It is now ten years after the "Darkwing Duck" TV series took place. A lot of things have changed, like... er... well, everyone's ten years older. Hence the title of this series,
By Kim McFarland
It was a hot and sunny day in St. Canard as Darkwing Duck and Quiverwing Quack's Ratcatcher motorcycles threaded their way through the city's streets, heading to SHUSH headquarters. Quiverwing had been working full-time with Darkwing for several months now, and when he had been informed of a case that was "not dangerous" he had decided that it was time to introduce his prot g to SHUSH.
A red light stopped them. Quiverwing pulled into the lane alongside Darkwing. Over the gunning of the motors he called, "There's still time for you to back out, kiddo. I won't hold it against you."
"Get real." she answered. He was teasing her, but what else was new? "You're just afraid I'll show you up to them!" She grinned.
"Right. See if you're still smiling after you've met Agent Gryzlikoff!"
"Let's see if he is, you mean!" she answered.
The light turned green while Darkwing was laughing. She pulled ahead of him. He followed her. He imagined the look on Gryzlikoff's face when he realized that he now had two costumed vigilantes to deal with full-time instead of one, and began snickering again.
Soon they pulled up to the SHUSH Headquarters building. Then they had to search around for several more minutes for parking spaces. After a decade of service to the organization Darkwing still did not rate a parking spot. It annoyed him on the few occasions a month he would actually have used it.
Quiverwing looked at her watch. "We got a little time. Mind if I stop by R&D first?"
"Sure." Darkwing answered. "Any particular reason?"
"Wink wink, nudge nudge." she answered and walked in.
"Say no more." He did not have to direct her to that department; she had visited there before. When she entered the lab she sneaked up behind a tall, thin gander in a lab coat who was busy with the business end of a microscope. She tapped him on the shoulder. "Tag!"
He startled, then looked back. "Oh, Quiverwing. It's you."
"Yep. Dad and I were in the neighborhood, so I thought we'd stop by. Why so jumpy?"
Honker sighed and adjusted his glasses. "Doctor Bellum was testing out one of her inventions this morning. The Wave Control Field. W. C. for short."
"What happened? Did it blow up or something?" she asked.
"No. It worked perfectly." Honker said in a low voice. "That's what scares me."
"Really? What's it do?" Quiverwing asked.
"It generates a field inside which the kinetic constant of matter is altered by a factor of up to ten thousand."
"Huh?" Darkwing and Quiverwing said in unison.
"Um, I guess you could say it speeds up or slows down time in a bubble. A moment outside the field could equal a month inside it, or vice versa. We put an egg a chicken had just laid in it, and a second later it hatched."
"Could be useful...I guess." Darkwing said.
"It's very dangerous. Someone could starve if they accidentally got caught inside the field overnight." Honker shuddered.
"Good thing SHUSH has a great medical insurance plan, isn't it?" Darkwing said.
"Anyway, Honk, I'm gonna be working on a case here with Dad."
Darkwing glanced at his watch and said, "Speaking of which, we'd better get a move on."
"Right. Catch you later, Honk."
"See you tonight?"
"I dunno. When I find out about this case I'll call and tell you."
"OK. See you."
In his office J. Gander Hooter, the Director of SHUSH, looked at his watch. It was about time. Five... four... three... two...
"I am the terror that flaps in the night!" A smoke cloud appeared. "I am the fax machine with auto redial that calls you at one in the morning! I am Darkwing Duck!"
"Ah, Darkwing. You're right on time." Hooter said, nonplussed.
"As always. And I would like to present my apprentice and colleague, The Quiverwing Quack." Darkwing gestured grandly.
She winced inwardly. Dad was being even more theatrical than usual.
"Ah, greetings, young lady. I've heard a good bit about you from Darkwing." Hooter gestured to the chairs in front of his desk. "I have a case that is outside of your usual scope, Darkwing, but I believe that you are the man for the job."
"Nothing that threatens our fair city is outside my scope!" Darkwing declared. "What kind of criminal will I have cause to collar?"
"No, this is not that kind of case." Hooter laid a manila folder on his desk. "This is, I suppose you would say, a witness protection case."
"Witness protection?" Darkwing echoed. "Isn't that usually the job of the FIB? Why would you need me for something like that?"
"You are such an asset to SHUSH because you are the 'wild card' in the deck. And this case involves another 'wild card', one which you have dealt with many times in the past."
"If so, the Darkwing Club will ace the joker, and that's a fact, jack!"
Quiverwing rolled her eyes and said "Gong." under her breath.
Hooter smiled politely. "Very amusing wordplay, Darkwing. The man you'll be protecting- where did he go?" He looked around his office in surprise. "He was in here when you arrived."
Darkwing drew his gas gun. "Ah, a fleeing felon? Fear not, I'll foil-"
"I'm right here. Sorry, I wasn't trying to hide."
"Ah, I thought you were a potted plant." Hooter said.
Darkwing and Quiverwing looked around. There, standing by the door, was a mutant plant duck. "It's OK, that happens a lot."
"Bushroot? I arrested you less than a week ago! What are you doing out of prison?!" Darkwing aimed his gun at him.
The mutant flinched and held his hands up. "Hey! You could hurt someone with that!"
"Gentlemen, please!" Hooter called. "Darkwing, Dr. Bushroot has expressed a wish to make amends for his misdeeds. He has agreed to aid us in pursuing his former partners in crime."
Darkwing glanced back at Bushroot, who nodded nervously. To Hooter he said, "I see. So why do you need me for this?"
"You are familiar with Dr. Bushroot and the rest of the Fearsome Five. He believes that if they find out that he is cooperating with us they will try to harm him. Thus, he must be concealed most carefully. And he may be able to give you invaluable insight that will help you to finally bring the Five to justice once and for all."
"Can I put my hands down now?" Bushroot asked.
Darkwing did not lower his gun. "This may be a trick, J. Gan. He could be a spy for them, you know. He did give up a little too easily when I arrested him."
"In which case, you will be the one to handle him." Hooter said.
Quiverwing had been watching Bushroot out of the corner of her eye during the argument. He looked frightened, as if his fate were in the balance. Which, in fact, it probably was.
"All right, J. Gan. I'll take the case. I want to be the first to figure out what he's really up to."
"Very good." Hooter handed the open manila folder to Darkwing. "We have planned to locate him here, in this arboretum."
"That's where he used to live." Quiverwing observed.
Hooter said, "That will be the last place the rest of the Five will look for him, since they believe him to be in prison-"
"Ever heard of B'rer Rabbit?" Darkwing interrupted.
"-and, of course, it will be equipped with alarms and guards in case anyone tries to break in or out. The glass is frosted, to keep anyone outside from seeing him."
"All right. But I'll want to check the place out myself, to make sure he didn't leave any secret escape routes." Darkwing insisted.
"Then it's settled. We'll relocate him tonight." Hooter said.
Quiverwing saw Bushroot's look of relief. If he was acting, he was doing it very well. He noticed her looking at him, and smiled back sheepishly.
Darkwing was present, his gas gun in his hand, for the transport. Quiverwing was as well. Throughout the process Bushroot was uncharacteristically quiet. When they were in the arboretum Darkwing said, "I don't think you're on the up-and-up, veggie. There's some trick to this, and I'm going to find it out."
"There isn't. Really!" Bushroot said.
"That's what they all say. Watch him, Quiverwing, while I look for any escape routes."
"Um, there aren't any - but there is a hidden root cellar. I used it as a laboratory. It's right here." He brushed aside some fern fronds to reveal a trap door.
Darkwing tugged at the door. "How is it locked?"
"From inside. Phil, open up. It's me."
"Phil?" Darkwing and Quiverwing echoed.
The lock clicked after a moment, and the door swung open. A vine was attached to the door handle. Bushroot went in and picked up the pot that the vine was growing out of. "Phil O'Dendron. He's been locked down there for so long. I can't leave him."
"Well, we'll have to seal this off. I'm not going to let you play the mad scientist any more, not after the slime incident." Darkwing shut the door, then produced a padlock and fastened it. "Anything else I should know about?"
"No, that's it." Bushroot put the pot down in a sunny spot and draped the ivy over a trellis.
"If you don't mind, I'll inspect the place anyway."
Bushroot shrugged. While Darkwing busied himself the mutant arranged the ivy so that most of it was in the sunlight. Quiverwing said, "He sure doesn't believe you."
"I don't blame him." Bushrood said. "I guess I wouldn't if I were him."
"Look, if this is a trick Darkwing's gonna find out. You did just about turn yourself in to Darkwing that last time."
"I know it must look like a trick. But it's not." Bushroot asserted, then sat on a bench with a sigh. "I did give up on purpose because I wanted to be arrested. But it wasn't so I could spy on him. I didn't plan for Darkwing to be my guard. The truth is, I've wanted to get out of crime for a while."
"Well, why didn't you just turn yourself in?"
He shook his head. "No way. If I did that the rest of the Five would try to get me out again - well, maybe they would. Or they might realize I've chickened out, and try to mulch me so I can't squeal on them. This way, they'll just think I'm wilting in a cell somewhere."
"You could have tried to run away from St. Canard."
"It's hard to hide when you're a green mutant plant duck. I sorta stick out in a crowd. Besides, I don't think they'd have let me get away. Most of them - Quackerjack, The Liquidator, Megavolt - wouldn't care. But Negaduck - he wouldn't have let me go. Or Camille."
"Camille?" she asked.
"Camille Chameleon. You heard how she disappeared from the terrarium a few months ago? Negaduck broke her out. He wanted her for the Five. In fact, she's practically leading the group now. And the two of them - brr!" he shivered. "I'm sure they wouldn't have let me quit and stay alive!"
"So you took a dive."
"Yeah. Even being in prison is better than being with them. And I really don't want to be in crime any more! I never was much of a criminal anyway."
"That's the truth." Darkwing had finished his inspection of the greenhouse, and had found nothing. "So, veggie, you're supposed to help us nail the rest of the Fearsome Five. Do you want to start, or shall I?"
"Well," Bushroot began nervously, "They were planning to raid the St. Canard museum the night after something, uh, I think it was the Hopeless Diamond, is delivered-"
"That's supposed to go on display tomorrow, Darkwing." Quiverwing said. "It's been in the news."
"Is it? It's hard to get the papers in prison." Bushroot said. "They're going to grab it and sell it on the black market."
"How do I know this isn't a trick to lure me into a trap?" Darkwing asked warily.
"It's the truth!" Bushroot asserted. "I don't know how to prove it. Wait - they were going to get in without setting off the alarms. Quackerjack was going to go to the museum that day in disguise and drop a remote-controlled Mr. Banana Brain doll someplace inconspicuous. He'll disarm the security systems with it after the museum closes so they can get in and out without setting off any alarms. If you can find the doll, then you can keep them from getting in, right?"
"Right. IF that's really what they planned."
"Uh, you'd better watch out, they've got someone new in the gang. The Chameleon-" Bushroot began.
"I know about her. She escaped the lizard house at the zoo somehow."
"She's now one of the Fearsome Five. And she's tricky. She'll be there, probably leading the group."
"Leading the group? What happened to Negaduck?" Darkwing was clearly surprised.
"I don't know... he's still around, but it seems like Camille is taking over. Negaduck backs her up, but that's about it."
"Negaduck's retiring?! Never thought I'd see the day!" Darkwing crowed. "I hope he doesn't quit before I can throw him in prison once and for all. C'mon, Quiverwing, let's get ready for a stakeout." Darkwing gestured toward the door.
When they had exited the arboretum and passed the guards outside Quiverwing said, "Dad, I think he's telling the truth. About wanting to quit being a villain."
"No, he doesn't. This is the same plant that tried to wreck St. Canard with giant redwoods and uprooted the police station with a giant beanstalk. Not to mention turning you into a slime creature, remember? That vegetable's just plain rotten."
"I don't think so... he seemed pretty honest about it."
"Quiverwing, Quiverwing, Quiverwing. If you're ever going to make it as a crimefighter you'll have to learn that criminals are masters of deception. I just need to prove that he's trying to put one over on us. I'll bet you anything that this jewel robbery is going to be a setup. Then we'll see who's honest and who isn't!"
That night they waited in the museum. It had not been easy; they had had to convince the curator that they knew about a robbery plan. Now they crouched in the darkness in the room with the new display case, waiting for something to happen.
They did not have to wait for very long. Minutes after the lights went out something small moved out from behind a tapestry. Darkwing gestured silently towards it, directing Quiverwing's attention. She quietly nocked an arrow. After taking a moment to aim, she let the arrow fly. When it hit a net exploded from the shaft.
"Got it!" she said.
Darkwing ran over to the net, then picked it up. "Nope. You missed."
"What? I couldn't have! I was on target!"
"Then where is it?" Darkwing shook the empty net.
She turned the light on. "I don't know. I couldn't see too well, but I think I saw something go that way." she pointed toward the door.
"The alarm's in that room!" They both followed it. When they reached the control panel they found a snake curled up on it, hissing threateningly.
"Now what do we do?" she asked. "I can't shoot the snake with an arrow; it'll hit the alarm and wreck it."
"Beats me. Where's a forked stick when you need one?"
She held the snake at bay with the sharp point of an arrow while he looked around for a suitable tool. He finally found one in the form of an antique dowsing rod. "I hope nobody sees this." he muttered as he tried to pin the snake's head down.
The snake dodged very skillfully. Darkwing growled with frustration. "Got something to club this little monster with?"
"That'd wreck the- HEY!" The snake suddenly slithered of the control panel and back into the jewel room. Quiverwing saw that it had knocked the alarm switch into the "off" position. She flipped it back on. And an earsplitting siren sounded.
"SHUT THAT OFF!" Darkwing screamed, his hands over his ears.
She did. He ran into the room the snake had come from. It was no longer there. And the window was open. And so was the now-empty jewel case.
"I don't believe this! A SNAKE robbing a museum? After Lilliput's ants I thought I'd seen everything!" Darkwing exclaimed.
"How could a snake carry The Hopeless Diamond? It's too big. Not to mention the snake didn't have any time to open the case and the window."
"Then that means someone else got in and robbed the place while we were playing with that snake. And it also means that we were duped!"
"Uh, Dad, there's one other thing it means."
"That the police will be here any minute, and you know what this is gonna look like."
"Right. To the Ratcatchers."
They left quickly through the open window.
Darkwing stormed into the arboretum, followed by Quiverwing. "Your little trap failed!"
"What trap?" Bushroot startled.
"That fake plan you told me, to make it look like we robbed the museum. It didn't work!"
"Fake? I told you the truth!" Bushroot looked panicky. "But that was the plan just before I was arrested a week ago! They must've changed it since!"
"Sorry, Bushroot, I don't believe it. Right now I have some things to untangle between the police and 'the only people on the premises', which happen to be us. Don't you twitch a limb!"
Darkwing exited. Quiverwing stayed behind. Bushroot slumped on the bench. She said, "It's not going to be easy to prove to him that you've given up crime."
"I know. I can't blame him, though. I have done some pretty awful things."
She paused, then said, "You don't seem like the criminal type to me, really. And everyone who knew you before your, uh, mutation says the same thing. Why'd you get into it in the first place?"
He shook his head and stared at the ground. "I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. This mutation happened to me because of one of my experiments at the university. I was trying to find a cure for world hunger, would you believe it? If people could feed on sunlight and water like plants can nobody'd have to starve again. The experiment was a success, mostly. Turning me into a half-plant mutant was, as they say, an 'unforseen side effect'. But the university where I was doing my research cut my funding off. I mean, how else could I fund my experiments? Take a job? When you're a mutant plant duck it's kinda hard to live a normal life."
"Things are tough all over." she said unsympathetically.
He continued, "It was, well, even fun for a while. But soon I couldn't get out of it. I would've if I could, but since I'd joined the Fearsome Five... well, I was stuck. Look," he said, "I know I've done a lot of bad things, and I guess I may never really completely pay back my debt to society, but I can try. There are things I can do that would be better than rotting in a jail cell for the rest of my life."
"Like?" she prompted him.
"Just a moment." He went over to a storage cabinet and took out a few small objects. He scraped a hole in the dirt of an unoccupied flowerpot and dropped several acorns in. He covered them and stared at the dirt, concentrating. In several seconds two oak seedlings emerged.
"Not bad." Quiverwing said.
"You - heck, everyone knows how good I am with plants. Think of what I could do for the environment! I could be a one-man reforestation project! And if plants are dying off somewhere, I could find out why without doing expensive surveys and tests. I could just ask them!"
"You've really planned this out, haven't you."
"I've had a lot of time to think about it. I just didn't have the nerve to try anything until a week ago."
"You've still got to prove that you're on the up-and-up, you know."
"I know. I don't know how, but I'll try."
"It'd be a great start to help us catch the rest of the Fearsome Five. Even Darkwing would be convinced if we could finally put Negaduck behind bars!"
He shook his head. "I don't know what I can do to help... Since The Chameleon joined the group I can't tell what they're going to do any more."
"Chameleon..." she said. "She can change into anything, right?"
"Right. You never know where she is. She could be someone else, or even something else-"
"Or a snake." she stated.
"Yeah. She can change into reptiles." he agreed.
"Like the snake that led us away from the diamond, turned off the alarm, and kept us busy while someone else opened the window and robbed the place!"
"Yeah!" He straightened up. "That must've been The Chameleon! Did you get her?"
"Nope. She escaped too."
"Rats." He slumped down again.
"It's not over yet. She was the one who ran away, remember?"
"She's also the one who's taking over Negaduck's place. Anyone who can beat him - well, good luck."
"Do you know if she has any weaknesses? Anything that could help us."
He looked upwards and thought. "Well, she's cold blooded, like a lizard - that was how you caught her in the first time, so I heard. You turned up the heat until her metabolism went out of whack and she turned into a lizard. I guess that explains why she always locks the thermostat, so nobody can do that to her again."
"I don't know anything else about her that could help you. None of the others like her except Negaduck. Megavolt, The Liquidator, Quackerjack and I can't stand her."
"Really? She seems to be a pretty sharp criminal."
"Oh, she's smart, all right. But, well, Negaduck brought her in, and then he disappeared for a month or so. None of us is good at leading a gang - well, maybe The Liquidator could, but Megavolt is crazy, Quackerjack is crazier, and me, I couldn't give orders to that bunch. Not that I really wanted to. So she took over, and when Negaduck came back he stopped leading the group except to back her up."
"Negaduck? I would've thought he'd keep the Five in his fist!"
"So would I! When he came back, though, he looked and acted strange. Different. But none of us wanted to ask him a lot of questions, you can understand. We just figured he'd been sick or something. Let me tell you, crime may pay, but it has a lousy benefits package!" He forced a brief smile.
"Negaduck got sick? I would've thought he'd scare away any germs that got near him."
"Hey, it happens to the worst of us. Anyway, when I left the four of us were getting so sick of Camille, but I didn't think anyone else would quit with me. Well, maybe Megavolt would, but I think he's too scared of Negaduck too. The Liquidator would probably have squealed on me to Negaduck just to get on his good side. Plus, I think Negaduck was going to get rid of me pretty soon too. I'm sure he could tell that my heart wasn't in it any more."
"So you quit."
"Yeah. But it's not just that I'm afraid of them. I do want to go straight! There just was no other way than to let myself get caught!"
"Okay. It looks like now you mainly have to prove that to Darkwing. If you can convince him, then a judge and jury ought to be a walk in the park."
"I know." He nodded. "Would you help me?"
"I think you're telling the truth. But you're going to have to convince him yourself, you know. He won't just take my word for it."
"That's fair, I guess. Thanks."
She started to leave. He said, "Oh - one thing-"
"Years ago, I created a formula which was supposed to give normal plants intelligence. It didn't work - the plants turned into slime monsters and then died. Some of it got on a little girl and turned her into slime. Do you know if they found a cure for her before it was too late? I hope the same thing didn't happen to her as happened to the plants I tried it on."
She gave him an odd look. "You don't know?"
"I didn't know who she was, just that she turned up with Darkwing every so often. I never did find a cure - could you ask him if he did?"
"He did find a cure. She's okay." Quiverwing said.
"Really? Whew, thank goodness." he said with evident relief. "I dropped that line of research in a hurry, you can believe."
"Yeah. Well, see you later."
The Fearsome Five had arrived back at their hideout with their prize. Their escape from the scene of the crime had gone unchallenged, which was a stroke of luck, considering that Darkwing Duck and Quiverwing Quack had been waiting in ambush. How had they known about the planned robbery?
"What's it matter?" Megavolt said, holding the diamond up to the light, looking at the prismic effect. "We got away without even having to sit through that stupid intro of his."
"That'ss not the point!" a woman with blue hair and a somewhat reptilian face stood and placed her hands on the table. She glared at Quackerjack, Megavolt, and The Liquidator with cold yellow eyes. "He knew that we were going to ssteal The Hopelesss Diamond! How did he disscover our planss?"
"He always shows up to spoil the fun. He's supposed to. It's part of the game." Quackerjack said.
"It's not a part of THISS game!" Camille hissed. "If I hadn't adapted the plan we would have been caught!"
"Go directly to jail, do not pass GO." The Liquidator said.
"Ssomewhere, we have a leak." she said. All four of them looked at The Liquidator. Fortunately, before any of them could voice the obvious pun she continued. "Ssomehow, he knew our plan before we even sstarted the robbery! Doessn't that sseem IMPORTANT to you?!"
"Hey, we got what we were after. That means we beat him this time." Megavolt replied. "I never figured out how he always knew just where to appear in a puff of smoke anyway."
"Idiotss." she muttered under her breath loudly enough to be heard across the room. She turned and left the room.
When the door closed the remaining three looked at each other. The Liquidator voiced their shared thought. "For the stubbornest pains in the neck, sometimes aspirin just isn't enough."
"I don't know who's worse, Negaduck or her!" Megavolt said.
"This gang's been no fun since Negaduck brought her in. I don't care if she does have a neat super power, she doesn't play fair!" Quackerjack objected.
"It burns my circuits, how she just came in and took over, when the rest of us have been in the gang for years!" Megavolt added.
"So why don't YOU take her on, Sparky?" Quackerjack asked. "I double-dare ya!"
Megavolt did not answer the question. He had tried once, and she had shapechanged into a very large thug that was exceptionally well designed for doing grievous physical harm. Megavolt had been put out of order for awhile. Now, to challenge Camille was to incur Negaduck's wrath, and if one wasn't dangerous enough, the other was! Changing the subject, Megavolt said, "I don't believe that Negaduck is just letting her take over."
Quackerjack began, "It's like he's going soft-"
The door banged open. Negaduck stalked into the room, his eyes glowering hatefully. "Did I hear you right, toyboy? You think I'm going soft?!" He grabbed the tails of Quackerjack's harlequin hat and wound them tightly around his throat.
"No, I was just playing around!" Quackerjack gasped.
Negaduck released him. Quackerjack unwound the cloth from his neck. Negaduck glared at the others. "I can't believe you jerks! You don't know a good thing when you see it! The reason I have The Chameleon leading you is because I have better things to do than babysit a bunch of incompetent morons who don't have enought brains between the three of them to come in out of the rain! If she hadn't adapted the plan when those vigilante geeks showed up, you all would be in the St. Canard Supervillains' Prison with Bushroot by now!"
None of the others seemed willing to speak. Negaduck continued in a lower voice, "Darkwing and Quiverwing knew that you were going to rob that museum. They had to find out from somewhere. I would SUGGEST you find out where that leak is and plug it! If you can't, or you give The Chameleon any more garbage, I just might get annoyed. You don't want that, do you?"
"No!" all three chorused.
"Then behave yourself like good little supervillains so I don't have to make an example out of one of you." He turned and left again, slamming the door behind himself.
It was Megavolt who finally spoke. "Maybe Reggie got off easy after all."
After Darkwing finished his business with the police he spoke at length with Bushroot, trying to get any possibly useful information from him. Bushroot repeated most of his conversation with Quiverwing. When Darkwing finally left he was clearly frustrated by the lack of useful information. He could not be sure that Bushroot was holding back, but he obviously suspected it.
Alone in the arboretum, Bushroot tried to occupy himself by growing the oak seedlings into small trees. He felt guilty both for helping Darkwing against his former allies and for holding back the location of their current hideout. There was no way to subject Bushroot to a lie detector test - being half plant, he simply did not register on the machine - but he still had the feeling that no matter what he did, his actions would come back to haunt him.
When Negaduck was alone and the door locked behind him he removed his hat and set it on a table. Then his shape changed suddenly. In a second he had metamorphosized into Camille Chameleon.
When Negaduck had disappeared some months ago the group had nearly fallen apart. Camille had tried to lead them, and had found that an exercise in futility. Negaduck was the only one that the others would obey. So she had become Negaduck! But Negaduck was not an easy person to impersonate. They had almost recognized the fake by her voice before she had learned to suppress her hissing when speaking as Negaduck. She could not copy his voice, so Negaduck had to suffer from a chronically hoarse throat.
The longer the charade went on, the more complicated it became. When the rest of the Five had become suspicious about the rarity of Negaduck's appearances she had 'let it slip' that Negaduck might not be in good health - but he was not so badly off that he wouldn't enjoy thrashing anyone who irritated him. That had kept a lid on their curiousity for awhile. Then, to keep her deception secret, 'Negaduck' had forbidden anyone to enter his his quarters. That Camille inhabited the same area fueled rumors, the nature of which she found particularly repellant. They did, however, discourage the others from prying, so she put up with them. She resisted an urge to toss the red, wide- brimmed hat out the window like a frisbee in her frustration.
She did not plan to masquerade as Negaduck for the rest of her career. She would have to phase him out sooner or later, the sooner the better. But first things first. There had to be some explanation for how Darkwing had known of their plans beforehand. If she left it to those three idiots she would be waiting a long time! She would have to take care of this investigation herself.
Some time later, a disguised Camille arrived at the SHUSH Headquarters building. It seemed the best place to start her investigation. And, as Darkwing, she could find out whatever she needed here.
She walked in, and the guard waved her past the checkpoint without a second glance. Apparently they were used to seeing him here. Well, now that she was in, where to look? Darkwing would know the layout of this place, but she didn't.
A familiar voice at the entrance startled her. Darkwing had just arrived! Of all the luck! Hastily she transformed herself into a copy of one of the nondescript clerks that inhabit all government agencies and waited.
Soon Darkwing came down the hallway, with Launchpad training several steps behind him. Darkwing said, "Did you see how that guard looked me over? Must be new."
"I guess so, DW."
"Mr. McQuack, would you come here, please?"
Launchpad looked at the clerk in surprise. "Who, me?"
"Yes. I need to speak with you for a moment."
Launchpad looked at Darkwing, who shrugged. "Go on."
The clerk led Launchpad into an empty hallway, opened a door, and gestured for Launchpad to enter. Launchpad did, then said, "Hey, this is a broom closet."
Before Launchpad could turn around something hit the back of his head, knocking him unconscious.
Camille bound his hands and legs securely with duct tape and tied a gag in his mouth. Then she assumed Launchpad's form and exited the room, locking the door. There were a few minutes which could be used exploring the Research and Development section. According to rumor, there was always something worthwhile in there.
"Where have you been? It's been twenty minutes!"
Launchpad shrugged. "Paperwork."
Darkwing said, "Figures. Well, come on." and gestured for Launchpad to follow him.
Darkwing walked into J. Gander Hooter's office and said without preamble, "I still think it's a set-up. He nearly framed me and Quiverwing last night."
"Yes, I heard. It was in the newspaper."
Darkwing picked up the copy of the St. Canard Times that was on Hooter's desk. "Front page, above the crease. Why can't they do that when I catch a crook?"
"I'd like to hear your version of the tale, Darkwing."
Darkwing narrated his story, starting from the conversation in which Bushroot had told them of the plan to steal the diamond, and ending with their undignified retreat from the museum. "Quiverwing still thinks that Bushroot's telling the truth, but I don't believe a word of it. It was obviously a cleverly engineered plan to defarud yours truly!"
"So, I take it you want to withdraw from this case?"
"No." Darkwing said with a sly look, "I've decided I'll play along, and lure the rest of the Five in. If they don't know I'm on to their plans, then they'll leave themselves wide open."
"Very well, Darkwing. Please keep me apprised of the situation."
"Will do." Darkwing threw a salute and left the room, with Launchpad trailing silently behind him.
Darkwing and Launchpad drove back to the arboretum. Quiverwing was already there. Noting Darkwing's grim look, she said, "Things go bad with the police?"
"No, I think SHUSH's lawyers are gonna have a few words with them. They can use the surveillance tapes here to back us up." To Bushroot he said, "I never thought I'd say this, but I think you're telling the truth after all."
"You do?" Both Bushroot and Quiverwing said in surprise.
"Yep. Nobody, not even you, could be dumb enough to think you could trap Darkwing Duck like that. Not to mention that you have nothing to gain by trying, since one word from me would put you in a cell without a window for the rest of your life. So you HAVE to be on the up-and-up."
"That's right! Thank goodness you finally believe me!" Bushroot exclaimed in relief.
"No need to fawn. Just tell me what the Five's next crime will be."
"I don't know. When I left, the diamond was the only thing on the agenda."
"Are you sure?" Darkwing asked suspiciously.
"Yes! I'm sure!"
"Well, if you think of anything else, I'm sure you'll let me know." Darkwing said. "Come on, Quiverwing, Launchpad. Let's get out of here."
Launchpad pointed at one of the surveillance cameras. "One of the cameras is broken. I can fix it." he said, then coughed.
"Hey, LP, you sound like you're getting a cold all of a sudden." Darkwing asked.
Launchpad nodded and coughed again. "Just a sore throat. Must be the night air."
Darkwing said, "Whatever. See you at the tower."
Launchpad waved goodbye to Quiverwing and Darkwing. As soon as they left he glowered balefully at Bushroot, who fortunately was not looking at him. He went around to each of the surveillance cameras, opening and inspecting them - and destroying their videotapes. Then he walked behind a stand of trees and metamorphsized.
Bushroot started, "I didn't know the cameras were broken. I swear I haven't tampered with them..." his voice trailed off when he saw a burst of red smoke.
Negaduck appeared within the cloud. "Surprise."
"Negaduck! How did you get in here?" Bushroot began backing away.
"You should know by now that you can't get away from me!" Negaduck closed the gap between them. "This is a pretty setup, considering they usually throw supervillains in jail! Wonder why they're giving you special treatment?"
"Well, uh, they know I'll die if I don't get sunlight...?"
"Yes, we know that very well." Negaduck said, his eyes narrowed. Then he seemed to relax. "I know what's going on here. Very clever of you, Bushroot, to make them think that you were actually going to turn on us. You had me fooled for a minute myself. Your plan almost worked - we nearly got Darkwing and Quiverwing last time. It would only take one more try."
Bushroot began to speak. Negaduck cut him off. "I have a few ideas of my own. Would you like to hear them?"
Bushroot nodded nervously. Negaduck said, "Good. They want to know what the Fearsome Five is going to do. Well, you tell them that we're going after SHUSH's new W. C. Field generator. We're going to break into SHUSH R&D at midnight tonight and take it. You can remember that, can't you?"
Sadly Bushroot said, "Yes, I can."
"Now, don't look so worried, Bushroot. You're cleverer than I gave you credit for. If this works you'll be rewarded generously, with the greatest gift of all. The gift of life."
Bushroot nodded slowly, a pained expression on his face. Negaduck said, "I'll be seeing you again, soon." He walked away, toward the stand of trees. Bushroot slumped down miserably. A sympathetic vine crept toward him and began winding around his arm.
A moment later Launchpad walked out from behind the trees towards the exit. Bushroot jumped up. "Negaduck was just here!"
Launchpad turned back and glared at him balefully. "I know." he whispered, then turned and left before Bushroot could say anything more.
The next morning Darkwing and Quiverwing were up in the tower, wondering what had become of Launchpad. He had not come back last night. It was not like him to disappear like that - especially since he had missed dinner in the process.
"The last place I saw him was the Arboretum... I'll bet Bushroot had something to do with this!" Darkwing said.
"Bushroot? I don't believe it. Why would he want to hurt Launchpad?"
"To weaken our team, of course!"
"Uh, Dad, how could he hide Launchpad in that little greenhouse? He's not stupid enough to do something that obvious."
"That's what he'd LIKE us to think-"
The argument was interrupted by a buzz from a telephone set. It was his direct line to SHUSH. He picked up the receiver and said, "I was just about to call you, Director Hooter-"
"Mr. Darkwing, this is Honker. Did you know Launchpad was here all last night?"
"Is THAT where he was? What the devil was he doing over there?"
"We found him this morning in a janitor's closet. Someone had tied and gagged him."
"What the - never mind. We'll be right over."
He hung up. Quiverwing asked, "What was that all about?"
"Launchpad. We found him. Come on, let's pay a visit to SHUSH."
When they arrived they found a rather dusty Launchpad trying to work the kinks out of a stiff neck. When he saw them he said, "Thank goodness. I was beginning to think I'd never get out of the closet!"
"What happened?" Quiverwing asked.
"Someone popped me on the head when I wasn't looking, and when I came to I was tied up. I musta been in there all night."
"What were you doing here in the first place, Launchpad? I thought you were going to come home from the Arboretum."
Launchpad stopped twisting his neck. "The arboretum?"
"Yes, you know, where we're keeping Bushroot! That arboretum! I left you there because you needed to fix the cameras, and next I hear you're tied up here."
"DW, I never went to the arboretum. Last I remember I was here with you."
Darkwing looked at Launchpad suspiciously. "How do I know you're you?"
"You're kidding me, right, DW?"
Quiverwing asked, "When was the last time you cooked dinner?"
Launchpad thought for a moment, then said, "A few months ago. You haven't let me cook anything else since, 'cause you said curry and sugar don't mix. Not to mention, curry and Drake Mallard don't mix." Launchpad started grinning at the memory.
"That proof enough for you, Dad?" Quiverwing asked.
"Yeah, right. Thanks for the memories, Launchpad." he said sarcastically.
"Sorry." Launchpad suppressed a laugh.
"That still leaves one problem. For a little while there were two Launchpads walking around. If that doesn't smell of foul play, I don't know what does. And I left one of them alone with Bushroot!"
"To the arboretum, said Captain State-The-Obvious." Quiverwing said.
Back at the arboretum, Darkwing said, "Now let's see what ties the vine to this caper."
They passed the guards and entered the arboretum. Bushroot looked more nervous than normal. Darkwing asked, "What's up, Doctor?"
"Um, I think I know where the Five are going to strike next." Bushroot blurted out.
"Really?" Darkwing asked in mock surprise. "That's convenient. Where do you think they will be?"
"Um, I think they'll try to get the W. C. Field out of SHUSH."
"The W. C. Field?" Darkwing said, his eyes wide. "Out of SHUSH itself? That's a pretty ambitious plan."
"Well, Negaduck doesn't do things halfway." Bushroot said.
"You know what's most ambitious about it? It was just tested yesterday. It's Top Secret. There's no way you - or they - could have heard of it, especially if you haven't seen them for a week!"
"Care to tell me where you got all this info, Bushroot?" Darkwing asked, drawing his gas gun.
"All right! All right!" Bushroot cried. "Last night Negaduck was here. He told me to tell you that. I don't know HOW he got in, but he did! Launchpad was here too, he saw him!"
"Sorry, Bushroot, Launchpad wasn't here. He was tied up in a SHUSH broom closet. Try again."
"What?" Now Bushroot looked baffled. "But he was here. The videocameras can prove that, at least."
"Let's see if they do." Darkwing went over to one of the cameras and opened it. The tape in its cassette had been pulled free from its housing, ruining it. From the other corner of the building Quiverwing called, "There tape's wrecked!"
"Same here." Darkwing said.
"I'm telling the truth!" Bushroot insisted desperately. "Last night, after you left, Launchpad went around to the cameras and did something to them. I'll bet he took the tape out of them then. Then Negaduck showed up, and told me to tell you about the plan to get the W. C. Field generator. It's a trap! I didn't want to go along with it, but if he can get in here-!"
"How did he get in here?" Quiverwing wondered.
"Camille!" Bushroot exclaimed. "I'll bet that wasn't Launchpad at all! That was The Chameleon! She must've taken the tape out of the cameras and helped Negaduck get in here! Did Launchpad's voice sound funny to you last night?"
"He hardly said anything at all - but, now that you mention it, it did! I can't believe it, I had The Chameleon right under my bill!"
"This is the kind of thing she does best. She's clever. And she knows how to cover her tracks. She fixes thermostats so nobody can make it too hot or too cold for her, and she's tampered with videocameras before to hide her changing!"
"But there's still one problem. How did Negaduck get in and out without being seen by the guard or setting off any alarms?" Darkwing asked Bushroot.
The mutant shrugged. "The same way you do your puff-of-blue-smoke entrance?"
"He's got you there, Darkwing." Quiverwing said.
Darkwing could have refuted them, but that would have involved giving away trade secrets. Instead he said, "Well, it looks like the snare is set. The Five may be surprised to find themselves caught in their own trap!"
"Um, Darkwing, I don't know what that field generator is, but I'll bet that the real plan is to get you out of their way. Be careful."
"You don't need to tell me how to do my job. But I WILL take along some insurance. You."
"Me?!" Bushroot exclaimed.
"Right, you. You wanted a chance to prove whose side you're on. Well, here it is."
Camille summoned the rest of the Five. When they were all together - punctual but grumbling - she announced, "I have found out where Darkwing Duck hass been getting hiss information. One of uss HASS turned traitor!" The others looked at each other, surprised. She continued, "It'ss Busshroot. He iss now under the protection of Darkwing Duck, in exchange for information on uss! Fortunately, Negaduck and I had a talk with him, and now he iss working for uss again. With him, I have sset a trap for Darkwing to eliminate him once and for all! We will meet him in SSHUSSH Headquarters at midnight tonight."
"SHUSH? That'll be like playing Cowboys and Indians, and we'll be General Custer!" Quackerjack interjected.
"That'ss the reasson you could never make it as criminalss on your own! You're afraid to take a rissk! Once we get Darkwing out of our way for good, there will be nothing to opposse uss! I invesstigated the place while I wass there - I need to work out the detailss of thiss plan." She left the room.
"Do you ever wonder what you're doing with your life?" The Liquidator asked of nobody in particular.
"Maybe Bushroot had the right idea after all." Megavolt murmured to himself.
"What? Getting thrown in jail?" Quackerjack asked, surprised.
"Well, I thought he was gonna quit, but he was too scared to. Don't tell me you guys haven't thought of quitting too. With Camille and Negaduck, what do they need US for?" Megavolt said.
"They're the perfect couple-" The Liquidator began.
"A perfect couple of-" Megavolt grumbled.
"The two of them together have new and improved power, more than enough to wipe out the stubbornest superheroes. But they never have, though. Inquiring minds want to know why." The Liquidator said.
"Why watt?" Megavolt asked.
"They work hand in hand, as if made for each other - but you never see them together! There's more here than meets the eye."
"Who'd want to see them hand in hand? Eww!" Quackerjack made a face.
"Maybe Negaduck IS Camille!" Megavolt understood now.
Quackerjack exclaimed, "You mean, Negaduck's a transvestite?"
"NO! Negaduck is Camille! I mean, she's turning herself into Negaduck! You notice how Negaduck only shows up now to back her up?"
The Liquidator nodded. "It takes more than a mere cold to stop Negaduck. He just keeps going and going."
"And Negaduck's voice sounds like Camille's!" Quackerjack added.
"We've been had!" Megavolt said.
"Friends, it's time for a change." The Liquidator said in a low voice.
Megavolt answered, "I think we're all on the same wavelength."
"So, what do we do?" Quackerjack asked. "I got a neat new lawn dart set-"
"No. Let's just go ahead with the plan."
"What? Licky, you're still going to go along with her?!"
"Absolutely! Until she gets arrested by St. Canard's own compulsive crimefighter, Darkwing Duck." The Liquidator smiled.
"A double cross. It's been so long since we've done one of those. It'll be just like old times." Megavolt said.
Convincing the SHUSH security to let Darkwing, Quiverwing, and Launchpad handle an anticipated break-in was not an easy task. It had taken a few words with Director Hooter to set the arrangements. Fortunately, the Research and Development area was well protected by a network of silent alarms, which were easily routed to the Thunderquack.
Alone in the lab, Honker fiddled with the controls of a microscope. He had stayed late so that he could get some work done without the distraction of the resident mad scientists. In particular, his work efficiency went up when Doctor Bellum left for the day. At least the W. C. Field was finished. One less thing to worry about. It would be at least a week before Doctor Bellum could invent something that lethal again.
He was so absorbed in his work that he did not notice when the grating on the air vent leading directly outside creaked. Inside, a large chameleon was pressing its nose against the rusty screening, trying to create a hole big enough to enter through. It soon burst through several of the wires, and worried the resulting hole until it was able to work its way through. It caught his glance when it skittered down the wall.
He looked around the laboratory for a net. He found the one that they had used during the last time they had tried to splice intelligence genes into the DNA of lab rats. It had worked a little too well. The little creatures were probably still loose somewhere, trying to take over the world. He grabbed the net and went after the lizard. It raced for the door. He shut it before the creature could escape. It stared at him while he advanced on it with the net. Before he could swing it the lizard suddenly changed into a large thug, which snatched the net away from a startled Honker and swatted at him with it.
Honker recovered quickly enough to evade the blow and dodge behind a table. The last time he had seen someone or something change like this had been ten years ago, when The Chameleon had been on the loose. The thug smashed a fist down on the lab table between him and Honker, cracking it. Honker grabbed an unlit bunsen burner and prepared to throw it.
The thug laughed. "You'll have to do better than that!"
"I'll try!" Honker threw it hard - at the window. The glass shattered.
"I'll bet you never made the baseball team, with aim like that!" The Chameleon laughed.
The alarm went off in The Thunderquack. Darkwing said, "That's our cue! Launchpad, take her down!"
Honker looked around behind himself. If he could just hold The Chameleon off for a few minutes, the security forces would arrive. His glance lit on the W. C. Field generator. He could use that! He ran to it and began adjusting the dials.
The thug kicked the electrical cord loose from the wall socket. "Nice try!"
"Wait a second!" Honker said with a grin. He pulled the lever. The air around the thug began to glow dull red and the thug became a statue. Honker walked up to the border of the field and tossed a pencil into it. As soon as it crossed into the red area it seemed to hang in the air.
He sighed with relief. It was a good thing that the generator's battery was fully charged for tomorrow's field test. That would hold The Chameleon for now. He went to call for the police.
Megavolt, Quackerjack, and The Liquidator saw the Thunderquack dive out of the sky towards the SHUSH building. It slowed and hovered several yards above the ground just outside the building for a few moments, then thudded unceremoniously down.
"She was supposed to open a window so we can get inside before Darkwing Duck got here!" Quackerjack exclaimed in exasperation.
"How the heck are we supposed to double-cross her if she double-crosses us first!" Megavolt groused.
"If we just leave her there, Darkwing'll catch her, right?" Quackerjack said.
"You can never be too sure." The Liquidator said. "It's better to be safe than sorry."
"In other words-" Quackerjack bounded to the broken window and through it. "IT'S PLAAAYT-"
When Quackerjack's voice cut off Megavolt and The Liquidator looked at each other. When they looked in the window they saw that Quackerjack was frozen in mid-leap. If he had continued on his path he would have collided with a big, burly duck who was also frozen. There was a weird red glow around them both.
"What happened?" The Liquidator said.
Megavolt entered the lab and looked at the machine generating the field, then said, "Of course! Brilliant! This generates a field that lowers the entropic energy level of whatever's inside it!"
"That's right, Sparky." The words came from a puff of blue smoke. "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the VCR that comes without an instruction manual! I am DARKWING DUCK!"
"And Quiverwing Quack!" said a young woman in a green and red leotard and cape who was standing in the broken window, her bow and arrow drawn.
"So much for leaving them here." The Liquidator said. Megevolt punched the cutoff button on the generator.
"-TIME!" Quackerjack finished yelling as he crashed into the thug, knocking him to the ground.
The thug threw Quackerjack off himself, shouting, "You idiotss!" Immediately he shapeshifted into a small lizard, which crawled away behind an equipment rack.
"Dang it! She's a slippery one!" Darkwing said.
"Scaly, actually." Quiverwing said.
"Worry about The Chameleon later! Right now we have more felons to foil!" Darkwing called to Quiverwing.
She nodded, stepped in through the window, and trained her arrow on the remainder of the Five. Beside her, Bushroot, who had been keeping out of sight outside, said, "Don't let Camille out of your sight! She'll get you for sure if you do!"
"She's already gone." Quiverwing replied.
"She got us after all!" Megavolt said. "All that trouble we went to, and she got US!"
"O ye of little faith!"
A cloud of red smoke burst into existence behind Darkwing. Negaduck poked a gun barrel into Darkwing's back. "Gotcha."
Darkwing dropped his gas gun and raised his hands, looking to Quiverwing for help. She shook her head helplessly. She had any number of arrows in her quiver, but Negaduck was standing behind Darkwing, so she could not get a clear shot at him!
Negaduck said, "Say goodbye, Darkwing. Ten.... Nine..."
"Stall him!" Bushroot whispered to Quiverwing. She saw a vine creep in through the window.
"Eight.... Seven.... Six...."
"Come on, Negaduck. This isn't your style, shooting him in the back. I'd think you could come up with something more interesting than THAT!" Quiverwing called.
"Oh, really? Like what?"
"Oh, I don't know. Like drowning him in pudding! Shooting him's too quick!" The vine was slithering across the floor, towards Darkwing.
"Quiverwing! What are you trying to DO?" Darkwing yelled.
"You costumed crimefighters have been in my hair for too long. It'll be enough to get rid of you once and for all! Three.... Two...."
"Get ready!" Bushroot whispered to Quiverwing. She watched as the leaves at the end of the vine circled Darkwing's ankle.
Darkwing looked down. "What the-"
The leaves closed and the vine jerked hard on Darkwing's leg, causing him to fall. Quiverwing shot an arrow at the startled Negaduck. The plunger at the end of the shaft struck his bill, knocking him backwards.
While he struggled to remove the plunger from his face Quiverwing darted forward to grab his gun. Quackerjack spun a yoyo into her path. Its string wrapped around her legs, tripping her short of her goal.
Bushroot caught sight of someone gesturing frantically in his direction. It was one of the SHUSH employees, a tall, thin, bespectacled goose, standing out of sight of the others. The goose pointed at a machine in the lab and mimed pressing a button. Bushroot nodded, and began to reach for the machine with a vinelike arm.
"You FOOLSS!" Negaduck shouted at Megavolt, The Liquidator, and Quackerjack when he finally removed the plunger from his bill. "Can't you do anything besides just stand there?!"
"'Foolss'?" Megavolt echoed softly, and exchanged glances with Quackerjack and The Liquidator.
"THERE!" Negaduck suddenly yelled and pointed. "Bushroot! He's HELPING them!"
Bushroot cringed. He had hoped against hope that they would not see him.
"Is there no honor among thieves?" Megavolt said in a low voice.
"Never mind that! Kill him!" Negaduck ordered.
Quackerjack sprang forward first. Panicking, Bushroot pushed the button on the machine that Honker had indicated. The field caught Quackerjack in mid-jump. Negaduck jumped up, gun in hand, and fired several bullets at Bushroot. They, too, were frozen by the W. C. Field and hung, suspended in midair, above Quackerjack's head.
"Kill the traitor, you fools!" Negaduck jumped up and shouted at Megavolt and The Liquidator. "Kill him or I'll kill YOU!"
"Never, foul fiend!" Darkwing cried and jumped to the attack.
"Quiverwing!" Honker ran over with a lab scalpel and cut the cord binding her legs. As he did he said, "If we can lock Negaduck in the refrigerated room over there we'll have him, I think. It's got thick metal walls, so it should be bulletproof, and the door locks from the outside. I unlocked it from the control panel."
"That door?" She pointed. Honker nodded. "Okay. Say - why would a refrigerator be armor plated and all?"
"Another of Dr. Bellum's projects." he replied, shaking his head. "You don't want to know."
"Okay, gotcha. Give me a minute-" She scrambled to her feet.
"I'll lock it when he's inside." Honker went back to the open wall panel.
She watched the melee between Negaduck and Darkwing. When she saw her chance she snatched Negaduck's red hat from his head. "Hey! Negadope! Want this?"
Negaduck glanced at her. "Go away, kid. You bother me."
"Kid?!" She grabbed at his cape. It pulled tight around his collar, choking him. While he was off balance she kicked him towards the refrigerator door. Honker pressed a switch. The door swung open. A wave of icy air blasted out of the chamber. And Negaduck's features blurred and melted into Camille's.
"Negaduck is THE CHAMELEON?" Darkwing exclaimed.
"That would explain why grabbing his hat didn't work." Quiverwing remarked, spinning the hat on her finger.
Camille stumbled sluggishly away from the door. She kicked it shut. "No more Misster Nice Guy!" she said, rapidly becoming more alert as she warmed.
"Get her in front of the door again!" Honker said to Quiverwing. "She's cold blooded. Cold will slow her down!"
"Gotcha!" she responded.
Darkwing had heard as well. He and Quiverwing drew their weapons and aimed them at her. She called, "Megavolt! Liquidator! Get them!"
"Three out of four supervillains say forget it!" The Liquidator replied. He pushed the button on the W. C. Field generator. Quackerjack dropped to the floor. And a pair of bullets whistled out the window, missing Bushroot by inches.
"What - you can't be-" Camille started.
"Who's the traitor?" Megavolt said in a low voice. His hands began to glow.
Camille metamorphosized into her thug form and began lashing out. It soon became apparent that this shape was EXCEPTIONALLY well designed for fighting. He knocked Megavolt out before he could build up enough of a surge to hurt him. Darkwing and Quiverwing could not get in a clear shot with either gas gun or arrow. Quackerjack's toy teeth were destroyed by a few powerful, well-placed kicks.
Megavolt recovered, and he and The Liquidator tried to sneak up on Camille from behind. He caught sight of them, grabbed Megavolt by the neck, and hurled him at The Liquidator. The resulting short circuit stunned them both.
"Now it's your turn." he said, turning to Darkwing and Quiverwing. "I'll pay you back for putting me in that terrerium!"
"Er, what terrerium?" Quiverwing asked.
"What terrerium? The maximum security terrerium that Darkwing sent me to years ago!" Camille answered. "What kind of stupid question is that?"
It was one that stalled for time. Behind Camille, she had seen Bushroot climb in through the window. Now he was heading for the refrigerator door.
"You! Get away from those controls!" Camille ordered Honker.
With a great show of reluctance Honker closed the control panel and stepped away from it. "Now we won't be able to open the refrigerator door. The only other way is the wall switch beside the door." he said. Behind Camille, Bushroot made a circle with his thumb and forefinger at Honker.
"And none of you are going to get to that!" Camille stepped backwards, so he was standing directly in front of the door. He picked up something that looked like a weapon off a worktable.
"Don't use that! It hasn't been tested!" Honker said urgently.
"Then let's test it!" He pointed it at Honker.
Then he heard a click behind himself. He glanced back, and saw Bushroot yank open the refrigerator door. "You-"
Darkwing leapt forward and gave Camille a hard shove. Camille stumbled back, and tripped over a vine that had snaked behind him. He fell into the refrigerated chamber. Bushroot slammed the door, and Honker locked it from the control panel. Darkwing crowed, "One down!"
"One little, two little, three little villains; one little, two little heroes, and one little turncoat here!" Quackerjack sang, eyeing Bushroot.
"Frozen vegetables keep for weeks." The Liquidator stepped forward.
"Don't play with your food." Megavolt said. "You guys take care of the costumed creeps, I'LL get rid of Bushroot. I like my vegetables fried!" He snapped his fingers. A spark leapt.
"Guys - I helped you get rid of The Chameleon! You're not serious, are you?!" Bushroot began desperately.
A bolt of electricity that barely missed Bushroot was answer enough. Bushroot turned and fled down the hall, with Megavolt in hot pursuit.
Bushroot ran through the darkened hallways of the SHUSH building, looking for an exit to the outside. Megavolt chased him, making threats but not throwing energy bolts. That could only mean that he was saving his power up for one big discharge. Before too long Bushroot made the mistake of running into a dead end corridor. He realized it a moment too late, when Megavolt was blocking its entrance.
Bushroot backed down the hallway. "Come, on, Megavolt, don't do this! What did I ever do to you? All I wanted to do was to stop being a criminal!"
Megavolt raised his hands. They glowed a pale electric blue in the darkness. "I'm going to get you out of the way once and for all!"
Bushroot had reached the end of the hallway. "I had to leave! You know that Negaduck - or The Chameleon - was going to get rid of me! It was the only way out!"
"There's only one way out for you now!" Megavolt said and raised his hands to shoot a bolt of electricity. "Say goodbye, Reggie!" Megavolt threw an energy bolt at the window beside Bushroot. The glass exploded outwards.
Bushroot cringed and shut his eyes. He heard the sound of the discharge and smelled burning foliage - but he felt nothing. Then he felt a burst of heat on one side. He opened his eyes and jumped away - from the potted plant that Megavolt had just set aflame. Bushroot stared at it. Why had Megavolt burned the plant instead of Bushroot? Surely Megavolt could tell the difference!
Megavolt looked at Bushroot, then pointedly at the window. "Nobody could survive this!" he said, staring at Bushroot as he released another burst of energy into the rapidly carbonizing plant.
Bushroot watched, mute. Megavolt said, "Oh, for Pete's sake-" and gestured impatiently at the broken window. "Make like a tree!"
"And leave?" Bushroot finished, startled. Megavolt intended for him to escape! Quickly Bushroot climbed through the window, avoiding the worst of the broken glass. He looked back. Megavolt met his eyes. Then Megavolt reduced the potted plant to ashes with one final burst.
As Bushroot ran Megavolt dropped the pot the plant had been out the window. The pile of ashes would be convincing enough. Before returning the the Research and Development area Megavolt dusted his hands together and said to himself, "Two down."
Back in R&D, the battle was not going very well. Once Camille was out of the picture, Darkwing and Quiverwing were more than a match for the remaining villains. Megavolt came in and found Quackerjack caught yet again in the W. C. Field, and The Liquidator dodging mops that were equipped with a new, super absorbant material that SHUSH R&D had developed. And, through the broken window, he could hear the sirens of approaching police cars. Megavolt yelled, "Bushroot's gone! Let's get outta here!"
"You may never get a better deal!" The Liquidator replied as he and Megavolt escaped through the broken window.
"Once again, Darkwing Duck saves the day!" Darkwing narrated proudly.
"Yeah. Right." Quiverwing said. "And trashes SHUSH."
"Don't worry about it, Quiverwing." Honker shrugged. "The place gets worse than this when we're testing stuff anyway."
The police entered the room, their guns drawn. Darkwing said, "No need for that. We've already got your supervillains subdued." He strutted over to the refrigerator door and opened it. Inside, Camille was slumped on the floor.
An officer asked, "Is she dead?"
"Nope. Just sleeping. You can leave her in here until you get a Good Rumor truck to take her back to the reptile house. And here-" Darkwing walked over to the W. C. Field generator and shut it off.
Quackerjack dropped to the floor, yelling "-AYTI-oops."
"He's all yours." Darkwing said.
"Megavolt said 'Bushroot's gone'. Do you think...?" Quiverwing asked Darkwing in a soft voice as the police took custody of the two supervillains.
"I don't know."
"Megavolt wouldn't kill him, would he? I mean, Megavolt doesn't usually try to kill people." she said.
"I suppose that makes me chopped liver?" Darkwing retorted.
"It doesn't seem likely that Megavolt would try to eliminate a former colleague. Unlike Negaduck, vengeance has never been one of his primary motives." Honker said.
"Well, I'm going to find out." She ran out of the lab down the corridor that she had seen them take. And immediately she smelled smoke.
A minute later Darkwing and Honker found her staring at a pile of ash in disbelief. "He did it. He actually did it." she whispered.
"Eww." Darkwing said. "Not much for the forensics squad, is it?"
"Dad!" she turned and glared at him. "That's not funny! He's dead! He tried to go straight, and they murdered him for it!"
"Look, Gos, we did the best we could. What's done is done." Darkwing said.
"Yeah. Witness protection. We sure did a good job, didn't we." she grumbled with a quaver in her voice and turned away, hiding her face from Darkwing and Honker.
Below the window, Bushroot hid in a hedge. He had started to flee, and then had returned when he realized that the pot below the window would give away his escape. He had picked up the pot to hide it when the others returned. And he had heard everything they had said.
A week later, Gosalyn was still depressed over the outcome of the case. Darkwing had told her that she could not become emotionally involved in every case; there were always going to be failures. She knew that he was just being realistic - but it still seemed colossally insensitive of him to ignore the death of someone he was supposed to protect.
She was hanging around at home in the evening when someone knocked on the door. She opened it and said, "Oh, hi, Honk. C'mon in."
"Fine, thanks. And you?" he responded.
"Don't start." she growled.
"Sorry. Still feeling bad about it?"
He sighed. "Look, Gos, you did your best. I'm sorry it happened too. But there's nothing you can do about it." He put an arm around her shoulders.
"I know, I know..." she muttered. "Dad told me that we take the toughest cases, the ones the police can't manage, and we can't be 100% perfect, but still, someone died!"
"I know... but you should learn from your Dad. If he let every failure get to him, what kind of shape do you think he's be in by now?"
In spite of herself she smiled. "I know. It just, I don't know, feels like I failed him."
"No, your Dad doesn't-"
"Not Dad. Bushroot. I know he was serious about wanting to go straight. He talked about what he could do to make amends, with his plant growing powers and all. It just doesn't seem fair, I guess."
Honker shrugged again. They had been around this circle before, and he never had anything to say to that. He remembered something, and took an envelope out of his pocket. "Oh, the reason I came by was to drop this off. This came to you today."
"I got mail through SHUSH?" She took it. It was addressed to Quiverwing Quack. She looked at the postmark. "From South America? I don't know anyone down there."
"Beats me. I have to go - see you tomorrow?"
"I'll drop by. I think Dad's got another SHUSH case he's gonna bring me on."
"Okay. Take care of yourself."
She opened it and read silently to herself. When she finished she put it down and said to nobody in particular, "I don't believe it!"
She took the letter up to her room. Her first impulse was to put it in her scrapbook, but someone might see it there. She could not just dispose of it, though. She compromised by putting it behind a photograph, where nobody would see it, but she herself would know where it was.
Before she closed the book she read it once more.
After everything that happened at SHUSH, I thought I owed you an explantion.
It looked like Megavolt killed me, but as you've probably guessed by now, that didn't really happen. He burned up a potted plant and let me escape. I guess there really is some honor among thieves, like they say.
Anyway, I escaped out of the country. I've set myself up in a forest here in South America. It's in pretty bad shape due to years of logging, but I can do something about that, now that I have the time on my hands.
Please keep this a secret. I'd rather people think I'm gone for good. I just wanted you to know, because you sounded so upset about it. And I wanted to thank you for giving me a chance. Without you in my corner, I don't know what would have happened to me. Thanks.
All characters copyright © Disney. Story copyright © Kim McFarland. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only, provided no changes are made to the story, the credits, or Gosalyn's age.
Back to My Etchings