Rating: PG-13. Some violent descriptions, strong language and attempted suicide.
Notes: I'm a big NoseDive fan (which may not be too evident since I'm always hurting him in my stories!) and a big Wildwing fan so I like to push the brotherly love angle. I like the other ducks as well, and they play an important supporting role, but the main focus is on the relationship between the two siblings. One other thing: Duke's brother Rance was borrowed from a fanfic I read. I wasn't sure if that was actually the name of Duke's brother, or if he even had one, but I thought I'd better acknowledge it. If Rance was the creation of another writer, please let me know so I can credit that person.
Feedback: Please! This is only my second fanfic attempt, and I can't improve on my stories unless I know what you don't like, or what I did wrong! I live for constructive criticism, but flames will be squelched by my pet Squirtle whom I keep on hand for just such emergencies.
DESCENT INTO A MIND DARK
It was cold. And dark too. Cold winds swept the evening mist into the air, swirling it around, giving it life before NoseDive's very eyes. Tres` creepy, he decided with a shudder. He wrapped his arms around himself tighter, in an attempt to keep the chill from embedding itself in his very bones. He stepped forward and peered across the forbidding landscape. Devastated buildings in various stages of decay and ruin littered the city NoseDive had once called home. Puckworld had definitley seen better days. Another gust of wind picked up the dead leaves before him, scattering them about, weaving them throughout the empty buildings in an irreverent tribute to the dead. Nosedive listened to the rustling sounds, and shivered. It was so cold, so lonely. Where is everybody? he thought desperatley.
He timidly stepped forward and watched as the same leaves seemed to gather before him. If he stared hard enough, the leaves seemed to resemble....
" Duke?" he reached out to the familiar duck composed of leaves. Suddenly the figure exploded, showering Dive with bits of debris and dirt. Shaken, Dive staggered back. Fear began to grip him, and he struggled to hang on to his composure. Okay, that was not Duke, he told himself sternly. So where is he?
" Dive?" NoseDive whirled around to see a familiar sight. Bright red hair, dark green eyes...
"Mallory!" he shouted in relief and ran towards her, pulling up short when she raised her hands to block him. He was slightly hurt that she would want him to keep away - he wasn't her favourite teammate granted, but any familiar face was like a friendly port in a storm. " Mall, what's going on? How did we get to Puckworld? "
Mallory gave him a cold look. " What - are you afraid?" she taunted him. NoseDive stepped back.
Mallory walked closer. " Poor little NoseDive, " she sneered. " All alone - again. no big brother to save your sorry hide this time."
Tears welled up in NoseDive's eyes but he refused to let them fall. " Mall, what are you talking about?"
But Mallory didn't even listen. " You're no warrior!" she growled. " You weren't even supposed to be a part of this team! You wouldn't be here if your brother hadn't been such a softie!"
NoseDive was backing away, faster now. " Mal, please..."
She laughed - a truly cold sound that tore at NoseDive's heart. " You pathetic little wimp! Poor Wildwing can't even go all out in battle because he's too busy looking out for baby brother. If it weren't for you, we'd have captured Dragaunus a long time ago. Why didn't you get eaten by that electromagnetic worm instead of Canard? Then we'd have a real leader, instead of a punk kid who likes to put worms in my boots!"
NoseDive's legs gave out and he sank to the ground. " No! I try to.."
" Try to what? Help? How? By reading your comic books instead of improving your combat skills.? Yeah, big help." Mallory slowly pulled out her blaster. NoseDive's eyes widened.
" Mal wait! I know I'm a screwup but you don't hate me that much do you?" his voice faltered.
" Do you?"
Mallory shrugged. " Yeah." And pulled the trigger.
NoseDive woke up screaming. He ran his hands over his chest frantically checking for tachyon burns from the blast. Nothing. Slowly, reality closed in on him and he realized that it had all been a dream. He pushed a lock of sweat-soaked hair out of his face and sat up slowly. Lights appeared in the crack under his door and he looked up as Wildwing opened the door.
" NoseDive?" his voice betrayed his worry. NoseDive gave him a weak smile.
" Hey bro."
Wildwing walked over to his bed and sat on the edge. He took in NoseDive's haggard appearance, the sweat on his brow, and tension etched on his face.
" Are you all right?" NoseDive shrugged.
" Yeah. Just had a nightmare."
" I kinda figured that. I heard you scream out. For a minute I thought we were under attack!" He tried to joke his sibling into a lighter mood, but Dive only managed a faint grin before turning his head. "Do you want to tell me about it?"
NoseDive shrugged. " Wasn't that big a deal - just caught me by surprise. Besides, we have an early morning practise. I'm sorry I woke you up."
Wildwing snorted. " As if I'd mind!" He studied his brother for a minute. " Dive, if you ever want to talk, you can always come to me you know." NoseDive glanced at him.
" I know." Wildwing rubbed his shoulder comfortingly as he stood up.
" Goodnight Wildwing."
Wildwing paused at the door and gestured to the alarm clock next to Dive's bed.
" Technically, it's good morning." he grinned, and shut the door. NoseDive sighed and sank down in his bed, huddling beneath the covers. He knew Mallory would never say such hateful things to him. Why didn't I tell Wildwing what happened? Because NoseDive didn't want to burden his big brother with such trivial problems as a nightmare. He had enough to worry about. I probably had one too many triple spicey tacos, he decided with a yawn, and closed his eyes.
" Not bad for a first attempt after all those years without practise!" said a decidedly evil voice. Dragaunus snorted.
" It wasn't as terrifying as I had expected from someone of your considerable talents, Morpheus." he stated.
" I wouldn't expect you to understand!" the voice blustered.
" Show me respect, comrade!" Dragaunus snarled. " Or Wraith will send you back to that void where all your fellow gods reside, out of touch with this modern earth as you've been for hundreds of years!"
Morpheus, God of Dreams, wore his anger like a terrifying mask. " I'd advise you to return that respect. Dependant or not, I am still a God."
" One that needs me to remain here!"
" For now, " the god allowed. " But my power grows stronger the longer I am here. And when it has returned full strength I will be free to do as I please. You would do well to remember that."
Dragaunus suddenly smiled. " Ah, my friend. We do not need to waste needless energy fighting each other. I have helped you, brought you forth to a world that banished you when their faith disappeared. All I ask is that you help me."
" Why attack the youngest of that group? Why not ask me to frighten them to death in their sleep? Not that I would."
" Exactly for that reason - you're not allowed to directly interefere with mortals, especially killing them. And second of all, I want the pleasure of killing them - but this is a pleasant way to torture them!" Draguanus laughed at the images his words conjured up. Morpheus looked vaguely displeased, but he said nothing else.
" Morning everyone!" Mallory said cheerily as he walked into the kitchen. Various words of welcome were thrown her way. She grabbed a bowl and a box of cereal from the counter and sat down next to NoseDice who immediatley choked on his toast. Grin reached over and thumped him on the back.
" Okay, I always thought you liked Bernie-flakes?" Mallory teased him. She moved the box of cartoon cereal away from him. " There you go. Out of harms way!"
NoseDive scarcely heard the good-natured laughs coming from his teammates as he fought to control himself. When Mallory had plopped herself down, Dive's memories of Dream-Mallory came flooding to the surface. But it wasn't the real Mallory! he argued with himself. He managed to give Mal a small grin. Wildwing observed all this with a practised eye. Dive had been quiet all morning. In truth, Wildwing was more then a little concerned about him. That scream that had torn him from sleep had scared the hell out of him. It had been full of terror, and Wildwing wondered what his baby brother could have been dreaming about that would have scared him so badly. More to the point, what would be so scary that he wouldn't even tell me about it? Then he mentally slapped himself. Dive will talk when he's ready. Aloud, he said, " Come on guys. Practise time."
************************************************************************ " That's it!" Tonya screamed in frustration. " I've had it!"
" Easy Tonya," Duke said soothingly. " How was that guard supposed to know that pressing the button would destroy your modifications on new puck launchers?"
" Could it be the fact it was marked Self-Destruct?" Tonya shrieked. "I give up! All companies that are guarded by idiots, Dragaunus is hereby welcome to!"
Coming back from a mild attack on Prescott Labs by some eager crooks with lofty goals, Tonya was considerably upset. During the course of the battle, she had given her brand new puck launcher to the guard to defend himself with after much hesitation. The new launcher had been her pride and joy and she didn't want to hand it over so easily. But because she still had her blaster and omnitool, she knew she couldn't leave the security guard defenseless. But after seeing the outcome of that particular act of compassion, Tonya reflected, he would have been better off with his bare hands. How could he hit a button marked self-destruct???
Tonya continued her whimpering while up front, Wildwing momentarily took his eyes from the road to glance behind and chuckle at her. He was rewarded with a look that could have froze him where he sat. Still chuckling, his eyes returned to the road. Another ten minutes, we'll be at the Pond, he thought. Yawning slightly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw NoseDive curled into a ball on his seat, bracing his head against the armrest. Wildwings eyes softened as he took in the picture of Dive completely at ease. I sometimes forget that for all the battles he's been through and all the combat experience he's gained, he's still just a kid. Was it only a month or two ago that he turned seventeen? Wildwing shook his head. I'm sorry Dive. You're not having much of a childhood are you? Wildwing's thoughts turned to the previous night. It was no wonder NoseDive had fallen asleep. Having his night cut short by terryifying dreams, and then followed by an early practise and petty thugs....rough day baby bro. But what was so frightening about that dream that you can't tell me?
NoseDive woke up as the Migrator slid to a halt. Seeing the familiar rise of the sloped dome of the Pond, he stretched, purring like a cat, and then unbuckled his seatbelt. He followed his teammates sleepily as they made their way out.
" How's about we order a gigantic-size pizza, to end this less-then-stellar day on a high note?" he asked, yawning. When there was no immediate answer, he stopped and looked at them. " Guys?"
Suddenly, a large hand clamped down on his shoulder, scaring the wits out of him.
" Gaahhhhhh!!!!!" he screamed, whirling around in surprise and shock. Grin stood there, placid as always. " Are you trying to give me a heart attack??"
Grin didn't answer; shadows fell across his face. Staring at him, NoseDive took a step back in trepidation. Something wasn't quite meshing here.
" Grin? Pal, what's up?" Grin shrugged and glanced up at the sky. " Something is in the air. I can feel it."
NoseDive felt himself relax. " Oh. Man, I'm sorry. For a minute, I thought-"
Grin's fist slammed into NoseDive's gut, doubling him over, leaving him gasping for breath after having it knocked clean out of him. Another ham-sized fist plowed into his jaw, sending him flying back. He fought to remain conscious as he stared up at the giant duck. What was going on?
" Grin?" he asked weakly, coughing roughly. Grin stepped forward and finally, NoseDive could see his eyes. His blood turned to ice. That can't be Grin, he thought desperately. Nobody's eyes were that cold, that angry. Grin's eyes were tinged red with suppressed rage. I thought Grin kicked all those negative thoughts out of his head!? He let out a whimper of fear as Grin stepped closer, curling himself into a ball in a weak attempt to protect himself.
" You are a fool." Grin's tone was flat, cold, hard. NoseDive shuddered at the sound of it. " You joke, play pathetic games and treat our battles as a form of entertainment. If there is truly a weak link, it is undoubtedly you!"
The words struck NoseDive with the force of a blow. He winced at the sting of truth in them. It's true, he thought miserably, keeping a wary eye on Grin. But I have to! If I ever took it completley seriously I'd freeze up. Joking about it takes some of the fear away. He tried to rationalize it, but he couldn't convince himself. A shadow fell over him; he looked up at Grin's imposing stance. Get away! his mind told him frantically. He backpeddaled, but came up against cold brick. Too late. Sledgehammer fists swung at his face.
" Dive! Dive!"
NoseDive struck out frantically, his mind bent on escaping those huge fists. Hands were groping him, trying to hold him down so those fists could get him. No! He squirmed wildly, until his fist connected with something.
" Ow! Damn it NoseDive, wake up!"
The voice was snarling at him, NoseDive's eyes were clenched shut, refusing to open them, refusing to see the intense hatred radiating from them.
" Leave me alone!" he screamed, tears escaping down his cheeks, terror stamped on his face.
" Get back!" A commanding voice took control, and the hands that had been clawing at him, grabbing at him, disappeared. NoseDive huddled into a ball, shivering uncontrollably. Suddenly, gentle arms wrapped around him in a comforting gesture. In vain, NoseDive struggled to get free, but the arms refused to let go. Slowly, NoseDive calmed down, seeking solace. A part of his mind told him, he's on your side. Who? NoseDive's mind triggered a memory. He had been afraid before. On Puckworld. After the invasion. Drones had been attacking a neighbouring city to the camp he'd been in. The sounds of distant battle had kept him up in a panic. His brother had comforted him then. These arms. They reminded him. Reminded him of...
" Wildwing!" It came out as a choked sob as NoseDive threw his arms around his older brother, squeezing with all his might. Sobs wracked his body as he clung to Wildwing like an abandoned child would to a cherished toy.
Wildwing tightened his hold on Dive as he gazed at his startled teammates.
" Shhh Dive, it's okay. I'm here, nothing's gonna hurt you baby brother." Tonya, Grin, Duke and Mallory watched with concern. One minute they had been on their way back to Anaheim, the next, NoseDive had interrupted the silence with moans of terror. He had been writhing in his seat, as if trying to escape something, and they had heard the cry of pain that came from him. Duke, in an effort to calm him, had reached out to grasp Dive's hand. At his touch, NoseDive had let out a bloodcurdling scream. At the sound, Wildwing had gone rigid and pulled the Migrator over to the side of the road. By the time he had unbuckled his seatbelt and gone over, Dive had been pleading with Duke to leave him alone, all while still asleep. After backing everyone off, Wildwing simply engulfed his brother in a bear hug, refusing to let go.
" NoseDive?" he asked gently. He felt a shudder go through his siblings body.
" Yeah?" came the soft reply.
He stroked the long, blond hair in a soothing motion. " You wanna tell me about it?"
" Dive, if you tell us what's wrong, maybe we can help," Tonya said in a coaxing tone. Still no response. Wildwing's concern grew but he held his tongue, continuing to offer Dive support for as long as he felt he needed it. Grin and Duke looked at each other.
" Little friend..." began Grin, but NoseDive suddenly froze, muscles taut with tension. Confused, Grin sat back in his seat, exchanging another glance at his befuddled teammates.
NoseDive revelled in the comfort of his brother, but dark thoughts made their way back to the surface of his mind. What's happening to me? he moaned silently. He felt his brother stroking his hair in an effort to calm him. Finally, he raised his head. Wildwing pulled back a little and searched his eyes for a clue to what was wrong.
NoseDive took a deep breath and let it out shakily. " Just another nightmare Wing."
" No kidding," he said gently. " What was it about?"
" Uh.." he quavered a moment. What if they agreed with his dream? What if they laughed at him?Don't be an idiot! his mind tried to be firm. They're your friends! This was only a dream! " But it seemed so real," he murmered almost inaudibly. Wildwing strained to hear him.
" What seemed real?"
" Remember, dreams can't hurt you, bud." Duke said, trying to be helpful. Mallory nodded.
" Yeah, NoseDive. Talking about them can make you feel better."
I highly doubt that, NoseDive thought tremulously. He gave a timid glance at Grin, trying to keep from recoiling in fear. As if Grin could read his mind, he sat back and placed his hands in his lap in a peaceful gesture. " I don't know where to start..."
Wildwing rubbed his shoulder companionably, propping NoseDive against him. " Why not the beginning?"
NoseDive gave another weary glance around, but saw no mocking faces; only concern and a desire to help. His confidence somewhat restored, he took a deep breath.
" Well...last night I dreamed I was back on Puckworld." Seeing the look on Wildwing's face, he hastened to add, " No, it wasn't like that. The invasion had already occured. This was like, I dunno, a future vision. Anyway, I was all alone. It was really cold too - I could've sworn it was real. I kept looking for you guys and found Mallory." His voice dropped and he gave Mallory a scared look. Mallory was confused. NoseDive struggled to continue. " She...said some harsh truths about me."
" Like what?" asked Duke softly.
" She...she said I was n-never supposed...t-to be a part of this team. That no one wanted me, but..but they wanted Wing. I was the tag-along..." his voice trailed off miserably. Mallory's face had gone pale. Wildwing tightened his grip on NoseDive's shoulder.
" Dive..." she choked out.
" She said that I wasn't useful," he continued, interrupting her. He felt himself drifting, re-living the pain of those awful truths. Only semi-aware that he still had an audience, he went on. " Mallory said I should have been the one to sacrifice myself to that elctro-worm thing that ate Canard. Then you'd have two leaders, and Dragaunus would've been caught by now."
Duke was staring at him in disbelief. How could Dive believe such a thing? He leaned forward, his voice urgent. " It was just a dream, NoseDive. It wasn't real!"
NoseDive looked over.
" I know," he said softly, unconvincingly. Mallory turned away, shamefacedly. Tonya patted her arm.
" Mallory, it wasn't your fault." she whispered. Mallory gave her a ghost of a smile.
" I know that, but I still feel guilty." She turned around and knelt before Dive, looking up at in earnest. " NoseDive, if I have ever made you feel that way, I am so sorry. I would never say anything like that to you! You are a vital part of this team! "
" Yeah," Duke chimed in. " One of the reason's we're so successful is the way we work together - hell, you're our top scorer! How could you ever believe we'd turn on you like that?"
" What was the second dream about?" Tonya broke in, casting a side look at Grin. NoseDive followed her eyes and blanched. Grin gave a faint nod. Wildwing caught the hidden meaning.
" Was it about Grin?"
NoseDive nodded, head down. He twisted his hands in his lap nervously. " I...I really thought it was real," he whispered. " I got out of the Migrator and Grin was there. Before I knew what was happening, he decked me. Twice. I crashed against the wall of the Pond and could only feel how much it hurt."
" That's why you were crying out in pain..." murmered Wildwing. NoseDive nodded again.
" He said I was a-a fool...a clown." NoseDive closed his eyes. " He said I never took anything seriously, and that I would be the downfall of the team."
" Stars, Dive..." breathed Duke. Grin looked sorrowful.
" My friend," he said gently. " Your ability to see the light in any tunnel, is a remarkable gift. You ease the tension with but a word. I would never chide a teammate for dealing with their fears in their own way."
NoseDive listened to the words, finding them to be a soothing balm to his troubled soul. He sighed heavily and leaned his head against Wildwing's shoulder. No words passed, but Mallory stood up and slid into the driver's seat, starting the motor and resuming their journey home. It was an uncomfortable position, kneeling next to Dive's seat and acting as a pillow, but Wildwing closed his mind to any discomfort and instead, asked his brother: " Why didn't you tell me last night?"
NoseDive contemplated that for a moment, judging the best way to say it. " I dunno," he said at last. " I just...I guess I didn't want to tell you what they said about me, and then hear you agree."
" WHAT?" Wildwing reared up at that one.
" Come on, Wildwing! I admit I'm a jerk sometimes, that I'd rather fool around with Thrash and Mookie at Captain Comics then practise! I mean, maybe it would've been better if Canard had made it here then me. I mean, I'm not a professional thief with years of training in stealth, or a mountain of strength. I don't know the first thing about survival training!" His voice rose an octave." I can't build supercomputers or lead a strike assault team! What good am I?" NoseDive fell silent, not believing he'd just blurted out his greatest fear. The other Ducks froze in their seats.
With great effort, Wildwing cleared his throat. " What good are you?" He stood and faced NoseDive. Pointing a shaking finger at him he continued. " You are the one that comes up with a last minute hat trick in the last seconds of a game. You are the one that is the first to throw himself into battle for the good of the team!" Wildwing crouched down again. " You are the one that cheers us up when we've suffered a defeat. The one that gives us a sense of normalcy by driving us up the wall with your pranks." His tone suddenly softened as he held his brother's gaze. " But most importantly, you are my best friend. You support me unconditionally, look out for me, cheer me on when I think I can't do this leader thing correctly! You are my brother, NoseDive, and don't you ever forget it!"
With a cry, NoseDive again flung himself at Wildwing, needing the reassurance. Wildwing hugged him back just as hard. After a few minutes, Tonya, eyes suspiciously wet, asked, " Feel any better?"
NoseDive gave her a watery grin. " Yeah."
Mallory tried to look tough, but the sparkle in her eyes gave her away. " Enough of this mush. Let's go home!"
" That does not look like the face of a duck who feels burdened by failure!" roared Dragaunus watching NoseDive step off the Migrator with a relieved look on his face. Morpheus remained unfazed.
" I'm wearing him down," he informed the irate lizard leader. " Each time I bring him down, it will get harder for them to bring his spirits back up. It will continue in a vicious circle that NoseDive will come to dread. The nightmares will get worse, deprive him of sleep, of his security. It is a brilliant plan!"
Dragaunus looked at him suspiciously. " You, Morpheus, sound as though you have used this particular ploy before."
" That's because I have," Morpheus said abruptly, sipping at a glass of wine that appeared in his hand. " I used it against some Romans that I was not pleased with, years ago. It drove them quite mad."
" What became of them?" Dragaunus asked, curious dispite himself.
" They committed suicide."
NoseDive staggered into the kitchen the next morning, dark, raccoonish circles permanently stamped under his eyes. Wildwing followed him, similar signs of tiredness etched across his face. Duke gave them a wary smile as he stood up to fetch them cups of Tonya's famous coffee. Mallory looked up.
" Hey NoseDive."
Dive gave a grunt in her general direction as he headed for the fridge. Mallory glanced at Wildwing. Rough night? she mouthed.
Wildwing shook his head. You have no idea. Wildwing had slept light, still uneasy about NoseDive's nightmares. He'd woken up around 2am feeling something was wrong. Getting to his feet, he'd walked into the hallway and paused outside of Dive's room. Hearing the light whimpers coming from within, he'd opened the door to see NoseDive huddled on his bed against the wall, blankets clutched tightly to him, tears streaming down his face. Wildwing had simply sat down next to him until Nosedive unfurled himself and crept to his brother's side. No words had been spoken, NoseDive only wanting the silent support of his older sibling who had wrapped an arm around him and pulled him close. Murmering that he was safe, that no one would hurt him, Wildwing had passed the night in contemplation. How could he help NoseDive? How can I fight something that's not real?
Wildwing shook himself out of his reverie and helped himself to more coffee. Duke returned to his seat with a fresh pot.
" How's the kid?" he asked, concerned for them both.
" He'd be better if he'd gotten any sleep," was the cryptic reply. Tonya sat across from the two of them.
" That bad huh?" Duke said sympathetically.
" Uh Wildwing?" Tonya asked, joining the conversation. Wildwing raised his head. " I want to study NoseDive the next time he sleeps. I can't help but feel there's something wrong."
" What do you mean?" Wildwing asked tiredly.
" Well, don't you think it's a bit odd that out of the blue he starts having these terrifying nightmares? Nothing traumatic has happened as of late, and you said so yourself that you and Dive worked out your problems in dealing with life in the Puckworld camps." Tonya sipped her coffee, her eyes lit up with possibilities and outcomes. " It's possible that an outside source may be causing these dreams!"
" You mean like Dragaunus?" Mallory asked.
" Whoa, ladies," Duke interrupted. " How could Dragaunus affect NoseDive's dreams? You're saying ol' lizard-lips is telepathic now?"
" Not necessarily." Tonya set her cup down. " Dragaunus has mostly relied on their Saurian technology as a means of attacking us, true. But don't forget, Saurians have powerful, magical backgrounds. Dragaunus may not approve of it, but Wraith is still very much into that way of life. Maybe Wraith is using magic to influence Dive's dreams!"
The discussion cut short as NoseDive came to the table with a glass of juice. Everyone noticed with concern, that he sat down as close to Wildwing as possible, as if subconsciously seeking protection from his brother against them. Duke's knuckles whitened with fury as he clenched his cup tightly.
" If scale-face does have a hand in this, he's gonna pay for it!" he vowed dangerously. NoseDive looked up at Tonya, something akin to hope showing cautiously on his face.
" You mean, we might be able to stop all this?" he asked slowly, referring to the dreams.
" It's possible," Tonya allowed, not wanting to get NoseDive's hopes up too far. " At any rate, there's no harm in trying, is there?"
Wraith grumbled to himself. It was a bad idea, bringing that god to earth. Big mistake. He never should have done it. Beside's wearing him out completely (channeling spirits and conjuring them forth was hard work), they now had a god who was only temporarily reliant on them as a means of survival. When his strength returned fully, he'd be able to do whatever he wanted. And I really don't want an angry god ruining my life, he thought with a tinge of fear. Blackmail was a necessary thing at times. But to blackmail a force of nature itself was suicide. But what Dragaunus wants, Dragaunus gets. Wraith thought back to the day when he had told Dragaunus how the gods had been banished years ago to limbo. Excited at the prospect of having a god at his beck and call, Dragaunus had ordered Wraith to bring them forth.Using a dark crystal from his own collection as an anchor for the god, he had done his master's bidding. But Dragaunus didn't know I could only bring one at a time. And Dragaunus had not been pleased with the choice.
" God of Dreams??!!" Wraith flinched slightly at the memory of Dragaunus's angry shout. It wasn't until Morpheus had explained the depths of his power that Dragaunus had been happy and eager to test him.
" Wait until the tables turn, my lord," he muttered. Wraith wasn't looking forward to that day at all. If only he dared to return Morpheus to the void from which he'd been summoned. But that required time, and preparation. And it was as if Dragaunus knew what he was thinking, keeping Wraith busy and on call constantly. The Mighty Ducks could buy him the time he needed, he mused. But then his eyes narrowed. But that would mean working with them. Not only is that a disgusting prospect, but it would also mean facing Dragaunus's rage afterwards. Wraith scowled. So which is the lesser of two evils?
NoseDive lay back on the cot in Tonya's laboratory. I don't wanna do this! he thought frantically. The thought of going through another nightmare scared him to death.
" NoseDive, you have to calm down!" Tonya scolded him gently, as she placed a metal helmet on his head, and attached several electrodes to it.
" Calm down? How? How do you expect me to-" NoseDive was cut off as Wildwing sat down next to him and gave him a comforting look.
" Dive," he began. " I know you don't want to go to sleep but-"
" I'm scared Wildwing!" NoseDive burst out. " If I sleep, I'll dream again. It hurts! I feel each blow like it's real, hear each accusation like they mean it! And what if you can't wake me up? I can feel myself being sucked in !"
Wildwing could only hug his brother and as he did, he wished that he could take the pain into himself. NoseDive's never hurt anybody in his life! Why is this happening to him? Wildwing wouldn't say it, for fear of scaring his little brother even more, but he was scared too. Dive was fragile, psychologically. He had a major self-esteem problem. For all of his cocky antics and attitude he presented to the world, Wildwing knew that was only a facade, a coverup for the true fear NoseDive harboured deep within. The fear of being rejected, of being shunned by the very people he had come to trust with his life, and whose opinions and judgements he valued above all else. Wildwing watched silently as Tonya finished her preparations. Then he looked down at his younger sibling. NoseDive was trembling slightly, most likely fearing that the next nightmare would be even worse then the last. His eyes met Tonyas and she nodded. NoseDive was too keyed up to sleep.
NoseDive was trying to decide how he was going to keep himself awake without his attempts to do so being completely obvious to Tonya and Wildwing. So absorbed in his thoughts was he, that he never reacted until the needle had totally plunged into his arm. He squawked in outrage, his eyes filled with betrayal as Tonya withdrew the syringe and his eyes slowly shut.
Tonya breathed a sigh of relief that the hard part was done. She quickly turned on all the machines and a large screen to the side of her blipped into life.
" This is NoseDive's normal brain patterns while sleeping," she explained. " When a person sleeps, they almost all look like this to start."
" Well, when a sleeper hits REM sleep, that's the deep sleep where you actually get all of your rest." she told Wildwing. " And it's also the stage where you start to dream."
" Won't that sedative interfere? Like, I don't know, send him straight into a deep sleep?"
" Nope. I took precautions against that - he's so tired naturally, that I needed only to give him a small dose of a very mild sedative. Were he at full strength, he wouldn't even feel it."
Tonya continued with her preparations. Wildwing glanced at his brother, and his brow furrowed.
" Is Dive in REM stage?" he asked, watching the screen.
" No, not yet," Tonya replied flicking a switch that would record NoseDive's brain patterns. " It takes approximately four minutes for the average sleeper to enter REM stage."
" Then why is he dreaming?"
" What?" Tonya whirled around and saw NoseDive murmer softly, his face looking worried. " He can't be dreaming yet." She turned to a separate moniter that kept track of NoseDive's regular brain patterns. " Wildwing, I'm registering Alphawaves!"
" What does that mean?" Wildwing asked nervously.
" Alpahwaves are generally used to measure paranormal and psychic brain activity!" she said, eyes flying furiously across the chart.
" Dive's not psychic!" Wildwing protested. Then he paused. " Is he?"
" No!" she exclaimed. She poked her finger at the screen. The original line that had been measuring NoseDive's brain patterns was continuing on as normal. But a separate line had split from the first and was spiking rapidly. " Do you see that??"
Wildwing examined the monitor closely. " Why is Dive's brain split in half?"
" That's not Dive!" Tonya said excitedly. " That's a totally separate brain pattern."
Wildwing suddenly clued in. " You mean, someone had just entered NoseDive's mind?"
" Exactly!" she said.
" So, how do we get them out?" Wildwing asked, his tone of voice bordering on hope. But Tonya suddenly frowned as she glanced past the screens to the bed.
" I'm not sure. But right now, we have bigger problems."
NoseDive blinked as he found himself back in the Puckworld camps. He whirled around, his senses being assaulted as hundreds of sights, sounds and even smells permeated his brain. Nononononono. Drones marched defiant but hapless prisoners to their deaths, Saurian lizards ordered others to keep working. NoseDive backed away in horrer as an old duck fell to his knees in front of him, one hand pressed to his chest, vainly trying to keep his blood from spilling forth. The drone who had fired the blast, walked up to the dying duck and kicked him viciously in the head. The old duck fell over, his life's blood emptying itself from his already dead body. Nausea welled up in the back of his throat at the sight and he let out a low-pitched moan of terror. No, stars please no.......
NoseDive turned around and tried to escape. He ran across the camp, fleeing blindly, trying to block out the sounds of the dying around him. He pulled up short at the sight of a young mother holding her child to her breast, trying to coax the baby to eat. NoseDive watched transfixed at the sight of such a maternal moment in the midst of all the horror. Then his eyes focused on the child. The dead child. His gaze flew to the mother. She was staring blindly ahead, in shock and not knowing, not caring, that her baby was already dead. NoseDive turned away and vomited. Tears mixed with the sweat and rolled down his face. It was bitterly cold and he shivered from both the chill and the scenes around him. Slowly straightening, he suddenly saw a familiar face. He recognized the two ducks ahead of him as classmates from before the invasion. About to sprint over, instinct made him hold back. The one wasn't standing as he'd thought - he was being held up ropes looped around his wrists and fastened to the wall. The other young duck was sitting on the ground next to him. Both were tied. Both were dead. NoseDive squeezed his eyes shut. Suddenly, a hand gripped his shoulder and pulled him into an alley.
" Wildwing!" NoseDive grabbed his older brother in a bonecrushing hug. " Thank the stars you're all right!" He sniffled. Wildwing gave him a small smile.
" Yeah, good to see you to." NoseDive started at the unusually lukewarm welcome. But he dismissed it. Wildwing was here, that was all that mattered. His brother would take care of him - Wildwing always did. NoseDive felt safer. Then a second duck ran into the alley.
" Canard?" He stared at the massive mallard. Canard barely glanced at him.
" Wildwing!" Canard and Wildwing shook hands warmly. Wildwing had a big grin on his face.
" Where have you been?" he asked. NoseDive watched, hurt at the reception Canard had recieved.
" With what's left of the military. We've formed a resistance, and we're gonna take out Dragaunus!" Canard flashed him an evil smile. Wildwing returned it.
" With this..." he pulled out the Mask of Ducaine. Wildwing's eyes lit up. " ...and some citizens we've had our eyes on. Like you."
NoseDive watched all of this, feeling a sense of deja vu come over him. Canard was going lizard hunting? And wanted Wildwing to help? Sounds like fun!
" Let's go!" he said. Canard looked at him with contempt.
" Beat it kid, before you get hurt."
NoseDive looked at him with a hurt expression. But then he shrugged. Wildwing wouldn't go without him. He looked at his brother with an expectant gaze. But Wildwing raised his hands.
" Hey, you heard the man, bro."
What?? NoseDive staggered back. He couldn't be serious.
" Wildwing?" he asked pitifully. " You...you can't leave me here alone!" He panicked, feeling betrayal wash over him. He struggled to breathe as he saw Wildwing give a casual shrug of his shoulders.
" You have to toughen up sometime little brother. I can't protect you all the time."
" Waitaminute!" interjected Canard. " We can't just leave him here like this."
NoseDive stared at Canard with shock and relief in his eyes. But also doubt. He was about to ask what changed his mind when he saw Canard pull out a small blaster and toss it to Wildwing, who hefted it, judging the weight of it. NoseDive let out a croak of fear as he saw Wildwing raise it to his chest at point blank range.
" Belive me Dive, this is a mercy." Wildwing said, almost apologetically. " This is more merciful then what those drones will do to you." He flicked the safety off.
NoseDive backed away. His mind refused to believe this was happening. He looked into Wildwing's eyes, searching for a sign that this was a test, a joke, anything but what it seemed. But Wildwing's eyes remained impassive.
" Bye, bro."
He pulled the trigger. NoseDive slammed backwards, both the force of the blast and the reaction to Wildwing's coldheartedness sending him spiraling downwards, rapidly, into darkness. Even as his sight left him, he could vaguely hear the screams around him. His screams. Wildwing....