darkwing Duck!"
"Darkwing who?" Steelbeak said, surprised.
The lights on the WaveShredder cut on, revealing the silhouette of a duck wearing a hat and cape. The silhouette struck a pose and said, "Surrender now, FOWL fiend!"
Steelbeak rolled his eyes. "Dis clown ain't with SHUSH. We can waste 'im."
Darkwing saw a compartment open in the side of the FOWL boat. Blinded as he was by his own spotlights, he didn't see the cannon muzzle protruding from it until it was too late.
The little boat blew into splinters. As debris rained into the water Steelbeak scanned the sky of helicopters. "Huh, looks like our SHUSH playmates ain't coming out tonight after all. Oh well, back to business."
Darkwing must have been blown far by the explosion, because when he heard Launchpad it was from a distance. Launchpad was calling for help in a panicky voice. Darkwing called back, "Hold on, LP! I'm coming!"
He found Launchpad clinging to a hollow plastic fuel tank. Launchpad gasped, "Those seat cushions don't float worth a darn!"
"That's airplane seats, not boats." Darkwing answered. "Come on, we can get back the same way we got the boat down." Darkwing struck out toward the bridge support, which fortunately was not far away.
"Hold on, DW!" Launchpad called nervously.
"What's the holdup?! Darkwing looked back. Launchpad was paddling awkwardly with his feet, holding the tank in a death grip. "Launchpad! Lose that thing, it's slowing you down!"
"I can't. I'm no good at swimming." Launchpad answered in a tight voice.
"Oh, all right." Darkwing said with a sigh of resignation. "It's not like we're gonna get anything else done tonight."
It took them about a half hour to make it to the bridge tower. When Launchpad was finally standing on the support, he was shivering, and not only from the cold water. Darkwing said, "I didn't know you can't swim."
"I can swim. But a couple times before I learned I nearly drowned. I ... still get scared when my feet can't touch the bottom." Launchpad admitted shamefacedly.
"Well ... never mind." Darkwing said. The lift clicked into place at the top of the tower. Darkwing detached his cape from the shoulders of his jacket and wrung it out. "It doesn't look like we're going to try it by sea again anyway. They'll be long gone. Let's just get into some dry clothes and figure out what we're going to do tomorrow night."
"Great." Launchpad said. "Oh, wait, DW ... I don't have any spare clothes up here. Only you do."
"Why don't you call it a night then, LP. I won't need you. I'll come home on the Ratcatcher."
"Thanks, DW!" Launchpad said gratefully.
Darkwing watched Launchpad leave via the lift. There had to be a better way...
Darkwing awoke when the sun's rays slanted into the tower. For a moment he looked around, dazed. Then he realized that he had dozed off in the middle of his plans. And he also realized that today was Gosalyn's first day of school. He looked at the clock, and sighed with relief. 7:00. Not too late.
Thankfully, the traffic did not hinder Darkwing. He parked the Ratcatcher in his garage, thinking as he did that he couldn't make a habit of that. It would give his Secret Identity away for sure.
When he went up the stairs he saw Launchpad, in his robe, tapping on Drake's door. Drake said, "I'm right here!"
Launchpad startled. "Oh! Uh, I didn't hear you get up. Uh... you going to take Gos to school wearing that?"
Drake looked down at his clothes. They were in a sorry state. "Of course not. This coat's going nowhere but the drycleaners. I fell asleep in the tower, and only just got back. Is Gosalyn up?" Launchpad shook his head. "Why don't you wake her and get her ready for school. I need a shower."
"All right, DW."
Drake turned back. "Launchpad - when I'm not Darkwing, call me Drake. Not DW. Remember?"
"You said, when you're in costume I should call you DW." Launchpad pointed out.
Drake sighed, deciding it was not worth it to pursue this argument, and went into the bathroom.
Launchpad obediently went to Gosalyn's room. He tapped on her door, then knocked louder. No reaction. He went in and shook her gently by the shoulder. "Time to get up, Gos." he said softly.
She sat up reluctantly. "Do I hafta?" she mumbled.
"Yeah, you hafta." Launchpad said.
She swung her legs over the side of the bed, grumbling "All right, all right."
Launchpad said, "Come down when you're dressed, I'll get breakfast."
"All right, all right." she sulked.
In the kitchen, Launchpad looked through the refrigerator for inspiration. What should he make? He was used to bachelor living, which meant getting something to eat whenever the spirit moved him. However, that wouldn't do now. He found some bacon, eggs, and bread. That sounded right.
He took out a number of slices of bread and put them on the rack in the oven, then turned it to what looked like a good temperature. Then he put part of the bacon in a frying pan and turned the burner on. The eggs posed more of a problem. Opening them was a messy business; they kept splattering. He gave up hope of making them fried; not a single yolk ended up in the pan intact. Okay then, they would be scrambled. He took out a spoon and began stirring them. Then it occurred to him that they would taste better with a little something extra. Looking through the cabinets, he found a bottle of tabasco sauce.
Gosalyn wandered in fifteen minutes later. Launchpad said, "Be ready in a minute." and poured her some orange juice.
As Launchpad was scraping the eggs out of the pan Drake wandered in. He immediately said, "What is THAT?"
"Scrambled eggs." Launchpad answered.
"Since when are scrambled eggs that color? And why are they sticking to the pan like that?"
"They're orange 'cause I put a little bit of tabasco in 'em. And, well, I was hoping you'd know why they're sticky. I've been stirring 'em."
Drake slapped a hand over his face. "Give me strength." he muttered.
Launchpad mentioned, "I thought bacon was supposed to cook fast."
Drake looked at the other pan. "LAUNCHPAD! You're supposed to SEPARATE the strips, not put a whole slab in at once!" Launchpad started separating them; Drake said, "No, don't. You'll burn yourself. Just forget it."
Gosalyn spoke up. "You know, cereal sounds really good."
Drake said, "Provided Launchpad doesn't cook it."
Launchpad said quietly, "Sorry."
Drake sighed. The poor guy didn't mean to be such a goofup. He said, "Never mind. You're a pilot, not a cook. Remember that, OK, pal?"
Launchpad nodded. Then he remembered something. "I made some toast too."
Drake looked at the toaster. It didn't look too damaged yet. Then he heard Launchpad opening the oven. With a fork Launchpad speared something black that crumbled when he tried to lift it.
"Why didn't you use the toaster?" Drake said in utter bafflement.
"Er ... I didn't think of it?"
Drake rolled his eyes heavenward. Then, summoning his most patient tone, he said, "Okay, Launchpad. Cooking lesson number one: how to make toast. Watch carefully. First, you take two slices of bread out of the pack. Re-seal the pack." he narrated. Launchpad nodded, watching intently. "Next, you put them in the slots. One each-"
"What about the butter?" Launchpad wanted to know.
"That comes later." Drake said, thankful that he was taking the time to teach Launchpad. "The dial should be set to the middle, so the toast gets browned. I've set it, so don't touch that dial. Got that?"
"But I used that setting on the oven, and the toast got all burned."
Drake heard a choking sound behind himself. Gosalyn had started laughing while swallowing a mouthful of cereal. She coughed, then grinned, trying to suppress laughter.
Drake turned back to Launchpad. "I'll explain the difference between a toaster and an oven later. For now, just remember what I say. Bread in, one slice per slot, NO BUTTER. Now you press the lever down." He demonstrated. "In a minute or so the toast will pop up by itself. Think you can remember that?"
Launchpad nodded. "Yeah. I can do that. Now, what about the eggs?"
"Another day, Launchpad." Drake said. "For now, let's just stick with cereal and juice."
"Never mind. Get the toast, and put some more in."
"What about the butter?"
"Not now! Later!" Drake said, exasperated.
"OK." Launchpad put the slices of toast on a plate and out them on the table.
Drake said, "What about the butter?"
"But you just said-"
"NEVER MIND! Just get the butter!"
Confused, Launchpad obeyed. Drake lowered his voice. "Once the toast is out of the toaster, THEN it's safe to put the butter on."
"Oh, OK. Gotcha."
Gosalyn hoped that Launchpad wouldn't be packing her lunches for school.
To change the subject away from cooking, Launchpad asked, "Didja solve the crime last night?"
Darkwing shook his head. "No. I came up with a better plan, though."
Gosalyn interjected, "Hey, you guys were out fighting crime last night, weren't you! And you didn't take me."
Drake looked at her with an indulgent smile. "And that will be S.O.P."
"It's too dangerous for a little girl. You could've drowned. You should have seen it - the WaveShredder against FOWL's biggest, most heavily armed ship! And we had them on the run!"
"Cool!" Gosalyn exclaimed. "I didn't know you had a boat! Can I ride in it after school?"
"No. It ... er ... was blown up. They got in a lucky shot. But that's the last time they'll thwart Darkwing Duck!" Drake declared. "I cleverly lured them into believing that I was no match for them. The NEXT time they meet Darkwing Duck, they won't stand a chance!"
"Wow." Launchpad said. He hadn't realized how clever Darkwing's plan had been.
Drake shot Launchpad a look. "ANYway, it's time for a certain little girl to go to school. And while a certain Dad takes her, a certain pilot will clean up the mess he made in the kitchen."
Both Gosalyn and Launchpad exchanged reluctant looks, then got up.
Drake drove her the short distance to the school. It was much bigger than the school the kids at the orphanage went to; in fact, it was a little daunting for Gosalyn. It didn't help that Drake was being annoyingly parental as he brought her in. She put up with it until he kissed her on the forehead; then she backed away. "Ewww! Not in front of everybody!" she objected, putting up her hands to ward off any further attacks on her dignity.
Drake smiled. She was so cute, even when she was being like this. "All right, sweetie. I'll pick you up at 3:30. Be waiting in front of the school."
She winced. "Our house is right near here. I can walk home. Really."
"I'll pick you up." he repeated.
Defeated, she said, "All right."
She went to her assigned home room. Most everyone was seated; she went to a desk in the back that had no books in it. The bell rang, and the class gave the routine pledge to the flag. Then, looking directly at her, the teacher said, "We have a new student in our class today. Why don't you stand and introduce yourself to us?"
Inwardly Gosalyn groaned. She had hoped to be inconspicuous today. She stood beside her desk and said, "I'm Gosalyn Waddlemeyer. I just-"
"Gosalyn, it says here that your last name is Mallard."
"Oh, uh, yeah." She blushed with embarrassment. "I was just, uh, adopted a few days ago. I haven't gotten used to my new last name yet."
"Oh ... that's quite all right." said the teacher.
Gosalyn continued quickly, "Well, anyway, I grew up in St. Canard, I didn't just move here. I like sports." and sat down again. Thankfully, that was all that was required of her as an introduction. Some of the other children were smirking at her, as if making fun of her being adopted and forgetting her name. She scowled back. Let them TRY to make fun of her! They'd find out a ball wasn't all she could kick!
Her first class was science. Unfortunately, since she was new she had no earthly idea about what they were studying. At least the teacher didn't call on her. It wasn't even an interesting science class, with neat pictures in the books. They were studying plants. Photosynthesis. BOR-ing! Who cares about how plants breathe?
Apparently one kid a few seats in front of her did. Gosalyn noticed a pattern early on - the teacher would ask a question, and if nobody raised a hand she would call on this one, who would answer the question in a stuffy-nosed, stuttering voice. Why did there have to be a brainiac in the class? She hoped that they were not being graded on a curve. From the looks on several other kids' faces, she was not the only one annoyed with him.
Several more classes passed. By the time lunchtime came she had gained no knowledge, only several homework assignments. She got her food. The cafeteria here was awful. But, she thought with a grin, it could be worse; Launchpad could be cooking there. Anyway, she decided, she would bring a lunch in the future. She sat alone, between two groups of people who didn't speak to her. She noted that Brainiac was in the same situation. Well, no wonder. Not only did he make the rest of the class seem dumb, but he looked like a total geek with his thick glasses and green shirt. All he needed was a pocket protector full of pens and he'd be set.
Things looked up after lunch. Math class wasn't that bad. She had already studied fractions in her former school, and she had actually been able to answer some of the questions. And, after that came P.E.! This was where she could really show her stuff.
That day they were played soccer. She liked baseball and hockey better, but she could show them a thing or two here. She was among the last to be picked - girls always were, and girls whose name nobody could remember more so.
She threw herself into the game, and soon gave the other team's goalie reason to dread her. She didn't kick the ball at him on purpose; he just happened to be in the way. He was the same eggheaded kid with the glasses, too. As she would have expected, he was no good on the playing field. Why had the other team's leader chosen HIM to defend their goal? Well, whatever the cause, it just made it easier for her to score. One of her goals, however, caught him right in the face, and that made her feel a little guilty.
By the time the teachers called them back in, Gosalyn had impressed the rest of the kids with her athletic prowness and finally made some friends. She also heard a few people calling her a tomboy, which was fine with her, because that was exactly what she was. She had found her crowd, she thought.
The rest of the school day passed quickly because she was in a better mood. After school, one of the kids she had met at P.E. called her over. "Hey, Gosalyn! C'mere!"
She came over, and saw a group of seven or so around the base of the school's flagpole. "What's up?"
"We're going to salute the flag." one said. "Come help us raise it."
"OK." ste stepped up to the pole, then realized that they had not attached the flag to the other end of the rope. It was hooked to the backpack of the brainiac, who looked resigned to his fate. She said, "Hey! What're you doing?"
"Just paying the little jerk back for making us look dumb in science class today. And for being a lousy goalie." one snickered.
"The heck!" she said. She unhooked his backpack. "Since when's it a crime to be smart? You should've picked a better goalie, too! He didn't do anything to you!"
"He makes us all look stupid!"
Gosalyn snorted. "That doesn't look hard to do."
"Why, I oughtta-" He swung at her. She dodged backwards, then kicked at his shin with the hard sole of her shoe. He yelled and hopped around on his uninjured leg. She balled her fists and looked around. "Anyone else wanna start something?" she challenged.
No one moved. She said, "Figures. You can't pick on someone your own size, even when she's a girl!" She took the egghead's arm and, ignoring their taunts, walked away from them.
When they were out of sight he spoke shyly. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. Why do you let them pick on you like that? Don't you have any guts?"
He looked at the ground. "It's no good trying to make them stop. If I just go along with it, they get bored with it sooner."
She shook her head. "What a pushover. No wonder they run you up the flagpole." She paused, then slid out of her "tough" mode. "Sorry, I didn't mean that like it sounded. Uh, I'm Gosalyn Wad - er, Mallard."
He said, "I'm Honker Muddlefoot."
She could not help thinking that he even had a geeky name. But he couldn't help that, could he? Well, she had some time to wait before Dad got here, so- "I hate starting new schools. I didn't know a thing about any of my classes today. I'm gonna have a heck of a time with the homework."
He said, "Well, uh, I - uh-"
He took in a breath. "Well, you live right next door to me, so I could help you with your homework if you want." he said quickly.
"You live next door to me?"
"Yes. I saw you moving in yesterday. My folks are going to throw you a surprise housewarming." he answered.
She had no idea what a housewarming was, but it didn't seem important. "Cool. Hey, that's my Dad's car. You want a lift home?"
The car pulled close to the curb - close enough to scrape the edge of the tire against it. Gosalyn opened the door. She was surprised to see that Launchpad was driving. "How'd it go, Gos?"
Gosalyn said, "Fine. We got a passenger. Honker here lives next door."
Launchpad grinned. "Hop on in."
As he did, he said, "Thank you, Mr. Mallard."
Launchpad did a double take. Gosalyn said, "No, he's not my Dad. He's just ..." she was not sure exactly what he was, now that she thought about it. "He's just Launchpad." In a lower voice, she said, "Better put on your seat belt. Launchpad's driving."
Within a minute Honker understood why.
From the looks of things, Drake was just getting up when they came back. He looked tireder than he had that morning. Launchpad said, "Oh, you're up."
"Launchpad, I was supposed to pick her up."
"Hey, you were out like a light, DW. I just thought I'd let you catch a little more rest."
"Besides, it's not far to school. I can walk." Gosalyn added.
"All right." Drake agreed, surprising both Gosalyn and Launchpad.
"Oh, the kid next door is in some of my classes. He's going to come over tonight to help me with my homework, okay?" Gosalyn started up the stairs.
"Fine, sweetie." To Launchpad Drake said, "Isn't it great? She's already making new friends."
"Yep. Say, DW? What's all this?" He looked at sheets of diagrams and maps that Drake had spread out on the living room floor.
"My latest plan, LP. Since the direct approach didn't work, I'm going to disguise myself as one of them and infiltrate the operation from within!" Drake declared.
Launchpad did not understand what that plan had to do with all the maps, but he nodded as if he did. From behind him, Gosalyn asked, "But what if something happens to you?" in an uncharacteristically concerned tone.
Drake startled. "Gah! You can hear a plan a mile away, can't you? Don't worry. If they get in my way they'll realize the danger of dissing Darkwing Duck!" he said, raising a hand dramatically.
Launchpad looked at the ceiling, wondering what Drake was pointing at.
After dinner - during the preparation of which Drake had forbidden Launchpad to enter the kitchen - Gosalyn took out her schoolbooks. She had homework from every class! Don't teachers know that kids have lives outside of school?
She was flipping through her science book, looking for pictures of neat things like dinosaurs, when Honker opened the door, holding his own books. Launchpad was with him. She said, "Hi, c'mon in. Can you believe all this homework they give us?"
Honker shrugged. He never minded. It never took much of his time, although he did find it rather dull because it was so easy. He said, "We aren't studying evolution."
"I know. But the dinosaur pictures are cool, aren't they? Say, Launchpad, you gonna sit in on this?"
"Let's get the math junk out of the way first. The fractions I can understand, but what's this thing at the end? It's not math at all!" Gosalyn said.
Honker knew which problem she was talking about. "That's logic. They put some questions in every chapter. It's to prepare us for algebra."
"Shoot, we're not taking algebra! And it's just dumb. 'All snorfs are blue. Some foobs are snorfs. What color are foobs, and why?' Who cares?"
Launchpad said, "Ain't it blue? I mean, that's the only color they say, so it's gotta be that, right?"
Gosalyn said, "Sounds good to me." and started writing that down.
Reluctantly Honker said, "Er, ah - not necessarily."
Gosalyn looked up. "C'mon. What else could it be?"
He said, "Well - they might be blue, or they may not be." He drew a circle on a sheet of paper, and shaded it in. "Let's say these are all, ah, snorfs. They're blue." He drew another circle, which intersected the first so they had a common area. "These are foobs."
"Looks like a Mallard Charge card." Launchpad commented.
"The ones here-" Honker indicated the shaded intersection of both circles, "are also snorfs, and therefore all blue. But the rest-" he indicated the unshaded area of the second circle, "could be any other color."
Gosalyn said, "Hey, I see what you mean now. So I'd say some are blue, and I don't know what the others are colored, right?"
Honker nodded. "That's right." He had been nervous about explaining it; it seemed so simple to him. He hoped that he had not annoyed Launchpad by contradicting him.
Launchpad peered at the diagram on the paper. "Oh, wait, I get it now! I woulda never though of that." he said in a voice of surprise. "That's pretty smart." he grinned at Honker.
"Launchpad! Come here, please!" Drake called from downstairs.
"Whoops. I'll leave ya to it." Launchpad patted Gosalyn on the head, then left.
Gosalyn watched Launchpad go, then said to Honker, "I sure landed in a weird family. But I guess that's par for me."
Honker commented, "They don't seem so strange."
"Well..." she couldn't tell him much without giving away Darkwing's identity. "Not many kids get adopted by a single guy, you gotta admit. But, in a way it's a little like when I lived with my granpa after Mom and Dad di... uh, died. Except Grandpa didn't have someone like Launchpad around." With a wry look she added, "I don't know if that's a good or bad thing."
"He seems... nice." Honker said.
"Oh, he is. But have you tried his cooking? Ugh! It's worse than the cafeteria at the orphanage." Which really hadn't been that bad, but the kids who lived there always made fun of it anyway. It was a tradition. "Y'know, it's only been a few days since I was adopted from there ... it still feels weird."
He nodded. He could not imagine living in an orphanage dormitory; however, it didn't seem to have fazed her.
She went on, "I just hope that, this time, it sticks. I mean, first my parents, then my grandpa, then the orphanage, now here. I'm sick of moving around." she forced a laugh, trying to put a good face on the situation. "Say, what's it like with you?"
"Your family. Don't look so startled."
Honker said, "Well ... there's my parents, and my older brother Tank. Um, you might want to watch out for him. I do."
"Hah." Gosalyn scoffed. "He gets in my face, he better watch out for me."
"Okay." Honker said, reluctant to contradict her.
The lights dimmed slightly. Gosalyn looked up. "Again? Dad better look at the fuse box."
"Perhaps not - that's been happening at my house too." Honker commented.
"Really? The lights in the t- ah, the hotel - did that too!"
"Strange." he said. "St. Canard rarely has power problems. The power plant is very reliable. Perhaps the problem is further down the line."
"Yeah, I guess." Gosalyn said. "They all smart like you?"
"Oh." Honker considered the question. "Well... they're more, um, normal."
Gosalyn found that funny. "Normal? I don't think I've seen THAT in a long time."
Honker shrugged. "They don't really think I'm normal. They don't think I should read so much."
Gosalyn snorted. "Who needs 'normal' anyway? If there ain't a place for you, then you gotta stand up for yourself and make one!" she said.
He did not say what he was thinking: easier said than done.
That night, Launchpad and Darkwing prepared another of Darkwing's vehicles for the night's mission. Launchpad was amazed when he saw it. "Wow, DW! You got your own submarine too!"
"Yep, yep, yep." Darkwing replied. "To fight crime, one must have all the latest technology." He did not mention that this example of "the latest technology" had been acquired some years ago at a government surplus sale, when it was being sold for scrap. Some modifications, some fresh paint, and nobody would ever recognize it. Besides, who really needs a big nuclear submarine in Audubon Bay? It'd be too conspicuous. And it would require a crew.
"So, you gonna pick up the gunk that FOWL's been dumping with this?" Launchpad asked, inspecting the controls.
"That's what they'd expect me to do." Darkwing said.
"Anybody! No, I'm going to infiltrate the ranks of FOWL and find out what they're really after!"
"Wow! How ya gonna do that?"
"Boy, you're the perfect straight man when it comes to exposition, aren't you? Just pilot the sub. Er, you can pilot this thing?"
Launchpad sat in the control seat. "No problemo. Like I toldja, If it's got an engine, I can make it go."
"All right, take her down."
Launchpad shut the hatch. Darkwing went into the cargo chamber to change into his wetsuit.
Several minutes later, Darkwing looked back out. "Launchpad, what is the holdup?"
"Err ... how do you lower the platform into the water from here?"
"Launchpad, this platform is the same as the one we had the WaveShredder on. You saw how I did it. I just pulled the lever right ... outside..."
"Won't that be kinda hard-"
Darkwing cut him off. "I know, I know, I know! Minor difficulty, nothing more! Look - I'll go out and throw the lever, then get in and shut the hatch. It takes a couple of minutes to reach the water level, so it'll be no problem, right? Here I go."
As Darkwing exited the sub Launchpad played with the controls. Remembering something he had seen on a Navy sub, he pulled down the periscope viewer and pressed the activate button. He swiveled it to look around the inside of the tower. He saw Darkwing turn the lever. When Darkwing turned back he found himself face-to-face with the periscope. He startled. "Launchpad, don't DO that!" he exclaimed as the platform started to lower.
"Sorry, DW." Launchpad said. He retracted the periscope. Darkwing climbed into the submarine, then wrestled the hatch shut and spun the wheel to seal it. By that time it was on the water's surface. Darkwing came forward and sat in the front, beside Launchpad. "LP, take her down."
"Roger Wilco." Launchpad said, and worked the controls.
"LAUNCHPAD! Take us down AFTER we exit the tower support."
"Oh. Whoops, sorry." Launchpad resurfaced the sub, then guided it toward the exit. The bottom scraped loudly against the opening even though Launchpad had the sub as high on the water's surface as it would float. Darkwing flinched; he had not anticipated that problem. Maybe he should only take the sub out during high tide.
When they were clear Darkwing took the periscope viewer. "Okay, Launchpad. Head due north at a depth of twenty fathoms."
"Ah ... what's a fathom?"
Darkwing rolled his eyes. "Stay just above the floor of the bay."
Darkwing remembered one of the gadgets he had installed on the submarine. He pressed a switch. An arm extended out into the water, and the speaker began clicking irregularly.
"Geiger counter. If there are any radioactives in the bay, this'll find them. Hel-lo!" he said as he swung the arm around and the clicking increased. "We have something! Follow that!"
Launchpad guided the sub in the direction from which the Geiger was sensing radiation. However, it soon became apparent that the source was moving.
"What the-" Darkwing swiveled the Geiger so it was pointing upward. The clicking decreased. "It's moving underwater? That makes no sense."
"Look, DW." Through the viewscreen Launchpad pointed at a moving object. At first they had both taken it for a small whale - it certainly looked like one, complete with the markings - but now that they looked at it carefully, it was not moving the way a live animal should. Darkwing pointed the Geiger counter at it; the chattering rose.
Darkwing stood up and declared, "BINGO! That thing is carrying the radioactives! Darkwing Duck solves the case!"
"But what about the FOWL boats on the surface?" Launchpad asked.
Darkwing stared at Launchpad blankly. Then he sat back down and muttered, "Follow that sub at a distance."
They trailed the vehicle for awhile as it meandered around the sea floor, obviously trying to act like a fish. Darkwing went back into the cargo hold. He returned a few minutes later, wearing a scuba suit, in time to see the disguised sub pause and drop several objects. Darkwing swung the Geiger down at them; the chatter came louder. "This proves that this is how the radioactives have been getting into the bay! Stop the sub and settle on the bottom, LP."
Launchpad hesitated. "Shouldn't we follow it?"
"We're letting the minnow go so we can catch the prize tuna. If I'm right -"
At that moment people in yellow scuba suits began drifting down. Darkwing said, "YES! Be back in a flash!"
Launchpad looked back. Darkwing was exiting the sub through a torpedo tube.
Darkwing kicked his way through the silty water towards where the FOWL men were working. His scuba suit was drab brownish grey, a color he hated, but perfect for camouflage in the water at night. He watched as they fitted hooks on long cables hanging from the surface of the water to corresponding loops on metal containers. When one who was about Darkwing's size came near, Darkwing snipped through the wires of his microphone with a deft cut of his Woodchuck Scout knife, then jerked him out of sight into some seaweed and kinked his air line.
The FOWL man struggled and tried to call for help, but with his microphone line cut it was no use. His struggles soon weakened. Darkwing loosened his hand so enough air could get through that he would not suffocate, and dragged him back to the submarine.
Launchpad saw Darkwing re-enter the sub through the torpedo tube. A minute later someone dressed in a FOWL wetsuit exited alone. Launchpad jumped up and opened the door to the cargo area. "DW!?"
In the cargo area was a bound, gagged, and groggy FOWL agent, and Darkwing's wetsuit.
Quickly Darkwing swam out. The other FOWL men were just finishing up. One beckoned upward, and they all dropped several lead weights from their belts and began kicking toward the surface. Darkwing fumbled with his belt; the weights did not seem to want to come loose. After a few seconds he simply unbuckled the belt and followed the others upward, towards the bottom of a small ship.
When he surfaced he saw the others climbing a rope ladder on the side of the ship. He climbed up as well, a trifle clumsily because of his swim fins. On the deck, more men in FOWL uniforms were operating machinery to draw in the lines bearing the radioactive containers. On a higher deck, a rooster in a white jacket called out "Hurry up, youse guys, before someone shows up!"
"But our spy said SHUSH isn't supposed to-"
Steelbeak brought a fist down on the Eggman's helmet. "Yeah, but what about dat geek last night?! Hurry UP!"
Geek?! Darkwing forced himself to ignore the slur. Darkwing wished that he had a tape recorder; now he KNEW that they had a spy in SHUSH!
"Hey! You dere, in de wetsuit!" Darkwing startled; the rooster was staring right at him. Had he been discovered so quickly?
"Uh, who, me?" Darkwing said nervously.
"You see anyone else standing around wearing a wetsuit? Change outta dat and into de uniform so you can help move dis junk!" Steelbeak shouted. "Sheesh, dat's what I get for hiring union." he muttered just loudly enough to be heard by those near him.
Darkwing went below, to where he assumed the other Eggmen had disappeared while he had been looking around. A group of three damp-looking Eggmen came out of a room on the side and passed him. One said, "Hurry up!" to Darkwing.
Thanking whatever Powers That Be for his luck, he entered the room that the other three had just left. Inside were three wet scuba suits hanging on hooks, and one uniform.
When Darkwing came back on board he joined one of the crews hauling the metal containers into the boat. He flinched when he thought about how much radiation was leaking through the metal containers; the people making this run regularly must be glowing in the dark by now! And, though it took four of them to wrestle each container into the cargo hold, the containers were not heavy enough to be lead-lined. However, he deduced, the hold of the ship must be, otherwise it would have been noticed on earlier runs.
The ship traveled under the Audubon Bay Bridge. As it did Darkwing realized that he had left Launchpad with no instructions.
In the submarine, Launchpad watched the ship sail away from below. He guessed that, as a sidekick, he ought to stay with Darkwing. He followed the ship as it sailed out of the bay and into the ocean.
It followed the coastline for about a mile, then docked at a port in a rocky cliff. Launchpad set the submarine to rest nearby.
They wrestled the containers back up. Darkwing grumbled mentally about that; for the short amount of time they had been on the ship it wasn't worth it to put the junk behind lead shielding! At least they had cranes to lift them from the deck of the ship to a waiting truck with the FOWL logo on the side.
Steelbeak walked across the gangplank to the land. To the Eggmen he called, "All right, boys, dat's de last of it! Tomorrow night we finally get to use all of dis hot stuff, so bring yer sunglasses!" He laughed.
Sunglasses? At NIGHT? What could that mean? Darkwing felt panic trying to rise within himself. In his distraction he missed a slick spot on the gangplank.
Steelbeak watched the anonymous duck plunge into the water below. "Someone always does dat." he muttered. "Dadgum union dips."
Darkwing hit the water flat on his back. The stinging slap dazed him for a few moments. Then he started treading water, looking for somewhere he could climb up to safety.
He heard a noise behind himself. Something was rising out of the water. With the moonlight reflecting on the surface of the bay he could not see it clearly, but it was the right size for a shark's fin! Darkwing tried to remember if you were supposed to thrash around to frighten sharks off, or float quietly so they would ignore you. They pulled thrashing swimmers down under all the time, though, didn't they? It must be the float. The thing approached closer. Deciding that playing possum might not be the best survival strategy after all, Darkwing started swimming away as fast as he could. When he looked back, the thing was still following him. Darkwing was wondering frantically if karate worked on sharks when he heard, "DW! It's me!"
He stopped. The thing, he could now see clearly, was a periscope. The speaker was right above the lens. "LAUNCHPAD! You scared me half to death!"
"Well, you mind surfacing so I can get in?" Darkwing asked with a hint of sarcasm.
"Oh, yeah, right." The periscope disappeared. Then the submarine rose above the surface. The upper hatch opened, and Launchpad appeared. "That was some high-dive act." he said admiringly.
"Yeah. Right." Darkwing grumbled. His back still smarted.
Launchpad climbed back down into the sub. "Boy, it sure takes guts to jump into the water like that! I wouldn't'a been able to, even if I could swim good." he continued.
"Yeah, it was pretty brave, wasn't it?" Darkwing said, becoming convinced himself.
Launchpad said, "So ... whadda we do with him?" jerking a thumb towards the cargo hold.
"You know, that FOWL guy you caught. He's been thumping around a lot back there."
"Let's just turn him over to SHUSH. Then at least we'll have something to show them."
"So, what'd'ja find out up there, DW? What're they using all that gunk for?"
Darkwing shook his head. "I don't know for sure, Launchpad, but I have some nasty suspicions. We'll find out for sure tomorrow night." he said grimly.
They returned to the tower and, after a quick trip over to SHUSH HQ to drop the FOWL Eggman off with a very puzzled guard, they headed back to his home on Avian Way. But, tired as Darkwing was, sleep eluded him. He kept worrying about the plans that FOWL had for all the radioactive waste that they had somehow gathered. They couldn't be planning to destroy St. Canard; there would be no profit in that. So what were they planning?
That morning, after driving Gosalyn to school - over her protests - he changed into his costume and went to SHUSH on his Ratcatcher. The guard let him in after calling J. Gander Hooter's office. When Darkwing entered the secretary's area she was just finishing setting up the fan; the window was already opened. Darkwing was mildly annoyed. She saw him standing there and, relieved that he was not going to make another flashy entrance, she said, "Director Hooter will see you now." and waved him toward the door.
Inside, Hooter sat at his desk. Again he was flanked by Gryzlikoff. "Greetings, Darkwing. What have you to report?"
"Quite a lot, J. Gan. Disguised as one of their minions, I infiltrated their organization last night. I found out what's happening with the radioactives." Darkwing could not help smirking.
"Did you have warranty?" Gryzlikoff asked.
"If you mean a warrant, no. Superheroes don't use warrants!"
"He is baking the law!" Gryzlikoff appealed to Hooter.
"So were they!" Darkwing replied heatedly.
"Gentlemen! PLEASE!" Hooter cut them both off. "Darkwing, please continue."
"Ahem. You want to know how the radioactives are getting into the bay? A disguised submarine is depositing them there, just before the ship arrives to pick them up. The ship pulls them up with cranes and takes them to a concealed port just down the coast."
Gryzlikoff said, "With this information, we can get warrant! Our agents will shut them down for good next time they make delivery!" He slapped one fist into his hand.
Darkwing shook his head. "No can do. This was their last run. The guy in charge - Steelbeak - told his troops so. However, now that I know where they have been bringing the hot stuff, and I have a FOWL uniform, I can simply slip in and foul up whatever they have planned for tonight."
"Tonight?" J. Gander said.
Darkwing nodded. "They are planning to use the stuff tonight."
"I, uh, don't know." Darkwing admitted. "He didn't reveal his whole plan right there. That's why I plan to go back tonight."
Gryzlikoff began, "Nyet. One duck cannot possibly neuterize all that radioactive material. We send in SHUSH specialists."
"Didn't you say earlier that you thought there was a spy in SHUSH? You put this through official channels, that spy is going to report it right back to FOWL." Darkwing replied coolly.
Gryzlikoff gritted his teeth, but said nothing.
Darkwing looked back at J. Gander Hooter. "Did your boys get anything from that Eggman I dropped off last night?"
"What Eggman?" Hooter asked
"The one I gave to your security guard last night." Darkwing said. "I brought him in so you could question him."
Gryzlikoff leaned on Hooter's desk with one hand. "You leave unidentified man with no explication. We have no cause for holding him, so we HAVE to let him go!"
"You let him GO?! For - why do you think I would have brought him here if he wasn't part of FOWL?!" Darkwing shouted back.
"Bozhe moi! We cannot hold someone if we have no cause! It is illegal! Now, if you had filled out report form OICU-812 and made a proper arrest we would have been able to question him!"
"You can just take your form, fold it until it is all sharp corners, and-"
"GENTLEMEN!" Hooter raised his voice. Darkwing and Gryzlikoff stopped. "Agent Gryzlikoff, we will handle all paperwork as is proper - afterwards. But, for now, Darkwing is getting results where we have failed. We must allow him to work in his own fashion. And, Darkwing, you may have need of backup from SHUSH, either in the form of technology or manpower."
"Well, I guess so." Darkwing admitted. He could have argued the point - and if Gryzlikoff had said it, he WOULD have - but he didn't want to quarrel with Hooter. "You said technology?"
"Yes. Our Research and Development staff has come up with some ... quite esoteric things." Hooter said.
Darkwing was bursting with curiosity. "Such as?"
Hooter remembered that the file on Darkwing mentioned that he was very fond of gadgets. With that in mind, he said, "Why don't we pay a visit to the Research and Development section? Agent Gryzlikoff, that will be all, thank you."
Gryzlikoff walked away, grumbling something under his breath about security risks.
Hooter led Darkwing through a maze of corridors. As he did he spoke to Darkwing. "Agent Gryzlikoff may be set in his ways, Darkwing, but he is a very good, very dedicated agent."
Darkwing replied, "But how can anyone get anything done with him cramming paperwork down their throats?"
Hooter sighed inwardly. It was one of SHUSH's problems that it had become too mired in its own paperwork. He said, "It can sometimes hamper operations. However, it is often necessary. And, despite the apparent improbability of the matter, we DO usually succeed in our mission of keeping the peace and security of the nation."
Darkwing decided not to press the point. Instead he asked, "What does SHUSH stand for, anyway?"
"Every new employee or agent asks that."
"So, what does it mean?"
Hooter put a finger in front of his bill with a look of amusement.
They arrived at the R&D section. Hooter pressed a code in the door keypad. Just beyond it was another door with a similar device, making an airlock.
Inside, it was a gadgeteer's paradise.
In a spacious room the size of a warehouse were all sorts of items, from mundane screws and computer parts, to fascinatingly esoteric doohickeys. Hooter waved to a tall, bespectacled oriental woman in a white lab coat. "Dr. Bellum."
"Yes?" She looked up.
"Come over here, please." She did. Hooter said, "Dr. Bellum, this is Darkwing Duck, a new contractor for SHUSH. Darkwing, Dr. Bellum is the newest member of our Research and Development staff."
"I'm the new mad scientist." she laughed.
"Er... hi. Nice pin." Darkwing said, noticing the small gold dove pinned to her lab coat.
"Dr. Bellum, why don't you show Darkwing what you have been working on."
"Certainly." she went over to a table and picked up what looked like a jury-rigged version of a death ray. "This is the prototype BFG-600. It will deliver an electrical blast so powerful, I can't begin to tell you."
"What's the name mean?"
"Beta-test Fragmentation Gun." she replied.
"And the number?"
"That's how much charge we have been able to get it to deliver before destroying itself. This is the fifth model. We have to keep building bigger and better systems just to deliver so much plasma." she said happily. "So far, we've been only able to punch through four layers of brick wall, but we have high expectations."
"Errr... you sure look like you love your work." Darkwing commented for lack of anything better to say.
"Oh, yes." She replied. "Watch out - don't step there!"
"Don't step where?" Darkwing said, taking a step backwards.
He suddenly found himself looking at them from across the room. He saw Bellum, her back to him, put her hands on her hips and shake her head. "Oh, darn. Just like all the rest."
"Just like all the rest of what?" Darkwing replied. He started to walk towards them.
She turned with a look of surprise. Then she directed, "Darkwing, go back a few steps, please."
He did, and found himself with Hooter and Bellum. She exclaimed, "It WORKED! But why didn't it work with the guinea pigs?"
"My Instant-Elsewheres!" she pointed to what looked like a black vinyl mat. "You step on it, and it sends to you to the other one!" She set foot on one, and nothing happened. "Oh, rats." she grumbled.
"Why'd it work for me, then?" Darkwing asked.
"I don't know. Oh, well, back to the drawing board." she said cheerfully.
"Er - what were you planning on using these for?" Darkwing asked.
"Oh. Well ... I'm sure there must be dozens of ways to use them. Why, can you think of anything?" Dr. Bellum asked.
An idea was developing in Darkwing's mind. "Actually, yes, I can."
Dr. Bellum went to the other side of the room and picked up the mat. She placed it on the first one - nothing happened - and then rolled the two up together. "You can have them. I'll just have to make more anyway. Hmm, I think I have another pair around here somewhere." She looked around the chaos of the room, then pushed aside a few indescribables and took out another rolled-up set of mats. She handed them to him.
J. Gander led him out of the area. He said, "She is quite the character, isn't she?"
"Yeah, I can tell." Darkwing replied, trying to find an easy way to carry the bulky mats. "What is SHUSH trying to make in there, anyway?"
"Actually, we interfere with the Research and Development area very little unless we know we need something very improbable. Then we pose a question to the staff, such as 'How can we transport people without alerting anyone?' We were expecting a stealth vehicle on that one - but I believe Dr. Bellum's is developing those - what did she call them? 'Instant-Elsewheres' instead. She must have forgotten the reason she invented them." He smiled. "You can see why we leave the inventors to their own devices. Although we do have to take precautions to make sure that their creativity does not get TOO out of hand."
"I can imagine." Well, actually, he couldn't, and he didn't think he wanted to try too hard to.
When he got back home he called "Launchpad, you in?"
"Right here." came the reply from the kitchen.
"Oh, no." Drake said, dropping the Instant-Elsewheres on the floor. He rushed to the kitchen, bracing himself for the worst.
Launchpad looked up from the pot he was stirring. "Hi, DW. Want some raman?"
Drake looked in the pot. Nothing disastrous seemed about to happen. But - "Launchpad, the water isn't boiling."
"I just started it."
"But you put the noodles in."
"How else you gonna cook 'em?"
"Launchpad, you put the noodles in AFTER the water boils, just like with spaghetti."
"Hey!" Launchpad looked at the pot. "So that's why my spaghetti always turns out weird! Thanks."
Drake suspected that Launchpad would need a recipe to make icewater. "Never mind. I got something else for you to think about. What would FOWL want with a whole lot of radioactive waste?"
"Er.... they could put it on a lotta watches so they'd glow in the dark." Launchpad suggested.
Drake said, "Never mind. Silly of me to ask. Come here." He beckoned Launchpad out of the kitchen. He unrolled one set of Instant-Elsewheres. He put one across the room, then told Launchpad, "Walk over this." while pointing at the nearer one.
Launchpad did, and found himself across the room. "WHOA!" he exclaimed. "How'd you do that?"
"I got these devices from SHUSH. On the way home it occurred to me that these could solve the problem of how to get from here to the tower. Why don't you see what you can rig up that someone else won't set off by accident."
"Will do, DW!" Launchpad said cheerfully.
"Launchpad - that's 'Drake'."
"Oh, sorry, D - ah, Drake."
"Never mind. I'm going to the tower to plan tonight's strategy. Don't cook anything until I get back."
"Will do, DW."
Drake donned his Darkwing costume and drove his Ratcatcher to the bay bridge. There, he sat down to his supercomputer. And had no idea what to ask it.
After a minute of dithering he decided to pursue the question of radioactivity. What was waste used for? Nothing, he found out; that's why it was waste. Darkwing was typing in another query when the screen dimmed, then came back. The computer beeped and restarted itself.
Darkwing growled and waited for it to come online again. When it did he tried another tack. Using a code that Hooter had given him in the file, he tapped into the SHUSH files on the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny, hoping to gain insight on their modus operandi.
SHUSH had an extensive file on FOWL. Their methods varied widely, from employing thieves and villains to steal for them to blackmail on an international level. Their goal, however, was always the same: money. If they stole a mind control device, it would be used for controlling stock prices. If they set loose a plague of radio-controlled mechanical alligators on a city, they would recall them - after being paid a hefty amount. In other words, FOWL was a business. A criminal one, but a business nonetheless.
So - where would the profit be in gathering radioactive waste? Did they plan to threaten to irradiate the city if they were not paid enough? Somehow, that just didn't fit with what Steelbeak had said about needing sunglasses at night. Unless he was talking about making a bomb. But that would irradiate anyone close enough to view the blast, wouldn't it? Darkwing started to type in another query to determine what kind of bomb could be built with radioactive waste when the computer screen dimmed again.
"DRAT it!" Darkwing exclaimed. Looking up, he saw that all the lights in the tower had dimmed.
"What's the problem, DW?" Launchpad asked.
Darkwing yelped and jumped. "When did YOU get here?"
"I just came in. The lights are messed up here too, huh? They were dimming at the house."
Darkwing shook his head. "Every time I think I'm getting somewhere on this computer, wham! I lose everything. I'm going to have to get a backup generator or something."
"I can hook one of those things up easy." Launchpad said. He looked around the tower as if searching for something. He seemed to find what he wanted in the library area.
Darkwing went back to his computer search. He got into SHUSH's computers again, and asked for information on what kind of bombs could be built out of radioactive waste. He got a null answer. O-kay. He tried attacking the problem from another angle, searching for general information on radioactive waste. That gave him a long file on the properties of various radioactive byproducts to read through.
His eyes began to hurt. He decided to download the information and print it out rather than read it on the screen, and possibly have the power go out on him again. He entered the commands, then stood up and stretched. Launchpad, he saw, was fiddling with the cushions of the two chairs in the library. Darkwing asked, "What are you doing?"
Launchpad grinned up at him. "I got an idea when I realized the chairs in here are the same as the ones in the living room."
"I like these chairs. They're comfortable." Darkwing replied. "What's that got to do with it?"
"Well .. It just gave me an idea. Lemme show you." He sat in one of the chairs - and was instantly in the other chair. He looked around himself in surprise. "Aw, nothing happened." he said in a disappointed voice.
"No - you went from one chair ro the other. You have the sets mixed up."
"I did?" Launchpad asked. He stood, then sat again. He was back in the first chair. "Huh! I did!"
"We just have one small problem, Launchpad." Darkwing said. "How are we going to use the chairs NORMALLY, if anyone who sits in one of them ends up in the tower?"
"...er ... stand up, then sit down again?" Launchpad asked.
"And, what if someone ELSE sits in one of them? Someone who isn't supposed to know about my Secret Identity?"
"Hmm." Launchpad mused. "I guess I see what'cha mean."
"Right." Darkwing said. He heard the printer start. He walked around to see fanfold paper coming out the front, neatly piling itself in front of the output slot.
Launchpad was absorbed with his task. Darkwing seemed to like the idea of using the chairs as transportation, except that EVERY time ANYONE sat in them they would go somewhere else. What he needed was something that would trigger it to work. Hmmmm...
An idea struck him. It was like something straight out of a comic book, but it really seemed to fit. He took one of the two mats out from under a seat cushion and left the tower to head back to the house.
Darkwing looked out the window and watch Launchpad drive away. It had been a good idea to give Launchpad this task. It kept him happily busy and out of Darkwing's hair while he did much-needed research.
The paper kept pouring out of the printer. Darkwing could hardly believe that so much information existed on any one subject. When it finally stopped, it was because of another brownout and not because the file was finished. Darkwing groaned. He would have to print the whole thing all over again! No, he wouldn't - there was no possible way he could read all that. What he wanted was most likely in the first million pages or so anyway. He tore the paper out and looked at the top. Fortunately, the beginning of the file had a topic index. No topic for "Radioactive Waste, Uses For". He settled for "Properties Of", and started reading.
Before long he found himself nodding off. This material, obviously intended for scientists, was gibberish to normal people. And, he had gotten very little sleep. Reasoning that a vigilante can't be vigilant if he's too tired to think, he decided to go home and take a nap.
When he arrived - boy, did he hope that Launchpad could devise a system for getting from home to the tower using those Instant-Elsewheres! He was tired of driving back and forth - he saw that Launchpad was doing something bizarre to one of the chairs. He had all sorts of tools and things out, not to mention metal parts whose function Darkwing could not begin to guess. He said, "Launchpad-"
"Yeah?" LP looked up.
"Never mind. I'm going to get some sleep."
"OK, DW. G'night."
Darkwing awakened again when he heard Gosalyn's voice. She was shouting something. What was she shouting in the house for? He looked at his clock. It was nearly dinnertime! He took off his Darkwing coat - sheesh, he HAD been tired - and put on his shirt and sweater-vest. Coming downstairs, he said, "What are you making so much noise about?"
Launchpad answered, "DW! Get a load of this! Sit here, OK?" he pointed to one of the chairs.
"Okay." Drake sat. Launchpad tapped on the statue on the table between the chairs.
Drake was expecting to find himself in a similar chair in the tower. What he was not prepared for was the dizzying motion. When he came to a stop he stared at the inside of the tower.
The chair beside his started whirling - not around like a barber shop chair, but like a wheel. How had Launchpad managed THAT?
Launchpad, with Gosalyn on his lap, was sitting in the other chair. Gosalyn exclaimed, "Is this cool or WHAT?!"
"Ask me when the world stops spinning." Drake said.
"It's not bad at all when you're expecting it." Launchpad said. "I put the 'Instant-Elsewheres' below the chairs, so they only work when the chairs spin! How's that?"
"Not bad at all." Drake said. "I have to say, that's a ... unique way of doing it."
"And nobody'll find it accidentally - who'd think of messing with that statue?" Gosalyn added.
"I think this'll work. Provided I lay in a supply of motion sickness pills." Drake said. "Good job, Launchpad."
Launchpad grinned widely. "Thanks!"
"So, what's FOWL want with all that radioactive stuff?" Gosalyn wanted to know.
"I haven't figured that out yet." Drake admitted. "I've been - HEY! Launchpad, did you tell her EVERYTHING?"
Launchpad looked hurt. Gosalyn said, "HEY! You think I'm going to blab?!"
"No, sweetie. I just don't want you to get involved with my cases. These are adult matters. I don't want you worrying about them." he said softly.
Gosalyn scowled. "You're treating me like a kid!" she objected.
"Gee, why do you suppose that is?"
Gosalyn's scowl deepened.
In the spirit of compromise, Drake said "I'll tell you about it afterwards. Before I tell the newspapers, even. Subject closed. Let's have dinner."
They returned to the house. Drake said, "Do you smell something burning?"
Launchpad looked around. "Yeah, sorta."
Drake looked at the kitchen. "Launchpad, you didn't try to cook anything else, did you?"
"No! I haven't even walked in there - I been workin' on the chairs."
Drake walked into the kitchen. A pot was sitting on the stove. A small amount of smoke was rising out of it, and an awful smell. Drake turned off the burner, took a potholder, and lifted the lid. Then he looked at Launchpad. "Congratulations, Launchpad. You're the only person I have EVER known who could burn raman noodles!"
Gosalyn looked into the pot. "Eww! Even burned the no-stick coating off the inside of the pot."
"Oh, oops. I, er, left that on the stove, didn't I?" Launchpad said, embarrassed.
Drake sighed. "Launchpad ... oh, forget it. Let's go out and get a pizza or something. I'm not in the mood to cook anything anyway."
"All right!" Gosalyn exclaimed.
After a dinner at Pizza Pierre's, Drake was feeling a bit better about the world in general. Launchpad had recommended the place as having the best pizza in town, and Gosalyn had added that they had the best video games too. Despite that, Drake still liked the place. He had even gotten into one of the games with Gosalyn. It was a rather silly-looking game involving people that, when they gathered powerups, turned into different kinds of were-creatures - first wolves, then dragons, then bears - but, he had to admit, it was fun to beat the tar out of the enemies the game threw at them. Gosalyn did have to keep reminding him which one of the two players he was, though.
He came home refreshed and ready to take another whack at the problem at hand. He had just sat down with the thick printout - which, now, seemed less daunting - when he heard a knock at the door.
"Who the heck could that be?" Drake wondered as he got up to answer the door.
He was no more enlightened when he opened the door. He saw a couple, a fortyish, portly duck wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt, and a scrawny, cheerful-looking lady goose. The duck grabbed Drake's hand and shook it vigorously. "Howdy, spud! We're your new neighbors!" he said in slightly too loud a voice.
Drake recovered his hand, which was slightly the worse for wear. This was becoming a habit. "Uh, hello, Mr..."
"Muddlefoot. Herb Muddlefoot. You've already met my son Honker. This here's my lovely wife, Binkie."
She giggled. "Please to meet you."
Drake was rather at a loss. "Er... won't you come in?"
They did. "You know, this house had been up for sale for just forever!" Binkie twittered. "And it's just the nicest house! We did our best to make our prospective neighbors welcome, too."
Drake was developing a suspicion about why the house had gone unsold. While he was searching for something polite to say Launchpad and Gosalyn came down the stairs. "Hi!" Launchpad said.
"Well, aren't you just the loveliest little lady!" Binkie said to Gosalyn. Gosalyn looked behind herself to see who Binkie was talking to.
"Uh, Launchpad, these are Herb and Binkie ..."
"Muddlefoot." Herb finished for him. He shook Launchpad's hand. Launchpad weathered the experience better than Drake had. "Top Quackerware salesman in St. Canard."
"Now, Herb, they don't want to hear about that now." Binkie chided.
"Oh, yeah." Herb laughed. "Force o' habit. Say, where's Tank?" Herb looked around.
"Tank?" Drake asked.
Herb opened the door. On Drake's porch, Tank was eating a fruit-and-Jell-o salad. "Oh, heavens." Binkie said in exasperation.
"That's all right... I'm allergic to Jell-o anyway." Drake said.
"Honk, wanna help me with my homework?" Gosalyn asked, more to get away from the situation than for any other reason. Honker nodded. They went upstairs.
"I'm so glad that Honker has made friends with your little girl." Binkie said when they were out of sight. "Honker's a very bright young boy, but he's not quite ... well, normal. He's always got his bill in a book."
"There's something to be said for that." Drake commented, thinking about Gosalyn's fascination with his cases.
Upstairs, Gosalyn heard Mrs. Muddlefoot's last remark. Honker was right behind her; he had to have heard it as well. She turned back with an incredulous look. Honker shrugged.
They went in her room and shut the door. Gosalyn had to speak. "What a mean thing to say! Just because you're smart-!"
"She doesn't mean it that way." Honker said. "She just wishes I was more into sports and stuff, like Tank. That's all."
"She wants you to be more like Tank?" She had seen very little, but from that and what Honker had told her, the concept was unbelievable.
He shrugged again, with a little amusement. "I have an ... interesting family."
"I can understand that." Gosalyn said.
Drake said, "It's really been a pleasure, Mr. and Mrs. Muddlefoot-"
"We're neighbors now, spud! Call us Herb and Binkie." Herb said.
"Right. But I really have some pressing business to attend to." Drake opened the front door.
"All right. Well, see ya later." Herb gave Drake a friendly slap on the back which knocked the wind out of him.
Binkie added "We just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood, and tell you that we think that you're just the loveliest modern family."
"Maybe later we can watch a game on TV." Launchpad offered.
"Sure thing!" Herb said.
Drake closed the door and slumped against it, shaking his head. "Now I KNOW why this house was so cheap!" he said.
"DW, what's a 'modern family'?" Launchpad asked.
"You got me. Come on, we've got work to do."
Upstairs, Gosalyn chewed on the end of her pencil. "Honker, what can you do with a lot of radioactive stuff?" she asked.
"Radioactives?" Honker said. "Is that in your homework?"
"No. I, er, read something in the paper, and I was wondering. What could anyone do with a lot of radioactive goop?"
"With radioactive waste, nothing. That's why it's waste." Honker said. "But in other forms, it's very useful. Chemotherapy, for example. Tagging chemicals. The plant that supplies St. Canard's electricity is powered by radioactive fuel."
The lights dimmed. This time they did not come back to full power.
"Not very well powered." Gosalyn said.
"So, what about your homework?"
"I only got a little today." she lied. Well, a little that was due tomorrow - but a LOT of reading to do in the next couple of days. "Hey, the news is on. Let's catch that."
"But what about your homework?"
"It can wait. Lighten up."
They went downstairs. Drake and Launchpad were watching the evening news. On the coffee table was a newspaper open to the local news section. Gosalyn plopped down next to Launchpad, who patted her on the head. She scooted over to make room for Honker between herself and her father. Drake looked over, said "Oh, hi." absently, and went back to monitoring the program.
The story was something about boats in Audubon Bay, which did not interest Honker. Instead, he picked up the newspaper. On the page the section was open to were wedding and birth announcements, advertisements, and an article about the mysterious, faintly radioactive spot that kept appearing and disappearing in the bay. It did not pose any danger to the residents of St. Canard, but its existence was a mystery, even after several weeks of monitoring by a government agency.
On the screen, the Tom Lockjaw began another story. "And, this just in. Despite repeated assurances that he would soon solve the case, there have STILL been no results of Darkwing Duck's investigation of the dumping of radioactive waste into Audubon Bay."
Drake strangled a growl. The camera cut to a shot of Darkwing declaring that he would crack this case within a day, "beyond the shadow of a doubt!" In the background, Launchpad was waving to the camera. When the camera cut back to Lockjaw, he smirked and commented that that film had been taken several days ago.
Drake stood and turned off the television. "That has got to be the most biased, sensationalistic news program I have ever seen, beyond the shadow of a doubt!" He turned and stomped upstairs.
Honker stared after him. The voice and inflections had been exactly the same. And, now that he thought about it, they looked similar too. And Drake had been upset by a bad report about Darkwing Duck!
Gosalyn said, "What's eating him?"
Launchpad replied, "Ah - he had a bad day at the office today." hoping that Gosalyn would understand.
Honker said, "Gosalyn - uh, maybe we, uh - ought to get back to your homework." he got off the couch.
"Oh, all right. Hey, what's the matter with you? You look like you seen a ghost."
He started up the stairs, unwilling to say anything more in the living room. Gosalyn followed him. In her room she said, "Sheesh! What's your problem?"
"That was your Dad!" he blurted out after a few seconds of stuttering.
"Oh, that? He gets in bad moods sometimes. Just ignore 'em."
"No! On the news!"
"What? Oh, no, Launchpad's not my Dad. We just happen to both have the same color hair, that's all." she said, hoping that that was what Honker had meant.
"No! Your Dad and Darkwing Duck both have the same voice. And they look the same!"
"And he got mad when the newsman insulted him."
Gosalyn sighed. Honker was too smart for her to fool, no matter how many explanations she came up with. She said, "Okay, Honker, I'll level with you. He IS Darkwing Duck. But that's a big secret, okay? I mean it!"
Honker shook his head rapidly. "I won't tell anyone!" he promised. "That was what the question about radioactives was about?"
"Yeah ... I guess I shoulda kept my mouth shut."
"The only radioactives that ought to be anywhere near St. Canard are in the power plant. Why would anyone bring in waste to dump in Audubon Bay? Plus, if it were simply barrels of waste, it would be easy to find, and it wouldn't appear and disappear like they said it did." he pointed out.
Gosalyn saw that he was warming to the problem at hand. "And?"
The lights dimmed. He looked up, then at her. She made the connection too. "Come on, Honker. We gotta tell Dad!"
"Are you sure?"he said in alarm.
She grabbed him by the wrist. "Sure I'm sure." she said, and dragged him downstairs. The television was off, and Launchpad was gone. Gosalyn shouted, "DAD!" If he was here, that would bring him running - to scold her for yelling in the house. He did not respond. She said, "You like roller coasters?"
"Oh well." she dragged him to one of the chairs, sat in the other, and punched the mouse statuette on the head.
In the tower, Darkwing was pacing in a circle, muttering bits of information he had gleaned from the pile of paper, hoping that something would click together. Launchpad was tuning up the Ratcatcher.
The chairs started spinning. Darkwing looked up, expecting to see Launchpad leaving the tower for home. He was not expecting to see a redheaded duckling and a bespectacled, sick-looking gosling. Darkwing said, "Gosalyn! WHAT are you doing here?!"
"Wait, Dad!" she said, holding up her hands.
"I think you have me confused with some OTHER duck, little girl who I do not know!" Darkwing growled through gritted teeth.
"DAD! Honker figured it out by himself. You shouldn't've quoted what you said on TV, then stomped off when they gave you a bad review." she said. "That was a real giveaway. Anyway, Honker may have an idea what's up with the radioactive stuff?"
"Oh, really? You think that a mere child can solve a case that the daring detective Darkwing Duck can't?"
Gosalyn said, "Tell him, Honker."
Honker looked back at Darkwing, who had folded his arms and was tapping one foot. He stuttered, "Well, I, uh - I - that is-"
Darkwing said, "Honker, if you have anything to say, spit it out!"
Honker drew in a breath. "The radioactives can't be waste because they wouldn't appear and disappear and it makes no sense to dump them in the bay anyway. The only radioactives in the city are in the electric plant, and it's been losing power for the last few weeks!" he blurted out in two breaths.
Darkwing stared at him. Honker backed a step away nervously. But instead of shouting at Honker, he turned away and started punching at his computer keyboard.
And all the lights went out.
Darkwing snarled uselessly at the inactive computer. Gosalyn said from one of the windows, "Keen gear! The whole city's blacked out!"
"The whole city? That couldn't be!" Darkwing objected. He looked out the window. "Or maybe it could."
"See? What'd I tell you!" she crowed.
"You kids go back to the house now." Darkwing said. "Launchpad and I are going to crack this case now!"
"Uh, Dad, one problem."
"The chairs aren't working. I'm sitting in one now. Nothing's happening." Gosalyn lied, knowing that he could not see her or the chairs.
"Never mind. To the Thunderquack!" Darkwing said. "Launchpad, you drop me off at the FOWL base. Then you go to the power plant and scout around, and report anything suspicious to me."
"What about us? Do we go with you or Launchpad?" Gosalyn said.
"You two will NOT get involved." Darkwing stated flatly. "You will wait in the Thunderquack, where it's safe."
Honker sighed with relief. Gosalyn scowled.
Even though it was too dark for anyone to see him, Darkwing stepped behind a blind and changed into the Eggman uniform he had appropriated the night before. Then he got into the Thunderquack - the others had already taken their seats - and said, "Let's go!"
Launchpad stared at the window of the tower. Darkwing asked, "What's the holdup?!"
"The lifts work by electricity." Launchpad said.
"Aw, SHEESH! That's it! First thing after this case, we get a backup generator!" Darkwing snarled. "How the heck are we going to get this thing out of the tower?!"
"Waitaminute..." Unseen in the dark, Launchpad grinned. "Hold on to your seats." He started the engine. When he had full power he pushed the steering column forward and pulled back on a lever. The ship jerked forward, toward the window.
"LAUNCHPAD!" Darkwing screamed. The windows were only ten feet wide! Couldn't Launchpad see that they'd tear the Thunderquack's wings off against the towers stone walls?!
Just as they were about to crash Launchpad slapped another lever forward. The engine stopped, the wings folded upward, and the ship coasted through the window unharmed. And started plummeting down toward the bay.
Launchpad pulled back on the lever, and the wings unfolded and the engine started again. The Thunderquack pushed up hard under everyone's seats. "Okay, DW!" Launchpad grinned when he had the ship stabilized. "Where to first?"
"Someplace that sells air sickness bags." Darkwing gasped. "WARN me when you're going to do that!"
"Aw, it was cool! Do it again!" Gosalyn piped up from the back seat.
Darkwing looked back in disbelief. Despite her enthusiasm, she was a little pale too. And Honker was positively green. Darkwing turned back to Launchpad. "One modification. Seat belts."
"Will do, DW." Launchpad replied cheerfully.
Launchpad dropped Darkwing off near the FOWL station that Darkwing had visited the night before. Not too near, though - subtlety did not seem to be Launchpad's style. Darkwing was afraid that, in his enthusiasm, he might set him down right in the middle of the base, so he had Launchpad drop him off about half a mile away. Which meant that Darkwing had to do a bit of walking.
While Darkwing was getting his exercise, Launchpad flew to the power plant, guided by Honker. When he saw the building he commented, "Boy, it sure doesn't look like a power plant. It's all dark."
"DUH. That's because of the blackout." Gosalyn replied.
"Oh." Launchpad said.
Why did Gosalyn suddenly feel bad for wising off to Launchpad? Oh well, never mind. Launchpad was landing the ship. He got out. He started to close the dome when Gosalyn said, "Wait!"
"Now, Gos, DW said you two hafta stay in the Thunderquack where it's safe."
"But, Launchpad, think how much better you can investigate this case with Honker along-"
"Me?!" Honker exclaimed.
"-He's smart; I'll be he could figure out whatever's wrong and fix it. And I can be a lookout for the two of you. Dad had so much on his mind, he didn't think about that, but if he had I know that's the plan he would have made."
Honker looked at Gosalyn in disbelief. He was even more surprised when Launchpad said, "I guess you're right, Gos. OK, but be careful."
Gosalyn saw Honker's expression, and winked back. "This is where it gets good!" she whispered.
Darkwing arrived at the FOWL camp slightly out of breath. At the gate he was stopped by two Eggmen. "Halt! Hand it over!" one said.
Darkwing thought quickly, and said, "What?"
"You know what we mean. Why you're out here."
"I am out here on a mission of recovery." Darkwing bluffed. "Let me in, or Steelbeak will hear about this!"
"Steelbeak'll hear about it, all right, if you come back without that soccer ball that got kicked over the fence."
"The FOWL budget's so tight these days, they'll probably make the team buy its own ball from now on." the other commented. "They been giving us a hard time about stuff like that ever since we formed a union."
"Oh, yeah, that." Darkwing said. FOWL minions played soccer? Well, he supposed that they had to do SOMETHING on their time off. "I didn't bring the ball back because ... uh ... it was broken. Uh, deflated. Can't get much use out of a deflated soccer ball, can you?"
"Rats. I knew that would happen, what with the lowest-bidder stuff they been getting." one Eggman shook his head. "Well, if we pull off tonight's scheme we'll be able to buy a new soccer ball. All the soccer balls we need!" Both Eggmen laughed.
"Speaking of which... any new developments?" Darkwing asked, fishing for information.
"What you asking US for? You ought to be at the unveiling. YOU don't have to guard the gate." one said enviously.
"Right. Well, carry on then." Darkwing passed the guards and went into the camp.
A few minutes after he entered, an Eggman carrying a soccer ball came up to the gates.
Darkwing inserted himself into the first line of Eggmen he found. They trooped into what looked surprisingly like a cafeteria/auditorium. Somehow, he did not think of organized crime as including such pedestrian features. All the other uniformed Eggmen filed in and sat down in the order they arrived. Since Darkwing had arrived late he was seated toward the back.
Soon the lights dimmed. Steelbeak stepped on stage, his white jacket visible a moment before the spotlight turned on and focused on him. He took the microphone, tapped it to make sure it was on, and said, "Greetings, ladies, gentlemen and other persons of hench." he chuckled at his joke.
Darkwing wondered if that was supposed to be funny.
"St. Canard's current power plant has, sadly, been having all sorts of problems. It's unreliable. We can only assume it's because of faulty design. Well, either dat, or de fuel cores we've been stealing from it. Tonight, it will go offline permanently, and in its place..." He paused dramatically. Then he snapped into the microphone, "Cue screen!"
A projection screen lowered from the top if the stage. It displayed a large, very modern looking brick of a building. Steelbeak gestured grandly. "St. Canard's new power plant, owned and managed by de Fiendish Organization for World Larceny. Once we get dis baby online, We'll have power over St. Canard, literally! Dey'll have to pay FOWL rates for their electricity after we blow up their power plant!" At the ensuring babble Steelbeak raised his hands. "Now, now." he said. "If you're quiet, you might hear de BOOM from here!"
They were going to bomb the power plant! And that's where Launchpad and the kids were! Darkwing had to get to them! He jumped out of his seat and started making his way past slightly annoyed Eggmen.
Steelbeak had seen Darkwing. To make an example out of him he said, "Shoulda thought of dat beforehand." Covering the microphone with one hand, he shook his head and sighed, "Union dips."
Just outside, Darkwing found a dozen FOWL vehicles. He got into one - and, of course, he had no key. He looked around. There was one Eggman who seemed to be in charge of the vehicles. Darkwing went to him and said, "No time to lose! Quick, I need a vehicle. I have the arming sequence for the detonator they're going to use at the power plant! They left without it!"
The Eggman said, "They did? Sheesh! I better tell Steelbeak what the holdup is." he said as he dropped a key on a FOWL keychain into Darkwing's hand.
"No - no need to bother him with little details. I'm sure he, ah, has enough on his mind without that." Darkwing said quickly.
In the power plant, Launchpad, Gosalyn, and Honker had been finding their way around with the aid of luck, educated guesswork, and flashlights. Honker was guiding them; he seemed to have a good idea of what they needed to find, which was more than what Gosalyn and Launchpad could say.
When they turned a corridor they heard voices. The lights flared on. Launchpad said, "How about that? It's workin' again."
"Wait a minute." Honker went into the nearest room. It was filled with computers. He pulled up a chair to stand in and started typing on the keyboard. Launchpad and Gosalyn watched incomprehendingly and the screen filled with statistics and schematics.
Honker shook his head. "The power plant isn't working at all. It's only the backup power. It won't last long; it was only intended to power this one building long enough for them to effect repairs."
Launchpad said, "So, they're fixin' it?"
A shrill buzzing issued from the hall. They covered their ears. Honker looked at the screen. One area was outlined in pulsing red. "Look!" he said, pointing towards the screen with his elbow so as not to uncover his ear. "The core has been breached! And it has no fuel!"
"Does that mean they're fixing it?" Launchpad shouted over the noise.
"No!" Honker said. "They wouldn't have tripped the alarm!"
"You mean, there's someone busting the place up? Come on!" Gosalyn said.
"Wait! Look!" Honker had called a view of the core up on the computer screen. "Who wears yellow uniforms with white helmets?"
"FOWL!" Launchpad said. "This is way too dangerous for you kids. I'm takin' you back to the Thunderquack."
"No!" Gosalyn objected.
Launchpad said, "Sorry, Gos." and hustled her and Honker out the door. Right in front of a half dozen Eggmen.
Darkwing arrived at the power plant. He jumped out of the vehicle. A FOWL man was guarding the door. Darkwing said, "Sorry I'm late. They left the arming code behind! Let me through!" It worked; the Eggman stepped aside without question.
Now that he was inside, where to go? Where would they put a bomb to destroy a power plant? In the core, of course! That must be in the center of the building.
Re literally ran into a group of Eggmen. He said, "Sorry I'm late. Brought the detonator code - the one you have is wrong. Where's the core?"
"Follow us." said one of the Eggmen. "And hold this kid!" He shoved a redheaded girl into his arms. Gosalyn got in a parting kick to his shins before turning her attentions to Darkwing.
"Wait- OOF!" Darkwing wheezed as she drove her elbow into his stomach. He whispered into her ear, "It's me, Gos!"
She looked up at him, surprised. He lifted his visor and winked. Then, louder, he said, "Come on, Steelbeak's waiting!"
Honker looked up. He had recognized Darkwing's voice as well. Darkwing was not surprised. Only Launchpad showed no sign of being unaware of Darkwing's identity. Oh well, that couldn't be helped. They marched their prisoners into the core area. Several Eggmen were rigging up a big, complicated looking device inside the open containment chamber. Darkwing stared at it in alarm. That thing was no cherry bomb!
Darkwing stepped up to the Eggmen who had just finished rigging the bomb. He said, "The detonator code you were given was wrong. I have the correct one."
"You do? Hand it over." said the one at the controls.
"I have it up here." Darkwing tapped his helmet.
"Fine. Get it out of your helmet and hand it here."
"No. I mean, I have it in my mind. Let ME set it!"
The Eggman acquiesced reluctantly. Darkwing stepped up to it and cracked his knuckles. It should be simple to render this bomb harmless. All he had to do was enter the wrong code. While the others were fleeing the explosion that would never come, he could swoop back down to the FOWL camp and arrest Steelbeak before they knew that their plans had gone awry!
Back to the bomb. He saw that the detonator code had been marked above the keypad with a laundry marker. It was the same color as the casing - black - but when the light struck it just right he could see the ink. All he had to do was enter a slightly different code. The original code was 124C41 0300000. Darkwing typed in, slowly and deliberately, 124C41 0003000.
The screen above the keypad lit up and began counting backwards from 00:30:00. And from the way the numbers were changing, it meant thirty seconds, not thirty minutes! "RUN!" Darkwing screamed in panic.
The Eggmen started to file out. He yelled, "DIDN'T YOU HEAR ME? THAT THING'S GOING TO GO IN LESS THAN HALF A MINUTE!"
"We got half an hour." the Eggman replied. "You..." Then he saw the timer. "It's gonna blow!" he yelled. The Eggmen ran for the door. One punched a button, and a heavy shield slid down, sealing them inside.
Honker had seen the detonator screen too. He ran over to the control panel. He looked the controls over quickly. Darkwing grabbed his and Gosalyn's arms. "We have to find a way out!"
Honker pulled away. "We don't have time!" he shouted shrilly and ran back to the controls.
Fifteen seconds. There was no way they could get away now. Darkwing turned his back on the detonator and held Gosalyn, as if that could protect her. "I'm sorry." he said in a tight voice.
He heard the rumbling of machinery behind himself. Launchpad pointed. "Look!"
Darkwing did. The containment device was sliding down over the core containing the bomb. It slammed shut. All was silent for several seconds, then they heard the muffled roar of the bomb. The device lifted slightly and cracked, but it held.
Darkwing stared at it. "What is that thing?" he glanced over at Honker, who was standing, his hands still on the control panel, shaking.
Gosalyn said, "You can let go of me now, Dad." He did. "Did you do that, Honk?"
"Um, uh, yeah. It's a containment shield. It was built to contain explosions." He pressed another set of controls. The containment shield lifted, revealing what used to be the reactor core. "We could never get far enough in the time that was left to survive the explosion - the shield was the only thing that could save us. It was built to damp down explosions much more powerful than that chemical bomb." He looked as if he was about to faint at the thought.
She put an arm around his shoulder, not only for moral support. "That thing's never going to be the same! Even the floor's all cracked! Boy, Dad, it sure was a good thing you didn't leave us kids behind after all huh?"
"Yeah, yeah, all right." Darkwing admitted. "Boy, I'm glad you knew how to contain that blast, Honker." Darkwing said. Honker looked up in surprise. "However, the story isn't over with yet. We have some FOWL fiends to catch! To the Thunderquack!"
A small device beeped, signaling to Steelbeak that the bomb had detonated. Steelbeak announced, "As of now, St. Canard has no power and no power plant. Time for FOWL to play de good guy for once, and offer dem a little assistance. Quiet on de set." He flipped a big lever on one side of the stage. On the monitor, the city's lights came back on. Steelbeak waited, tapping one foot. Then he shouted, "Where is de camera?!"
A voice shouted from offstage, "We're loading the film."
Steelbeak lowered his head into his hands. "What is it with youse guys? Do you have to drop twenty IQ points de moment you join a dadgum union?" he moaned.
After much too much time an Eggman wheeled out a television camera. "Ready." He handed Steelbeak a clip-on mike to replace the hand-held microphone. Steelbeak smoothed his comb back, took a breath, and signaled the cameraman.
"Greetings, St. Canard." He began with a grin. "We at FOWL are so sorry to hear about de troubles you've been having with your new power plant, 'specially since it just blew up. Being the humanitarian organization that we are, we thought we'd offer our assistance. To wit: we just happen to have a power plant ready to power your city. As you can see, we are now supplying your city's electricity." he jiggled the switch; the power in the city flickered, then brightened again. He said to the camera, "We think of dis as a public service. We'll be pleased to power St. Canard ... at a reasonable rate, of course. Ah-heh-heh-heh."
Behind him, the front part of a bizarre-looking aircraft burst through the wall and slammed down into the stage, tearing a hole through the floorboards. It ripped the heavy stage curtains loose, which fell, covering Steelbeak. The dome of the airship opened, and Darkwing leaped out. When he landed he yelled, "I've got you now, you ... you ... hey, where'd you go?"
Steelbeak pushed out from underneath the curtains. "YOU again! We're on de air here!" he said angrily.
"Really?" Darkwing looked around for the camera.
Steelbeak took advantage of the moment to retrieve the hand-held microphone and wrap the cord tightly around Darkwing's neck. "Dis ain't gonna do much for FOWL's humanitarian profile, but what de heck." he said.
Steelbeak received an unexpected, sharp kick in the shins. He yelped and looked at its source - a short, redheaded duckling. He wasn't quite fast enough to dodge the second kick. He shouted, "Get her, you dimwits!" to the Eggmen in the audience. They drew their guns and pointed them at the stage. "NO!" he yelled in exasperation, then yelped again as Gosalyn landed another kick.
Darkwing had managed to work his way free. He took out his gas gun and trained it on Steelbeak. "One false move, and Rin-Tin-Grin here gets it!" he shouted, making sure the camera was getting a good angle.
"He's got a gun!" one of the Eggmen in the front shouted in alarm.
"Idiot! We've all got guns!" another answered.
The front of the Thunderquack opened right behind Darkwing. Launchpad spoke over the ship's microphones. "I, ah - I got a bigger gun! Back off!"
Darkwing, holding onto Steelbeak, moved out of the way. He handed the gas gun to Gosalyn. "If he makes a false move, nail him." he said, winking at her.
"Aww, can't I get him anyway?" she pleaded, aiming the gun with both hands. "I won't hit him in a vital spot, I promise!"
"Now, now. Don't be too bloodthirsty." Darkwing admonished her, grinning. He held Steelbeak's hands behind his back and looped the microphone cord around his wrists. He left enough free wire at the microphone end so he could tell the camera, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Steelbeak, the next in a long line of major threats to the wellbeing of St. Canard to be thwarted by Darkwing Duck!"
"I am gonna GET you for dis!" Steelbeak said.
"Sure, sure, that's what they all say." Darkwing replied in a superior tone. "Your Eggmen sure were a lot of help, weren't they?"
"Doze dadgum union DIPS-" he looked out into the auditorium. He was surprised to see that all of the Eggmen were unconscious, and standing in front of the first row was a line of people in identical grey suits.
In the center was Gryzlikoff, his arms folded, watching the scene with a smug smile. He said, "SHUSH can take it from here."
"Be my guest." Darkwing replied as Gryzlikoff came on stage.
"-And from there it was routine SHUSH procedure to take Steelbeak and other FOWL people in for interrogation."
"Did you ask how he got that beak of his?" Darkwing asked.
"Why would we ask that? It is of no deportance. And it is not-"
"Part of procedure." Darkwing finished for him. "Look, Gryz, you have to go outside procedures to get real results sometimes! Your agents wouldn't have been able to knock out all those Eggmen if I hadn't been distracting them."
"Using SHUSH procedure for such situation - take them from back, one row per time, silently so they do not alert others." Gryzlikoff replied with some satisfaction.
"Gentlemen." Hooter said. "I must compliment both of you. Your tactics, though wildly diverse, nonetheless accomplished more than either of you could have done alone."
"Perhaps." Darkwing said. Gryzlikoff said nothing, but his expression spoke eloquently.
"Unfortunately, the bomb did ruin the power plant." Hooter said. "They are working on rebuilding the core. I don't know how they will get it back in perfect order; there were cracks running throughout the building. We have our people working on it, though."
"Why not just use the plan that FOWL set up?" Darkwing asked.
"We are doing that in the meantime. However, our survey showed that the plant that FOWL built was not properly shielded. Before long, the surrounding area would be polluted with radiation." Hooter said. "It's safe for the months it will take to rebuild the damaged section of the old plant, which is being done with all possible speed. When it is ready we will transfer the fuel cores back to the plant and restart it."
"So, that wraps up THAT case. All that remains is to find the spy in SHUSH." Darkwing said.
"Once again, I must thank you, Darkwing." Hooter said. He stood up from his desk and held out his hand; Darkwing shook it. "I hope we can count on you in the future?"
"Of course!" Darkwing said. It was exactly what he had been hoping for.
"Very good. Say, Darkwing, Dr. Bellum wanted to see you, by the way."
"Oh? All right. I'll stop by R&D, then." Darkwing said. He threw a salute, then left.
When the door shut behind Darkwing Gryzlikoff said, "Sir. With all respect, I must detest. Duck is unpredictable. He has no respect for regulations and procedures."
"That is what makes him an asset." Hooter said. "The best agents have their idiocyncrancies, Agent Gryzlikoff; we both know that. I'm sure that in time you two will become accustomed to working with each other."
Gryzlikoff muttered, "Chort vozmi."
Darkwing entered the Research and Development area. Dr. Bellum was the only one there. He said, "The Instant-Elsewheres work fine."
She looked up from an incomprehensible diagram with a look of surprise. "They do? Still? Well! You're luckier than the guinea pigs."
"What happened to the guinea pigs, anyway?"
"Never mind." she smiled to herself in a way that made Darkwing uncomfortable. "I heard through the grapevine that you were interested in my department's developments. How would you like to make a deal?"
"What kind of deal?" He asked, clearly interested.
She leaned back against the table. "Because of SHUSH regulations, it's difficult to field-test things. How would you like to get first crack at our inventions?"
"Are you kidding?! I - ahem, sure, I'd be willing to give you a hand in that department. Anything to help the fight against evil."
She had thought he would appreciate the opportunity to play with SHUSH's new toys. It finalized her decision. She said, "In that case, I think we can look forward to working together a lot." she shook hands with him.
After Darkwing left she took a small pin out of a lead-lined drawer. It looked like a small, golden dove - but it concealed a hidden microphone. On the back was the logo of a clawed talon grasping a globe. She had taken off the pin and put it in the drawer after Steelbeak had demanded why he had not been warned of Darkwing's appearance on the boat; he had not believed that she simply had not heard of it because Darkwing did not follow orders processed through regular channels. After that she had evaluated her options, and she had realized that she was no longer limited to working for FOWL, developing superweapons, plans for electrical plants, and facial prostheses for a certain rooster. Most of the time SHUSH gave her the freedom to develop whatever she felt like working on, under the assumption that scientists worked best when given free run. Plus, being a secret government agency, it was much less concerned with matters of budget. When she looked at all the facts, why would she want to go back to FOWL?
She took the pin and, after running it through a magnetic eraser to scramble its circuits, dropped it into a scrap metal bin.
That night, Drake taped the news report. The headline story was the destruction of the old power plant and Darkwing's exposing FOWL's plot. It included footage of Darkwing capturing Steelbeak. Needless to day, Drake was quite pleased with himself. "Well, it looks like Darkwing Duck's crimefighting career is really taking off." he said proudly.
"Sure is, Dad." Gosalyn agreed cheerfully. "That was more fun than - well, anything I can remember!"
"FUN?!" Drake exclaimed. "We all nearly got blown to Kingdom Come!"
"Oh, c'mon, what's the point if there's not a little danger?" she shot back.
Drake, unable to decide if she was kidding him or not, tabled the question and ruffled her hair with his hand. "Well, anyway, all's well that ends well. But, Launchpad - I didn't know you had a gun in the Thunderquack's bill. When did you put that in?"
"What gun?" Launchpad asked.
"The one that the kept those Eggmen back with!"
"Oh, heck - I was bluffin'. Honker here said to do it."
"You told him?" Drake said, looking at Honker in disbelief.
"Um, uh - we had to keep them from using their weapons, and keep their attention on us so the SHUSH agents could get them from the back."
"Oh, is that why? Huh, I wouldn't'a thought of that." Launchpad said, patting Honker on the head. "Good idea!"
"You saw them? Funny; I didn't." Drake said.
"You were too busy playing to the camera." Gosalyn answered.
Drake cleared his throat. "Well, never mind, that's not important now. What is important is that we all came though as a team." Drake said.
"Hey, hear that? We're a team!" Gosalyn crowed.
"HOLD it right there, little missy!" Drake said. "This is NOT going to be a habit! Crimefighting is NOT a job for children!"
To Drake's surprise, Gosalyn smiled back and said obediently, "Of course, Dad."
He looked at her skeptically for a moment, waiting for the punchline. When she said nothing more he flashed a relieved look at Launchpad. At the same time, Gosalyn glanced at Honker and winked conspiratorially.
Honker looked up at the ceiling and wondered what he'd gotten himself into.
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 or the credits.
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