My Kingdom For a Double-Plait Bolt!
by RL Kelly
Introduction: Hello readers. Yes, this story has been here on for a while now. Yes, it's been around on the internet even longer than that. It was written in 1994, in fact. But as far back as 2000, I knew I wanted desperately to rewrite it. There were things about it that bothered me a lot - not the least of which was the juvenile writing style - but also plot things, pacing, characterizations, etc. I've finally been working on it some and I'm going to start releasing the rewrite now. I don't know how quick this will be - it probably won't be a priority - but it's very nearly started from scratch.
For those who have read the original version, I encourage you to read this version. For one thing, it changes things in the series that you may need to know about later on. (Or perhaps, not.) For another, it's like a whole new story! But a familiar one! (which may not be a good thing, now I think about it.) And thirdly, I honestly believe it's quite an improvement on the original, which wasn't exactly BAD per se, but was really, really rough. I wrote it at the tender age of (cough,cough) and in most of my fics around that time I tended to really gloss over things that didn't interest me but that had to be there to set up for the things I did want to write. I can't say it's easier for me to write certain things now than it used to be, but I do tend to force myself to spend more time on the non-priority stuff. ;)
So yeah. If you've read the original story, I hope you'll enjoy this new version. If you haven't read it, why not start now? It'll be coming out in increments, easy to keep up with! (Yeah... sure.) If you want to read the original (or re-read it), you can find it at the DAFT Archives as well as (eventually) on my own website. I'll have links on my profile. In the meantime... No matter where you're coming from, go into this with a blank slate and please enjoy!
St. Canard. Night. The city slept, secure in its safety, uninterrupted in its tranquil silence.
Until, down a dark street, a glass shattered and the shrill throbbing of a bank alarm filled the air. A lone figure dashed along the pavement, breathing heavily, makeshift black mask clinging to his sweaty face as he paused at the street corner. A quick glance behind him to make sure that no one was following him, and then he tightened his fists around the sacks of stolen bank cash and took off again, sprinting to the left.
He'd gotten away with it! He nearly laughed in his elation. No more living on macaroni and cheese for ol' Joe... Nope, from now on it was steak and lobster all the way! And there was no sign of that vigilante hero, the one the papers mentioned every now and again- Duckwing Duck? Something like that. Whether it was because the vigilante stuck to bigger-time criminals, or because Joe was exceptionally smart for a first-time crook... or maybe just that Duckwing was less of a threat than the word on the street made him seem... Well, either way, Joe was doing fine.
The blue smoke took him a little by surprise. After all, manholes emit steam (at least he hoped it was steam) in big cities all the time, but not usually blue smoke. And then there was the fact that there was no sign of a manhole nearby. He was just wondering if he should maybe change directions, when the voice started. It was thunderous, and it seemed to have no source.
"I AM THE TERROR THAT FLAPS IN THE NIGHT."
A shadow began to be visible in the smoke- the figure of a duck, a cape draped over his shoulders, a broad-brimmed hat hiding his eyes in darkness.
Despite himself, Joe swallowed and slowed to a stop. His knees shook as the figure spoke again. "I am the shadow behind your nightmares! I... am DARKWING DUCK!"
As the figure took a few steps out of the last of the smoke, Joe found his ability to move, and took off running the way he'd come. Panting, he thought frantically of the area - he'd researched it thoroughly while planning the break-in. Two streets down and then a left - over the fence - he'd be reaching a sewer in a couple more blocks. His heart was in his throat as he ran; it wasn't so much the vigilante himself as it was the tales of what happened after he captured people. There were stories that he just tied his captives up and left them in a heap on the steps of the police station, and some even said that he stood on them while delivering them. Besides, this guy didn't show mercy! There was no bargaining with him, no excuses for a first-time offender! He'd go straight to jail!
He risked a look behind himself as he ran, and found the streets behind him empty. Good; his knowledge of the neighbourhood gave him a distinct advantage. Darting around a dim corner, he dared to slow down and catch his breath. Leaning against a wall and panting, he barely reacted when the shadow next to him spoke. "Feeling better?" it asked.
Joe nodded. "Kind of. I'll be- YAGH!" He jumped back as Darkwing smirked from beneath his hat, and hit something. Turning, he found himself eye to eye with a taller, red-haired duck clad in an aviation uniform. Joe found he was nearly frozen with fear. He edged along, his back to the wall, unable even to run as he feared what might happen if he made any sudden movements.
Darkwing pulled something from within the folds of his cape - a gun! Joe's semi-paralysis broke and he took off running again, pushing past the pilot duck. Darkwing squinted. "You can't get away! Suck gas, evildoer!" Unfortunately, as the trigger was squeezed, he heard an ominous -crack- and found that the knockout gas he'd intended for the fleeing criminal was now surrounding him and his sidekick.
Launchpad looked puzzled. "Uh, it wasn't supposed to do that, was it?"
"Cover your mouth!" Darkwing said, waving the gas away from his own bill. He looked at the crook running down the street, now almost out of sight. "I can still catch him. I know this city back to front, but we'll have to hurry! Come on, LP-" A thud interrupted the hero, and he looked down to find that his sidekick had succumbed to the gas and was lying prone and snoring on the pavement. "Great," he said, rolling his eyes.
Time for action. Darkwing took off running after the bank robber, pulling out a grappling hook as he went. Since the gas gun was pretty much useless now, his own toss would have to do. He threw the hook upward as hard as he could, smiling as it wound around the top of a fire escape on a nearby building. Without slowing, he jumped, letting the rope tighten and swing him. Then he started climbing.
The callous criminal was still running, and Darkwing could still see him from his vantage point on the rooftop. He looked like he was heading for South-East St. Canard. Darkwing hoped that course held, and set off on a rooftop shortcut.
Joe didn't dare to stop this time. That guy was relentless! If he stopped, he was caught for sure! His only choices were to try and get home- which would probably lead the vigilante straight to his house- or to just keep running, hope to lose him, and then double back. He opted for the latter, hoping his speed held out for a while yet.
Another five minutes went by before he was tripped.
He stumbled, fell, and rolled for several feet before coming to a dazed stop. "Ow," he said, too out of it to keep from saying it aloud. He blinked for a moment, then remembered himself and tried to scramble to his feet.
Just in front of his feet, however, were a pair of legs. Billowing around those legs was a long cape of the deepest purple.
Joe was out of luck.
Darkwing reached down and grabbed him by the neck of his shirt, then hauled him to his feet, slapping a set of handcuffs on him as smoothly as butter. "That's the trouble with Mondays," the vigilante said carelessly, looking his captive up and down with a certain amount of disdain. "The only criminals out and about are the small fry."
Launchpad did not look particularly alert, Darkwing noted. Even for Launchpad.
It wasn't his fault of course; he'd gotten a big lungful of knockout gas, and didn't have Darkwing's mastery of various breathing skills (in particular, the whole "holding your breath" part came in really handy). If Darkwing hadn't come back for him, dragging the little guy he'd captured, he'd probably have just spent the whole night sleeping on the curb there.
As it was, he was pretty unsteady, which meant it wasn't easy at all to get him to pose for this photograph for the Canardian Gazette. "No - no, don't wave, Launchpad, we're trying to look dramatic here!"
"Sorry," said Launchpad, his voice low and sleepy.
Meanwhile, the photographer heaved a big sigh of frustration. "I have a deadline, y'know," he said, sounding bored.
"Look, I'm doing the best I can with what I have to work with, okay?" snapped Darkwing. "Give me five more minutes and you'll get a great picture, I promise!"
"Three more, and then I'm taking it and going."
Darkwing glared at him for a second before turning back to Launchpad. "Okay. LP? Anyone home?" He waved a hand in front of Launchpad's face, and his sidekick waved back.
"Hey, DW," he said, and smiled.
"Yeah, hi. This is important, LP, are you listening?" Launchpad nodded, and Darkwing said very clearly, "I need you to put your foot right there, then put your hands -"
"Right there?" Launchpad looked down to where he was being instructed to step, and frowned, then looked back up at Darkwing blearily. "Uh, DW, there's a guy there."
Darkwing bit back his irritation as best as he could. "I know that," he said through gritted teeth. At his feet, the junior robber gave a little whimper. "Aw, suck it up," he said, and turned back to Launchpad. "You don't have to step on him HARD. It's a dramatic pose."
"Oh!" Clarity dawned on Launchpad's face, and Darkwing felt some hope for the state of the picture after all. He'd been considering just taking LP out of it - which would have been easier, and perhaps preferable, since he hadn't done much to catch the guy anyway. But, since it wasn't Launchpad's fault - Darkwing kept reminding himself that - it seemed like the charitable thing to do was to give him a little extra credit.
He'd made sure to tell the photographer to only mention his name, though. There was charitable, and then there was saintly, and Darkwing wasn't feeling especially saintly tonight.
With Launchpad more or less comprehending what was going on, and standing in the right spot, Darkwing assembled himself in the right place. "Okay! Go! Take it now!"
"Please!" added the robber from his spot on the ground. Darkwing ignored him.
The photographer grunted. "Lemme focus."
Darkwing tried not to let his shoulders sag. How had this guy gotten this job, anyway?! He had all that time to focus, and he'd just been goofing off! He snuck a glance at Launchpad, and found his sidekick's attention - and energy - wandering. In an effort to keep him awake, he said, "So, looks like a trip to the hardware store tomorrow, huh?"
"You know, the gas gun? I'm gonna need to pick up some more bolts to repair it. Those are the ones you use to repair the video game controller, and we haven't picked any more up since Gos used it to kill that spider."
"Oh. The 4-1/4 double plait bolts?" asked Launchpad, turning to look at Darkwing.
"Don't look at me! Look at the camera!" said Darkwing quickly. The photographer was still fiddling, so no harm was done. In reply to Launchpad's question, he added, "I guess so. So, Outlet Hardware tomorrow?"
Launchpad shook his head, and Darkwing once again nearly shouted at him to keep still. "They went outta business," he said. He sounded much more aware than he had a few minutes ago, which was encouraging. "We can go to Bindler's, though. I bet they got 'em."
The photographer, looking surly, signaled. "All ready here."
"Great!" said Darkwing. He planted his foot firmly on the kid's back and gave the camera his best I-Am-The-Night look, just as Launchpad turned to him and said, "Oh, hey! If we go, you can meet-"
"Look at the camera!" Darkwing said urgently, whipping his head around to snap at his sidekick. The flash went off. Darkwing, flabbergasted, whirled back around to the photographer. "No, wait! That didn't count! Take it again!"
"One is all you get, bud," said the photographer, already disassembling his camera and loading it piece-by-piece into his case.
"But- but-" Darkwing couldn't think of anything else to say, and simply stood with his mouth hanging open.
From the ground, the young robber said tremulously, "Can I please get up and go to jail now?"
The phone rang.
It was dark. A hand slid from under the comforter and fumbled along the bedside table, smacking the alarm clock repeatedly before belatedly realizing that the intermittent ringing was unrelated to that particular object.
The woman in the bed lifted her head from her pillow and groped for the phone, catching it on what was probably the fifth or so ring, and answered groggily. "H'lo?"
"Beth?" came a woman's voice, twanging with a moderate Irish accent. Even at this hour, in her current state, she still recognized it.
"Mom?" She couldn't muster a reaction yet; what time was it? She squinted at the clock, trying to avoid getting her glasses. "What - why are you calling?"
"I had a terrible dream, Bethie. I dreamt y'had a mole, an' it got bigger an' bigger -"
This wasn't making a lot of sense. Beth wondered if maybe she was having a dream. "A mole? Like as a pet? Why would I have -"
Her mother cut her off. "No, not the animal! The skin kind! It grew larger an' larger until it was half the size of yer head, and it turned into one o' those cancerous t'ings -"
"A tumor?" Beth had to pull the clock in close to her face to read it, sleep and nearsightedness combining to nearly defeat her. If she was reading it right, it was about ten to five in the morning.
"No, it was a mole!"
Beth sighed. "Mom, what exactly is the point of this call?"
"When was the last time you saw the dermatologist, Bethie?"
She couldn't answer for a moment. Not only because she couldn't remember the answer offhand, but also because it was early, she had to work soon, she was exhausted, and this call was stupid. Biting back her irritation, she answered, "I'm not really sure. Do you really think it's that important at this hour?"
Her mother's voice was insistent. "These t'ings are always important! Yer health is no laughin' matter, pet!"
"I wasn't laughing." She lay back against her pillow, pushing her hair away from her eyes. "Mom, it's not even five yet."
There was a moment of silence. "I t'ought you woke up soon anyway."
"No," she said wearily - nearly croaked, it felt like to her. "Not for another couple of hours."
"Oh." An even longer moment of silence, but this silence wasn't the kind that didn't say anything. This silence was loaded. Finally her mother said, "Well, I'm sorry to bother you wit' my love an' worry."
"Oh, come on." This was the last thing she wanted to get into. "That's not what I meant."
"I spend so much time worryin' about you, Bethie..."
Not this, please, not now. She was too tired to fight this off right now. She resisted the urge to raise her voice. "Mom, it's so early..."
"Well," said her mother, a wheedling tone creeping into her voice, "I can't help it. I'm yer mum, after all. I just hate the t'ought of ya, all alone out there in St. Canard, with no one to look after ya..."
"I'm really happy here," she lied. It came easily by now. "I'm not lonely, things are really going well for me here, and I don't want to move back there." The last statement was actually true, as it had been since the day she'd moved. The rest... Well, Beth decided not to think about it. It was too early in the morning.
Another long pause, and Beth's mother finally relented. "Well. I'll let you get back t'sleep, then, pet."
"Great. Thanks." Beth sighed, knowing that was unlikely to happen by this point, beyond a doze.
"But promise me one t'ing. You'll see a dermatologist first chance y'get, hm?"
"An' come home more often. Yer poppa misses you."
"You said one thing." Her breath caught with irritation, but she blew it out again. "Yeah, I'll come home soon."
"I love you, darlin'."
Beth rolled her eyes, a prerequisite before she could ever manage to parrot back, "Love you too, Mom."
She hung up the phone and shut her eyes, but as predicted, sleep didn't come before the alarm went off at 6:30.
The blueprints were perfect. As Megavolt looked between the large sheet he'd unrolled, and the platform atop the old Power Plant building, his heart swelled within his chest. The sun was rising, and in his mind's eye, the tower was a thing of beauty catching and reflecting the light, shiny and new, like a giant "Outstanding Employee of the Month" bronze plaque. Or something, something big and shiny, anyway. He'd figure that out later.
Well, on paper and in his head were nice and all, but there was no way to actually get the thing out in the real world unless he started building it. That, after all, was why he was out here at the crack of dawn: to build.
"Blueprints? Check," he said, pinning the unrolled plans to a corkboard he'd picked up someplace. Having pinned the plans on firmly, he tossed it to the side. "Copper wire, check. Welding torch, check. Jumper cables, check. Friti-O's for snack break," he paused, and patted the bag with satisfaction, "check!"
He paused to consult his list of materials. "Check check check... It looks like I'm ready to start this baby!" Grinning, Megavolt crushed the list in his right hand. "And then, the city will know true fear! They've never known an intellect like mine! Soon, they'll have to deal with - huh. Wait a minute." He uncrumpled the list and looked carefully between it and his pile of materials. He looked again, and a third time to be sure. "Aw, dang it! I forgot to pick up the 500 Double-Plait bolts, didn't I?" He held up the pinky finger on his left hand, and stared dolefully at the string tied around it. "I knew that was there for something!"
Dejected, he kicked at the stone surface of the building's roof. This just didn't feel fair. He was ready to start this thing NOW! How else was he going to get it finished in time? "You betrayed me," he told the string around his finger, unwinding it in a fury. With a haughty expression, he abandoned it over the side of the building and let it fall all eight stories to the ground below. That would teach that good-for-nothing string.
"Well," he said with a sigh, "guess there's nothing to it now except to go shopping."
To be continued!