"Boy, the city's been quiet lately," Darkwing commented to Launchpad as they patrolled the city in the Ratcatcher. "There hasn't been any real crime since Megavolt caused that city-wide blackout last Friday." Darkwing chuckled derisively. "That battery-powered buffoon actually thought I wouldn't catch him if he didn't steal the light bulbs directly! Did he honestly think I wouldn't know who was using a teleporter to steal light bulbs of all things? It's as obvious as if Bushroot had stolen plants, or Quackerjack had stolen toys! But Darkwing Duck discontinued Megavolt's maniacal mischief!"
Launchpad rolled his eyes as he listened to DW boost his own ego. He knew that when crime got slow, or DW got scared, these ego trips were his way of telling himself that he could get out of a sticky or dangerous situation, or that the city still needed him. He needed to tell himself that he really was a hero and the city's protector.
Launchpad wondered about the Fearsome Five, too. In a way, Negaduck and the liquidator would not have gained super powers if Darkwing had left them alone. Launchpad was never sure what happened to drive Quackerjack insane, but Darkwing had told him the story of how Elmo Sputterspark became Megavolt.
It was weird to think that if it hadn't been for Megavolt, Darkwing might not exist. Drake Mallard would never have had to put on a costume to save prom night if Megavolt hadn't tried to wreck it in the first place.
Bushroot was another story. Launchpad always got the feeling that as evil as Bushroot was, there was a frightened little boy underneath all that villainy. There was just something in his eyes that told Launchpad the mutant plant duck wasn't all bad.
"Megavolt seemed as surprised by the blackout as the rest of the city," Launchpad commented when DW took a breath.
"Well, maybe he was, but- wait!" Darkwing yelled suddenly, excited. He skidded to a halt and turned around, going back toward the Saint Canard Elementary school.
"What's up, DW?" Launchpad scanned the surroundings, but couldn't see anything unusual.
"Bushroot's over there!" Darkwing pointed towards the playground. "He's trying to uproot that tree! And he's not alone either; Negaduck and the rest of the Fearsome Five are with him! When did Megavolt get out of jail?" he asked, almost as an afterthought. "Oh, well, doesn't matter; they're destroying public property! Let's go!"
They got out of the Ratcatcher and Darkwing found a little used path that only the school kids and he knew about. The path ended right where Bushroot and the Fearsome Five were standing. Darkwing knew there was a secret entrance into the boiler room there; he had cased out the city for secret places long before he met Gos and Launchpad. He never knew when Darkwing would have to make an appearance and he needed hidden places to change and make his entrances.
The entrance to the boiler room was about halfway up the path, so Darkwing could make his entrance there and be heard from where the five were now arguing about something. Darkwing couldn't make out what they were saying, but their voices were raised slightly.
"In here, LP!" Darkwing whispered enthusiastically, pointing toward the trap door that led into one side of the boiler room. "We'll go out the other trap door to reach them."
"But how will they hear your entrance?" Launchpad whispered back. He knew DW hated to ruin a good entrance.
"The boiler room echoes and is noisy. I can talk over it, but I don't think they'll be able to tell where we're coming from."
It only took a few seconds to run from one trap door to the other. Darkwing didn't even need a smoke bomb this time; he was already hidden, but he used one anyway, for effect.
"I am the terror that flaps in the night," Darkwing said dramatically. "I am the dog that eats your homework!"
Launchpad smiled, thinking he'd have to remember that one for the next time DW wanted him to pose as Darkwing decoy. He always wondered why DW thought that would work; they looked nothing alike. DW was short and skinny and Launchpad was tall and muscular. They didn't even sound alike. Anyone who had heard Darkwing speak would know instantly that it wasn't really him.
"I," Darkwing finished, as he shot out of the boiler room through the trap door, "am Darkwing-" He and Launchpad popped up right in front of the liquidator, who immediately drenched them both in water. "Duck," Darkwing finished lamely, as he choked on the water he'd swallowed.
Launchpad was used to these little mishaps by now and had the foresight to keep his mouth tightly closed to avoid swallowing water. He let DW think he wasn't all that smart because he believed in the caped crime fighter's cause. If saving the city from dangerous people like Negaduck and Fowl meant pretending to dumb himself down in DW's eyes, he would gladly do it. At least they were protecting the city from the super villains. The cops couldn't handle them, but Launchpad and DW could. Experience had deflated Darkwing's ego enough so that he knew when he needed Launchpad or Gosalyn's help, or even the help of Gizmoduck and the rest of the justice ducks, but not enough so that he could handle his sidekick knowing something he didn't, other than how to fly.
"Tired of super heroes always wrecking your fun?" the liquidator asked no one in particular. "Fed up with smoke bombs and corny lines? Well, then, Liquidator's got just the thing for you!" He looked triumphantly at the rest of the Fearsome Five, sent a whirl pool at Darkwing that sent him back into the trap door of the boiler room with a startled scream, and said, "Liquidator's patented pest control! Introducing the do-gooder dissipation system! This system is guaranteed to send away that annoying-"
Liquidator was so wrapped up in his commercial that he forgot about Launchpad. Negaduck, Quackerjack, Bushroot and Megavolt were all too busy laughing at Liquidator's speech and Darkwing's tumble back into the trap door to notice Launchpad until he made his move.
DW had been teaching him Quack Fu. He used one of the marshal arts moves on Negaduck and the liquidator at the same time, then quickly spun to Megavolt and Bushroot and took them out with the same move. Quackerjack, suddenly realizing he was in trouble, tried to reach for one of his laser toys.
"Oh no yah don't," Launchpad said. He through the toymaker to the ground with the rest of his friends. Launchpad had purposely not hurt them; just temporarily disabled them.
"You took out all of them?" Darkwing asked, finally able to climb back out of the trap door. He rubbed his head where he'd struck it against the boiler when he fell, not knowing whether to be proud that his sidekick had picked up his Quack Fu lessons so quickly or annoyed that he'd missed all the action.
Launchpad seemed to know what his boss was thinking. He grinned, looking both proud and sheepish. Darkwing decided to let himself feel proud of his friend because it had been his first Quack Fu fight. He had done it alone, quickly and with no trouble. "Besides," Darkwing thought, "if I know these guys, I haven't missed all the action. They'll be up soon."
"They weren't expecting me to do anything," Launchpad said. "They thought I wouldn't be any trouble. They thought I was just gonna wait until you got back up here."
As he spoke, the five started getting to their feet. Darkwing and Launchpad saw this at the same time and prepared for battle.
Negaduck went for Darkwing while Megavolt and the liquidator went for Launchpad. Quackerjack and Bushroot stood back. Negaduck wanted Darkwing for himself and they knew what water and electricity did together.
So did Launchpad. He scrambled out of the way, then separated them with a Quack Fu kick. They attacked just as Launchpad kicked them away. Their charges went wild and hit each other. Fortunately, they'd been kicked far enough that the water and electricity didn't hurt anyone else, but the liquidator had landed . near the tree Bushroot had been trying to uproot before. There was another one a few feet away from that, but it wasn't hurt.
"You killed him!" Bushroot cried, sounding to Launchpad as if he'd just lost his best friend. "You murderers!"
He reached out his vines for all three of them. Megavolt and the liquidator were too dazed to move yet, so the vines pinned them with no trouble. Launchpad could move easily, though, and sidestepped the vines.
"I don't think so, Moe!" Quackerjack said in Mr. Banana Brain's voice, coming up behind Launchpad. He reached for his laser toy again.
"Leave him be, Quacky!" Bushroot yelled angrily. "This murderer is mine! He killed Harvey!"
"Harvey?" Launchpad thought.
Out of the corner of his eye, Launchpad could see the fight between Darkwing and Negaduck. He and the rest of the five were close enough that they could also hear it. Darkwing was taunting Negaduck and seemed to be enjoying himself. Negaduck was angry, as always.
Darkwing had been watching Launchpad out of the corner of his eye, too, as he fought and taunted Negaduck. Launchpad had proven tonight that he could handle himself in a Quack Fu fight, but he was still a beginner. Darkwing wanted to make sure he could help if he was needed. He felt guilty leaving LP on his own in a four against one fight, but they both knew Negaduck was the greatest threat. The others were either too unstable or too unintelligent to do any real damage, even together, and even with the combined powers of Liquidator and Megavolt. "One kick and they were down for the count," Darkwing thought, mentally congratulating Launchpad.
Negaduck immediately noticed Darkwing's first glance toward the other battle and tried to take advantage of the situation.
"What's the matter, Dork Wing? Afraid you'll end up with a sizzled sidekick?"
Darkwing had been afraid of that, but just as Negaduck finished, Launchpad kicked and the charges from his attackers hit each other.
"No, Negaduck," Darkwing said confidently, "but you should be afraid of ending up with a crushed cranium!"
He kicked at Negaduck's face. His evil double went down, but was up again in a second. But they both looked over when they heard Bushroot yell, "you killed him!" Darkwing smirked when he saw that it was only the tree.
"If he wasn't so useful, I'd feed him to the biggest herbivore I could find," Negaduck said under his breath. "He's the only villain I know who'd name a tree."
"He killed Harvey!" Bushroot yelled.
"Harvey?" Darkwing thought.
"I haven't had any of this action," Quackerjack whined to Bushroot. "Besides, you already have two victims."
"All right," Bushroot said reluctantly, "but just make sure you let me have a crack at him later."
"Oh, Goody! It's play-" Launchpad kicked the laser out of his hand. "Hey!" Quackerjack whined. "No fair!"
"He's got the mind of a kid," Launchpad thought. "I wonder."
"Fair?" he asked Quackerjack in the tone of a grownup reprimanding a child. "You weren't fair either."
"What do you mean?"
"You were gonna attack me with a laser, but I'm not armed."
Quackerjack thought about it, then said, "but I'm a bad guy! I'm supposed to fight dirty!"
"And I'm a good guy," Launchpad said patiently. Now he was the adult trying to teach something to the child, trying to get him to understand a difficult concept. "I'm supposed to make sure you don't hurt anyone. That laser's dangerous."
At the same time as Launchpad disarmed Quackerjack, Darkwing caught Negaduck in a headlock. Negaduck tried to simultaneously break the hold and kick at Darkwing, but it wasn't working. Darkwing's bottom half was far enough away that Negaduck's kicks couldn't reach him, but it was all he could do to keep Negaduck from breaking the headlock. As the look-alikes struggled, they could hear what was going on over by the recently fried tree. Fortunately for everyone, and for the school building, the water from Liquidator's pinned and still dazed body had prevented the disastrous fire that could have been caused by Megavolt's electricity.
"Well, Quackerjack said, "I could give you a laser, too. Hey, then we could have a duel!"
"You- nitwit!" Negaduck grunted. "He's playing mind games with you! He's trying to use psychology to get you to do what he wants!"
Launchpad knew most of the five were easily distracted, so before Quackerjack had a chance to think about what Negaduck said, he used more child's logic.
"Well, now if we fought it would be fair because you don't have your laser either."
"Hey, yeah! OK, let's fight! It's play time!"
"Idiot," Negaduck said.
Megavolt groaned from his position underneath Bushroot's vines.
"Uh-oh," Launchpad thought. "We gotta wrap this up. Bushroot's busy with Liquidator and Megavolt for now, but if they get free I'm gonna be outnumbered again. I don't know how long I can stop all of them. I'm still a Quack-Fu beginner."
Darkwing, hearing Megavolt's groan, was thinking along the same lines as Launchpad. Besides, this thing with Negaduck was getting monotonous. He suddenly broke the headlock, and before Negaduck could react, threw him to the ground. Unfortunately for Negaduck, Darkwing hadn't remembered how close they were to the trap door to the boiler room. Negaduck fell through and Darkwing ran to help Launchpad.
"Quackerjack has no idea how to fight," Darkwing thought. "He doesn't even have good defensive moves. He just does that one two combination. Launchpad could defeat him with or without Quack-Fu. LP must know that because he's not using Quack-Fu anymore."
Liquidator managed to slip out from under Bushroot's trap and started towards the fight. Darkwing blocked his way. It was time to even the odds.
"Note to self," Liquidator said weakly. His speech was slightly slurred. "Water and electricity don't mix well. Throw a few vines from an angry mutant plant duck into the mix and you've really got problems."
"What did he do to you?" Darkwing asked curiously.
"I'm not sure of all of it, but when I came to, he was cutting off the circulation in my arms and legs and tightening his vines around my neck. I think he was doing the same to Sparky."
"Don't call me Sparky," Megavolt said weakly. "Let me go, Bushy! We didn't mean to kill that-"
"Well, you did; the three of you murdered him! I thought you two were my friends! But you're just like Dr. Gary and Dr. Larson!"
Bushroot suddenly tightened the vines around Megavolt and reached out more, trying to capture Liquidator again. They reached Darkwing first, since he was blocking Liquidator, and he had to use his buzz saw cufflinks to get free.
"Thanks, Liquidator said, surprised.
"I didn't do that to save you; I did it to get them off me!"
"Bushroot!" Negaduck said angrily. He had climbed up from the trap door and looked as if he didn't know whether he wanted to hurt Darkwing or Bushroot more. Darkwing knew he'd try for both if he had the chance. "Let Megavolt go! How do you expect to outnumber these two do-gooders if you're trying to squeeze two of our guys to death?"
"Shut up and release Sparky!"
"Don't call me Sparky!" Megavolt said, more strongly this time.
Bushroot released him, glaring at everyone.
"This is getting old and going no where," Darkwing thought. "No, that's not exactly right. Launchpad's finally tired Quackerjack out."
Quackerjack had put his hands up in surrender. Launchpad put his hands down and Quackerjack sat on a nearby bench, panting and sweating.
"OK," Darkwing thought, "one down, four to go."
Darkwing wasn't about to let Liquidator and Megavolt attack together again. He was already blocking Liquidator, so he went for him. Launchpad took out Megavolt.
"That was easier than before," Launchpad thought. "He must still be weak from Liquidator's water and Bushroot's vines."
"Want some more of these?" Darkwing asked Bushroot. He'd been about to reach more vines around Darkwing and Launchpad. Bushroot hated Darkwing's buzz saw cufflinks. It hurt to have your vines cut off. He retreated.
"Three down, two to go, LP!" Darkwing said triumphantly.
"You mean four down and one to go, DW," Launchpad said with a grin. "Look over there.
Darkwing laughed. Quackerjack had fallen asleep on the bench. Negaduck saw, too, but before he could yell for Quackerjack to wake up, Darkwing made his move.
"We could fight all night," he thought. "I wouldn't mind, but it wouldn't get us anywhere. I want to know what they were up to. Why would Bushroot of all people be trying to uproot a tree? He saves trees; he doesn't want to see them hurt or moved out of their natural habitat. My next move has to be logical, not physical."
"What are you guys doing here, anyway?" he asked, in the tone he knew would infuriate his enemies. ""Have you decided to take night classes? Good idea, if you ask me. Between the five of you, there's gotta be at least half a brain."
"Where's your other sidekick, Dip Wing?" Negaduck jeered.
"What other sidekick?" Darkwing and Launchpad asked together.
"You know, that little girl that's always hanging around you. If you really wanted a fair fight you should have brought her along. She's a feisty one. Quackerjack would have been evenly matched with her. You're big on fairness, so instead of the big guy you should have let Quacky-"
Darkwing attacked. The thought of Gosalyn being hurt by any member of the Fearsome Five, or anyone else for that matter, made him see red. Bushroot moved for Launchpad again, but tripped over Harvey. A cliché went through Launchpad's mind. "Was that trip necessary?" But the look on Bushroot's face stopped him from saying it out loud. This tree really had been Bushroot's friend.
"Why not?" Launchpad thought. "He doesn't have any real friends. The rest of the Fearsome Five just use him for his abilities. Those guys at the lab did everything they could to make him feel like an outsider. Even Dr. Dendron rejected him, at least in Bushroot's mind. Trees and plants can't hurt him like people can."
"What were you guys gonna use Harvey for?" he asked Bushroot sympathetically.
None of the others were paying any attention to them. Darkwing and Negaduck were too busy fighting, Megavolt and Liquidator were still dazed and Quackerjack was still asleep. It was almost as if Bushroot and Launchpad were the only two in the school yard. But not even they had any idea that Launchpad's show of compassion for one of his and Darkwing's worst enemies would change the future of Saint Canard.