I sat in the side car of the ratcatcher with Gosalyn in my lap, listening to Gos and DW argue over her being out of bed and at the movie theater. She let me have some of her popcorn. It was good, until Gos mentioned the cannibals and the mutant slugs. I put the popcorn down, just in time.
"hang on!" DW yelled, and stopped short.
The three of us looked and saw Megavolt and Quackerjack with a huge machine.
"Come on, Troops," Gosalyn said, excited. "Let's cage those creeps!"
"Reality check," DW said. "We're the crime fighters. You're the obedient daughter who stays put and out of trouble."
"Just exactly what reality are we checking?" I asked. Gosalyn was always getting involved in DW's cases somehow. I really thought she'd listen this time though, after DW told her he didn't know what he'd do if anything happened to her. She promised she wouldn't get involved.
I listened as DW made his entrance and exchanged insults with Quackerjack and Megavolt, then I thought I heard Gosalyn yell.
"Dad, help me!"
I'd never heard her sound so scared. Then the machine, Quackerjack and Megavolt all disappeared.
"Where'd they go?" DW asked, confused and a little annoyed.
We looked for an hour, but couldn't find anything, so DW decided to go back to the ratcatcher and get Gos home to bed. She had school the next morning.
But Gos was gone when we got back. We did everything we could to try to find her. DW was out of his mind and I wasn't much better. She was just a little girl. It didn't matter how much spirit she had or how clever she was. If someone really wanted to hurt her they could.
DW lost all interest in crime fighting. When we couldn't find Gosalyn, he decided she must have run away because he wouldn't let her help him.
A few months after she disappeared, I came down from the tower after giving the Thunderquack a tune up and saw DW looking at a picture of himself and Gos. He was crying.
"She only wanted to help," he said softly. "I met and then adopted her because she was being kidnapped. She was the victim of a crime. She only wanted to help me stop the bad guys because of what happened to her and her grandfather. She didn't want anyone else to be victimized."
"It wasn't your fault, DW." I said, putting my arm around him.
"She ran away because I wouldn't let her help me!"
"She wouldn't want you to stop fighting crime, for the same reason you said about not wanting other people to be victims. She'd want you to keep helping people. Maybe she's not far. Maybe once you start fighting bad guys again she'll come back."
I didn't really believe it. It had been too long. If Gos had really run away we'd have found her by then, or she would have come back. She loved us and she knew DW meant it about not knowing what he'd do if something happened to her. But I didn't have the heart to say that to DW. He was hurt bad enough. I think part of him believed it, though, but he couldn't admit it.
There was something else I couldn't tell him. I had my own reason to feel guilty. I kept hearing that scream in my head.
"Dad, help me!"
Had I really heard it? If I'd said something to DW then, would Gosalyn be here now? I had no way to know. I had nightmares of hearing that scream and seeing Gos disappear with Megavolt and Quackerjack. What if they took her? We hadn't seen them since the night Gosalyn disappeared. What if they were doing something terrible to her? We never did find out what that huge machine was for. DW said Megavolt must have needed half the city's power to charge it. All we knew was that it looked like a huge top and it couldn't be anything good with those two lunatics using it. I couldn't stand to think about what they'd do to Gosalyn if they had her.
"I thought I heard her scream for me that night," DW said, surprising me. "But then I didn't hear her scream again and thought I'd only imagined it because of the conversation we'd had before. I had to have imagined it, right, LP? I mean, if Gos was in trouble I'd know it, right? She's my daughter! I would know it if she needed me! Parents know!"
His tone was desperate now, panicked. I could only tell him he was right. I couldn't make him feel worse by telling him he probably did hear her, that I thought I'd heard her, too. If we both heard her and only thought we did, then we were both guilty. DW felt bad enough. I wasn't about to add this guilt on top of all the rest. The blame for this would be all on me.
I tried for weeks to get DW interested in his work again. It was no use, until we were out in the park one day and saw a bully stealing a little girl's doll. The kid screamed, we looked over and DW lost it! He was so mad he didn't even think to make one of his entrances; he just took out the bully with a Quack-Fu kick. The bully fell and the little girl had her doll back. She looked a lot like Gosalyn, but not enough to make us mistake her for Gos. I don't know what it would have done to DW, if he thought he'd found her only to realize it wasn't her.
"I've rediscovered my purpose, Launchpad," DW said on the way home that night. "It's time to get tough, really tough!"
"Great!" I said, happy and relieved. I knew he'd never be the same after losing Gosalyn, but at least now some of the old DW was coming back.
The next day he changed his image completely. I came down for breakfast and found a note from him saying he'd gone out and would explain everything to me when he got back. I wondered what could be important enough to make him get up early; he liked to sleep in late, especially on the weekends, and this was Saturday.
His arms were loaded with packages when he got back and there were more in the car. I helped him bring everything up to the tower and watched him making what looked like a new costume.
"What's all this for, DW?"
"It's my new image, LP. I'm not Darkwing Duck anymore; I'm Dark Warrior duck!"
"Dark warrior?" I didn't like the name. Something about it seemed wrong, and it wasn't just the fact that I was used to Darkwing. The name gave me a bad feeling.
Darkwing is too soft on crime! Dark Warrior's gonna clean up this city! No crook will get off easy in Saint Canard! I won't rest until the city is clean of all evil! No more little girls are going to be victimized!"
I got it then. It was the little girl we'd saved last night. Gos was about her age and looked like her. We didn't know where Gos was or even if she was alive. This was DW's way of dealing with Gosalyn's disappearance. I understood it, but as I watched him make the costume, heard the way he was talking and saw the wild look in his eyes, I was also afraid he might be having some sort of breakdown.
A few hours later, I stared at the finished costume. DW looked like a total stranger. He wore creepy red contact lenses to hide his normally blue eyes and he had spikes on his shoulder pads, neck and gloves. His mask was black and his fedora was red, and he was wearing gray and black body armor. This guy could never be mistaken for Darkwing Duck. Already I missed the pink and purple costume. Darkwing worked in secret- kind of- using shadows and disguises to make himself mysterious. There was nothing mysterious about Dark Warrior Duck. He was dangerous and he wanted people to know it. He reminded me of Negaduck's evil twin, and since Negaduck was as evil as Darkwing was good, It scared me to think what Negaduck's evil twin would be like. As it turned out, I was right to be scared.
Dark Warrior scared every crook, from Negaduck right down to the burglars and bank robbers, out of Saint Canard. The city loved him! They didn't think he was a costumed clown anymore. Even the cops liked him and asked for his help on some of their bigger cases! He even managed to solve some of the ones the cops had been trying to crack for years.
But he said the city was still in danger, even with all the bad guys gone. People were still breaking laws and doing things that weren't healthy. He hated people who jaywalked, pulled the tags off mattresses and even ate food that was bad for them. He wouldn't let me buy or eat anything from Hamburger Hippo anymore. I had to do it secretly, until he arrested the guys who ran the place and shut it down. He brought them up on charges of attempted murder because the food they served was so bad for you.
By then even the cops had been driven out of Saint Canard. Everyone was afraid of him. He wasn't a costumed clown anymore. He wasn't a hero anymore either. He was a psychopath! Dark Warrior was the city's only law enforcer, so he was able to make the charges stick.
He arrested Herb and Binky Muddlefoot for being too loud one night at a party they were having in their own house. He gave them five years for disturbing the piece. When Tank tried to punch him out, Dark Warrior gave him fifteen years for assaulting Saint Canard's protector.
The part of him that was still Darkwing must have remembered that Honker was Gosalyn's best friend though. He took him in for a while, until Honker got a bad grade on his report card. Honk was a good student, but he was afraid of Dark Warrior and upset about his parents and brother being in jail and it affected his grades. DW said Honker was showing criminal tendencies by not doing well in school and put him in jail until his eighteenth birthday. He said he had to do hard labor so he would be a good citizen when he got out.
I'd been trying to reason with him since before he arrested Herb and Binky, but nothing I said got through to him, not even that if Gosalyn was here, she'd call him names like No Brain the Barbarian. He got annoyed with me and told me to give it a rest, but he never got really mad at me. I tried to talk him out of arresting Honker. He was just a kid.
"You have to get to them while they're young, Launchpad! If I arrest Honker now and put him in jail doing hard labor he'll realize he doesn't want that. He'll get the education he needs while he's in jail and then be a good, upstanding citizen when he gets out."
"Or maybe he'll end up like Tank," I thought, "mean, scary and violent." He'll be in there with guys like Tank. He'll have to learn how to defend himself. Gos was always there to protect Honk from Tank and the other bullies before."
I didn't want to see Honker end up like Tank. I liked the kid. He kind of reminded me of Doofus, only Doofus was chubby and didn't have the sinus problems and the slight stutter.
The day after Honker's arrest, the robots brought in a crook they caught writing "Dimwitted Dictator" on a picture he drew of Dark Warrior on the wall of what used to be the Hamburger Hippo. DW was madder than I'd ever seen him. I thought he was gonna kill the teenager with his bare hands. The kid was terrified; he couldn't have been any older than seventeen or eighteen.
"You revolting rebel! You've been found guilty of defacement and defilement, not to mention disrespect for the authority of Saint Canard! Boys, take him to the electric chair!"
"Darkwing, wait!" I said, shocked, as the robots took the poor kid away.
"That's Dark Warrior, Launchpad! How many times do I have to tell you-"
"Forget your name for now!" I said, frustrated. DW always missed the point when he got on an ego trip, or when he was so wrapped up in his own thing that he didn't pay much attention to anything else. It almost got him killed once. He decided to go riding the ratcatcher without a helmet because he wanted to go catch Megavolt instead of going for a new helmet after Megavolt dropped an anvil on his old one. We crashed through a brick wall and he lost consciousness. If Darkwing had a one track mind, Dark Warrior's mind was on a one way trip to the dark side. This last arrest made me afraid he was becoming as bad as the crooks he used to fight. He was becoming worse than Fowl or the Fearsome Five ever were.
"Forget my name?" DW asked in that quiet, dangerous tone he used. I knew he was gonna get louder. He did that more and more as Dark Warrior when he got mad. It was almost like everyone he arrested who argued with him was a substitute for Gosalyn disobeying him.
"Look, Dark-" I paused, about to call him Darkwing again. I didn't need to make him even madder; that wasn't gonna get me anywhere. "Dark Warrior," I finished, and you have no idea how I hate that name! It's the symbol for everything that's gone wrong since Gos left. It made him relax, not much, but enough to make me think maybe he'd listen to me this time. I don't know why I thought he'd listen this time when he never did before. Since he became Dark Warrior, not much I said meant anything to him. There were times when he didn't listen to me as Darkwing either, but at least he didn't scare me as Darkwing. Those red eyes of Dark Warriors were freaky. Even Morgana didn't want anything to do with Dark Warrior.
"If you throw away the crooks' rights you become like them. You didn't even arrest that kid, and sending him to the chair for-"
I stopped. His eyes got dangerous again. They made me forget what I was about to say.
"Are you questioning me?"
"I gotta question-"
"You're questioning the only person in this city who knows what's good for it?"
His voice was loud again. I was Gosalyn back talking him because he wouldn't let her do something she wanted to do.
Suddenly he got quiet and his eyes and tone changed. He was being the disappointed father now. Gos had done something he never thought she would and he was trying to make her feel bad. Yelling wasn't gonna work, so maybe having Dad disappointed would.
"I really hate to say this, LP," he said with a sad sigh, "but I think you're getting soft. You're getting too soft on crime, sympathizing with the criminals. You were a good sidekick for Darkwing, but he's gone now."
"I don't believe that," I said. I was angry myself now. I wasn't gonna let him talk like Darkwing was dead and Dark Warrior was all that was left. I wasn't gonna let him get rid of Darkwing completely. Darkwing was still in there somewhere; so was Drake Mallard, and I had to bring them out before this got any crazier. I had to save him; he was my best friend. I had to protect Drake and Darkwing from Dark Warrior. I just wished I knew how. "Gos could do it in a second," I thought, "but I'm not her."
"You're still in there, DW! Come out; fight Dark Warrior before-"
"Darkwing is gone!" DW yelled.
"Did I think he was mad when he found out about the picture?" I thought. Those red eyes were scarier and more dangerous than ever. "That was nothing compared to this! It's almost like he's been possessed by those mutant alien zombies Gos loved in those horror movies."
"He's dead and I've buried him and you're just gonna have to accept it!"
He relaxed, but I knew he could blow up again any time, so I kept quiet.
"Now," he said, in the voice he used with Gos when he was trying to tell her this was how it was gonna be and that was all there was to it. "As I was saying, you're too soft on crime. You were faithful to Darkwing and he was grateful, but Dark Warrior doesn't need a sidekick who sides with the criminals."
"Be quiet! It's over, Launchpad. Dark Warrior is through with you! Darkwing is gone! Do yourself a favor. Get out of here before I arrest you for insubordination! Darkwing wouldn't let you-"
"Darkwing would listen to me! Maybe he wouldn't right away, but he would once he realized I was right. He'd let me finish; he'd let me say what I had to!"
"How many times do I have to tell you? There is no more Darkwing Duck! You either accept Dark Warrior Duck or you get out of my sight and don't come back!"
"I can't accept Dark Warrior," I said. I hadn't felt so sad since I left Duckburg. "Dark Warrior's no better than Negaduck! In fact, he's worse!"
Now I wasn't just sad; I was hurt and angry, too. He was throwing me away like my friendship and loyalty had never meant anything to him, like he'd never wanted me to raise Gosalyn if anything happened to him. Something had happened to him, all right, but he was still here in the form of this maniac and there was no Gos to raise. I was alone in Saint Canard. Gos, Darkwing, Honker, Herb and Binky, even Morgana, they were all gone. It was just me, dark Warrior and everyone in Saint Canard who didn't dare break one of his rules. Grown men were afraid to break the eight o'clock curfew.
I went too far with that crack about Negaduck. He had his robots throw me out and warned me that if he ever saw me again he'd find some reason to arrest me. I went back to the tower, having no where else to go. The tower was the only place I felt anything good about the city. Even with Dark Warrior's changes, the view from the tower was beautiful. I could have left, but I knew Drake and Darkwing needed me. I thought Dark Warrior had to let them go someday. I didn't know what would trigger it, but I believed Darkwing would defeat Dark Warrior someday and he was gonna need me when he did. Without Gosalyn, I was all he had left, whether he wanted me or not.
Over the next twenty years I watched Saint Canard become more and more like a ghost town. Dark Warrior always found some reason to arrest somebody, even if it was only for a bad haircut. My family tried to convince me to leave. They were worried about me. They wanted me to be a Flying McQuack again, or even go back to Duckburg. I thought about it a lot. I left Duckburg in the first place because Mr. McD had lost his sense of adventure as Webby and the boys got older and I still needed it. I had plenty of great adventures with DW, but now he was trapped in his own body by that lunatic Dark Warrior. I had to help him somehow. I didn't know how, but I knew I'd find a way someday and I couldn't do it from Duckburg. I didn't have a choice; I had to stay in Saint Canard, or there was no hope for DW, or the rest of the city.
Dark Warrior eventually put a ban on all air traffic in and out of Saint Canard. He also had robots monitoring where other vehicles went. He didn't want anyone leaving the city to bring in outsiders because he was afraid someone would try to stop him. Even as crazy as he was, Dark Warrior knew he could be outnumbered, robots or no robots, and he didn't want to take any chances.
People had left, of course, but Dark Warrior had his robots escort them and get a promise from them that they'd never tell anyone what was going on in the city. If anyone asked why they left, they'd have to lie, or Dark Warrior would bring them back and put them in prison. They were too afraid of him and his robots to call his bluff. That was just as well because Dark Warrior didn't bluff. Anyone coming into the city was carefully watched and if Dark Warrior thought they were a threat he put them in jail on suspicion of treachery.
Since I couldn't fly anymore, I became a cab driver. Dark Warrior made an inspection of all garages and other places where vehicles were kept and had his robots put tracking systems in them so he always knew where they were. He had all the planes destroyed, including my poor Thunderquack, and even if he hadn't he was having the skies monitored, so he would know if anyone tried to fly out of the city. He didn't think to check the tower after he had his robots destroy the Thunderquack, so he didn't know about the cab I secretly built and kept in case I ever needed it. I watched and learned when the robots were off the streets for routine maintenance, so if I ever had to use the cab I knew when it was safe.
I was making some improvements on one of the regular cabs one day when I got the shock of my life. I was under it when I heard someone yell, "Launchpad!" I jumped and hit my head on the underbelly. As I got out from under the cab, turned around and rubbed my head, I stared in shock at the red-haired, green-eyed little girl in front of me.
"Oh, it sure is good to see a friendly face," she said, hugging me.
I couldn't believe it. She hadn't grown an inch.
"DW always said all that junk food would stunt your growth, but I thought you'd be a little taller. Where yah been all these years?"
"I haven't been anywhere! I got stuck on Quackerjack's time top and ended up in the future!"
"So it wasn't a nightmare," I thought. "She really did disappear with those villains and that big machine. She really did scream." I felt guilty for not saying something to DW before, but I was even more relieved to know she was alive and that nobody had hurt her. "Time top," I thought. "That weird looking thing was a time machine, not some kind of horrible torture chamber. Gos has been safe all these years, just gone to-" My thought broke off as what she said sunk in.
"This is the future?"
"Well, not for you it isn't, but for me it is. Now what's going on around here? The city looks like it's just been washed and waxed, the streets are deserted and Dad's acting like No-Brain the Barbarian!"
That last part surprised me. It was exactly what I told DW she'd call him. I knew Gos better than I thought.
"Boy, I slip away for a couple of decades and the whole town goes down the tubes! How come you're not with Darkwing?"
I explained everything and she came up with a plan to get him to talk to her. I knew what he did to people who did what she was gonna do, but talking to her when she gets her mind set on something is about as useful as talking to DW, as Darkwing or Dark Warrior, when he makes up his mind. They both have a stubborn streak. Sometimes they're so much alike you'd never know Gos was adopted.
Gos's plan worked too well. Dark Warrior saw us and launched a missile at us, but then he must have seen it was Gosalyn because he made sure the missile hit him instead of us. A bit of the old DW came back when he saw her. A bit of Drake peaked through Dark Warrior's creepy red eyes, too.
"My little angel is back," he said, hugging and kissing her. "You don't know how much I've missed you!"
I thought maybe this would do it. I was sure Drake and Darkwing would come back and Dark Warrior would go back to the part of DW's mind he came from.
"How about a hug for your little sidekick," I asked hopefully, laughing a little, convinced DW was back.
"Oh, it's you," he said, and DW was gone and he was Dark Warrior again. "What's the matter? Run out of criminals to sympathize with?" He looked from me to the picture of him that Gos had just painted. "Looks like a clear case of the three D's; defacement, destruction, and disorderly conduct! Looks like it's the chair for you, my x-compadre!"
I was too scared to say anything.
"Will you chill a sec?" Gos yelled. "I was the one who did it!"
Gos had to remind him that I wasn't a criminal mastermind who was trying to corrupt her, but because I helped her deface his picture, he sentenced me to life at hard labor.
"What?" I yelled as the robots dragged me off to jail. This shocked me more than anything Dark Warrior had done in the last twenty years. It wasn't just that he was putting me in jail, but that Gosalyn was back and DW was still Dark Warrior. Her coming back hadn't changed anything; it hadn't put anything right.
I was put in the same cell with Quackerjack, Megavolt and DW's teacher. She flunked him in penmanship, so he put her in jail. She was really old now and had horrible looking false teeth. A few hours later, the robots threw Gos in with us because she told DW she wanted to go back to the past and make sure this never happened. Dark Warrior didn't want to give up his existence.
Gos finally convinced everyone to help us get out. Mrs. Mildew chewed threw the bars of the cell with her false teeth. Quackerjack and Megavolt got to the time top, but DW got to them before they could get away. Gos believed the same thing I did. Deep down inside he was still Darkwing Duck and he was still her dad. We were right! He couldn't bring himself to blast her like he wanted to. I couldn't take any chances, though. I didn't want to have Gosalyn back only to have her killed by Dark Warrior if Darkwing and Drake weren't strong enough after twenty years to beat him. With a mental apology to my friend, I slugged the maniac.
"I'd get going if I was you," I told Gosalyn. "He may be smiling now, but he won't be when he wakes up."
I worried about letting Megavolt and Quackerjack go with her. They were hardened criminals. But Gosalyn said if there was one thing this had taught her it was that everyone deserved the benefit of the doubt.
I gave her a hug, then watched her get into the time top with the super villains. "Good luck," I said.
"Thanks. Don't worry," she said, seeing the look on my face. "Once I get back to my own time everything will go back to normal."
The time top disappeared. I could only hope everything went back to normal before DW woke up and realized Gos was gone again and that I'd helped her get away this time. I prayed Gos was right and I'd get her and DW, not to mention the real Saint Canard, back soon.